Husky at Rough Trade East
It is summer, the sun is finally shining, the birds are finally singing, and so are Aussie imports Husky. I can’t think of few better ways to spend an evening than to head down to Brick Lane, have a couple beers and wind up in Rough Trade East to watch an intimate gig with a band that I’m now expecting very big things from.
Don’t feel too bad about it if Husky have passed you by before now. They only officially released their first album in Europe yesterday, but they’re approaching superstardom in Australia after winning Triple J Unearthed, an Aussie radio competition to find new talent that’s a huge deal over there. Two sold-out antipodean tours later and Husky have made it to Europe and a new market. They are an unusual band in that they have gained a lot of buzz primarily because they are good. As far as self-promotion goes, Husky keeps themselves to themselves and let their music do the talking.
And talk, it does. They’re a four-piece band of virtuoso musicians whose facial hair, checked shirts and three-part harmonies lend them a superficial resemblance to Fleet Foxes. But where that band has developed a taste for meandering compositions, Husky’s songs are tight, with intricate but fairly traditional chord progressions, keyboard accompaniment and catchy melodies. Which is not to say that Husky are not fresh, inventive or meditative. Frontman Husky Gawenda introduced Animals and Freaks by joking: “This is as close to a love song as we’re going to get tonight!” Predictable Folk-Rock this is not.
Actually most of Gawenda’s bittersweet lyrics border on poetry; “I came here not for love, but for the possibility / of setting free the love we knew for all time,” could have come straight from Leonard Cohen. Individual songs bring to mind a whole heap of their 60s and 70s’ influences. Opening track Tidal Wave sounds like Crosby, Stills and Nash but, you know, cool.
This may only be their first album, but there is self-assurance about Husky that belies both their confidence in the material they’ve created, and their considerable musical talent. Indeed, for most of the gig the audience seemed shyer than the band. And Husky weren’t afraid to go off-piste. Keyboardist Gideon Preiss kicked off Hunter with an ad hoc harmonic arrangement that would have been at home among Chopin’s nocturnes, while bassist Evan Tweedie introduced History’s Door with one of the only bass solos that I’ve ever enjoyed.
The guys mix musical virtuosity with typical down-to-earth, self-assured Aussie character. For a band this good, the gig was seriously under-attended. Not that I minded, and neither, it seemed, did the members of the band, who were only too happy to kick back with the audience after the show and chat about everything from Paul Simon and obscure guitar chords to, inevitably, the weather.
The perfect summer evening, then, with just enough time for a salt-beef bagel (a Brick Lane specialty) before home.
Photos: Catherine Bridgman
Listen to Husky’s History’s Door here