Dane Wilson

First Aid Kit live @ The Spiegeltent, 10.09.10

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Feeling compelled to adopt a clumsy German accent for the duration of your stay is only part of the Spiegeltent’s appeal. The most important part is the shows inside, like those of Sweden’s precocious Söderberg sisters, otherwise known as First Aid Kit. Klara and Johanna’s profile took off in 2008 with a cover of Fleet Foxes’ ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’, but they’ve long since proven their folksy originals are even more inspired.

Most of the young ‘uns were taking advantage of the free music across town as part of Valley Fiesta, so the Spiegeltent crowd was a little older than it might’ve been. Older but wiser, because they were treated to an intimate performance in a venue that almost made King George Square look something other than a concrete monstrosity. The wooden decor and smoke-filled air set the mood for the transformative show to come.

The first thing I noticed when they walked on stage was just how young Klara and Johanna appeared. The second thing I noticed was Klara’s remarkable voice. There was nothing in it to suggest she was barely out of her teens. Then they made a mistake, laughed and started again. The transformation was completed when Johanna politely added her vocals to the mix. We were transported to another time and place, where two girls from Stockholm had the emotional intensity of world-weary women baring their souls.

The intensity was dispelled when they engaged in playful spurts of sibling banter between songs. They explained how they’d recruited their tour manager Dale to join them on drums, how this song was new and how this next song was even newer. In the middle of the set they stepped down from the stage and performed ‘Ghost Town’ without any amplification. They just stood side-by-side and sang, and the audience was still.

[Not The Specials’ song then? Shame – Ed.]

The inevitable Fleet Foxes cover was bettered by a Fever Ray cover as heard on Triple J’s Like A Version that morning. Fellow Swede Fever Ray aka The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson released First Aid Kit’s debut EP Drunken Trees on her Rabid Records label, and their respect for her showed in an amazing take on ‘When I Grow Up’. They namechecked some of their other influences in their newest, as yet untitled song, including Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash and June Carter, and they followed it with another exemplary cover, this time of Parsons’ ‘Still Feeling Blue’.

They wrapped the set after an hour with ‘I Met Up With The King’, by which time any initial doubts had been replaced by quiet admiration. Any flatness on their recordings was made vibrant and dynamic by the live setting, and their worldly lyrics weren’t made shallow by their youth. The audience stumbled out into the square and wondered where they could possibly go to better what they’d just experienced. The night felt young and old at the same time.

The Spiegeltent will be in Brisbane until Saturday September 25, hosting acts like Ed Kuepper and The Gin Club. You can find the full program here.

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