Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Jen Cloher live (2/2)

At the bar Downstairs at Newtown Social Club I recognised Jen Sholakis, said hello, and knowing I'd done the trip over to see the band, she said it was nice to put a name to the face.  Just like Courtney, Jen's a pleasure to meet and say hello to. Jen's a tousled hair girl, fresh faced, sporting jeans and t-shirt.

Upstairs, there's a small stage with just a dark curtain backdrop, two rows of steps around one back and side of the room. 

The steps were already filling up, so found a spot to the right.  One lady had plonked herself and a handbag in front of the stage. During the support act, a grizzle faced Aussie in his 60s was jigging around, cricket sweater slopped around his shoulders. 

I had an Aussie man, probably 40 or so, to my left, telling me about the gig last night, Ellie Hooper.  And then AfroMan came in. Probably 6'2"" with another six inches of hair on top.  AussieMan to my my left said he was there last night, and basically stands at the front all gig.

So yes, he stood right at the front and in my way even when standing on the second step.  On a trip to the bar I asked if he might take two steps to the right and he said "probably not".  

At the merch stall I picked up three copies of Jen's new single, a double a-side of Stone Age Brain, a duet with another Aussie Tim Rogers, plus a cover of Dark Sad Eyes, another Aussie classic I didn't know. Spotting a couple of tour posters on the wall, I unpinned one for later, and later bagged the other one too. 

After the support act, at last the band appeared.  J-Clo centre stage, skinny jeans and a flowery blouse, CB to the left, Bones to the right, and Slolaki at the back. 

And this was one of those gigs.  Every opening note or warm up chord to an In Blood Memory track, I knew what was coming.  Jen played all of IBM, the two songs from the new ep, and the Numbers duet with Courtney.  

The band really clicked together.  I think they'd had a couple of days rehearsal, and it all came together so well. Bones had a standing come back to Jen's chat with "we'll talk about that later Jen", Courtney took a real backstage supporting guitarist to Jen's vocals and lead guitar. Sholaki on drums was really enjoying herself, often breaking into little grins whilst playing. At points, Jen turned her back to the audience for a mid gig jam with Courtney and Sholaki, shredding for fun.  

Gig Highlights...
David Bowie Eyes. On the album there is a slightly cheesy slide guitar loud in the mix , but live it was perfect.
Name In Lights.  The album version finishes with Jen "there's nothing I can't do, so I get over you, ooh hooooh" but live Jen howls in anguish.

Bones - his mum and dad had driven several hundred miles down the coast to see him play.

At the start of the gig Jen's guitar strap came unclipped and she said she needed a new strap on. To a mainly female audience this went down a storm. 

Introducing the band, Jen said to the audience, "you've probably all heard of Courtney who's been touring the world, so she's fucked my career"

Towards the end of the gig, Jen thanked venue manager Emily Ferris and it was a real What The Fuck moment. (Courtney's first ep is called "I've got a friend called Emily Ferris' and I'd assumed it was a pals in joke, someone so six degrees of separation remote you'd never know who she was.

Possibly Jen's stand-out emotional track is Hold My Hand, which she introduces by telling of her parents talking in the kitchen over a sandwich, and her mother forgetting what she'd been talking about by the end of the conversation.   At the first gig it was a BLT sandwich, and the second a ham sandwich - whether it was just the spontaneity of retelling the story or perhaps a little in-joke to change the ingredients each time she tells it.

The second night I saw the band at their hometown gig at the Shebeen in Melbourne.  This is a community food and music venue, with 10% of beer proceeds going to the country of the producers.

There was support from a couple DarkFair, a dark haired singer and blonde haired drummer.

Also East Brunswick All Girls Choir.   These are label mates on Milk! records, primarily Marcus on guitar and vocals, and Rie on bass, with Sholaki on drums.   Apparently they've been through seven drummers, hence the name of their current album.

Again, some quiet banter with the crowd, presumably with lots of friends in the audience.  I spotted Courtney's drummer Dave Mudie.   Again, to a female audience, there was a joke that the area they lived in called Reservoir, should be renamed Lezzervoir.

Apparently there had been a few problems with moving the equipment from Sydney to Melbourne, but a panic drive back to the airport I think for a cymbal and all was resolved.

Highlight of the second night was Name In Lights, and perhaps the perfect end to it was Jen Sholaki's quiet "woah" after the crashing finish to acknowledge the performance.

And remember I'd organised this trip to get the fourth signature on the record sleeve?  Well I left it at home in the last minute packing for the airport.  Luckily Jen appreciated my epic travel, and gave me another copy, this time I did get all four signatures, together with set lists, lyrics for a new song, and signed gig posters.

I left the band and their friends to the post gig disco and later saw pictures on social media of the band dancing beneath the mirror ball.

All in all, the furthest I've ever travelled to a gig.   But worth it.

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