Live Review: Royal Baths, Beaches, New War, Lowtide

4 April 2012 | 2:40 pm | Josh Ramselaar

Local four-piece Lowtide kick off proceedings tonight. They're indebted to shoegaze bands such as My Bloody Valentine, although their songs have a bit more conventional structure to them. The guitarist builds a wall of fuzzy noise throughout most songs while the two bassists lock into a groove that gets most crowd members' heads nodding.

New War are next and start their set with a slow, lounge-style song based on a simple bassline, soft drums and occasional keyboard stabs while frontman Chris Pugmire delivers lyrics drenched in vocal effects. The rest of their set features a more powerful and driving sound, where the songs are carried by the rhythm section and the keys provide atmospherics and a riff every now and then to make up for the lack of guitarist. It's an interesting and unique style and they perform excellently.

Next up are Beaches with their guitar-driven, near-instrumental songs that blend shoegaze and psychedelic sounds. Their three-guitar attack results in the loudest performance of the night and provides a great display of how versatile a guitar can be. One song has the three guitarists playing different styles cohesively and to great effect – one heads off a wah pedal trip, one plays a twangy surf-rock solo and the other bathes the song in distortion.

Royal Baths' set begins without warning as their setting up and tuning segues into their opening song. The song oozes out, starting with a simple guitar line and gradually getting added to by the other members until it builds to organised chaos. Royal Baths show they know how to use loud/quiet dynamics – their verses simmer away while the band let loose on choruses before singer/guitarist Jeremy Cox unleashes a killer solo on the bridge (in addition to blistering guitar work throughout the rest of the songs).

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Cox even pulls out a slide for a couple of songs in the middle of their set and this is where Royal Baths' sound really becomes unique. A more blues-leaning side takes over while Royal Baths retain their loose playing style without ever becoming a retread of the traditional blues sound. Black Sheep is a set highlight, shuffling along sinisterly as Cox and guitarist Jigmae Baer trade coolly detached lines. Unfortunately, the looseness of Royal Baths causes the set to trail off a bit and sees the last song false-starting three times. The final song finishes abruptly and, before we know it, the band are switching off and unplugging equipment. It's a bit of a disappointing end to an otherwise great show that demonstrates why there's hype around Royal Baths.