The vibe of the London bar matched the chilled out disposition of South Pacific folk and the lounge/bar area, separate from the live room enabled audience members to give their eardrums a rest while still listening to the bands. The line-up was an eclectic mix and the crowd appeared to be constantly on the move, flowing between the live room and the vibrant courtyard, picking and choosing when to check out the music and when to enjoy the barbeque (‘Roo meat, no doubt).
The proceedings were kicked off by Red Ink who got the ball rolling with an energetic and breezy set full of tight dance drums and delayed twangy guitar. Their frontman would surely win an award for the most flailing at the event, or any event for that matter.
Nine-piece Inland Sea followed, starting with an acapella song featuring all the band members. They certainly grabbed our attention, though their rotating frontman set-up made for a somewhat uneven performance. Still, their uplifting tunes recalled the likes of Arcade Fire and The Decemberists and resulted in a highly enjoyable set. If the strings had only cut through the mix, I imagine I would’ve been beside myself.
Kellie Lloyd was the first standout act of the night. Her unfussy alt-rock, driven by straightforward power-chord progressions, her sweet yet powerful voice and instantly memorable hooks borrowed heavily from The Breeders showcased her song writing nuance. Not only does she have an ear for a hook but the structuring of her songs display a keen sense of when simplicity can lead to boredom. She knows when to counter the straightforward nature of the songs with some powerful rhythmic detail, locking in tight with her drummer through a passage of syncopated stabs. It was a shame that when Kellie played much of the crowd had momentarily dispersed.
The standout sets continued later in the night with Horsefight’s noisy and extremely fun performance. The duo’s adrenaline-driven, riff-heavy rock was pounded out unfalteringly and the fret work, showmanship and vocal histrionics of the frontman finally brought an answer to the age old question; what would Jack White look like if he was Australian?
Singer-songwriter Mike Noga stood out from the pack, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, given his minimal setup. Armed with only an acoustic guitar and harmonica, his aesthetic was fairly unremarkable. As the brilliance of singer-songwriters resides largely in their lyrics they usually have a tougher time engaging with an unfamiliar audience than a band with more instant and catchy appeal. Such is the plight of the acoustic singer-songwriter. The anguish and melancholy Mike Noga conveyed was rich with subtlety. A thoroughly engaging set.
Step Panther looked and sounded like Dinosaur Jr and were instantly brilliant. They belted out their raucous noise-fest so loosely it felt as if their set was on the verge of falling apart at any moment. Whether this was a real danger or simply the way they play, it brought a fantastic energy and urgency to their music. Some blistering guitar work sealed the deal and it was hard not to be amused by these guys; the singer/guitarist had an appealing quirkiness and despite the speed and volume at which they were playing the bassist looked bored out of his mind. One of the most fun sets of the night.
The highlight of the night, however, was undoubtedly Jackson Firebird. I try not to get too taken in by gimmickry, but what’s not to love about a big hairy Australian with a headband smacking the top of an upside-down recycle bin? Not much, that’s what. The furious barrage these guys let loose was exhausting just to watch. High-speed blues riffs gave way to death-metal shredding and double-kick in an instant. Taking turns at vocal duties, the guitarist’s gravelly bluesy growl worked as a nice counterpoint to the drummer’s fuzzed out, lightning bolt-esque vocals. Clearly a well-gigged band, they made their manic and unpredictable tempo changes look effortless and sailed through a set of hyperactive twists and turns with apparent ease: slide-heavy swamp-rock one minute, almost psychedelic-rock soloing the next, their sound brought to mind Radio Moscow, a little bit of the Black Keys and even fellow Aussies Spiderbait. They stole the show.
The line-up consisted of a tasteful mix of genre and most of the bands were treated to an attentive audience who seemed to appreciate both the calibre and variety of the acts. Oliver Tank’s tabletop looping and effects setup, Jinja Safari’s soundtrack to, well, being on safari, and Husky’s well-crafted alt-pop also deserve a mention as notable acts of the day. Turns out a day spent hanging out with Australians is a lot of fun.
Photos: Gazing Maven