Milk! Good For You review: Howler, 5-3-16

On Saturday night, the Northside’s venue of the moment, Howler, was packed with enthusiastic music lovers, all keen for a glimpse of Courtney Barnett, following her recent Grammy nomination. But the Milk! Records Good For You Tour was so much more. Milk! Records all started back in 2012, with Barnett and partner/collaborator/Aussie music icon, Jen Cloher, deciding record companies were not appreciating the artists. From here, Milk! Records was born.

After recording the second Milk! Records compilation album over a week in September last year, Courtney Barnett, Fraser A Gorman, Ouch My Face, Jen Cloher, The Finks and East Brunswick All Girls Choir came together to perform for a sold out crowd at Howler.

Never having seen any of the acts before, I didn’t know what I was in for, and was in no way expecting to be watching a combination of all six bands performing together throughout the evening.

Kicking off the night were mellow, folk band the Finks, who, on this particular evening were a duo — with founder Oliver Mestitz taking the stage with Barnett later on in the night to share a song about dealing with anxiety, that stirred many emotions in the room.

East Brunswick All Girls Choir were up next, making a smooth transition to their instruments, with the crowd only aware of the change, due to the upbeat tempo and catchy beats. These guys are ones to watch, sounding quite similar to Barnett herself, with drummer Jen Shokalis popping up again with Cloher’s band.

Following on were Ouch My Face. They were absolutely crazy, bouncing up and down on the stage and really drawing in the audience. Ouch My Face created a sense of happiness in the crowd, with several crowd members sharing looks throughout the set, knowing they were a part of something special. Lead singer, Celeste Potter was a force to be reckoned with, her voice shrill and shrieking one minute, then soft and silky the next.

The range of genres, from folk/indie/rock/electronica, and all abilities that were displayed across the night could not have been different, there is no comparison between the Finks and Ouch My Face. They are two completely different acts, but somehow they both fit the bill perfectly, and got along like family.

Jen Cloher is a performer. Having graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art and moving to the field of music, Cloher is built for the stage. Australia’s version of Patti Smith, and one half of the Milk! Records team (alongside Barnett), Cloher brings a professional and well thought out set list and stage presence to the show. Playing alongside several of her record label mates, Cloher and her band are in top form.

Second last was 24-year-old Melbournian, and man of the moment, Fraser A Gorman. Both Barnett and Cloher took turns harmonising with Gorman, ensuring his dulcet tones were complimented. Playing tracks from his debut album, Slow Gum, including crowd favourites — Never Gonna Hold You (Like I Do), Book of Love and Shiny Gun. Gorman worked the room, chatting away merrily while the band kicked off the next tune.

With a tap on the shoulder, Gorman moved off stage and Barnett pulled out the big guns, starting her set with Dead Fox, which allowed drummer, Dave Mudie to show off his skills. During her forty minute set, Barnett mostly played tracks from her latest album, ‘Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit’, going back a couple of years to play Pickles from the Jar, which ensured the audience got up and moving if they weren’t already.

The highlight of the evening for me, was when East Brunswick All Girls Choir drummer, Jen Sholakis, got behind the kit and bashed out Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party­ and Pedestrian at Best with Mudie. Drumming in perfect unison, the pair made the most of the opportunity.

Standing to the left of the stage for the entire night, Barnett doesn’t try to draw attention to herself, ensuring the rest of the band gets the attention, even if all eyes are on her. Throughout all of the sets, members from Milk! Records would take part in songs, playing guitar or singing backup vocals. This is one of the only record labels in Australia at the moment, who are able to pick and choose artists with this much variety and skill. It’s a credit to Barnett and Cloher.

All the talent in the room had to come together at the end of the sets, to perform two killer covers together, of David Bowie’s track Suffragette City and Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl. The capacity of Howlers stage came into question during these tracks, with 12 band members on stage at once.

The audience cheered and clapped long after the Milk! crew got off the stage, sharing their appreciation for the night with the performers.

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