Sunday, 15 December 2013


DATE: 13/12/13

Moses Belamy stood at the base of the M4 motorway to part the perilous Sydney traffic, allowing the star struck and doe eyed Israelites that shadowed him to make their mass exodus towards the asylum of Fort All Phones. Only the rich and opportunistic were chosen to make the pilgrimage to witness the combined aural onslaught of Muse and Birds Of Tokyo. This meant that my Padawan and I were left to brave the muggy city weather in hopes of locating a more economical form of musical entertainment. Word soon hit our hungry ears of a free event being held at iconic music hovel The Lansdowne Hotel, which fell well into our paper thin budget. We hastily made tracks towards the econo-savvy dive, making sure to always travel in single file to hide our numbers. Arriving quicker than Leonardo Dicaprio’s journey to secure his inaugural Oscar, we enter the carpetless room where the beading, steel beer pipes were adorned with Yuletide tinsels of red, silver and green. The kitchen gods upstairs served up an animal friendly feast of vegetable sandwich towers, sticks of fried potato and flagons of gelid amber able to break our fast. After our stomachs had deemed themselves satisfied, I escorted my eager apprentice back downstairs into the musty band room where we awaited the advent of the preliminary performers.

I first scouted Sydney indie 3 piece VILLAGE ECHOES a few weeks ago at the Locies where I picked up a copy of their debut EP “Evolve” and I was curious to see how it would transition live now that I knew the songs. They demonstrate an abundance of influences throughout their performance with the likes of Bloc Party, Foo Fighters and Good Charlotte tickling my giddy eardrums. I immediately notice the absence of second guitarist Lauren Shapiro both in presence and in the richness of their sound. The songs all have the potential to be certified pop hits but they lack the punch that they possessed at the Locies without Shapiro there to chunk it up. Ridiculously catchy single “Another Thought” which is heavily influenced by the likes of Arctic Monkeys and The Living End seemed to suffer the most from her absence. Dominating stage presence Steve Parfitt wields his bass as if it were an extension of his own body and makes great use of his effects pedals to essentially turn a chisel into a jackhammer. He is by far the most comfortable on stage and seems to have a blast playing the music regardless of how lacking the crowd were during their set. Guitarist/vocalist Alex Almasi seemed distracted and uncomfortable whilst singing throughout the set, possibly due to his inexperience onstage or maybe because his father was videotaping the performance on his phone. When he moved away from the microphone and was purely focused on just playing guitar, his performance improved tenfold. The vocals of Almasi and Parfitt are almost identical and add no real diversity when both are singing at the same time. Up the back of the stage, powerhouse percussionist James Pounsett never took his eyes off the toms of his kit. The volume of his snare was set to eleven and the muscle memory of his arms ensured that they never missed their targets. He made great use of 16/4 beats and the cowbell whilst a single tuft of his fringe seemed to be trying to perform the role of a third drumstick. Slower track “In Memory” was by far the strongest of their performance as it was the first song to sound rich and full. Village Echoes are still quite a young band who show a lot of promise and are definitely a group to keep your eyes on. Every aspect of their performance will improve with a steady run of live shows and the sorely needed re-addition of a second axe into the group.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Sydney’s ethereal/alternative rock outfit MINUS HOUSE were on the bill. I first caught the boy’s open for Dead Letter Circus last year and was instantly hooked. Their sound is huge from the first note and the abundance of icy reverb coming from both guitars reminded me of Donkey Kong Country’s dreaded water levels. Coldplay was the most obvious influence throughout the set with some Oceansize and Cog thrown into the mix to keep it interesting. Rowan Cane’s stage persona seems disinterested in the performance, which oddly enough makes it all the more compelling. His captivating vocals ranged from airy and wispy falsettos through to some very sparingly used screams at the apex of huge crescendos in the music. Guitarist and Van Helsing impersonator Liam Clark was in another place the majority of the set, seemingly being lost in the music he was creating. Hirsute bassist Peter Calvert provided a rock solid foundation for the multitude of layered effects created by Cane and Clark. He did this without the use of a single effects pedal and by getting the deep humming drones of his instrument to waltz in time with the kick of the drums. He kept trying to sweep the mane from his bearded face which only angered his curly, chestnut locks. Drummer Barney Hudswell is an intense force on stage. He utilized his cymbals brilliantly and possessed great skills on the toms. Hudswell added an interesting level of fervour to the quartet by letting out a roar with every forth beat of the music and throwing in sporadic bursts of head twitches to let the room know he meant business. Minus House never announced their last song, so I was completely caught up in the atmospheric tunes when the set seemed to end without warning, leaving me disappointed and wanting more. I have no idea if it was a brilliant move by Cane or if they simply forgot to mention it. Either way, I’m gagging to catch them again.

