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with David Craft / The Lammas Tide

The Oddfellow

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Norfolk Hotel’s downstairs bar has undergone some renovations in the last two months. Aside from a couple of weird postmodern touches (a mannequin hung spread-eagle from the ceiling, an obligatory disco ball), it’s the perfect setting for Husband and their friends’ Blood Meridian aesthetic. Dim lighting, craggy limestone, a wall of backlit whiskey, stained glass street-level windows, and a lot of gratuitous rope make for the sort of venue the Soggy Bottom Boys could rock.

Tonight, Husband are missing a second guitarist, and although the thinned-out texture shifts the sound firmly back into a grunge-alternative plane, the performance doesn’t suffer at all. Husband’s tightness is particularly impressive, given that two songs in, lead singer-songwriter Michael Paolino apologises for taking a quick break to sound check, not being able to hear the band behind him (“And those were my two favourite songs!”).

Any Australian attracted to the crossroads and whiskey of Southern Gothic has to deal with the spectre of Nick Cave. On record, Caught oozes sinister Caveness, sounding a lot like Missy Higgins’ Peachy pushed below the pre-War Mason-Dixie. In concert, with reverb stripped back and keys featured prominently, it becomes clear that Husband’s brand of Americana is closer to Springsteen. He’s about the kind of guarded optimism you’d expect to find on the last train out of Detroit, and it’s particularly present in songs like Caroline, a brother-joined-the-army-to-be-with-his-lover, capital-b Ballad, in the traditional broadside sense.

“Grungy” appears in a lot of Husband bios, and their Americana nostalgia extends to 90’s alternative rock. Gently arcing key lines, ornamental guitar feedback and middle-tempo, tom-heavy drums affirm a grunge-lite influence on songs like Come Home and Invitation, as does Paolino’s substantial fringe and loose tee. All up, Husband deliver a generous set received by a generous crowd.

If anyone’s embraced the Mercy Seat wholeheartedly, it’s support act David Craft, who makes ample songwriting use of Nick Cave neuroses – directed at the girls who call him a fake, who make him wanna pinch himself, and who pour their drinks like waterfalls. It all culminates in his howled rendition of Sam Cook’s A Change Is Gonna Come, which runs the whole gamut of Howling Wolf “moaning”, from bitter seething to subregister growls. Even his baritone’s backstory, given by bassist Andrew while Craft is retuning, is pretty dark – apparently, a huntsman’s leg got caught in his vocal chords while he was sleeping. The Perth hills, hey.

The David Craft band work some incredible arrangements, with generous guitar solos (sometimes played above the fretboard) and rollicking, double-kick drumming. Equally aurally plush, folk-psychedelica band The Lammas Tide opened the evening with their distinctive blend of vocal reverb, Bush Band violin, and rockabilly guitar.


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