Despite the challenges a concert at the Wesley Anne often presents you (terrible sound and a PA that cuts out at 87 decibels), tonight’s performers succeed through sheer charisma and positivity, mainly down to the creative force behind The Gallant Trees, Joel Stibbard.
Having played more shows in the last twelve months than almost any other performer in Melbourne, the constant communication with the crowd and resultant inclusiveness, unabashed honesty and a refreshing lack of self-consciousness. Stibbard is one of the great iconic local troubadours, and his set is an unmitigated triumph.
Vicuna Coat are reliably excellent protagonists of heavy, jangly indie rock, and the acoustics of the venue are unkind to the subtleties and melodies that drive a lot of their songs. Pulling out sitar and ukulele and actually knowing how to use them is a bonus and helps express their distinctive personalities; the bashful warmth of singer and multi-instrumentalist Kat Winduss, and the lackadaisical talents of guitarist and vocalist Gordon Blake.
Launching their debut album Music For Frustrated Ornithologists, the self-described ‘avian rock’ band The Gallant Trees are in fine form tonight. Welsh flag dangling from his back pocket, singer/songwriter Joel Stibbard leads the band through highlights from the album, a lineup that includes deftly impressive guitarist Richard Jefferies, drafted in days earlier due to a broken finger. Opening with Little Rainbird, the love in the room for these songs and musicians is instant and almost tangible. Mistakes are all but impossible, with the several occasions of the PA cutting out only leading to massive impromptu singalongs, with some off-mic belting from Stibbard and bassist Tim Woods and drummer Chris Chinchilla.
Few other bands could engender love like this, so it’s just as well the songs are as strong as they are. Stibbard’s sister Beth is brought up to sing her effortlessly moody To Have You (original title Mother Nature is scrapped for being ‘too mung-bean hippy’). Her powerful untrained voice silences the room in seconds and it’s a crime she’s not performing more often. Visit Me Pelican and Roy the Renegade Seagull are clear rousing highlights that give the audience ample opportunity to contribute to the songs, something Stibbard clearly loves. The closing, nightmare-ish Birds With Fangs sees a mosh and some serious wailing before a raffle winds things up in another unpredictable but personal and positive example of communal celebration.