Live Review: Hunting Grounds and Gung Ho – Goodgod Small Club (10.08.2012)

Gung Ho were on stage making the crowd do the awkward shuffle-dance. Their appreciation to be supporting Hunting Grounds was evident early on and their enthusiasm only grew throughout the set. The only thing that let them down was a disappointing mix in the last song – the bass was too loud for the small space – but they didn’t show any signs of being annoyed and just got on with delivering.

The six members of Hunting Grounds crammed onto the small stage, among them a drum kit with an extra snare, two guitars, a bass and a keyboard. They swap the lead vocals around between the guitarists and the keyboardist, who provides great harmonies in the rest of the songs in the set. They interact well with the crowd throughout the show, and the lead singer even plays with someone’s phone mid-song between stage diving.

Choice banter: “This is pretty heavy, feel free to move your legs. Move closer to the stage. This is when the party starts. It’s a rock time. It’s a mosh tune. It’s gonna rain blood. I’m gonna rain blood all over you. Get ready for my man period,” and (while crowd-surfing) “I’m like Spiderman!”

They’ve matured as a live band, something that’s evident from the fun they create from start to finish and the way they interact with each other on stage. The way they’re able to swap between vocalists and play each other’s instruments at different times is a true indication of their talent.

While they did play on old song by “a band called Howl”, the rest of the set was made up of songs from their new album In Hindsight. ‘Flaws’ and ‘Kill My Friends’ were standouts of the night, both had the moshpit thriving.

Among the new songs, Hunting Grounds pulled out a couple of covers – Gorillaz’s ‘Clint Eastwood’ and No Doubt’s ‘Hella Good’. I don’t know if it’s acceptable to say that six Aussie guys are just as sexy as Gwen Stefani singing that song, but I’m going to say it anyway. The addition of the line “come over here!” to the bridge added an edge to the song and, at the danger of sounding like a talent show judge, made it their own.

Their set was well-received, judging by the moshpit keen on helping the lead singer crowd surf, and they displayed their maturity as performers and song writers for the whole night.

Live Review: The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Raveonettes – Metro Theatre (17.05.2012)

The somewhat androgynous and Sonic Youth-esque Ravonettes played a set that showcased all of their albums and diversity. Ranging between melancholy at the start and rocking at the end, they were successful in getting everyone’s attention.

They continued to thank us for watching and commented on how much they love being in Sydney, before playing their last song. The long guitar solo and heavy bass in their last song created an atmosphere just right for headliners.

All eight members of The Brian Jonestown Massacre shuffled out on stage and arranged themselves behind their instruments, some take more time than others. Joel Gion picks up a tambourine and stands in front of a microphone while Matt Hollywood and Anton Newcombe take a few minutes to set up their guitars.

They kick off with ‘Stairway To The Best Party In The Universe’ from new album Aufheben and then move quickly into older song ‘Vacuum Boots’. They don’t leave much room between songs for stage banter except for a few quick thank yous.

The whole room smells of weed but it’s unclear if it’s coming from the stage or the crowd before a security guard spots someone with a joint in the first few rows, takes it off them and throws it on the ground. The same security guard is on his game later when he tackles a girl who jumped over the barrier before she reaches the stage.

A crowd member requests a song and Anton replies: “I’m 44 years old, I don’t take requests! Go to Hungry Jacks or something. Do you do everything Tony Abbott tells you to do?” Old songs ‘Anenome’, ‘This is Why You Love Me’ and ‘Super-Sonic’ unsurprisingly get the best reception from the crowd, but then ‘Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth’ and the rare ‘Open Heart Surgery’ raise the reactions.

The last songs in the set sound perfect, every instrument is balanced, everyone can be heard and the feedback has stopped. Hollywood and Newcombe jam together and Gion mills around hitting his tambourine and shaking maracas.

The highlight comes when Hollywood takes over on lead vocals to sing ‘Oh Lord’ and gets everyone moving. Though everyone on stage is talented and capable, it’s Newcombe that makes everything happen. No one plays a note until he gives the signal.

They finish with an extended version of Boardwalk Empire theme song ‘Straight Up and Down’ with a sample of The Rolling Stones’ song ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ and keep the stage in complete darkness with guitars resonating while they walk off.

Live Review: The Rubens, Sures, and OXBLVD – Goodgod Small Club (16.04.2012)

OXBLVD start the night at Goodgod Small Club, the lead singer looks the part of a country/blues/rock band with a wide-brimmed hat and boots. The band’s energy on stage is infectious, they’re obviously comfortable playing together and in front of an audience.

