Live Review: Stephens Malkmus & The Jicks, Bearhug

5 October 2012 | 1:53 pm | Dylan Hewitt

The Corner bandroom is casual, ambient and about one-third full as we enter the venue and the two giant screens on either side of the stage look striking. After a quick venture to the bar for a refreshing beer, Sydney six-piece Bearhug take to the stage. Theirs is an odd dynamic, the traditional 'frontman as singer' set up thrown out the window. Instead, lead guitarist Jesse Bayley cracks the gags and vocalist Ryan Phelan sings the tunes. The band's brand of jangling pop is reminiscent of Band Of Horses, Dinosaur Jr and The Go-Betweens and, although at times it's a little messy, there's more than a bit of promise in these young guys. They play songs for a lazy summer afternoon, and give the overall impression of being a likely bunch of lads who you'd be happy to take home to meet your mum. Watch this space.

By the time Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks take to the stage, the place is packed. It's somewhat of a tough night at the office for Malkmus. By the third song, hecklers are yelling requests (quickly rebutted by drummer Jake Morris: “We were gonna give printed setlists out at the door, but our printer broke”), feedback causes the band to stop mid-song and deal with the problem, and Malkmus's microphone stand will just not stop drooping. Despite all the technical difficulties, The Jicks make a very solid fist of their 90-minute set. They play plenty of songs from their (brilliant) latest album Mirror Traffic like opener Senator and Spazz, and throw in a few older Jicks and solo Malkmus (Phantasies) tunes. Jokes about Geelong, football and Castlemaine (“how many of you are going to move there in five years when you're pregnant?”) have the crowd eating out of Malkmus's hands.

Tonight's lesson is a master class of succeeding in the face of diversity. A shambolic version of Jenny & The Ess-Dog, a cover of Dragon's Are You Old Enough, and a broken guitar string are notable moments during the encore, before everyone bundles out into the warm spring night.