Boy & Bear + Oh Ye Denver Birds + The Chemist – Annandale Hotel (12.06.10)


I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that until now, I hadn’t been to the Annandale. I’d driven past countless times and loved the scummy exterior appearance. I’d wondered if it was an ode to the musical history of the place and that the inside would be refurbished, clean and comfortable. I was happy to find, after three sticky footsteps into the Annandale, the interior was equally as decrepit. I use these words with endearment ‘cause I loved the atmosphere and authenticity of the venue. The toilet door was covered in a slimy residue and my Volleys wanted to stick around at certain spots on the blood, sweat and booze soaked floor. I overheard some people talking about a renovation with despair and I have to admit, although being a pure Annandale rookie, I like it as it is.

All these new sensations built up the anticipation for first up, Perth band, The Chemist. Unfamiliar with the guys, I was keen to hear what they had to offer and they didn’t disappoint. There was an awkward void in front of the stage but it didn’t take the boys long to fill this space with eager moving bodies. They had a fresh and varied serving of ‘sound pie’. Hamish, the bass player rocked his hunched head-nod knee-bob thing and played to the audience with seductive confidence. Charisma seemed to ooze from drummer, Elliot Smith. His keen and captivating enthusiasm maintained an upbeat rhythm throughout the set and lead singer/guitarist Benjamin Witt kept the crowd engaged and moving with his unique and charming voice. James did his part on percussion and keyboard but I think there was a problem with his equipment for a while and he was unfortunately a bit of a bystander, but his accordion work, brilliant. The highlight, definitely not for being the end of the set, was Witt’s echoed, reverbed and doubled up vocal solo finish for End Of July. The Chemist EP The Wolves Howls Shatter The Old Glass Moon is out now and is well worth a listen.

Oh Ye Denver Birds were up next. The five-piece had a bit of a following, but the crowd did simmer down a bit during the set. While I’m no critic, I guess I’m here to critique, and for me the whole set-up seemed to lack cohesion. The bass player had some of, if not THE best moves of the night, even if his hair height and circumference hasn’t quite matched the level of Russell Brand. The drummer was brilliant and I was intrigued to see a violin being used, but disappointed to not hear its effect as it was drowned out by guitars. I’m just going to sound like a prick, and it’s only my opinion, but Oh Ye Denver Birds left me wondering if they had had much time together. After hitting up their MySpace page I now wonder if they just lack a live presence and ability ‘cause their recorded stuff is good, but, for me, they lacked consistency and structure on the night. I do, however, want to point out that there were many people that would disagree. There were plenty who appeared to enjoy the set, singing and dancing along with great enthusiasm… maybe I’m just getting old and cynical.

As a projector screen lowered onto a photographers head, the spaces on the floor filled and anticipation began to build for Boy & Bear. When the headline boys emerged the eager crowd was met with friendly smiles and a confidence that promised a good time was to come. Dave Hosking admitted to bringing a short set, but that was in no way a measure of what was presented. We got some new songs, a Bon Iver cover, a delightful little tale from the streets of Newtown and of course the songs we’ve come to love.

The crowd was immediately responsive and the harmonies of the boys didn’t let us down. Each of the boys knew their role and showed their diversity as they picked up different instruments throughout the set. Confessing to not having enough of their own material, a brilliant cover of Bon Iver’s Flume was thrown out as a midway bonus. This delighted the crowd and Dave’s unique and distinctively clear voice made the most of the reworking. Tim Hart embodied ‘relaxed’ in everything he did. Chewing his gum he kept bodies moving, sounds harmonising and minds open. His almost nonchalant demeanour on the drums spoke volumes for his ability and place in Boy & Bear . He seemed reluctant, but felt obliged to portray a happy moment in his life as he recounted his trying on of some very comfortable, oddly warm leather boots in Newtown. Without going into details, the moral of the tale, you like something, try it on. His boots were awesome.

Doing his bit to perfection, Jake kept the bass lines fresh and apparent. Killian and Jon made it look easy as they operated the guitars, mandolin and keys. It’s hard and superfluous to isolate an aspect of the sound as all five worked seamlessly in collaboration. The captivating layers of sound worked in unison to uplift and provoke satisfaction. The sell out gig was a journey through a short but powerful set list as the crowd got exactly what they wanted and more. “Amazing” was heard more than once and there were a few that make the trek from Melbourne just to catch the boys again. Finishing a solid performance with Mexican Mavis, the boys departed and we were left with a sweet sensation lingering in the cold night air. Suddenly winter didn’t feel so sterile and there was a glowing warmth that hung above everyone thanks to the enchanting sounds of the charming Boy & Bear .

If you haven’t dot it already, the EP With Emperor Antarctica is out now. Needless to say, it’s gold.