Boy & Bear @ The Forum Theatre, Melbourne

boy and bear

Who: Boy and Bear, a Sydney-based 5 piece outfit comprised of Dave Hosking, Killian Gavin, Tim Hart, Jake Tarasenko and Jon Hart

When: Friday 18thMay, 2012

Where: The Forum Theatre, Melbourne

Boy and Bear have divided opinions within our music crew; their particular brand of indie/folk is seen as hauntingly beautiful by some whilst deemed yawn-worthy and bland by others. I tend to belong to the former camp, and for this very reason I managed to score myself the official +1 spot for LnL crew. Therefore, the following rant (laughingly referred to as a review) may be somewhat biased and slightly Bieber or perhaps One Direction fan gushy. Consider yourself warned.

Ok so for those of you who have been living under a rock, here is a quick lowdown on Boy and Bear: The band originally began as Dave Hosking’s solo project but expanded to a 5 piece and in October 2009 were featured on Triple J’s unearthed. After scoring an opening spot at Homebake, the band have gone from strength to strength, signing with Universal and touring both nationally and internationally, selling out shows as they go. They have released an EP (Emperor Antarctica) followed by their debut LP “Moonfire” and are well known for their cover of Crowded House’s “Fall at your feet” as part of the He Will Have His Way tribute. 5 aria awards later, Boy and Bear are currently embarking on a national 26 date tour “Remembering the Mexican”…which brings me to the gig…

On a typically chilly Autumn night in Melbourne, I joined a lazy 1500 or so fans who packed into the Forum theatre for the sold out show. Just as an aside, the Forum is arguably one of the best live music venues in Melbourne.  For anyone who has not had the pleasure, the Forum was originally a 1929 cinema, and is now set up in the style of an outdoor amphitheater.It’s unique architecture boasts Romanesque statues and gargoyles capped off by a sky-painted ceiling, and it had played host to many impressive bands over the years. On this particular night it was packed out with a large proportion of screechy 18-year-old girls and their buffed-footballer-turned-metro bfs, however to be fair boththe venue and the band draw a diverse crowd of people from conservative oldies to free flowing hippies and super cool indie kids.

Admittedly, I may have missed the openers who included fellow Sydney-siders Tin Sparrow, and Queensland-based The Jungle Giants, making the ultimate sacrifice of an indie entrée in favor of a main course of hearty Italian food and red wine. However from my vantage point at the European Beer café the line looked impressive and so I can only assume there was a decent crowd.

The band opened their set with the popular oldie “Rabbit song” which was greeted enthusiastically and energetically. This quickly transitioned into the wistfully reflective “Lordy may” and the female population swooned on their feet. “Milk and Sticks” created a more up-beat atmosphere more consistent with their newer, more rollicking and country-esque sound. The remainder of their set was a mixture of slower, more intense ballads and rollicking hoedowns, indie style folk. Highlights included ‘Feeding Line, “ “the Beach,” “My only One” and “Mexican Mavis.” The audience particularly rallied during their cover of “fall at your feet,” despite the fact that a large proportion of their younger following potentially had never heard of the Finn Brothers. However the band is careful to distance themselves from this as their claim to fame, playing the song mid-set and keeping the lead up low key. The transition into Neil Young’s Heart of Gold mid-way through offered a nice variation on the familiar theme.

Regardless of your opinion about music genres or styles, it can’t be denied that the boys can play music- they are all talented instrumentalists who produce stirring vocals with rich harmonies. They are well-practiced and rehearsed and play a tight set, with casual and almost bashful banter between songs. In particular the girls love Dave’s dreamy dimples and shy smiles and the audience related to the playful humour between band mates.

Having said that, this show did not blow me away. As a self-admitted die hard fan from way back, I am loathe to say it but have to rip out the “I like your old stuff better than your new stuff” cliché. I’m a sucker for a stirring ballad and the haunting melodies and rich, dark harmonies encapsulated in songs like “The Storm,” and the more upbeat “Mexican Mavis.”  I am less partial to the hint of country twang that has crept into some of the newer pieces, and have to say was disappointed with their newy , (entitled Three Headed Woman) which was comparably bland an offered a nice chance to replenish the drinks and check out the photos Brooksy had snapped earlier.

Overall, this was a somewhat different experience from my first awed experience seeing the band in a dingy half-empty bandroom in Northcote. That being said, every time I have seen Boy and Bear since that time they are consistent in the quality of their performance and musicianship. For newer fans or those whose tastes have grown in the same direction as the band’s sound development, this show would have been everything they could ask for. For me, it offered the perfect accompaniment for a chilly Friday night after a long working week. Although it did not blow my socks off, it left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling of contentment inside  (perhaps assisted by the red wine?)