“Bev lost his wallet at the airport…so thanks for funding the replacement of it!”
When society teeters upon the precipice of a long weekend, one tends to assume most people have abandoned the concrete prison of the city in favour of their last-minute bucolic Airbnb bookings. Unfortunately for the bartenders at Black Bear Lodge, this wasn’t the case, as Perth’s indie rock quartet Cloning were set to perform their long-awaited second show in Brisbane at a toasty set time of 9:30. By 7:15, the bartenders could’ve easily been mistaken for headless chickens.
Having already won over the crowd in the first thirty seconds of his set, Cairns alt singer-songwriter Andy Martin had everyone giggling into their drinks while he hastily re-tuned a stray guitar string. “That one was called Out Of Tune,” he laughed before leading everyone in a hearty sing-along of the soaring number Mess We Made from his 2022 album, Reverie.
Brisbane-based indie rockers The Bluebottles took to the stage next with a plethora of elevating tracks that would rightfully belong in any playlist titled ‘The Ultimate Road Trip.’ No word of a lie; I saw multiple people search these guys up on Spotify and add songs to their library while dancing. Do yourself a favour and add Always and Overheated to your own playlist the next time you head to the beach (unlike their namesake, these guys don’t cause extreme pain, but rather the exact opposite).
By 9:30, the crowd had surged and was so close to the stage that when Cloning appeared on the platform at last, most of the front row looked as if they were in half a mind to leap up there with them. A caterwaul of cheers sounded from the pit as the meaty basslines of electro-rock record Past In Our Pockets blasted through the venue, courtesy of Nic Rollo.
Crimson lights glinted behind the band as they launched into Call Came, the pulsing track that haunts the final slot of their 2021 EP Wounded Healers. The amalgamation of sharp melodies that are rounded in lush reverb with lyrics so specific they’re almost visceral creates the foundation of a song that is refreshingly raw. It’s authentic, particularly after the pandemic's mayhem, it punctures: “In the fading autumn sun / I’m still reaching for something, but finding nothing there.” Now reread the title of the EP.
At this point, the band banter was in full swing, and when I saw strangers grinning at each other, I wondered if we’d signed up for a quasi-comedy show. Frontman Felix Parker had made some cheeky quips about jetlag, lamenting: “We’re obviously from very far away…Perth.” Everyone scoffed, laughing and shaking their heads. Joining the fray, guitarist Bevan Green provided a perfectly reasonable explanation: “It’s the sensitive body clock, the sensitive sleep cycle.” What poor souls, that two-hour time difference hits hard. Be sure to send a prayer their way.
Jack Brett, on drums, led the set into its next number, Closure. Though influences of trip-hop and hazy dream pop melodies are evident throughout their discography, again, it’s the specificity of their lyrical versification that establishes them as one of Australia’s leading artists in the world of alternative rock. “Drink dreams using cups as a wishing well, I need closure / I’m wasting my good years until I fix myself.” If you told me that was a direct quote from a Bukowski poem, I’d believe you. Except in this instance, you can dance to the poetry.
Before delving back into a series of tunes from their first EP, Pillars Of Salt (2019), Parker offered us a glimpse into the reality of life as a touring musician: “Bev lost his wallet at the airport…so thanks for funding the replacement of it.” Everyone laughed. It was then his mic stand decided it had a mind of its own and fell toward those standing in the front row. Catching it in time, he offered us a winning smile: “I meant to do that; I’m very coordinated. I was good at sports in school.” Everyone laughed harder.
The only thing that beats enjoying live music is perhaps watching the band enjoy the music not just with the crowd but up on stage with each other. While playing their single Autumn Hour (2022), Green performed a crisp solo while Rollo and Brett smiled at each other. It felt less like a production and more like a group of friends experiencing life together – and every person in Black Bear Lodge was invited to join.
Everyone piled together for a group photo before swaying to their 2020 lush shoegaze track, Defeatist. Someone raised their hands, and the next minute the whole room had their arms outstretched, elated smiles frozen in time within a singular camera click. It was the sort of moment you’d reminisce upon in twenty-odd years and think, "Yeah, I was there; I was a part of that. I was a part of something that mattered."
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