GIG review: Baby Beef at the Midnight Special

It’s Saturday afternoon and the weather hasn’t quite decided if it wants to be warm or wet yet. In a smaller-than-expected bar, the two core – and original – members of Baby Beef are chatting with friends before their show. The atmosphere is relaxed, calm, quietly confident and, honestly, quite lovely. These qualities are not lost as the two men take to the small corner stage that awaits them. Their performance is one that makes me forget the indecisive weather outside, enveloped instead by the experimental art-pop, synthesised, and (most importantly) fun sound that is Baby Beef.

Baby Beef is a local band that has been performing across the Inner West since 2018. The only members present on the afternoon of February 18 were Hewett Cook and Cameron Stephens (AKA Christian Values), but the two singers’ strong vocals were more than enough to fill the room. Listeners of Baby Beef will recognise this highly contrasted, yet deeply complementary duo, with Cook’s deep bass paired with Stephens’ (dare I say) angelic voice. In person, the sound has a dreamlike quality and is similar to ABBA if ABBA chilled out (this comparison has been unapologetically appropriated from the band’s own description on Spotify, but it was so good I had to use it).

The setlist consisted of a few new songs, to be released on Baby Beef’s upcoming album, and (to my great pleasure) a couple of old favourites. Highlights included “Love 2 the Frontline,” “Cruising 4 Barns,” and the yet unreleased “Whoa There!,” “Time 4 Us,” and “Midnight Man.” Of course, despite all these new gems, the 2018 classic “Chicken or the Goose” will always have my heart, as will their 2021 release “It Stings.” As always, the boys’ (highly requested/yelled for) encore of “Better Yet” got everyone up on their feet and singing along – even those who had never heard the song before. 

Discussing the show after, Cook called the show “a breath of fresh air.”

“As we’re honing in on the completion of the next EP, it was refreshing to test some of the new songs in a live setting and to break up our studio time in such a quaint and intimate forum,” he said.

The forum in question, the Midnight Special, definitely fits this description, and only added to the great vibes created by Cook and Stephens. Posters commemorating the likes of Janis Joplin and Billie Holiday decorate the walls and the lighting is dimmed to the point of intimacy and cosiness, rather than unpleasant almost-darkness. 

In Cook’s words, “The Midnight Special is a cute space, and we love cute spaces.” 

I will say the drinks were a bit pricey ($11 for a schooner!) but unfortunately this is the world we live in nowadays (I don’t even want to talk about the recent inflation on Red Rock Deli chips but I do want everyone to know about it. I’m furious). 

The crowd, again, worked in tandem with Baby Beef to the betterment of all. A small dance floor was consistent throughout the gig, growing in number as the afternoon wore on. Cook and Stephens’ casual banter in between songs worked to make the crowd even more comfortable, inviting us across the barrier between audience and performer. Key moments included the struggle to remember a movie about a sibling that was actually a blanket and the discovery that Cook’s $3 win on a scratchie was in fact the much larger jackpot of $300. 

With their dreamlike sound and welcoming stage-presence, Baby Beef are definitely a band worth watching and I highly recommend keeping an eye on their socials to catch their next gig (@baby.beef on Instagram). Despite their afternoon at the Midnight Special being a much smaller affair than their usual MO, Cook and Stephens proved themselves capable of filling any space with, quite simply, good music. 

They’re cool, they’re relaxed, they’ve got amazing voices. They’re Baby Beef. 

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