Sunday, 29 June 2014


“Open the gates!” boomed the hawkeyed sentry. He had spotted Shadowfax the second he emerged from Fangorn Forest, and the rider whose foot had been caught in the stirrups being dragged along behind him like an unwilling cavewoman. The town mystic hastily scurried to my side to apply a balm of eye-of-newt and camel toe to the wounds I had acquired in battle, a battle where Bitch Gimli had fallen victim to the Uruk-hai of Late Night Roster Tower. I awoke in a panic and was immediately bombarded with the banter of hundreds of boozey townsfolk. The mead was going down faster than a housewife in a porno and all memories of the approaching doomsday army had seemed to flee their minds. The villagers were mustering up the strength to stand and fight and had assembled a ragtag group of unwashed musicians to help boost the morale of the regiment. Before I had time to digest the impending danger, the heralding of horns, battle drums and war cries filled the stagnant air. I nervously gripped my halberd, swallowed my fear, and charged headfirst into the hybrid riffraff.

The Factory Floor is a quirky little room adorned with figureheads, murals of Vikings, and hanging lights straight out of Bioshock’s underwater metropolis, Rapture. It set a really cool scene for Sydney rockers WE WITHOUT to woo the already buzzing crowd with the tough opening slot. The sound was a little shaky at first (which is usually the case) but the five-piece were firing on all cylinders by the second song of the set, which sounded heavily influenced by Dead Letter Circus’s “The Mile”. We Without are a grunge band at the core but influences from bands such as Bloc Party, Powderfinger and Faith No More, craft the overall sound into a marble cake of rock. Bassist Rick Thomas grinned like a Gremlin as he demonstrated his vast knowledge of power poses, while guitarist Cameron Roberts introduced a lot of eccentric influence into the fold, including some gorgeous blues licks inspired by The Doors. At the end of the day though it was the frontman who seduced the punters. Chad Kemp has a unique vocal tone similar to Scott Stapp of Creed or Brad Roberts of Crash Test Dummies (although nowhere near that deep). Even though his vocals were tough to hear at times, he more than made up for it by really having fun with the crowd tonight. His antics included ribbing his bandmates for stuffing up the start of a song, and overcommitting to pumping up the audience in a style very similar to Will Ferrell in Step Brothers. I feel that the following statement is the only way to describe it: It was fucking adorable. My third run-in with We Without proved to be the strongest I’ve seen them perform to date and I am genuinely excited to see where they go from here.  

The room was only at half capacity as Sydney quartet CUERVO hit the stage, but within the opening three seconds of the set, every jaw in the room hit the floor in unison. I was instantly hooked as the bands’ influences rang through unashamedly resplendent, and amalgamated into what I would describe as trance-inducing dance/rock. Arctic Monkeys hit me with a quick left jab while Franz Ferdinand sucker-punched me with a solid right hook. System Of A Down went for cheeky kidney blow while The Living End pulverised my nose with a swinging haymaker. Queens Of The Stone Age finish the job with a Shoryuken to my Spartan jaw that would make Ken and Ryu weep tears of joy. Vocalist/guitarist Nic Villanueva is an instantly likable character and a superb frontman for Cuervo. If Aliens ever declare war on Earth and Hugh Jackman or Jennifer Lawrence aren’t available as ambassadors for peace, then Mr Villanueva would make a worthy understudy. His warm vocals cut through the musical mayhem being projected on-stage much like a glass of coke cuts through the grease of a cheese and salami pizza. Guitarist Carlos Romanos has a stage presence that rivals the absurdity of SOAD’s Darren Malakian. The wizard of sound throws every part of his body into every note that he plays; his eyebrows, his nostrils, his appendix…….everything. Percussion virtuoso Sam Sakr absolutely punished his kit and was bent forward so much that his back was running parallel to the ground the entire set. Sid Norris’s chestnut brown hair which shielded his visage, created an unmistakable resemblance to beloved children’s book character Grug. He seems quite reserved on stage until you look down at his hands. My god! Those fucking hands! They fingered the steel cables of his brown-noter faster than a kid with Parkinson’s, who’s been in the friend-zone his entire adolescent life, stabbing the cat of his high school crush after downing an eight-ball of gas. The knee-jerk syncopation that was littered throughout the set showed more discipline than the soldiers of the Queens Guard and as the performance progressed, even more influences decided to join the melee. Bite sized pieces of Karnivool’s “Sound Awake” album could be tasted in the chaos along with tracks like “Shut Up And Let Me Go” by The Ting Tings. Every song had unbelievably catchy instrumental breakdowns which breathed even more life and rhythm into the abundant nirvana of sounds entwining in the air around me. By the end of it all, the room was full of hungry punters screaming for a much deserved encore and I was right in the thick of it. Incredible high energy set from one of the most promising young Australian bands I’ve seen in years.

