BRC: Panzer Queen, Foveaux, Space Project, Sicaria, Set Sail, Moranis at The Annandale 06/09/09

After a pleasant day with the folks celebrating Father’s Day, I left them at home to traipse across town to the Annandale Hotel to check out a couple of new acts on the latest Bird’s Robe lineup.

Arriving late I caught only a glimpse of the bespectacled man that was Moranis, queueing blips and beats from his laptop on stage 2. Not your average DJ set, rather it seemed a carefully constructed mini opus mixing classic prog synth sounds with hip hop grooves. Moments captured my attention but perhaps I arrived too late for the best part of the set.

Photos By Jonathan Khor

Kick starting things on the main stage, Set Sail set the theme of the night with a classic instrumental build and release formula, albeit one that was marked by their youth and inexperience. The ideas flowed heavily with potential from this band, yet lacked execution. The rhythmic inventiveness of the drummer was overtaken by his willingness to rush through otherwise well laid trails of chords and the band’s overall lack of experience led to them seeming to ‘play the notes’ without communicating the mood of the pieces adequately. There were moments of sheer brilliance – the kind that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up – but on the whole, this band needs to tighten up and watch back a few videos to work on their stage act.

On stage 2, Sicaria plunged into a psychedelic maelstrom of noise and guitar driven groove. The Mars-Volta-like attitude and looks of the guitarist/vocalist were offset by the sup-par vocal performance he displayed tonight. The band were on fire – bass, guitar and drums locked into an impeccably tight and near-funk groove fest which produced mind-boggling hits and blisteringly fast fret and stick work by the drummer and guitarist. However the attempt to melodicise these workouts was a failure. Lacking hooks and a strong melody, the vocals only added to the string of unnecessary segues the band included. Lacking a true lead instrument (aside from a few wonderfully played guitar parts) the band was little more than a groove machine, with jaw-dropping chops, but that struggled to hold attention for a full 40 minutes. Though admirably striking their own path of high-tempo latin-flavoured prog, the overall point of the band was at times difficult to discern – they neither made it easy to dance nor listen – and I did not connect with this act.

The ability to hold an audience with a set full of quality material is what separates the pros from the nearly-theres. Bird’s Robe shows often challenge artists to rise to this by allocating extended set times. The following three acts provided examples well worth following.

Space Project put on a ripper performance. Their pieces flowed section to section, the highs were super high and the lows paved the way for the next killer groove the kick in. Guitarist/vocalist Adrian Barr was spot on with his vocal layering complementing the charge of the pieces and the entire band seemed energised by some unknown force. Whilst this reviewer has seen Space Project on numerous occasions (including their recent sold out performance at the Excelsior) it is always a pleasure to be impressed by a band with the same songs, same sound, but a great performance. Those Set Sail moments of spine-tingling brilliance were firmly upstaged by Space Project’s euphoric walls of sound and a stage persona to match. They didn’t get too angry, they just got into it a bit more…

On Stage two, another new addition to the Bird’s Robe menagerie was three-piece Foveaux. Significantly, this marked the first time I had seen a full electronic drum kit at a BRC night. The band started with the trademark of the night – ye olde atmospheric build-up. Except that it sounded great. And just when the novelty of band number 3 plying the post-rock trade started to wear off, the guitarist snapped into some great little licks and the groove began. Making great use of delay and a super tight execution, the rhythm section began to move underneath the plowing chords of the laptop/keys man and took the audience along with it. Admirably for a three-piece, they layered as best they could and built intensity without washing through chords, keeping mindful of the beat. Despite their tight jeans and indie posturing, the band was clearly interested in the music and the sounds they were creating. The drummers arms were a flurry of activity as he built pace under some solid picking by the guitarist and the plethora of sounds emanating from the table stage right were exciting. The band had started with a diminished crowd after Space Project’s set, which by the time they reached mid-set, had grown steadily yet again. Judging from the whoops and hollers, Foveaux was a choice pick of the night. Worth checking out, you fans of Pivot.

Finally, Panzer Queen took to the stage to cap off the night, in front of a small but devoted audience. They quickly stamped themselves as a tight and melodic take on the post-rock genre. Yes, they had the builds, but accompanied by soaring chordal structures was also a sense of rhythm and melody. Rhythm and melody, to quote Big Audio Dynamite, is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Despite having their set cut a tad short by a curious venue curfew, it was a pleasure to watch the band perform their material live – the songs have obviously been well constructed and were thoughtfully performed. It’s probably been done before… but there is always a market for quality.

Before I knew it, it was 11pm and I was ushered from the venue. A little disappointing in terms of the turnout and not quite the consistently top standard of act I had become accustomed to at Bird’s Robe shows to date – there were thought-provoking sets where the potential didn’t always match the actual – but also some exciting discoveries to keep an eye on in future.

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