Modern Baseball in Sydney, April 2016 / Pic Ashley Mar

Modern Baseball – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney 7/04/16

Most who have found themselves versed within the inner circles of the Sydney DIY music community will note Dave Drayton as a familiar face. He’s chugged the bass for beloved pop-punks Milhouse, tapped the banjo for erstwhile heartbreakers Pinch Hitter and has been showcasing his unique bedroom musings for years under the moniker of zzzounds.

It’s the latter with which he appears on the Oxford Art Factory stage tonight, to a crowd that is primarily unfamiliar. Despite some flat-out disrespect from some of the brattier Hot Damn types scattered about the already-packed room, Drayton thrives in clear defiance of them. His unique style of finger-tapping guitar playing is majestic to watch, working his way around a custom tuning and recalling the likes of American Football’s Mike Kinsella or Minus the Bear’s Dave Knudson.

Audience members find themselves particularly latching on to some of Drayton’s songs concerning financial struggles, cheering loudly for the couplet “I just want the fucking dole/They won’t hire me at Coles” from the brilliantly-titled Centrelinkin Park. He also shares moments of raw-nerve honesty, such as Cello, Brick Face and Fuck Broken Hearts, My Back Hurts, and by then even the most gasbaggy of talkers up the back can’t help but feel all of his feels.

The set is the biggest show Drayton has ever played on his own, and it’s something not lost on those that count among the audience. This man deserves all the good will that is coming his way.

Mental health issues within the fold of tonight’s headliners meant that their original tour, a co-headliner with Iron Chic, went ahead without them on board. It was a total shame, but Modern Baseball deserved nothing but the utmost of kudos for not only speaking openly about a matter of this nature as well as being honest about pulling out of a tour and subverting the usual “unforeseen circumstances” jargon.

Whatever the case, six months have passed since that fateful non-event. As such, this is a crowd that is uniformly rabid, itching to watch the band perform. Put it this way: There’s a surge to the front during the soundcheck. By the time co-vocalist/guitarist Brendan Lukens laments over the future during opener Fine, Great, the floodgates have well and truly opened.

For the next hour, it’s a celebration of this young band’s introverted, awkward coming-of-age as detailed across their two (soon to be three) studio albums that are so evidently beloved by this well-and-truly sold-out crowd. Apartment sends bodies flying, Tears Over Beers is sung so loudly that the microphones become obsolete and Jake Ewald – Lukens’ singing/guitar-playing other half – looks visibly stunned when the crowd nail both the handclaps and the Beach Boys-esque ‘ba-da-ba’s in Two Good Things. Early on in the piece, Lukens remarks to the crowd that he never thought in a million years that the band would ever be performing so far away from home. It’s a genuinely humble moment, and one that sees the audience cheer rapturously in response to.

The reality is that we are never going to see Modern Baseball play a room this small again. With such high demand for tickets – including a daily Facebook barrage of the unlucky ones more or less begging on hands and knees for admission – the band will inevitably return once their new LP, Holy Ghost, hits shelves.

In this moment, however, it’s the perfect way to watch the band perform – right up in the faces of those that have had their lives majorly impacted by this music and its thematic concepts. It’s nice to have them around, really.

Photos by Ashley Mar

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