Come Visit The Temple of Melbourne with Courtney Barnett, Immigrant Union, and The Perch Creek Family Jugband

Crafted by David Leigh Abts & Kayla Shifter

Edited by Elizabeth A. Abts

Illustration by Bob Howl

Photography Courtesy of Bones Sloane, Elizabeth A. Abts, & Camilla Hodgkins

When you think of the Next Big Wave of Sound, it’s easy to jump to London or New York or, the safeguard, Seattle.  We’ve all been there and done that, though.  But does Melbourne, Australia ever cross your mind as the next big scene?  For Pete’s sake, it should.  Thanks to your own brilliant instinct, NPR’s probing indie media reporters, Rolling Stone, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, a select few of you have already put your cross hairs on this MIG.  And we’re here to help that cause.  Below, we will reveal just why Melbourne should be on your radar via three knockout bands, each of which has their own exclusive charm to whet your palate, like your grandmother’s time-honored cherry pie.  These are some musicians to write home about twice, and make sure you overnight that package.

1. Courtney Barnett is a singer-songwriter whose words are fierce and lively.  She almost seems too young to have developed this particular grunge-esque sound.  Her lyrics are abusive like Kurt Cobain’s, but poetic like Janis Joplin’s, with a raw style akin to Hole. This girl has something to say and you damn well better listen.  “Put me on a pedestal,” she croons, “And I’ll only disappoint you.”  Courtney says what we are all thinking in our darkest, angstiest moments.  She is so strong lyrically that her message is louder than her sound at times, but that is not a bad thing.  She holds her own.  Rumor has it, just as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon can be synced with The Wizard of Oz, her latest album can be played in tandem with the Australian film masterpiece Mad Max II Beyond Thunderdome. Hit a Blockbuster, rent the gem and sync it to your C.B album, talk about Captain Wow.  Drummer Dave Mudie described the band’s rise in the Melbourne scene to us, and it almost sounds like he’s talking about Seattle circa 1989: “Melbourne has had a great buzz surrounding it for a few years now, and I guess it’s just the rest of the world catching up with the amount of talented bands that seem to be living here and doing amazing things at the moment.  With so many venues and musicians living here you always have a chance to play with great musicians, and I’ve seen some of my favorite-ever [sic] gigs at pubs just down the road.  From the Northcote Social Club to the Tote and Ding Dong, heaps of killer gigs are happening every night.”


2.  Immigrant Union is the group Courtney Barnett jammed with until 2013.  Despite her departure from the band with Dave Mudie and Bones Sloane, Immigrant Union have grown into a fellowship that not even the forces of Middle Earth can stop.  The band has a roaring honesty about them: a sound that borders on brutal and flirts with fun.  Unlike a lot of musicians who seem to be forcing a message down their audiences’ throats, Immigrant Union lets their music build and crash and do the work for them.  They’re a band that seems say, “We’d appreciate your love, we’d cherish it, but we won’t beg for it.”  There is also a sense that these artists work together to merely experiment and have adventures with one another through their psychedelic sounds, leaving the listener with an authentic musical experience.  Guitarist Bob Harrow spoke about the range of the audiences they interact with, and you can see that their listeners are just as diverse as they are: “When we play shows in Melbourne we always get a lot of different people in the audience.  Like there are stoners, obviously, but also country lovers, hip-hop fans, right up to metal head-ish dudes sometimes.  Melbourne is a pool of different taste that can co-exist, I think, which is [expletive] awesome.”


3. The Perch Creek Family Jugband has an earthy, roustabout look (like they’ve jumped a train or two, but in the best possible way) and sound that will have you stomping your feet in no time.  Their lead singer, Eileen Hodgkins, belts out lyrics like she’s possessed, and her shocking tap-dancing talent is nothing to scoff at.  But take note of the real standout star of this group, the unassuming harmonica player.  Christi Hodgkins steps forward and blows your damn ears off with a sound reminiscent of an old blues man.  In fact, every member of this band has a moment to shine and share their aptitude on their atypical instruments.  There is even a washboard/jug-playing member.  (Yes.  Take that in.)  This fun, upbeat group is nothing but a pleasurable time.  Front woman Eileen Hodgkins recounted the band’s three years of performances, emphasizing their electrifying climb into the rock world: “We grew up in Northern NSW, smack-bang in the middle of nowhere.  So when we decided to take music seriously, around about 3 years ago, it was straight to Melbourne for us.  I can safely say that Melbourne is alive and kickin’.  Everywhere you go, there’s a sweet venue, a rad band, and a whole bunch of music-loving peeps.  We feel pretty damn lucky to be a part of such a vibrant scene!”


Are we calling it wrong?  Unlikely – but put your headphones on and see for yourself.  We suggest you score an extra pack of AA batteries for your Walkman because some addictive tunes are in store for you.

This has been another Mother’s Day Orphans Production:

Artist links:

Courtney Barnett:

Immigrant Union:

The Perch Creek Family Jugband:

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