Sunday, July 4, 2010


Friday, October 03, 2008
Open Studio

Joel Stibbard (aka The Gallant Trees), a recent arrival from Adelaide, seems totally unconcerned about being cool or trying to be anything at all. He’s a man with a guitar, an appealingly bashful delivery, some great tunes and a streak of self-determination that would leave most singer/songwriters back in Music Industry Studies 101.

Clem Bastow discussed in last week’s Greatest Hit column a concept of cool as ‘skinny jeans…asymmetrical haircuts and raging coke habits’, which neatly defines a culture as far removed from the world of Joel Stibbard as any major label is likely to be throughout his career. And make no mistake; this man is doing this for life, you can tell. Despite an initial Daniel Johnson-like nervousness he is a born performer with hardwired sincerity and an Aussie-ness so strong it threatens to make Redgum look like Lynyrd Skynard. That the gig was to five people on a Wednesday night seemed unfairly fitting for someone this unusual, though there was mention of previous albums and a forthcoming EP, so clearly he’s no newcomer.

With a setlist that overwhelmingly concerns birds (Roy The Renegade Seagull, Jabiru, the rousing sing-along of Pigeons are the Best Headbangers) and nature (Wild Beauty) Stibbard may risk being seen as yet another hippy singer/songwriter, but he is far from that. He is more a cross between Grant McLennon and John Williamson; observational and totally without shame in his passions. There are no vague metaphors, surf related imagery or songs about ex-girlfriends here. Instead we get a refreshing lack of seriousness and constant feedback with the audience - often interrupting a song to pursue a train of thought. The inherent strength of individuality is something that comes along so rarely in a performer and is so much a part of Stibbard’s approach that it’s nearly breathtaking. Who else is going to pen lyrics like “Birds with fangs / funnel-webs beware / you have competition,” or  “The passive place you hold is actually aggressive... and not submissive / so why do you ask for permission? / It is a drowning of your spirit”. No one.

And for the blessed relief that there is someone new singing about something new Joel Stibbard is an important performer, and, like most of those who play not out of a need to boost ego, isn’t going to be glamorous about doing it. But he is going to be genuine.

No comments:

Post a Comment