For the second night in a row, the Ding Dong Lounge played host to a bunch of top Australian Worldwide Music Expo (AWME) bands. This time it was the 123 Agency showcase, with predominately Australian bands performing lively rock n’ roll sets for the local crowd.
Barefoot Canadian songstress Kim Wempe kicked off Saturday night, selecting the more rousing ballads from her Curve Bar performance earlier in the day. Singing only originals, Wempe charmed with her cutesy tales of married life in the woodlands of Canada and the songwriting exercises that spawned her album Coalition.
Adelaide folk rocker Timberwolf came on next, with his equally youthful band in tow. The 22 year-old singer-songwriter (real name Chris Panousakis) soothed the crowd with his electric blend of loud pop pulses and cooing male-and-female harmonies. Howling cryptic lyrics behind tousled brown curls, the frontman wore head-to-toe black and sung with eyes closed for most of his set.
He stayed behind the microphone with his candy apple red Gibson in hand, flanked by a skinny, long haired lead guitarist and the sole female in the band, Maggie Rutjens, shaking the tambourine and pummelling drums in a sailor striped long sleeve. The young and vibrant five-piece mesmerised under hazy pink and purple lights, swaying to the beats of the upcoming EP and performing the latest single ‘It Burns’ to a receptive, predominately 20-something crowd.
The energetic vibe went up a few notches when twins brother Pat and Jack (aka The Pierce Brothers) took to the stage. With matching dreadlocks buns and loose tees, the brothers head-banged and jumped their way through their set, capitalising on the enthusiasm of the fan-girling Ding Dong mosh-pit. Juggling instruments including guitars, harmonicas and a didgeridoo of all things, the brothers delivered their distinctive harmonies over a pub-rock sound a la Mumford & Sons.
It’s been a whirlwind twelve months for the Melbourne buskers, with the duo touring relentlessly since the release of their EP The Night Tree, which saw them creep their way up the ARIA charts earlier this year. Their booming vocals and sounds were bolstered by a single gold strobe light, before one of the brothers (I don’t know which one) leapt onto an adjacent booth and began drumming on the windowsill. Despite their collective bulk, the brothers were surprisingly agile, rhythmically tapping their way around the stage and into the audience.
After such energy and professionalism from the Pierce Brothers, I doubted that headline act BONJAH would be able to out-do their support act. The stocky Kiwi four-piece (now based in Melbourne) strolled on stage and took up their positions with little fuss. Before long, however, it became clear that bassist David Morgan wasn’t getting any sound. It took the whole first half of the set for roadies to fix the bass (after much guitar and amplifying swapping), a dampener for the otherwise professional band.
Formed in New Zealand but relocating to Melbourne to pursue their craft, BONJAH started out busking on the streets, selling albums and living off cereal and fruit. They’ve earn themselves a loyal following on the tour circuit, and this early year, launched their third studio album Beautiful Wild — many songs from which they played at this gig. The band’s bluesy rock swagger translated well on stage, with the band members cruising to Fedora frontman Glenn Mossop’s high-husky crooning.
In the same vein as their supports, BONJAH performed a solid, indie pop-rock set of original songs with charismatic stage presences and full band grooves. The second last night of AWME was a proper rockin’ gig, with a great bunch of young Australian talent strutting their stuff on the homely stage of the Ding Dong Lounge.
*photos courtesy of David Harris