Live Review: Milk! Records 'Good For You' Tour

Kristen Field

What is good for you?

I believe that art is a crutch.

This was one of the lines from a poem (set to music) that The Finks chose to open the Milk! Records Good For You tour. I have to say: I’ve never been to a concert that began like that, with Oliver Mestitz strumming a guitar and Sarah Farquharson reciting a spoken-word-type piece with lines drawing on the recurring theme of belief. I believe in caffeine. I believe there is such a thing as too much caffeine.

Hearing a line like “I believe that art is a crutch” comes with its own special impact when it’s recited on a stage by two writer/musician/artists at a concert that really is all about art, or making one’s own art. Where does the impulse to pursue such a career come from? Is it a crutch? And if so, is it such a terrible thing to use a crutch if you need it? I can’t help but picture a hoard of limping artists now, stumbling down the aisle of a theatre or hobbling offstage. But I digress.

The fact that an Australian artist (Courtney Barnett) has started her own label and brought other musicians on board so that they can all continue to make their art and send it out into the world is really quite extraordinary. And despite their wildly diverse styles of music (I don’t think what The Finks do onstage could be any more different from the artistic endeavours of Ouch My Face) it was wonderful to see each artist or band appear onstage in the one night, moving on and off as they helped each other out with both manoeuvring speakers and microphones and instruments and playing in the background to support their fellow Milk! Record artists.

The opening song of the concert really was exhilarating to watch, and it was fascinating to see something onstage at an alternative music concert that wouldn’t have been out of place amongst the beat poets of the mid-Twentieth Century. Sarah Farquharson had decided to take her cello with her on the tour as well, and that added yet another stirring element to The Finks’ set. Her playing was truly revelatory, adding warmth and depth to Oliver’s songs, and it was fascinating to find out that she and Oliver are in a long-term relationship, too. Assuming that Oliver wrote the poem that Sarah recited at the beginning of the show, she was vocalising her partner’s innermost thoughts and fears to the audience, and the emotional charge of that dynamic was palpable.

There was another couple that performed together during the concert, too. Jen Cloher and Courtney Barnett sang a stripped-back number at the beginning of Jen’s set, both sharing the one microphone, and seeing them onstage together singing about loving another woman was a thrilling, revelatory experience.

So, so rarely are the feelings of queer women expressed through music or poetry, published or performed onstage, that it comes as a shock whenever I encounter it. That shock doesn’t diminish the comfort such experiences bring me, though, and I am sure the other queer women who turned up to see both Jen and Courtney play took just as much away from that performance, too.

The overarching impression that the concert left me with was one full of noise and energy and angst and camaraderie. Some of Milk! Records’ artists write and perform music so intense that it almost blocks out everything else around you while you’re listening to it, watching performers like Jen and Marcus Hobbs violently jerk their heads back and forward, their hair acting as a kind of multi-stringed pendulum.

The spirit of the label was nevertheless infused throughout each artist’s performance, lending an undeniable heart to the concert. The electrifying force every individual brought onstage – whether they were screaming or crooning, strumming or drumming – made the whole group quite irresistible.

Good For You Tour Remaining Shows

17 March - Bangalow Hill - Bangalow, NSW

18 March - The Triffid - Brisbane, QLD

19 March - Joe's Waterhole - Eumundi, QLD

20 March - Miami Marketta - Gold Coast, QLD

Kristen is an aspiring playwright and undeniable fangirl. In her spare time, you might catch her at an Ingrid Michaelson concert or finding her zen on a yoga mat. She’s currently living in Chicago and studying playwriting and screenwriting at Northwestern University.