REVIEW: These Winter Nights / HYLA / The High Learys @ The Bird ft. Vivian Marlowe

Reviewed by: Michael Winsall

Saturday night at the Bird saw a triple act bound to have something for everyone – from the 60s rock of headliners the High Learys, to the soft psychedelia of HYLA.

When I first rolled up in to the Northbridge, the first thing I happened across was the lead singer of the High Learys and Vivian Marlowe walking towards the bird. “Great”, I thought to myself, “the only two people I know that are coming tonight and I’ve already found them – this is going to be a breeze”. We walk around the corner, exchanging small talk as we get to the front door of the Bird, before we saunter in and grab our first drinks. As I look around I can’t help but notice that never have I been to the Bird and the punters look like they are dressed to see the bands that are playing that night. As if the venue has its own set of permanent regulars, and the entertainment for the night are merely interlopers. Regardless, everybody seems to  be enjoying themselves, and there is talk about the act about to start.

The first cab off the rank was These Winter nights, a band that manages to be simultaneously soft and loud. A melancholic mash up between Hozier and Gregorian chanting, the music melded together so well that I am unsure if they played a full set of songs, or just had a solid crack at a Sufjan Stevens-length song. The best way to describe this band is if this were a movie, These Winter Nights would be the score that plays over the dramatic part when the protagonist loses everything he loves and is unable to do anything to stop it. The kind with slow motion, and everything but the music and gunfire muted.

Moving through the middle set were HYLA, a band best described as “Shoe-gazing dream pop”. Indeed, if These Winter Nights were the insufferable loss scene, HYLA would be played over the scene where our protagonist has an epiphanic dream that reveals important plot details that he rightly shouldn’t be able to know, Dream world or otherwise.

Between the second and third bands was a burlesque show by Vivian Marlowe. Given that I worked quite a bit with Ms Marlowe when she first started out, I thought I could phone this portion of the review in. Boy, was I wrong. At least for this performance, Gone was the Neo-classical routines I thought I knew. Instead, it was replaced by a Hard Rock n Roll fan-dancing gal who kept her mid-century aesthetic but set it to a more modern soundtrack. A performance I nearly missed, but was glad I didn’t.

Speaking of phoning it in, the same almost happened to the High Learys. A band I used to hear every week when I was head chef at Devilles’ pad, I thought I knew their sound inside out. Boy, was I wrong.

The band has evolved their style, moving away from the 60s mod rock (think the easybeats or the Yardbirds) I knew them for, instead favouring a more mature sound from that decade, infused with more blues than before. The best way to imagine them now is if Donovan stopped taking acid, and started drinking whiskey with Tom Waits in a Cigar lounge.

Despite my reservations on the particular interests of the crowd gathered there that night, everyone, myself included, thoroughly enjoyed the night. I recommend checking these performers out, or if you knew of them already, giving them another look. You might be surprised at what you find.