Summer 2011 is already kicking Summer 2010 square in the front teeth. This time last year, it was cold and raining and there was no sign of putting away the winter jacket any time soon. Now it’s a Friday in Richmond, nary a coat in sight, and Future of the Left are about to set fire to the Corner, after playing Meredith last week. With a new EP fresh off the press and a new album about to be released, at this sold out show tonight there’s a buzz in the air.

The format tonight is a little unusual, with opening band Brat Farrar playing two sets either side of The Nation Blue.The new project from Sam Agostino, of Digger & the Pussycats and The Russian Roulettes, they’re set up on the side stage in the band room. They kick off their first 20 minute set with plenty of energy, their short, catchy songs just the right amount of rough around the edges. Their sometimes unusual song structures and Agostino’s guitar solos set them apart from other bands, sounding something like early Dinosaur Jr. filtered through Jay Reatard. Their set is quick and punchy, closing with “100,000 Years”, a standout track.

The Nation Blue are playing on the main stage, set up in front of Future of the Left’s back line. Guitarist Tom Lyngcoln plays out the first tremulous notes of “Bossa Nova/ Southern Gale” on his weathered Fender Jaguar, and then Matt Weston’s thunderous bass kicks in with drummer Dan Mckay, the bursts of noise punctuating the quieter pauses in the song. In “Van Deiman”, off of their 2004 album Damnation, waves of distorted guitar fill in for the female vocals on the album version. The Nation Blue are a band with a clear separation between their live shows and album recordings, as in “Damnation”, the band dropping down to half speed or slower halfway through the song, before picking back up for the final verse.

“Sedition” is two minutes of ferocious post-hardcore, before “Copper”, probably the closest thing TNB have to a “quiet” song. Things simmer down for a bit and then “Trespass” is closing the set, the bass intro leading down to the sonic-freakout sucker punch, Lyngcoln throwing his guitar about, looking like he’s closer to tearing the strings than strumming them. Always an amazing live presence, tonight The Nation Blue were in fine form.

Brat Farrar’s back on again on the side stage, this time playing to a full house, it’s much the same short, catchy rock and roll as their first set, though the larger crowd seems to have these guys playing their heart out.

As the house lights go down a pink glow seeps out around the closed stage curtain. Bizarre keyboard noises come soaring out, for a manic-electro intro to Future of the Left’s set, possibly a track from their new record. The curtains part and it’s straight into “Arming Eritrea”, and the crowd erupt into a mass of flailing limbs and bodies. Guitarists Andy “Falco” Falkous and Jimmy Watkins are playing guitars missing ‘A’ and ‘B’ strings, both instruments sounding beat-up and dirty and feverish and fantastic on “Small Bones Small Bodies”.

The 4-string guitars are swapped out for two with six before playing a couple of new songs, “Beneath The Waves An Ocean” and “Sheena Is A T-shirt Salesman”. “Waves” is all thunderous bass and drums, and a surprisingly pop-py chorus and guitar hook, the crowd picking up the words fast enough to sing back “No way, you’ll never find peace, you’ll never find peace with the name they gave you”. Julia Ruzicka is a rock solid bass player with a commanding stage presence. A Roland Juno-60 keyboard is brought out centre stage, and Falco joking between that the last time he’d played an Australian keyboard, it hadn’t worked because it was “too hot”.

“Manchasm” is a crowd favourite, the two security guards behind the barrier barely coping with the crowd surfers. As well as the new songs in the set, there’s three Mclusky songs that get a workout, “To Hell With Good Intentions”, “Without MSG I Am Nothing” and “Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues”. “Lapsed Catholics” closes the set, and begins what must be one of the most raucous and roundabout ways of destroying any chance of an encore.

As drummer Jack Egglestone continues keeping time, Watkins begins dragging members of the crowd onstage. Behind him, Falco systematically takes apart the drum kit piece by piece, spreading it across the stage as a laughing Eggelstone is eventually left sitting on a drum stool on an otherwise empty riser.Watkins convinces one punter to hold still long enough for him to duct tape a beer to his forehead, then he lies down and instructs the bemused young man to pour into Watkins’ mouth by leaning forward. Maybe in a few months “unicorning” a beer will become as much of a house party staple as “shoe-eys” have. Future of the Left absolutely blew apart the Corner tonight with one of the funniest, most energetic, confrontational and raucous live performances the band room has seen, and although their show back in January had a few people calling it “Gig of the Year”, with two weeks to go in 2011 they may have one-upped themselves.

– Shaun Thatcher