Live Review: Red Bull Backyard Jam

10 July 2012 | 12:50 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

I’m next in line for the Portaloo queue. A young whippersnapper rushes up begging to jump the queue: “I’ve gotta go onstage in, like, five minutes!” It’s true. Within minutes he’s viewed onstage with his band Break A Leg.

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The band chosen by Red Bull Backyard Jam's online massive to host this year's event are Masketta Fall and so it's to the backyard of band brothers Bradden and Jamie Ross in Brookfield we head. Brookfield's near Melton and you can see the stage and various Red Bull structures from streets away as our mini-bus approaches. Conversation turns to whether or not neighbourhood hatchets were buried/olive branches were extended in the lead-up to this once-in-a-lifetime suburban event.

We wander down the driveway, past a couple of Portaloos (plus a pair of fenced-in golden retrievers wondering who all these strange visitors are) and into an actual humungous backyard. The smell of bangers, rissoles and onions sizzling on the barbie makes stomachs rumble and then we see excited teens at the Make Your Own Sign booth getting creative alongside members of Stonefield. As the five finalist bands assemble onstage with Stonefield and today's amiable host Ella Hooper for a photo opportunity, hilarity ensues when a banner reading “Loky's not even in the band!?” is held up by an onlooker.

First up are the punk stylings of Lets Not Pretend, whose frontman sucks up to the judges – Hooper, Michael Parisi, Dan Bessant and skateboarder Corbin Harris – by referring to them as “iconic”. There's some impressive unison guitarography during Rocketship To The Stars, which coaxes smiles on dials, and this well-rehearsed band would score maximum available points for such quirky performance elements. Once lead singer Daniel Juric perfects a more unique, rather than American, style to his vocal there'll be no stopping Let's Not Pretend and Breathe For You is immediately catchy.

I'm next in line for the Portaloo queue. A young whippersnapper rushes up begging to jump the queue: “I've gotta go onstage in, like, five minutes!” It's true. Within minutes he's viewed onstage with his band Break A Leg, who have travelled across the border from NSW. The thrashy quintet demonstrate absolute commitment to their sound with a frontman who really throws his weight behind the lyrics. Could easily have soaked up a full set from these guys, but each contending outfit only has three songs in which to strut their stuff today.

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Your Ticket Home – what does that even mean? Anyhoo, there's a distinct '90s-grunge feel to their tunes. One of the guitarists clearly feels like The Fonz up there and engages easily with the crowd, barely able to conceal his excitement. Enthusiasm oozes from the stage and drummer Daine Carlon supplies some post-set souvenirs when he flings a half dozen sticks into the audience.

Give it up to the dudes dancing on the (corrugated, slanted) roof nextdoor! (One of whom is later spotted hanging over his fence, brewski in hand, chatting to a security guard.) Also from beyond the NSW border, Go Mason Go! kick off their short set with an extended jam that's instantly intriguing. It's great to hear some keys and Sid Cremer does a cracking job from behind his shades. They look so young, but already sound so proficient and clearly love playing. Go Mason Go! may conjure up images of cheerleaders and pom poms, but this five-piece are tight. And, nope, none of the members are named Mason.     

Our hosting band Masketta Fall close the competitive section of our day and they're confidence is palpable. The guitarist has even mastered the old 'around the world' axe trick! “Give it up for the horn hat!” the band's frontman encourages, referring to his bandmate's Jamiroquai-style buffalo headwear. And there are even some fans sporting copycat looks in the crowd. The band's new single, the acoustic Cloud Nine could be a song written about Red Bull – “You're flying high on cloud nine.” (Geddit, gives you wings?) Masketta Fall's regular gigging has paid off.

While the judges tally up their scores, it's time to go over and give DJ InpsYdoubt (aka Alister Ling) a high-five. His considered mix of cuts throughout the day reflects a knowledge of and appreciation for music both current and classic, which is welcomed in between sets.

And now it's time for the professionals to show us how it's done. Stonefield (formerly Iotah) open with the barnstorming Bad Reality and their audience is bafflingly motionless, probably due to a mixture of awe and trying to act cool in front of their mates. Drummer/singer Amy Findlay commends all the talent we've seen today and youngest sibling Holly is still swamped by her bass. Move Out Of My Shadow, during which all sisters take turns behind the mic, is a standout with its face-melting, key-changing riffs. Holly adjusts her older sister/sick guitarist Hannah's browband whenever it threatens to obscure vision. It's a condensed set, but we're treated to a couple of newies today, including their next single Ruby Skies. Guest drummer Emily Shaw comes out to allow Amy a stint downstage and she conjures some audience participation after teaching Drowning chorus lyrics – “Help me, help me, I'm drown-ing.” Holly's squeal has lost some of its 'demented little girl' intensity, but she still gives it her all. The Findlay girls go from strength to strength and it's hard to believe that they took out triple j's Unearthed High less than two years ago.

As we all wait for the nail-biting winner announcement, it's our final opportunity to scoff food from the BBQ or chase down one of the elusive Red Bull girls for a caffeinated beverage before the outward journey. And the winner is… Go Mason Go! Well deserved. (Although if they were judged on their sing-alongs of One Direction's One Thing or Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe on the bus on the way home, things may have gone in another direction entirely.)