It’s rare that Jenn and I miss a Something For Kate gig around Melbourne. We are long-time fans of the band, finding much of our own selves reflected in their songs. Actually, the first music thing we did together when our relationship began was to catch an in-store acoustic gig at JB HiFi by lead singer and chief song-writer, Paul Dempsey. Cementing our gooey attachment to SFK, Jenn walked down the aisle to the Dempsey solo song, Bats, on our wedding day. We share a love for the band’s poetic and searching lyrics, and three-piece (guitar-bass-drums) post-grunge sound. So, apologies if we gush like blogging romantic fools.
Now that we live out in the hills, gigging in the city is not as easy or practical compared to when we lived a short tram ride from Melbourne’s many central and beloved music venues. It’s a case-by-case basis for whether we go to a gig that we previously would have locked in without a second thought.
Thankfully, our favourite band ventured out to suburbia’s fringe when kicking off their latest nation-wide tour last month. To our delight, the Star-Crossed Cities Tour opened in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs at Ferntree Gully Hotel. Naturally, we were all over tickets to this gig as soon as they went on sale. After enjoyably rocking out at Grinspoon’s Ferntree Gully gig a few weeks prior, our first gig at FTG Hotel, we were very excited about experiencing our favourite Aussie band only a stone’s throw from our new home in the hills.
Something For Kate have been on a PR and media rampage throughout the release and tour of their latest album, Leave Your Soul To Science, the band’s first studio album in six years. It seems like they have been in every magazine, newspaper, street press publication and music website, as well as all over TV, radio and social media to pump up their album and tour. Maybe it’s a marketing reaction to the band’s time away from the spotlight. However, it’s possible that the exhaustive coverage is seen to be required because they lack the broad appeal of their heyday a decade ago, and now they only retain the attention of the 30somethings who grew up with Something For Kate (…yeah, that’s a very unqualified opinion of a casual observer only). Regardless, they don’t need any exposure from my little blog. Everything you could possibly want to know about Something For Kate circa 2012+ has already been published in the last ten months. Nonetheless, I am writing about them here as a fan, as a Something For Kate survivalist.
Since the release of Leave Your Soul To Science in September last year, Jenn and I have been to three gigs. First it was the album launch at The Corner Hotel last October, a classic SFK Melbourne gig even though the new songs suffered some false starts and various rough edges. The gig was redeemed by a powerful encore of Electricity and a cover of Ship of Fools featuring Powderfinger’s Darren Middleton on guitar. Next, we had a brilliant New Years Eve at The Espy, where they played the Gershwin Room as the clocked ticked over to 2013 on a hot summer’s night. Most recently, we caught them at Ferntree Gully Hotel for the first gig of Star Crossed Cities.
As a craft beer lover, I will forever complain online about the appalling and limited bogan drinks selection available in Ferntree Gully Hotel’s bandroom, known as The Middle. However, the room is an excellent space for watching a band for SFK’s calibre, and generates a great atmosphere. Due to its close proximity to our home, FTG Hotel has quickly become a very satisfying gig option for us…but I do hope they see the light of better beer soon and start tapping craft beers or stocking their fridges with something other than VB, Boag’s, Carlton Dry and alcopops. I’ll even settle for beers from Coopers or Matilda Bay. Please? [end rant]
Back to the Something For Kate gig at FTG Hotel on May 10…
The set list of 21 songs was an excellent mix of old and new, surely satisfying fans of all vintages, from casual listeners to SFK-geeks like us. We find it very hard to pick a favourite album or song, because we love them all for different reasons. Hearing a diverse mix from across their back-catalogue is generally all we want.
Something For Kate’s Paul, Clint and Step, along with touring keyboardist/guitarist/backing vocalist, John Hedigan, hit the stage and opened with Captain (Million Miles An Hour) and Hallways, lighting the energy immediately, after a mellow set from support act, Courtney Barnett.
Eight new songs were played, favouring the front half of the Leave Your Soul To Science. The Economy (aka Paul’s Bruce Springsteen moment), Back to Normal, Eureka and Begin were left out this time around. The Fireball At The End Of Everything was the exception.
Survival Expert is that continues to grow and grow on me. It’s my favourite track from the new album. While I’m less inclined towards Paul’s falsetto voice, I really love the song’s simple slow crescendo into the modern garage-rock of the final verse and chorus. The song doesn’t quite achieve the same emotion when played live as a four-piece, but I hope it survives as a regular part of SFK setlists.
Miracle Cure, which ended the main set, is a song I prefer live, because the Coldplay-ness of the “Oooohs” is less noticeable.
Star Cross Citizens has been an interesting track to hear live. It has evolved and devolved over nine months. When we first heard them play the song last year at The Corner, it was scratchy and disjointed. I felt like they hadn’t worked out how to play or mix the song live yet. At the Espy on New Year’s, the song was played with a slightly different groove, it had more of a funk feel that softened out the song’s signature booming guitars. Last month at Ferntree Gully, Star Cross Citizens was back to the rocking style of the album version, sounding much better. It was cohesive and competent, great to hear.
Cohesion and fluidity was a theme for the night, as the band blew out a quality no fuss set. They seemed quite relaxed, even though it was the first show on this tour. Technically, the band has been touring this album for over eight months now, and their refined ability to showcase the new songs was evident. Through their history, the band has only ever improved.
If you go to a Something For Kate gig and they don’t play a cover, you have to wonder if it was a Something For Kate gig. They love their covers, highlighted by the recent Shotgun Karaoke series of Paul’s pre-gig vocal warm-ups. This time the cover was When The Rivers Run Dry, a cover of the Hunters & Collectors hit, which will be Something For Kate’s contribution to a forthcoming H&C tribute album. It was played relatively straight (similar to the original version) and sounded rockingly fantastic. During the song I was wishing I had been old enough to experience “Hunners” during 1980s Melbourne, the sound transported me there. Jenn was lucky enough to catch a H&C gig in Brisbane back in the 90s…for which I am jealous.
The heavy track is one of the band’s original songs. These days it is found on the Q & A with Dean Martin EP, a compilation of the band’s earliest works. We have heard Dean Martin played from time to time over the years, but any song that old is always a rarity and a joy to hear it still given some air. It’s a testament to the fact that despite the evolution of the band’s sound and feel over the years, they are still the same band (yes, even with a change in bassist since they recorded their first tracks). Dean Martin almost outdid the gig’s final song, the regular closer of Déjà vu.
At the end of the show, my comment to instagram was simply : “Wow… that Something For Kate gig went BOOM!”
This Friday night we trek back into the city to catch Something For Kate play again, this time at Forum Theatre.
I’m looking forward to seeing the evolution of the set and songs since the Ferntree Gully Hotel show and after a month of touring around the country.
Whilst the one-night-only Forum gig is sold out, two more shows have been added for the following nights over at The Corner Hotel. Some tickets are still available to the final Melbourne show on Sunday.
I kind of wish I had known there’d be Corner shows before locking in the Forum gig. Not only is the Corner Hotel my favourite live music venue in Melbourne (with the added bonus of great beer, such Mountain Goat’s Hightail ale and Steam ale), it’s rather conveniently located right next to Richmond Station, shortening our post-gig transit home to the end of the line. Oh well, we’ll survive.
For more of Jenn’s photos and the full setlist from the Ferntree Gully Hotel gig, check out the album on the Beer Bar Band Facebook page.