Gig Review: Chapterfest 21

Who: Chapterfest 21

Where: The Residence

When: 20th November 2013

No doubt many a lip was licked amongst local music aficionados, when it was announced that the organisers of Melbourne Music Week would be working alongside local independent label Chapter Music, for one of its many musical endeavours during this years festival.  Chapter Music has been an ever present within the local scene for two decades now, so what better way to help celebrate its 21st year, than to have some of its current acts showcasing their collective talents.

There was an evident nip in the air as I made my way along the banks of the Yarra towards The Residence, the purpose built venue that had been erected for the festival. Once the much needed beverage was in hand, I made my way towards the merchandise stall, all the while being forced to zig zag my way through an abundance of hipsters. Something which is never the nicest of feelings! On inspection a tantalising collection of past and present Chapter releases were available, within the confines of a tightly fitted out shipping container!

As I entered the dome shaped venue, a wintery vibe was brought to the proceedings, courtesy of its countless illuminated white panels and the backdrop’s lighting arrangements. One of tonights artists that I wasn’t accustomed to prior to taking to the stage was Darren Sylvester. His brand of 80’s inspired electro music, infused with a smidgen of indie pop, was appreciated by the few who made it in for the performance. However at times what was emanating from the speaker, didn’t really feel overly original to this scribe’s ear, while the added horn sounds just made it feel as though he was trying a little too hard.

Next up were The Stevens, a band who have come on leaps and bounds on the live front. Their brand of jangly guitars, lo-fi inspired sounds and infectious hooks grabbed me from the off, and I wasn’t alone as more of the crowd made their way inside. The four piece ploughed through what must have been about 11 songs, if not more, during their allotted time. It was a set peppered with songs from their self-titled EP, “Look Back”, “Fast Cars”and “Living Out of a Bag”, as well as from their recently released debut album ‘A History of Hygiene‘. Their ability to perform catchy harmonies so effortlessly was evident to all during “Teenage Satellite”.

Bushwalking are Ela Stiles; bass, Nisa Venerosa; drums and Karl Scullin’s; guitar, and to me were on par with The Stevens, as the highlight of tonight. They perform slow and hypnotic drone like tunes, which include many a bone crunching drum beat and repetitive bass licks throughout. The crowd also seemed to like what they heard as the numbers swelled quite steadily halfway through the opening number or two. The girls harmonise on nearly every other track, but it isn’t something that allows you to be drawn in too much, due to their voices being battered every which way by their surrounding instruments. Their fifth track included some sludge metal sounding like intro, which was followed by some random flute solo from Styles and shredding guitar by Scullion. All of which no doubt led to the cobwebs in attendance being kicked to shit, due to it’s ear splitting noise and deafening feedback. Scullin is quite the introverted guitarist throughout and none more so then during his solos.

Geoffrey O’Connor’s brand of synth led electro pop, was a bizarre choice to follow the hard driving and boulder smashing delights of Bushwalking. Something that was evident by the thinning out of the crowd, heading to the bar or just out for a chin wag. Like Sylvester earlier in the evening, his sound wasn’t anything to shout from the rooftops about, however his ability to seem  so at ease on stage, while quite obviously borrowing from his musical hero’s – Pet Shop Boys/Dave Stewart – influence’s was admirable.

The Twerps were the first of the collaborative headliners to take to the stage and breezed through a couple of their own instantly catchy and hook laden tracks, before the members of Dick Diver joined them, to much applause. The first ‘duet’ between both acts was a rendition of Dick Diver’s “Languages of Love”, which included; Steph Hughes, Al McKay and Dion Nania on snare, hi-hat and kick drum respectively. Dick Diver then show what they can do with their own “Calendar Days”, which received a resounding cheers from the audience, even after The Twerps‘ Marty Frawley highlighted his inability to keep time with the tambourine!

There is an obvious respect between both band’s on and off stage, but after awhile it comes across as though not a lot of collaborative preparation took place for tonight, as they seemed to just try and wing it on more than one track. With instruments being constantly swapped over between the musicians, coupled with the constant revolving act of members going on and off the stage, it stemmed any hope of a free flowing performance. The Twerps’ Julia McFarlane then took advantage of being able to use Dick Diver as her backing band for “New Guy”, which was a highlight. Their set finished up with a few random and messy interpretations of songs by The Go-Betweens “Rock’n’Roll Friend” and Tears For Fears “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”, which lost quite a bit of the crowd as a result. Yes parts of what many people like so much about both of these acts is their ramshackle and carefree approach to playing live, however tonight maybe wasn’t the night to imagine they were playing to close friends at a house party.

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