GONG HOSTS HIGH TEA WITH FRENZ

LIVE REVIEW: Frenzal Rhomb at UniBar 25/3/17

Frenzal Rhomb played at the University of Wollongong UniBar on Saturday March 25th for what was described jokingly by the band as ‘a sneaky show to help pay the bills while they ruminate on a release date and title for their new album.’ This wasn’t a lie as not a few days later they announced their new album ‘Hi-Vis High Tea’ due out on May 26th. Beerwolf and Totally Unicorn were the support acts for the night and successfully riled up the rowdy crowd for Frenzal Rhomb’s performance. Frenzal Rhomb are still going strong and their new album is undoubtedly going to be highly anticipated by many.

Beerwolf are a new band hailing from Sydney. Their support slot for Frenzal Rhomb was their second ever show but they’d clearly already found their groove as a band, delivering a great set of their punk jams. Frontman Pete was confident on stage and got the crowd warmed up for the next act.

Totally Unicorn were up next, in their signature stage outfits of colourful underwear and not much else. It’s incredible to think how much energy the band would use up every time they played as they leapt around the stage while playing their metalcore hits. Frontman Drew Gardener ventured down into the small but rough crowd and was quite literally thrown around as he crowdsurfed but managed to keep singing the entire time. The band clearly enjoyed being onstage and had grins on their faces the entire time, while also delivering some great tunes.

Frenzal Rhomb took to the stage in their usual laidback manner. Frontman Jason Whalley began by telling the crowd that guitarist Lindsay McDougall had shown them around Wollongong the day before the show and had taken them to the infamous Grand Hotel, joking to the crowd that they had not been impressed. This laidback, bantering vibe continued through the night, breaking up their high-energy songs with funny anecdotes and interactions with the crowd.

McDougall told the crowd that they would be playing new songs from their upcoming album, a special treat for the crowd at the UniBar, considering that the album hadn’t been announced at that point. There were also plenty of classics including ‘Bucket Bong’ and ‘Never Had So Much Fun’ that had everyone singing along.

The crowd were as rough as you would expect at a punk show, especially with a band like Frenzal Rhomb playing their frantic riffs. There was a lot of pushing and shoving but it was all in good fun and Whalley urged the crowd to be careful not to hurt anyone. If anything it displayed the versatility of the UniBar as a venue; they host anything from solo singer-songwriters to punk bands and everything in between.

Frenzal Rhomb may have been around for over two decades, but they are no less popular than back in the 90s when they first began. Not only are their concerts a nostalgia hit for older fans, but they serve as a fun night of good music regardless, for newer fans or those unfamiliar with their music.

April 3rd 2017 | Daisy Loomes

UNI PARTY MUCH MORE THAN GARDEN-VARIETY

LIVE REVIEW: Garden Party at UniBar 24/3/17

The University of Wollongong Garden Party is fast becoming a must-attend event for first-year university students, as well as older students, and consistently offers a world-class range of acts. 2017 was not an exception to this with a stellar line-up of 2016’s UOW Band Comp winners Halcyon Reign, Polographia, Lanks, Bec Sandridge, Luca Brasi, Urthboy and Ball Park Music. This year was a little different, thanks to the seemingly endless rain the Gong has been suffering from in the last few weeks. Rather than the usual outdoor setting all the bands performed in the UniBar and UniHall. This wasn’t a problem as both venues often host gigs, but it sadly took the ‘Garden’ out of ‘Garden Party’!

Lanks a.k.a. Will Cuming, brought his silky smooth indie pop to the UniBar stage with a perfect set early on in the evening. With just Cuming and his guitar along with a drummer on stage, Lanks delivered surprisingly layered and dimensional soundscapes, enhanced by his story-telling lyric style and use of loops. A highlight was Cumin pulling out a flute for a solo during his last song, somehow managing to make an often-scorned instrument cool.

Local legend Bec Sandridge performed at the UniHall later on, bringing her Karen-O channeling act back to the Uni after her last performance there in August last year. Sandridge and her band put on a high-energy show, managing to fit in a few tender moments as well as Sandridge sang to the crowd at the front of the stage. She even slipped in a cover of John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’, the same song she performed on Triple J recently. While her ‘Like a Version’ performance may have garnered some negative backlash from internet trolls, it was very well received at Garden Party and had everyone singing along. Sandridge may have a rockstar persona but it didn’t stop her bantering with the crowd, revealing the humble personality behind lyrics like ‘You’re a Fucking Joke’. Paired with her unique voice and talented guitar playing, Sandridge put on a great show for the Garden Party crowd.

