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Dead Letter Chorus and Two Hours Traffic sharing the stage

A couple of weeks ago we had a long weekend down here in Oz, to help the Queen celebrate her birthday. Of course dear Lizzie’s birthday is not actually in June – that would make too much sense.

Though I was tempted to break out the streamers and take a whack at a Camilla-shaped piñata (who said that?) I decided to celebrate at the good ol’ Northcote Social Club instead. Headlining were Dead Letter Chorus, who’d just returned from a triumphant tour of Canada. Supporting them were Canadian tour mates Two Hours Traffic, along with opening Melbourne-based act, Institut Polaire. I’m going to talk about them in reverse order though – try to keep up, won’t you?

Dead Letter Chorus – who I’d seen perform at this venue before, and loved them – were actually quite disappointing. I think that lead singer Cameron Potts had a bad cold as his voice had packed it in completely by the second song, and as a result they spent less than half an hour on stage and played no more than half a dozen songs. I know that it wasn’t their fault, but it was still pretty disappointing. They did play a couple of new songs that sounded good, but they didn’t play any of what I would consider their best tunes and as they made their hasty exit off stage with a mumbled ‘thanks for putting up with us’ I remember feeling quite pleased that my ticket only cost me $12.*

Michael Faber & Danielle Huber take over vocals to give Cameron Potts a rest

I quite enjoyed Two Hours Traffic though, who were a little chatty in between songs and looked very snappy in their suits. And so young! They play fairly standard four-piece indie rock, catchy and enjoyable, doing a few songs I knew and a couple of new tracks as well.

Two Hours Traffic

However, the best act of the night turned out to be Institut Polaire. I don’t always drag myself to a venue in time to catch the opening act (I’ve been burned by that before), but I’d done a quick five minute myspace reconnaissance before catching the train to Melbourne and had a sneaking suspicion that they’d be worth the early rock up time. I was not mistaken.

Institut Polaire are a seven piece outfit (most of the time) and I fell for them as soon as I saw they had a trumpet player. I love it when a standard indie lineup expands to include trumpets or violins or, in the case of Institut Polaire, vintage Wurlitzer pianos. That’s me, sold.

Institut Polaire

They were packed onto the tiny stage with barely room to move, and yet they still managed to create so much energy in their own small spaces, tapping and bopping their heads and shuffling about, dodging cords and mikes and each other. Since I’d never heard of them before I was not at all familiar with their stuff, but that was totally ok – I know good music when I hear it.

As I left the venue I made sure to pick up a copy of their 2007 EP The Fauna and the Flora, a collection of songs that have been getting some significant play around the It All Started headquarters (my lounge room). The first three tracks in particular are stellar, all slow starts and gorgeous melodies, punctuated by the odd violin flourish or trumpet solo. It’s wonderful stuff.

Institut Polaire

Institut Polaire have already won a swag of awards here in Oz, and have shared the stage with the likes of Camera Obscura, The Clientele, Architecture in Helsinki, Jens Lekman, New Buffalo, The Panics and The Lucksmiths. I’ve also read that they’ve completed their debut LP titled Make Your Own Mayflower, but there doesn’t appear to be a release date yet. It’s certainly one that I’ll be looking out for.

Now, because the only Institut Polaire release available is their debut five track EP, I’ve made the first two tracks available for streaming only. You can however download bonus track ‘City Walls & Empires’ here as it’s also available on their Triple J Unearthed page.

Kentucky Society Drought – Institut Poliare

The Fauna and the Flora Are Too Closely Allied – Institut Polaire

City Walls & Empires – Institut Polaire

*Just before I hit publish, a link to this interview with Cameron Potts popped up in my twitter feed – he did indeed lose his voice, poor guy!

(All these dodgy, slightly grainy images are mine – my camera and I were fighting that night. I don’t think I won)