Archive of ‘Gig Reviews’ category

Splendour in The Grass Review

SplendourIt’s that time of year again. The weather was predictably ominous, gumboot sales hit an annual high and patrons from all over the country migrated to North Byron Parklands for Australia’s premiere music festival, Splendour In The Grass. If you’ve never been to Splendour, then you’ve probably never been to Woodstock either, but it’s something like what you imagine Woodstock to have been like, except with hipsters everywhere instead of hippies.

Day One / Milk was a bad choice…

Day one was hot. Despite the inevitable forecast of rain, the weather couldn’t have been better, with warm sun and endless blue skies in every direction. The day was opened by two incredible emerging artists, Unearthed winner Airling, whose ethereal sounds seem to be drawn straight from a dreamscape, and Fractures, the electronic-indie mastermind behind Won’t Win, a track that has been getting much airtime of late.

Brisbane’s punk-rock two piece, DZ Deathrays followed in the early afternoon. They played a raucous, pyrotechnics savvy set which inspired some early festival moshing, even by those who had chosen to don full costumes and I’ve got to say, there is something quite special about watching a chicken and gorilla square off in a death circle.

The Preatures were up next at the amphitheatre and its easy to see why these guys have risen so quickly to prominence, with front woman Isabella Manfredi had the crowd enraptured from the moment she stepped out on stage. And from their newer stuff like Better Than It Ever Could Be to their defining track, Is This How You Feel?ThePreatures outdid expectations and cemented themselves as one of the highlights of the first day.

As always, Ball Park Music delivered an incredible showing and managed to do the only thing left to make their set more light-hearted and fun, finished with a cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, enough said.

Spiderbait are a band that have always had an incredible rock bravado and that couldn’t have been demonstrated more perfectly than when vocalist/drummer Mark Maher brought his daughter onstage and proclaimed “She is the future of rock and roll!”. Also, you know, Black Betty…bah bah-nah.

The Presets were added to the lineup after the highly anticipated London Grammar dropped out of festival due to illness. And although many would have been undoubtedly disappointed by the change, their dancing shoes would have surely thanked them because The Presets did not disappoint, delivering heavy, electro-dance sounds that had everyone grooving.

Over at the MIx-Up tent, Childish Gambino was reminding everyone why he is quickly becoming the best thing to happen to rap in a long time. Aside from the obvious showing of 3005 and Sweatpants he reworked a bunch of his songs into a mash-up melody, performed an intense, impromptu freestyle and danced the whole set like a piece of ribbon caught in an updraft, the guy is a lord.

Headlining day one of Splendour was Andre 3000 and Big Boi, together forming legendary hip-hop duo Outkast. After some time apart, their comeback had been met with tepid review, but the guys were quick to extinguish any doubts, playing an amazing hour and forty-five minute set with songs from throughout their 20 year career. The capacity crowd sang along in a deafening chorus to Hey Ya! and I’m Sorry Miss Jackson and danced along like the occult to B.O.B. Without a doubt Outkast are back and they truly are so fresh and so clean (probably).

Day Two / Violent Sticky Island Foals, also Dallas Green.

Local act Tora kicked things off on day two of Splendour and their indie-electronic mix drew a substantial crowd considering the early time slot. They were followed a little later by Sydney favourites Sticky Fingers who quickly got the crowd bouncing and jiving to the catchy, reggae riffs of Gold Snafu and Australia Street. And though their outfits would have been just as at home on a 80’s porn set, their sound most definitely belonged on the main amphitheatre stage.

The GW McLennan tent resounded with the whimsical vocals of Dustin Tebbutt, a solo artist whose been making waves since his single The Breach dropped last year. Although it was a slower set, his soothing melodies were a welcome comedown from the downright debauchery that was Sticky Fingers.

The downtime didn’t last for long though as Brisbane four piece, Violent Soho were next to take the amphitheatre stage, playing their biggest show yet. The rough, distorted riffs of Covered In Chrome and Fur Eyes were exactly what the crowd wanted, erupting in a huge mosh with the first chord and never letting up. They were also the second act to bring a toddler onstage, though these guys took out the “more concerning” descriptor when bassist Luke Henery continued thrashing around the admittedly ear-muffed child.

