Review: Fanny Lumsden, Hunky Dory Social Club, Sydney

Fanny Lumsden
Image Courtesy of Fanny Lumsden

Fanny Lumsden supported by Emma Swift and Leroy Lee
23rd November 2011, Hunky Dory Social Club

The Hunky Dory Social Club in Sydney’s inner-Eastern suburbs is a venue that’s more renowned for its hipster clientele than it is for live music but last Wednesday night saw its rooftop was transformed into a performance space to launch the new single “Hello Bright Eyes” from local alt-country lass Fanny Lumsden. With Sydney’s unseasonal rain holding off and an eclectic mix of audience members taking advantage of the cocktail menu, the show was shaping up to be a fine way to spend a weeknight.

Having just finished up supporting Folk Uke’s national tour Emma Swift had decided to give the rest of her band the 49 Goodbyes a rest and take on the first support slot of the night in solo mode. Resplendent in a sequined dress and set against the twilight backdrop of bats making their way to Centennial Park for the night Swift regaled the early audience with her brand of melancholy country music as well as a couple of covers (Gram Parsons, Fleetwood Mac) thrown in for good measure. Swift herself would probably admit she is not greatest guitarist on the scene but her voice is perfectly suited to the Americana music she most obviously loves – I’m so glad I managed to get to the gig early enough to catch her set.

If you’ve ever regularly watched folk or acoustic music in Sydney you’ve no doubt come across Leroy Lee either as the city’s hardest working banjo playing session muso or in full solo singer-songwriter mode. By the time Lee made it on stage for his set at the Hunky Dory Social Club the audience had swelled to fill the rooftop, but sadly very few of them seemed interested in actually watching any music. Battling an apathetic (and loud) crowd and a sound system that was struggling to fill the outdoor space Leroy Lee gave the best performance he could. I enjoyed what I could hear and see of him over the audience members who had decided to park themselves right in front of the stage and then ignore the performance but this was not the best show I’ve seen Lee do.

While the sound issues continued into Fanny Lumsden’s set (setting up a PA system in an outdoor space that is not normally used for live music was always going to be tough) the audience, now shoulder to shoulder in the small space, had begun to pay attention to the stage and really get into the music.

Fanny Lumsden’s music is a mixed bag of styles and genres and her live show is eclectic to say the least. Starting with a couple of country-inspired numbers the rooftop at the Hunky Dory Social Club was very quickly turned into a hoedown complete with thumping bass and twanging guitars. Lumsden’s big voice (check out the video for “Oh Lil Lad” from the night above) is reminiscent of Dolly Parton and definitely more than carries the boisterous songs from her repertoire. But in mind it’s when Lumsden treads down the “indie” side of her songwriting that she truly shines.

There is definitely a wide diversity of genres covered in Fanny Lumsden’s music. The aforementioned “Oh Lil Lad” would not be out of place on a stage in Tamworth while the new single “Hello Bright Eyes” could slip very neatly into rotation on triple j alongside the likes of Josh Pyke, Lisa Mitchell and Missy Higgins. It was amazing to witness this diversity on stage as well as the way Lumsden adapts her voice to the needs of the song (the yodel is all but non-existent on the more “indie” tracks) – and I particularly liked the songs that seemed to shun genre convention and place feet firmly in both the country and indie camps (“The Cat Song” springs to mind).

Despite the sound problems the launch of Fanny Lumsden’s new single “Hello Bright Eyes” was a resounding success. A special mention has to go out to Lumsden’s band (including Leroy Lee on banjo) who were an extremely tight, extremely professional outfit. If you see Fanny Lumsden’s name appear on a lineup – and with festival season almost upon us she’s already confirmed for Peats Ridge – we highly recommend you check her out.

“Hello Bright Eyes” is available now from triple j Unearthed. Have a listen to it below:

“Hello Bright Eyes”


  1. Emma Swift said,

    November 29, 2011 at 06:40

    Cheers for the write up and nicely put. Sequins, Americana, Gram Parsons… that pretty much sums me up!

  2. August 15, 2012 at 15:58

    […] the review of Fanny supporting Daniel Merriweather on the AU Review here, Read a review of Fanny headlining at Hunky Dory Social Club on Timber & Steel here, Read Timber & Steel’s review of Fanny at Peats Ridge Festival […]

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