Sydney Festival Review: Mountain Man
February 3rd 2011
Nick La Rosa
Sydney Festival, The Famous Spiegeltent, Hyde Park
14 January 2011
Writing this review was worth it for the “mountain man” Google Image results. See below.
Watching this show was worth it for the atmosphere alone. Summer in Sydney transformed into a tiny cosy kitchen in mid-West America, with three friends home from college singing songs of their travels as candles flickered out. The Mountain Man set was beautiful and that palpable intimacy floated from the first clear not to the last. Beyond the last even; besotted punters milled around the balmy festival garden as the girls cheerfully chatted and signed CDs long after the encore.
Molly, Amelia and Alex melted together at university in Vermont but are now scattered across the country from Brooklyn toCalifornia. Watching the show you can forget about this geographic separation; they harmonise so smoothly it is hard to believe they spend any time apart. Their name refers to old pioneers who forged paths through the wild west of America in the 1800s, and their songs throw back to these adventurous and lonely days. The modern-day Mountain Man are pioneering again, leading the neo-folk revival with Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes.
The set is bare: the girls wear no shoes and perform several songs a capella. Each has a turn strumming an accoustic and singing stories of buffalo and coyotes and honey bees. They are perfectly tuned but noticeably unpolished. Several times they began a song and stopped, giggling and chattering together until they found the right note to start on. This is a credit, not a criticism; it heightened the show’s sense of spontaneity and intimacy. That said, it happened so often it bordered on the too-cute and contrived.
The sweetness of their songs manifests in their stage presence. They frequently checked on pregnant ladies in the audience, dished out jewellery complements and led the audience in a round. The show worked so beautifully because Mountain Man seemed as happy to be there as we were.