Music: 27 hours at the Corner Hotel … and loving it

Thursday, 9pm. Normally nearing bed time for an early next-day start for a visit to the gym (Helen) or a walk around the tan (me). Instead we give the kids a kiss goodnight and head out. The band is Akron/Family (and I don’t know the significance of the oblique either) and they are scheduled to come on at 10.15pm. Their support is a duo I had not heard of. A quick chase-down of a couple of song samples suggested an early arrival was not required. Perhaps best avoided.

I am a big fan of anything for free. Monday afternoon I had wandered along to see Kid Sam do a live-to-air at PBS Studio 5. I arrived a few minutes early so sat in the car outside PBS Easey St entrance, listened to my Kid Sam CD and took the time to learn and program a new car hands-free phone kit. Came in very handy. Into PBS, met host Adrian and moved into the mixing booth adjoining the studio. After the 30-minute 5-song performance by Kid Sam (I recommend their album to anyone and look forward to a full live set at the Laneway festival in January) it was back in the car. Somewhat guiltily (after all, PBS had been the Kid Sam venue) I tuned to my radio station of choice, Triple R. A prize on offer – two tickets to see Akron/Family at the Corner Hotel – their sideshow to an appearance at Meredith. Try-out the hands-free. A quick press of a button on the steering wheel, a couple of voice commands and the phone was ringing. “You have won the tickets – subscriber number please.” Whoo hoo.

A confession. I don’t have any Akron/Family in the collection so had to do a bit of research. And I liked what I heard. A bit of country rock? A more electric version of Mumford and Sons, or so I surmised. American, Akron/Family have been around for quite a few years and have a number of albums. Having convinced Helen that it would be worth sacrificing a couple of hours sleep and foregoing a Friday visit to the gym, we would be in for a treat. We arrived a bit earlier than anticipated and caught the tail-end of the support. My on-line evaluation had been accurate. I didn’t like them. As their set concluded, Helen and I forfeited our seats and moved forward and closer to the stage. The crowd had built up but was polite and patient. The three-piece band came on stage and started with a musical intro, building to a wall-of-sound as the multi-instrumentalists swayed to the rhythm segueing into a low-key and beautifully harmonious vocal. It was a lovely beginning. Unfortunately, from there it deteriorated.

The three band members all sing beautifully whether solo or in harmony. Unfortunately they didn’t sing often enough. And the time between was spent in a self-indulgent musical spree of interminable instrumentals, switching between instruments but the monotony maintained. I confessed earlier to not being familiar with their music but I reckon even aficionados would have been pressed to discern or delineate album tracks. The discomfort levels increased as some more aggressive dancers, male, pushed their way to the front of the stage (and in one case even on to the stage) and proceeded to gyrate away in their own world with little regard for those around them. After an hour, Helen and I had experienced enough. I don’t think we were the first to leave. We were home by 11.45pm, half an hour ahead of schedule.

When the alarm went off at 5.25am, I bounced out of bed. I had an appointment. Back at the Corner Hotel. It was the Triple R Breakfasters OB – last show for the year and a farewell to Sam Pang. I had taken the opportunity at the Melbourne Footy Almanac launch to personally thank Sam for his five and a half year contribution to my morning entertainment. At that same event Tony Wilson confirmed he would be singing a tribute to Sam as he had for the departures of other Breakfasters, including his own, two years earlier.

It was a very suitable occasion. Sam refused to do sincere. And why should he? He certainly hadn’t had any practice in the five years I had been listening. But all the guests were familiar with this approach, and gave as good as they got. Michael Williams who had departed in May of this year was particularly sharp and landed several blows which would have mortally offended a lesser person. Sam, however, was up to the challenge as they continued their ongoing banter which had, when Michael and Sam were co-Breakfasters, led to rumours of an on-air feud. I left the building a bit after 8am but listened through to conclusion. Tony Wilson’s song was brilliant. Supported by professional musicians who had little regard for Tony’s limited register, Tony’s words were more significant, particularly as Tony claimed to have “found” Sam and introduced him to Triple R.

I did manage to fit in a day in the office before it was home to get ready for another outing. The Corner Hotel would be an appropriate venue. I wasn’t going to Meredith this year so as soon as tickets for the Kitty Daisy and Lewis side-show had gone on sale, I was on-line and purchasing. The three are siblings from London who have the one record out. Blues, swing, R&B and rockabilly are some of the categories into which they could be slotted. Aged 16 (Kitty), 19 (Lewis) and 22 (Daisy), they are multi-instrumentalist and had deliberately avoided any digital equipment when recording their album. On tour they are accompanied by their father on acoustic guitar and mother on double bass.

Helen was originally coming as well but her work Christmas party got in the way. Unfortunately I couldn’t even give away the spare ticket. I met a couple of work friends in the bandroom and moved immediately towards the front. Dan Kelly and a “put-together” band which included the Ukeladies was the support. Their set, which incorporated what could be described as a couple of modern-day protest songs, was worth the early arrival and a good lead-in. A twenty-minute break and we were into the main act.

Kitty Daisy and Lewis were a joy. They opened with Kitty and Daisy singing a capella before the rest of the family joined them on stage. Their music was familiar and lively. Inter-song banter was not their strong point, but it was also not what the mixed-age sell-out audience had come for. The brief breaks between songs allowed the three to move between instruments as they each demonstrated their skill levels across the range from drums to guitar to banjo to blues harmonica to slide guitar to keyboard. It was like a game of musical chairs. The mood was upbeat and the audience responsive. And Mum and Dad just stayed in the background. Their songs are a mix of their own compositions interspersed with some classics of the genre. Their energy was obvious, as was their sense of the fun occasion. This is not a bunch of kids fronting to appease some pushy parents. These are three talented musicians whose years of playing together in the lounge room have transitioned smoothly into a professional career. It was a surprise to read Patrick Donovan’s comment in The Age that their following at home in London is limited.

Too soon, even after one of the more genuine encores I have experienced recently, the show was over. The crowd, good natured throughout, spilled onto the street, with smiles that reflected the pleasure everyone had enjoyed. KD&L are playing again on Thursday night at the Prince in St Kilda. If I wasn’t otherwise engaged, I would be lining up again. If they were at the Corner Hotel again, I reckon I would be a definite. Then again, three visits over twenty-seven hours is probably enough for a while.

I need a rest.

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.

Comments

  1. Good stuff, Andrew.
    I must say that you are doing mighty well to squeeze in music shows with everything else that goes on at this time of year. Are you doing the BDO again?
    Cheers
    Darren Dawson.

  2. Andrew Fithall says:

    Missing the BDO in 2010 Darren. Reasonably good line-up but just didn’t get myself organised. However, I am booked into the Laneway festival four days later (30 January). I reckon it is a better line-up with some real highlights. My niece has put me onto Mumford and Sons. Kid Sam as mentioned in the article, and I will go anywhere to see Eddy Current. Philadelphia Grand Jury, Teeth and Tongue and Bridezilla have all just been added. And to see out the season I have booked tickets and accommodation (camping) for all the family to go to Apollo Bay in late March.

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