Gig Review: Hungry Kids Of Hungary @ The East Brunswick Club, 27th February

This was only my second ever gig at The East Brunswick Club, one of Melbourne’s smaller music venues, and it was an absolutely great one.

The lineup really was spectacular for a $14 gig- headliners Hungry Kids Of Hungary have been getting a lot of love lately, with their debut album due for release later this year, and throw in three quality support acts and you have one amazing gig. I was particularly keen on seeing openers Boy And Bear, who I had previously seen live at Homebake festival. I would have easily paid $14 to see just them, so I was looking forward to another night of great value-for-money music.

We arrived at the venue about halfway through the first openers, The Box Rockets. I have heard a bit about these guys beforehand, and the story of their creation is one of the cooler ones in indie music- the band started as a response to the Wiki Answers ‘How To Start A Band’ page, with members pledging to follow the step-by-step instructions exactly.

It’s that easy, huh?

The Box Rockets were the local opening act of the show, and they clearly already have a dedicated Melbourne following, as a very decent crowd amassed to see their performance. I don’t know the names of any of their songs but they were fairly impressive. They played catchy pop music that sometimes had a bit of an edge to it, and their lead singer has an awesome falsetto.

The local Melbourne boys did the rest of the lineup proud, and I’ll definitely be checking out some of their stuff.

Next up was Sydney band Boy And Bear, who have been travelling around the country with Hungry Kids Of Hungary for this tour. I was really looking forward to seeing these guys live again- in fact they were probably half the attraction of the gig for me. Although they are a very new band, they have already been gaining a huge amount of attention, including winning the coveted Triple J Unearthed position on the Homebake festival bill.

A suitably impressive crowd built up as the band was due to take the stage, however the temptation of one lone couch at the back of the venue was too much to resist, and I ended up watching most of their set from it, which was certainly a strangely relaxing experience. I never imagined I’d watch a gig from a couch.

At Homebake, I had liked Boy And Bear. At The East Brusnwick Club, I loved them. In a very short space of time they have managed to refine their already impressive live act even further, and now seem like a true force to be reckoned with. Comparisons with the likes of The Middle East and Fleet Foxes are inevitable, but really, Boy And Bear have a sound all of their own.

Banter was kept at a minimum (except between the band and their music technician, the boys are definitely perfectionists when it comes to sound), with Boy And Bear letting their songs do the talking. Every single song they played was special in its own way, however the highlights of their set came in the form of their Unearthed tracks, The Storm and Mexican Mavis.

The Storm was just sublime live, with that finger-picked beginning that could barely be heard over the sounds of the crowd, and slowly building chorus. Mexican Mavis was my favourite song of their set: they closed with it, which was absolutely perfect, and gave it an extended introduction which worked perfectly and should be immediately included in the recorded version. It was magical. Whenever the band broke into those four-part harmonies, their music simply soared.

Boy And Bear were appreciative of the large and enthusiastic crowd, repeating “Thank you so much” throughout their set, and seemed genuinely pleased to be touring with HKOH. They were much better than an opening act, but you can’t exactly call a set “too good”. Bring on the headline shows.

The final opener was Syndey band Ernest Ellis. I had never heard of them (him?) before, but was pleasantly surprised by the band’s infectious tunes that perfectly fitted the atmosphere of the gig and were very enjoyable from our couch.

I really don’t have much to offer here, but suffice to say that it was an enjoyable opening act, which is an achievement considering just how hard it would have been to follow Boy And Bear’s set. Once again, I’ll check out more of Ernest Ellis’ music so that I can be more enlightened next time I see them live.

I have been ordered to inform you that this is not my setlist, it is in fact the proud property of the mate I went to the show with. I got a jingler thing instead (see later).

And then, it was finally time for the headliners, Hungry Kids Of Hungary. With such an amazing lineup of openers it was a very real risk that the headliners would not do them justice, but there was really no need to worry. This is Hungry Kids Of Hungary we’re talking about.

Their impending presence was enough to entice us away from our very comfortable couch, and we managed to secure a spot in the very front row and a bit to the side, about 10 minutes before the band were scheduled to take the stage, which was very nice considering that the venue was now virtually full.

Soon enough, Hungry Kids Of Hungary took to the stage, at 11pm, and it was clear that the night had only just begun. The boys immediately opened with Let You Down, a song which I actually hadn’t heard before, but it was absolutely brilliant. I can promise I will have it on high rotation from now on. It was the perfect opener to a gig- so upbeat, so happy, and so very very fun.

