(see our photo gallery here)
It looked like it would be another embarassing turnout for Wollongong music as Brisbane indie-pop quarter The Cairos took the stage. In a space like Waves Nightclub, a poor turnout is very noticable, and the 50-odd punters who were on hand for the opening set of the night awkwardly sat or stood around dancefloor area. The Cairos’ brand of quirky indie-pop draws from many points on the musical spectrum from 50s guitar-pop to 80s rock, this scattergun approach leaving their set feeling incoherent and unrefined. They do the loud-soft dynamic well, their default sound channelling Yves Klein Blue at points, and frontman Alistair has an excellent voice; but overall their lack of musical focus – coupled with an almost non-existent live presence – let down a band who clearly have an ear for a hook and an ability to craft a catchy tune.
Loon Lake kicked the crowd’s energy up a few gears in anticipation of the night’s headliners. The room had measurably filled during the set-change, with several hundred on hand for the hotly-tipped Melbourne rock’n’roll outfit. Bright, upbeat indiepop, their three-pronged guitar attack instantly produced a much fuller, more immediate vibe than their predecessors. Off-kilter, raucous and energetic, the five-piece blasted through a hugely entertaining set melding modern pop with 50s-influenced surf-rock jams and an attractively raw, unpolished vibe. In contrast to the introverted, almost sombre demeanour of The Cairos, it was clear that Loon Lake was enjoying themselves on stage, judging by the laughs and smiles between songs. Frontman Sam was warm, charismatic, and more than a little intoxicated, his gravelly and throaty vocals an interesting juxtaposition against their big, bright melodies. Dreamy and hazy at times, before dropping back into a more direct retro-pop, Triple J favourites and excellent set-closers ‘Bad To Me’ and ‘In The Summer’ finally coaxed the near-capacity crowd onto the dancefloor – and just in time for the headliners.
Coming out to the tune of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ (Friday the 13th was just hours away) and adorned in black cloaks and hoods, Bluejuice soon turned on the neon as the stabbing key chords of ‘Can’t Keep Up’ rang out and triggered an instant losing of shit from all assembled. With neon keyboards, glasses, guitars, wristbands and microphones, courtesy of some blacklights, the six-piece transformed the dark stage into a mass of light, colour, strobes and smoke. “We are inca warriors tonight,” Stav proclaimed as the upbeat ‘Recession’ gave way to a surprise early rendition of ‘Vitriol,’ which saw the dancefloor morph into a crowd-surfing, handclapping frenzy as frontman Jake waded into the crowd and was borne back to the stage on a sea of hands.
While the dual vocals and on-stage antics of Stav and Jake generate the “better video that on my iPhone so I can put it on Facebook later” moments of Bluejuice’s live show, it can’t be overlooked that the band are comprised of some very fine musicians; a drummer, bassist, keyboardist and guitarist form the backbone of the live sound, which transforms the polished and professional sound of their recorded work into something more energetic and infinitely more compelling live. This is especially true of latest album ‘Company’ (which this tour is in support of), a distinctly less energetic sound, a love letter to 80s radio pop. The mix of old favourites with new album tunes was excellent, the more serene synthpop of late meshing surprisingly well with the rawer, more high-energy oldies.
However, of course, it IS Jake and Stav that make this band. A true yin/yang contrast, Jake is the crowd-surfing, stage-diving, hip-gyrating, amplifier-climbing maniac, while Stav largely holds the fort behind the mic stand. It’s why they work so well, that the two play off each other and bring two completely different aspects to the show. During a zany, manic, rave-style ‘Medication,’ Jake was literally swallowed up by the crowd, much to the chagrin of flustered-looking stage hands who were looking to protect their microphones and equipment. Finishing up with ‘Head of The Hawk,’ ‘Shock’ and a rabid, singalong rendition of ‘Broken Leg,’ Bluejuice certainly showed once again that they are one of Australia’s finest live pop acts… and more pleasingly, actually managed to attract a decent crowd in Wollongong.