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The night before the much lauded Frightened Rabbit performance, Elspeth and I and our friend Pedro headed to the same venue, the Northcote Social Club. Going by the name, we were expecting an RSL type venue, with pokies and a bistro and stuff, but it is actually a really well set up pub, with a bar in the front, a beer garden out the back and a seperate band room which is fairly small, but can easily accommodate a few hundred people.

We had come to check out Aussie indie rock/folk five-piece Dead Letter Chorus, who were being supported by fellow Aussies Small Town Fiasco and a Canadian outfit I’d never heard of called Hey Rosetta! Small Town Fiasco opened the show playing a pretty good set to a crowd that seem to consist of quite a few family and friends, and the banter in between songs was quite entertaining.

Next up was Hey Rosetta! who are:

Tim Baker – vocals / piano / guitar
Adam Hogan – guitar
Josh Ward – bass
Phil Maloney – drums
Kinley Dowling – violin
Romesh Thavanathan – cello

As soon as I saw the cello and violin players up there I had a bit of an inkling that their music would be right up my alley, and my suspicions were quickly confirmed as each song demonstrated their talent for creating lush and vibrant songs that continue to expand with each layer of sound. The band had a fantastic chemistry as well, and it was clear that they thoroughly enjoyed making music together. Reading bits and pieces about them on the net today, I discovered that their live shows have a bit of a rep for being pretty outstanding, and I can certainly back that up after my experience the other night. Between us we bought both their EP Plan Your Escape and the full length Into Your Lungs (And Around In Your Heart And Through Your Blood).

Stand out tracks include ‘I’ve Been Asleep For A Long Long Time’ and ‘Tired Eyes’ (which you can check out courtesy of Elspeth here), along with ‘Red Heart’, ‘A Thousand Suns’, ‘New Goodbye’ and my personal favourite ‘There’s An Arc’. They all feature gorgeous strings, but ‘There’s An Arc’ starts slow and finishes with a wonderful jam that kicks in with about a minute left in the track and the violin is just beautiful.

There’s An Arc – Hey Rosetta!

New Goodbye – Hey Rosetta!

Turns out that Chris over at Local Vertical has known about these guys for over 12 months now, and you can also check out ‘Red Heart/Lions For Scottie’ here.

Closing the show was Dead Letter Chorus, who are:

Cameron Potts – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
Gabrielle Huber – Vocals, Piano, Guitar
Michael Faber – Guitar, Vocals
Lee Carey – Drums, Percussion
Andrew Rose – Bass, Vocals

Since there had been a bit of time to wait before Dead Letter Chorus came out, most people had taken the opportunity to take a seat on the carpet while they waited. When they came onstage, many people remained seated on the floor, which was quite bizarre. It’s true that a lot of people had obviously come to see Hey Rosetta! and had then left, but I found it quite odd that people didn’t stand for these guys. We stood for a while, but eventually sat down with everybody else. While I initially thought this was a bit disrespectful it actually gave it quite an intimate feeling and it turned out to be quite lovely. People were no less enthusiastic than they would’ve been standing up and I thought the response was still quite good.

Both Cameron and Gabrielle share lead vocal responsibilities and while I’d only heard a couple of tracks before seeing these guys I knew that this allowed them to create a diverse sound with some lovely harmonies. I wasn’t expecting to witness such a passionate performance though, most of which stemmed from Cameron, which made for a very entertaining and at times quite moving performance. The closing song ‘Fathers and Daughters’ was particularly touching. Cameron introduced it, saying that he wrote the song for his mother, who at the age of 52 decided to go overseas for the first time. When she applied for a passport she was told that there was no record of a person by her name being born on her date of birth, leading to the discovery that she had been adopted, a fact that had been kept from her all her life. This story, told simply, in few words, rendered everybody silent, allowing the song to build and build. There were a few teary eyes spotted around the place, and listening to it now as I type, around the 3:16 minute mark there’s a bit that gets me a little weepy. Beautiful stuff.

Other highlights included ‘Oscar Moland’, ‘Down In Your Valley’, ‘Fred Astaire’, ‘Wait All Night’ and the gorgeous ‘Magnolia Farm’ which features both Cameron and Gabrielle on alternating vocals and is a sweet song with vaguely country overtones. I’ve had a stab at the lyrics here, I’m pretty sure they’re right.

you can be the writer and I wll be your page
you can be the ocean and I will be your wave
you could hear the sound of melody rising and falling
we could take the train leave this goddam town

you can be the message and I will be the phone
you can be the mason and I will be the stone
you dont have to keep on walking all on your own
we could travel together on down this road

meet in the middle of magnolia farm
meet me in the middle of tonight
its cold and i’m tired but I feel alright
and I ain’t gonna back down tonight

Dead Letter Chorus are still only doing local stuff I think, so unless you’re in Australia you probably won’t get a chance to check them out live any time soon, but it’s definitely worth shelling out some cash for both their EP Listen Carefully (We Shall Say This Only Once) and the 2008 album The August Magnificent.

Magnolia Farm – Dead Letter Chorus

Fathers And Daughters – Dead Letter Chorus

Wait All Night – Dead Letter Chorus

UPDATE: Had I come across The August Magnificent back in October when it was released, it would definitely have made my Best Albums list. I’ve been listening to a lot of music these last couple of days, but I keep coming back to this album. It’s absolutely gorgeous.