Live Review: Chapterfest

7 March 2016 | 11:21 am | Bradley Armstrong

"Twerps have never really put on a bad show, but tonight showcases the band at their finest."

Set times are a bit of a random affair with Chapterfest's top billings playing criminally early. While they have been relatively quiet in recent times, Sydney-based underground electro-pop group Holy Balm kick things off a pinch past 7pm. From their beginnings, the group — although consistently performing fan-pleasing sets — have failed to recreate both their distinct sound and aesthetic faithfully in the live environment. The sound is unfortunately off and the crowd gathered seem slightly disinterested, possibly because of the lack of alcohol absorbed. The band also have another show tonight and everything feels a little rushed. While their set has its moments, it is a little disappointing.

To all the pleasures of the world, Crayon Fields are well and truly back in operation and from their beginnings it feels as if they never left. The subtle, polite pop that the band refined with their first record has not grown old and, coupled with slightly more experimental new material, the band own their stage time. Despite the early hour and the criminally small audience, it feels like nothing will top their set with laid-back bangers like Love Won't Save You and All The Pleasures Of The World obviously universally loved.

But then come Twerps. One of the golden children of Chapter's roster, their no-holds-barred approach takes things to the next level. Each song radiates personality and it is hard not to be charmed. I Don't Mind is simple feel-good fun and easily gets the most notable audience response of the night. Back To You is also a contender for song of the night as the band simply nail it. Twerps have never really put on a bad show, but tonight showcases the band at their finest.

Brisbane upstarts The Goon Sax have a tall order following Twerps' explosion and, unfortunately, it's a little dry. Their laid-back pop sound feels a little too familiar by this point and the band aren't as talented at pulling it off. The group's vocalist drops in and out of tune and is far too confronting within the mix. While they're a band worth pushing, an earlier timeslot would have benefitted The Goon Sax.

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Upstairs, Gregor continue the laid-back theme of the night with flourishes of angst and mystery. The intimate area has drawn a notable crowd and the four-piece sound fantastic.

Back in the main bandroom, you could make the same argument describing this band. In fact, you could easily argue that Chapterfest 24 be renamed 'Laidbackfest 24'. But The Stevens are on fire and be it moving and shaking or the aforementioned phrase, everyone in the room reacts. The foursome sound fantastic with the only real issue being too many red lights apparently making the group's guitars invisible.

Upstairs, Jessica Says go through the motions ending on an experimental-pop sound, but unfortunately it doesn't work. The group's vocalist (again) is too high in the mix and without the aid of essentials such as reverb, the R&B feel comes across as amateurish to the point of unlistenable come their final track, which sounds like a karaoke version of Toy Soldiers.

Rounding out the main stage for the night we get a noticeable change of pace in Hobart's Little Ugly Girls making a rare appearance. The result is a consistent audio blitzkrieg. It's a little heyday era-The Dead C and, in fact, recalls a number of NZ bands of that time, but to the crowd it's like a saucer of milk to a kitten. Linda Johnston's vocal performance is raw and energetic, but plays as second fiddle to the combined efforts of the guitars, which are blistering. While not familiar to everyone going in, going out everyone will remember the band's name. It's clear why this band closes the main stage.

In the front bar, András​ and some of the legends from NO ZU attempt to get the party moving with a slice of late-night DJ smoothness but, alas, it turns into a bit of a fizzer and ultimately winds up being excellent background music for people ordering Ubers. While tonight definitely has highlights, it's the lows that leave a bitter taste. A little more care could have been taken with scheduling and overall variety.