They definitely would have won some fans by giving away copies of their new single ‘Tease Me’, a fun toe-tappingly catchy, thigh-slap worthy song. They finish their set with a rocking version of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ and manage to bring a new edge to it.
Judging on their stage presence and catchy singles, OXBLVD are definitely a band to look out for.

Sures were next up, a band who seem to be finding their feet on stage. Fresh off a support slot for Bleeding Knees Club on the weekend, the band could be forgiven for appearing flat.

Each song in their set sounded the same as the last and the drums were so heavy it was hard to hear the lead singer’s voice over them. A couple of problems with feedback in their microphones meant the end of their set came almost as a relief. With some more contrast and time on stage together, Sures would be a great band to dance to.

The Rubens open strongly and work through their first few songs easily. Their mix of long guitar solos, heartfelt lyrics and a strong bass line is a great combination. There’s only one problem with long guitar solos, it’s easy to lose interest in them if you have a short attention span.

This is true of the couple who decide everyone nearby needs to hear their conversation. They’re not loud enough to be offensive, just annoying and it detracts from the atmosphere of the show. The Rubens’ set is mainly an introduction to the album they’ll release later this year but singles ‘My Gun’ and ‘Cowboy Song’ are also well-received.

Apart from a speaker crackling and a bit of microphone feedback halfway through the set, the sound is faultless. Lead singer Sam Margin’s voice is full of emotion, especially in ‘Stand For You’. This angsty, almost angry song is the peak of the set – until ‘Lay It Down’.

It’s so well recognised, the first note makes the crowd erupt into cheers. The ballad has everyone going through their own moment and is definitely the highlight of the set. From what we’ve heard tonight, the album The Rubens will release later this year is definitely one to look forward to.

Live Review: Ball Park Music, Nantes, and Cub Scouts – The Factory Theatre (01.04.2012)

Cub Scouts were on stage when I got to The Factory and they sounded amazing. The small group at the front of the stage who weren’t sitting around on the floor were appreciative of the Brisbane five-piece’s efforts. Songs ‘Evie’ and ‘Do You Hear’ get a great response, no doubt thanks to the recent airplay they’ve received on triple j.

Nantes are on next and they move through their set with ease, following a formula of bass, keys and angsty vocals in most songs. They’re accompanied by an excited girl in the front row who yells “I love Nantes!” between songs, only to be met with “Whoa” from the lead singer. We get a good insight into what to expect soon from this band and though a lot of it sounds very similar, they have a lot of promise. Their enthusiasm for playing live is evident, especially in single Fly that closes their set.

About five minutes after Ball Park Music are due on stage, someone makes an announcement that the band won’t be playing tonight. Their attempt at an April Fool’s joke probably had a few people worried but not worried enough to leave the venue. The band walked out on stage to Dick Dale’s ‘Miserlou’ before ripping into ‘Literally Baby’.

Lead singer Sam Cromack launches himself off his amp at various times, jumps on the drum kit, sculls beers and falls on the ground, all while delivering strong vocals and sometimes while playing guitar. Even when they play new songs that no one knows, the band’s energy is high and they encourage crowd participation at every chance.

The hits come one after another with ‘Rich People Are Stupid’, the song Cromack says is “about wanking” ‘Sad Rude Future Dude’ and of course ‘iFly’. The best moment of the night is when Cromack is kneeling on his amp, keeping us all quiet before the last chorus in ‘iFly’. Someone yells out “Have my babies!”, Cromack replies with “Did you just tell me to have a baby? I’m a male! You can fuck me in the arse a few times and try though.”

‘It’s Nice To Be Alive’ finishes the set before the encore and we’re treated to confetti and streamers flying through the air. Guitarists Brock Smith and Dean Hanson have a jam until the rest of the band arrive and then kill a cover of The Kinks’ ‘All Day and All of the Night.’ 

Cromack jumps off stage and runs past the barrier to out-stretched arms then gets back on stage to jump on the drum kit and on top of both guitarists. He finishes the song on the floor and it’s clear from his face that he’s given us everything tonight.

Live Review: Bombay Bicycle Club and Megastick Fanfare – Metro Theatre (29.03.2012)

Sydney band Megastick Fanfare were the support act for Bombay Bicycle Club and looked excited to be opening for them. If only their enthusiasm could have improved the sound in their set. There’s a bit of feedback from an amp early on, the mix doesn’t do the number of instruments on stage any justice and it’s impossible to tell if the lead singer is singing any lyrics, or just yelling to be heard over the drums.

