REVIEW: Thomas Covenant, Carpet, Vulpes Vulpes @ Dicey Riley’s

Dicey Riley’s is an alright place to see live shows; and this particular Friday evening, it was the place to be (though not many people were, unfortunately, despite the promise of fountains of cheap Guinness).

Thomas Covenant took to the stage like a giant battle axe into a sea of party balloons. Having never seen/heard them before, I was simultaneously astounded and and thrilled by their energetic, tongue-in-cheek, fantastic mess of a set. The guys bounce around the stage banging their instruments and screeching into microphones so enthusiastically it makes you want to move your body in ways you never knew you could (this did happen). Stand-out songs this night were the schizophrenic masterpiece of the carnival song; Graduation, a hilarious piss-take on the absurdities of leaving school; and the angry sludge-drive of Spanish Song. These guys are really good, deceptively simple songwriters, and their experiments with punk and noise (among many other things) paired with their obvious charisma and, basically, fun onstage, means that you can’t help but like them instantly. A friend said to me that he thinks they’re taking up where Run on Mum – punk genii of not-that-long-ago – left off, and I think this is probably true. Big props to these boys.

Carpet are probably one of my favourite local bands. They are an extremely fine (yet flexible) weave of young men from the sprawling ends of Wollongong’s musical spectrum. Seeing them live is never the same experience twice, and tonight they were as sweetly chaotic as ever. This set was a happy mix of tracks from the unassuming pop simplicity of older days – highlights including Movie Song (a song about a movie but not really) and Sleaze (a minimialistic meditation on pretty much life) – to segments from the thrusting opus of a jam album that was this year’s release Is This Shit?, the inclusion of which really let the audience in on the real scope of this band’s versatility and skill. Also included in the set were some tops covers such as opener Ghost Rider, signature track by ridiculous awesome 70’s protopunks, Suicide, and a couple of visitations of Sydney band The Statics‘s song Furred Wheel (including dual screaming in a cameo by Statics singer Pat).

I find Carpet to be always really natural onstage, and they were clearly very comfortable playing tonight, as they should be – you know, because they’re good. Vocalist/master-of-beat-poetry Clinton brings something raw to the mix every time, while the great musicianship and spontaneous instincts of the band bring everything together and pull it apart as needed. Their shows can be seemingly off-the-cuff and at times manic, often awkwardly poetic (again, intentional) and understated; but always brilliantly executed and entertaining. This is a band who I am always excited to see play and whose next step I anticipate because whatever they do will no doubt be interesting as hell. Some pretty inspired dancing was not amiss during this set either. A+!

I felt somewhat bad for Vulpes Vulpes coming onstage to set up just as most of the pub cleared out. They were remarkably resilient in the light of playing to a rough ten people, though, and remained pretty lively throughout their set. Their sound is quite reminiscent of Arctic Monkeys and that particular brand of Brit-rock-dance that’s been so popular for a while now. They had their moments but I’m afraid it fell a bit tired towards the end; while Thomas Covenant and Carpet complement each other perfectly live, these guys seemed a bit of an awkward addition to the night. I’d be interested to see how they play in a different context.

If you have yet to see any of the guys on this night’s bill, I highly recommend you get your bottom to a show ASAP. This evening was all the right kinds of fun and a swell reminder of just how brilliant the local live music scene is still capable of being.

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