Mountain Man + Wet Wings – The Toff In Town (15.01.11)

It was a quiet night of laid back minimalist pop as punters spread out on the floor of the band room to take in the sounds of US natives Mountain Man.

Supporting the girls on their first Australian tour were New Zealand duo Wet Wings. I’m yet to decide whether I liked Wet Wings or not. Since Dirty Projectors gained popularity in the mid 2000s there has a been a movement of sparse, experimental, pop groups who try and emulate the eclectic genius of their arrangements, and most of them don’t live up to scratch. Wet Wings had a similar quirky kind of charm and their light, post-rock tunes embedded with a few electronic glitches were well received by the crowd. However their vocal performance wasn’t great (Darian’s contribution in particular was heinously off key) and none of their songs were striking or memorable. They’re like a cross between Denim Owl and Otouto, minus the clever arrangements and gorgeous voices, but if you like those bands, you‘ll probably love Wet Wings. They were a cute act, but by no means great. Their live show held a glimmer of promise and perhaps with time they may become awesome.

Mountain Man walked on stage in darkness and after a false start and trying to find the coolest lighting setting possible (the Toff band room is severely lacking in air con), they wowed the punters with the beautiful harmonies these girls have become renowned for. It’s not often a crowd will sit and watch a band in complete silence but the power of Mountain Man’s performance held the majority of the audience enraptured for a solid hour as they worked through a charming set of vocal gymnastics and tales of love, heartbreak and discovery with their unique take on traditional American folk.

Alex, Molly and Amelia looked as though they’d just rolled out of bed, all shoeless and dressed in very casual clothing, which suited the informal nature of their performance. The three-piece had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands with the humorous anecdotes they shared between songs, that ranged from some awkward experiences they‘d had talking to fans after their shows in Sydney, to stopping the music completely for an impromptu question and answer session, to their own mild fears of performing for a crowd in Melbourne, who they‘d been told is like the New York of Australia with people who sit back and watch a gig that are interested but not invested (never a truer word has been spoken about the music scene down here).

The music was simply lovely and the girls performed acapella for most of the set. Highlights included breathtaking renditions of “Buffalo”, “How‘m I Doin”, “Soft Skin” and “Babylon” a long with a cover of Tom Waits “Mockin’ Bird” and a hilarious version of Trey Songz “Say Aah”. The girls abandoned the mics completely opting to sing the last three songs unplugged and ended the night with an audience sing a long to an acapella round, which was one of those really special live moments you don’t witness very often.

Mountain Man’s performance was stunning. Seeing the girls take obvious delight in each other’s company and experimenting with their voices in such an intimate setting, made for a magical evening of heart warming, blissful entertainment.