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Gig Review: Balloons Kill Babies + supports, Sydney

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Balloons Kill Babies + Transience + Mercury Sky + Enter Reality
Bald Faced Stag, Sydney
17 July 2015
Review by Salla Harjula

It’s an obscure alt prog rock night at the Stag. Only a smattering of people have showed up to enjoy it, and I’ll just say it outright: for shame, Sydneysiders. You missed out.

Two local outfits get the ball rolling. Enter Reality rock their alternative stuff to a handful of amicably appreciative people. It’s clearly a band in its relative infancy, but there’s potential for bigger things somewhere in there.

Female fronted alt rock bands tend to rely heavily on their singers, and these guys are no exception. It’s not a bad direction though, since singer Rachel Holden has a distinctive, dark voice that carries the hefty rock’n’roll very well. Things come together best in their more dynamic songs, whereas the atmospheric pieces still tend to sound slightly unfinished.

Mercury Sky take the night into proggier dimensions. They are also the definitive audience favourite. All of a sudden there is almost a crowd, which oohs and aahs and even gives off some girly shrieks at the band. You almost get the impression that half these people have come here to see new guitarist Josh Vernon, as the shrieks are never louder than when singer Kay Thatch introduces the mustachioed indie lad with “he’s so sexy…”

Well. Whatever the non-musical reasons for the band’s local popularity, they are actually fairly good. They have a singer with an original sound and heavy songs with a cool idiosyncratic groove. There’s an inescapable comparison to be made to Dead Letter Circus, in a good way. The one real criticism here is that the vocals are mixed way too low, and so Kay’s interesting voice is a shade lost under the instruments.

Just as suddenly as the crowd materialised into existence for these local favourites, it vanishes again when the out of towners kick off. Both Transience from Melbourne and Balloons Kill Babies from Brisbane end up playing to a handful of people who seem to mostly consist of the other bands.

As Senator Clay Davis would say, sheeeee-it. Because let me tell you, this is the moment the night truly gets interesting.

It’s my second time seeing heavy prog rockers Transience, and this night is definitely the clincher where I’m totally sold on them. Their powerful riffs have catchy appeal with rhythmically and melodically unexpected structures, their drummer is wickedly brill and tasteful, and talented singer Robert Cuzens manages his clean and growly bits with marvellous dexterity.

The little crowd warms up to the action too, as they should. This band isn’t very well established yet, but they have the skills, songwriting, stage presence and showmanship to go places quickly. In fact, it’s a mystery to me why they aren’t better known already in Australia’s thriving prog scene.

Brisbanite power trio Balloons Kill Babies don’t draw an audience any bigger, despite being the frontliners tonight. Incredibly they don’t seem to be bothered about this one tiny bit. Not one bit.

It’s awesome to experience. The dudes prog out to their psychedelically inspired instrumental rock with the chillest vibe between them. Extra points to the refreshingly creative bassist who frolics and capers on stage like he’s having the time of his life. But it’s all of them really: these guys play out of the sheer joy of playing. You can easily imagine them doing this in a rehearsal room somewhere and enjoying it every inch as much.

It’s great. It’s a total shame more people didn’t see and hear this night, but then again, at least I get to feel special in being one of the few people who did get to share in it.

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