REVIEW: The Vines @ Unibar

Despite the early hour, Sydney trio Step-Panther enjoyed a decent crowd to kick off this quadruple serving of punchy rock’n’roll. Showing off an energetic mix of upbeat catchy surf rock, scuzzy 90s alt rock and blistering grunge, Step-Panther served up a barrage of sub-two minute balltearers to get earlybird punters in the mood for what the evening was to throw up. Watched with interest by almost every member of the bands to come later in the night, Step-Panther’s classic, grunge-infused rock’n’roll got the night off to an encouraging start.

For a two-piece, Bleeding Knees Club sure make a lot of noise. Taking the stage in a swirl of flying hair, the Gold Coast duo’s loose, groovy brand of sunny 60s surf-pop leaned heavily on debut EP ‘Virginity,’ a Triple J staple of recent months. Reverb-heavy, lo-fi and simple, the songs dripped of lazy summer days, echoing the likes of Wavves, Best Coast or Bass Drum of Death. The only let-up was the slower, heartfelt ‘I,’ which provided a foil for their frenetic and upbeat sound. “Do we even have any slow songs?” drummer/vocalist Alex pondered aloud. “I don’t think we do. Let’s play this one extra fast!” he yelled, as they finished with the fun, jangly ‘Bad Guys.’

After the carefree and laidback vibes of the two openers, Sydney trio Papa vs Pretty took the night in a new, more serious direction. What the Tom Rawle-fronted rockers lack in chronological maturity, they make up for in musical maturity; incredibly tight and cohesive as a live unit, well-crafted and instantly catchy alternative rock tracks like ‘Honey,’ ‘Heavy Harm’ and ‘One of the Animals’ – already equipped with a powerful, urgent quality on record – take on a punchier, more explosive sheen in concert. It’s hard to believe that these guys are only just into their 20s, and with a few EPs and the stellar, recently-released LP ‘United In Isolation’ under their belts already, Papa vs Pretty surely have an immense future ahead of them. Powerful drumming, throbbing bass and complex guitarwork – and Rawle’s already distinctive, commanding vocals – intermingle, as the set moves from high energy, thrashy, grunge-rock to a more tender pop-rock. Ending on an extended Wolfmother-style psych jam, with a jagged, screaming guitar solo from Rawle, Papa vs Pretty certainly set the bar high for the night’s headliners.

And how they delivered! Coming on stage 20 minutes late – despite PvP finishing 20 minutes early – The Vines kicked off a chaotic, blistering set with the punchy ‘Future Primitive,’ as the crowd fulfilled their end of the bargain by instantly going absolutely mental. The band seemed intent on cramming as much music into their hour-long headline set as possible, enigmatic frontman Craig Nicholls wasting little time with on-stage banter (though smiling throughout the set, and regularly leaning over the security barrier to high-five fans).

A set spanning their entire back-catalogue, with ‘Outtathaway!’ and ‘Gimme Love’ following, Craig’s trademark screams – sadly missing from Vines gigs in recent months – returning with a vengeance on their more explosive older material. A heaving moshpit and a huge crowd of onlookers shouted every word back, as this reviewer again realised how easy it was to forget just how many hit singles The Vines have had in their turbulent decade-long history; from ‘Ride’ and ‘Highly Evolved’ to ‘Autumn Shade,’ The Vines are among the most influential local acts of the last few decades, and their standing in the Australian music scene was shown in tonight’s (almost) sold out show.

Saving their silver bullet – the generational anthem ‘Get Free’ – for near the end proved to be a master stroke, the droning, all-too-familiar opening riff acting as the signal for the entire crowd to lose their collective shit. A chaotic encore of ‘F.T.W,’ with Craig destroying his guitar (as well as half the drumkit) ended an insane night; with these new boys leading a local rock revival, and the veteran Vines showing they can still wipe the floor with any band on their day, proper Aussie rock seems to be in good hands.

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