Dispatched from Australia, STUART LYNCH reports on Melbourne’s live music scene.

ON AN unusually balmy October evening, The Edinburgh Castle Hotel in Brunswick played host to psych-folk rockers Tom Woodward & The Orphanage, a band clearly in their element, and on top form. In the latest show of their Thursday night residency, the precocious Canberrians performed an eclectic set to their ever-growing band of supporters, showcasing a range of styles but maintaining a consistently original sound throughout.

Despite the obvious limitations of the front room’s compact corner stage, the sextet looked comfortable, blending old material and new in a polished 90 minute split set that had the hundred or so crowd captivated for much of the night.

Tom Woodward’s combination of talking blues, taut vocals and occasional guttural screeches kept the audience on their toes, as did the mixing and matching of genres, from the driven rock of ‘Pop Star Girl’ to the swingy ballads ‘Desire’, and the epic ‘Give Me Some Mercy’.

Arrangements of Woodward’s solo material were sympathetic and succinct, the multi-instrumental accompaniment never seeming to provide any more or less than required, while the incorporation of quirky fiddle and keyboard parts further served the psychedelic folk ambiance of much of the band’s work. This was no more evident than in the dark, spacey blues of ‘Night’s Gonna Turn To Ashes’ and the edgy, intense ‘Josephine’.

Of the new material, the rhythmic melancholia of ‘Roadside Crosses’ contained all the intricate hooks and harmonies that have epitomised the band’s sound thus far, and provided a preview of the forthcoming album of the same name, set to be released late next month.

There was a quietly determined air about the performance, the band never missing a beat and generally letting the music speak for itself. Added to this platform, Woodward’s gangly, awkward yet amiable stage presence provided more than enough attitude to bring the show to life.

Tom Woodward & The Orphanage are a throw-back to a more traditional ethos of grafting musician, working the pubs and clubs at roots level, confident in the assumption that good music and a solid live act will naturally find its position in the local scene and beyond. On the strength of the evidence on show here, it is clear that this band is destined for a bigger stage, in more ways than one.