Hungry Kids of Hungary, Boy and Bear, Ernest Ellis @ East Brunswick Club, Melbourne, (27/02/2010)

Check out photos from the night here

Since scoring a spot on the line-up for the Gold Coast Big Day Out in 2008, Hungry Kids of Hungary have quickly established themselves as music festival fixtures in their own right, appearing at Sunset Sounds, Southbound and Falls Festival this past summer.

HKoH touched down in Melbourne smack bang in the middle of their own ‘Air Sick’ tour this past weekend, after having toured extensively with Little Birdy and Bertie Blackman across the country most of last year.

Brought along for the ride were a set of particularly impressive support acts. Kicking off the bill were Melbourne’s own Box Rockets, setting the bar high with a respectably tight pop-rocket set worth catching should you come across this snappily named ensemble in the future.

Boy and Bear, however, were by far the night’s most outstanding support. Minus the bear but numbering four very talented boys, this New South Wales folk outfit proved they can pull off those breathtakingly delicate harmonies of theirs live. Even over the din of those chattering over poignant silences, seemingly oblivious, as the rest of us shushed them like angry little librarians.

Third up for the night were fellow New South Welsh-people, Ernest Ellis. Perhaps Boy and Bear were too hard an act to follow. Or perhaps Ernest Ellis were, to borrow a Keatingism, too much tip and not enough iceberg. With reasonably solid vocals and members not lacking in ability, this band are capable of building up a track but then only for it to go seemingly nowhere. Catchier riffs, more key changes and less ambling guitar solos would be a start. Let’s hope the iceberg is still taking shape.

HKoH then announced their arrival in “cold old Melbourne” with first track for the night, festival foot-stomping favourite Let You Down.

From the outset, HKoH oozed with onstage confidence well beyond their years (or what has almost been a year) professionally touring. In between tracks, the band hurled Frisbees into the crowd and Ryan Strathie(guitar/vocals) and Kane Mazlin (keys/vocals) kept the throngs continuously entertained with hilarious off-the-cuff quips.

Live, the HKoH experience is not unlike what your nanna might describe as a cabaret – you’ve got fast-paced gags, crowd involvement, sing-along melodies and, most importantly, a piano. Not since Ben Folds Five has the piano been put to such good use.

Besides obvious favourites HKoH treated the EBC crowd to tracks harking back to their self-titled EP from 08, apologising for daggy guitar solos endearingly kept intact. Also a treat were some new tracks of which some lacked lustre ( _Eat Your Heart Out _ ) but others held promise.

Inviting Boy & Bear back onstage to play percussion, HKoH then launched into Scattered Diamonds – crowd favourite and clear standout track for the night. As Boy & Bear ambled off stage, HKoH then finished their set with the aptly titled but somewhat anticlimactic track Good Times.

Returning to the stage in response to a well-deserved encore, HKoH then treated the East Brunswick Club to a killer cover of M.I.A’s Paper Planes – a choice so unusual and yet so craftily crowd-pleasing. Just more proof in the pudding that HKoH can read a crowd and deliver a performance near perfectly on the pulse.

As their Air Sick tour comes to a close, HKoH’s credentials as Australian music main-stayers may have been proven and if a solid gig is what you are after, these kids won’t disappoint.

But there is the question of what next?

There is no doubt HKoH hold great appeal and there is nothing arrogant, contrived or off-putting about them, nothing about their gigs that will let you down. But then again, what do HKoH have to distinguish themselves if they try their luck on the overseas market?

Scattered Diamonds does hold a lot of promise in that regard and this is a band with plenty of growth potential. If only the sharpness of their onstage humour could give more depth to their lyrics and the stories they tell.

We shall have to wait and see. But in the meantime, HKoH’s is a tour worth taking yourself along to if it hasn’t made its way through your neck of the woods already.