Live Review: Julien Baker, Northcote Social Club

Photo: supplied

Saturday July 15

Trash people are people too, you know?” whispers Memphis moodie Julien Baker through the dark Northcote Social Club cavern. Baker makes the call in reference to a scratchy start to her 45-minute set that was dotted by key tracks from her edgy 2015 debut, Sprained Ankle, along with some new cuts, most notably ‘Funeral Pyre’ and ‘Distant Solar Systems’. Striking that troublesome-for-some mix of being a Christian, gay, and a Southerner with some history of drug abuse, has never really bothered Baker, but she channels all of this through her affecting tunes and fires at will. Her music is her salvation. She expresses herself best about the connection with god and drugs on ‘Rejoice’: Give me everything good/Ill throw it away/I wish I could quit but I can’t stand the shakes/Choking smoke, singing your praise/But I think there’s a god and he hears either way/I rejoice, and complain/I never know what to say. Standing on the stage armed with just her electric guitar, splintery voice and a sea of effects pedals, Baker works the total deadpan angle as she nervously shimmers her way through both songs and banter. “I’ve lost my train of thought with all this talking between songs,” she jokes. “And now I can’t tune the guitar to what I wanted and I wanted so bad for you to love me”. Yet it’s this insecurity that is Baker’s most redeeming quality as it allows her natural being to shine. Sure the general mood is a funereal one but there’s oodles of hypnotism to hang onto amongst the malaise and magic that are entwined in her introspective lyrics and textured guitar playing. It’s all quite a simple approach but so very emotionally sacrificial. “Wow, she’s so sad,” murmurs the punter behind me. And she’s dead right, as it is sad. And beautiful, too.

By Nick Argyriou