It’s not until the fourth song that any lyrics can be understood and once the problems were fixed, the band started to enjoy themselves and relax. Megastick Fanfare have a unique sound and style, incorporating barking noises into a song is one example, and it’s a shame their set was almost ruined by disappointing sound.

The Metro is completely full – mainly of young girls in shorts – and the all ages aspect of this gig is painfully obvious when you look down at the dance floor. Bombay Bicycle Clubarrive on stage to screams and cheers and open with ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep.’

The set moves on nicely, with the band concentrating on songs from their latest album A Different Kind of Fix. There isn’t any real standout in the first half of the set, the band keeps their energy levels high and lead singer Jack Steadman keeps the crowd pleased by encouraging singalongs at every chance.

In fact, in songs ‘Cancel On Me’ and ‘Always Like This’ the crowd takes over and drowns the band out more than once, until Steadman holds the microphone out to the first few rows so they can sing: “I’m not whole, I’m not whole”. The amount of energy in the crowd towards the end is probably to do with this being an all ages gig and the number of cameras and iPhones in the air at any given time is another indication of this.

The band are smart and leave their biggest hit ‘Shuffle’ until the encore and the crowd explodes into pogo-dancing, camera-extending, hand-waving delight. It’s not everyone’s idea of a “hit” though, two people next to me start to argue about the emotion or lack thereof coming from Steadman as he plays. I overhear a comment about his being a ‘General Pants ad song’ but this opinion clearly isn’t shared by others in the room singing the chorus back to the band and jumping up and down screaming.

Bombay Bicycle Club finish their set on a more energetic note with ‘What If’ and leave a satisfied and sweaty crowd behind.

Live Review: The Whitest Boy Alive, New Navy, Future Classic DJs – Keystone Festival Bar (21.01.2012)

The Keystone Festival Bar is filling up early, and unlike other Sydney Festival shows that attract families and “cultured” people, it’s filling with groups of mates here to get their dance on. Future Classic DJ’s help with that before New Navy arrive to play a fun and funky set. Their happy tunes get the crowd moving early and singles ‘Zimbabwe’ and ‘Tapioca’ are standouts of their show. They’re a delight to watch and they have an unbeatable stage presence.

The Festival bar really gives you the feel of being at a festival, despite being in the middle of the city and set on floorboards, not grass. There’s that one annoying person you can’t escape no matter how many times you move, the group of people sharing a bottle of smuggled vodka and even the occasional joint being passed around.

The Whitest Boy Alive arrive on stage to cheers and whistles, and open with ‘Keep A Secret’ from the 2009 album ‘Rules’. Their first few tracks blend in to one another, with each solo taking off on a tangent long enough to get people moving but not long enough to become boring. Each musical journey they take us on is a slow-build to an amazing climax and the band succeed at pleasing the crowd every time.

Lead singer Erlend Øye tries the best he can to get us to clap along throughout the show but it’s hard to concentrate on clapping when you’re dancing your arse off. The bands’ energy on stage is electric and this travels through the crowd, who show off their best moves all night. It’s only in the short gaps between songs and later during ‘Don’t Give Up’ that there’s a chance to rest. Øye, the confident but humble front man, says: “We were very happy to find out this show sold out in two days. We would like to know why?”

Standout moments such as stopping mid-song then not moving for a good 30 seconds in ‘1517’ and having Daniel Nentwig hold and play his synthesiser at the edge of the stage, during a blistering cover of ‘Show Me Love’ are among the reasons this show sold out. The Whitest Boy Alive are faultless performers, with every member on stage mastering their instrument to deliver an unforgettable show.

Live Review: Canyons – Civic Undergound (15.12.2011)

DJ Steele Bonus was playing to an empty room when I walked into The Civic, a shame since his funky music was perfect in the background and was a great way to start the night. As the bar started to fill, so did the dance-floor until the whole room was packed. DJ Steele Bonus had us in the mood to dance, perfect for Canyons.

They started off strong with the sexy tones of ‘See Blind Through’, which makes everyone on the floor start moving. People are climbing on top of the seats of the booths near the bar to be able to see the stage, one guy kindly apologises for doing this when he kicks me in the head.

‘Circaida’, the opener from album Keep Your Dreams is next, not as upbeat but a good way to ease into the set. The Civic is the perfect venue for Canyons to debut at, the sound is perfect and every note of each song, despite the complicated arrangements, is clear.

Single ‘My Rescue’ gets a huge reception and when played live, sounds just as intense as it does on the album. The vocals aren’t as strong as they could be here but that’s the only criticism I can give. They make the most of every instrument on stage and make them all work together. The fact that this is their first live show is shocking, since they sound so damn good and look so comfortable playing.

