Melbourne's International Comedy Festival came and went earlier this year, for some inexplicable reason I didn't go. The disappoint stuck with me, but after seeing Monique Brumby and band, live at The Flying Saucer Club on 16 August, it's now a distant memory. Rocking up, I envisioned seeing a stand-out performance. This was delivered, complete with a non-stop hilarious view of 'The World According to Monique'. Not quite the official show title [it should be], but one things for sure - Brumby is god damn, freaking funny. Like, I'm talking stop-it-my-face-hurts-from-laughing-so-much.
Brumby's self-titled album [released in January], is a fresh and innovative sound from one of Australia's favourite 'Taswegians'. A name she bestows on herself and selected members of the band, who she's been touring with nationally. It's been a big labour of love, when I spoke to her three months ago, I asked if it was the beginning of a new creative chapter, "I hope so! It's getting really crazy, it's getting really frenetic, there's been a lot of good feedback around the single, and hopefully we can keep the momentum rolling on."
The single she is referring to is 'Silent War', an emotional and captivating anthem for marriage equality and accepting differences - causes she is inherently passionate about. Seeing this live, on the same day she performed at the Equal Love rally, surrounded by her family [mum and dad were in the audience], friends 'there's four people up from Tasmania - say hi to them!' and partner Sophie on guitar, is testament to her strength. No stranger to speaking publicly, she regularly frequents schools to discuss diversity, "we talk about what they are striving for in life, and my sexuality comes out at the end of the talk. There is just this immense surprise and realisation that you can't judge people by what you see."
It's this philosophy, that propels her as an artist. There's something about the husky tones, vocal control and luminous energy that's transfixing, you're mesmerized to be in the presence of a consummate professional, who envelopes you the moment she starts singing. Two decades of being in the music industry are palpable. The ability she has to transform audiences, through her lyrics and musical compositions, in the space of an hour - is quite extraordinary. Plus, she's now set a new benchmark, it's part comedy show as well.
Her witty anecdotes were interspersed with highly evocative tracks, creating a cosy and intimate experience, kind of like hanging out with your best friend (who just happens to be a Aria award-winning singer). Brumby showcased all that she is, and it was as fierce and stylish a gig as her hairdo and outfit, complete with velvet jacket. Known for her 'do's', there was an unrehearsed wardrobe malfunction, that set the crowd in stitches. One perfectly coiled ringlet, all tucked in, hung in for - let's call it four songs. Until ... it just had to come out, very noticeably and no doubt distractingly. Suddenly, it became about getting the renegade ringlet in order.
Not even part way through the track, all goes quiet and the eloquent singer holds the offending curl at arms length, 'What. Is. This? What is this? I mean, what am I supposed to do here. I just can't go on, [in mock indignation] I can feel mums anxiety rising because my hair is out of place. Does anyone have a bobby pin? [throws to audience] Hang on, I think I have one [rummages around] … how did they get their name anyway? Bobby … Pin … was it named after some guy?' Coiffure in order, the show went on. We now knew, every time red wine was sipped, a cracking yarn was coming up.
The acoustics in the venue served break out single 'All the Ways', incredibly well - drenching audiences in her magnificent range, 'Hang on Babe' and 'In this Game' were highlights. The former came as a result of experimenting with melody and lyric, whereas the latter from messing around with different sounds, inspired from a collaboration with Wally De Backer [Gotye]. Electronics, the bpm on her software and love of 80's arrangements all got a look in, 'this song could also be as big as that song, I mean, a fleck of sweat from Wally landed on me, surely that's gotta have some effect!'
The stripped down version of Suzanne Vega's 'Luka' was impactful, the audience completely still for this haunting rendition. One of her influences, and a breathtaking, incredibly moving version. Performed solo, 'I've sacked the band, get off, all of you, get off - including you Maryanne - she knows too much about me anyway [18 years worth]' seeing the singer completely control this powerful ballad - was one of the defining moments of the gig. This is the elixir of live music, it's capacity to make you feel, move you and permeate your senses.
On that note, I won't regale you with a blow-by-blow of her side-splitting stories, it's incentive to catch one of the next shows. Stirrings reflected the loyal fans love, 'she was on fire!', with folks lining up afterwards to hug and commend the alluring singer. Chatting to Brumby after the show, I also promised not to recount one particular story referencing another well-known Australian band. After all, what's that saying you always hear? What happens on tour, stays on tour.