Sunday, 25 August 2013

Gig Review - The Hello Morning

The Hello Morning
with Grizzly Jim Lawrie, Ali Barter and Winter Boy @ Northcote Social Club (24/08/2013)
Words and pics by Lou Endicott 

I always enjoy watching live music at The Northcote Social Club. The band room here is relatively intimate and comfy with its carpeted floors and old tattered upholstery benches on the outskirts of the room, which are always nice to sit back on and absorb the music. When the room gets filled, you can sit up on the back of the benches and look above the heads. There are no pretentions here. The venue is about show casing music and supporting emerging artists and not much else and I love this. I took my housemate with me (a fellow lover of live music) and we settled in to enjoy the night on a bench - me with a nice wine in hand and her (the driver) with a fine h20.

The first support act of this gig was Winter Boy - a solo singer guitar player. Winter Boy delivered his acoustic songs with a deep low and husky voice that had strains of a very young Tom Waits perhaps mixed with a little Bruce Springsteen. Country, folky and a little heart wrenching in delivery and style, this act was a perfect start to a night of music. The highlight of this set was a rather ingenious and unexpected cover of the Outkast song 'So Fresh, So Clean'. With guitar, that husky voice and this quirky choice, the crowd were won over. Winter Boy warmed us on this cold Melbourne night with the feeling of sitting near a campfire listening to a balladeer sing his heart out to the moon. I joked to my housemate that a more appropriate beverage to accompany the music would be a whiskey served straight up - perhaps out of a flask. She agreed. About this point I decided to categorise ALL the music of the night based on suitable beverages to accompany. Because - why not?

So..... Winter Boy Beverage: Whiskey in a hip flask.

Next up we were treated to the Melbourne singer/songwriter Ali Barter. I had been sitting next to a stranger earlier who told me that he was there to see Ali - and it would be the second time he had seen her in a week. I think Ali has that effect on listeners. Her growing number of fans are passionately moved by her sweet yet powerful delivery and her heart felt and personal lyrics, her electric guitar work used as a distortion on top which was a big juxtaposition to the smooth voice behind it. Perhaps this is why it took a little while for the crowd to come around. But by a few songs in, the room was quiet and people moved closer to be a part of the magic.

Barter's moody, soft and somber wails shone like a gaslight lamp on the pavement of a cold and wet night. I was reminded of Cat Power and even a little of Patsy Cline. My favourite song in this set was the haunting 'Marigold'. Ali Barter let us know that she has a Pozible crowd funding campaign to release her first album. Get on it - a bright future lays ahead of this songstress, so help her if you can!

Ali Barter Beverage: Mulled Wine served in a terracotta mug.

Our third act of of the night was Grizzly Jim Lawrie. Lawrie’s band - consisting of Jim on acoustic guitar and vocals, a drummer, bass guitarist, lead guitarist, trumpet player and keyboardist - got us into the full band mode for the rest of the evening. They were also a delight and a true highlight of the night delivering us a full, bright sound that hinted at visions of road trips and summer days somewhere way out of the city's bounds. I had flashes of Otis Redding, Neil Young, Dylan and Credence Clearwater Revival through out the set. There was even a feeling of Bacharach in the song 'What Did We Do?'

The trumpet added such a distinct and epic layer to the mix in this set and blended well with that Amerciana 60s ilk that the band create so well. I’m not sure if he has received this comparison before, but Jim Lawrie’s voice is eerily similar to Robin Pecknold of the Fleet Foxes. Being a fan of the Fleet Foxes, I was won over instantly. It was only when they played their single 'Midnight Run' that I realised I had been playing this song over and over in the last few months in a collection of new singles I had created. I was indeed already familiar with this band and stoked to see them live. I hope this band receives the attention they deserve; they are fantastic and get better with each listen.

Grizzly Jim Lawrie Beverage: A mexican beer with a lime wedge in it drunk straight out of the bottle.

So our final and headliner act for the night: The Hello Morning. First up I have to mention the shoes. I just have to. All black. All leather. Cavern style (think Beatles) boots. Each a little different to the other members. From the ground up, these boys exude sophistication and class. Make no mistake, they are rockers, but they approach their music in the same way as their shoes: it’s polished, sits well with other elements of the outfit and well, just darn fine really.

The Hello Morning consists of Steven Clifford (lead vocals/guitarist), Dave Manton (guitar/vocals), Joe Cope (keys), David Oxley (bass) and Matt Vance (drums). Together they created an atmosphere of a country rock opera with delicious harmonies, epic instrumentals, unexpected (yet just right) rhythm changes and those delicious - DELICIOUS - swirly keys. Now, I might be a bit biased (being a sometimes keys player myself), but Joe Cope owned the keys in this gig. I wanted to eat the swell that the organ brought to the sound. Not to say that the sound was overpowering. Clifford’s rounded vocals had a Johnny Cash prowess to them - which was even more evident later in the set when he brought Ali Barter back on stage. Together they sung the Cash and Carter duet: 'Jackson'. It was slowed down with a dreamy feel and goosebump worthy harmonies. This was a highlight of the set and Clifford knew it. He admitted to the crowd that he wasn’t sure if it would fit in the set but our response to it regained his confidence. “It’s all easy sailing from now on” he told us and easy sailing it was indeed.

Another highlight amongst the originals was the beautiful Wilson and Pickett cover 'Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You'. All the pop was removed from this song and replaced with deep driving soul and heart achingly beautiful piano sounds as Clifford sung with that beautiful voice that would make Nashville claim him as their own. And of course, the band joined him with harmonies to sigh to. Music Bliss. The other highlight of this set for me was the catchy 'Stone Cold Lover'. The chorus just begs you to sing along with the pumping “Oh yeah!” and the ebb and flow of the dynamics of the verses.

All in all a great set from these guys. I look forward to hearing more of them on the airwaves and seeing them live again.

The Hello Morning Beverage: Scotch and dry with ice, served in sturdy glass tumblers.

You too can catch The Hello Morning at these places on these dates, at these places:

Thursday 29th August at The Phoenix Bar, Canberra ACT'
Friday, 30th August at the Cougee Diggers, Cougee, NSW
Saturday 31st August (early) at the Old Manly Boatshed, Manly, NSW
Saturday 31st August (late) at the Brighton Up Bar, Darlinghurst, NSW
Sunday 1st September at the Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland, NSW
Saturday 7th September at the Baha Tacos, Rye, VIC

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