Gig Review: The Bedroom Philosopher @ The Northcote Social Club, 5th September

Playing a musical comedy show with an emphasis on the former rather than the latter is never an easy thing to do, but that is exactly the challenge that The Bedroom Philosopher, aka Justin Heazlewood, undertook when he moved his tried and tested show from comedy clubs to music venues.

Last night he played a set to a sold out crowd at the Northcote Social Club, ably assisted by his band the Awkwardstra and an excellent opening set by The Boat People, that was not without its issues but was still thoroughly enjoyable.

I arrived just in time to see The Boat People making their way onto the stage. There was already a very sizable crowd amassed in the small venue,  and with some encouragement from the band, everyone was soon standing up and congregating around the stage. I’ve seen the band live several times before, but this was the first time following the release of their third excellent studio album, ‘Dear Darkly’.

Sure enough, the boys played a great set that drew heavily from this album. Under The Ocean and Soporific provided two early well-known tracks, and the latter was anything but what its name indicates. The magnificent Antidote was for me the highlight of their set. It was rocked up a bit live, with a more driving bass and drum beat, and formed a very memorable love ballad.

A bass emergency saw a quick instrument changeover, but did little to stop the momentum that The Boaties were building. Newer songs kept on coming, but so did a few older tracks, such as the insanely catchy Awkward Orchid Orchard, which always seems to get into my head for hours after I hear it.

Some surprisingly touching banter ensued as the band told a story about a hairdresser they had met recently who had been charging $10 per haircut for 50 years but yet had been able to travel the world recently because his son owned a small company called ‘Red Bull’.

To their credit, The Boat People had no problem whatsoever in filling the longish opening set, and in fact it seems almost absurd that after three high quality albums, these guys are still playing support slots. Echo Stick Guitars was as fun live ever, and their closing number Born In The 80s saw a few members of the Awkwardstra join the band on stage, which made for a really fun track, even if I am still slightly disappointed they didn’t play Light Of Love (You Got A…).

This was a very professional opening set that conveyed perfectly the maturity of The Boaties as a band without losing any of their carefree charm.

Skip ahead a bit, and the Awkwardstra appeared back on stage, dressed fittingly in tram conductor uniforms. They were soon accompanied by the one and only Bedroom Philosopher.

Justin wasted no time in introducing the set as ‘The Bedroom Philosopher’s Bargain Basement Clearance’, and proceeded to take the piss out of pretty much every music genre in existence within the first five minutes of his set. I particularly enjoyed “We’ve got chords! C! A! E! Put them together and you get Green Day’s entire discography!”. Straight away The Bedroom Philosopher had the crowd in hysterics, and he hadn’t even played a song yet.

Eventually the songs did come however, and they were just as enjoyable as the banter. Tram Inspector, a song about the ‘oddly sensual’ nature of getting a ticket on public transport was hilarious. Justin regularly departed the stage temporarily to change uniforms and hence personas, which at one point led to him parodying an Aussie hip hop artist with almost unsettling accuracy. His breakdancing left mic stands in ruins on the stage.

The Awkwardstra were the absolute perfect backing band, neither detracting from Justin’s dominating stage presence nor fading too far into the background. They are clearly very talented musicians and were highly entertaining in their own right. We Are Tramily saw a sitar take center stage, combining with Justin’s hip hop costume to make one of the oddest sights I have ever seen at a gig.

Unfortunately Justin’s thoroughly enjoyable banter was constantly interrupted by hecklers in the crowd. It was really annoying and I just don’t get it. Just when the set was really gaining momentum some dickhead would yell out something repeatedly, necessitating more and more forceful responses from Justin, who eventually told a heckler to “Just fuck off”, to loud applause from the crowd.

The banter not interrupted by hecklers was completely enjoyable however, and ranged from a discussion of metrosexuals to stories about Melbourne’s public transport system to tales of Justin’s past. Northcote (So Hungover) made an appearance, accompanied by Justin changing into his hipster costume, and was just as hilarious live as it is in studio form: “We’ve signed with Independent records, they’re an offshoot of Sony”.

I’m admittedly not as familiar with The Bedroom Philosopher’s older songs, however a track using meat names as acronyms was absolutely hilarious. The highlight of the entire night for me was the bogan love ballad of Trishine, which beings with the timeless lyrics of “Words… can get fucked” sung by Justin impersonating a depressed, heartbroken and slurring bogan over a gently finger-picked acoustic guitar. It had the audience in stitches from start to finish, and was absolutely priceless.

New Media resonated a little too strongly with me, and I would suspect with quite a few people in the venue: “I work in new media, I’m pretty darn important. Don’t ask me to explain what I do, I don’t work in words. I’m burdened with ideas, I can’t get out of bed. I’ll create an installation, you won’t get it: that’s the point”. Every single line of the song was met with uncontrollable laughter from everyone in the venue.

After a satisfactorily lengthy set at 90 minutes, Justin announced that he would be playing his last song, but he and the Awkwardstra made sure it would be one to remember, playing a wonderfully nostalgic song about children’s television in the late 80s and early 90s. Before leaving the stage the band showed their appreciation by forming a human pyramid on the stage, before Justin left the venue to the sound of loud applause while saying “In the words of Oscar Wilde, buy merch, buy merch, buy merch, there will be no encore”.

This was easily the most I have ever laughed at any gig. I was constantly in hysterics, both from Justin’s extended banter and the songs themselves. The lack of I’m So Postmodern was very disappointing, especially given the length of the set, but I guess you can’t have everything. Trishine was just incredible, and is right up there with the bet comedy songs I have heard.

It is a real pity that repeated heckles stopped this set from being everything it could be. No matter what Justin said or did, even calling in security, they didn’t stop for the entire gig, even leading Justin to joke that “You’ve ruined all my banter I’ve been practicing for months”.

Hecklers or not however, Justin was the perfect performer, pulling off this eclectic and difficult set with ease, and changing between equally memorable personas repeatedly. But after all it is really difficult to try and describe the hilarity of this show, so, just as The Bedroom Philosopher suggested: words can get fucked.

One Response to “Gig Review: The Bedroom Philosopher @ The Northcote Social Club, 5th September”

  1. I saw Bedroom Philosopher do this stuff at The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and was hilarious. He didn’t play with the band though. Sounds like it was awesome fun!

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