Skipping Girl Vinegar

Melbourne's Skipping Girl Vinegar won the hearts, minds and stomachs of the privileged few at Fresh Cafe on the eleventh of the eleventh.


And before they even played a note it was clear from the stage decor that these guys know how to put on a show. Bird silhouette lamps, chalky blackboard slogans, a giant monkey cutout and fairy lights creeping up microphone stands like a Happy Wanderer up a drainpipe.


But the show got off to an awkward start.The band took to the stage without so much as a murmur from the audience then proceeded to launch into the rollicking Hand to Hold.


Given the intimacy of the venue, it seemed contrived and unnatural.It didn't take long for frontman Mark Lang to realise that things were going to work differently in the southernmost state. So he got to telling stories and the evening came to life.


Lang informed us that the banjo with which he composed most of their debut album was purchased from the Beauty Point Junk Shop, just a few miles north of the venue. Turns out the owner of the Junk Store was in the audience too. So Tasmanian.


The band played material from both their albums, including Sinking, Here She Comes, One Long Week and Fighting With Gravity, with Lang's stories getting longer with each talkbreak. Pretty soon the rest of the band were joining in.


There was the time they went night swimming at Cataract Gorge with the husband of Kate Miller-Heidke, accidentally dislodging and losing his wedding ring for the better part of a winter's eve. Then there was the time they played another local venue when their "thank you, good night" was faded out as the dance music was turned up.


By Hell Out Of Town drummer Chris Helm and keyboardist Amanthi Lynch were getting chatty too; by Castles Full of Storms, bassist Sare Lang had made herself known from behind the speaker stack (an unforgiveable design flaw of the Fresh Cafe stage) and by Triple J favourites You Can and Chase the Sun even Kelly Lane, the keyboardist-violinist without a microphone, was piping up.


It was within this atmosphere that the band decided to close the set with an unplugged singalong version of River Road. Punters put down their drinks, rose from their cross-legged seating positions and joined in. It was beautiful.


And it was never going to be an ordinary encore. No screaming or foot stamping here. Audience members just patted Lang on the back and asked for one they could dance to.


They continued with Wasted, "a song about a pub in Melbourne that is nothing like this place," said Lang, adding that they would be singing Fresh's praises back in their home state.


The night closed with Heart Does Ache and a free sample of Amanthi's Raspberry Blondies; hearts, minds and stomachs well and truly wooed.

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