The Spotted Mallard is bustling as chatty diners, sitting at lamp-lit tables, have their attention drawn from each other to the stage by opening act The Motifs. While the pre-programmed drum loops splutter emphatically from diminutive Casios, and Alexis Hall’s wonderfully intimate voice and guitar playing is as warmly appealing as ever, the songs themselves seem undersold and the band under-rehearsed. Playing their first show in many months, even a below-par version of a song like Backwards is still a cause for celebration, and the crowd respond warmly, glad to have them back.
Six-piece Hello Satellites follow and bewitch the attentive with their arresting, twisting four-part harmonies. The intricate arrangements for voice, bass, drums, accordion, viola and violin betray the professionalism and attention to detail that infuses the work of singer/songwriter Eva Popov, and almost seems out of place tonight it is so good. The tight rhythm section leavens the songs a Lamb-like subtle dance-ability, while intricate Sweet Honey in the Rock-style vocal arrangements lend the songs an exotic flavour. Closing song Won't You Dance With Me? is especially powerful.
Hitting the highlights from their beloved 2012 album Zingers, Milk Teddy set about spinning webs of dour indie pop. The unpretentious, matter-of-factness to their music belies the talent involved in their creation; singer/songwriter Thomas Mendelovits sings almost as if he’s ashamed of his songs’ pop sensibility. The set, while well played and full of their trademark wry intelligence, doesn’t see the band breaking any new ground; fine for fans such as those here tonight, but does make you hope their momentum hasn’t slowed.
Sweet Fantasy is the first song for headliners T:dy T:wns, and within its opening seconds you know something very special is happening here. The dual vocals of Louise Terry and Sez Wilks are jaw dropping in their harmonic strength and fluidity. Guitarist and songwriter Peter Head boasts a Flying V guitar with an iPhone-keyboard plugged into it and makes noises just as sweetly odd as you’d expect. Popov returns to the stage for Bask, one of the A-sides of tonight’s launched single, and with it the gig really takes off. While Pikelet isn’t available for the band’s radio hit Dear Joseph, Terry, Wilks and copious handclaps drive the song to its satisfying conclusion.
St Clare joins them for the other A side, the knowing Goldfrapp-esque I'm Gonna Get Dressed Up, and it too is a triumph. Terry’s Elizabeth Fraser-esque take on Once a Year silences the room, which then sings along to closer Bare Chested Boys. A major addition to Melbourne’s music scene has arrived, and they’re glorious.