Live Review: Stonefield, The Delta Riggs, and Kingswood – The Standard (27.04.2012)

Kingswood are the first band on stage and they set the ‘70s rock feel early in the night.  Lead singer Fergus Linacre is full of energy as he walks through the crowd and lands on the drum kit at the end of the set. Their music is loud and unrelenting and Linacre is an excellent frontman, encouraging more movement and enthusiasm from the crowd.

Second band The Delta Riggs start with gusto but run into some feedback early in the set. They deal with it well and once it stops it isn’t a problem for the rest of the night. A cover of LCD Soundsystem’s song ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’ comes as a surprise but they make it their own with a harmonica solo at the end.

They’re comfortable on stage and have a real presence, joking with the crowd and each other between songs. The lead singer starts to introduce a song but the guitarist cuts him off before he gets a chance, playing over him.

Rock ‘n’ Roll is alive at The Standard with The Delta Riggs on stage, as they continue through their set with long guitar solos and raw energy. The lead singer jumps on the bass drum and leans towards the drummer in the last song and they end their set having given it their all.

Stonefield arrive on stage to whistles from the crowd and unleash their rocking riffs on us. They move comfortably through the first few songs, giving us a preview of new tracks to look out for. Their age and appearance is something that needs to be mentioned. They’re all young, beautiful and very small in stature. But this has no effect on their music, look away for a moment and you could be listening a rock band who have been together for 20 years playing. They’re technically amazing, and any lead singer who can drum simultaneously deserves credit.

There’s no front woman per se but the guitarist and bassist seem to battle for attention on stage and provide the soul in every song. The bass line drives each song and compliments the drum line perfectly. The sound is clear for the whole set and completely free of feedback. They introduce a “lovey-dovey” song and encourage us to hug the person next to us. With an introduction like that, you’d expect a ballad but the heavy guitar and fast riffs present in their other songs are still there.

Singles ‘Black Water Rising’ and ‘Bad Reality’ receive big welcomes from the crowd but covers of Steppenwolf’s ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ and Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ get the biggest reaction.

Lead singer/drummer Amy Findlay moves to the front of the stage for the encore and while the band wasn’t lacking in stage presence without a frontwoman, her addition to the front of the stage is welcomed.

Their energy and ability for performing is evident from start to finish and it is refreshing to watch a band who clearly love what they do. They finish with the aforementioned cover of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and manage to bring a new edge to a song that is already near perfect.

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: Tumbleweed, The Treatment, and Cabins – The Annandale (14.04.2012)

Cabins were the first band on stage at The Annandale and as more people shuffled in, the better they seemed to play. They’re a band doing the rounds of small Sydney venues and their work has started to pay off. 

Their sexy cover of Edwyn Collins’s ‘Never Met a Girl Like You Before’ just keeps getting better. They have a definite stage presence that has improved along with their confidence as a band, showing that they’re worthy of more attention. 

Though crowd banter still isn’t their strength, the fact they’re addressing the crowd throughout the show is a nice change from the first time I saw them. They finish the set with their hit ‘Catcher In The Rye’ that has most moving and some dancing. 

The Treatment are next to play and are loud from the start.
The lead singer urges the crowd to move closer to listen and promises the band doesn’t bite. They’re incredibly comfortable on stage and continue their assault on our ears for the whole set, with a long list of rocking tracks.

Their style is consistent but it would be worth them mixing it up with a slow track here and there, if for no other reason but to give our ears a break. After a set of rock and roll, they shuffle off stage and leave an almost full Annandale Hotel behind.

Tumbleweed arrive on stage and are welcomed by a rowdy crowd, with many wearing flannelette. Lead singer Richie Lewis starts to dance and only stops between songs for the rest of the set. Long hair is being swung around everywhere and the first few rows of the crowd can be seen pogoing up and down during ‘Sundial (Mary Jane)’.

The first part of the set goes quickly without a break between songs, until they introduce a new one. It’s clear that most are here for their hits, with one guy saying “What the fuck, I’d rather hear an old song!” and another calling out for ‘Acid Rain!’ at every chance he got.

Lewis keeps moving around the stage and jumps up on the drum kit during a long solo. The band’s passion for playing live is clear and it’s resonating with the crowd, evident from the number of people crowd surfing.

It’s a rough gig, with one guy almost losing his pants while crowd surfing and another falling over twice, once on his face. That said, there’s no aggression, everyone is getting into the stoner rock vibe.

‘Daddy Long Legs’ is the obvious stand out of this set, with an extended solo and many jumping the whole way through. Showing no signs of slowing, Tumbleweed thrash through another four songs. Lewis mentions their first experiences playing in Sydney at The Lansdowne and says “We should try and relive our past glories for as long as they can last.”

They walk off stage, leaving us with ringing ears and a sense of nostalgia.