The band aren’t much for banter between songs but thank us every so often and sound amazed there are so many people out to watch them tonight. The stand out song of the set is definitely the crazy ‘Blue Snakes’. With its tribal percussion and driving beat, I feel like I’m in a jungle. The vocals channel cavemen swinging on trees, a feeling you wouldn’t expect to have while underground in the middle of Sydney. They close with the epic ‘And We Dance’ and its long intro mixed with a huge build up makes it explode on the dance floor.

The long jam session at the end of each song showcases every musician on stage’s talent. It makes it almost impossible to believe that this was their first live gig and if they can continue to deliver the atmosphere they’ve created tonight, they should win more fans. They’re definitely a band to go out of your way to see live.

Live Review: Slow Down Honey and The Upskirts – Spectrum (19.11.2011)

Seeing a band at Spectrum kind of feels like watching a band play in a garage. With a bar. The stage is small and only just above the ground, there are a few seats on the sides and there isn’t a lot of light. It’s a cool place and really adds to the garage/indie band feel of tonight.

The Upskirts are late on stage but make up for it by playing with a lot of energy as they fly through their support set. They start things off by playing the wrong song but this is the only mistake to speak of. The sound is clear, but not too polished, and their catchy guitar riffs are a lot of fun to move along to.
They get through their songs quickly, but there’s a reason, the lead singer says “So we’re just going to power through, ‘cos everyone’s running super late. We can’t talk too much.” They finish with ‘Red Trenchcoats’ from Vacations and this melodic song with a long guitar solo is a great contrast to the rest of the energetic and loud set. They rush off stage and we’re left to wait for Slow Down Honey. We’re treated to The Strokes and Modest Mouse playing over the speakers between bands and as the room starts to fill, more people are starting to dance.

Slow Down Honey are ready on stage after a particularly long sound check and start strong, playing quickly through their catchy songs. They look happy to be there and it’s so refreshing to see a band who obviously love playing live.

There’s some feedback early on, which is quickly fixed, but doesn’t take away from how well the band are playing. It doesn’t affect the crowd’s enthusiasm either; the two girls next to me are grinding each other.
The band are launching their new EP In The Red tonight, definitely something to go and listen to. Catchy single ‘Tell Me What You Want’ features on the EP and it has a lot of people dancing together through the quickly filling Spectrum.

Other songs ‘Hypnotized’ and ‘You Let The Whole World Down’ are just as catchy but it’s single ‘One I Know’ that’s tonight’s highlight. The Central Coast band delivered their fine-tuned and fun pop songs incredibly well tonight. These songs, combined with their enthusiasm on stage, made for a memorable night and I hope to get the chance to see them live again soon.

Live Review: The Cruel Sea and Cabins – The Metro Theatre (18.11.2011)

Upon first impression, Cabins are a band that take their music very seriously. The effort put in to creating their sound is apparent on stage, from the drummer pounding away to the bass player concentrating intently on playing the right notes. The Metro is filling up from the back but there aren’t many people on the floor and some people are showing how interested they are by sitting down.

About halfway through the set, the lead singer encourages everyone to get up, because the next song is a bit “dance-y.” They start playing Edwyn Collins‘ ‘Never Met a Girl Like You Before’, a great cover, that had a few people get up for a dance. The rest of their set goes well, with ‘Catcher in the Rye’ being the highlight. The only criticism I have, is that I cannot understand a word the lead singer says between songs. I don’t know if it’s the sound, shyness or something else but it’s a drawback. They stumble off stage and start packing up their gear, making way for The Cruel Sea.

The band come on stage before Tex Perkins and it’s not until the intro to ‘It’s Alright (Cos She Loves Me)’ starts that he walks out on stage. From the moment he starts singing, he’s got everyone’s attention.
Perkins is wearing a white blazer over a black shirt and jeans and says: “As you can see, we did not talk about what we were going to wear on stage, rest of the band thought it was kind of casual,” They move into ‘Anybody But You’ and then ‘No Choice’. A member of the audience is so excited, she yells out “Giddy up!” in the middle of the song. She doesn’t approve of the next song, however, and yells out “Yeaaaah they’re alright,” during ‘A Simple Goodbye’.

Perkins is comfortable on stage, he moves with confidence and even pulls out some dance moves to match the lyrics he’s singing. It’s impossible to stop watching him as he swaggers through each song; his voice combined with the soulful guitar has everyone moving. When he sings the first line of ‘Delivery Man’ “Whatever you want I got it by the dozen, I got it by the pound. Gimme a call,” he makes a phone symbol with his hand and then says “Hello?” before singing the next line “I’ll bring it ‘round.” The action is somewhat simple but it’s funny seeing Perkins talk into his hand like it’s a phone.