I was standing next to a few of the lads from RED REMEDY when Cuervo finished their set and they realised the magnitude of what they had to follow. As this was my forth time viewing the Sydney foursome, I had little doubt that they would have no problems knocking it out of the park tonight. The neo punk/screamo rockers were the heaviest addition to the bill tonight and they knew it. Red Remedy are brash, loud and unapologetic. Influences such as Refused and The Dillinger Escape Plan ring loud and clear, as well as songs such as “Disease” by Sevendust. They weren’t everyone’s cup of tea but that didn’t stop the boys from snapping up more numbers into their diehard fanbase. Zach Evans is a natural frontman who oozes confidence and charisma. His high pitched, abrasive banshee scream is the bread and butter of the bands’ in-your-face sound, which hits you harder than a fart in a bathtub. Leigh Czerwonka’s grainy, mid-heavy distortion accompanies Jess Rossiters hard-hitting, stampeding drum style and Adrian Booth’s booming bass, to a picnic spread full of Waldorf salad, chicken soup and lemon cakes, and then stomp it into oblivion like a Kaiju laying waste to an unsuspecting San Francisco. The heavier songs from the groups’ first ep were a bit much for tonight’s crowd but more approachable tracks such as “Love This Machine” and “The Butcher” from their sophomore release, lured the curious back in for seconds, much like mulled wine in the dead of winter. Solid set from a great Sydney band.

This was it. The crowd was primed and ready to go. SURRENDER THE SUN hit the stage to a sold out and well lubricated room of people gagging to hear tracks from the bands’ debut album “Tauri”. I felt as though I was the only one in the room who had not seen the group before, so I unpuckered my butthole and let the Sydney four-piece have their way with me. The show opened with a video projection on the back wall which transported me back to my childhood. The geometric shapes dancing across the screen reminded me of the Arwings from Starfox on the Super Nintendo. The music abruptly kicked in and I immediately felt Darren Navan’s huge rumbling bass in the pit of my stomach.  Shane Dwyer’s tribal percussion grooves drive the music as Luke Connolly’s delayed guitar work dances through the air like the ash of the obliterated Hometree of Pandora. The band showcase a progressive sound, with underlying ancestral beats that at times flirted with the idea of techno-like rhythms. It really was a great canvas for petite vocalist Gess Flynn to belt out her surprisingly powerful Siren song. The effortless way her vocals seemingly waft through the background of the music while remaining at the forefront, is on par with what Free Dominguez manages to pull off in “Before I’m Dead” by the Kidneythieves. At the conclusion of every track, the fervent audience reciprocated the noise back to the musicians with a volley of deafening, well deserved cheers. I found it hard to compare the group to other bands at first but as the much appreciated set continued, the influences crept through the air sneakier than the Hamburglar after graduating from ninja school.  Echoes of Cog, Breaking Orbit and Meniscus, chimed throughout the set as a troupe of performing artists twirled epileptic fit inducing LED batons off the side of the stage. Flynn left the dais and gave the boys some time in the spotlight without her. The trio bewildered the room with a rambunctious instrumental track in the same light as “Scarabs” by Karnivool which really demonstrated just how skilled the boys were with their weapons of choice. Flynn returned to the stage with a smile that told us just how happy the band were with how their night had unfolded. Surrender The Sun had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands and utilized some really great sample work throughout the entire performance. My favourite moment of the set came during the closing number of the night when Connolly complimented Flynn’s commanding vocals with some really bangin’ harmonies. It left as quickly as it came and I could feel Sub Zero’s icy fingers running down my spine. That was how the set ended. They finished the show with me standing there wanting to hear those gorgeous harmonies one more time. The lights came up and the brood projected a sonic boom of cheers towards the chuffed stars of the night. I was on such a high as I left that I forgot to pick up an album on the way out which goes to show just how incredible tonight’s bill was. Incredible gig.

The incredibly hard working people at The Synesthesia Massive have once again given me hope for Sydney’s unstable live music scene by putting on an absolute corker of a show with four shining examples of the best in Aussie rock. I say this every review but it still rings true: if we all see at least one gig a month then the future will be in bright hands.

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

Joshua Towney

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