Gig/Concert: Darren Hanlon w/ Jeffrey Lewis
Venue: Mojo’s, Fremantle, Western Australia
Date: 12 April 2009
Headliners: Darren Hanlon
In one word: Personal
Entering the hallowed, very rockin’ Mojo’s Bar and Café for an early start to find the opening act, New York’s Jeffrey Lewis, had commandeered the last spare chair in the room to tie his shoes, it was obvious that this was to be a fun, intimate Easter Sunday gig. Luckily Mr Lewis soon made his way to the stage and began an evening of folky, indie acoustic rock with hints of country and blues throughout.
With a discography consisting largely of boom-box demo recordings, Jeffrey Lewis struck me as being in that awkward musical place of ‘better than a street performer, not quite a headliner’. That being said, his comical, relaxed approach to things was a great start to the night. With songs like The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane, which ended with a ranting monologue lasting for a good 5 minutes, it’s clear that this guy is more entertainer than musician – with a few goof-ups here and there handled with humour and good grace. Not usually my cup of tea, but enjoyable enough. Then the entertainer factor kicked into overdrive as we were treated to some of his “low budget home movies” which consisted of scrapbook-sized, home made comic books as narrated by the man himself. A nice break? Yeah, actually. I never thought I’d end up critiquing a songwriter’s illustration skills, but this guy does have some chops in that regard.
Closing out his set with current radio single “Roll Bus Roll”, which had a mildly annoying ‘soundtrack to Juno’ vibe to it; it was time to clear the stage for Gympie, Queensland’s Darren Hanlon. A hit with the festival going crowd for a few years now, Darren Hanlon has seen increasing success for his unique brand of story-telling folk rock filled with stories about various Australian country towns. His wide appeal is perhaps best expressed by his merch table: the usual CDs and t-shirts sitting next to 7” records and those souvenir spoons usually seen outside the walls of a lawn-bowls club or tea-houses.
Hanlon, with his internationally diverse backing band, performed a set consisting of a good collection of his best known songs, such as the touching tale of love that never actually existed in “Elbows”. Elsewhere, for “Happiness is a Chemical”, Hanlon invited fans to sit on stage with him to clear some room on the dance-floor; while “A-Z”, which morphed its way into a cover of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”. “Manilla, NSW” involved Hanlon stepping down from the stage to dance with the girls, get a piggy-back ride from one of the fellas, and take a photograph of this lucky reporter, all whilst doing his best to keep singing. This was followed shortly after by a completely un-plugged duet between Hanlon, his ukulele, and the appropriately nicknamed Pikelet, a singer/songwriter in her own right and also the band’s drummer for this tour.
This show though was in support of his most recent release, B-Sides collection Pointing Ray Guns at Pagans, and as such lesser known tracks such as “Pinball Millionaire”, “Video Party Sleepover” and current single “Electric Skeleton” also made their way into the set.
With an encore consisting of an Easter Egg give-away followed by perhaps Hanlon’s two best known songs in the banjo-fuelled “Falling Aeroplanes” and the more upbeat, yet ultra-sweet “Punk’s Not Dead (She’s Just Gone to Bed)”; I thought that the set couldn’t have been conducted any better. That was, until “Punk’s Not Dead” ended with a louder-than-usual snare-drop, leading into a frantic, yet still somehow still folksy cover of “Anarchy in the UK”.
A bit of a break from my usual show-going fare of fast drums and loud guitars, but great way to spend a chilled out Sunday evening (especially with a public holiday the next day!) and a highly recommended live show.
© Steve Pass
Photos: Jeffrey Lewis and Darren Hanlon at Mojo’s Bar