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(Wo)Men at Work: Sam’s Back with Her Latest Look at the Aussie Scene

Posted by June 4th, 2009 No Comments »

Dead Letter Chorus/Skipping Girl Vinegar/Skinny Gean
Live @ The Troubadour
Brisbane, Australia
May 15, 2009

Hey, folks, how’s it? Been some time since I’ve reported on the goings-on “Down Under”, as we will insist on calling it, but believe me, goings-on there have been!

Yes, all is not lost on the Australian music front, as testified by the swingin’ gig I scored a ticket to just the other night. Imagine my delight: my favourite venue, a cloudless evening and a truly inspiring outfit. All signs pointing to rock and roll.

Brisbane favourites Skinny Jean are in full swing when we arrive at the Troubadour, and I’m reminded why I tell everyone about this band. They possess the same shambling, anarchic feel as the Drones, raising a glorious cacophony of voices and a wall of sound so thick you could take a scoop out of the air. Skinny Jean give their audience credit, piling on modes, silences, and limping time signatures. Tonight’s show is all about inspiringly manic frontman and principle songwriter Shêm Allen, and captivating new vocalist and Lady of the Tuned Percussion, Jemma Hicks. She carries the heaving, grief-wracked “Army Wife” with verve and passion, and closes the set with a jaw-dropping vibraphone solo.

Next up are Melbourne quartet Skipping Girl Vinegar, sticking wooden cut-outs of woodland critters on the mic stands, and setting the stage with a lamp, side-table, phone, and alarm clock. I’m wondering what exactly they need the supporting cast of Bambi to compensate for-until they let rip with a chorus of luscious full-band harmonies. Lined up along the front of the stage amid the hedgehogs and owls, radiating feel-good country-tinged folk-rock, SGV turn the already cosy Troubadour into your best friend’s living room, and lead singer Mark Lang soon has the whole place fist-pumping and ba-da-da-ing along to standout single “Sift the Noise.” Melodica, electric organ and xylophone all make an appearance; from the dusty, Nashville-tinged “Wandered,” to the foot-stomping “Getting Wasted.” SGV serve up a sweet slice of (Australian) southern-state summer.

Skinny Jean

Skinny Jean: They almost called themselves ‘Whatever Hipster Hat is Especially Hip Right Now” but it wouldn’t fit well on a CD case.

Sydney outfit Dead Letter Chorus are last on stage. They have an interesting sound, these guys, full of lyricism, lush voices, and a kind of brooding grandeur. Ripples of admiration are palpable as Gabby Huber swaps places at the lead with Cameron Potts, and graces us with her thrilling voice. The single “Down In Your Valley” is verging on greatness, but “Fathers and Daughters” initially seems a poor choice for a closer, starting as it does with solo guitar picking and Potts’ mournful voice-but the end of the set explodes into a melee of crowd sing-alongs, wailing harmonica and flying streamers. An awesome wrap-up to an awesome night of sweet Aussie rock.

Sam George-Allen occasionally educates us on the Australian music scene from her hometown Brisbane. Skipping Girl Vinegar and Dead Letter Chorus are touring the east coast at the moment; see MySpace for details on their upcoming shows in Sydney. 

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