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Saturday night saw me at the Hi Fi Bar in Melbourne for the first time in 12 months. I’d forgotten what a great venue it is – I refer to the gradual steps that allow you to stand anywhere in the place and still get a good view of the stage. I’m less excited about the drink prices though – they don’t have any beer on tap and the Mercury Draught I ended up drinking ran at $8 a pop. My three drinks ended up costing more than my ticket. Not good.

Opening NZ four piece Brand New Math played an enthusiastic set, complete with microphone antics and every band member except the drummer taking a turn on the keyboards. The first half of the set was particularly good, with lots of high-energy numbers that got our toes tapping. Fill-in drummer John was especially good, loose limbed and clearly enjoying himself.

Sydney’s singer-songwriter Jack Ladder took the stage next, accompanied by a retro looking electric guitar. Tall, thin and very well dressed, Jack immediately commanded attention with his deep baritone voice that seemed to come from nowhere. Backed by a drummer and a bass player, Jack played a wonderful brand of funky bluesy rock ‘n’ roll that quickly got people filling up the dance floor. I’m unsure of the bass player’s name, but he had some serious moves. Shoulders lifting, lips shifting, neck bobbing back and forth. At times, he totally stole the show.

Last to appear was the act we’d all paid the big bucks for, New Zealand’s Cut Off Your Hands. They opened with the super catchy ‘Happy As Can Be’, which was a surefire way to get the crowd involved immediately, though I reckon they were having some sound problems during this first number as the vocals were not as sharp as they could’ve been. Luckily these issues seemed to be resolved and we didn’t notice any other problems for the rest of the show.

I’m only familiar with a few of their songs, so I can’t comment on particular tracks, but it was certainly difficult to keep still as they fired off song after song, barely pausing for breath in between. There was a bit of occasional crowd surfing from the lead singer, and the second last song turned into a complete audience domination of the stage when about 50 people climbed up as the band continued to play around them. The security guards were less than impressed.

It’s always an interesting experience to go to a gig where you get to check out gear from acts you’ve never heard of, and for me, the highlight was actually Jack Ladder. His latest release Love Is Gone is out now and you may also have heard his cover of Okkervil River’s ‘Starry Stairs’, performed in the lead up to the release of The Stand Ins. Check it out below – it’s a goodie.

Best Kept Secret – Jack Ladder

Starry Stairs (Okkervil River Cover) – Jack Ladder

Check out my previous post including ‘Happy As Can Be’ by Cut Off Your Hands.