Live Review: American Football, Birthmark, Hollow Everdaze

7 July 2015 | 1:35 pm | Xavier Rubetzki Noonan

The band "struck the careful balance between seamless musical precision and raw, honest emotion".

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Melbourne five-piece Hollow Everdaze balanced jangly guitars and airy violin with deep bass and thumping drums, making for a formidable whole band sound. However, they rarely cashed in on the dramatic potential provided by their violin and keyboards, instead having all instruments play through just about the whole set, although later songs showed off more muscle and diversity. The band’s slacker vocals came off somewhat aloof at first, but as the band grew more comfortable on stage, the performance took on more energy.

Birthmark, the side project of American Football bassist Nate Kinsella, surprised the crowd with densely rhythmic, playful and exciting indie-pop, backed by projected handmade karaoke videos, with lyrics scrolling on screen (“INSTRUMENTAL BREAK: 22 MEASURES”!). The colourful backing tracks popped with strings, woodwind and percussion, freeing Kinsella and his drummer to play around with a stage full of instruments, as well as setting the stage for Kinsella’s honey-like John-Linnell-meets-Ben-Gibbard voice to hold things together. Suit Of Armor, punctuated by staccato strings and a ripper guitar riff, was an anthemic highlight.

The packed OAF crowd appeared to be aching for the headliner to come on stage, but once they did, it seemed to take a couple of songs for them to really warm up. It was as if everyone was pondering the enormity of this event: after 15 years of hibernation, a reunion of emo-alt-math pioneers American Football seemed little more than a dream, let alone a world tour. The crowd soon loosened up after the band played a few of their more well known tunes: the swirling, interlocking guitars of But The Regrets Are Killing Me, and the upbeat, driving Honestly? with its gut-punch of a time-signature change. The set was punctuated by gorgeously haunting trumpet interludes, which also shone on tracks The Summer Ends and For Sure among others.

The band, sounding like they haven’t stopped practicing for a decade, struck the careful balance between seamless musical precision and raw, honest emotion. Their performance didn’t smack of nostalgia or an attempt to relive some past glory; instead, their energy made every song feel new again.

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