Live Review: Tired Lion, Pat Chow, Silver Hills, Ah Trees

11 August 2015 | 9:47 am | Chris Gardner

"From the moment Tired Lion took the stage, Amplifier went absolutely wild."

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Revivalism is just as likely to mean reheated as it is to mean rejuvenated in the highly self-referential world of 2015. 

The rising stars who have so elegantly taken sounds and themes from yesteryear and made them something their very own have, in turn, opened the door to joyless mimicry which forgoes passion in favour of inoffensive familiarity. Tired Lion, one for the former category with their high-gain, firecracker melodicism, took to a packed Amplifier bar to launch their Figurine EP in company that handily captured the essence of that sentiment, four polished outfits who between them demonstrated the difference between feckless imitation and ruthless worship.

Ah Trees opened proceedings far more comfortably than one would expect for a band performing their very first live show in front of an already packed and pumping Amplifier crowd that could have been a challenge insurmountable for a lesser band. The quintet's lush and strident new wave-influenced tunes were twisted with a hint of inspirational classic rock, a sound far more grandiose than the group's casual delivery and dispassionate performance would hint at. No excuses on the floor, the crowd was ready and willing to get a party going but a by-the-numbers performance by Ah Trees failed to captivate their collective imagination. These woes followed Silver Hills, a similarly lush new wave-inspired act with a jazzy, almost Mac DeMarco-esque eye for pretty chords. Somehow managing to top Ah Trees in the stakes of disaffection, the psychedelic four-piece mumbled and jammed their way through a woozy set, aurally impressive (even with the ever-present deja vu that suggested the band was working 30 years too late) yet worlds away from the excitement the crowd had begun to crave.

No time to waste then for the boys of Pat Chow, whose high-energy performances and keen eye for great hooks have seen them become a live favourite around the traps. Short, sharp and performed with just enough drunken looseness to take it to the next level, Pat Chow delivered the goods that sent Amps into overdrive; the hordes of dirty-looking, black clad young men taking turns to leap off the stage was the perfect visual accompaniment to Ben Protasiewicz's jagged, grungy pop, throwbacks to the late '80s and early '90s golden era of alternative rock without sounding inferior or derivative. Adopting a camp slur, Protasiewicz teased the crowd, abused his guitar and even very sweetly dedicated the anthemic It Won't Go to Tired Lion, an ironic wink. The raw and wild power trio may not have been able to boast musical complexity or accomplishment like the acts that preceded them, but through the waves of feedback that coated set closer, Benchwarmer, as Protasiewicz rammed his guitar into the stage floor over and over, there wasn't a soul in the room who cared.

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Maybe it's youthful energy, perhaps it's just how we do it out west, or quite possibly it could just be that the songs are that good, but from the moment Tired Lion took the stage, Amplifier went absolutely wild. The tiny room transformed into a festival main stage, with crowd-surfing, stage invasions and inexplicable beach balls being batted around the crowd. Frontwoman Sophie Hopes is a whirlwind of rock'n'roll activity, juggling guitar and vocal duties with a commanding stage presence, inciting the crowd into frenzies of activity at her will. Similarly impressive was the emasculating directness with which she handled an intelligent young man who implored her to "show us your cunt", ferociously calling him out until the crowd chanted "kick him out!" in solidarity. Half measures don't come easy to Tired Lion live; compared with recordings like the nervy angst of Suck or the glistening sheen of fan-favourite Desperate, the songs are infinitely more intense in the flesh, thickened with a rock'n'roll groove and an unforgiving energy that can only come from live performance.

As guitarist Matt Tanner shared an anecdote from the early years of Tired Lion, about how he and his bandmates had decided to form a band after discovering a mutual love of Smashing Pumpkins, one could easily think of Tired Lion as simply a new iteration of those past heroes, but to do so would be a disservice to them. The group's influences are not worn like masks but consumed and burned like fuel, the fuel that drives their heady, energetic performances, that turns bars into festivals and turns distorted guitars into heavenly choirs. With each release Tired Lion show they can put together great music, but with each live show they prove they can tear it apart too.