Live review: Chet Faker, San Fermin

Bootlegs, Headline, News - Published: 7 May 2014

We got our hands on one of the hottest tickets in town as Chet Faker and San Fermin lined up for Pias Nites…

Chet-Faker-Willy-WardYou can be sure a gig is going to be good when there is a crowd out the front of the venue begging for tickets. A high fan to scalper ratio means a good night to come. There was a big group out the front of La Maroquinerie. Tickets were unfortunately rare. With sadness, empathetic ticket holders pushed through.

This gig was part of the [PIAS] Nites series of concerts put on by the eponymous record company. These nights* are generally great and worth checking out even if you don’t know the bands. They also tend to throw up excellent support acts.

East India Youth was first. He is an English DJ. It was surprising to walk into the dungeon to his throbbing beats. His last song transported the crowd to the Rex Club on a Saturday night. This didn’t please those who had come for a chilled out evening.

San Fermin was also very different to the headliner. They lent weight to two important arguments. First, bands should be extreme in the number of musicians they contain. A band should either have less than 3 or more than 7 members. Everything in the middle is just The Strokes. San Fermin’s eight members had to squeeze onto la Maroquinerie’s stage. This even caused an accident for trumpeter John Brandon who tripped and fell much to his colleagues’ amusement. He was okay. He even managed to get down into the crowd to take a selfie before launching into another solo. Second, brass makes absolutely everything ever better. San Fermin had a trumpet and a tenor sax. There is nothing more arousing than the growl of a tenor sax. Saxophone player Stephen Chen was the collective envy of all. That being said, co-vocalist Allen Tate’s baritone gave him a serious run for his money.

San Fermin were fantastically refreshing. The music was novel, smashing through time signatures and keys with disregard for convention. This semblance was smashed when it was revealed that keyboard player Ellis Ludwig-Leone composed all the songs. There was method behind the beautiful madness invisible to those not classically trained in composition. It was wonderful to see what classical training could do for rock and roll. They finished and if possible the room was, as a result, even more excited for the bearded Australian they had come to see. When the roadies uncovered his two keyboards and laptop the tension was almost too much to bear.

Chet Faker walked proudly alone onto the stage. He thanked the rapturous applause by placing his hands as though in prayer. He wore a beanie and a polo shirt buttoned all the way up. No one has ever looked more Melbourne ever. His beard stood proud replacing the saxophone and the source of collective envy. O how the hipsters dream. Chet Faker is surprisingly small. This is noticeable as it is in stark contrast to the music and presence he produces. It is also noticeable because his beard is very big, bushy, wonderful. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe its brilliance. If he goes through with his threat to shave it there will be weeks of mourning.

“I’m Into You” was played early and got the juices flowing. “1998” came somewhere in the middle. It was so good.  He explained after one song that he writes and produces all of his music himself. He then announced that the song that had just been played had been improvised before our eyes. It was our song, he said. He continued throughout the set to pray and hold up the peace sign after each song in thanks for the perpetually growing applause. Someone shouted in French “à poil”. Another translated that this meant, “get naked”. Others joined this call. Chet Faker did not oblige although he did eventually remove his beanie to ask whether he had hat hair. He did. It didn’t matter.

Shouts of “No Diggity” had followed every song. Eventually it came. He instructed each person to get up close to the person next to them. The room came. He played “Talk Is Cheap” as an encore. He played it sitting at the keyboard with no beat or extra production. Before each chorus he let the previous note ring before launching in. Before the second chorus the crowd could not take it and launched alone. He seemed surprised that his lyrics were so well-known. Everybody screamed when he was finished, hoping against hope for a second encore. It didn’t come, but everybody already had.


Read more from Yannick Slade-Caffarel here: