Live Review: Mosman Alder, I, A Man, Lowlakes - Grace Darling

26 June 2012 | 6:41 pm | Warwick Goodman

Ricocheting through the Friday night bustle in the bottom bar of the Grace Darling, we work our way up the tartan carpeted narrow staircase, past a long-haired wrist-stamper and through a little wooden door to be greeted by a dense lot of bodies. Perhaps this is the result of a tremendous game of 'Squashed Sardines' that had been played throughout the streets of Fitzroy all day. More likely, the bands tonight have some followers. Lowlakes are finishing their set. Caffeinated beats played on electronic drums lay snugly beneath a dreamy flow of plucked guitars and warm keys that drift over an enchanted crowd. The softly bobbing singer, Thomas Snowdan, is captivating and sings like something is muffling up his throat in a way that is entirely to his advantage. Snowdan's voice is unusual, strong and interestingly soulful, complimenting the ethereal indie sounds in a memorable way. The moments observed, although limited, show that these guys could well be something special.

Between sets some revellers go back past the top of the stairs and into a room to shoot pool and stand by windows and sit on couches by a fireplace. The Grace must have been a real hotel some years ago, this room would be the lounge where people sat and read magazines. A raucous girl with green hair comes in and yells loudly to her friends, “Did you hear them? I fucking loved that!” Back at the stage, I, A Man turn on their amps under a giant, slow-turning disco ball and the washed-out, clean guitars of Five Four begin to flow. Guitarist Ash Hunter, wearing a Sydney Swans football beanie, makes lush, ambient sounds. “I just got my moustache caught in the microphone,” says Hunter. “Sorry if I'm bleeding.” Not exactly comedy gold. They then kick into the rhythmic, skilful drum taps of Sometimes. Diminutive bassist Erik Rene has his sleeves rolled up neatly and produces tightly thrumming basslines, shoulders popping and jamming in time with the grooves. The band show their talent as musicians. Singer Daniel Moss really does have a nice voice; it's smooth and melodious and gets a great crunch when pushed to a higher register. He breaks into a falsetto in the great chorus of The Scenic Route with the lines, “Everyone else is on fire/I've been holding on to simpler times.” They finish with Big Ideas, a rocking track to end a fine set from these talented lads.

When the crowd is becoming decidedly merry, Mosman Alder, tonight's headliners from Brisbane, take the stage. The band too, as singer Valdis Valodze announces: “We're all a little bit drunk, but thank you for having us in Melbourne. This is called These Hands.” Valodze has a deep, baritone croon that manages to resonate through the thumping indie-folk sounds of the energetic group around him, who seem like a close collective of friends. In Tokyo 1933, drummer Damian Wood starts with big ride cymbal hits, a marching snare and intermittent kicks before the beautiful Robyn Dawson, a doll in her neck scarf and red boots, comes in on violin with its straining vibrato sounds. Green-haired keyboardist Katarzyna Wiktorski adds huge, swirling chords and the band sounds massive as they rollick along. Valodze ponderously crosses his arms as he studies the band with his back to the crowd, some of whom are dancing with arms struck out at angles to the floor like swaying pyramids. Someone bangs what smells suspiciously like a tequila shot down on the bar. The whole of Mosman Alder join in the repetitive, melodic chants of their amazing single Raisin Heart, which finishes their set triumphantly and caps off a night that is sure to be remembered fondly, if not hazily.