Sometimes just by walking into a gig you can pick just what kind of a night it was going to be. Gigs like Mistletone Records Fright Night was always going to mean two things; the bar will make a small fortune in Melbourne Bitter and cheap red wines sales, and that the bands will be interesting.
Worth getting down early for were Montero. Led by a masked Bjenny Montero and fresh from a support stint for man of the moment Kurt Vile, their soft rock tunes flow dreamily into an appreciative audience. Their short set is an interesting watch. They seem to materialise from thin air, play gorgeous harmonies and disappear all too soon. Best filed somewhere between The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, Montero are slightly odd but they do it in such a way that it is endearing rather than grating.
The almost too adorable for words Jonti is up next. His head nodding electro spliced hip hop beats with samples dotted throughout are an instant a hit with the building crowd. He manages to put on an enthusiastic set even while afflicted with a sprained hand. “We’ll rock through it,” he smiles and carries on bouncing around like a hyperactive child.
Playing tracks from his first full length album, Twirligig, the tone jumps between 5am comedown music and perfectly subdued dance floor hits. The crowd laps it up and launches into a dance circle of what can only be described as robot/interpretive dance hybrid. His voice is alternatively sweet and haunting. Jonti may be riding high on the hype, but he has the chops to back it up. His day dreamy lyrics linger well after the last note.
Rat Vs Possum follow on and quickly turn the mellowed out punters on their ears. They instantly whip the assembled masses into frenzy and a dance pit quickly breaks out. Lead vocalist Daphne Shum reaches out into the ever more excited crowd, sending gracefully tortured ohhs and ahhs into the room. At times it felt like one was being punched in the face by a cacophony of drums, while the rest of the band drips sweat onto bashed keyboards.
A searing performance of “HDRD (Hyperactive Dexy Rave Dance)” almost brings the room to its knees. The conclusion of their set proves to be an emotional one as it is their last gig with drummer, Baby Andrew, and as their last song finishes the tears begin to flow between band mates. They embrace on the stage and implore the crowd to buy their merch as “they are really in debt right now”. It looks like they may be taking some time away from playing live, but their set ensured they are not ones to be easily forgotten.
As the night wears on, it just seems to get stranger. People turn up in bizarre outfits and face paint, and once John Maus takes the stage the odd factor is turned up more than a notch. On the back of 2011’s We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, a record that will no doubt become iconic, he puts on a show that is energetic and emotional. John Maus is blur of frantic dance moshing, which for a moment there looks like a torn hamstring. His heavily distorted vocals, delivered with such passion are almost at odds with the chilled but constant beats behind him. He plays the audience like an evangelical preacher addressing his flock and the transfixed crowd watches on totally enthralled.
There is a slight feeling that you are watching a mental breakdown live on stage, but never has there been a mental breakdown set to such incredible music. By the time he finishes, his clothes are so drenched in sweat he may as well have had a shower fully clothed. John Maus is not one to be missed.
Just when the weird factor seems to be off the chart, it is time for the Dan Deacon Ensemble to close the night’s festivities. The Baltimore native is renowned for his highly interactive live shows and he does not disappoint. He is openly neurotic, to the point where he even does his own stage lighting. Watching him turn the night from staggeringly dangerously into being just another hipster fest into an unabashed celebration of life and the joys of living it would be up there with this reviewers best gigs ever.
By the end of the first song, even the most snarl faced hipster has broken out into a grin and is dancing with wild abandon. In the hyper aware Melbourne hipster scene, this is no mean feat. There is even crowdsurfing at one point. At some points the volume is so ear splitting that it sounds like the devil moving his furniture around. He instructs the crowd to make a huge dance circle and it is soon filled with swirling dancers, moving to the heavy electro sounds and impressive vocal effects.
It is impossible not to be swept away into Dan’s fantasy land of uplifting soundscapes and general strangeness. A competition winner takes to the center of the next dance circle and leads the rest of the crowd in an interpretive dance which descends into an explosion of pure joy. Playing “Trippy Green Skull”, a cover of a Ludacris song which is totally unrecognisable under layers of rolling effects, the excitement in the crowd reaches fever pitch. By the end of his set, there is a stupid grin on every member of the crowd’s face. In what was a night that was never going to be anything but different, Dan Deacon was the cherry on top of a very strange layer cake.
– Madison Thomas