You could already tell that this was going to be one seriously enjoyable set.

The boys were very grateful to the warm reception they received, thanking the supporting acts and the crowd. Their banter was fantastic right off the bat, with members requesting adjustments from their sound guy, only to have their drummer ask “And a pizza as well, thanks Andy”. More than any band I have seen this year, they seemed overjoyed just to be playing their music live to such a receptive crowd.

Older song Lenny was greeted with applause when the band began playing it, and upon its conclusion the band saw fit to throw out one of their custom frisbees into the crowd, warning punters to cover their faces so as to avoid injury. The keyboardist, who was directly in front of me and also shared lead vocal duties, dedicated one song to his “crazy bitch of an ex-girlfriend”, and got personal with one audience member about crazy exes. A few songs later, the audience member justified his comments with “She gave great head!”.

The band were incredibly energetic on stage, really getting into the energy of the venue and lifting the crowd. One song saw the bassist don an acoustic guitar- I’m not sure what the song was called but it was beautiful, and the band said that they have recorded it for their upcoming debut album, which I am eagerly anticipating.

The second half of the set saw the onslaught of songs from ‘Mega Mountain EP’, which were the tracks I was most familiar with. Old Money and Two Stones were wonderful and really got the crowd moving- the latter definitely has a Barenaked Ladies vibe to it. Throughout most of the set background percussion had been provided from offstage by members of Boy And Bear, Ernest Ellis and The Box Rockets, however Hungry Kids Of Hungary (who described their own name as “A sham, a horrible sham”) invited Boy And Bear to join them on stage to officially help out.

And so the two bands I had come to the gig to see combined for undoubtably my highlight of the night: the magnificent Scattered Diamonds. The song has received a lot of airplay and I’ve always liked it, but live it is just something else entirely. There wasn’t a still person in the room, as the two bands built up energy until the release of: “Last night the weekend caught us up”. The crowd and the members of Boy And Bear were more than happy to help with the backing vocals of ‘Oh’s and ‘Ah’s.

Boy And Bear departed the stage after the song, but they had done their job well. HKOH finished their main set with Good Times, another song from ‘Mega Mountain EP’, and the song certainly summed up the feeling at the gig: “Let the good times roll!”. The band left the stage, thanking the very satisfied crowd many times over, and, with their allocated time exhausted and the clock reading past midnight, it seemed as if the gig was over.

After a few minutes the boys reappeared on stage however, for an encore not listed on their setlist, to perform a cover of MIA’s Paper Aeroplanes. They may do it every gig, but I really did get the impression that they were loving the crowd. One final frisbee made its way into the crowd, and I managed to score a “jingler thing” that had been played by both Boy And Bear and HKOH when the keyboardist, Kane Mazlin, handed it to me. I also later got it signed by the frontman, Dean McGrath, when I met him after the show.

It was a brief one song encore, but it was still very enjoyable, and allowed the crowd to give one last show of appreciation to the band, and vice-versa. Hungry Kids Of Hungary left the stage, leaving the room buzzing from what had been an energetic hour-and-a-bit, to say the very least.

It’s difficult to sum up a gig like this. I have been lucky enough this week to go to some truly phenomenal gigs for miniscule amounts of money, and this gig exemplified that you really can have an amazing night for virtually no cost. You just have to love the Melbourne music scene, where you can see Boy And Bear, Hungry Kids Of Hungary, as well as two other entertaining acts, for less than $15. I almost feel like I’m ripping off the artists.

Boy And Bear were absolutely wonderful, even more so than at Homebake, and I’ll be among the first to secure tickets to their headline tour, when they finally announce it. The Box Rockets and Ernest Ellis were both cool and enjoyable (especially from a couch).

Hungry Kids Of Hungary (suitably) stole the show however. They were always going to be fun, but more than this they were actually a wonderful live act. The energy in the room was at a fever pitch throughout their entire set, and they managed to keep the infectiously catchy tunes coming one after the other. There were no lulls in their show, it was consistently and wonderfully fun, from start to finish. They were so happy just to be on stage, and Kane and Dean were the perfect frontmen.

I entered The East Brunswick Club liking the two bands I had come to see, but I left absolutely loving them.

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