The Gasometer’s Collingwood Open series finished up on Saturday night with a sold out performance from Gareth Liddiard. Supported by Ela Stiles & Jensen Tjhung, it was the second of two sold out shows for The Drones frontman, and a great way to end the four week long series.

The crowd when I arrived at The Gasometer was incredibly relaxed, the open roof creating a lazy atmosphere that was relished by all after a hot Saturday afternoon. Ela Stiles & Jensen Tjhung were almost finished their opening set, the duo standing on the stage playing guitars of contrasting age and wear through amps with matching character. The crunchy tone of Tjhung’s battered and beaten gear beautifully complemented the crispness of Stiles’ well-maintained equipment in the same way their differing vocal registers worked while doubling, harmonising and alternating between lead and backups. While they were technically brilliant and playing beautiful songs, I found myself letting the music just exist without embracing it, as their sullen energy was already matching my own.

Lightning flashed above us and heads turned skyward in worry. I felt a few drops of rain and began to wonder if and when The Gas would decide to close the roof, considering the event’s title: the Collingwood Open. I didn’t have to wait long, within a minute it was shut. Perhaps, as it was the end of the series, it was a little poetic that they closed it up.

By 8:30, the silent and lazy atmosphere from a mere 20 minutes before was gone, replaced by the familiar buzz of excited chatter. No-one complained that Gareth Liddiard hadn’t started at the time that was signed, the anticipation seemed only to be aided by the extra few minutes of waiting.

Once Gareth finally hit the stage, his laconic wit took over and he let out more banter than some artists would in a whole set before he played his first note. Jokes about firing the sound guy, pickpocketing dwarves, his age and having virgin’s urine on his rider flowed in a seemingly uncontrollable stream. After the opening song he pondered the word ‘cover’ explaining that he thought it was a stupid word, that he was just playing someone else’s song, before he went into his rendition of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Lungs.’

As a solo artist, Liddiard loses a lot of the aggression from his other project, but still keeps a fairly hard edge on his acoustic folk rock and considering I’m not a fan of this genre, generally speaking, I think that is the reason why I actually didn’t hate it. At the same time, while I found his performance good, his between song banter got tiring quickly and I don’t think I’d ever claim to be a fan. However my opinion is clearly not widely shared, given that I was in a sold out bandroom that obviously thought quite differently.

As for the Collingwood Open, with such a diverse lineup and an overwhelmingly great vibe, I can safely say the series was a winner. I can only hope it returns next summer.

Wes Fahey

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