Energised with a huge young fan base, their energy and machismo overflowing, the upper echelons of the Australian scene finally deserve a clap. Case in point: Spiderbait nestled amongst the Xmas ‘Best Of’ pap in the charts. Truly a reason to be thankful.
But still, a sold-out sign on Saturday’s door never means a full room for the opening band. Anthony Barquero’s side-on singing style told the story of the majority of folk in transit to the beer garden during the opening Verona and Fauves’ sets. In comparison to the all-ages gig the night before, with a thousand kids at the rail ten minutes after the doors opened, this was embarrassing.
Verona’s On A Wet Afternoon, the opener to the Shalvros EP, sounded monumentous even if their traditional on-stage disintegration started to take hold (reaching its peak at their Newport set on Sunday). And sadly, their long awaited new material, the Mediterranean disjointedness of Bossanova, wasn’t quite their pure mid-range, gut rumbling guitars of previous times. Verona still haven’t focused, but their talented ear for the hit riff remains excruciatingly close.
Met by a familiar crowd transience, The Fauves tapered down their stage antics and thrust forth a set of their favourite lyrical oddities: Don’t get Death Threats Anymore, The Driver Is You, Marijuana Is God’s Currency being just a few. Worthy of greater praise, best exemplified by their simpler and catchy Dogs Are The Best People, The Fauves’ fan base is growing just as fast as their ample discography.
A full two feet of sideburns signalled the entrance of Snout, these well dressed men with equally archaic guitars finally bringing the Refectory’s temperature up a few notches. Blasting off with their new single Winning Smile, which, to be a little mean, is one of their three more coherent efforts, started the plumb craziness which was soon to elevate this gig up there with the greats.
But I can’t credit this arousal to Snout. Their songs were swamped in extraneous stoppages, their blatently ordinary rock being supplimented by a little postmodern twist which usually involved bassist and vocalist Ross plowing on in no particular direction and guitarist Greg Ng frequently setting his guitar to squeal a semitone out from Ross. Obviously the crowd liked the subtly-inserted Beck riff and Cromagnonman, but by this stage it was more human density than great pop/rock that had this crowd moving.
Enter Screamfeeder and true adoration for both performer and music. By unveiling Static and Dart early on, Screamfeeder had the crowd tuned from dot. The new-found voice of bassist Kellie Lloyd floated in and around of the sometimes-childlike vocals of Tim Steward, their harmonies electric, each song to the point and satisfying.
With bursts from most of their faster and finer moments over the past few years, including a blistering Sweet Little Oranges from eons ago, it was Screamfeeders show right up to the moment Spiderbait walked on stage. Then it became one of the shows of the year.
With more than a dozen perfectly suitable introductory songs to chose from, that is precisely what they served up – Jesus, Conjunctivitis, Hot Water And Milk, amongst others – a rapid fire and continuous assault on an absolutely packed auditorium. From my position I saw not one person standing still or nodding their head, it was full bore, flat out, absolutely maniacal.
While their music has always been savvy, smart while fast and frequently threaded with dangerous grooves, their stage professionalism was what was truly awe-inspiring. During breaks between mini-sets the action was relentless – toy trumpets, silly songs, a Xmas card reading, a heckling of each other – a total performance in the old style, personality sense. Gags drifted into the music and returned mid-song. They passed around a toy trumpet for cunning new introductions to old and new faves.
It was a set which seemingly went for two hours, though it was probably thirty songs in a single hour. The crowd did not falter, the bouncers were damn close to dancing at the beginning of Buy Me A Pony and the encore seemed to last longer than the actual set. After a show like this, maybe Spiderbait can charge $120 a ticket? They deserve to arrive in a spaceship too.