Live Review: Lou Barlow, Unity Floors

23 April 2012 | 6:18 pm | Danielle O'Donohue

Considering Barlow’s pedigree he should never have had to beg for an audience.

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One of the kings of '90s lo-fi indie, Lou Barlow went on Twitter about a month ago to tell his Australian fans he was considering cancelling his tour. The statement did its job. Ticket sales picked up and the tour went ahead.

Sydney locals Unity Floors had clearly been influenced by the noisier end of Barlow's back catalogue, taking their cues from bands such as Dinosaur Jnr and Pavement. Buzzing with fuzzy energy, the duo presented a youthfully effervescent set free of any self-aware posturing plagued by a lot of young acts these days. Though they appeared ramshackle and loose, there was an underlying strength to their playing. The rich guitar tones and Buzzcock-esque hooks made for compelling listening.

Despite having played in several seminal late '80s and early '90s indie bands, including Dinosaur Jnr, Sebadoh and The Folk Implosion, Lou Barlow appeared onstage as a very unassuming artist. Armed in the beginning with a luxurious sounding ukulele that he later swapped for an equally gorgeous sounding acoustic guitar, Barlow picked his way gently through an extensive back catalogue. The intimacy of the performance allowed songs like Sebadoh's I Believe In Fate to unfold like a sunflower reaching for the sun. Barlow's clear, rich voice gave weight lyrics like, “I believe in fate 'cause fate believes in me/ Some girl I don't know is waiting to marry me/ Soon we'll be together... pretend it's forever then proceed to crush each other.” It was no surprise that much of Barlow's lyrical content centred around relationships (though he took great pains to explain that he doesn't write songs about his kids, or for that matter standing in line for coffee, like has been suggested to him) but his approach, befitting for someone who's been at this game a while, leaned toward the introspective, quietly emotional and poignant.

In the end there was a decent crowd out on a Monday night, but considering Barlow's pedigree he should never have had to beg for an audience. It's these kinds of gigs that need patronage if we're to keep venues from closing down and to keep enjoying a very healthy live music scene.

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