Husky and Moules Frites on a 42 Degree Day 19/12/15

“Hit me with another one Sam” The bartenders, in film noir, were always Sam or Mack. Through the smokey haze of the dimly lit room was a space littered with tiny tables where there sat an assortment of couples, heads close, tongues whispering. Even with the door open to the street and the ceiling fans buzzing away, the air remained oppressive. I trailed my fingers through the rapidly melting ice in the tub, now half filled with water, and for a second relished the coolness. In the heat of the 42 degree day, my thoughts had wandered!

I had spent the afternoon avoiding the heat at my favourite local French cafe, with French friends, drinking Sangria. The icy fruity cool inviting me to drink many more than my head would later appreciate. Sangria, Moules Frites and the promise of two of the usual chanteurs, Merime and Paul Gillette, crooning Gainsbourg and Trenet, had convinced me to leave my air conditioned oasis. The Sangria filled afternoon too soon became a Sangria filled evening and the mellow tones of Merime had just started to sweep me away when I was jolted back to reality with a text asking where I was! With regret that almost immediately turned to excitement, I bid my friends adieu and in the still sticky heat ventured to the Northcote Social Club to see my absolute favourite musical act, Husky!

I discovered indie folk band Husky in 2014 and from the first song I was like a musical crushed teenager. Having never experienced the band, my friends couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. After much cajoling on my part to get them there, they now understand. There are only 3 musical acts I can honestly say I would gladly see every gig they played, and this is one of them.

This sweltering Saturday night was my fourth Husky gig this year, and each time had been unique. Begin, Summer twilight at the NGV on a February day much like this had been, the advantage being the NGV had the lawn strewn with plump cushions under leafy shade. Husky previewed their then newish second album Ruckers Hill, and pear cider in hand, reclined on a soft makeshift couch, held me captivated. Next, that old sticky carpet of The Espy for Easter Eggs and Easter Husky. I was then fortunate enough to attend a gig that resembled a relaxed lounge room jam where Husky’s gentle vocal soared for an intimate audience. Spending most of this year on the road collecting devotees throughout Europe and parts of the USA and UK, it was no surprise that this unexpected homecoming show in their home town sold out fast.

Having missed the first support, I arrived having successfully negotiated the tram in the still oppressive heat, in time to see Gena Rose Bruce, a young local singer with catchy songs. The crowd were appreciative but restless for the main act and surged forward immediately the curtain began to open to the unmistakable chords of the song, Ruckers Hill, a story of love at a time when everything is still possible.

Ruckers Hill is one of those rare albums that doesn’t have an obviously weak song. I can say that every song is strong in some way, be it the sometimes haunting harmonies of cousins Husky Gawenda and Gideon Preiss whose voices meld in synthesis, the gentle chord progressions, the sheer musicality of Gideon’s classical piano training or the thoughtful lyrics. I mean, anyone who can successfully use the word somnambulist in a song, (Saint Joan), has my attention. The strength of the songwriting is evident in the fact that Husky Gawenda won the coveted Vanda & Young songwriting competition for Saint Joan in 2014.

Heartbeat, a song with a psychedelic edge that builds momentum and urgency until the final chorus when the rolling drums are introduced, is next. Followed by my favourite, Arrow, with that rare combination of a simultaneously happy and sad feel. The chorus always makes me want to dance, barefoot and swirling. Then it’s back to the debut album Forever So for the hits Tidal Wave and Fake Moustache. The set list of 14 included all of the most well known songs from both albums and had the crowd frequently singing along. Add to that an intense complex classical style solo where Gideon almost feverishly struck the keys.

The genuine affection between the band members translated to the crowd who although strangers, had a feeling of unison about them. The room was awash with smiles as the mellowness of Husky permeated from the stage, evidenced in the gentle banter between the cousins. There was even a “Miyagi” moment when Husky captured an errant fly in a single hand and took it outside. The crowd cheered! It’s difficult to explain, but Husky has that “it” factor where no matter how many times you hear the songs, you want to hear them again and unlike many bands, their live shows add that something extra to the songs.