By this stage, the sexy guitar riffs are making me and the rest of the crowd swoon, the sound is faultless. That’s until the next song, when the band start to play and Perkins stops them by saying “That was piss weak!” and makes them start again.

He growls his way through ‘Better Get A Lawyer’ and then introduces the next song by saying “This song won song of the year … in ahh … 90 fucking … ahhh … three,” then kicks into ‘The Honeymoon is Over’. All of the songs so far have been received well but ‘Honeymoon…’ has everyone cheering and clapping.

The encore starts without Perkins on stage and when he appears he starts to whistle. They play ‘This Is Not The Way Home’, and during the guitar solo, Perkins says “This is the Midnight Oil section of the song. Don’t it sound like Austraaaaya?” He even throws in some lyrics from ‘Beds are Burning’ and says “It’s a bloody good question. If my bed’s on fire, I probably won’t sleep. You generally wake up or you don’t live. It’s the message of that song.”

They finish the song off and leave the stage. Perkins paces the stage before the rest of the band join him and they finish the night with an energetic version of ‘Cocaine’.

Live Review: The Rescue Ships, Inland Sea, and Jackson McLaren – FBi Social Club (22.10.2011)

When I walked into FBi Social, there was a guy on stage talking about Fairy Meadows. I thought for a moment that was his name, which would have been cute, but found out later it’s actually Jackson McLaren. He said he didn’t have a setlist worked out for the gig and is “A lazy musician. A broke, lazy musician. A broke, lazy, hungover musician,” which gets a good laugh from the slowly-filling FBi Social Club.

The strangest part of the set was when he told a story about someone getting injured at a party and went into great detail about the blood he saw. The story was such a sharp contrast to the lovely imagery he’d created in his previous songs but a perfect intro to the song ‘Oh My God, I Know.’

He calls up a girl from the crowd to play violin and we see her later on stage with Inland Sea. McLaren finishes up his set with the catchy and funky song ‘Farewell This House’ that makes me think of driving to the beach during summer holidays. His lyrics are full of description and he takes us with him to all sorts of places.

Inland Sea cram their ten members on the small FBi Social stage and for a moment I think it’s going to be a disaster. A cello, a violin, a mixture of guitars and drums and five singers, could sound like a mess if one note is missed. But I needn’t have worried.

Inland Sea were note perfect in every bar and harmony they put together. It’s a struggle for them to move at times as they change positions and instruments but they make the most of the little space they have. They create a beautiful atmosphere and during second song ‘All Fall Down’ remind me of a Hillsong Church choir – but in a good way. The crowd quietens down during third song ‘No Time’ from their new EP. For a moment I forgot I was meant to be reviewing the show since I was so captivated by what was happening on stage.

We’re introduced to Beau Frith, who looks a bit like Alan from The Hangover, and he sings the slightly more upbeat and heavier ‘The Only One’. They finish the set with a hoedown-feeling song and urge everyone to “come and dance!” Though it must be hard to have ten people dance and play on a small stage, they pull it off, and finish up their flawless set.

The Rescue Ships arrive on stage and tell a story about a rude security guard they encountered and say the next song is called ‘I Hate You’ just for him. Though the sound was perfect for Inland Sea and Jackson McLaren, The Rescue Ships experience a little feedback early on.

This is quickly fixed and we’re able to hear the rest of their set clearly. The whole gig feels like a big party, since it’s the last one of the tour, and The Rescue Ships tell us funny stories about “guys on pingers” in Wollongong and “deep-throating equipment” in Manly.
The bass player has just turned 21, so they celebrate with shots and sing Happy Birthday. The crowd doesn’t sing until guitarist Brian Campeau yells “You guys suck, sing!”

Their banter with the crowd is better than Inland Sea’s but The Rescue Ships don’t quite create the atmosphere Inland Sea did. It seems I’m not the only who thinks this, singer Elana Stone told a story about someone who said Inland Sea were amazing but The Rescue Ships are just “good” and feels a little inferior.

But there doesn’t appear to be any negativity between the two bands as everyone gets up to dance during catchy single ‘On The Air’, the band’s last song before an encore. The Rescue Ships come back to do a cover of Rufus Wainright’s ‘Vibrate’. The band sing it well and sound great doing it, but it’s a bit of a downer and a sombre end to an otherwise fun and folkish set.