Mistletone?s Summer Kiss

Melburnians from north and south united under the Mistletone banner on Saturday for one last summertime fling. Photography by BEN BUTCHER.

It’s easy to be parochial when you live in Melbourne, a city divided by a dirty, polluted river. To the north, there’s art and rock’n?roll, good Lebanese food and cheap beer. To the south, it’s dance music, yuppie bars, overpriced tapas and beaches (the lower case kind).

But there was a distinct whiff of the north – both literally and figuratively – at St Kilda’s Esplanade Hotel for Summer Tones, the annual showcase for much-loved label Mistletone, on Saturday. Held on the last day of an oppressive summer, the event saw scores of northsiders pile onto the 96 for a beer-soaked evening by the bay. Indeed, if anyone was capable of bridging Melbourne’s great divide it’s Mistletone, the label started by Sophie Best and Ash Miles in the second bedroom of their North Fitzroy terrace. In little over two years, the pair have released acclaimed discs by Kes Band, Fabulous Diamonds, Beaches, Ross McLennan, Actor/Model, Panel of Judges and Barrage. And save for a couple absentees (McLennan and Actor/Model), the full gamut of Mistletone’s local roster was on show for Summer Tones.

Showing little of the parochialism that defines their hometown, the line-up also featured non-Mistletone bands including The Stabs, Pivot, Witch Hats, Qua, The Diamond Sea and the long-awaited comeback for the Ground Components, who played a well-received warm-up gig as ?The Calloways? the night before at The Birmingham. There were also slots for the label’s overseas signings: Lawrence Arabia from NZ, experimental pop duo High Places from Brooklyn and Baltimore one-man party machine Dan Deacon, who swanned around the Espy in a moo moo and later coordinated a human tunnel from the car park through to the men’s dunnies.

Kicking things off were Melbourne’s Treetops, who added a nostalgic bit of circularity to the day’s proceedings. The psych-pop outfit were playing their first gig in their original incarnation in five years. Their first manager: Sophie Best.

Other highlights included jammy Front Bar performances by Kes Band and a mustachioed Ned Collette, an entertaining if not safe set from Beaches (no new songs, just a re-ordered version of their debut) and Rowland S Howard in the Gershwin, who was brilliant and utterly affecting alone with his guitar.