Live Review – Plini + Intervals + Polaris
Max Watts House of Music
3rd September, 2016
Review By: Rod Whitfield
What an incredible year it’s been for local music in a live sense. World class gigs played to packed houses virtually every week. And this was another one. In my decades of frenzied gig-going, I’ve never seen a year quite like it.
Sydney boys Polaris put on a typically fired-up metalcore set, the thunderous instrumentation playing support to the clean and dirty vocal tradeoff beautifully. The drums in particular were like mini-nuclear explosions. The passionate melodic cleans are handled with great aplomb by bassist Jake Steinhauser, and iron lunged frontman Jamie Hails is simply a fireball of energy. A purist may say that this band was a little out of place on an all-instrumental prog rock bill, but not me. Variety is the spice of music, and these guys provided the contrast very nicely indeed. Plus this band utilise some subtle progressive elements at times as well, some more syncopated grooves and left of centre arrangements. On top of that, their spirited delivery warmed the punters’ hearts, minds and bodies like a great support band should on this chilly Melbourne early spring evening.
Intervals is essentially one man, Canadian Aaron Marshall, creating swirling instrumental alchemy on his own, and recruiting a cast of hired guns to help him deliver it live when he goes on the road. For this tour (his first ever trip to Australia in any capacity), he has none other than the man of the moment himself, Plini, playing guitar with him, plus Simon Grove from Plini’s band on bass. Hard hitting perpetual motion machine Nathan Bulla rounds out the current touring lineup on the skins. This foursome played like they had played 200 shows a year together for the last 10 years.
Marshall’s music is all about extreme technical dexterity, but at the same time presented in a super-catchy, melodic and fun way. He injects some funk and some jazz into the sound at times as well, and actually knows how to cop on to a relatively simple blues-based or funk riff and groove to open things up and let it all breath as well. And with such a stupendous backing band behind him, the blistering but melodic music blows minds and puts big fat cheesy smiles on punters’ faces. These guys make it look so easy. Bastards.
His/their set whizzed by way too quickly on this night, and left the prog-crazy crowd slavering like rabid dogs for more. We very much hope he brings his axe and his breathtaking music back out again soon.
I have seen Plini two or three times over the past couple of years. Obviously the scintillating playing ability is still there in droves, as is the self-deprecating humour in his between-song banter. However, the road-dog touring he has done over the last year or so across America and Europe has given him something that wasn’t really there before. Or not there as strongly anyway. And that is a real swagger and confidence, a more relaxed and easy demeanour, and a real sense of stagecraft. He owns the stage now (albeit still in an endearingly awkward way).
Plini and his band’s set this night lifted the crowd of the ground, soared to the very heavens (especially on tracks like Electric Sunrise and the title track of his brand new Handmade Cities album) and took them away to a different and wondrous place beyond our earthly understanding. A beautiful netherworld where beautifully written, magnificently played, forward thinking music is number one, and plastic mass produced crap is consigned to the ‘underground’, rather than the other way around (sounds like Utopia, yeah?).
And that was just the set proper. Once Marshall came back out onstage with Plini for two wondrously lengthy encores, Max Watts went from Utopia to heaven itself, the two six and seven string sensations attempting, in a completely good-natured manner, to outdo each other. And who won? We, the audience.
Australia, you have something very special happening here, a phenomenon in the making. We just need to keep spreading awareness of it, both here and across the globe.