Gig Review: Boy And Bear @ The Corner Hotel, 27th May

Last night Boy And Bear played a flawless set of death folk to a packed Corner Hotel crowd that more than justified their meteoric rise in Australian music, very ably supported by the always wonderful Jinja Safari.

I missed Emma Lousie unfortunately, but arrived in plenty of time to secure a great spot for Jinja Safari. They were one of the real standouts of the Sydney Big Day Out earlier this year, where they had the entire crowd dancing crazily, and every time I have seen them live they’ve never failed to put on a fantastic show. As would soon become clear, this night would be no exception.

As always, the stage was decked out to look somewhat like a surreal forest from Alice In Wonderland, complete with a top hat on a stand, a lamp made from teacups, and vines that doubled as cords. A Jinja Safari show is as much about the experience as it is the music, and it was great to see that the guys didn’t go easy because they were an opening act: this was a fully fledged Jinja Safari set that served to get the enthusiastic crowd warmed up for the headliners perfectly.

Peter Pan and Forest Eyes from Jinja Safari’s debut self-titled EP made appearances and were both fantastic, with the former seeing a sitar take center stage, however newer single Hiccups actually received the strongest response from the crowd. It was deserved as well- it’s a truly awesome song that works perfectly live, like pretty much all of Jinja Safari’s music.

After all, Jinja Safari really are a live band. They were just so much fun, getting the entire crowd dancing and moving around, particularly a pocket of people at the left of the stage dressed up to fit in with the stage setup of the band. If this is what Jinja Safari do as an opening act, I cannot wait to see them headline their own gig at the Corner Hotel in a couple of months. The lack of newest single Scarecrow was slightly disappointing, but I can only assume that the band are saving it for said headline tour.

The venue was absolutely buzzing after Jinja Safari’s set, which is always an indicator of a great opening set. Everyone congregated around the front of the stage in anticipation of the arrival of the headliners, and after a short wait Boy And Bear took to the stage.

This was I believe my eighth time seeing the band live, and with a lesser act that would naturally mean I couldn’t really enjoy the show too much. This isn’t the case for Boy And Bear. Despite having only released one EP, the guys are such an accomplished and enjoyable live act that I don’t think I will ever tire of attending their gigs. They were as charming as always and their music was as fantastic as always, as they played a great set that was simply impossible to criticise.

Mexican Mavis was predictably the highlight of the show for me, but unlike many other bands their age the divide between Boy And Bear’s well-known songs and their other material actually wasn’t that significant, which seems to indicate that their debut album is going to be a fantastic one. This being said the guys still had their fair share of crowd pleasing numbers, not the least of which was their cover of Fall At Your Feet which saw them exposed to a much larger Australian audience when it was released last year. It started a massive sing-along in the crowd, to the point where the band were almost singing backing vocals. It was a truly breathtaking moment.

Blood To Gold received a surprisingly great response from the crowd considering that it is one of the lesser-known songs from their debut EP, and lead singer Dave Hosking noted that it was the first time he had ever heard the crowd sing the counter-melody of the song. Hosking was as always the perfect frontman, demanding the full attention of the crowd with an almost Brandon Flowers-esque endearing swagger.

Rabbit Song was as wonderful as always, but the band’s newest songs that haven’t been released in studio form yet were actually some of the standouts of the set for me. Apparently the guys have finished recording their debut album, and if their live show is anything to judge by it is going to be something very special indeed. It was also really interesting to see Tim Hart on the drums, having watched his awesome solo set opening for Sufjan earlier in the year. He took a bit of a more prominent role with Boy And Bear this time round, telling the story of how the band had inadvertently caused a speaker to set on fire during soundcheck, resulting in their music being dubbed ‘death folk’.

Newest single Feeding Line compliments the live show of Boy And Bear perfectly, and the guys nailed the whistling part of the song this time, unlike the first time I saw them play it live when they burst out in laughter halfway through and couldn’t pick up the whistling part again. Announcing that they wouldn’t be doing an encore, a move which I personally support fully, the band left the stage to rapturous applause from a lovestruck audience.

Boy And Bear are one of the biggest new Australian bands around at the moment, and it’s for a good reason.

The band are unrecognisable as the nervous guys I saw playing their first ever festival set at Homebake 2009. They have come so very far so very fast, but yet to their credit they seem to have remained remarkably down to earth, and the natural chemistry between band members on stage is still something to marvel at. To be honest it seems increasingly unlikely that they will remain based in Australia for much longer, so it’s probably best to catch smaller shows like this while you still can.

This was an impeccable gig and a great night, with two bands that represent a very bright part of the future of Australian music. Death folk and forest rock, hand in hand.

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