Gig Review: Charles Jenkins & The Zhivagos

Who: Charles Jenkins & The Zhivagos

Where: St. Kilda Memo, Melbourne

When: 26th June 2014

This review originally appeared on

In a time where music venues are being forced to close down all over the country, it’s always a blessing when a new live space comes on the scene. In this instance it’s the music loving folk of Melbourne who should celebrate, as the owners behind the St Kilda Memo have decided to offer an olive branch of sorts, to local record store Pure Pop Records. The joint effort means that a new monthly music night, to be run by Pure Pop, allows the store to host larger bands and numbers of people in the 400 capacity venue.

The venue space is reminiscent of an old school gym hall, its dark wooden floorboards and waist high stage are overlooked by a low level balcony. Red cloth drapes from behind the stage, while the sides of the room are supplemented by some hanging black fabric and about a dozen red coloured cafe styled tables and chairs.

There is a nip in the air when Charles Jenkins & The Zhivagos take to the stage, but it has more to do with the fact the rear doors are left open, as opposed to any chill factor the band possess! The four piece, Charles Jenkins; Vox/Acoustic guitar, Matty Vehl; keyboards/harmonica, Art Star; bass and Dave Milne; drums, open their set with ‘Rolling Into Houston’, which is followed by the slow and meandering ‘So Long’. The tempo picks up during ‘Off the Tip of the Peloponnese’ from this year’s Too Much Water In The Boat, with the band appearing in joyful mood.

There are hints of Gold-era Ryan Adams, Jesse Malin and Wilco throughout the foursome’s set, especially during ‘Pray My Dear Daughter’, ‘Swing Bridge’ and ‘Sweet Mildura’, the latter of which also points to Van Morrison as a possible inspiration to Jenkins. It’s obvious to all in attendance that Jenkins’ is a natural storyteller whose lyrics can easily seep into one’s mind and paint a variety of pictures, be they upbeat or dark, ‘Trees of Brisbane’ and ‘High Alone’ being prime examples. Jenkins’ quick wit was also on show when he claimed that ‘Went To The Chapel’ was “the atheist’s hymn”!

The acoustics are one of the things the Memo has got in its favour, something Jenkins references on more than one occasion. The band themselves are incredibly tight, with Milne never really having to go all guns blazing in the intimate surroundings, Vehl at times sounding like he listened to a lot of Booker T, while Star looks like he is going through the motions from the solemn look he portrays throughout. Jenkins is in buoyant mood and has no issue in taking requests, which throws the planned set list into a fuddled heap!

A downside of the venue is that you can hear a pin drop during the quieter songs, so during ‘Secrets’, there were a group of four of a certain age who should know better than talk the whole way through a song. That issue along with the odd crash band and wallop that stemmed from the bar got damn frustrating, but luckily didn’t seem to affect the band.

The night finishes up with a new track titled ‘When We Were Wearing Hagfish’, which Jenkins admits came to him courtesy of a self sent drunken text message while travelling around Europe! ‘Picture In A Frame’ was a rather idyllic way to finish off tonight’s performance, as an elderly coupled waltzed near the front of the stage.

Jenkins’ show was a promising start to a hopefully long a fruitful partnership between the Memo and Pure Pop!

Set List – ‘Rolling Into Houston’, ‘So Long’, ‘Off The Tip Of The Peloponnese’, ‘Autumn Fall’, ‘Across the Nullarbor’, ‘Pray My Dear Daughter’, ‘Trees of Brisbane’, ‘7 Creeks (The Crossdresser Steve Hart)’, ‘Swing Bridge’, ‘High Alone’, ‘Secrets’, ‘I Booked An Ambulance’, ‘Sweet Mildura’, ‘Save’ and ‘Went To The Chapel’

Encore – ‘When We Were Wearing Hagfish’ (New), ‘Walk The Ocean’ and ‘Picture In A Frame’ (Tom Waits Cover)



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