Melbourne Festival Hub
Oh good, you're reading this, because seeing Steve Mason's name on the Melbourne Festival lineup was something few people remembered doing and most ignored. With the words ‘(ex-Beta Band)’ taking up a small amount of space, Mason is the definition of unjustly overlooked, though this is partly by his own design. Recording as King Biscuit Hour before releasing Boys Outside in 2010 and this year’s Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time regardless of what name he is using, his songs are about the vibe, and tonight’s performance is redolent with it.
Doubts about his popularity and the oddness of his selection for the Melbourne Music Festival are confirmed when the excellent makeshift venue that constitutes the Festival Hub sees around 100 people at the outset of his set. Leading a four-piece band onto the stage, Mason seems chipper and eager to work his way through the intelligent yet slack funk that epitomises his style; like a warmer Ian Brown. Opening with Lost and Found from Boys Outside the whole room is instantly switched on. With Scottish accents peppering the crowd and occasionally bursting forth in affectionate heckling, Mason seems to be right at home, his own brogue lending his lyrics a melodic fluidity.
‘So uh, does everybody know who I am?’ he asks bashfully, wearing old paint-spattered shirt and jeans. The crowd respond resoundingly, as they do throughout the set. Listing his favourite things about Australia as he works his way through highlights from his albums (a list that includes Bad Boy Bubby, the Saints and more bizarrely Alan Jones - a name that does not go down well with his fans though confusion between the racing driver and the radio DJ seem to explain it), Mason invests as much energy in examining his sexuality (Am I Just a Man?) as he does with ‘fighting back against the established powers, who are revolting in my opinion’ (Fire and Fight Them Back). Ending his set with the euphoric Beta Band highlight Dry the Rain he is brought back by an insistent crowd for an encore. ‘Well, we’ve only learned the set so we’ll read out the names of the songs we played and whichever ones get the loudest cheer, we’ll play again’ he says. And so we hear Lost and Found, and a fantastic Oh My Lord and Boys Outside one more time. No bad thing at all.