When I got the call up to review Set Sail last Thursday night at Transit Bar, I have to admit I needed to do some research as I was not familiar with the band. I did some digging and it didn’t take me long to stumble across their brilliant, guerilla-style cover of Bitter Sweet Symphony on YouTube, performed on the streets of Bourke St, Melbourne. 30 seconds of that clip was all it took to get me buzzing for the show ahead.

As I rolled in to Transit Bar, the crowd had already taken their seats as the three-piece Second Hand Salmon were kicking off their set. The music ranged from Folksy Blues to Acoustic Rock. The crowd seemed to particularly enjoy their cover of Lonely Boy by the Black Keys. It was a perfect opener for the night and set the vibe just right.

Ok, I have to be honest here (I am a reviewer after all), the next act – Readable Grafitti was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen or heard. I think if you drop some acid, listen to midnight oil in the surroundings of a hippy convent, this is what you could expect to witness. The psychedelic, electro-rock group was fronted by a young Charles Manson look-alike who chanted and pelvic-thrusted his way through the set. Some in the crowd looked on in awe, some in confusion; one couple in the corner looked downright horrified. With all that being said, it was entertaining and funky and I for one would recommend anyone looking to see something completely different to check them out.

As I got some air out the front of Transit Bar, I was lucky enough to get a quick interview with Brandon, the lead singer and guitarist for Set Sail. He proceeded to roll a smoke as he told me his story. Hailing from Colorado, USA, Brandon came across to Sydney, Australia when he was 19, after deciding that living in an RV with his cousin and friend “wasn’t doing it” for him. Busking on his own in a big city didn’t live up to initial expectations, so he decided to seek out additional band members, eventually joining forces with violinist Josiah and drummer Joshua. After telling an intense story about being deported earlier in the year for breaching his Visa conditions, Brandon oozed ambition and passion as he revealed his excitement for the future. His one goal with the band was simply to be able to tour the world and bring their music to as many people as possible.

It was now time for Set Sail to perform. The crowd jeered and whistled as the members took the stage. It didn’t take long for the folk, indie-pop music to get half the room off their feet. The feel-good tunes continued (as did the dancing) and it was nice to see the blonde, dreadlocked, hippy-esque Brandon connect and share stories with the crowd throughout the set. The stand out moment of the night was a story about a trip to Stockholm where he fell for a girl and nearly didn’t return home. The song that followed, also titled Stockholm had everyone smiling and he even had the crowd participating in certain parts. The fact that I can still remember how it goes a few days later is a testament to the strength of Set Sail’s song writing skills and ability to engage listeners.

This was easily one of the best and most surprising gigs I’ve been to this year. From the cool, acoustic rock of Second Hand Salmon, to the tripped-out chanting’s of Readable Grafitti, to the pure awesomeness of Set Sail. It was a great night at Transit Bar and I will be keeping a close eye on what Set Sail gets up to next, and will be first in line for a ticket to their show when they return to Canberra.