Urthboy, a.k.a. Tim Levinson was one of the headliners for the night, playing at the UniBar stage. He was joined by a few backup singers on the stage who managed to share the spotlight just as much as him with their vocals and smooth moves. Levinson released his latest album in 2016, ‘The Past Beats Inside of Me Like a Second Heartbeat’ to positives reviews. The album focused on stories from Levinson’s past as well as the experience of being a father. This retrospective, tender theme was present throughout his Garden Party performance without compromising the fun nature of Australian hip-hop. Instead, Levinson struck a good balance between feel-good hits likes ‘We Get Around’ and songs about issues he sees as important like feminism and self-determination for all groups. Levinson has clearly become a skilled performer since he first came onto the scenes in the late 90s, and kept the crowd grooving for his whole set.

Ball Park Music were the other headliners of the night, playing in the UniHall. The sound in the hall was a little muddied during earlier sets due to the fact that hall is not designed for bigger concerts. However, Ball Par Music made the UniHall feel like a dedicated concert venue with a combination of fantastic sound mixing, light displays and a seamless set of their hit songs. Lead singer Sam Cromack exuded Rivers Cuomo-esque nerdy charm, and had the voice and guitar skills to match that of the Weezer frontman. The whole band were very tight and in sync, meaning there were no pauses in the set. If there were breaks to change instruments Cromack would play a spellbinding solo song on an acoustic guitar, maintaining the feeling of a polished concert set and giving the audience hit after hit, from ‘It’s Nice to Be Alive’ to ‘Surrender.’ Ball Park Music made sure that Garden Party ended with a bang and were sure to have left the crowd looking forward to attending the event again next year.

April 2nd 2017 | Daisy Loomes

THUNDERING LATE NIGHTS

LIVE REVIEW: Thundamentals at UOW Unibar 2/12/16

Australia hiphop group Thundamentals have enjoyed widespread popularity since the release of their debut self-titled album in 2009, and that popularity clearly hadn’t wavered as they played for an excited crowd at the University of Wollongong UniBar on December 2nd. Supported by Mallrats and PEZ, Thundamentals played a tight, fun and surprisingly emotional show making for a great night.

Mallrat kicked off the night with her infectious synth-pop tunes. The 17 year old Brisbanite recently signed with New World Artists, joining the likes of Grinspoon, King Parrot and The Meeting Tree. Mallrat did a great job warming up the stage for PEZ, who was up second on the night.

PEZ is well-known as a staple of Australian hiphop, making his name on the scene with his debut album ‘A Mind of My Own’ in 2008 with his single ‘The Festival Song’ reaching number 7 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 list. PEZ’s second album, ‘Don’t Look Down’ released on November 4th, was a long time coming, and PEZ addressed this as he took the stage. He spoke about setbacks and insecurities and ultimately overcoming them to release a new album and reconnect with his fans. PEZ kicked off with a new song ‘SOS’ before turning up the mood with ‘Weekend’, a classic Aussie track about letting loose at the end of the week. PEZ is not only a talented musician, but a true performer, with a perfect balance of enthusiasm and professionalism. PEZ ramped up the crowd asking if they were warmed up and ready for Thundamentals, even managing to crowdsurf in the small audience.

Thundamentals made a dramatic entrance, with an impressive light display over a large artwork banner, giving the UniBar more of a theatre feel. Featuring smooth, superfast flow and live trumpet, Thundamentals demonstrated why they’re so popular at the moment. Despite their supercool, popstar vibes, Thundamentals were clearly happy to be performing, sporting big grins as they came on stage. Like PEZ, they weren’t afraid to speak candidly to the crowd about important issues and setbacks they had overcome. ‘Ignorance is Bliss’, released last year as part of their Got Love initiative, looked at white privilege and the treatment of minorities. Their Got Love campaign partners them with the National Centre of Black Excellence, and they took a moment during the show to tell the crowd that the proceeds from some of their merchandise would go to the Centre. These serious moment didn’t dampen the upbeat mood of their gig however, as the performers told people to introduce themselves to whoever was next to them and make friends for the night. Another tender moment came when one of the rappers spoke about his struggles with depression and anxiety, emphatically telling the crowd they were not alone in similar struggles before launching into a number of all new tracks that had their fans dancing all night long.

Thundamentals put on a show that really captured the essence of Australian hiphop – a combination of talented performance, mateship and great vibes.

