by Sarah Norman
Contrary to what was stated on their Facebook page, Dappled Cities’ co-lead singer and guitarist Dave Rennick was not, in point of fact, there to kiss the first 400 guests through the door. I know this for certain, as having seen this, I made damned sure that I was in the first 20 or so guests to arrive… (I have my reasons).
Now (rant alert) – it might be that the lack of heating in many Sydney live music venues reflects something of a tradeoff for the venue owners… (if people can’t take off their coats, then there is no need to have coat check facilities, for one thing) or it may simply be that people have a mental blank when it comes to planning for cold weather in Sydney; either way…. it does nothing for the ambiance of an evening.
So – while trying to forget my earlier disappointment at the lack of personal greeting, and ignore the frigid gale-force winds channeling through the open doors of the venue, I settled back into a dark corner (huddled against the biting cold), wishing that The Hi-Fi (somewhere I have previously enjoyed in warmer months) resembled less a big black empty box, and had some heating, or some comfy chairs, or anywhere to sit at all that wasn’t just the alarmingly sticky black concrete of the floor. Even the eerie green light from the thousand glow-sticks festooning walls and bodies (thoughtfully supplied by HTC in some bid to align their brand with the hip young Sydney music scene or whatever) couldn’t lift the chill from the room.
It was from this perspective I had my first taste of Ali Barter, first up as support. This Melbourne singer/songwriter has a polished stage presence; a clear, strong voice; and a more than adequately talented back-up band. In terms of style, Ali Barter definitely leans towards the indie folk-rock side of the fence and there are occasional traces of Father John Misty in a few songs (which is high praise indeed). Some wider variation in tempo might have made a respectably solid performance more memorable, however. By the end of the set, my attention has wandered back to obsessing about the cold and wondering whether it would be possible to get my beer micro-waved, thanks… (it works for sake, so why not?).
It feels pretty late by the time the next support, Elizabeth Rose, hits the stage (this is a midweek gig, after all). Now – I bet that on a smaller stage, in a smaller (warmer) venue, this girl would be awesome – but in this venue, it needed more. Elizabeth Rose is a talented pure-pop music writer/creator (although the style does jar somewhat against the previous support); but one small, slightly awkward-looking person bopping around behind a few keyboards (with no special lighting or backdrop or anything) feels more like something you’d see at a school dance. I find if I face away from the stage and pretend I am somewhere else, the music sounds about 10 times better. This is obviously not ideal in a live performance….
By the time Dappled Cities finally come on stage, I have lost all feeling in at least 7 of my toes (they are too numb to count properly) and I am regretting my personal resolution to NEVER WEAR UGG BOOTS IN PUBLIC. So –while I have been looking forward to seeing these guys live for some weeks, at this point I just want them to hurry up and finish already, so I can go home… Nonetheless, this is definitely a band who know how to work a room. They may sometimes sound a lot like The Shins (which is not necessarily a bad thing, in any event); they may have a repertoire bursting with almost cheesy indie pop/rock tunes; but the simultaneously harmonious and camply operatic vocals (is it just me, or does anyone else find themselves singing Bohemian Rhapsody in their car on their way home from a D.C. gig?); their enthusiastic stage presence; and the feeling that even though they know we’re cold and covered in marketing flotsam, they really want us to have a good time (and you’ve gotta love a band that’s considerate like that) mean that these guys can capture the audience in a way that the support bands had no chance of doing. They covered a great range of songs, from The Night is Young At Heart to Fire Fire Fire and then Real Love off their recent Lake Air EP. Suddenly, the room seemed smaller and warmer, full of people dancing, and a happier place to be… Just in time to go home.
NB To The Hi-Fi… if you want people to be cosy and happy (and probably drink more) close the damned doors when the outdoor temperature drops below 10 degrees. Or crank up the heat. Just saying.