Friday night and Cherry Bar called. It’s a hard one to deny, like a needy child crying for attention. You either neglect it and are rightly scolded as a foul and evil human being, or you comply. Giving in, I arrived stupidly early and stood supping my pint inspecting the industrial sized visual projection desk, manned by Oval-component Tom Russell as the weekend warriors slowly began to heal-toe their way down the cobbled AC/DC Lane. The desk was littered with light blocking coloured films and bits of old table cloth. If I was a demented vigilante orphan who liked flying rodents, like Batman, I’d have this desk rather than the sterile pictograph of a dog-chewed coaster.
Cartoon digressions aside, Flying Colours took to the stage to grind out a reverb laced noise, echoing a compact My Bloody Valentine as main man Brodie J. Brümmer wavered back and forth from beneath his hair. Backed on vocals ably to his right by the hobbling Gemma O’Connor. I say hobbling, she’s on crutches… not breaking people’s ankles and so manages to bang her tambourine around without tumbling headfirst off the stage pretty well. Her voice is sweet and measured, swooning around the shoegaze dirge of Brümmer’s wammy bar while brothers Sam and Josh Dawes round out a wall of sound. Racing through their set, sullen and swirling drones like “Feathers” perked up the early birds. While they don’t carry through as a drowning pop tune in the way Ride or Sonic Youth do, the occasional howls and sharp turns break the downtrodden melody and glare upwards. Halting on a howling high note, Flying Colours will be one to see.
With Flying Colours decamping the stage, people stood up off the floor in a more civilised manner as the room filled, it was time for the rumbling melodies of Melbourne three-piece Pony Face. Genre touching, rather than hopping, there have still been the name-checking references to Mogwai and The Dirty Three, with or without cause they do add light to the evening. I’m not sure of that, but it’s hard work being in a band and these ponys’ creased faces are each testament to the graft of an old pro. Simon Bailey’s vocals layer off their driving rhythm section of the trucker-capped Anth Dymke on bass who chicken-necked his way back and forth while Kris Edmond banged the skins with well earned authority.
Touring the sweaty rooms of Melbourne, airplay hasn’t passed Pony Face by. With debut album Stars Are Bright under their collective arms, a new double A-side and more to come, the workman-like performances have gained rightful praise so affronted by a swelling Friday night Cherry Bar, the band made no exception.
Under a haze of warbling swirling Technicolor projections, beers were swilled accordingly as the dual-level keyboards belonging to Dave Kaulkman where shunted onto the right of stage, tilting the cosmic balance within the room towards the moon. Fronted by the psychedelic minstrel Tim Neal on guitar, sharing vocal duties with Kaulkman, the spiralling mindfuck of the unknown took hold fast, as if being sucked through a porthole to be greeted by a semi-conscious Syd Barrett banging his head against a mandolin. While Kaulkman often leads off the tracks, primarily drawn from their 2011 EP Into The Eyes Of Those Who Sleep, it’s the deeper, gloom promising tones from Neal that break through the melodies of “Refugee” and “Heretic”.
Backed and held upward by the methodical rumblings of Duane Manning on drums and the driving lines of half-man-half-bass-all-beard bass player Danny Smith, the wall of sound on show was really something. With new single “Beneath The Wheel” to flog, there was time to bring to the fold their more playful elements, as Neal’s low-necked bouncing riff bounced through visions of Floyd, Can and even the 666 era Aphrodite’s Child. Hard to brace all that and contain it into something that doesn’t explode into a disgustingly bulbous, yoghurt based, Rick Wakeman day dream, but there it was before us. Massive.
There’s more to be felt when you combine the overall sights and sounds than purely a swath of reverb drenched melody splitting your mind. But if you’ve contemplated ever bringing 3D glasses to a gig, please don’t. This isn’t going to take you to tree-swinging world of giant blue smurfs. The Ovals take you above and beyond, but you get to join in.
Granting us an encore after some typically primal hooting, with Duane Manning unawares at the bar (that kids, is a proper drummer) “The Circus Song” relaunched in a mess of keys before “Nobody” closed with a paisley bomb, underlining and circling The Ovals on all future gig listings from now through the settlement of the moon.
- Ciarán Wilcox