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Live Review: WAM Saturday Spectacular

10 November 2014 | 4:01 pm | The Music Perth covers all the bases at WAM's Saturday Spectacular.

The WAM Saturday Spectacular was back for another year and with more than 50 of WA’s most exciting artists playing over seven stages, it was going to be the perfect end to what had so far been a fantastic few days of WAM festivities.

Siblings Eliza and James Rogers, otherwise known as Patient Little Sister, welcomed a steadily growing crowd into Universal Bar with a set of soothing, folksy goodness, before Jacob Diamond launched into Happy Hour with a set full of constantly-shifting intensities that held the entire bar’s attention.

As the long-haired Riley Pearce approached the stage, it was immediately clear that the crowd was in for some laid-back acoustic tunes, and the man certainly managed to hold his own against the constant allure of the soccer match beaming from multiple walls of the bar. The Long Road was so catchy that one audience member felt compelled enough to lurch to the front of the stage and sway back and forth, while tracks like Brianna had an emotional complexity that made it hard to believe that Pearce is only 21.

The crowd was wowed by David Craft’s voice, his velvety smooth baritone vocals worthy of a country great – and definitely a nice change from the higher ranges that have been popularised of late.

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It's been said before, and this reviewer will say it again – it's a real testament to the talent and likeability of surf-punk group Aborted Tortoise that they managed to practically fill up the Bird's indoor space by 4:30 in the afternoon. They charmed with their upfront lyrics and catchy guitar lines; no doubt they had a few industry crew members from the east side with a keen on on them. Black Stone From The Sun had themselves a strong turnout too, and just so – they were heavier on the riffs, and gave the heads in the front row a nice workout. The hypnic yet powerful tones of Moana kept the crowd on their toes and mixed things up a little bit, bringing in the mystic-sounding grunge stylings into the day, before Methyl Ethel soothed things down with some Smiths-sounding and beautiful guitar hooks.

Over to the Block Party Stage, and Rumbling jungle drums and some cavernous Jamaican bass signalled that The Weapon Is Sound were about to warm up the official block party stage. Having the previous night scored WAM’s Best World Music Act, the band were in a fine mood as they mainlined the psychedelic end of the reggae spectrum to soundtrack the fading afternoon sun.

Over to the Block Party Stage and as it turned out, The Amani Consort proved they may as well have been conceived for the express purpose of rocking these sorts of environments.

At times as mellow as the Indian Ocean, but underpinned with some wickedly nimble twin guitar lines, the afro-kreol sound of Grace Barbe was not something you needed a degree in to appreciate. Anyone with a pair of ears, and better yet some dancing feet, could dig these splendid Seychelles-inspired grooves.

They were a little shy on the evening, but the golden tones of Gunns and their wide-angle lens psychedelia was welcome, and Christian Oliver’s intimate chirp seemed to echo from some lost part of the Laurel Canyon.

"It's hard to get anything for $5 these days but you can get Childsaint," – a solid self-promotion, uttered by lead vocalist, Chloe McGrath, of all-girl four-piece, Childsaint, who kicked things off at Mustang Bar. They showcased moody and ambient sound waves with feminist drones, and not only wore their instruments with a demeanor of a ‘90s waif, but they played them beautifully. Thee Gold Blooms were sharing an inside joke throughout their entire set and could not refrain from an on stage bromance. The rock ‘n’ roll centered sound went down really well with the ‘60s boy band harmonies. These charmers, movers and shakers had an ongoing need to bring people closer.

Over to the all-ages Perth Cultural Centre stage, and 6 piece indie-rock outfit Raksha laid out some late afternoon tunes for the punters to kick back to whilst smashing out some addictive melodies and rhythms. The band’s addictive bass lines allowed the listeners to enjoy certain quirkiness to the bands style. Their final song gave the lasting impression with a fast beat and a hard rock edge, particularly with lead singer Amber Scate’s robust soulful vocals. Up next were local indie-punk duo Lionizer, who with thanks to the talented drumming antics of Bailey Lions, brought the Perth cultural centre amphitheatre stage down into the direction of ‘90s punk riffs and lyrical apathy, a common element found in their songs. A performance highlight was their song Come Home, successfully pulling on the emotional heartstrings of the crowd.

Graphic Characters kicked things off at the Flyrite with some hard rock and plenty of cowbell, courtesy of last minute fill-in Rob Nassif of Gyroscope on drums. The rock trio started with Back to Hell and Stranded before getting funky with Birds and the Bees. With cries for more coming from the crowd, the band finished off strong with new song All Over. Dream pop five-piece Silver Hills crammed onto the stage next to deliver a set of upbeat sounds to starting with Bluegums, featuring intricate guitar work from both lead singer Mark McGlue and Jimi Rose and strong harmonies from the rest of the band. McGlue took a short solo spot for the beginning of Memento, before the band kicked in and segued into final track Sunshine and left to a great response from the audience.

