The Laurels + Keep On Dancin’s + Cobwebbs
Review by Denis Semchenko
Photos by Justin Ma
Beetle Bar, Friday August 17
In operation for a solid year, The Beetle Bar has resolutely outgrown its newcomer status by positioning itself as a fully-fledged rock & roll venue amidst Upper Roma Streets’s backpacker heaven/hell. This Friday being a game night, a couple of bemused-looking, testosterone-oozing football fans keep walking in and out of the venue (“Live music? What’s that?”) as the non-jersey-sporting variety sip on the non-overpriced brew and chat about things other than home team scores and stats.
Local psych-garage quartet Cobwebbs are on first. Their murky, whooshy sound is ideal for the venue; however — like many fellow genre enthusiasts — they completely disperse with hooks, instead regaling us with numerous fascinating combinations of the chords E, G, A, D and occasionally B.
Listening to the foursome, I recall reading about The Jesus And Mary Chain’s fabled first shows — 15–20 minutes of unlistenable guitar feedback, with the crowds frequently rioting and trashing musical equipment and the venue itself — in old music mags and understand why such mayhem took place. Thankfully, the times have changed and the considerably more placid Beetle Bar audience members either politely listen with beers in hand or duck out for a smoke outside.
While Cobwebbs lack JAMC’s rudimentary tunefulness, Brisbane boys and girls Keep On Dancin’s have surely learnt from the Reid brothers’ finer side — as well as from assorted ‘60s girl groups, echoey biker-death songs and surf-guitar aesthetic. A friend of mine once said something along the lines of “like having a heroin surf party” when describing 2011’s The End Of Everything LP (re-released on vinyl this year), and this comparison makes perfect sense when the minimal-yet-atmospheric music fills the bar.
Brandishing a sizeable Fender bass, Jacinta Walker has the “blonde-bombshell rockstar” look down pat — which along with her gorgeously baleful voice makes her a hands-down magnetic frontwoman. Driven by the erstwhile Teen Sensation Yuri Johnson’s reverb-dripping Fender Jaguar, songs like Summertime and Sweet Baby are as likeable as the band themselves — unassuming and totally deserving of the hype.
Sydney’s The Laurels are frequent visitors to the Sunshine State’s capital, with memorable The Black Angels and The Brian Jonestown Massacre support slots and an ear-destroying BigSound Live 2011 showcase firmly under their belts. Touring the taut LP Plains, the headliners open in a no-nonsense fashion with lead single Tidal Wave and we’re instantly transported to 1992 — which is all the more remarkable considering a large portion of the crowd weren’t even born when shoegaze hit the peak of popularity.
A marked improvement on the impressive-to-begin-with Mesozoic EP, the new songs are less ‘noisy’ and contain better-written hooks and smoother ‘gliding’ (for which every shoegaze/dreampop band in existence should thank MBV’s Kevin Shields no end). Lanky bassist Conor Hannan is reminiscent of Gareth Liddiard when he was still a member of Dan Kelly’s The Alpha Males, while singers/guitarists Luke O’Farrell and Piers Cornelius lock together like Ride’s Mark Gardener and Andy Bell as drummer Kate Wilson maintains the vintage rolling shuffle. Add trippy tunes like Black Cathedral and you’ve got an excellent ending to a perfectly satisfying night of quality modern Australian music — with added sonic manna for every delay/phaser/shimmering distortion and vocal harmony fan.
DENIS SEMCHENKO is OffStreet’s music editor. Writer, social media addict, vinyl enthusiast and serial muso. Has a soft spot for hyphens and slashes. Will chew off your ear about obscure music, guitars and world football. You can annoy Denis @musojourno