Gig Review: Kid Sam @ Northcote Social Club, 2nd April

On friday night, Kid Sam played a sold out show at the Northcote Social Club. I had seen them twice before: I enjoyed them opening for White Rabbits, and absolutely loved their Laneway Festival set. I was therefore looking forward to another very enjoyable show and hopefully the band breaking out a few of their acoustic numbers.

Kid Sam have experienced a very rapid rise in Australian music. Their debut self-titled album was nominated for Triple J Australian Album of the Year and the prestigious Australian Music Prize, and next thing Kid Sam (cousins Kieran and Kishore Ryan) know, they are touring around the country playing sold out shows and performing at some of the biggest music festivals in Australia.

This tour was a bit of a consolidation one: solidifying the hype around the band, perhaps playing a few new songs, and building up and strong fanbase all around Australia. This show at the Northcote Social Club, their first of two within two nights at the venue, certainly didn’t disappoint.

I arrived at the venue just as Kid Sam were scheduled to take the stage, because going to this gig was very much a last-minute thing. I never like missing opening acts, but in this case there really wasn’t much I could do about it. Only a few minute late, Kieran took to the stage alone and played an absolutely gorgeous song that I didn’t recognise called Squares. It was a truly beautiful song and Kieran, looking very smart and neat, pulled it off as a solo song magnificently.

Kishore walked onto the stage at the end of the song, much to the delight of the crowd, but the cousins chose to play yet another song I didn’t recognise called Pigeons. Although both songs were great, you could tell that the crowd were getting a bit restless, clearly having come to the gig to hear songs off the band’s self-titled album.

They didn’t need to worry however, because up next was a run of songs from the album, spearheaded by A Black Ant, which was followed with Down To The Cemetery and Landslide. A Black Ant was absolutely amazing played live, with Kishore using his trademark collection of kitchen pots to generate that completely unique drumming sound that is now associated with Kid Sam. Down To The Cemetery received the first real ovation from the crowd, and Landslide was as mesmerising as ever.

A cover of a song called Hospital was pulled off with ease by the boys, who were occasionally joined on stage by members of the opening acts throughout the night to provide the sound of a third instrument. Kid Sam have never been one for a great amount of crowd banter, but they were genuinely appreciative of the sold out crowd, even if some of their banter was a bit awkward- I loved “Have you all had a ‘good’ friday?”.

We’re Mostly Made Of Water was definitely one of the highlights of the night, with an extended instrumental intro and outro to become a real live epic. It got the crowd moving: “Let’s jump into the river, we’re mostly made of water.” The drumming of Kishore was truly impressive- previously when I’d seen him live he seemed so intensely focused on his drumming that it almost detracted from his performance, but he seemed much more relaxed this time  and really let his abilities shine through. Meanwhile the acoustics in the room let Kieran’s vocals soar- he has an absolutely incredible, near-perfect voice.

Another unknown song saw Kishore take to an accordion at the front of stage which was very enjoyable, but soon enough came the moment I had been waiting for the whole gig: The Sunday Bus. It is my favourite song from their debut album; a sublime murder ballad that I was delighted to hear for the first time at the Laneway Festival. In studio form the song is an acoustic one, and I’ve always enjoyed how the gorgeous acoustic guitar part contrasts with the extremely dark subject of the song. Likewise at Laneway, Kid Sam played the song acoustically. At the Northcote Social Club, however, they played a completely different arrangement of the song using an electric guitar.

The Sunday Bus was completely changed. There was an intense galloping drum beat behind the entire song, and a melodica was used much less sparingly than in the studio version, where it only makes occasional appearances as the conclusion to verses. I absolutely loved the rearranged version of the song, which is saying something given how much I love the original. It was very very different, but also very very good, which shows the skill of these two as song-writers. I’d be lying if I said I don’t wish they had played The Sunday Bus acoustically, but the beauty of the song transcends whatever arrangement is used to play it: “We never loved each other but that’s alright, that’s a gift given only to a chosen few.”

A suitably huge amount of applause greeted the end of The Sunday Bus, but the band wasted no time in breaking into Jodie Makes A Fire. Although I absolutely love Kid Sam, some of their songs when played live can border on getting monotonous with distorted guitar riffs and monotone singing that doesn’t fully take advantage of Kieran’s amazing voice. This is only a very small issue that I’m sure will improve as the band develop and play more, but it was certainly evident in Jodie, which was fairly uninspiring live.

Kieran announced that the band wouldn’t be playing an encore, and for Kid Sam’s final song the cousins chose Close Your Eyes And It All Goes Black. It is impossible to explain how beautiful this song is if you’ve never heard it before. Live, even though it wasn’t played using an acoustic guitar, it lost none of this beauty. It was a surreal moment, as Kieran and Kishore toned down their volume to a whisper, and the whole crowd quietened accordingly, even ‘Shhhh’ing those who continued to talk, much to the amusement of Kieran, who laughed despite his best efforts and missed a line, much to the delight of the ‘Shhh’ing crowd. I think I actually preferred the live arrangement of this song to the studio version- hearing a melodica play the main riff at the same time as the xylophone was incredible.

“Can I take your photograph I said to you on the bridge that day when we both stood there. I need some proof, need a small piece of evidence, a record to show we were here. No don’t take my photograph you said as I took it, no please don’t you take it at all. You’re just like the hunter shooting the target to hang its skin up on the wall.”

It was a sublime ending to a great gig, and summed up everything that is good about Kid Sam. Their lyrics can certainly be depressing at times, but they are also punctuated with moments of sheer beauty and insight, and their musical talents highlights everything that they do.

For me this gig sat somewhere between Kid Sam’s Laneway gig and their support slot for White Rabbits. And all three sets were thoroughly enjoyable, so there’s no problem with that. I would have preferred to hear The Sunday Bus acoustically, but the alternate arrangement was still great, and the vocals in the Northcote Social Club were really spot on, creating a very enjoyable atmosphere. The cousins were on their game, and demonstrated perfectly why they may well be one of the next big things for Australian indie music. It was a great gig, and a thoroughly enjoyable night.

A ‘good’ friday indeed.


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