One of the most vivacious performances on the all-ages stage was a set from The Brow (formerly The Brown Horn Orchestra), whose unique blend of ska, brass, funk and hip hop compelled a small group of punters to shuffle and dance in a funk fashion. Their ability to break into rap at any moment and confidence in their jazz improv was massively impressive.

Dashing over to the Mustang Bar, Our Man In Berlin set an atmospheric mood as soon as the falsetto vocals began. The group’s electronic indie-pop was perfect as night began to draw in. The Flower Drums took us down to an ambient feel with romantic synth and soft rock electronica. Some of the tunes sounded slightly ‘80s-influenced, with very few vocals, yet there was a consistent covering of guitars and steady bass, with all three members swaying to the ever-tranquil feel of their performance.

Solo act Eleventeen Eton began his set at Flyrite with a howl of synthy guitar tones, filling the room with a rich sonic atmosphere of layers of guitar loops and synth samples. Eton had a few troubles with his equipment while playing an unconventional cover of David Essex's Rock On but recovered quickly with originals Two Stroke Vertical Climb and The Sling. The crowd surged significantly with duo Mudlark arriving to the stage to deliver a hypnotic set of originals featuring intricate drumming and percussion from Warsame Hassan and dynamic, inventive guitar work from Steven Bovenizer. The band delivered a roller coaster of a set, jumping between sweet albeit complex melodies and raw distorted sounds that grabbed hold of the audience from the beginning and didn’t let up. Spilt Cities were up next, with lead singer Shaun Rodan’s punk rock- influenced vocals sounding in fine form as the band powered through a non-stop set of rockers including Keep Quiet and Bondurant. A definite highlight was the epic new track Dusk, which featured beautiful U2-style guitar lines and thunderous drumming from James Porteous that got a great response.

The Bird had been absolutely chockers all day, much thanks to Apache, who proved why they’re one of the nominated bands to slot in at Southbound festival with a ferocious rock set, complete with all the energy and enthusiasm from a band stoked to be part of the WAM festivities. Their raw musical skills worked a treat, especially considering the venue, and they showed us exactly why they’re one of the most exciting bands in Perth at the moment. The crowd seemed to ebb a bit for Ghetto Crystals – a shame, because they were actually one of the highlights of the day. The garagey trio, containing ex-Abby May member KT Rumble and San Cisco drummer Scarlett Stevens showed that simple can be effective. They provided a hell of a lot of catchy bass lines, which is never a bad thing, but Rumble’s lyrics were the standout in their performance; blunt and often comical, they told stories and kept the crowd attentive. Anyone who skipped out on them should be kicking themselves.

Kat Wilson brought Perth Cultural Centre into an area of intimate acoustic folk-rock and roots. The deep and soulful vocals of lead singer Kat Wilson gave those who stuck around a relaxing place to catch a breather and grab a bite to eat as the sun went down. Oceans, a song featured on Kiss my Wami, provided an upbeat and folksy tune as the chorus ended the song in a flurry of drums, clean guitar tones and poetically positive lyrics. The Community Chest was the first performance that opened into the night. The variety of instrumentals gave the group a distinctive sound that was part synth, slight psychedelic and a hint of 90s grunge. They gave their songs a certain edge of quirkiness as they smashed out tracks like Get Into The Rocket where the group’s call and response lyrics were reminiscent of the B-52s. Show Me evoked a part-grunge, part indie arrangement that successfully showcased the bands unique sound.

Over to Mustang, and 44th Sunset’s set was a performance filled with blasting bass lines and piercing rhythms. The prominent aspect of their performance was Nick Thompson’s frank, ‘80s pop inspired vocals. This combined with their chaotic guitar solos and rapid drum beats confirmed the groups strong stage presence. Stories, Not Sorry filled the venue with catchy alt-pop and provided the crowd with an addictive chorus that failed to leave the punter’s heads.

Singaporean artist iNCH followed with her first Perth performance whose mixture of funk and rock caused a strong ambience to fill the bar. The most impressive feature of iNCH’s performance was her vocals that rapidly moved between the upper and lower pitches rapidly. Her dramatic and energetic performance was closed with the most memorable track from her set The Artful Dodger, ending her performance in a wash of funk and alt-rock.

Roots group Toby gave an edgy hardiness to the table when they emerged onto the small stage. Possibly winning the award for the band whose sound resembled the décor of the venue the most, it was their hardy blues and strong rhythm that was backed up by the acoustic guitars that gave the group a certain rustic appeal. Stole Them Away allowed the group to really show their worth, with a chorus that burst into a thick collage of sharp slide guitars and pulsating chords from the acoustics. The only thing that was missing at the moment was a large crowd of flannelette clad dancers wearing Stetson hats to whisk the night away in a burst of bluesy fervour.

