Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chips Laffer and Single Twin at The Toff, Melbourne

Having interviewed Single Twin last week, Jess O'Callaghan took in his gig on Sunday and found a familiar-looking support act. Photos by Vinisha Mulani:

The entire evening was bewildering. Brilliant, but bewildering. Let’s begin with the support act, Chips Laffer. It became quite clear from the moment he sat at the keyboard and opened his mouth that this was Jae Laffer, lead singer of The Panics. A quick Google that day had told us Chips Laffer was definitely not a person, and if he was, he had never performed anywhere before.

‘Chips’ whittled out lovely tunes on the guitar and a dodgy keyboard whose keys kept sticking with heat (he held it up as proof. Apparently, real person or not, Chips Laffer has pride) before grinning at the slowly filling band room. “Here’s a song I play with my band. It’s called Cruel Guards.”

The whole act gave the illusion that you’d somehow found a time machine. For one, gigs at The Toff always make you feel like you’ve found a time machine. It’s all red velvet curtains, fancy wine and candlelight. Two, I was relaxed, and not battling a crowd of festival maniacs to see Jae Laffer play. I wasn’t being hoisted on shoulders and pushed through stubborn bodies to get closer to the music. I was sitting in a tiny band room listening to him play haunting solo versions of what are usually pretty overwhelming songs and chuckle at his own misleading moniker.

Halfway through the set he stopped again, and welcomed the newcomers.
Chips: I’m Chips Laffer...
Heckler: Chips?!
Chips: Chips. Shut up. I’m from a band called Chips Laffer and the Panics. This is our most famous song and I play it even when I don’t need to play it. I don’t know why.

He played Don’t Fight It. He played originals. He played Bob Dylan covers. It was fantastic.

Single Twin was no less perplexing, but not because of his name. I’d long since untangled that web of pseudonyms. Single Twin is Marcus Teague. Marcus Teague was once the front man for Deloris. Marcus Teague is the name of Single Twin’s first album. Single Twin is not the name of the album. Got it. Not perplexing.

The intro to every song was deadpan, with Marcus staring unblinkingly at the audience. They began almost convincing, "This song is about catching a centipede bus through the backwaters of Santa Monica..." and escalated into the absurd: "This one’s about ordering pizza in World War II. And bombs are dropping all around you, and you’ve realised that you’re going to die... but you just want your last meal to be pizza." Ok, so they were all absurd.

He played a song that went for all of forty seconds which was about being called in for dinner and running back to the house. When it stopped abruptly he grinned at the audience. “A song can be as long as you want it to be.” Then the band came on stage; four beautiful moustachioed hipster men with an eclectic collection of instruments. I was sold. Marcus is obviously clever as well as a talented musician. He knows what live music is meant to do and what an album is meant to do, and he makes it happen. Marcus Teague the album was very different to a Single Twin show, although most of the songs were the same. The album feels almost as though the music is whispering to you, telling you a secret. The live show was crisp, and the sound was big, quite precise in its execution but never to the point of being polished, or trite.

There was a song dedicated to how sexy banjos are (complete with a banjo being all sexy), back-up whistling and men harmonising. This means I can’t be held accountable for anything written in this review. Men harmonising turn me to jelly.

Regardless of how great the band were (and they were great), Teague’s lyrics stand up all by themselves. Each one tells a story, and, contrary to what his intros suggest, none of them seem to be about energy drink. They remind me of trying to explain a dream you’ve had first thing in the morning. Every time you listen to one of these songs you hear something in there that hasn’t hit you before. Like the familiarity of the "packet mix of corn and cream," in Fish in New Leaves, or the ache of "in my mind you are beside me and singing," in My Silken Tooth.

So, on the whole, it was a bewildering but spectacular evening. I’d like to thank whoever had the thought to arrange the tables close to the stage like a 1920s nightclub so there was no pressure to stand and do the awkward quiet-music-shuffle on a Sunday night. The whole gig was like a giant, satisfying exhale at the end of a very long week. An exhale that involved white wine, secret identities and male harmonising. The best kind.

Review by Jess O'Callaghan. Photos by Vinisha Mulani.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you ever see a Panic on stage, keep an eye out for a Panic in the crowd. Drew Wootton, guitarist for Chips Laffer and The Panics, was generous enough to let me have one of his ciggies at the show on Sunday.
Good review - almost all Single Twin shows are like giant satisfying exhales.