Thursday, November 30, 2006
Northcote Social Club
With the sky still a rich blue outside, The NSC plays home to a spillover from Brisbane's Ladyfest, which tonight hosts Portland, Oregon's multi-talented and very busy, Sarah Dougher.
Whether it was the clashing final episode of Glasshouse, the cool weather, the paucity of advertising or the general lack of genre into which to slot Miss Dougher, people stay away in droves. Even Dougher's heartfelt thank you 'to the complete lack of assholes working at NSC' went out to an untended bar. It was a little embarrassing, but the audience there was, were there for the music, or, more accurately, the personality and the finely-honed words of Sarah Dougher.
Brisbane's The Rational Academy open the evening with a lackadasical and somewhat lacklustre set peppered with self-depreciating but charming between-song chat. It's unlikely they'll give up their day jobs to further work this exercise in celebrating the initial exciting spark of mid-90s melodic chaos they so successfully evoke, and less likely there will be an audience for it. For those that were around for 1995's Summersault Festival, dug the Chapel Hill scene or attended any Fauves or Screamfeeder gig circa 1996, the Rational Academy are a marvelous thing, even if the energy is lacking.
Shortly following their exit, Sarah Dougher took to the stage, bereft of any fanfare or audience hysterics, more befitting the Greco-Roman History Professor she is back home than a feminist vanguard, poet, activist, and inspirational veteran of a multitude of grrl rock bands from the Pacific Northwest scene; roles she also fulfills in her daily life. Instantly coming across as being up for a friendly chit-chat and some tunes, and after wanting a definition of the difference between a "sit down" and "workshop", Dougher launched into Turn Myself; "I turned myself to tinder and I waited there for you/ Beside the wide river, beside the wild wood/ Dry and unforgiving, the sap had ceased to run/ Cut in the green of summer and cured of every love..,". Yes sir she can write. It was lyrics like this that - when heard above her very rudimentary chording - that was clearly what had brought her to Melbourne and us to her. More glorious lyrics followed, especially on songs like The Doctor With The Sham Degree ("a series of secret surgeries") bringing backyard abortionists to justice, and the wonderfully subtle and clever Indio; "most of my songs are about me, which is convenient". Her conversational lyrical style flowed into the warm stage banter; though the audience, best described as a little shy given the closeness, gave little in return....ah Melbourne, we're so spoilt. Another high point is her wonderfully affecting reinterpretation of The Crabs' Three Days showing just how much her style and subject matter has changed, even if her gift of vibrant and concise wordplay hasn't.
A mere 45 minutes later and she's gone, the warm applause quickly fading as the audience drift toward the merch desk. An odd but affecting night, all the more so for being such a shared secret.