Hanging out at The Corner Hotel with your mum sort of hints at how accessible Husky is, bumping into your close friend, who is there with her dad kind of hammers the point home. Husky just make lovely music to listen to.
Opening the Sunday evening is Ainslie Wills. It’s a struggle to decide what is more impressive, her sultry red dress or her singing, but as the full range of this local girl’s vocal chords become apparent, the voice pips the dress at the post.
The comparisons are flowing quick and fast for Wills, whether it be Fiona Apple, Cat Power or Clare Bowditch and it is clear that her main obstacle over the next twelve months will be separating herself from the glut of female singers who try to finger-pick their way into the ears of their audience.
Showcasing tracks from her forthcoming debut album, You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine, her ballads show considerable restraint and beauty whilst her more upbeat tracks have a stomping, almost cantering rhythm. ‘This Is What I Write’ swells with emotion and finishing with her latest single ‘Fighting Kind’, it’s clear that although blessed and cursed with a pigeon hole previously owned by KT Tunstall, she could easily use it to her advantage.
Its clear from the buzzing excitement in the sold-out venue, Filled to capacity well before Husky are due on stage, that the latest inductees into the Sub-Pop label are this year’s golden boys. The steadily built buzz hits a release valve as the four Melburnians walk on stage and the crowd falls into reverent silence. The sound is seamlessly mixed, with the intricacies of keyboardist Gideon Preiss, cousin of lead singer Husky Gawenda, given the glow they deserve. While the prominent vocals shimmer and reverberate on top of Husky’s nylon strings.
The title track from their debut album Forever So garners the slightest of polite applause and it doesn’t take Husky long to comment on it, “you guys are super quiet, and I don’t know if that’s because we are playing really well, or really badly.” The crowd instantly bursts into rambunctious applause prompting a wry smile, following this chastising, cuts including ‘Tidal Wave’, ‘Fake Moustache’ and current Triple J punching bag ‘History’s Door’ all receive an enthusiastic reception and the odd shout from a female admirer.
Looking around, you can clearly see lips moving in sync with the vocally harmonise intro to ‘Hundred Dollar Suit,’ and as a loud pair of women discuss the different setlists from previous shows, two things are obvious: too many people still have sweet fuck-all understanding of gig etiquette and more importantly, Husky is building quite the devoted fanclub.
The gig breaks for a confession as Gawenda tells us that as a tween he stole his sister’s tape of Kick by INXS, before airing a dramatically re-imagined ‘Need You Tonight.’ The track they performed for Like A Version earlier this year, feature a slinking bass line and minor chord chorus in a phenomenal tribute. By toning everything down about the 1987 hit, Husky bring out some melancholy and make it their own. It is a sly move to follow up such a populist gimme with the centerpiece of their debut, ‘Animals And Freaks’, a slow-burning folk-masterpiece.
Strangely, the highlight of the evening wasn’t a hit, or even the lusciously smoky vocals of Mr Gawenda; but rather it was a jaw-droppingly impressive solo by Priess on the keyboard that would have left Bach a little red-faced. Throughout the set you could see the odd flourish of piano creeping over the songs and thankfully he was finally given a few minutes to show us what he is capable of.
Surprisingly the INXS sex romp is not the best cover of the evening, but instead a sing-a-long of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Lover, Lover, Lover’, acts as the penultimate cut before they finish their set with all four band members ditching their instruments, sharing the one microphone for a four-man a cappella, as the crowd bellows the chorus back with a slow and steady hand-clap.
The glaring omission of ‘The Woods’, from a national tour of the same name, pointed quite obviously to an encore that probably shouldn’t have happened. As beautiful as the track, and their closer ‘Hunter’ were; it was a relatively underwhelming finish after the high only the likes of Leonard Cohen can provide. It is sad that the popular convention of playing an encore as part of an evening of music actually comes back to haunt the fluidity of their set.
The fact that such tiny details are being pedantically picked at probably hints at how flawless the performance was on a whole and while the beards might be a bit passé, Sub-Pop’s latest poster boys are but one Kimbra duet away from stealing the worlds’ heart.
– Chris Lewis