The weekend was a blur of sultanas, wine, cricket, beer, dogs, champagne, cousins, naps, Netflix, journeys to the northern suburbs and hell good zucchini salad. These things mostly fell under the banner of “Christmas,” and I think at this point I’ve shed both my childlike wonder and Scroogelike cynicism around the festival, instead coming to appreciate it for what it is: a cool (usually hot) time to embrace awkward family conversation and the trepidatious exchange of largely inappropriate gifts. For most, it’s a rupturing of standard routines, and a moment to spend alongside those with whom we don’t necessarily have much in common – which is healthy, I think.
But it’s also healthy to spend time with people who are on your wavelength, and that’s what The Bird usually feels like, a gathering spot for like-minded crew who love original music and art and low-key partying and kindness. The passing through Boxing Day hangovers (metaphoric or literal) into The Bird’s unrelated Dec 26 concert feels like a transition between worlds.
Admittedly it’s a slightly stilted, bustling transition. There’s a line snaking out the door and into the surprisingly cool summer air. The Bird is packed to the ceiling, the queue for the bar is more like a swarm. I work through it and get near the stage to watch BELLS RAPIDS.
I’m stoked to finally see this band. They’ve been playing for at least a few months now and I keep managing to miss them. The sound is as tight and resolved as you’d expect from the likes of Tanaya Harper, Stella Donnelly, Talya Valenti and Sara Jane McPherson – all musical goal-kickers elsewhere and in their own right. What I didn’t necessarily expect was the variety and dynamic range that would characterize the set – having only heard the track ‘GF’ online, I guess I imagined half an hour of similarly rollicking, garage rocky stuff. As it turned out, Bells Rapids serve up everything from hushed harmonies over minimal arrangements, to big weighty riffs and dense grooves. For a band so new to have this kind of vision is pretty exciting: I think 2017 will be a big one for the BR crew.
The drinks pour and splash, expats and Perth-lifers mingle, BODY TYPE set up before an eager crowd. The band, comprising mostly former Perth-dwellers, is here in a weird mix of homecoming and first contact (it’s their debut Perth show). Despite an initially unfortunate mix (where’s the bass? I can’t hear the guitars but… I can only hear guitars?) they disappoint no-one, tearing through a concise set of equally fun and thoughtful rock songs. Redfern sharehouse anthem ‘264’ provides a dousing of mid-century pop melodics filtered through 2016 Sydney sunshine; sneakily heartbreaking lo-fi hit ‘Ludlow’ receives a rapturous response, and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams,’ featuring the Dianas on bonus vocals and percussion, forms a fittingly joyous closer. There’s plenty of mileage to be had in Body Type’s sound – an energising but often melancholic mix of sweet tunefulness, gritty guitar, chugging drums and post-punky bass that floats dreamily above the instrument’s usual emphatic, foundational home-zone. I already cannae wait to hear more.
Finally completing the bill’s trifecta is Perth-forged, cross-country based power-duo/trio DIANAS. And while each set so far has sounded accomplished, there’s no denying the performative impact that comes with Dianas’ years of refining and experience. Bass/guitar/vocal front line Caitlin and Nat clearly know each other’s musical tactics inside out, and manage to move as a single, unstoppable force while maintaining their distinct personalities. Riffs weave, duck, dive and throttle while their voices shoot through like darts of oxygen.
All the while, the more recent addition of Anetta Nevin on drums gives everything a surge of electric intensity: nobody quite drums like Anetta, who smacks the skins with an implausibly controlled chaos. Sticks descending from on high, casually reeling off fierce fills in weird time signatures. The whole thing would feel like a Prog Epic if it wasn’t so breezy and unpretentious.
We disperse but with a kind of togetherness in our pockets. The interlacing of friends and musical energies at this time of year, surely as meaningful as any other kind of (re)union – tonight, the perfect sonic digestif after too many carols, the perfect circulation of goodwill to tide us over til the new year.