With the weather beginning to feel more and more like Summer, the sunny folk-pop of Melbourne five-piece, Skipping Girl Vinegar, is the ideal way to welcome it. The Northcote Social Club is the place to be on this warm Friday night.
The Trouble With Templeton play to a crowd of less than twenty people. In no way is the small audience a deterrent to guitarist/singer, Thomas Calder, whose raspy growl and a electric aura fill the room with enough vigour and soul to compensate. Contrasted by the angelic elongated sighs of backing vocalist, Betty Yeowart, the acoustic blues duo prove themselves to be an exciting force.
Supported by his band, The Slippery Gypsies, Myles Mayo treats the audience to tracks from his debut album. At this point, the crowd has grown significantly, and so has the relentless chatter. Mayo’s sensible pop-rock and heartfelt lyrics are barely audible over the frustratingly loud conversations being carried on by many disrespectful members of the audience. However, it’s not long before his catchy hooks reel them in.
After a short wait, Skipping Girl Vinegar finally appear on a stage that they had meticulously decorated with fairy lights, large luminous stars, a cardboard cut-out of Baker the monkey, as well as various other memorabilia. It has a quirky, almost charmingly kitschy op-shop feel that propels the various “hobo” ideals of this band.
Frontman, Mark Lang, snatches the microphone with an intriguing urgency. “It’s great to be here with you in real time!” he roars at the crowd, abruptly exploding into a dangerous incarnation of enthusiasm. He forcefully throws his arm into the air while exclaiming various life-affirming and social network rejecting sentiments. The band soon joins him and they launch joyfully into “Hand To Hold”, a track off their new album, Keep Calm, Carry the Monkey.
The crowd, enthused by Lang’s antics, immediately begin to shuffle their feet and chant along to the infectious chorus. The atmosphere is reminiscent of that of an elite club, but in a completely unpretentious manner. The feeling is akin to the perfect cohesion of time and space, as if there’s no better place to be than here. Anyone who isn’t here is clearly a fool.
This night has particular significance for Skipping Girl Vinegar. Lang reminds the crowd that this date marks precisely five years since the band’s original formation.
The band rolls through a number of tracks from their new album, a catchy folk-pop indulgence, as well as a number of more moving ballads that exhibit Lang’s skill as a serious songwriter.
The individual band members ooze personality. Energized drummer, Chris Helm, is an exceptionally animate figure on stage, whose exaggerated movements and enthusiastic facial expressions are an entertaining show in themselves. Sare Lang’s basslines groove delicately through each of the tracks, while Amanthi Lynch’s various layers of sound add a quirky texture, and Kelly Lane’s violin is a delicious addition.
In support of the “Chase the Sun” single, the band intends to launch a hobo monkey into space. Accompanying the monkey will be various messages from fans. Lang directs the audience to a friend, equipped with a video camera, and encourages everyone to record their personal shouts to the universe.
The set ends with a double punch of triple j hit “One Chance” and fan-favourite, “Sift the Noise”, laden with eccentric banjo riffs and clap-along beats.
After leaving the stage for less than ten seconds, the band returns for an encore. Lang encourages the crowd to sing along to bluesy ballad, “River Road”, before preluding the closing track with a poignant tale. “Thank you for loving me”, the last words spoken between his grandmother and grandfather, is the sentimental mantra repeated in the stirring ballad “Heart Does Ache”. An unconventional way to end a set, but the crowd responds with delicate, sincere applause.
In true Skipping Girl Vinegar style, the audience is made to feel even more like members of a large family when Lang announces that Lynch has baked a large number of lemon sponge cupcakes for the crowd in celebration of the birthdays of both the band and violinist, Lane. As well as a cupcake, the band submerges into the crowd and offers everyone a good conversation.
Great songs and fantastic musicianship aside, what really makes a Skipping Girl Vinegar show stand out is their ability to blur the lines between the band and the audience. It’s just a gathering of friends, and a few of them play some music. It’s nice.
– Lara Moates