Although the band’s popularity is constantly growing, they seemingly remain unchanged and accessible, and after the final encore, I’m not coming back, as I leave, a lyric from their song, Animals & Freaks, enters my head.

There was something going on that night, but I don’t know what it was….

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http://www.huskysongs.com/music-1/

 

 

 

 

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Queenscliff Music Festival 2015 – Part 2

Dick Clark once said “music is the soundtrack of your life“. This has certainly been true for me, and lets face it, who hasn’t at least had a relationship song! When I was 18 and believed I’d met the love of my life, I thought my song was The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love“, his was more Dire Straits “Money for Nothing“! But after being entranced by The California Honeydrops, I wanted whatever their life soundtrack was.

I had heard about an amazing New Orleans style jazz/soul group from California that was going to play at Queenscliff and one youtube listen had me hooked, but I was unprepared for the unforgettable, complete Honeydrops experience. The music is diverse, drawing on soul, roots, R&B, funk, blues and southern jazz. They don’t give you a performance, they create a joyful party. This joy is infectious and when they play it’s almost as if you’ve stumbled upon them jamming. I don’t think my smile left me.
What sets the California Honeydrops apart is they are all superb musicians
individually so can more than hold their own musically, as was evident in the various showcase solo moments; from the funky keyboard solos and the perfect jazz sax, to Ben Malament smashing the drums and washboard. Each member’s distinct style shines whilst directed by multi instrumentalist and lead singer Lech Wierzynski, who effortlessly won the crowd from the first. For some it was the flawless trumpet solos and crisp vocals, others, that knowing grin when he convinced us with the bluesy, “baby, I liked it better, when it was wrong” and the funky, “if you do it, do it like you mean it“. Add to that, conducting the capacity crowd in a perfectly timed sing-a-long, this was one party I didn’t want to end. After their rendition of one of my favourites, Curtis Mayfields “People Get Ready” which had me swooning, the set finished to cheers and calls for encores.

A hard act to follow, local favourites Augie March hit the stage. After the high energy of the previous act this was a change of pace. Even with lead singer Glenn suffering with the flu, the band played a tight set. With limited banter to preserve the vocals, he still created a rapport, but it was clear that the crowd were waiting for one song. We’ve all been at that party with the drunken circle of friends “singing” along to “One Crowded Hour”, and even with the flu, the intensity of Glenn’s vocal gave me goose bumps.

The gravelly tones of Tex Perkins with Cookin on 3 Burners took me back to hot sweaty summer pub nights. Tex, always a performer that grabs your attention. Then, the final act of the night, Aussie legends, The Hoodoo Gurus, assaulted the stage from the off. Hit after hit. It was the perfect “mix tape”. Tojo, Miss Freelove ’69, Wipeout, Bittersweet, 1000 Miles Away, What’s My Scene, Come Anytime, I Want You Back, they just kept coming. Dave Faulkner’s faultless vocals belied the passage of time. Even pressed against the barrier, moshpit style, the crowd going off behind me, and like the crowd, knowing all the words, I danced and sang until my voice was hoarse. The crowd still fired up, the bus ride home was complete with drunk “Somebody to Love”.

You know the morning after the night before? Well that was Sunday at the festival. At nearly every performance the audience was sitting, or stretched out on a rug, almost meditation style. This made connecting with the audience more of a challenge for most of the acts. After a subdued breakfast we headed to the Vue Grand for the surprise act of the weekend, local lads, Mustered Courage. Having never heard them, the promise of some hoe down Sunday mornin banjo appealed. What we got was a slick tight set of musical harmonies and melodies and songs that show cased each band members skill. I was reminded of early Mumford & Sons. Although they’ve only been around about four years, this ARIA nominated, progressive folk/bluegrass/country/R&B band is definitely one that’s on the rise.

The afternoon highlight was another dose of the California Honeydrops who delighted with a completely different set. I couldn’t get enough and wished their first Australian tour hadn’t come to an end.
Festival darlings Angus and Julia Stone closed the weekend with the capacity crowd spilling outside of the Lighthouse tent.

