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Live Review: Love Live Music

14 November 2016 | 3:19 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"The Delta Riggs definitely deserve to one day be a household band name."

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We're promised live music experiences in otherwise off-limits areas of the MCG (including the player change rooms?) today. We enter at Gate Two, follow the sounds down an escalator and discover Masco Sound System are already on stage at Bullring Bar. A rambunctious, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard-style sextet that draws current/ex-members from Immigrant Union, Perch Creek, Freedom, The Resignators and Merri Creek Pickers definitely bring smiles to dials. There's an artist on stage creating a painting while they play and the band conclude with a meandering space-jam that encourages many to check schedules and make a note to remember their name for future reference.

The Vanns follow on this same stage and there's a lotta hair up there plus a short fringe held in place by sunnies on head (these are thankfully removed before song two). Frontman Jimmy Vann obviously worships Axl Rose while also carrying a torch for John Mellencamp. Bassist Tom Switlek tries to act all nonchalant, but we can see how much he's concentrating. "We haven't slept in a while," he shares, before going on to explain his band wrapped up The Delta Riggs tour support duties last night.

Wandering up some stairs and across a bit we locate Tower 6 stage and Zoophyte are in full swing (except that they're now called The Higgs, have a different drummer and 'The' Andy Lee on percussion). Lee's brother/The Higgs frontman, Cam Lee, tends to overuse his dual mic system. The bassist is obviously very ambitious and could be playing to a full arena right now; he might wanna consider reining it in a notch for gigs such as this, however. Everyone is pretty much ogling the band's hypeman/publicity machine/percussionist/trumpeter Andy Lee, though. Even pedestrians wandering by on the other side of the glass pause for a closer look to see whether their eyes deceive them or if it is in fact the popular radio host. His trumpet-playing is a bit average, but bless him he's bloody adorable and so enthusiastic up there that it's hard to drag your eyes away from him. His brother tells us to check their MySpace if we've enjoyed what we've seen. "Did I just say MySpace? Facebook!" he corrects, horrified, before introducing Andy "on percussion, crazy guitar - what else?" Andy Lee also appears to be the band's roadie, but his bandmates are fools because he looks amazing while packing out, post-set (when not interrupted by fans for the odd selfie). 

Up next on this stage is Maya and we immediately wonder how we've never heard of her before. She ad-lib sings the first song, basically thanking us for sticking around for her set and introducing her band (which includes saxophonist/keyboardist Sammy Sax and her father on bongos/flute/wood block). Her jazz/soul vocals are off the charts and she has an engaging stage presence that should get Maya noticed quick-sticks.

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We wander back down the escalator just in time to catch the last song of The Pretty Littles set. They pull a decent crowd and sound excellent, like Smashing Pumpkins blended with The Vasco Era - a bloody good mix.

It's always fun watching live music in unconventional areas and we discover bands in pockets around the MCG's foyers and on a stage constructed within the stands when rain makes performing on the hallowed turf impossible. Up on this main stage, Pierce Brothers get straight down to business. They actually look so identical that Face Swap would be a waste of time and energy. The pair are clearly having a blast up on stage, with smiles that threaten to split their faces open, and it's contagious - you just wanna get involved. There are clap-alongs aplenty, but we just wish they'd bring a drummer out for a coupla numbers 'cause the stomp box can get old very fast. When the didgeridoo appears it's always a thrilling part of Pierce Brothers' act, but, at this stage in their career, they could use a little refining.

Andy Lee is spotted still doing the rounds, posing for selfies and then checking that the fans are happy with the results before moving on.

Every time we clap eyes and ears on The Delta Riggs they are even better than the time before. They certainly look the part as well (are they sponsored by Levi's?). Everyone's invested from note one, even in this most unpunk-rock of settings. Surgery Of Love is an early highlight and as frontman Elliott Hammond sings, "I can't stop," we sure as hell hope he doesn't. Hammond roughly pushes the mic stand away from him, catches it with one foot and then propels it back just in time sing the next line.

We witness a mum asking security if she can cross the barrier to walk across and fetch her daughter. Access is permitted, she stalks over and tells her daughter with a thumbing motion toward the exit, "We're going," before making her way back around the barrier.

With The Delta Riggs, you never quite know what your gonna get (especially when it comes to Hammond's banter), but that's what makes them an exciting live act. Another newie, Never Seen This Before, gets the crowd dancing. Hammond definitely has swag to spare, but needs to drop the lame "Are we in Canberra?" city comparisons. Bobby's Flowers brings the funk and Simon McConnell's drum solo break clicks straight back into this tune - flawless. They may look insouciant, but The Delta Riggs are a well-oiled live machine.

During It's Over, guitarist Alex "Rudy" Markwell spots a front row gent glued to his smartphone and heads down there to sit in his lap before taking a swig outta ol' mate's beer, and grabbing his phone to take a selfie. Bassist Michael "Monte" Tramonte tells us he's just found out his fly was undone up until this point. "Thanks for telling me... it was probably a bit much, wasn't it?" he directs toward those who gave him the tip-off. They perform Get Right minus The Sticky Fingers who collaborated on this track. As per usual, Hammond is annoyed by what he views as inadequate crowd interaction. "Don't do anything out of character," he advises those seated in the VIP section that's directly in front of the stage in a tone that drips with sarcasm.  

McConnell adopts a casual drumming style with shoulders relaxed as he pummels his low drum kit. Get Back is elevated by some impressive Hammond-led audience participation then a savvy false finish finishes us off. Then in comes that Supersonic Casualties key change and we're putty. What a perfectly crafted song! Hammond often heads across to the keys as if its an afterthought.     

An unexpected, "One more song!" chant sees Tramonte move back through the crowd toward the stage. "That's when you know you've made it, ladies and gentlemen, when you've got your own pick," Hammond jests, holding up The Delta Riggs-branded plectrum after rejecting a generic pick offered to him by a roadie. We're introduced to the new keyboardist who has been playing with the band all night and The Delta Riggs close with a rap track that sounds like they're taking the piss (complete with Outkast-esque, "Forever ever/Forever ever?" segment); it kinda sounds like Beastie Boys, but before they perfected their craft. However, Hammond's harp playing is always excellent and The Delta Riggs definitely deserve to one day be a household band name.