Block Party Stage continued to go off, with help from Coin Banks, who warmed the crowd’s collective cockles into the chilly evening with the aid of his versatile eight-piece band. His roots-based hip hop brimmed with everyday content that anyone could relate to as he brought the crowd together like a real MC should.

Joni in the Moon mixed together samples, live vocals, and a butt load of talent for their set at The Mustang, with the stunning vocals of both Joni Hogan and Odette Mercy complimenting each other on tracks Dove Song and Woman On Fire. A mind blowing cover of Björk’s Crystalline left the crowd speechless and set closer Helicopters proved only further how fantastic this band is.

Indie rock five-piece The Disappointed started off with the upbeat track Every Made Up Eye in the City, getting the crowd energised for the set ahead with solid vocals from the lead singer Michael Strong and the other members of the band. Mirtazipine, Uppers and Downers and Stranger all went down well with the audience and had them dancing along, with the band getting a great response by the end of their set. Davey Craddock & The Spectacles with the rollicking sounds of new track Peaceful Bay and live favourite Keep On Waiting, getting the venue rocking with their country-tinged sounds and solid harmonies from Craddock and drummer Todd Pickett. Another new track, the breakup ballad Better Alone, was a highlight that proved the guys aren’t short on great material for their new album. Rolling River and Three Sprays capped off the set, with the band receiving a huge cheer from the crowded venue.

“What are you going to do, boogie or stand like stone?” singer Famie Suliman demanded at the Block Party stage. They may have been called The Pinholes, but they were as cute as buttons. Occasionally their Singaporean surf n’ roll was lost in translation (“you’ve been a wonderful audience, give yourself the clap”) but their feel good vibes were universal. Recontextualizing 21st Century R n’ B with something of a WA slant, triple 2014 WAM winner Kucka’s set charmed an outbreak of siren-like dancing among the fevered masses, in no small part due to her two well dressed assistants, who teased paradoxically high levels of soul from their electronic devices.

Back to the C.I.T Stage, Margaret River favourites Stillwater Giants hit the stage sporting ridiculous novelty hats, though their set was anything but. The boys drew the crowd in early on in their set, with fans keen to get as close as possible. Their three-part harmonies were enthralling, particularly in the breezy Give Into Me. The Floors were tasked with wrapping things up at the venue, and they totally let loose. Straight out of the gate they were plagued with a broken drum kit and forced to compete with a loony Jesus fanatic, but that didn’t dissuade them. Insane riffs and spectacular drumming by Ashley Doodkorte had the entire amphitheatre jamming along to pure, unadulterated rock’n’roll for the remainder of the night.

It was by this time that The Bird had developed a slow-moving line outside the venue, another testament to the popularity of none other than Perth’s favourite grunge-rock trio Foam. The band coursed their way through their set with fizzing howls of rage and it was at this point that people began to mosh, which is always a great sight to see inside the small venue. But if people thought that was intense, the WAMi winners of Best Heavy Act 2014, Puck, took things to the next level. They confessed their set hadn’t really changed for the good part of a year up until that night, and the new track they slotted in was probably the highlight, with awesome growls and super heavy riffs that had people going absolutely nutty. Hamjam closed out the evening in style with their grungy surf-pop stylings and had people leaving the venue feeling buzzed and thoroughly satisfied.

Dream Rimmy closed out the night at Flyrite, re-creating the ‘90s lo-fi psychedelic shoegaze with ambient vocals from lead singer, Ali Flintoff. The entire band exuded energy and continued to produce outstanding songs. It became a hypnotic experience, with colourful sounds, not to mention characters, on stage. There’s great potential here; a must-see spectacle and musical high.

DJ duo Slumberjack switched lanes from electro to pop to grime to miscellaneous booty bass at the Block Party stage with such consummate ease that all their disparate source material might’ve hatched from the same egg. Guessing what was about to come next with any degree of accuracy was an exercise in abject futility.

Although they may be better suited to claustrophobic indoor settings, The Love Junkies nonetheless commanded the Block Party stage like seasoned headliners. Their rising star was evident by the spontaneous audience participation during Maybelene, as they deftly alternated between sweet melodies and explosive punkgasms, before wrapping the night up with the gory love-fest Blowing On The Devil’s Strumpet. All told, it was well and truly a fantastic day for WA music, and it went a long way towards proving we have the best local scene in the country.

Words by Kane Sutton, Joseph Wilson, Emilie Taylor, Christopher H James, Charmaine De Souza, Scott Aiken