Nice ‘N” Sleazy 13/09/2012
by Gillian Montgomery
Husky are a four piece band from Melbourne, touring in support of their debut album, ‘Forever So’. This is the first show they’ve played in Scotland and it’s a stormy September night in Glasgow. While it’s technically winter in Australia (is there such a thing?), the conditions outside are proving to be a shock to the system for the band. After their opening song, frontman, Husky Gawenda quips, ‘I’ve always been curious about Glasgow… It’s true what they say about the weather. Come on, summer’s only just finished!’ The audience murmur in agreement in that way that Scottish people do when foreign people comment on the weather. Downstairs in Nice’n’Sleazy you could almost forget about the weather. It’s an intimate venue, and even though the place is half empty surprisingly there’s not a lack of atmosphere. Everyone is sitting down, and while at other gigs this could feel awkward or indicate a lack of enthusiasm for the music, it seems right for Husky’s indie-folk vibe.
The band open with ‘Tidal Wave’, and Gawenda’s vocals are crisp and clear with a slight echo making it sound dreamy and atmospheric. Bassist, Evan Tweedie and keyboard player Gideon Preiss lend their voices too, the three harmonising perfectly. It all sounds very big for being just four people, and everyone seems to exhale in unison as the song melts to a close. ‘Hundred Dollar Suit’, a track reminiscent of The Shins, rouses the audience from a trance-like state, and once more the band’s amazing harmonies resonate beautifully around the room. All the songs so far have had a much fuller sound than they do on the album, in particular ‘Dark Sea’ which closes on an epic organ solo.
Next up is a new song, with haunting vocals and lyrics reminiscent of early Bright Eyes. Husky Gawenda has a beautiful voice, and during the first minute of the song he is mesmerising, as if the rest of the band have disappeared and we’re just watching one man and his guitar. Between songs the band knock out a nice jazz-esque bass and drum jam with a clever use of the delay pedal by the bassist, breaking up the set and showing they’ve made a conscious effort to make the set more than just a stop and play effort. This leads into the start of ‘Fake Moustache’, a break from the folk vibe of the set so far and offering up a jazz element with a catchy bassline. At this point Gawenda interjects, ‘Just so you know, I didn’t mean to insult your city earlier’, referring to his previous comment about the weather. The apologetic statement pretty accurately sums up the nature of Husky’s music; humble and sensitive, every song is laden with genuine emotion. Looking around the room, the band has the small audience’s full attention for the duration of the longer than average set. Everyone is reacting to the music in a similar fashion; there’s a few people with their eyes closed, unconsciously swaying. Everywhere there are tapping feet. Mine are doing it too. The set-up of the venue and the fact that everyone is sitting down makes it feel as if we’re being told a story, all of us listening intently to every word.
‘Hunter’ ‘s vocal harmonies and piano are like a lullaby, and by this point my eyes are feeling heavy, though this might be more to do with the comfy seat and glass of wine than the music itself. A well-timed piano and drum jam wakes me up, followed by a heartfelt piano solo that shows off the talents of keyboardist Gideon Preiss.
A cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Lover, Lover, Lover’ is next, and the band abandon their instruments, with drummer Luke Collins picking up the guitar while the other three sing. Preiss and Tweedie each sing a few lines by themselves; both showing that they could be singers in their own right. ‘History’s Door’, one of the band’s more upbeat, catchy songs and my favourite from the album, is the finale and the set comes to a perfectly timed close.
Considering Sleazy’s is best known for showcasing more rock’n’roll acts than folk, it was a pleasant surprise that Husky managed to sound so big and atmospheric in such a small venue. The sound man did a fantastic job, but much credit must also go to the band who played every note with just the right amount of sensitivity. If you’re not convinced by the album, after a gig you will be: the quality of sound is a lot stronger and more ambient than on CD, and this combined with the element of the unexpected make Husky a band that really ought to be seen live.