Dec 9th 2016 | Daisy Loomes

KIWI’S STOKE THE RASTA FIRE

LIVE REVIEW: Katchafire + L.A.B Kora Brothers at UOW Unibar 12/10/16

Katchafire turned an ordinary Wednesday into a fantastic, upbeat night at the University of Wollongong UniBar on the 12th of October. The UniBar had a smaller stage set up near the bar rather than the main stage, as they often do for smaller acts. I’m a fan of this setup as it allows for a casual setting to enjoy music with couches behind the stage and a closer view of the performers. Supported by the L.A.B. Kora Brothers, Katchafire played to a crowd of fans and provided a pick-me-up for the middle of the week.

The L.A.B Kora Brothers were first up for the evening and set a real ‘smoky bar’ vibe in the small venue. Stuart Kora headlined the band with his smooth soul voice accompanied by the rest of the effortlessly watertight band. With a delicious mix of rock and reggae the Brothers warmed up the crowd with their stellar performance. They finished their set with an incredible cover of ‘Come Together’ by the Beatles, complete with their own touch of dirty riffs and husky vocals.

Katchafire took to the stage next and instantly filled it with their cheerful, friendly presence. Katchafire are a Kiwi band and having family from New Zealand myself, the laidback and friendly attitude of the band and their music was very accurate to the nature of the people of New Zealand and their culture. Also important to note, Katchafire are an all Maori band and proudly so! Despite having a fairly large band consisting of bongos, drum set, trumpet, saxophone, bass, several guitars and keyboards, they played together effortlessly, often switching singers and instruments. Katchafire had a few fans in the crowd as I spotted a few band t-shirts and plenty of people singing along. At one point they dedicated a song to everyone who had spent the day at school or work which was met to cheers from the crowd of course – it was a Wednesday at a university bar and everyone was there to kick back and relax. Katchafire provided the perfect soundtrack for this middle-of-the-week getaway with smooth reggae tracks. It was clear to see why they enjoy such widespread, international success. Not only did they put out good vibes, they were extremely talented musicians, showcasing three way harmonies and proficiency on a range of instruments. They put on a fantastic show and provided a cure for the Wednesday-blues.

Oct 20th 2016 | Daisy Loomes

MONTAIGNE THE RAGE

LIVE REVIEW: Montaigne + Bec Sandridge + Woodes at UOW Unibar 7/10/16

Montaigne brought her ‘Because I Love You’ tour to the University of Wollongong UniBar on the Friday the 7th of October, supported by Woodes and Bec Sandridge. The three-time ARIA award nominated Montaigne, real name Jessica Cero, has toured with San Cisco and Megan Washington and collaborated with the Hilltop Hoods, and her obvious star-quality was apparent during her gig at the UniBar. The UniBar hosts a variety of musical and comedy acts and is popular among university students and other music fans alike. The musicians at Montaigne’s concert didn’t perform on the main stage as they usually would, playing instead on a temporary stage near the bar. This gave a more intimate atmosphere and allowed the performers to interact with the crowd, and meant that you could sit behind the stage on couches or outside on the veranda and enjoy the music.

Woodes began with a half-hour of atmospheric soundscapes, kicking off the night with delicate vocals and chilled out beats.

Next up was Bec Sandridge who pumped up the crowd with her upbeat riffs and quirky vocals. Sandridge’s energy was not dampened by her recent stint as headliner of the Yours and Owls Festival on October 1st and 2nd. Bearing similarities to the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Franz Ferdinand, she tore up the stage with popular hits including ‘You’re a Fucking Joke’, that she claimed, during banter with the crowd, to have written about herself. Sandridge and her band kept good control over their endless layers of synths, guitars, drums, keyboards and vocals despite their erratic, high-energy performance. A highlight of their set was a song that began with Sandridge alone on the stage playing acoustic guitar and singing, before being joined by the rest of her band for a danceable track.

Montaigne took the stage next to cheers and applause from her fans in the crowd, dressed like a true popstar in an extravagant red coat. The classic popstar pulled-puppet-strings dancing was there too, as she twirled around the stage and sang to the crowd. However, the haughtiness often seen in popstars was absent as Montaigne shared personal stories with the audience and clasped hands with fans as she sang, showing herself to be humble and personable. Montaigne’s vocals were incredible, showcasing her agility and strength of voice in every song. Not to be confused with any other pitch-perfect popstar however, Montaigne punctuated her songs with yelps and murmurs, exhibiting her own unique style. Before performing her song ‘Lonely’, Montaigne told the story behind the lyrics before conducting each half of the crowd to sing a part with her, which was a highlight of the night. Montaigne managed to put on a truly professional, polished performance while connecting with the crowd and clearly enjoying herself. She is definitely a musician to watch as she continues gaining popularity and putting on awesome shows.

Oct 11th 2016 | Daisy Loomes