Boy & Bear @ The Tivoli, 13th September

I walk into The Tivoli just after 8pm to a contented mass of people, chattering and drinking in the smoky lights of the lounge. Support act, Holy Holy, have just begun to play, but the audience is still busy, mostly an older bunch. Behind me, three drunk guys with pot-bellies are shouting greetings at each other. By the stage is a sea of bouncy, pixie-esque girls, their eyes gleaming. Randomly scattered throughout the mass are lone, standoffish guys with grumpy dedication in their eyes (‘I love indie folk, but I’m manly about it’) and multiple tweed caps dot the audience; the Boy & Bear crowd is a many headed beast.

Holy Holy play a brand of hazy, comfortable rock that the audience pay minimal attention to. They set the tone as folksy and feel-good, with a calculated dose of rockstardom in groovy guitar riffs and rolling drums. The band are not particularly animated but seem to be quietly enjoying themselves, and the vocals are strong and sincere – there’s a magnetism to Brisbanite singer Timothy Carroll. With nods to bands like The National and Arcade FireHoly Holy‘s sound rolls around the stage with delicious rhythm parts, atmospheric guitar licks, and a road trip kind of vibe. Some of these screaming solos capture the audience’s head nods as the band happily rocks on, coming alive in songs like House Of Cards and Impossible Like You, sleepy and sexy with a fuzzy atmospheric roar. I’m glad the audience is starting to notice – Holy Holy quietly deserve it.

There’s a quick break, then Boy & Bear take the stage with surprising drama, uncharacteristic of the low-key indie boyband scene. Pink and blue lights flash from the heavy building drum solo to lovestruck audience members’ faces, and the band take their places in silhouette. They fire up without introduction, hard drums, power chords, and romantic melodies; it’s Bridges from their sophomore album, Harlequin Dream. You’re immediately hit by Dave Hosking’s clear and powerfully sweet vocals they play through a couple more songs before greeting the audience. They’re slick, at ease and their harmonies – tighter than even their jeans – cut through clean layering with comfortable confidence under dramatic lighting and smoke.

It’s here that you start to realise a certain something special about this show. They’re not exactly smashing guitars and throwing confetti, but there’s such cool confidence and slick performance skills that it becomes mesmerising. It’s like sitting in on a bunch of guys jamming in someone’s front room.

From here on the gig gets really, really good. The audience gets happier and happier, gazing in childlike admiration at Hosking, who smiles at the floor. The crowd jumps through Milk & Sticks, sways in the  haunting Back Down The Black, and smiles at A Moment’s Grace’s gentle banjo. It’s a long show, and we happily journey through old melodies and new, from Part Time Believer to favourites like Southern Sun, a cover of Crowded House‘s Fall At Your Feet and, penultimately, Feeding Line, when everybody sings delightedly. They finish with an acoustic version of Big Man – Hosking crooning with a sincere farewell, if a little anticlimactic after Feeding Line.

It feels like a lovely night in.

P.S. My friends and I later ran into David Hosking (vocals) and David Symes (bass) in a deserted Valley street. If they’re reading this: we’re sorry. We’re sorry for the non-human noises and the mildly terrifying glazed-eye looks. We promise we meant to sound cool.

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