Gig Review: Georgia Fair And Daniel Lee Kendall @ The Empress Hotel, 24th March

It was something of a gentle folk music lovers’ wet dream at the Empress Hotel last night. Surrounded by the idyllic atmosphere of the small venue, a packed crowd enjoyed chilling out to some fantastic music provided by three up and coming Australians acts, spearheaded by the always wonderful Georgia Fair.

Up first was Melbourne’s own Jackson McLaren. In all honesty I had never heard of him before, but I greatly enjoyed his set and most definitely consider myself a fan now.

His music set the tone beautifully for the rest of the night. It was stand and deliver stuff, with just the man and his acoustic guitar on the stage, and it created for a mesmerising atmosphere when coupled with the very respectful crowd and the wonderful setting of the Empress.

My favourite moment of Jackson’s set came with his final song, Farewell This House. It was a genuinely fantastic live song, and it is hard to imagine a better way to conclude a set.

I went in without any expectations of this set (I didn’t even know there was an opening act), but I was very pleasantly surprised by a charming and likable musician who played fun and at times very powerful acoustic music.

You can subscribe to Jackson’s mailing list here to receive a free digital copy of his EP, and there’s really no excuse not to.

This was my first gig at the Empress Hotel, and I could not have been more impressed. Just off the back of this show I have to say that it’s probably my favourite small-room-style-venue in Melbourne, and I’ve been to quite a few. The crowd was the perfect mix between excitable and respectful, and there was just a really great vibe around the room.

There was no divide between performer and audience, with the stage raised only slightly above ground level, which was where most people chose to sit down. Plus the ample fairy-lights around the stage were fucking awesome. It gave the gig a sense of being very special, and I thought it was fantastic. I’m definitely going to be on the look out for more gigs here in the future.

After a short break it was time for the first half of the dual-headline show, NSW’s Daniel Lee Kendall. Once again I went in without any real expectations (I was at the show for Georgia Fair and there is no point pretending otherwise), but yet again by the time the set finished I was completely charmed by lovely folk music and a great performer.

Yet again it was stand and deliver stuff. There’s something very special about performances like this with just one guy and an acoustic guitar- whilst there’s also no-one to hide behind if it goes wrong, when it works it can create for really stunning moments.

A cover of Passion Pit’s The Reeling was a huge surprise, but DLK pulled it off superbly. Stripping away the electronic elements from a Passion Pit song is a bit of a risk, seeing as Passion Pit songs are nothing but electronic elements, but I was surprised how well the song held up without them.

However the whole set was stolen by closing song Lost In The Moment, which was brilliant. It demonstrated DLK’s ability to use a backing track to great effect when coupled with his voice and guitar, and it was illustrative of the night’s music that this was about as dense as the music arrangements got for the whole gig.

He initially did a great job of the whistling chorus, but after a couple of people in the crowd started smiling and then laughing he couldn’t help but cracking up, saying that  “It’s not fair, you can’t whistle when you’re laughing”. This of course resulted in the entire audience laughing, making the possibility of whistling even less. It was a really entertaining and amusing moment, and the song itself was also completely charming, with or without the whistling (although we managed to restrain our laughter for the second solo).

So head over here to join his mailing list as well and grab a free download of his song The Point In This?.

After yet another small break it was time for the main attraction of the show for me, Georgia Fair. By this point I was already feeling very content and was in a lovely folk music haze, so I was in the perfect mood to enjoy a set from the NSW band.

It was the first time I had seen the duo without a band, and I can definitely say that I far prefer their music with just Jordan and Ben playing. This is obviously nothing against the band they have assembled for other shows- they’ve done a fantastic job whenever I’ve seen them- but I just feel that Georgia Fair’s music translates better to a more intimate show with just two people on stage. This is after all intensely personal music, and The Empress was the perfect setting for it.

Given that they are yet to release a full length album, Georgia Fair have a remarkable number of great songs under their collective belt, and they filled their hour set time with ease. Times Fly provided the first of their more well-known tracks, and it was of course all kinds of wonderful. I actually prefer its placement earlier in their setlist as opposed to as the closer (which it has been every other time I’ve seen the band live), and it provided the perfect opportunity for the crowd to get warmed up a bit, sitting down though we all were.

Little While was another highlight of the set, and Jordan and Ben were once again very charming performers, in their own laid back and reserved way. My mate and I were both waiting on one song in particular- Something Easy. Neither of us had ever heard it played live, and we were both desperate to hear it at this show. It was at this point in the band’s performance that my mate took things into his own hands, making a request for the track. He was backed up by a few voices in the crowd, including mine. Although Jordan said that it was a bit early for request, the duo promised to play it later.

In the meantime December kept the tracks from their EPs coming, and was simply enchanting. Marianne saw one Lisa Mitchell emerge from the crowd to join Jordan and Ben on stage, just as she had last time I saw the band live. Predictably, it was a supremely beautiful song. The harmonising between Jordan and Lisa was truly something to behold, and it had the entire crowd captivated. Plus of course any chance to see Lisa Mitchell on stage can only be a good thing.

Picture Frames, probably the band’s most well-known song, was also wonderful live, as the whole crowd got involved in singing along. It is such a carefree and fun song, and it was impossible not to enjoy it with the surrounds of the Empress Hotel on a cold Melbourne Thursday night. I’ll say it again: the atmosphere was just wonderful for this show.

But then it was time for the moment I had been waiting for, Something Easy. It is my favourite Georgia Fair song, and it was exhilarating to finally hear it live. The duo did a fantastic job of translating it to a live setting, and I thoroughly enjoyed our little corner of the room where we had four or five people singing along to every single word. It was a joyous moment.

Simple Man was flawless, but there’s not really much else I can say about the music that I haven’t already. The whole set was just a constant stream of awesome.

For their last song the duo were joined on stage by Daniel Lee Kendell for a rendition of America’s Horse With  No Name. I definitely hadn’t seen it coming, but it was yet another fantastic cover, and the dynamics between DLK and Georgia Fair were perfect, especially for the harmonising chorus.

And that was it. There had been a remarkable amount of music on display throughout the night, both in terms of quantity and quality. Value for money doesn’t come much better than this.

It was a testament to how chilled the gig was that it finished with pretty much all of the performers just hanging around the venue afterwards chatting to fans. I got my setlist signed by both Jordan and Ben which was great, and also got a chance to chat with them briefly about our impromptu request for Something Easy (which sure enough wasn’t on the setlist). Jordan said he was actually glad we requested it, saying that they need to play it more often. The fact that it wasn’t originally planned for this show only made it more special however.

It’s hard to imagine a more charming night of music than this. It was my favourite live set so far from Georgia Fair, but the show also gave me the opportunity to discover two other great performers who I perhaps would not have heard of for a while otherwise. And the Empress Hotel was the perfect backdrop. This really was a flawless gig.

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