Bathed in red light, Roadhouses created a similarly late-night, intoxicated vibe with a set that was equal parts slowcore and codeine country like like Lucinda Williams fronting Spain. Yvonne Moxham’s guitar shimmered via drawn out chords that hung in the air while she sang songs on the sadder side of romance. Less is more in Roadhouses and the rhythm section featuring Cec Condon (Mess Hall) were the perfect foil, filling in the spaces with deft and delicate touches where required.
Day Ravies upped the ante tenfold in terms of volume and energy, their expanded line-up now including Kate Wilson (The Holy Soul, The Laurels) and a second guitarist. With the juxtaposition of Sam Wilkinson’s snarling voice and the lighter melodic phrasings of Caroline de Dear and Lani Crooks they dove straight into a set that careened through US-style indie rock, twee C86 guitar pop and layered shoegaze textures. Musically they nailed it with their wonderful balance of primitive crush and detailed nuances but the vocal interplay was too disconnected and at times a distraction from the music.
Infinity Broke were lucky to have original drummer Jared Harrison back behind the kit for a gig that was right up there with the best shows they’ve played. Balance is the key to the band’s sound. All of the instruments sounded embedded in just the right place both in terms of the performance and the sound mix. Song-wise the set was a perfectly paced, from the concise and menacing rock of Only The Desert Grows and the staggered dynamics of Papa Was A Clown to the live centrepiece – Monsoon – stretched to what felt like 20 minutes with bassist Reuben Wills taking up residency in the audience while the the taut krautrock pulse and freeform guitar squalls stretched deep into the night. Gloriously inventive avant-rock at its finest.
You Beauty released their rugby league-themed album Jersey Flegg earlier this year and it slowly but surely garnered attention leading to its imminent vinyl pressing. Their opening set showed they can nail the sound of the album in a live context with chorused guitar picking out lazy hooks and the rhythm section hitting a ‘Strokes and The Cure on the dancefloor’ sweet spot. Frontman Wil Farrier spent more time off the stage, pulling moves, prowling and climbing the PA speakers. It was a superb set that hit the perfect balance between humour, energy and melancholy.
Donny Benét has stepped up his live show considerably since the days of indie friends making up his band or doing solo shows with loops and drum machines. On the back of the new album Weekend At Donny’s he’s assembled a full band of what look like professional session musicians including keyboards, guitar, bass and saxophone. It takes the live Benét experience to a new level with the songs now sounding like fully fledged 80s electro/pop/funk tracks – alive and kicking in suits and grins. Three guest vocalists also brought a shift to the live dynamic, all of them adding their own stamp of style/pastiche. Geoffrey O’Connor was an icy starlet on Charlotte’s Web, Jack Ladder brought the louche sleaze singing about the last tourist on the sex bus and the sex-machine SPOD brought the street party attitude on Fantasies. Benét looked to be having a ball gazing out across the sold-out room, slapping and popping bass strings with a look on his face that was part disbelief but mostly pleasure. Sure there is an element of tongue-in-cheek with what he does but on the back of extremely well-written songs and experienced live with a room full of bodies in motion the Benét experience makes complete sense.
Darren Cross opened the evening with a fine set of songs that showed the extent to which he has mastered the art of gothic country song. He wove narratives around characters and situations with both emotional resonance and clever wordplay and it never felt hokey or contrived in that most American of genres. His voice, as the years have passed, has taken on real character and depth with a slightly worn quality giving his songs that lived-in sound. Combined with some wonderful guitar playing and compositional pacing it made for the kind of set that enabled the listener to immerse themselves in the music rather than just observing from a distance. Cross played new songs and some from his EP of last year (Hit the Quit, Crystal and Copper) and the small audience listened attentively once he shut down the talkers early in his set.
Golden Blonde shifted gears with their electronic, twin percussive set-up. A trio, they built up a nice, detailed set of songs that wandered between indietronica and more abstract beat-driven workouts. If it lacked anything it was that it felt a little soulless at times. The clinical nature of the drumming and synthetic washes of digital static, pads and textural guitar playing made for a cerebrally rewarding performance but it needed a little more emotional investment in the song category to lift Golden Blonde from interesting to compelling.
When I first arrived in Sydney in the late ‘90s I shifted from a fertile music scene in Auckland, New Zealand into the new and generally unfamiliar cultural landscape of Sydney. Street press and local radio were my guides, leading me to places like The Hopetoun, Landsdowne, and Annandale hotels where I quickly found the sound that at the time was inspirational, communal, at times visceral and generally as good, if not often better, than the similar bands I was listening to from overseas. Bluebottle Kiss were the first that I came across and the one band that really blew me away with their ability to play tender, woozy guitar songs and then collapse or explode into avant post-punk rock maelstroms. They hit me in the head and in the heart, ticking all the boxes of noise, melody, art and emotion. Over the years through unblemished albums, changing line-ups and into hiatus the heart and soul, and principal songwriter has always been Jamie Hutchings. He of course just kept doing what he did best, writing, recording, performing, experimenting with and evolving his craft. Releasing the results as solo albums and gigging by himself and with a collective of family and friends.
Now with his new band Infinity Broke it feels like things have come full circle. Not back to BBK as such but holistically in that the sound of the band incorporates Hutchings’ music from all angles from the sweat-drenched, guitar heroics to the moody atmospherics yet still built around the idea of poetic songwriting. BBK drummer Jared Harrison is back in the fold alongside Scott Hutchings and bassist Reuben Wills and the quartet set about showcasing their new album River Mirrors, an album built on krautrock inspired repetition, Sonic Youth dissonance, Bitches Brew’s dark corners and in one particular song a mad and brilliant fusion of Elvis Costello, Motown and Northern Soul. All four played to their strengths with the dual percussion setup constantly inventive and never overwhelming the music. Wills’ bass playing was rock solid and contributed some great melodic and rhythmic surprises that served to counter and complement Hutchings guitar work. Now back playing his battered and beloved Jazzmaster, Hutchings relished the opportunity to stretch out with his playing. It sounded fragile, gloriously demented, tension-laden and openly deconstructed, often within the same song. From the single Swing A Kitten to the closing reconstructed (Infinity Broken?) version of BBK’s Let The Termites Eat Our Riches (Revenge Is Slow, 2002) it was a richly detailed and wholly absorbing performance that showed the rewards on offer for musicians who constantly seek to refine and expand their music, without discounting their past, and who have the ability and creativity to execute with style and substance.