First Aid Kit – The Croxton

First Aid Kit – The Croxton

Written by Sarah Rix

Photos by Rick Clifford

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Let it be known that what First Aid Kit do, they do very well. The Swedish duo is adept at writing and performing songs filled with complementary harmonies. They make the kind of country music that appeals to people that wouldn’t otherwise call themselves country fans.

Add to that the fact it’s well presented (they’ve got stage presence and they’re able to connect with their audience) and, yes, consider it worth leaving home for.

On tour in support of their fourth album (January’s Ruins) and in Australia for Byron Bay Bluesfest, First Aid Kit drew a surprisingly older audience to their Thursday night show. Rather than flannel shirts, bushy beards, and craft brewery aficionados, it would seem their target demographic leans more toward those with respectable but dry 9-to-5 jobs and mortgages to consider – a cute date night for those coming up on a decade or two worth of marriage.

Those that arrived early were treated to an opening set from Perth’s Stella Donnelly. On stage with her guitar, she was quick to please with an impressive vocal performance and wit – particularly present on “Should Have Stayed at Home”, a song about a bad Tinder date. “He called me a hipster because I have a fringe and I can read,” she mused toward the end to some knowing nods from the crowd.

“I put out an EP last year,” she said of Thrush Metal. “I expected to sell only 30 cassettes… Then things went a bit differently and I’m standing here opening for First Aid Kit.”

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While her song style leans toward the sweet and easily digestible, her lyrical content doesn’t shy away from anecdotal, important topics. It was hard not to notice the crowd’s slowly growing captivity for “Boys Will Be Boys”. She absolutely belted out the lyrical content dealing with rape and society’s tendency to victim-shame rather than call out the perpetrators.

This was a topic that would continue with the headliners – First Aid Kit also speaking out about it. Lead vocalist and guitarist Klara Söderberg took time midway through, after a particularly urgent, angry delivery on the surprising “You Are the Problem Here”, to lend her support to the ongoing #metoo movement.

“It’s about when you feel sick, as women, of being afraid,” she said to the sold out, attentive Croxton. “We’re finally talking about this and it’s a good thing. But we need to keep talking about it. Women, we hope you feel empowered. But men… we need your help. We can’t do this alone.”

It was a moment that earned the largest cheers of the night – and it was also a departure from the band’s otherwise sweet country sounds, complete with slide guitar and sibling harmonies. While it’s reasonable to hope they’ll continue to diversify their song selection a little more before their next Melbourne appearance, it’s apparent that they can.

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Where Klara’s voice tended toward the more melodic, bassist Johanna (who could pass for a Haim sister if they ever needed help) sided on the lower side. It was a good dynamic and their sibling interplay throughout the night was a nice thing to witness: it’s clear they’re comfortable with each other’s mannerisms and know how to play to each other’s strengths.

Backed by a three-piece band, First Aid Kit also seemed genuinely happy to be back in Melbourne. “It’s been way too long. Sorry about that. I feel sorry for us,” they told the crowd in regard to their three year absence.

At the first of two sold out shows at The Croxton, the Swedish band was able to transport the venue to Nashville – slide guitar on “Rebel Heart” and the addition of mandolin and trombone for “King of the World” particularly of note. They even prefaced “Postcard” by telling the crowd it was their “most country sounding song” (spoiler alert: all their songs sound pretty country) and fittingly covered Don Schlitz’s “The Gambler”, given The Croxton band room’s proximity to the Pokies.

Other highlights came with the live debut of “My Wild Sweet Love” and the double tambourine ending on “Wolf”. The night came to a close with the final harmonies of “My Silver Lining” – the sisters leaving the stage after beaming at their appreciative audience.

Written by Sarah Rix

Photos by Rick Clifford

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