I imagine very few would dare start a review like this, but it has to be said. I judge venues on their bathrooms the way I judge animals on their ability to shut up on command. In which case Crowbar are a police trained German Shepherd. I didn’t fear touching the taps, or feel the need to bleach the soles of my shoes. Well played Crowbar.
Local band Army of Champions rambunctiously began the night with some distorted rock. They were certainly an eclectic bunch; the bass player’s cap was a stark contrast to the ferocious man beard that was being sported by the lead guitarist. The intense music seemed to drive the vocals, rather than them taking on a life of their own, but there as a definite passion behind the performance. It was energetic and sombre all at once. No one could hear a word but I assumed that every lyric was a rebellion against the establishment, the inequity of life, and the price of microwavable meals.
Magic Bones quite literally made me blink in awe – anyone who has seen the Melbourne band knows what I’m talking about. A mere few songs in and it was mixed up enough to hold everyone’s interest, with accented off-beats in the verse of one particular song. In fact, all throughout they drew on a variety of styles which kept each song fresh. Female vocalist Kiri O’Connor had amazing power behind her voice and I could hear her clearly in the confined cacophony of Crowbar. She had a legato like way of throwing her voice from note to note, which was really enjoyable to hear.
Magic Bones are instrument swappers, with the early part of the set marked by guitars exchanging hands and a game of musical drum stools. As always, the bands who tend to do this have a combination that works best and it has to do with the position they are most used to being in. It’s nearly always obvious which it is. Not that I don’t appreciate multi-instrumentalists, but as soon as each musician resumed their primary instruments, the energy between them all exploded.
Drum fills became prominent and more dynamic, and the guitars sounded more alive. The drummer in particular brought an extra drive to the set, it was exciting to feel the hits plow through your bones. The guitarist was a pedal fiend, constantly moving around the stage in between pedal stomping.
Magic Bones get more kudos for not being afraid of the 12 Bar Blues, overlayed with some excellent Arctic Monkeys style riffs – there was a section with no vocals, where they all just went to town over the chords. It was the most entertaining moment of the performance.
The set face planted into a couple of softer songs towards the end. They were darker in emotion though, which is perhaps why someone in the audience started blowing bubbles. I don’t really know why, and perhaps she didn’t either. Maybe that’t what the cool kids do when they get high.
Aside from a few feedback issues with the guitar amp, Magic Bones delivered a solid, well above average live show, pumping up the enthusiastic crowd for The Bloodpoets.
The first thing you notice about The Bloodpoets is that they fucking love what they do. Bass player Barney Gickel was head banging so hard whilst playing, that I feared he’d get whiplash. Bec Plath, who was singing piano music last time I heard her, was full on dancing whilst playing keys. Energy is a huge must for Bloodpoets, and it was infectious that night. I suppose it helped that at one point singer Tom Murphy referred to the crowd as “good looking.” We’re all so vain.
The four piece have crafted a sound that is pre-dominantly rock, but heavier elements are interspersed with more familiar pop arrangements and four to the floor beats. The audience were treated to that heavier sound early on, with Tom screaming across the top of heavy, Black Sabbath like riffs. Think of a wall of noise. Then imagine you slept with its sister. That’s how angry and hard hitting it became.
But the band were not amateurs at taking things up and down. After that heavy rock experience, a gritty Black Keys style guitar led the way to the dance floor. This was repeated again with the wonderfully catchy ‘Destroy the Sun’ that just ended far too quickly. Although, the vocals did seem a bit strained in this performance. They were more yelled than sung, as opposed to the recorded version with the Chad Kroeger style growl (there’s nothing wrong with Nickelback, haters).
One thing that irks me with keyboards in a small venue is that they are treated as a filler. Whether it’s just the mix, the ambience or a band decision, don’t hold back: smash out the synths! Or else why have it if the guitars are going to drown it out?
It cannot be understated: Tom Murphy has an amazing voice, completely suited to the rock genre and perfect for this band. But I would have loved to have heard more of Bec Plath’s vocals, and maybe even as the lead singer for a song or two. She recorded this gem for the 100 Songs Project 2012 and her voice is fucking stunning.
A little song called ‘Dance’ was the highlight of the night. It featured seductive lyrics, sexy harmonics and a well crafted rhythm that sat beautifully with the vocal melodies. Of course, Bec’s smooth voice gave it that extra kick. Check out the video clip for it below:
The final song was a bit too short, but this can be forgiven because it ended with some huge, crazy drum banging, and of course, much applause. I love thirty minute sets because it’s the perfect time to digest new music, without getting sore or fidgety. It also naturally encourages you to seek out the songs afterwards because you don’t feel quite sated. Still, I expected longer from the headliner – an extra ten minutes would have been perfect!
There’s really no way to describe the awesome atmosphere and sounds that filled Crowbar that night, so if you get get the chance, go and see The Bloodpoets for yourself. The band are due to release their album The Grand Machine soon, so keep an ear out for it. In the meantime, they have their music on iTunes and can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.