The Beards + Claire + Matt Andersen at The Vanguard

Earlier this week I went to a gig The Vanguard, in Newtown, for the first time. It’s a pretty cool little venue.

First up was Matt Andersen, the massive Canadian blues guitarist I’ve already seen twice as he’s toured Australia. He displayed the same pyrotechnics as before; maybe a bit more, as he was the first opening act. The crowd seemed to think it was cool, though a lot of them remained sitting on the floor, which I found a bit odd.

Second was Claire, a relatively new and very young Australian act. Heavy art rock, sort of. Modern, and theatrical, but not emotional enough for me after seeing Matt. The crowd stood up, though.

Finally it was The Beards in their last show of the year. They were as tight and hooky and beard-y as the first time I saw them. You’ve got to have chops if you’re going to be successful as a one-joke band, but they really do it.

Here it is again, because you need to hear it: “You Should Consider Having Sex With a Bearded Man”. Listen, then vote it into triple j’s Hottest 100.

Still got the blues: Claude Hay and Matt Andersen at The Beaches

The other week I saw Aussie one-man blues band Claude Hay and Canadian acoustic blues guitar wizard Matt Andersen. We thought they were good enough to see again, and so Sunday afternoon we drove down the coast.

They played an early evening set at The Beaches, a popular pub in the seaside town of Thirroul. And it was a free show!

They were as good as the first time. Hay’s set was exactly the same, I think, but I’m still amazed at the stomping jams he can create with that loop machine. And I love his bass lines.

Andersen mixed it up a bit more, and we got a couple of crowd-pleasing covers (including “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “People Get Ready”). In fact, the crowd was so pleased they cheered him back for two encores.

As luck would have it, I’ve discovered that I’m going to get to see Andersen yet again before he returns to Canada. I’ve just noticed that he’s going to open for The Beards, another band I can’t get enough of, in Newtown on Wednesday night. And since Andersen is now rocking a beard, that fits perfectly.

Matt Andersen

Claude Hay and Matt Andersen live at the Brass Monkey

We got an early Christmas present from my mom, who tipped us off to the fact that Canadian blues guitar wizard Matt Andersen was touring Australia. So last Thursday we took the train down to Cronulla’s Brass Monkey to see him.

It’s a co-headlining tour of two stringed-instrument masters. First up wasClaude Hay. First impressions were of a stereotypical Blue Mountains muso: tattooed, semi-hippy, happy, and multi-instrumentalist.

Second impressions: a fantastic Louisiana-blues-based one-man-band. Hay played a twin guitar (lead and bass) he made himself, and a tricked-out sitar. He utilised a loop machine to lay down his own backing tracks, then jammed over top. His kick-drum and kazoo and bongo rounded things out. I thought he was fantastic.

With only a few moment’s changeover Andersen got on stage. First impressions: my god, that is a huge man.

Second impressions: wow, that guy is an amazing guitarist and singer. He sits and plays his acoustic six-string alone, with no other accompaniment. There are no effects pedals or backing tracks, just his fretwork frenzy and his massive blues howl. The songs are, to be fair, pretty ordinary, both lyrically and melodically. But the power of the voice from the man, who must be 180 kg, and the speed and passion from the fingers on the strings, are pretty damn impressive.

We’re going to go see Hay and Andersen again next weekend when they play at the Beaches Hotel in Thirroul down the coast. Thanks, mom!