The Go-Betweens : Hollywood Knitting Factory

Anyone looking to fan the fires of emotion is in the right place tonight...

Such a tiny aggregation of observers at this rare Hollywood appearance by Brisbane, Australia’s Go-Betweens might throw some people off. But yes, anyone looking to fan the fires of emotion is in the right place tonight. The Hollywood incarnation of New York’s eclectic Knitting Factory may be contrived in its design – more Warhol than sweatshop – and less generous with the acoustics, but lead pontificator Robert Forster doesn’t let that get him down. By the look of his matted hair and dingy, striped suit, Forster was down long before, returning from a journey to a place where hope and love go out to pasture.

It’s a trip that would unfold over a twenty-three year period with partner in crime Grant McLennan, going through back-up band members like Madonna does with boyfriends (or accents). Settling tonight with bassist Adele Pickvance, The Go-Betweens gently strum through an alt-pop acoustic set, not mentioning how they lost their drummer somewhere along the tour.

Maybe they could benefit from some of the notable help they received on ‘The Friends Of Rachel Worth’, their first album of new material in over ten years. No Elliott Smith on keyboards tonight – probably too depressed to show up. And no Sleater-Kinney girls to beef-up the sound. So it’s all too quiet for some, and as the liquor flows more heavily, so do the audience conversations. Drowned out by screams of “dude” and “fuck yeah,” the percent of those watching shrinks into a mesmerized, placid handful you’d guess were watching two koalas mate.

Forster even tells McLennan to play softer, all subtleties lost in the clinks of pint glasses and inebriated belching. A shame, too, since the brooding ‘Spring Rain’ makes a great first encore. They even return for two more encores, wrapping it up with ‘Streets Of Your Town’ and Forster, beer in hand, pointing out to the unmannerly socialisers like some drunk on the corner, echoes “danger in the past” over and over until his enthusiasm fades out.

The Go-Betweens find themselves in the wrong place, with the wrong crowd, and it may take another twenty-three years for Hollywood to lend its ear.

Tony Bogdanovski