Sunday, 29 June 2014

Gig Review - Band Of Skulls

Band Of Skulls
Live @ The HiFi, Brisbane (21/06/2014)
Supported by Apes
Words and pics by Jo Michelmore

It's interesting how bands are just rock bands to some, a casual something to hear on the radio, a cool name to drop in conversation, something to sing along to in the car and yet for other people they become a way of life, their music seeps into every part of some people's existence and an all important part of that thing I like to mention every now and then, that thing that is as unique as each of us are, the life soundtrack. Band Of Skulls made their way into my soundtrack a couple of years ago through this blog itself, via email conversations with a musician on the other side of the world who was a friend and fan of their work. I investigated, trawling the internet for whatever I could find and discovered a rock band I wasn't expecting and a sound I couldn't get enough of.

Fast forward some time and I found myself at Splendour In The Grass and in a year where the gods of festivals and rock smiled on me for three days straight, there I was in the front row witnessing something I didn't know I really loved until I saw it. In the tradition of the festival here at It's My Kind Of Scene I text reviewed it and my simple character limiting words then take me straight back to that set:

"Sometimes at the music festival, you have that lucky moment where you just get happy 'cause you realise how amazing something is exactly as it happens. Band of Skulls were like that. Amazing. Me: happy"

From my prime position, I witnessed a band of three that seemed a little unsure, but it only came across as charming, a band that seemed shy and stared at their instruments and each other a lot, but perhaps that was because of the rain (read: storm surge overhead) pouring through the tent roof overhead, or perhaps it was their lack of experience on stage. Either way, they played a set I adored, smashing out rock song after rock song, some I was familiar with, some new to my ears, but all of them strong. Yep, I declared myself a fan.

Fast forward another couple of years and you have me, standing at the HiFi in Brisbane, another rainy night, but this one not under the cover of a not very secure tent but a venue I've learnt to like, one that has hosted some interestingly very different musical experiences for myself and my friends. Last Saturday night though was all about one thing: guitars, drums and rock.

The punters who were early enough (and the ones I admire the most) found themselves a sweet little set from Melbourne's Apes. Admittedly not a band I am that familiar with, they certainly proved themselves to be a band I endeavour to find out more about, playing through a half hour set that wound it's way from English Manchester pop inspired sounds to American Jack White-ish rock sounds. A particular punter caught the attention of K-Tizz and myself, a guy in a leather jacket who looked like he was made to rock. Apes moved him in ways I love to see, throwing his arms in the air like he was at a Baptist church singing gospel in the deep south, he reminded me just how awesome live music can be. Midway through the set, K-Tizz was inspired enough to press 'like' on the Apes  facebook page, while a group of 'slightly' intoxicated patrons standing nearby proclaimed their affection by yelling things I won't repeat here on the blog and the four members took it all in their stride, playing a set that made me want to hear more. I'm hoping leather jacket guy put his money where his dancing feet were and bought a CD on his way out.

While the HiFi slowly filled, I noticed a group of people at the front of the stage, right in the middle who had been there since the minute we arrived. That is true fan-dom and something I admire and understand, I like the dedication to the rock they clearly loved. I wondered if they had been at Splendour a couple of years ago and what their thoughts were, before my thoughts were interrupted with the sight of three people wandering onstage non-chalantly, not giving much away. Exactly as the ways things worked a couple of years ago, but this time, Band Of Skulls kicked off proceedings with 'Asleep At The Wheel', the first track released from their current album Himalayan, but something was different, something was immediately better, something was immediately more convincing and the two years lived in between the last time I witnessed a band I adored and now, just meant the rock got better and the adoration was about to grow.

Bassist Emma Richardson was every bit the rock chick I like, owning her instrument and demanding attention when required, she has a subtle confidence that is charming and addictive, in guitar heavy songs like 'Wanderluster' her bass talents are subdued but essential and in songs like 'Bruises' and 'The Devil Takes Care Of His Own' her vocal is awesome. Drummer Matt Hayward is a drummer born to be a drummer, his wind blown hair catching my eye from the back of the stage and his solo at the end of the set was one of the highlights of the night. It was Katie who pointed out his red wine drink of choice that made me like him even more, what a classy percussionist.

In typical rock style though, it was front man Russell Marsden who took control of the show, declaring this was the very last night of their world tour and they were going to play like they had nothing to lose, which is exactly what they did. The almost shy performer I witnessed two years ago was a different man, someone who now seemed born for the stage and his comfort as a performer was addictive, track after track sounding exactly as rock music should, like it was written to be played for an audience to love.

There is one person though who inspired the beginning of this little review and in turn the end. While I saw a performance I loved on Saturday night, there was a person at the front from row from the beginning, a person I myself have been at times, a person I understand and a person I probably really like. In the very front row, a gentleman, probably somewhere in his twenties who clearly loved his live music and loved the band he came to see. His hands in the air almost the entire set, singing along every single time I glanced over and desperately reaching to any band member who came near throughout the night. At one point he was given a pick and it seemed like that made his night, his week, his world, jumping up and down and hugging anyone around him. THAT is being a fan of a band and that is the kind of magic a band like Band Of Skulls can create. Sometimes there is nothing better than some simple rock music to make you feel alive and that's exactly what they provided for an almost full HiFi on Saturday night, for me and for the one awesome fan in the very front row. It's music and it's rock. It was two years ago the first time I fell under their rock spell and even more so now, it's awesome.  

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