On Saturday night I popped along to The Zoo to check out bands from different music scenes. Melbournites New Manic Spree headlined the night, showcasing their sexy new video clip for ‘Ghosts’. Slumberhayze visited from Sydney, and Drawn From Bees and Denmark made up the Brisbane contingent.
The Zoo is a beautiful venue; a beacon of hope for indie bands everywhere who want to play in Brisbane. A high stage and a few LEDs add polish to any performance. This was certainly true for Denmark, who were appropriately bathed in blue for their set. The band took on the challenge of creating atmospheric rock in the vein of Pink Floyd, and they did it really well. It’s hard performing music like that whilst convincing an audience that it’s not just for its own sake; being so serious that no one gets the point of your message. Even Thom Yorke wobbles on that line sometimes.
But Denmark didn’t, the music was tight and the guitar effects enhanced the songs, rather than drowning them. The Nationals influence on the vocals was apparent, although I wish there had been more variance in their delivery. But the back-up falsettos added a nice drive to the set, and those sexy harmonies kept me hooked throughout. Their set finished on the powerful song ‘Calcutta’ – well worth a listen on Denmark’s Triple J Unearthed page.
Drawn From Bees have been playing together for many years now, writing about everything from a quirky song about robot love to the sombre ‘Whistling Bone‘. This was an unusual set for them, being reduced down a three piece for the night. But, reflecting singer Dan James’ desire for the band to be flexible, they adapted nicely to the set-up. The set became an intimate show, giving us chance to explore Dan’s well enunciated lyrics.
Even with only drums, bass and an acoustic guitar, there were songs that really grabbed your attention. ‘Sea of Lust’ in particular did it for me with its exciting beat. As with Denmark, these guys pushed out some beautiful vocal harmonies, complete with soaring falsetto. At one point, Dan started beating his guitar body unexpectedly, making a new percussive beat whilst belting out his lyrics. Whether a three or thirteen piece, Drawn From Bees are definitely worth seeing.
Sydney-siders Slumberhaze punched into the next support slot, with a blend of blues, ambient rock, electronica and a dash of shoe-gaze. They sound like The Neighbourhood and Sigur Ros with a pinch of Muse. Admittedly it’s harder playing away from your home town, but I felt like they lacked energy compared to the last two acts. Their songs have something great to say, but they couldn’t quite get it out. The different genres are there but they aren’t quite melded together yet live. Nonetheless the songs were good, the band were tight. I’d just hoped for a bit more punch, and a bit more emotional variety. A lot of their recorded stuff is actually really good and I can see their live show evolving into something wonderful.
Reviewing a band you’ve already seen before is a dream, because you get to compare the two gigs and see what’s changed. Compared with the last time I saw them at The Zoo New Manic Spree absolutely nailed it. Their whole set was dynamic,elegant and animate – heaps more rock n roll, with singer Tim Baker pushing his range and leaping into high notes with ease. They not only looked comfortable smashing out their set, they were genuinely enjoying themselves. In between songs, the lads (and gal) were chatty and enjoying the banter.
Halfway through the set, violist Richard Grantham joined the band to play their new single ‘Ghosts’, earning himself some female shouts at the urging of bassist Gwen Warnick. His addition to the track added a new dimension, and I think the band should have guest instrumentalists on more often. The set continued unchained, with flawless rhythm transitions, switching from airiness to heavy rock in a instant.
New Manic Spree showed their ability to handle a bigger range of sounds, being able to step back, but also pump it out, making the set feel genuinely energised rather than forced. Last time I saw them, they played a played a gig. This time, they told me a story and gave me an experience, one I want to have again.
At the end of the night, New Manic Spree showcased this excellent video for ‘Ghosts’ and it’s well worth a watch: