Monday, 21 July 2014

Jen Cloher live (1/2)

It's a strange route from Guildford UK, to a small upstairs gig in a bar in hipster district Newtown, in Sydney. 

So here goes:-
Jen Cloher crowd-funded $15,000 AUD to record her third album, and in Summer 2013, a week long live recording session with fellow Melbourne artistes Courney Barnett (slide guitar), Bones Sloane (bass), and Jen Sholakis (drums) resulted in In Blood Memory.  Sholaki has played with Jen before, and Courtney had recorded a duet, Numbers, with Jen. 

They played a couple of album release gigs in Autumn 2013, a double a-side with Courtney was released at the gigs. And then in October, Courtney went for world exposure with her self penned double ep, A Sea of Split Peas. 

I heard the single Avant Gardner on BBC6 music, ordered it on import, and was struck by the combination of slacker garage rock music, and story telling lyrics. Courtney's record label Milk has four other artists, The Finks, Royston Vasie, Fraser A Gorman, and Jen Cloher.  Seeing that Courtney played on In Blood Memory, I ordered this on a whim to see if the same magic was there.  

It was, and more. Whereas Courtney's two eps are the tales of a 26 year old budding musician, Jen's is from a few more year old's perspective, after a four year music break and tells of love and relationships, and losing her parents the year before. It's a bluesy rocked out album, just seven tracks, but none a filler. 

One advantage of the new digital age is that often when you order physical CDs or vinyl, you get a free download, and in this case with Milk Records,  a free Bandcamp app of the album.  I refuse to buy anything on iTunes due to their tax arrangements and poor return to the artist, So my mp3player has just Jen's three albums, and Courtney's double ep.  

Courtney hit New York in October for a short visit of sold out gigs at a music festival, a pair of solo gigs in an upstairs bar in London supporting young Scottish drum and guitar duo Honeyblood, before returning to the UK in February 2014. 

I'd had my house redecorated at this time, and lost my Walkman which has hundred of albums, and so on long train journeys for football, and walks to work, all I had was my iPhone and those 3 Jen albums and 1 CB ep.   In modern digital times you can shuffle and skip, but I had just these four, so for the first time in years I was relistening to albums again and again. 

I'd bagged a ticket for the first Courtney Barnett show at the Sebright Arms, London, in February, an NME promoted gig.   This was her first UK date with her band with Bones on bass, and drummer Dave Mudie. One thing soon becomes apparent and that is Courtney is hell bent on making it. She says she reads books to pass the time, but it seems even on days off for the rest of the band, she'll do a solo appearance at a record store or a radio session. Occasionally she'll do a cover version, but primarily it's her own songs that she plays. She'll also reply to almost every fan's twitter interaction, again building the links between artist and the listener. 


March and April she's off to New York and Europe before a May return to the UK. I caught one sold out gig at the Horn in StAlbans. As I was driving, I took my vinyl copies of the double ep, and In Blood Memory (pre-signed by Jen) for signing post gig. Courtney is the perfect artist, waiting for fans to chat and sign. Bones and Dave hang around outside for a cigarette, and I corner Bones for a signature too on IBM.  He tells me how proud he is of the final mixed album and I mention my standout track is the rock out epic Name in Lights with it's quiet building start, mid song riff break, and screaming rock out finish. 

I tweet a picture of the signed album to say thanks and then CB replies that I just need Sholaki to sign for the complete set.  

Jen tweets a photo from Primavera festival in Spain, and I wonder if they might do a gig with 3/4 of the band in Europe, but without Sholaki, it's not happening.

A few weeks pass, and then Milk email to tell of a short whole band tour to Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne in July. Go for it I think, I've not had a day off for six months, so why not?  

The gigs get released, a Friday in Sydney and a Saturday in Melbourne, plus a couple of other dates. I decide to do a week in Sydney, and then a couple of days in Melbourne.  

CB keeps on touring, including Glastonbury with two stage gigs and a six Music session. 

Finally in July the band fly back from North America and Canada to Melbourne.  Jen's Saturday Melbourne show is a sell out so they add a school night Wednesday show, whilst CB squeezes in a a radio session in front of a subscribers audience for RRR rock radio.

So I've been in Sydney a week, seen Lorde, and Aussie favourites Something For Kate. It's a short train ride to Newtown, a big change from the Central Business district, Newton is all two story buildings, small restaurants and shops. 

I found the Newtown Social Club a few minutes from the station. Downstairs it's a typical Aussie bar, a few stools, pedestal tables, and sit downs for people eating. A nice retro touch was the pinball machine, so I spent ten minutes playing that. And then upstairs for the gig.   

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