I think I’m seriously the only audience member here drinking alone. Isn’t this a Frightened Rabbit show? Isn’t this a band whose main themes are loneliness and sorrow, whose main voice is an inner monologue and who has helped endless bearded (and possibly non-bearded) hipsters navigate their heartbreak? It’s frankly outrageous that I’m the only one flying solo here.
Regardless, we struggle on and I walk through the doors as Tia Gostelow steps onto the stage with band in tow. Tia ranks among the better of the slew of female solo artists Triple J have got behind over the past few years and at 17, she’ll have plenty more in store for the years to come. Fleetwood Mac influences mesh with overdriven guitar stabs and solos from Tia’s live band as she works her acoustic through a well-received set of ethereal pop before finishing with her latest single, Vague Utopia.
As the frontman for a band that’s just arrived in the country after a 24-hour flight, Scott Hutchison looks in good spirits as he bounds on stage and plants his beer at the foot of the mic stand before greeting the audience the electro-drumbeat from Get Out emanates from the speakers. The crowd is on the verge of sold out and it seems that the whole band are suppressing smiles as they look out on the mass of people stretching from front to back and up to the balcony.
Hutchison looks half-cut and perfectly prepared for new classic I Wish I Was Sober when it makes an early appearance. “The best of me left hours ago”, Hutchison belts out in unison with the crowd at his feet and, presumably, those in line at the bar.
For all of his sad songs contemplating deep meanings and dark emotions, Hutchison is a funny bastard on stage often bantering with the crowd between songs. Requests come flying in left and right but he calms things down and explains “you need to pace yourself, I can’t play that now or half the crowd would fuck off!” Despite this promise, fan favourite The Modern Leper comes in surprisingly early in a set which becomes a mish-mash of favourites and deep cuts spanning almost their entire career.
We are invited to dance for “the only Frightened Rabbit song you can dance to” as Old Old Fashioned gets things moving. The audience fall over themselves to ‘get down’ for one of the most enthusiastic sing-a-longs of the night weirdly skewed with lyrics like “I’ll turn off the TV, it’s killing us we never speak” lamenting a dying relationship.
The song actually represents a microcosm of the night in general: an ecstatic crowd, smiling and swaying to songs about grief, loneliness and depression. It’s as if in writing the songs Hutchison purged the darkness from not only his own life, but his audience’s. The set proper could have ended there but instead we are treated to The Oil Slick and understated, slow burner Lump Street.
Hutchison returns alone with an acoustic guitar for the encore and, having finally succumbed to a loud request, leans into a beautifully delicate version of My Backwards Walk. As the rest of the band joins him on stage he declares “It’s all hits from here on in” following with Death Dreams, The Woodpile and finally a throwback to 2010’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks, The Loneliness and the Scream. The audience sings the final refrain as feedback swirls and band says its goodbyes.
So much for a sombre evening of sad songs sung to hipster kids crying into their beards. This was actual catharsis and having been a fan of Frightened Rabbit for coming on five years, I was utterly unprepared for this kind of rapturous despair.