Future Islands have seen a huge surge in popularity since their single, Seasons (Waiting On You) — or more specifically frontman Samuel Herring’s dancing to Seasons (think Peter-Garrett but less terrible) — was unearthed earlier in the year. They proved to be one of the best acts of day two, delivering an awesome synth-pop set to the adoration of the crowd.

The rain that had been threatening the festival all day finally arrived in the early evening, greeting The Jezabels on the amphitheatre stage. Thankfully the vibe remained bone-dry and the crowd danced along enthusiastically to The Jezabels powerful vocals in Easy To Love and the effortless musical progressions of Dark Storm and A Little Piece.

With huge sound, Foals followed up on the main stage, having stepped in to replace the originally billed Two Door Cinema Club. The precipitation wained as the British indie-rock outfit hammered out a set which offered everything from the slower tracks like Blue Blood with it’s defined orchestral beauty, to their more up beat songs in TwoSteps Twice and My Number, both of which caused that indie style of mosh-dancing to permeate the crowd.  Although the omission of Two Door was disappointing, especially at such late notice, Foals’ was easily one of the best performances of the festival and could hardly be seen as a downfall. It’s like reaching into a box of Paddle Pops (rainbow flavoured) and pulling out a Bubble-O-Bill — objectively better, even though both are delicious live acts.

Day two saw Dallas Green as City and Color headline, delivering a powerful and heartfelt performance well into the night. Tracks like Weightless and Sleeping Sickness showcased the Canadian singer’s strong vocals while songs like The Grand Optimist, written for his father, were especially moving. Anyone even vaguely familiar with City andColor would know Green has one of the most hauntingly beautiful voices around and his showing at Splendour only reaffirmed that reputation.

Day Three / And the horse I rode in on.

Day three of Splendour dawned, bringing with it a euphoric wooziness that only a three day festival can provide. The Creases took the stage early on in the day and rocked their single, Static Lines, before New York’s Skaters played a bunch of their Strokes-inspired garage-rock sounds — there must be something special in those New York City garages right?

Melbourne’s rock outfit Kingswood were next to play the amphitheatre, where they dropped their latest single I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me as well as their breakthrough track Ohio, the set ending abruptly with guitarist Alex Laska jumping through the drum kit.

At the Mix-Up stage it was the UK’s modern soul collective Jungle who had the crowd moving to the beat of their punchy dance numbers into the afternoon. Their recent hits Time and Busy Earnin’ were easily the highlights of the set but all their tunes were definitely dance-worthy.

The fun continued over at the amphitheatre in indie-rock form with California’s Grouplove putting on a stellar performance which culminated in the destruction of a pastel-pink acoustic guitar. A huge crowd had flocked in to see everything from their breakout track, Colours, to the ever-popular Tongue Tied, and danced along frantically the whole time.

Scottish electronic trio Cvrches may not be able to spell but my they certainly can put on a live performance. With catchy electronic riffs running deep throughout, impressive, resounding vocals and a tessellating visual backdrop, tunes like Recover, Lies and the more tempered The Mother We Share all captivated the crowd. Centred amongst a minimalistic stage setup, front woman Lauren Mayberry delivered a vocal performance that really seemed at home in the large outdoor amphitheatre.

Experimental indie-rockers Wild Beasts played to a disappointingly small crowd on the GW McLennan stage later that evening, especially given the group’s incredible talent. It did create a distinctly intimate feel, however, the likes of which is usual absent from festival acts. Boasting some of the best harmonised melodies in the business,Wild Beasts played a solid set, showcasing their full musical range and from the intense, layered vocals in All The King’s Men to the gradually building mystique of Hooting and Howling they had the crowd swooning.

With an endearing shyness, singer/songwriter Ben Howard stepped onto the GW McLennan stage, greeted by the deafening applause of an adoring crowd. The low humming of the Foster The People set could be heard in the distance as Howard began, his eerie voice quickly drowning out everything except the careful echo of the crowd as they sang along with every song. Black Flies and a longer, more experimental live version of The Wolves being the highlights of a truly memorable set.

