Sometimes the tiniest clue gives away the tone of a whole gig. When the door staff at Phoenix House is giving out earplugs, you know they aren’t mucking around.
Queenslanders Tape/Off set the volume for the evening to LOUD. Standing outside talking, the moment Tape/Off started their set cigarettes were abandoned as their lo-fi 90s sound swirled around the sparsely filled room. They wear their influences on their sleeve and run the gauntlet from My Bloody Valentine to Pavement, taking the best parts of each and combining them into something that is truly their own. “You have so many coin laundries Melbourne… why are your coins so dirty?” lead singer Nathan Pickels cracks nervously in part one of their awkward attempts at audience banter. Thankfully their music is infinitely better than their jokes. Tape/Off put on a fizzily energetic set and play the hell out of their instruments. For this reviewer, they are the band of the night.
Baptism of Uzi deliver head nodding, mostly instrumental tunes that the sea of hipsters sporting either ironic glasses, facial hair or clothing lap up. Watching them play mostly upbeat, 70s sounding psych rock jams which channels everyone from Skynard to Ziggy-era Bowie, their lack of any sort of banter apart from the most basic and necessary is a welcome change. As they announce “we’re gonna take it down a little bit” the head nodding of the audience cranks up a notch. When vocals do sporadically kick in they are surprisingly comparable to an angst ridden Joey Ramone. While they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they have a huge following and it is easy to see why. Baptism Of Uzi are definitely outside of the box and that is what makes them such an interesting and unmissable watch.
Buzz band of the moment, Iowa; close out the night with the launch of their album Never Saw It Coming. If the previous bands were loud (and they were) Iowa could be best described as deafening. The ear plugs handed out earlier are no longer just a nice touch, the survival of one’s rapidly vibrating ear drums depends on them. Dylan Stewart’s raspy vocals weave into fuzzy guitars and gravelly bass lines, courtesy of Jordan Barczak, and Matt Rooney’s cracking drums. Their blend of 90s garage meets noise rock played with face-obscuring fringes isn’t unlikeable, but by no means is it astounding. They have a dark, 4am end-of-the-bender appeal which makes their hipster following understandable. “Should’ve Known“ stands alone as a set highlight, and “Lights Out” is not without its appeal either but midway through all of their songs seem to blend into one.
“Thanks so much for coming down tonight, we really appreciate it,” says Stewart and the crowd responds with cheers. Iowa have been embraced by the style set and each and every member of the swelling crowd either stares transfixed or launches into some kind of uber chic interpretive dance front of stage. Their punch to the chest loud set is at first unsettling but once you give yourself over to it (and firmly press you ear plugs in) there comes a strange sense of being almost enveloped by it.
As their set progresses, Iowa find their feet and their previously unintelligible vocals become somewhat clearer. Later in the set, “Complete Control” and “Panic Attack” shine in a haze of fuzzy guitar goodness that J. Mascis himself would have been proud of. While Iowa are an interesting watch, they are hardly reinventing the wheel in terms of genre. What they are doing has been done and heard before. That being said: what they do they do really, really well. It will be interesting to see whether their “band of the moment” status translates into something bigger and if they ultimately go the distance in the often faddish world of noise bands.
- Madison Thomas