Perhaps its fitting then that I start the new year with something that has always given me great solace and fortitude ... music.
Despite the flagrant beer-soaked display of snobbery on the part of my very good friend (questionable!) DL, I still love the West and love even more the fact that her unassuming beauty is host to what I consider one of the better organised music festivals in Melbourne, the Laneway Festival down on the banks of the Maribyrnong.
The 2 bands I was really here to see were Perfume Genius and Bat for Lashes. And I was prepared to go it alone. But Natasha Khan is in my friend DL's Top 5 list pf artists so he had to be there too. And at the 11th hour KH scored a ticket through a work colleague of mine, so what began as a solo venture, with another friend JL in tow, turned into a quartet of music appreciation.
KH and I got in early so that she could catch The Twerp's set. The singer is her husband's cousin. Not really my cup of tea, but a nice way to ease into the proceedings of what was going to be a long day. Our Padre coffee from Footscray Milking Station (they cleverly set up a machine outside for takeways ... you could say they were milking it at the milking station ... boom tish!) certainly helped to gird the loins and toughen our constituitions.
We left The Twerps before they finished so I could get a prime possie at Perfume Genius, which turned out to be quite unecessary as there was still plenty of room. In fact I managed to head right up front of stage, although my pics are still pretty shit.
It was a great set, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for Mike as his music is more suited to intimate venues and loses some of its emotional stridence competing with the elements and general human chatter.
Still it was exactly what I wanted and needed. I sat in the full bore sun and got quietly burnt, oblivious to the exciting turn of events just round the corner.
Next it was time for a toilet stop and a brief sojourn to the Eat your Ears stage for the opposite end of the musical spectrum which was Cloud Nothings, the much feted raucous American quartet serving up a thrash metal wall of sound that has seemingly captured the attention of the young indie crowd. Needless to say we lasted perhaps 3 stanzas short of a song and opted for more prosaic sustenance instead ... Lunch.
Beatbox Kitchen always serves great hamburgers and fries, so it was a no brainer when it came to choosing what we were going to eat ... and there were plenty of choices to be had.
This time round, Beatbox Kitchen served up an even greater more unexpected treat ... Mike Hadreas from Perfume Genius in the queue!!!
It made my day, perhaps even my year.
Meanwhile DL had arrived with JL in tow. So we met up at the River Stage and sampled Minneapolis band, Polica, fronted by elfin-like Channy Leaneagh who throws the cutest shapes on stage. Strong voice too, and not anything like Enya JL, but I will concur with the Cat Power resemblance, KH. With the Bon Iver seal of approval, the band ticks most of the danceable indie boxes.
But we will need to wait for their sophomore album to see if they have the chops to last the distance. Oh and if you had had any doubts about hitting the 90s fashion paylode, check out Channy's T-shirt, cut off denim shorts and boots combo ... Girlie Show anyone?
I'm not sure if my perception has entirely been altered, but Jessie is a spunky performer, with a great stage presence and repartee, and a suitably tight backing band. And I loved the uk-grimy bling. Its a good soul voice, strong but unadorned. And the grooves are smooth, but perhaps therein lies the rub. It is a little on the Cafe Del Mar side. And there are only so many life situations when a chilled soundtrack like this applies. I left when the Madonna cover came on. (And yes, Melbourne's mayor-in-waiting, Andrew MacConnell got a shout out. Jesse sampled his Lobster Roll over at Golden Fields).
By this stage, DL was freaking out about Bat for Lashes' impending set as the afternoon inched ever closer towards evening. Less than enamoured of the space surrounding the main stage, we formulated a plan to hang out at the peripheries during Yeasayer's set, then slowly work our way up to the front once the shirts-off-fist-pumping crowd left for more verdant climes (I hear that Flume was the hot ticket as far as headline acts were concerned.)
Our plan worked!
We were virtually up the front ensconced with the rest of the "poor and unwashed" as it were, when Natasha and Co took to the stage. Dressed in an oil-slicked pleated cape and matching skirt, Natasha and her band were an absolute revelation, and one of the best live performances I have seen in a very very very long time.
This wasn't just a band playing a set, it was theatre and catharsis and all those other big $10 words you can think of. I didn't expect the sense of creative release that Natasha brings to the fore and goes through herself even as she performs up there on stage, drawing the rest of us into her arcane world filled with fantabulous creatures suffering the gamut of human emotions.
And the girl can certainly get a groove on!! Those shoulder pops and rolls she does, with the little leg kick out the side! Adorably sensual ... is the best way to describe it. And that smile of hers - cheeky, irreverent, genuine, joyful, inclusive yet also exclusive ... and perhaps a hint of relief and wonder that its all going so well and that we the audience were responding so positively.
My advice is, even if you're undecided about their material, go see them live if ever there is another opportunity. You will not regret it. And Laura has to be, has to be, one of the few truly perfect songs.