SoKo, Pikelet and The Harpoons @ The Corner, Melbourne (01/01/09)

The Corner Hotel has been, for a long time, synonymous with creating hangovers and curing them too. French actress, Soko along with the help of Pikelet and The Harpoons were sought to assist in soothing the blinding hangovers from 2008 in a special New Year’s Day afternoon show.

The Harpoons preached their soul/gospel /garage atop the second (and inferior) stage in the Corner band room. A rough but refreshing cover of April March’s Chic Habit proved a suitable choice as the sole female member of the band was able to lead the song with ease. Along with the fumbling and rollicking bass and guitar lines the Harpoons are known for, Bec Rigby’s voice is the greatest asset of the band. A gorgeous, powerful and gutsy singer with an impressive range, Bec brings talent back into fashion with her soulful Aretha melodies mostly evident in standout track, Faith. A pleasure to see once again, the Harpoons made the spectator’s hung over shoulders bop and sore toes tap.

A quick change on the minute side stage, Evelyn Morris aka Pikelet set up her one woman show. Eloquent, confident and very familiar with her seated mess of instruments and wires, Pikelet displayed a whimsical and entertaining set. Poignancy ruled her performance; circus music with bizarre lyrics, fuelled by a loop pedal and layers upon layers of melodies or songs about men who wanted to be light (as in the shiny kind) washed over a half sitting, half standing discombobulated crowd in a bitterly dark room as the sun shoe outside. Because of the uniqueness of the day and the general tiredness and delirium of the crowd, it did feel a bit too much towards the end but Pikelet’s abrupt form and structure changes kept the audience intrigued. Despite an overtly high-end mix in the P.A which resulted in any female vocals in both The Harpoons and Pikelet sounding too screechy, Pikelet’s beautiful and almost ethereal vocals conjured up remnants of last night’s vices and reminded the audience they were really watching music happen, not a peculiar magic act.

Finally utilising the larger and more lit main stage that coincidentally has far superior sound, Soko bubbled onto the stage, smiling. A joke was made about the New Year and the audience laughed. As the sold out band room gushed listening to her French lilt, everyone remarked on how charming she was. The band members loaded onto the stage and launched into a few very pretty, intimate numbers that suited the laziness of the afternoon.

Then it went a bit pear shaped.

It was as if Soko had only practiced the first four songs of the set with the band; Soko would hum to her violinist (a local recruitment from veterans, Lamplight) at the start of each song, what she should be playing (to mediocre success). Drums became sloppy, the bassist began concentrating too much on backing vocals and Soko soon proved to be quite talentless. Her wailing and untrained vocals in a ditty called I’m So Drunk revealed how little thought and time is put into the songs. They became deeply repetitious, generally about a love for an inanimate object, animal, or a breakfast spread (for the love of God, no one introduce Vegemite to her).

Soko’s only triumph was using her charm to excuse herself making witty banter with the crowd (although, in a small voice away from the microphone so the rest of the audience felt excluded). She exuded confidence and still maintained a shy, cute demeanour. Ultimately, it felt like a patronising children’s entertainment show at a primary school fete. Hoards of punters left after the first hour and a half of Soko’s fiddling. The set reached two hours and i couldn’t take anymore. My eyes watering from disappointment and tiredness, i retreated back to my house that was, thankfully, free of any cute little French actresses.

It may be a scathing recount of what was meant to be a relaxed and intimate New Year’s Day show, but if you look at it in the perspective that she is a touring international musician and getting paid to do a job that someone else can do so much better, it’s a bit unfair. If I’d gone to Falls I would have preferred to see The Harpoons take Soko’s spot on the lineup, or to have gone to a sold out Pikelet show at the Corner on New Year’s Day. Sure she’s cute, quirky and has a nice accent, but certainly nothing to get excited about.