Oh Ding Dong Lounge, why were you so empty?

From the few people around, mostly laid back in the booths, the theme of the night was ‘bands who should be getting much more attention than they are’, despite the steadily growing numbers throughout the evening.

The opening hard rock outfit, Arcane Saints, have just returned from a stint in Canada and they know how to rock. Frontman Michael John made it cheerfully clear that they would not be playing until their posse of supporters moved to the floor.

Their music is a powerful mix of solid rumbling drums and rolling guitar riffs mixed with hints of metal and ‘chili peppered’ Orange County style punk. Despite John’s vocal levels being too low, opening number “Ignite” was a highlight.

Arcane Saints’ number one fan Wayne was in the crowd (on his birthday no less) but politely refused to join the band on the richly textured “Motorway” with its hooky “fine by me” choral refrain.

The Spin provided a change of pace with their endearing hipster rock, characterised by strummy 50s guitar with a hint of surf.

Their exuberance and joy at playing was clear despite the mere two people on the floor.

They rock. They know it. They’re going to revel in playing whether they can split a pizza with their audience or not.

Highlights of the set included a cover of Arctic Monkeys’ “Brick by Brick” before finishing on an upbeat of warm energy that left the crowd hooting and waiting with open arms for The Trews.

It only took a few riffs from current Trews single “The Power of Positive Drinking” to elicit screams of delight from the audience, most of whom were still dedicated to their booth seats.

Colin MacDonald’s vocals were overcome by the guitars and drums but it did not hurt the rockin’ fraternal vibe of this song.

A shout out to Melbourne from MacDonald and on to the rest of the set, that actually benefited from the distorted sound and under-defined vocals. They began mounting a visceral fuzzy edged wall of Trews sound where hearing the sharp, defined edges of lyrics no longer mattered.

An impossible to refuse, beckoning drum beat by Dalton lead into an unapologetically grungy cover of Paul Kelly’s “Leaps and Bounds”.

MacDonald began to relax and smile more, thanking the opening acts before launching into a rough version of lighter-waver “Lord, Keep Me In Mind”. The slow migration to the floor heated up just in time for Trews classic “Tired Of Waiting”, a song so reminiscent of the 90s the audience could stick their arms into it and come out with a hyper-colour t-shirt. If the decade’s alternative rock had a voice, this song could be it’s spokesperson and it was a show-stopper.

“Oblivion” was up next, a flip-side to “…Positive Drinking”. The crowd got so inspired that they began staging merry group photos in front of the easy-going MacDonald mid song. “How many of you are Canadians?” asked the band to an answering chorus of enthusiastic shrieks.

As beloved Trews standard “Poor Ol’ Broken Hearted Me” began, the small crowd heard it coming and responded with the ‘hell yeah’, air-punching energy it deserved.

“Hold Me In Your Arms” saw guitarist John-Angus MacDonald gleefully playing atop the bass drum. Whether or not that contributed to the breaking of the snare was unclear but the unexpected benefit of this was the hastily scrambled ‘a capella with guitars’ encore of “Ishmael & Maggie”. Sultry, beautiful and otherworldly it gently blew the roof off the place.

Off the strength of tonight’s show, there’s no doubt the Trews will return to Australia before long, to be welcomed with drinks once more by Aussies and Canadians alike.

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