Three Kings

King Curly, Folkus, Fri 14 August 2009
by Zeke

The Folkus Room recently hosted the current King Curly touring model, in one of their last Australian shows before undertaking a month long American tour.

Steve Appel, Zoe Hauptmannn and John Hibbard gave a delightful ninety minute performance to an enthusiastic crowd of friends, fans and relatives and with consummate ease showed why they are held in such high esteem.

Old favourites, such as Family Man, I Am Coming Back (In A Revenge Song) and The Bumblebee Has No Home sat comfortably alongside equally impressive new songs, including the opener, Airport Hotels and Beast Of The Blue Mountains.

The trio’s thee-part harmonies were relaxed and confident – and, like the sparse instrumentation, gave a deeply convincing illusion of more, rather than less. Guitar, double bass and trombone is an unconventional combination, particularly when supplemented by odd sporadic percussion and the even odder doomsday guitar – but they combined these elements with wonderful ease. They are a skilled ensemble and any disbelief was effortlessly suspended.

Comparisons with Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers are appropriate, and are not lazy – there are many similarities. But to this listener King Curly’s home grown appeal is broader, and greater.

Steve Appel’s songs are thoughtful, gently introspective, and often bizarrely humorous, but all are delivered with equal care and conviction. The overall effect is very moving – and often quite spellbinding. Many of the songs were presented as a woven mix of gently sung vocals and economical guitar parts, sympathetic bass lines and smooth trombone melodies.

Steve and John are amusing and engaging storytellers – a highlight was the announcement that the set would be cut short so they could eat spaghetti bolognaise at Zoe’s parent’s house. This was followed by the reassurance that although they would then sing the rest of the songs they hadn’t played onstage, none of us were invited.

When the set finished, promoter Bill Arnett playfully threatened to withhold payment unless they played another three songs. They happily obliged and closed the evening with the revival-time, stomping blues of March Of The Green Men, a loping, sing-a-along version of I Wish I Was A Girl, and Greg Appel’s Takeaway – a haunting rhythmic droning tale of the perils of disposable consumerism (I think).

King Curly are not a household name, but their contribution to contemporary Australian music makes them a national treasure.

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