‘The Club House’, Tempo Hotel
As I arrived in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, touted as Australia’s only dedicated entertainment precinct, resplendent in all its hipster glory, the vibe was strangely expectant. Along with the usual roaming hordes of mismatched youth, there was a new crowd in town – crumpled suits, disheveled ties, briefcases, Blackberries – Australia’s music industry was in town.
I was disappointed to only catch the tail end of Melbourne based kiwi-import Kimbra’s opening set at the Tempo Hotel’s downstairs venue The Club House. What I did hear was a booming yet soulful voice, an interested and enthusiastic crowd, and a chorus singalong that indicated a pretty good following for this young lass.
Along with the other out-of-place un-hipsters scoping the scene was the one time ‘most powerful man in Australian music’ Mr Michael Gudinski.
Watching Oh Ye Denver Birds set up with synths, a Macbook Pro, violin, maracas, and a tambourine, I was immediately concerned about the impending hipster-pocalypse. But these young men and women delivered a strangely coherent wall of sound that pleased the crowd.
Mixing loops and feedback with live instruments, this keyboard-driven indie-pop outfit sometimes had too much going on all at once. Taking a leaf out of Chef Gusteau’s book “anyone can cook”, Oh Ye Denver Birds were like one part B-52s and one part Talking Heads, with just a smattering of The Grates thrown in.
Although I couldn’t help but feel they jumped the shark with a bit of rapping thrown in, these guys were tight, enthusiastic and energetic. And their bass player is really, really tall.
Bordering on ‘ambient stoner pop’ (yep, I just made that up) Disco Nap initially reminded me of UK indie rockers Ash. Although at times they mixed it up with synth sounds and what sounded like marching drums, this tight four-piece were most consistent when sticking to a more traditional straight-forward rock format.
At times very familiar and comfortable, Disco Nap‘s sound revolved around their drummer, and the band collectively were clearly fans of the big rock flourish to finish out a song – something of which I will always approve.
However, the lingering thought that I was left with was “are these guys old enough to be in a licensed venue?”
Before Bridezilla even hit the stage, a random groupie (“the record is a bit underdone, but their live sound is awesome – I’ve seen ‘em five times!”) was already selling me on their virtues.
Like all the multi-instrumentalists that had hit the stage beforehand, these quirky ‘chick-rockers’ also prominently featured saxophone and violin, as well as hotpants – where could we possibly go wrong?
The opening track was an ambient, acid whitewash of haunting noise, and musicians and punters alike were well advised to give the group’s violinist a wide berth. Mellow probably doesn’t even begin to describe Bridezilla‘s overall sound.
Whilst these ladies (and one fella on the drums) were certainly engaging, and entrancing, they could use – to borrow a phrase from the Australian Idol playbook – some ‘light and shade. With a well constructed and deliberate setlist however, Bridezilla had me sucked in by the end of the night.
Knives at Noon‘s big rock opening soon had Michael Gudinski back in the room. These grungy kiwi rockers with their dirty synths and big vocals had an almost Doors-like quality about them. Clearly this was the most polished outfit of the night.
Sometimes slipping into almost ‘noise band’ territory, these young crowd-pleasers would do well on a much bigger stage, with more time to belt out a longer setlist.