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: Underground Lovers and The Laurels – Oxford Art Factory (17.02.2012)

The Laurels use their shoe gaze style and long guitar solos to create a psychedelic atmosphere and it’s easy to get lost in. They win over a gradually filling Oxford Art Factory with their dreamy vocals and clear enthusiasm.

It’s hard to stay focused with their dreamy sound making your mind drift and lose concentration through their set. They achieve a well-blended sound by making each song move slowly into the next so there are no chances to be brought back to earth in a silent moment. The Laurels are obviously comfortable with their sound and with each other on stage and I look forward to seeing them play again.

Underground Lovers walk out and are greeted by an almost full Oxford Art Factory, a crowd made up of old and new fans delighted to see them. Though not everyone is excited – the girl asleep on the lounge next to me might have gone too hard too early to be able to enjoy their show properly.

The sound at Oxford Art Factory can’t be faulted at any stage of the night; they achieved a perfect mix for every instrument on stage and that results in an engaged and happy crowd.

The visual effects they used throughout the show, a video flickering between a girl’s face and a snow scene, fits their slow building tracks well. They rely on that slow build with each song but often don’t get to a climax. It’s the last few songs of the set that stand out and have the crowd dancing pushing to move closer to the stage. Despite being able to hear people’s conversations over two of the songs in their encore, Underground Lovers played a fun and smooth set, showing us they’re still great performers and a band worth going to see live.

Live Review: The Drums and Cults – Metro Theatre (08.02.2011)

It’s usually a bad sign when you can hear people’s conversations over the band that’s playing. And, disappointingly, this was the case for most of Cults’ set. This was a band who don’t look comfortable playing together and who aren’t sure of what to do with themselves on stage.

Lead singer Madeleine Filon doesn’t move at all while she sings, preferring to stay in front of the microphone at all times. She doesn’t address the crowd either, that’s left to Brian Oblivion. They don’t make much of an effort to connect with their audience and when they close with ‘Oh My God’, it comes as a relief.

The Drums walk out late but they’re quickly forgiven for this as they jump, quite literally, into their set. Telling us they love playing sideshows because they can play what they want, they launch into ‘Best Friend’ from their self-titled debut, a surprisingly upbeat song about a friend dying.

Lead singer Jonathan Pierce causes mass hysteria when he takes off his jacket and throws it into the crowd, making everyone in the first three rows scream and lunge for it. The best thing about watching this band is their infectious energy and obvious love of performing. Pierce even tells us that tonight is: “Absolutely the best night of their new year,” a comment easy to believe after seeing the response they’re getting from this crowd.

Single ‘Money’ is played early and gets a huge reception, with the crowd almost drowning Pierce’s voice singing the catchy hook “But I don’t have any money,” and it’s impossible to stand still or wipe the smile from my face while they play it. This is an early standout and highlight until they play ‘Let’s Go Surfing’. It’s amazing that this somewhat simple, happy song gets the reaction it does. Watching Pierce bend towards the crowd and hearing everyone sing “Down, down baby, down by the rollercoaster. Sweet, sweet baby, I’ll never let you go,” along with him is the height of the set.

The biggest disappointment was turning around and noticing that the top level of The Metro was almost empty after ‘Let’s Go Surfing’. Those who left early missed out, since The Drums gave their all until the very end of the show. It will be hard to find a band more committed to having fun and pleasing their audience.

Live Review: Anna Calvi and Twin Shadow – Oxford Art Factory (06.02.2012)

Twin Shadow look comfortable on stage together from the start of their set at Oxford Art Factory, opening for one Anna Calvi in their joint Laneway Festival sideshow. Every instrument sounds clear, all members on stage are painfully cool and fashionable-looking and the crowd are clearly enjoying themselves.

Singer George Lewis Jnr’s vocals aren’t loud enough in the first three songs, at times drowned by the bass and drums. However, this is fixed during ‘When We’re Dancing’ and the rest of the set continues without any problems. The stage goes dark between songs but Lewis Jnr calls for “some light in this mother fucker!” to tell us how much he’s enjoyed touring Australia for Laneway Festival.

‘Track Slow’ is anything but and causes groups of people to start dance-offs in front of the stage. The energy continues through to the set’s standout ‘At My Heels’; Lewis Jnr’s happiness is contagious and makes it impossible to stand still. Twin Shadow finish their set with the beautiful ‘Tether Beat’ and leave us without an encore.

Anna Calviand her band arrive on stage and play instrumental album intro ‘Rider to the Sea’. Her passion is evident as soon as she strums her guitar and the sounds she can get from it are overwhelming.

As the set progresses, I can’t help but wonder why her microphone isn’t turned up loud enough. To have had an incredible sounding set from Twin Shadow earlier and then be disappointed by Calvi’s vocals isn’t what I expected. This was no fault of Calvi’s, her passion and effort on stage could be seen at all times but her voice couldn’t be heard clearly enough from under her guitar and the drums.

