Wait, so let me see if I’ve got this straight: you’re going to let me run around the Melbourne Zoo after it’s closed to regular visitors – that is, screaming and dribbly children and slow walkers – and see whatever animals haven’t snuck off for a nap and a feed. And THEN you’ll let me lay out a picnic blanket, park my keister and devour snacks while musicians perform, presumably for my entertainment? You had me at ‘a lack of hyperactive infants’.
Grass close to the front of the stage is prime real estate as the sun goes down, but the moderately-sized stage and open park area (not so much a natural amphitheatre as it is a slightly sloped hill) means there aren’t too many bad spots to take in the snappy and to-the-point set from Melbourne’s Dick Diver. Plus, the further you are away from the stage, the closer you are to the bar… so we all learn to make important decisions. Dick Diver’s laconic outer city tales match the energy of the crowd, listening attentively and applauding at the appropriately allocated times. My only complaint is that, even with banter, the set clocked in at a little under 30 minutes, not leaving much time to leave a lasting impression. It’s all rather civilised, really. There may be some poop and food being thrown around, but only from monkeys in far-off enclosure.
Things only approach slightly bawdier levels when Neko Case leads her band on stage, particularly her wise cracking backup singer. Not every quip was picked up by the microphones – and who doesn’t love half-hearing jokes made between performers, right? – but was there something about coconut bras? Again, Case’s more countrified leanings are set at the right energy level for the crowd, and her backing band are polished but never really cut loose. Favouring tracks from her latest album, Case knows she’s competing for the audience’s attention up against quince jam and artisan sourdough, so the transitions are quick and the songs are on the more upbeat end of her spectrum. Not the kinetic bluster of the New Pornographers, but still enough barnstormers to keep the many young families (and golly, the stroller exodus was epic) engaged, or at least awake. Which is good, because did you know that giraffes are allergic to ballads?
BY MITCH ALEXANDER
Loved: A yawning snow leopard. Pretty darn great.
Hated: Territorial picnickers staking out enough space for a sheep paddock.
Drank: Mountain Goat Steam Ale.