In what is the most horrible night for sideshow clashes, Melbourne music lovers were faced with the challenge of choosing which St Jerome’s Laneway Festival sideshow to attend. The allure of ‘90s revivalists, YUCK, was simply too irresistible for many, as a large crowd gathered at the East Brunswick Club to witness the London-based quartet in their first Melbourne show.
Clad in Lord Of The Rings and Superman shirts and armed with a polka-dot bass, Sydney’s Step Panther feeds the crowd with surfy garage rock, centred around ruptured riffs, pulsating basslines and rumbling percussion. The band deserves a moshpit, rather than a mild smattering of twenty or so people, scattered about the venue, hiding behind their drinks. Step Panther simply aren’t connecting, tonight. They’ve got the music, but they don’t have the energy, and the crowd certainly isn’t willing to compensate. If the band’s waiting for the crowd’s response to inspire them, what’s going to inspire the crowd?
EMA’s voice sounds like a composite of nearly every major female rock icon of the past twenty years. Erika Anderson’s low, breathy verses are uncannily similar to Kim Gordon, while her operatic highs could arise straight from the mouth of PJ Harvey. Sporting an EMA necklace and surrounded by sinister grungy guitars, her soft voice becomes an antidote the severity of her music. What’s really compelling about an EMA show is Anderson’s awkward, yet almost arrogant stage banter. It starts when she breaks a string after the first song, “but it’s just the b string. No one gives a fuck about the b string” and continues throughout, later encouraging the crowd to start a fight with a cane if she doesn’t get to perform another song.
Her music is straight from an early ‘90s mixtape, garnished with a sprinkling of My Bloody Valentine and dabbed with more than a pinch of Veruca Salt. The violin creates an eerie atmosphere, transforming East Brunswick Club into the haunted corridors of an abandoned asylum. Andersons bangs her head repeatedly with the microhpone and leaps into the crowd, getting tangled in a mess of guitar leads. Plagued by sound issues later in the set, the venue is overwhelmed almost entirely by what sounds like an overly eager bass. Yet, the blantent absence of a bassist from the band makes us point blame at the sound desk, as it becomes almost impossible to hear the avant-garde, spoken-word brilliance of closing track, “California”. EMA demands the spotlight and is a support act with too much to offer, and the potential to outshine the headliners.
Showered in trembling blue lights, YUCK are greeted by cheers as they finally emerge onto the stage. With growling rhythms dipped in gorgeous psychedelic guitars, the quartet is solidifying its position atop the throne of ‘90s revivalists. However, with each band member barely over the age of 21, no one was old enough during the ‘90s to actually appreciate the music they’re resuscitating while it was happening. It’s not simply nostalgia for these guys (and girl), nor is it an attempt to relive their former days of glory; it’s what they’re feeling now. It may resemble what many people were feeling twenty years ago, but that doesn’t invalidate what they’re doing.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that they’re in no way inspired by the music of the ‘90s. Strongly influenced by grunge legends, Dinosaur Jr., at times, YUCK almost seems a little derivative. The lead riff from “Shook Down” sounds like a reworked “Feel the Pain” by Dinosaur Jr. However, with the exquisite melody and bassist, Mariko Doi’s heavenly backing vocals, it still sounds completely fresh. This is a track that was written to be performed live, and it certainly shines bright.
Lead vocalist, Daniel Blumbergs’s voice is flawless, tonight. He gazes dreamily into the crowd as his stunning lyrics roll effortlessly off his tongue, before he leaps back from the microphone and focuses on the guitar. Lead guitarist, Max Bloom, is rapidly proving himself to be a dangerously skilled musician. His fingers dance long the fret board with a seasoned finesse, well beyond his years.
Drummer, Jonny Rogoff, with the most rad, gravity-defying afro, asks the crowd, “Is anyone going to Laneway, tomorrow?” The audience is unanimously positive in its response. “Is anyone going to see us again?” he enquires again, with the reply a little less enthusiastic. The band bursts into simultaneous laughter, but seems completely unbothered by the crowd’s response.
The set consists almost entirely of tracks from their debut, self-titled album. “The Wall” and “Get Away” unsurprisingly incite the most enthusiastic crowd responses, while the superb ballad, “Suicide Policeman” is the spectacular highlight of the set.
The final song of the evening is “Rubber”, which starts with an angry wall of fuzz, disjointed abruptly by Blumberg’s dissonant vocals. Enveloped in a haze of white light, smoke and feedback, Doi and Rogoff leave the stage, while Bloom and Blumberg linger to play with feedback for a few minutes. It grows to an incredible volume before descending suddenly into silence, a Bloom and Blumberg disappear from stage.
– Lara Moates