To her credit, she was professional enough to not mention this between songs, rather just gesture shyly for her microphone to be turned up. Since focusing on her voice wasn’t possible in this set, our attention was pointed toward her guitar playing. The sexy intro to ‘I’ll Be Your Man’ and the extended solo in ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’ were so good they almost made my jaw hit the ground. It’s impossible to watch someone play with so much passion and skill and not be swept away within it.

Calvi isn’t much for stage banter, giving us only a few quiet “thank you”s and barely a bow when she walks off at the end of the set. New song ‘Jezebel’ is all we get for an encore and when it’s over, she seems to sigh with relief. The problems with her vocals meant there was less crowd-engagement than there should have been and unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one disappointed by that.

Live Review: Stone Parade, Freestate, and Is it Her – The Gaelic (03.02.2012)

The Gaelic looks full when I enter but there’s a lot of room at the front, close to the stage. The crowd are hanging back through Sydney band Is It Her’s set which is disappointing, since this band are energetic and look like they’re having fun. Even their rocking cover of The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside’ wasn’t enough to get everyone dancing, sadly only one person runs to the front.

Freestate are on next, and they make it clear from the start they’re a band that want to capture and keep a crowd’s attention. Lead singer Drew Kario is at the edge of the stage for most of the set and uses the space well, moving to stand with the bass player and guitarist during their solos.
They’re the loudest band of the night and incredibly passionate but the one thing they lack is contrast. To someone who doesn’t know their music well, each song sounds too similar to the one before. Technically they’re perfect together, but some experimenting with different song-writing styles could help them become more interesting.

Stone Parade launch into their first song and are tight from the start. Lead singer Greg Byrne urges people “Move down the front, there’s heaps of room!” but sadly, it’ll take more than that to move them. Even when Byrne tries to start a sing along, the crowd participation is disappointing. It’s no fault of the band’s though, it’s a shame people are too cool for a bit of fun.

The set goes smoothly, something that can be attributed to the sound quality at The Gaelic and the band’s clear love of performing. They look comfortable together, play with passion without it looking forced and move naturally around the stage.

Byrne uses a tambourine during the guitar solos, and since you can’t hear it, it appears to just be something for him to do. He grabs an acoustic guitar for a new song and warns us it’s the first time he’s played one live – an unnecessary warning, since there’s no sign of any nerves when he starts to play.

The band appeared on Sunrise on Sunday morning, Byrne wanted us to catch them performing ‘Mr Spaceman’, but I can say with confidence that not many people here would have gotten up that early.

They finish with crowd-pleaser ‘Somebody Will Miss You’ and have one more attempt at achieving crowd participation. They’re more successful at getting us to clap this time and we leave on a high, having watched a rocking Sydney band play a great set.

Live Review: Active Child, Caitlin Park, and Oliver Tank – Oxford Art Factory (29.01.2012)

The Oxford Art Factory is close to full while first performer of the night, Oliver Tank, plays an interesting but somewhat quiet set. The sound on stage doesn’t fade between songs, so all of them blend together nicely. He finishes the set off with single ‘Up All Night’, which gets a positive reception; it’s just a shame that people’s conversations are carrying and can be heard over his voice.

Caitlin Park is next and her uniqueness is unfortunately lost on a lot of people in the crowd. Again, more are concerned with their own conversations rather than paying attention, which is a shame, because it detracts from the set. Accompanied by Eliza Fawcett, who is performing beat-boxing and hand-clapping duties, Caitlin breezes through the set and urges us to buy one of her CDs. Not only for the music but also for a “film fact” – there’s one in every CD. They tell us Active Child’s sound-check “blew them away,” and leave us waiting in anticipation.

Active Child start their set with ‘You Are All I See’, the title track from their 2011 album. Pat Grossi wastes no time in winning our attention and our hearts with his amazing voice and beautiful harp playing to match.

Well-known single ‘Hanging On’ makes its appearance early, something that surprised me. It’s played perfectly and all are enthralled at the beauty and passion it’s delivered with. Grossi soon moves onto a keyboard and while his harp playing is faultless, he looks more comfortable behind the keyboard.

The sound cannot be criticised, every instrument fits together flawlessly and though the walls are vibrating from the bass, it doesn’t drown Grossi’s voice or his harp at any stage. The set moves through songs from You Are All I See and we’re also treated to ‘Take Shelter’ from older EP Curtis Lane. The band’s mood on stage changes when they play it and more confidence shines through their performance.

Grossi comments it’s “hot as fuck” which prompts the reply “Take your shirt off!” from audience members. Grossi says he’s leaving it on because there would be “too many freckles for one audience.”

Though ‘Hanging On’ was probably the song most were waiting to see, it’s ‘See Thru Eyes’ that’s the stand out of this set. Every instrument on stage vibrates and resonates; Grossi’s voice is the best it’s been all night.

They play an encore to the audience calling for “One more song!” and leave us to reflect on the heartfelt lyrics and deeply moving music we heard.