Gig Review: Jonathan Boulet @ St Kilda Festival, 14th February

Earlier today, Jonathan Boulet played a 45 minute set at the enormous St Kilda festival. This was my second time seeing him live this weekend, but he was very impressive the first time, and free live music is hard to resist, so I had no doubts about seeing him again.

Jonathan had a very early 1pm set, which was both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side it meant the festival was nowhere near as busy as it would have been later in the day, but it also meant that the sun was out in full force, and it was a very hot day indeed (“Was anyone else stupid enough to wear a shirt? What an idiot,” noted Jonathan).

Music is only one facet of the St Kilda Festival, which also saw a massive amount of markets, carnival rides, sports competitions, and everything in between. It was estimated that over the two weeks the festival ran, over a quarter of a million people attended it. Today was the ultimate day of the festival, with a full day of music and events planned.

Getting to St Kilda was no problem, and once at the festival it was a relief to see that it was nowhere near as packed as we were expecting. Indeed the stage that Jonathan was scheduled to play at, the O’Donnell Gardens Stage, was virtually deserted with half an hour left until his performance.

It was a great setup for a stage, with Luna Park’s rollercoaster in the background, a spacious grassy slope in front of the stage, and stalls and bars in the surrounding area. It was separated from the rest of the festival by a fence, with the inside area supposedly for over-18s only, even though security certainly wasn’t strict on this.

It was cool to see Jonathan and his bandmates just chilling out on the grassy area before their set, and even cooler to have a very brief chat to him about his Northcote Social Club gig two nights earlier. He had to depart backstage soon enough though, and, although the crowd was now respectable, it was still easy to grab a spot on the barrier a few minutes before Jonathan’s set.

Those who were at Jonathan’s previous gig had a fairly good idea of what to expect here. It was the same setup, with the four guys in a row at the front and the drummer behind them. The only difference was that the awesome second-drummer-and-keyboardist-and-xylophonist guy was only equipped with one drum instead of two.

The guys began with the same “We will soldier on” jam, which was just as impressive outside as it had been inside, with the band nearly shattering the stage with some violent and enthusiastic foot-stomping. The end where the guys retreated from their mics and sung without them was great.

What followed was a set virtually identical to their Northcote Social Club show. Ones Who Fly Twos Who Die was brilliant and nearly as massive as it had been indoors, with that dual-drum sound exploding into St Kilda. By this time a decent crowd had assembled around the barrier, some having heard of Jonathan previously and some having just been attracted by his sound.

Oddly the crowd seemed to be more appreciative of Jonathan than the Northcote Social Club crowd had been, which is very strange when you consider that those at the club had paid money specifically to see him perform and those at St Kilda had, for the most part, never heard of him before, and had not paid a cent to see his performance. Those at the front were really into the gig, and those behind were at least respectful enough to not continually talk over the music.

321 Ready Or Not was fantastic, and 10 Billion Years was interesting given that it was played with an electric guitar as opposed to the acoustic guitar used in the studio and at the previous gig. Continue Calling was also very enjoyable, and the band indulged in another jam that got the boys foot-stomping magnificently once again.

Jonathan’s interaction was the crowd was great. He seemed very appreciative of the small group of people that had gathered at the barrier, saying “You guys are so cool”, and even conceded that he didn’t get a crowd this big at his local town of Sydney. He seemed genuinely surprised that so many people were at the festival solely to see him, but inevitably his banter became too longwinded and his band members once again through empty water bottles at him in an attempt to encourage him to “Just start the song already!”.

Jonathan asked the crowd for suggestions as to what to base a jam around, and one excited punter suggested pizza, so the band proceeded to jam once again. There were no lyrics so that suggestion seemed somewhat redundant, unless the guys were drawing on artistic inspiration from pizza for the music. It was satisfying to see the stage shake from the pressure of many stamping feet once again however.

Naturally the band finished their set with A Community Service Announcement, which was greeted with a rapturous response from the crowd gathered at the front, and got a healthy clap-along started. The song was of course phenomenal and catchy and great, but everyone already knows that. It worked great outside where everyone had a bit more room to move around, and the music completely drowned out any surrounding ambience.

Jonathan and his band left the stage to very warm applause, however he returned a few minutes later (not for an encore, that’s not his style) and we managed to get a photo with him, which was great. Faced with the prospect of about 20 individual photos, Jonathan swiftly and decisively dealt with the problem by yelling “Photo! Everyone get in!”. Once again Jonathan was very appreciative of the crowd and seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

I may sound like a bit of a broken record but Jonathan really is a great performer. He and his band mixed it up perfectly, playing a combination of slower songs, feet-stamping jams, and upbeat anthems. The sound they generated was truly impressive, and they sounded like a band that was in perfect unison.

I must say I probably enjoyed his Northcote Social Club gig more, just because it was at a very cool indoor venue, and I’ll always prefer intimate room-like venues for gigs than open outdoor areas. This being said, Jonathan’s sound worked perfectly outdoors, and the crowd was much cooler.

I can’t review the rest of the festival because we bailed pretty soon after Jonathan Boulet finished, but his set alone made for a very enjoyable day. I would only go to see an artist twice within three days if I really really enjoyed their live shows, and this is true of Jonathan Boulet.

He’s great, and I like his gigs a lot. That’s about all.

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