The hot and cosy Melbourne Folk Club played host to a full house on Sunday night. Melbourne indie-folk darlings Tinpan Orange walked out to a cheering crowd, half-seated half-standing, in the upstairs performance room of Richmond’s Bakehouse Studios.
Front-woman Emily Lubitz (and yes, she is the voice behind the ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ train commercials) pranced out in a baby blue playsuit with detailed peter pan collars, her ginger hair fashioned into a bulbous bun. Her brother Jesse Lubitz took his place alongside her, acoustic guitar in hand, whilst wild haired multi-instrumentalist Alex Burkoy stood on the other side, violin at the ready.
The trio unleashed their distinctive mesmerising harmonies straight up, cooing through ‘Like Snow’ and ‘Song for Frida Kahlo’. Emily’s small talk proved just as whimsical as her lyrics, noting that it was the “perfect opportunity” to sing a song about Kahlo because she was long dead.
A fascination for dead famous people carried over into ‘Lonely People’ a mildly melancholic ode to Elvis Presley and idol worshipping that echoed The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Emily’s Sarah Blasko-esque languid lullaby tone came into full fruition in ‘Barcelona’, a ditty about being robbed on the beach in the Spanish city, singing “they look my stuff they took my camera.” The foot-stomping acoustic strums climaxed in the chorus and it was hard to keep your head from bopping.
Note to self ‘Birdy’ came with a funny anecdote, in which Emily described her first real gig since having two kids. She spied a couple at the show, the woman heavily pregnant, engaged in their phones rather than the performer, browsing for – what she called – “baby shit”. As she told the story it was thankfully clear the opposite was happening at her own gig. All eyes and hears were on Tinpan Orange, not a tag-a-long phone trawler in sight. Rare, but lovely.
Some new songs circled the old, with stand-outs including slow-burning string groove ‘Rich Man’ and the clear and resonant ‘Love Is a Dog’ (the title scrawled in orange – of course – on new band tees at the mercy desk). 70s inspired alt-country folk ballad and brand new single ‘You’re Not There kicked off the last half of the set.
A stellar taste from their forthcoming fifth studio album (set to be released in early 2016), it was co-written and co-produced with Harry James Angus of The Cat Empire and was the reason for the launch. Suburban, prosaic and humorously benign, Emily’s distinctly angelic and quirky voice played out over witty and wondrous lyrics, spot-on harmonies and sensitive guitar melodies.
Husky ethereal coos escaped from Emily’s ruby-red lips on ‘Over the Sun’ on the “we went under, we went over” refrain, the boys harmonising perfectly in the background. Emily and Alex changed instruments throughout the set, whilst Jesse alternated between standing and singing and sitting and pumping the stomp-box.
Emily busted out a tambourine solo in one song (wryly warning “look out!”), Alex alternated all night between violin and an array of mini electric guitars, and Jesse blamed a bum note on an unsettling moving microphone. As a live trio, Tinpan Orange are delightful. The banter was almost deliberately awkward, but it was the music that was the most impressive and immersive.
“We never thought you’d ask!” Emily chuckled at the start of the encore, before bounding (literally) into the last song and an impressive Celtic-vibed, fast-paced violin solo from Alex. Tinpan Orange. Quirky in name. Quirky in nature.
UPCOMING TINPAN ORANGE SHOWS:
December 27th – January 1st
Woodford Folk Festival, QLD
Friday 8th January
Cygnet Folk Festival, TAS
Thursday 4th February –
Friday 5th February
John Butler Trio Support at Taronga Zoo Twilights Sydney
Saturday 6th February – Sunday 7th February
John Butler Trio Support at Twilight Series Melbourne
11th – 14th March
Port Fairy Folk Festival, VIC