Watching a band at a festival is rarely as enjoyable as watching that same band at their own show. Blame it on the light-show-ruining daylight, the shorter sets, the long lines at the bar, the inevitably inferior sound from the outdoor stages, the abundance of punters who don’t care about your favourite band because they’re just waiting for the next act … it all makes for a less than ideal atmosphere.
Yet I attend the double-staged, 20 band extravaganza In the Pines year after year. Maybe because it’s a great way to feel like I’m keeping up with the music scene in this city. No matter how few shows I attend, at least I can rely on RTR FM’s local band showcase to give me a taste of what’s going on out there.
Anyway, on to this year’s gig …
I arrived halfway through the day, during Sonpsilo Circus’ set. They’re a great band but they weren’t at the top of their game. The singer’s vocals were noticably off-key a tad too often and their high energy rock didn’t translate too well in the lazy afternoon sun.
Then came Drowning Horse. They’re not my kind of thing. That’s probably the best way to summarise their set. They play doomy, gloomy, growly, sludgey rock-slash-metal. You know, the sort of thing where the whole band plays a massive drop C chord, then the drummer does a 4/4 beat a couple of times real slow, then the whole band plays a C chord again and repeats for a full 30 minutes with only the most minor alterations to the formula. Obviously that gets a decent number of people in Perth real excited, so good on ‘em, but I found it pretty dull.
Following Drowning Horse made SMRTS seem like an all-out pop band. I suppose they are in a way, as they manage to be highly melodic even without vocals. They played a tidy set that included a great version of older favourite Curious Bird.
I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the next band, The Leap Year but they seemed decent – I’ll give them a proper chance if I see them again. It was the next band, Apricot Rail, that I was really looking forward to. I’d fallen in love with their debut album and I’d been quite blown away by their live performance at Amplifier a year or so ago. Their pretty, mellow sounds were like a warm hug after the abrasiveness of the previous acts but in the end their set was just the tiniest bit underwhelming. The band looked slightly uncomfortable – maybe due to sound problems or unfamiliarity with new material – and that always makes it harder for the audience to enjoy themselves. Still, I’ll look forward to watching them again.
Dub masters Sunshine Brothers brought the fun and got a few punters dancing, but for me they were just setting the mood for the real funsters, Boys Boys Boys!. The crowd stayed surprisingly subdued for most of the latter band’s set, but luckily the guys and girls of the band know how to party whether the audience is joining in or not. Their final song, a cover of Deceptacon by Le Tigre (complete with a stage crammed full of audience members dancing the “running man”), was my highlight of the day.
The power pop then continued with San Cisco, and if my disregard for Drowning Horse hasn’t yet pissed off every heavy music fan reading this, perhaps this will push the rest of you over the edge … I like San Cisco. They’re tight musically, their singer has a great voice and importantly, not all their songs are as annoying as Awkward (their Triple J hit song). They even tried out a few brand new tracks, with a song introduced as Fred Astaire making the biggest initial impression.
I half-listened to The Ghost Hotel, which means they must have been good seeing as I had intended to ignore them and get food etc. instead. To my mind they were the closest thing to “good old Aussie rock” that the day had to offer, which coming from me wouldn’t usually be a compliment, but in this case I’ll have to make an exception as they do it very well.
This was my fourth time at an In the Pines featuring Kill Devil Hills. I like them, but they’re always on near the end of the night when I’m getting a bit tired and anxious to see the headliners. So this time I decided I’d head outside the auditorium and find a spot to chill out where I could hear the band but not see them. It was a good plan and they sounded solid as always. I do wish they’d play Drinking Too Much though. It’s probably the closest thing they have to a “hit” but I’m yet to hear it live (at least I think that’s right – maybe they played it last time and forgot). That said, it’s obviously a very emotionally raw song so if they don’t play it because it hits too close to home for some of the band members, I can respect that.
Heading back in for Split Seconds, who I’d somehow never seen live before, I was immediately impressed. I’d felt like every band till then had struggled a little in the vocals department and I’d come up with plenty of excuses for them – the vocals are too loud in the mix, not enough reverb, they’ve been touring a lot so they’re a bit worn out etc. Yet, Split Seconds not only pulled off spot-on three part harmonies – they made it look easy. Well, okay, they were a bit off in the choruses of Mary (their Supergrass cover) but not by much and that song was fantastic otherwise. Apparently the band are moving to Melbourne soon, so anyone else who’s yet to witness their show should do so while they still can.
By the time Sugar Army appeared on stage to bring things to a close, the crowd had thinned out considerably – more so than I recall happening in previous years. Perhaps it’s a testament to the band’s popularity dwindling between albums or maybe half the crowd had split for another gig, but whatever the reason, it hurt the vibe in the audience a little. Unfortunately the band didn’t do quite enough to rectify that.
The lead singer of Sugar Army has never been one for moving about a lot on stage, but it’s worked for them in the past because the other members were so lively. This time however, the singer looked especially bored and the only one really keeping the energy levels up was the drummer, Jamie (one of the best drummers in the local music scene – despite a few stuff-ups on the night). Despite this, they were still one of the best acts of the day. Acute and Tongues in Cheeks are such phenomenally strong songs that they can’t not be captivating, and the playful reinterpretation of oldie Greed is Good was a great surprise.
All in all it won’t go down as one of the most memorable In the Pines I’ve been to, but it was still a great indicator that there are plenty of fine sounds being made in this city.
Thanks to RTR for making it happen. I’ll be waiting patiently for the next one.