Hump days are hard enough without the added pressure of the festive season bearing down. It’s the middle of the week, you’re short on cash after the work Christmas party, you have to spend an extra $80 on that family member that you see once a year and it’s still two weeks to go until you can kick back and forget about work…for a week.
Thankfully, bands like Husky exist to make the December rat-race a little more bearable, and the band dispersed their healing powers on the 300 faithful who crammed into the Newtown Social Club to see them test some new material on Wednesday night. They’ve had a big year outside of the country with tours of Europe and the US squeezed around writing material for a new record in Berlin. With creative momentum including the new single Late Night Store and road miles behind them, expectations were high that the band would be in top mid-week form.
First, however, came a 40 minute set of whimsical folk-rock courtesy of Sydney act Hot Spoke. With a similar sonic flavour to fellow Sydneysiders Jack River and Dope Lemon, the band produced a roots-based sound that centered around the floaty vocals of lead-singer Nass, as well as some screeching lead guitar lines that soared above the vocals. Both dynamic and tight, it was a warm, enjoyable set to a steadily growing crowd.
It was just past 9pm by the time cousins Husky Gawenda and Gideon Preiss took to the stage in tow with their touring drummer and bass player, with the crowd anxiously checking their watches and trying to push away dark thoughts of a tired day in the office the following morning. A simple 4-count and the opening chords of Saint Joan eradicated all thoughts and worries about what tomorrow would bring, as the band proceeded to place the entire room under their spell for the next hour. The group used the first few songs to remind the audience of the brilliance of their last album Ruckers Hill, also gifting the driving and upbeat Heartbeat to the crowd before heading back to debut record Forever So with the mysterious Tidal Wave. From the opening hums of the verse, the song took me back to a private place of vulnerability and nostalgia, before an extended and energetic keyboard solo in the bridge brought me back to the reality that in front of me stood four incredibly talented musicians.
Extended jams seemed to be the order of the evening for the band, with the group breaking into multiple free-time instrumental sections and allowing the dynamics to steadily rise before cooling back down. This was most apparent in one of the numerous unreleased cuts to make the set, with Preiss given free rein to stun the crowd with his jazzy and soulful playing. The small dose of new music that the band previewed was enough to whet the appetite of everyone in attendance for what is sure to be a loud, energetic and wonderful new record for 2017.
Amongst all the moments of excitement were also moments of somber reflection that the band is renowned for capturing. Dark Sea and Hunter provided moments of grittier emotion, with the latter performed as just a duo between Gawenda and Preiss alongside the hauntingly beautiful Mirror. Balanced and well-paced, the set picked up momentum again towards the end, with cuts History’s Door, the aforementioned Late Night Store and Ruckers Hill closing out the main portion of the evening.
Husky well and truly saved the best till last, however, coming back onstage (“We didn’t have anything planned”, joked Preiss) to perform a round-the-mic tribute to the late Leonard Cohen, producing a delightful cover of Love, Lover, Lover which was easily picked up by the rest of the audience in what felt like a campfire sing-along. After a swift and passionate rendition of I’m Not Coming Back, it was all over after what felt like far too short a set. One hour of music may feel a bit light-on to stomach, but it left the crowd craving more, a desire which will no doubt be satisfied with a full album tour next year.