As the final applause echoed, we followed the crowd in silence, each lost in our own thoughts. I turned back to the now deserted Lighthouse stage and thought, “some people feel the rain, others just get wet”.

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Lech Wierzynski – The California Honeydrops

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Ben Malament – The California Honeydrops

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Dave Faulkner – Hoodoo Gurus

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Nik Rieth -Hoodoo Gurus

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Mustered Courage

https://cahoneydrops.bandcamp.com/album/like-you-mean-it

http://www.musteredcourage.com/index.php/video/

Queenscliff Music Festival 2015 – Part 1

Nirvana: a state of perfect peace and happiness, or, any place of pure bliss and delight. I can’t tell you exactly when I hit nirvana, but I know it was somewhere between Lior and The California Honeydrops.

You’ll probably be expecting me to wax lyrical about the sleepy seaside town, with its charming cafes and country town regulation number of pubs, that suddenly bursts into a colourful sea of serious music devotees and the music curious. But for me, it began, when I was leaning against the barrier and Lior, without fanfare, stepped onto the main Lighthouse stage, and began This Old Love. From the first bars, the capacity crowd on the opening night, was his. Pressed against the barrier at the front of the stage, the first melancholy notes, had me completely.

Autumn Flow, the album that 10 years ago kick started an enduring and varied career, has an air of wonder, expectation and innocence and with each song the crowd was carried along as one, each lost in their own memories. Listening to favorites; My Grandfather and Autumn Flow, I can only describe the feeling for me as comfortable, like coming home. But it was the final song, a cover of Jeff Buckley’s Satisfied Mind, with it’s slow, soulful guitar and vocals that just blew me and the crowd away. I wanted more, already feeling that this, only my second act would be difficult to top.

The night finished, with a sea of brass, with the Melbourne Ska Orchestra who had the capacity crowd on their feet dancing from the first beats. Reminiscent of 80’s ska giants, Madness, I was expecting a rendition of One Step Beyond at any moment! Each member brought their own individuality and personality to the performance both musically and through their on stage antics, whilst expertly conducted with endless energy by the multi talented Nicky Bomba. These guys know how to put on a show. The Orchestra commands you to leave your cares behind, dance and have fun, which is exactly what I did. An hour later, with tired feet, as we waited for the bus, with the songs still swirling in my head, I believed Nicky, that, The Best Things in Life are Free!

The organisers had surpassed expectations with the smorgasbord of musical delights scheduled for day 2, yes these were my thoughts whilst contemplating my egg and bacon toastie, necessary fuel for the anticipated 16 hr onslaught ahead. I was ready!

Attracted to unique musical experiences, and for me, uniqueness comes in many different forms, we headed for the QMF Express, a vintage train commonly known as “The Blues Train” which has featured the likes of Claude Hay & Geoff Achison. Three different acts in three different carriages we began with Alister Turrill & The Vagabond Brothers who transported me to the deep south with gravelly vocals and trance like bass. Half way mark, to the back of the train and the impressive blues vocals of Blue Eyes Cry.

Next up, Robert Forster could still command a stage, taking me back to a night where in a tiny club, I drank Vodka and danced to The Go Betweens in a completely white dress under strobe lights! Memories. By then the band had disbanded so it was my first chance to experience his distinctive vocal style live. Besides, not only was Cattle and Cane, classic, their drummer was female and the only other person I’d seen with my name. After all, in your teens it is, all about you!
I then couldn’t help but groove in the Ozone Tent with the ever growing crowd of chai lovers to the sweet soul sounds of DJ Vince Peach. I want him at my next party!

So that was how the first half played out, so grab a drink and get ready for the back to back awesomeness of Saturday night and the more relaxed morning after!

