Ah Snowman. It’s the last time my favourite Australian band hit Sydney stages before they relocate to the UK. To top it off, it’s the first time Snowman have graced our stages armed with new material from the stunning new record The Horse, The Rat & The Swan.
Naked On The Vague secured Thursday’s opening spot, the only Sydney band on the bill. I’d heard some good things about these guys. As I tapped my feet to the music, I heard quite a few punters remark “I’m getting more of the vague than the naked”. The boy/girl two-piece were a strange choice for this bill. Their unique brand of eccentric, experimental wailing reminded me of Throbbing Gristle, but their audience is not the Snowman crowd, who seemed confused by their performance.
Melbourne act Baseball were the main support act and they won the crowd over in a matter of seconds. The singer is an amazing force of energy, and wields a violin like a madman. After Naked on the Vague’s somewhat static performance I found their relentless rhythms and pulsing wall-of-sound a bit confronting – there’s not much time to catch your breath and really take it in.
Finally the curtain lifted on Snowmans show and from the opening snare hits of Our Mother (She Remembers), the first song on the new album, the audience stared and swayed, mesmerised. We Are The Plague, the first single from The Horse, The Rat & The Swan, snapped us to attention, and with every song we were plunged ever deeper into an intense, enlightening musical journey. The room seemed to resonate with emotion, the band surrounded by some kind of mystical aura in which they were enveloping us from the stage. They didn’t venture from the new material and they didn’t need to – this is a band that can really play together, feeding off each others’ sounds – and it sucks you in completely.
The dynamic was different this time around, Aditya has surrendered his guitar and surrounded himself with a variety of new toys while Joe, centre-stage, holds the puppet-strings of the crowd in his role as frontman/lead guitarist. Joe’s guitar technique is impeccable, less riffy than in previous shows and this time he brought an E-Bow into play (which he apparently found rather than bought, half his luck).
We marveled at our own luck, seeing such a mind-blowing show at such an intimate venue. Snowman continued to up-the-ante with a percussion jam between Aditya and Ross, a violin-toting Aditya vaulting dramatically into the crowd, embellished by Joe’s maniacal off-mic shrieking. All the while Olga and Ross worked their magic, holding the whole grand masterpiece together.
The remarkable showmanship escalated to its climax, with Joe suddenly sweeping off the stage and into the crowd of ecstatic fans, for an extended jam-cum-love-in. The audience was putty in his hands, and like Moses parting the Red Sea he led the circle around him to sit on the floor, which spread like a wave throughout the room. The entire crowd sank down to the floor of the venue and sat, staring up at these marvelous creatures who never missed a beat or a note.
When the band hung up their instruments and called it a night, we were still calling for more. And back they came, blasting us with an epic rendition of Wormwood from the first album that sent more than a shiver through the room. Hats off to you Snowman, and if you don’t make it big in the UK I’ll eat mine.