Chastity Belt at The Curtin (Melbourne)

Last time I saw Baby Blue, it was early days for them. This time round, Rhea Caldwell’s easy-breezy 60s rock was so much tighter and the performance so much more comfortable. With songs that bring humour and spark to the Melbourne mundane – like the final song ‘Dog,’ about an angry man at the park – the group surely picked up plenty of new fans from the busy room.

I was lucky enough to see Loose Tooth at Bigsound, a brief but satisfying taster that had me plenty amped to see them again. This trio are tight and serve up energy by the plateful, The Curtin just eating it up. We even had the bonus of guitarist and singer Nellie Jackson promising to slip a nip (or a flap) if they won the Music Victoria Award for Best Emerging Act (maybe a homage to the headliners’ song ‘Nip Slip’). Their set featured a ripper new song, with trailing choral vocals in the verse and an unshakeable beat, as well as plenty of album-track goodness. The number one fan for the night goes to Chastity Belt’s bassist Annie Truscott, who just bloody loved it.

Chastity Belt wasted no time in getting onstage, which also meant that everyone took a little time to settle in for the night. Once we had all calmed down and had breathing room, movement went from a flicker of head-bobbing through to a constant wave of shoulder-shaking throughout.

Julia Shapiro was centre stage, the bright lights giving a slacker-angel halo to her face as she stooped over her guitar. Lydia Lund was on her left, swaying from side to side as she plucked out eloquent melodies. Annie Truscott bounced on Shapiro’s right, both mesmerised by and mesmerising on bass (noteworthy: she changed caps halfway through for a dashing leopard print number), whilst Gretchen Grimm providing the assertive beats that pierced through their fuzzy grunge-pop. They were all finely attuned to one another – a pleasant effect from playing a lot of music with people you clearly dig. They kept things easy-going – in contrast to their lyrical anxieties – whilst commanding a close-knit show. This was perfect for the relaxed crowd. (Perhaps we were a little too relaxed.) When Shapiro announced that they were “pleasured to be here”, our response was to ask her to drop a shoey. The request was left unrealised because she had no idea what a shoey was.

There was sneak peeks off their recently recorded third album as well as a balanced mix of songs off No Regerts and Time To Go Home. For a new one entitled ‘Goat Fury’ (may or may not be correct), Grimm and Shapiro swapped roles, with Grimm the third person to take lead vocals for the evening (Lund being the second). I’m always impressed by such switcheroos because it shows versatility and confidence as well as a playful, unworried approach to making music. Plus, I reckon it’s just really fun.

They were at their best when they showcased the strength of their shared energy, closing their set with the drawn out grooves of ‘Joke’. The double encore was not far off, returning to the stage with the delightful ‘Cool Slut’. By this point in the evening, some had had their fair share of alcohol and it was an interesting experience watching a drunk fellow yell “This is to all the girls in the world/ Taking off their shirts”. The song is almost certainly not a dedication to him or his empowerment, but his enthusiasm highlighted how easy it is to get on board with this band, this gig, this music.

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