As the crowd spilled outside onto the street prior to the doors even opening for the gig, it was evident that the warm evening had drawn a bit of a crowd to the Grace Darling. And what better way to spend a night out than an evening of jangly garage pop with interstate visitors amongst good friends. Although admittedly a patchy night, the show did have some highlights.
First up for the night were Working Girls, who delivered their own brand of Mikey Young-esque garage rock n roll. Lead singer Hugo cast a semi-awkward stance up front on the stage, and delivered the deadpan lyrics in true Lou Reed style that perfectly complimented the groups sound. At times veering into jangle and pop territories, the band was tight and their set ended with the simple explanation that they didn’t have any songs left. Highlights included the extended Queensland. Definitely one to keep your eye on.
Up next were local favourites ScotDrakula, familiar faces since their last show a few months ago. Kicking off with Burner from the online EP of the same name, it is undeniable that these guys have got something special and even though a steady crowd was yet to build, by the sets end they had dragged most of the Grace Darling upstairs to see what all the fuss was about. Sounding a little punk, a little garage, a little pop, a little Royal Headache, it all melds into something that gets under your skin and gives you that magical warm fuzzy feeling you hope to get when seeing live music. Evianne Camille’s drumming and Dove Bailey’s bassing provide the a messy-yet-kinda-perfect rhythm section, and the constant smiles that come from the stage between the band members is proof that they are having just as much fun playing as we are watching. Matt Neumann’s vocals are something that needs to be heard in a live setting to be believed, his shrieks and screams reaching ridiculous heights whilst still maintaining the band’s trademark melodies. Often when bands are playing a lot of gigs around town, people revert to saying “Oh I’ll see them eventually..” But if ScotDrakula get back into their constant touring schedule, there’ll be no excuses to not check them out. Double negative necessary.
Palms has become the main project of ex-Red Riders frontman Alex Griggs (also part of the fantastic Straight Arrows) and fellow Red Riders bandmate Tom Wallace, and have recently released their long awaited debut LP Step Brothers. As the band kick in to the first few songs, Griggs’ joy in playing and being on stage is infectious, with his wide smile and gracious gestures at the end of every song resulting in grins across the whole audience’s faces. As far as Melbourne crowds go, this was as stock standard as they come. A good 2 metres between the front of the audience and the stage creating the infamous no-mans-land, arms crossed, barely a foot tapping. A slight head nod was as “into it” as most of the crowd got, probably due to the fact that they r so kool. This dynamic was strange, as Palms’ brand of catchy lo-fi garage pop seems like on another night, would’ve got the whole place going crazy. This was remedied towards the end of the set by a few younger fans of the band who danced in front of the stage with glee. Unfortunately, after the first couple of songs were played, everything just seemed to be far too familiar. Admittedly, the “slacker punk” genre doesn’t leave a lot to play with, but maybe this is why the sound of Palms seemed tired. After the wave of bands such as Bleeding Knees Club, Surfer Blood, Dune Rats etc, the slacker punk sound may be on its last legs. Generalising is an easy thing to do, but maybe it would be good if it just had a rest for a year or two, and then maybe we can all welcome it back as an old friend rather than that annoying friend that always wants to hang out and isn’t particularly interesting.
Palms’ lyrics are perhaps worth noting, as they are much more mature than their contempories, and there are still highlights in the set such as the cover of Hole’s 1998 hit Malibu. Palms save their best two songs for a one-two punch at the end of the set, and are clear standouts. Love is even more unhinged in a live setting, and Grigg seems to be having a blast performing it, it’s ridiculous catchy chorus hanging inside heads long after the gig has finished. The last song of the night comes in the form of This Last Year, possibly Palms’ best song and the perfect way to close the set. A classic tear-jerker ballad, Griggs’ lets his vocals soar over the chorus, the entire thing rising and falling and before we know it, it’s over.
Overall, it was an enjoyable night with a few standout performances amongst the avalanche of garage pop. Yet while it was a perfectly enjoyable headline set, there seemed to be a spark that was missing, one that might be needed to seperate Palms from the rest of the scene.
By Tom Marinelli