BY JAMES WALSH
Friday night’s show at the Sydney Curling Club made for a perfect storm of exciting bands, a buzzing capacity crowd and a unique, underutilized venue. With the warm smell of wood smoke wafting out of a stone fireplace and vintage wood paneling on the walls, the room felt like an early ‘80s basement den, granted one with an adjacent full-sized curling rink. Shows during the ECMA weekend often have an electric atmosphere, but this one was special right from the start. Not only did the crowd get to see some great bands, everyone was allowed to try out curling with some free instruction by some of the club’s membership.
The coupling of curling and indie rock may not seem apparent at first glance, but it turned out to be a match made in heaven. If you think about it, there is a certain synchronicity in bringing the two worlds together. For starters, like a stage in a rock club, the ice surface is mere steps away from the bar. Musicians are known more for their skill and accuracy than their athleticism and well, so are curlers! Really, I’m surprised it’s taken Sydney this long to put the two together. With any luck the club will continue to host live music. The staff and membership were great and made everyone feel welcome.
Of course, the main reason people were there was to hear some music. The show went off without a hitch barring a few technical issues which lead to local act Youth Haunts having to bow out and a slight PA malfunction. But you can’t keep a good show down. Below is a quick recap of the night’s performances.
Albert Lionais and Ian MacDougall may have started guitar/drum duo Hash Jesus as a getaway from the juggernaut of the Tom Fun Orchestra, but the band has found its own legs and continues to improve with each show. Last night had some technical challenges, but the two pros carried on with a sharp performance of their own blend of rhythmic indie rock.
Before last night if you’d asked ten people to describe local band The Pranks, nine would have made a Velvet Underground comparison. While their garage roots still show, the band has more to offer with the addition of some classic southern rock elements that open up their sound and give their songs room to breathe. The Pranks have quietly become one of Sydney’s go to bands with a growing local fan base and a knack for writing hooks.
Everyone in Cars
Everyone in Cars is Sydney’s best-kept musical secret. Something of a holiday band, brothers Adam (drums) and Mike Gabriel (bass, vocals) mainly play shows when they find themselves in the same place at the same time, an exceedingly rare occurrence usually coinciding with Christmas or Thanksgiving, but in this case, a party. When they do get together local music fans make sure to clear their calendars. Friday night’s performance was a highlight of the weekend and saw the band favouring new songs that had a more polished feel than some of their previous outings. The vintage crunch that fans have come to expect from Mike’s harmonic bass playing was still front and centre, but largely absent were the epic space jams of the past. Instead the duo delivered a set of concise pop songs bristling with intensity. Adam’s drumming is so tuned in to the songs that space is filled, but never over-stuffed. It may be some time before Cape Breton is treated to another Everyone in Cars show, but it will have been worth the wait. In the meantime, a new album is in the works that may soon see release.
With Sydney rocker Dan Baldwin (ex-Rock Ranger, Pulse) on bass, The Grass delivered a rock show at 300 feet per second. Front man Willis Ryan exudes rock-and-roll energy and didn’t let up from start to finish, urging the crowd to play along and get moving. The band is obviously very comfortable playing together, evident in the rhythmic interplay and tight harmonies. While the sound might be a throwback, The Grass stays fresh by relying on a key ingredient that some of today’s rock bands lack: fun.
Dog Day, including Louisbourger Nancy Urich (ex-Burdocks, Pulse), playing together since the release of their debut EP, Thank You, in 2003 have garnered international acclaim and a reputation for pop song craftsmanship with a hint of darkness around the edges. Their most recent release, the vinyl only Elder School House, recorded with Eric’s Trip’s Rick White, digs a little further into those edges. It’s only natural that their live show reflected that new energy. The pop hooks and vocal harmonies remained at centre stage, but Friday night the band seemed to play with more intensity. Whether it was the addition of drummer Rob Shedden, the energy of an appreciative crowd, or something woken up by working with White, Dog Day played at the top of their game. The set was punctuated by a triumphant encore cover of Nirvana’s “Drain You” that had one audience member remark, “Dog Day made Nirvana cool again.”