The days were hot, the nights cold and the lines long but this year’s Splendour In The Grass really was a thing of musical dreams.

The Holidays, Step Panther / Wollongong Uni Bar

Holidays

An end of semester bash at Wollongong Uni Bar recently afforded me the opportunity to catch Sydney local’s The Holidays coming off the release of their fantastic second studio album, Reel Feel. The night began with supporting act Step-Panther, a local garage-pop trio, delivering a fast-paced, unapologetic set. Although their offering of gritty lo-fi tracks seemed to have a somewhat polarising effect on the crowd, I was definitely digging their brash riffs and raw sound.
The atmosphere changed for the upbeat when the aptly named, indie-pop outfit The Holidays emerged on stage to deliver a slew of vacation-reminiscent sounds. After milling about eagerly during set-up, the crowd responded to the sensory delight that these guys had in store by erupting in a joyous sea of rhythmic movement before the end of their first song.
With the release of a second album, the group has established a substantial library of much loved songs, all dripping with fanciful, soul-pop sounds and to the delight of an energetic crowd, they threw most of them our way. The set was highlighted by the percussion-heavy ‘2 Days’  from their debut release and ‘All Time High’, a dreamlike single from their latest release that really showcased frontman Simon Jones’ adept vocals. These were followed by the sounds of ‘Home’ which, aside from getting them some serious play on the national airwaves, gave everyone a reason to cast disposition aside and bust an unconditional move.

The Middle Names, The Dark Hawks, Angry Beige / Brighton Up Bar

Middle NamesThings began slowly at the Brighton Up Bar for the Remember Me At All Tour that has seen Hobart’s indie pop-rock outfit The Middle Names travelling about. Things kicked off with support acts Angry Beige - possibly the most daringly contradictory band name of recent memory – and The Black Hawks both delivering intense, seductive sets which at times extended beyond the stage as if to spite the dwindling crowd. The Black Hawks boasted some serious post-rock chops with resounding drum beats and delightfully abrasive guitar riffs complimenting the raw, powerful vocals. I hadn’t heard much of these guys going in but I found myself eagerly tapping along with every one of their songs regardless.

By the time The Middle Names took the stage the crowd had really emerged, eager to see the Tasmanian natives – and they did not disappoint. It was a tight set, showcasing the groups musical range, from the fast paced, punk-pop inspired sounds of ‘Full Friends’ that have come to define the band’s sound, to their homage to spaghetti-westerns in ‘You Came Around’, a song that left few able to resist the temptation to contribute to the inevitable dance-floor hoedown. Their newest track, the headlining ‘Remember Me At All’ also showed off the groups dual vocal musings which really added depth to an already interesting sound and left me anticipating whatever comes next from these guys.

There is something infinitely relatable about The Middle Names and though I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, it didn’t stop me, or anyone else at the Brighton Up Bar, from being totally captivated by there playful, unassuming performance. The group’s candid stage presence managed to create a comforting sense of nostalgia that played at me throughout the set and had me anticipating each song as though their’s was the first album I ever owned. In short you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on these guys.

Gig Review – Jungle Giants, Millions, and Shortstraw @ Metro Theatre

Jungle Giants

The opening night of The Jungle Giants Tuss Tour was certaintly one that I am not going to forget in a while. This is in part because of a sweet line-up of music, and part because it made me question whether mid-twenties males are allowed to like indie pop. (After careful consideration, and the way I bopped along during the night, I decided it was ok).

We got there just after Shortstraw finished, and based off the yells and screams of the crowd, they must have done a pretty good job. However, its always hard to tell at underage gigs, because they squeal excitement at anything. Even when Dom from Millions suggested they buy their shirts.