Before tonight, Melbourne’s alternative rockers SLEEP PARADE were a band whose hype I just couldn’t fathom. They have gained the respect of Australia’s most prominent alternative artists with Cog, Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus amongst their supporters. I’d seen them play as a three piece a few times and I even walked out of their set the last time they were in Sydney when they opened for The Butterfly Effect. My opinion of them was about to change. Matt Delaney, the tenth member of the Weasly family, had made the move from bass to guitar and he was a much stronger performer because of it. He was utilizing some synth as well but it was completely lost in the mix until the end of the set. Taking his place was Silent Bob look alike Braiden Michetti who single-handedly shifted the dynamic of Sleep Parade from pub rock band to guaranteed stadium fillers. His bass lines played an integral role to the new format and made the overall sound a thousand times more vibrant. Think how important Chi Cheng’s bass line was in Deftones “Change (In The House Of Flies)”. This is what he brings to the table. Leigh Davies was sporting his trademark fedora and vest combo; he had no shoes but was all class. The charismatic front man brought along a legion of guitars with enough glitter in them to out sparkle the twilight universe. His vocals are the result of Jon Hume (Evermore) being thrown into a boiling cauldron with a half sprinkle of Craig Nicholls (The Vines) and Matt Belamy (Muse). Delaney on the other hand reaches notes only achievable by a castrated cherub which provides a nice contrast to Davies’ raspy vocals. Influences such as Muse, Radiohead and Coldplay rang clear throughout the set with hit track “Carry On” causing every head in the room (including the trio of bar tenders) to bob along to the beat of the song. No piece of the drum kit was safe from Dan Teng who had a look on his face as if he was in mid orgasm the entire duration of the set. The man really enjoys hitting shit with sticks. The distortion was sharp, crunchy and echoless while the clean guitars littered the room with copious amounts of reverb. A great moment in the set came when all four members repeatedly chanted “Ooyawayah” which served as a really powerful opening for the Cog-like anthem that followed it. Everyone in this band can sing in tune which is so god damned refreshing. The resulting harmonies that come from it are light-years ahead of what most bands are capable of and only serve to further increase the monumental wall of sound that was being displayed before me. Davies’ smile on stage whenever they played any new material was infectious; it was a grin of pure pride. A new song in the set which reminded me of Hed (P.E.)’s “I Got You” made me tilt my head like a confused dog, as it took me a while to wrap my head around it. It kept changing direction like a shuttle run, showcasing simple tom poundage and sludgy, note-bending guitar work akin to a spaghetti western. On the other end of the spectrum, song of the set “Passenger” roused a huge crowd reaction and was the strongest way possible to finish their gargantuan show. It opened with a jaw dropping bass line which continually danced scales up and down the stings of the brown noter and ended with the entire band engaged in glorious orchestrated chaos reminiscent of a raging thunderstorm. Sleep Parade left the stage having played a near flawless show chock full of anthems from start to finish. After the initial applause, the thirty or so people in the crowd chatted amongst themselves without a cheer to be heard which is why I was completely shocked to the point of almost being disgusted by the fact that they returned for an encore. The whole purpose of an encore is to make the fans demand it not to force it down our throats. However I quickly forgave them as the final song was a corker of prog rock splendour. Davies left me speechless when he screamed into the humbuckers of his guitars to create an amazing soaring effect similar to the sample of the baby used in Rammstein’s “Mutter”. It left me foaming like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert and made me instantly forget about the poorly incorporated encore from before. This demonstrated without question, just how ambitious and epic these rocking Melbournite’s are.

Once again the turnout to support touring Aussie bands was beyond disappointing. Sydney’s support of live music is infamous for being next to non-existent. I understand Muse were playing on the same night but this was a free gig which barely managed to get 40 people to the venue. This had nothing to do with the quality of bands on show (which was phenomenal), just the attitudes of Sydney’s elitist music fans who won’t watch a band unless they’re signed. Every band that played tonight have the potential to be something huge and I’ll be proud to say that I was there for them when no one else would give them the time of day.

Don’t be a dick, Sydney! Support the live music scene.

Joshua Towney

1 comment:

  1. FYI, the "encore" for Sleep Parade was actually a break while the synth intro played for the final song. Nobody moved because everyone knew it wasn't the end ;)