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Lior

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Robert Forster

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The Vagabond Brothers

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Changes – A David Bowie Tribute, Lyrebird Cafe. 21/11/15

Growing up in a house where my dad would come home from work every day and we’d spin his favourite 33’s, it’s no surprise I got my first album for my 8th birthday. TV was limited, but I begged my parents to give me the 6pm Sunday time slot, for Countdown! It was the mid 80’s and Beargarden, (fronted by the charismatic Sam Sejavka), and their single, I Write The News, burst onto the screen. I was instantly transfixed!
It’s always a risk to revisit idols of your past years later, and curiosity killed the cat, but hey, this cat still has at least 7 lives, so when I heard Sam was singing at Bowie – Changes Tribute, I couldn’t resist revisiting my preteen self!

So it was with curious anticipation that I ventured forth to suburbia. Lyrebird Cafe & Bar unobtrusively nestled among the Glen Eira Road shopping strip is cosy, with a slightly bohemian, welcoming feel. Now suburbia is not without its distance, so I missed the first couple of acts. The cafe was jammed with an assortment of Bowie and 80’s music devotees, some in standard glittery Bowie issue. Some faces were familiar but I couldn’t quite place them. Sam was yet to arrive.

The fourth act of the night,(my first), rapidly becoming a favourite, organiser Michael Plater, complete with glitter and eyeliner, opened with a very Bowiesque version of Diamond Dogs. Reminiscent of the Velvet Underground or The Triffids, Michael’s restrained edgy vocal then smashed Suffragette City, a difficult achievement for an iconic Bowie number. The crowd approved.

With ten acts and a set list including some of the lesser known Bowie numbers, the experience of the performers showed as they were able to quickly establish a rapport with the audience whilst limited to three songs each. The subdued vocal of Andrew McCubbin had the room in silence with his version of the under rated, Wild is The Wind. Another highlight was Melbourne four piece, Winter Sun, whose energetic version of, Fame got people dancing. The set ups were quick, the sets were tight and overall the night had a wonderful supportive feel from both the crowd and the other musicians.

With the last two acts to go, there was an almost imperceptible hum,”Sam’s here”, and all eyes were on the door. Dressed in a leopard print coat he quietly entered, and in doing so commanded the attention of the room. I don’t really know what I had expected but I still had that curious fascination. Guitar in hand, Sam and The Moth Body’s awesome guitarist, Donald Baldie accompanied unique vocalist and violinist, Bronwyn Adams. Then, the final act and my performance of the night, which included a brilliant version of, All The Madmen, the stage was Sam’s. A perfect finish! But the crowd, and the musicians wanted more, so all performers assembled on stage for a couple of impromptu Bowie numbers, a fitting finale.

As I turned to leave, I looked around and for a fleeting moment became that preteen fan once more, and I couldn’t help but smile!

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https://michaelplater.bandcamp.com/

https://themothbody.bandcamp.com/track/curious

 

Floyd Thursby – Library at the Dock, Docklands. 25/10/15

Amongst titles; Fury’s Kiss and Love and Other Diseases, in a 3 piece suit and trilby, reminiscent of a 1940’s Sam Spade, on a hot Spring day, is a man, and his guitar. That is all. Although at first glance it seems an odd fit, he begins, and effortlessly starts to weave his stories through song. As I listen, I forget the noise and chatter of the library cafe and the poetry comes to life.

Unlike many singer songwriters locked into a particular sound or style, Floyd’s songs cross styles and genres. From the gentle folky, and my favourite, ‘In Your Hands’, to the truckin’ country beat of ‘Eight Days’ or the Cab Callowayesque ‘Bag of Knives’, the songs have one thing in common: subtle, emotion-charged, thoughtful, often humorous lyrics. Lyrics that are guaranteed to provoke a response in the listener.

Floyd quickly establishes a rapport with the audience and the next hour doesn’t disappoint, giving us a mix of songs old and new, and the stories behind those songs. Tales of tarot, weddings, lost love and even finding a bag of knives in a tree, these backstories further bring the lyrics to life. Being a library cafe, not an easy gig space, the audience ranges from very young to old, but even the pre-schooler at the next table is listening intently. Too soon the audience is clapping and I am brought back with a jolt as the musical journey has come to an end.

I smile and think, play it again, Floyd!

 

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https://floydthursby.bandcamp.com/track/in-your-hands