MMW Opening Night
Artwork by Ben Montero
WITH A VISION to celebrate the depth of Melbourne’s indie scene, Mistletone curated and sold out the Opening Night for Melbourne Music Week 2013 in pop-up venue on the banks of the Yarra River. Our dream-team lineup featured The Bats, Boomgates, Montero, Sonny & the Sunsets, Vishnu Keys + DJs Higher Power + LA Pocock.
The Residence, a sizable pop-up venue planted like an alien structure on a particularly dusty plot of real estate down in Birrarung Marr, had the hefty task of living up to the standard set by last year’s Melbourne Music Week hub located inside the Argus Building. For what it lacked in architectural splendour, The Residence managed to facilitate a profound notion of ceremony, feeling a world away from the immediate bustle of the CBD. It was almost like a Meredithian microcosm, punters relishing the dirt-tinged open air surroundings of the geodesic musical bio-dome during interstitial band changeovers. Local smooth-pop assailants Montero looked at home in the otherworldly base, hitting their cues with emphatic purpose. They’re a tight unit, performing selections from latest LP The Loving Gaze, at times breaching a sense of warmth into harsher acoustic territory in the acoustic bubble. Frontman Bjenny mugged like a geezer Hamlet, toying with a human skull as he bandied about stage. The Loving Gaze is a corker, and tonight its tracks were paid due reverence with on-point musical acumen and formidable showmanship.
The sole non-antipodean act of the night, and one of the few internationals on the festival roster, Sonny And The Sunsets didn’t falter in the after-dark setting. Their summery disposition still shone through, the affable and breezy brand of rock‘n’roll acting as a security blanket against the brisk winds creeping through the dome. The one-two of Tomorrow Is Alright highlights Too Young To Burn and Planet Of Woman were a delight, Sonny drifting down offstage and into the crowd for the latter.
I’m writing this review at the tail end of Melbourne Music Week, having caught more than a few dozen acts at The Residence since opening night. Still, the highlight stands as Boomgates’ powerhouse set on Friday. A far cry from their shaky live beginnings, the Steph Hughes and Brendan Huntley-fronted outfit were incredible as they reeled off cuts from their full-length debut Double Natural, plus Widow Maker – their side of the recent double-A split with tonight’s headliners The Bats. Whispering Or Singing was a rollicking freight train of delight, as it always is. That winding-down, fading out false ending that parlays into a final chorus always produces magic. Layman’s Terms saw Brendan leap to the top of the PA stack to his left, commanding the audience’s gaze from his makeshift dais.
Whispers of hiatus followed Boomgates’ performance, and if true, here’s hoping it’s a brief one. Failing that, let’s fantasise that it’s paving the way for an Eddy Current reunion, ay.
The influence of venerable Flying Nun alumni The Bats could be heard throughout most of Melbourne Music Week, but their performance on opening night proved that they’re far from a faded musical touchstone. The New Zealand outfit sounded as vital as ever, rolling through a no-nonsense curation of their choice back catalogue.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK