Cosmo Jarvis @ Pure Pop Records, 3rd Of August

Cosmo Jarvis played a wonderful acoustic set last evening in the idyllic surrounds of the iconic Pure Pop Courtyard to a rapt crowd that spilled into the record store itself and the street beyond. All the way from the UK, it seemed a pity that Cosmo was only playing this one show in Melbourne, but thankfully he will be returning in December with his band to play more venues, and given his performance at Pure Pop it’s not hard to see most of the audience returning to see him again.

The support act of the night was Melbourne-based musician Davy Simony, whose set was also full of very enjoyable acoustic music. He played to a courtyard that was already virtually at capacity and did a fine job of entertaining those who had arrived early, filling the venue with an impressive amount of noise and energy considering it was him alone on stage. He worked a headless tambourine with one foot, and tapped a thick book with his other to create a beat, only taking breaks to fiddle with the various loops and pedals positioned in front of him.

It was an admirable one-man-band-esque set that was aided by Davy’s smooth voice and spearheaded by a song called Discover, the titled track from Davy’s debut EP, which is out now. He’s definitely one to watch for in the future.

By the time Cosmo Jarvis made his way through the crowd to set up on the small stage, the courtyard was packed to capacity and buzzing. It was telling however that when he started to play music the courtyard, which was obviously designed to foster conversation, fell completely silent and just listened to the music. It was a more respectful and suitable atmosphere than you’d find at any full-sized show. Cosmo’s set included a lot of songs taken from his latest record ‘Think Bigger’, which he’s promoting on this mini-tour, but also featured plenty of old favourites from his earlier work and even an unreleased track. It was perfectly balanced.

Love This, the lead single from ‘Think Bigger’, was one of the early highlights of the set. The song worked wonderfully acoustic, allowing the lyrics to really speak for themselves. The contrast between the two lines “I’m only human, I watch stories on TV, they give me an ending when an ending’s all I need” and “Tony Soprano is a teacher I respect, he’s always been there when I take a nasty step” perfectly illustrated the strength of Cosmo’s music: it’s equal parts genuine and tongue-in-cheek; it’s insightful, humorous, light-hearted, sad, and fun all at the same time.

Even Lacie, a song written about Cosmo’s faithful 1.5 terabyte external hard drive, and performed on the banjo, was poignant, but it also had the whole crowd laughing with lines such as “Something about this kind of love can’t be unplugged”. Sure As Hell Not Jesus was one of the songs that I thought might be a little difficult to play acoustically, but it worked perfectly with just vocals and guitar, and gave Cosmo a real chance to let his voice loose, as did newer track Sunshine, which he noted was usually quite heavy. The energy and sound of the performance was stellar, especially from a one-man acoustic set.

Cosmo’s banter was just like his music: effortlessly charming and quirky. He could make the crowd laugh just by naming what the next song was called or by tuning his guitar. The most entertaining moment of the night came with his second last song, an unreleased b-side called Look At The Sky that was written as a parody of a guidebook on how to write generalised, soppy, happy pop music that his label had given him. He blanked on the first verse of the song, right after the brilliant line “I’m gonna describe how the sunset made me cry, yeah right”, and eventually had a helpful crowd member look up the lyrics online. 

A few minutes later (there was dodgy cell reception) he said, almost to himself, “It’s probably a really shit lyric anyway”.

It wasn’t though, and with a crowd member holding a phone up to him he picked the song back up. “I’m gonna throw you a shitload of adjectives that you can arrange” was the offending line, and the song reached the perfect conclusion of “Just shut up and look at the sky”. It wasn’t hard to take the message to heart. 

Far too soon, it was time for the last song of the night, and it was of course the one and only Gay Pirates, which saw the mandolin make a welcome appearance. It’s quickly become a favourite song of mine, because it’s hard to think of a love song that blends so many elements as perfectly as this one does. It’s almost as heart-breaking as it is upbeat and joyous. It was a bit of a different beast acoustically, given how recognisable that moment the drums kick in during the chorus is for the studio version, but it was still utterly fantastic, and had the whole crowd singing along .

The fact that Cosmo hung around in the record store after the show, along with his Australian manager, to pose for photos and talk to the crowd, was much appreciated and is always a good sign of the sincerity and appreciation of a musician in my opinion.

With a serene JFK looking over the crowd, in a small courtyard of a record store in St Kilda in the fading light of a Friday evening and to a crowd warmed by a patio heater and drinking pints of Boag’s from the small bar, Cosmo Jarvis played a set of beautiful music and effortlessly entertaining banter. It was an intimate and special set, and it’s hard to imagine many better ways to spend a Friday night. 

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