Kirin J Callinan + Standish/Carlyon + Scraps + Per Purpose @ The Zoo, 29.06.2013

Kirin J Callinan @ The Zoo, Saturday 29 June 2013

I’ve been suffering with a throat infection (that almost 3 months on doesn’t feel like it’s fully gone) and miss out on the BBQ/Lovely Legs/Go Violets show at The Troubadour on the Friday night, hoping that I’ll be feeling better for tonight.

I still feel completely wiped out but it’s a good looking bill that I’ve really been looking forward to seeing ever since it was first announced, even more so when the really strong contingent of support acts was added. So it comes as a complete surprise to get into The Zoo just after 8:30pm to find that even though Per Purpose are due to start proceedings at any moment, there’s maybe 10 people there to see them.

Per Purpose could be called a slightly odd fit given the rest of the bill but it really just highlights the eclectic line-up, something that I’m always a big fan of. The band aren’t as good as they were a few weeks ago at Black Bear Lodge. They seem less engaged, possibly by playing to such a small handful of people on a larger stage in a venue that doesn’t hide its emptiness. It also feels like a really short set of only about 20 minutes or so, barely time to get warmed up.

Scraps does her DIY 80s synth pop. It’s fairly rudimentary and a bit samey but enjoyable to watch all the same.

Standish/Carlyon are also heavily indebted to the 1980s but rather than synth pop it’s a slick minimalistic electronica for late nights/early mornings in European cities. Although I picked up the album years ago, I never got to see The Devastations play live, but the two ex-members of that band carry on from where their previous band left off. It’s very classy sounding and you can forgive Conrad Standish’s occasional foray into slap bass, as well as the get up which makes him look like an extra from a Frankie Goes To Hollywood video.

The only downside is that Standish/Carlyon leave after they play so when I go to the merch desk at the end of the night to pick up a copy of their album (a bargain at $20 on vinyl, $15 on CD) I find they’ve taken all their wares with them. I end up buying it direct from Chapter Records’ website instead and, barring any end-of-year gems, it’s probably going to be one of my albums of the year. I would have said that October is way too early to be putting those sort of lists together but FasterLouder have already decided that it’s OK for Best Of 2013 lists to start in September.

By the time Kirin J Callinan starts, The Zoo is still only about a third full. Everyone is crammed into the front of the venue but the rest of the room behind the level of the front stairwell is largely empty. It’s a surprise given how well attended his show at the smaller Black Bear Lodge was last year and how much has been written about him in recent weeks with the release of his solo album. The album has been universally praised on top of that. Seeing such an empty room makes me think that he probably doesn’t get a lot of airplay on triple j, which seems to be the difference between a sell-out show and one that struggles to pull an audience that gets into three figures.

If you had to describe Kirin J Callinan you’d probably say he was like a slightly more unhinged, squalling guitar version of Patrick Wolf, with shades of The Cure in some songs and Nick Cave in the ballads.  But having seen him last year and read much in the intervening months (in particular all the words concerning the KJC Sugar Mountain experience), tonight is fairly normal and unsurprising. You could almost call it boring.  There doesn’t feel to be much momentum in the performance, the songs don’t flow into each other and instead exist as standalone, solitary pieces of music, rather than as parts of a complete performance. It’s not helped by the awkward banter between songs and the silence as Callinan tunes up his guitar, as he does pretty much after every song during the night. The saving grace is the quality of the songs themselves and the sound, which, as it’s been all night, is crystal clear.

Although I’ve been denied by Standish/Carlyon taking all their merch with them when they take an early mark, I put in a pre-order for KJC’s album on vinyl. The show was in June, it’s now October and there’s been nothing in my post box. Given that the pre-order involved writing your name and address on a piece of A4 and handing over your hard-earnt cash, but without getting anything in the way of a receipt, in retrospect it doesn’t seem like the most sensible way to make a purchase. I chased them up about it a few weeks ago and was told that they didn’t press enough copies in the first run and are doing a second run in November. I’m not sure if I’ll be holding my breath but if it does turn up before the end of the year, it might yet be in with a chance to make it into my albums of the year.

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