This was a public holiday with reduced trading hours which meant an early start time for the local support act Le Pie. Backed by a five-piece band, she was one part Kim Gordon, one part 60s girl group. Over a bed of indie rock they showed a fine stylistic range, especially on their set-closer which started out moody and atmospheric before hitting grungy rock territory and Sonic Youth avant-garde guitar textures.
This was Houndmouth’s first visit to Australia and from the crowd response they received they’ll no doubt be back when they tour their next album. It’s hard to think of a band with such a natural and freewheeling camaraderie on stage. Grins and laughter were constantly exchanged, knowing smiles at in-jokes and goofing around was commonplace yet those antics never detracted from the music. This was rousing, celebratory music in terms of song arrangements and delivery even though they often sing of the darker side of characters and American culture.
Like The Band filtered through the ragged drinking songs of The Felice Brothers, Houndmouth showed how to win over an audience from the outset. There were jokes at the expense of Jesus and Melbourne and they immediately drew the crowd into their performance, erasing that line between musicians and fans.
The set drew heavily from their two albums with particular highlights being Sedona, the ineffably infectious My Cousin Greg, Casino (Bad Things), the slow-burning sway of Honey Slider and the Katie Toupin sung Gasoline. They also chose a fine pair of covers in John Prine’s Quiet Man and Willis Alan Ramsay’s Northeast Texas Women.
A band that can take already-superb albums and breathe even more life, emotion, character and musicality into the songs on stage are what you always hope for. Houndmouth, with their instrument swapping and transcendent harmonies did just that in an exceptional performance that was both note-perfect and gloriously ramshackle.