Which brings me onto Millions. A band I have followed since they first popped their singles up on Triple J Unearthed, it was great to see the guys decked out in matching white outfits ready to wow the crowd. A little clockwork orange in their appearance, they delivered a solid set with a host of favourites ‘Slow Burner’, ‘Those Girls’, and closed out with their most popular tune, the thumping ‘Nineteen’. They also played a host of new songs, and announced they have new music coming out soon, which based of the newly trialed numbers is pretty exciting. In fact my only criticism is that they dropped ‘Guru’ out of the setlist. Yeah, pretty devo about that one.

When the Jungle Giants came out, you would have sworn you were at a One Direction concert based on the number of teenage screams that erupted from the crowd. I felt very over aged, and insecure at how deep my voice was. Nonetheless, the Jungle Giants came out guns blazing and played a set that ensured all those fans would be back again. Although the significance of the lyrics may have be lost on most of the crowd, ‘Domesticated Man’ went off, along with ageless debut ‘Mr Polite’, and modern classics ‘Skin to Bone’, and ‘She’s A Riot’. It was a fast paced energetic set, that had everyone dancing, including us older folk who were cutting a much more conservative groove. Oh, and the notable shout out for Sam who crowd surfed on teenagers pumped full of red cordial and fizzy drinks.

With the Tuss tour in full swing, Groovin’ The Moo, Live It Up and Triple J One Night Stand to come, there are plenty of opportunities to catch The Jungle Giants. Despite my above cynicism they are one sweet live act you don’t want to miss out on.

Gig Review – Sticky Fingers, and Little Bastard at Metro Theatre

1909291_446992325433656_244178795_oIf you rate the catchy synth riff of Gold Snafu when its spun on the Js, wait till you catch it live. Friday night was my first taste of Sticky Fingers latest single live, and I wish I got to relive what was one of the most fun and intense shows I’ve been to in recent times.

When the crowd is calling out for a band well before they go on stage, you know you’re in for something special, and luckily Sticky Fingers didn’t disappoint. They were ably supported by the hipster come country sounds of Little Bastard, who managed to not only fit all 7 members on stage, but also to unleash some hip, jiving, barn stomping good tunes – complete with violin and harmonica.

The Stickies hit the stage to a home crowd who did more than adore them, clearly, considering they sold out two shows at Metro. It was an irresistibly raucous set, filled with the arrogance of a punk rock, and the clear delight of a local band whose reggae musings had grown more than they ever expected. With the crowd singing along word to word to every tune, Sticky Fingers, knocked off their entire debut album, plus a couple of bonus newbies. Caress Your Soul, opener Freddy Crabs, and Clouds and Cream saw the crowd scream with every note, only outdone by the frenzy when Spit Syndicate MC Nick Lupi hit the stage to spice up the hip hop side of their performance.

The Stickies then unleashed their homely number Australia Street as their encore to close out the set, despite the screaming crowd begging for more, in what was a legitimately earned encore – none of this predictive stage stuff. Unfortunately they never came back out, and my night mellowed off as I tried to exit with the sticky bodies of some more than satisfied customers.

<The super sweet pic was shot by theMusic.com.au, check em out>

Gig Review – Little May and Mikhail Paskalev

mikhailWednesday night we caught two super exciting emerging bands at the iconic Oxford Art Factory.

Kicking us off was the low-fi pop rock musings of Little May. Having released two of my favourite tracks last year in ‘Hide’ and ‘Boardwalks’, and been suitably been rewarded with a spot on the Laneway Festival line-up, it was great to see these girls (and guy) continuing on to better things. Word has clearly got around because these guys had packed house from the outset.They played a tight set, showing off their brooding indie pop, and dropping their impending next single ‘Mexico’ towards the end of the set to great reception.

Mikhail Paskalev hit the stage opening with a nice solo folk infused number called ‘Susie’, before inviting the rest of his band out to get stuff going. ‘I Spy’ was the crowd favourite and had rightly drawn the numbers to the gig, but boy does Mikhail and his band have talent. From slide guitars, to horns and some super tight drumming these guys put on a show with a range of upbeat pop tracks to slow rock ballad numbers. Not even some slight technical mishaps with the acoustic guitar could stop the guys. With his album just being released in Australia, Mikhail Paskalev showed he was no one trick pony, and the album would definitely be worth the investment.

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