By Sam Farringdon
If you were to put together a bill of the finest acts playing around Perth in 2015, one that boasts The Wilds, The Floors and The Kill Devil Hills would probably be one of the most formidable you could dream up. But that dream became a reality on Saturday at 459 – a bar so narrow, so cramped, so intimate, you might as well be watching the bands play in your living room. And while The Floors had a little bit of breathing space, how The Wilds and The Kill Devil Hills – both six-pieces – fit on that tiny stage was a tribute to musical Tetris.
But if things were cosy, that intimacy only served to intensify the ferocity of each bands’ attack. Considering the crossover in members – Luke Dux plays in both The Wilds and The Floors; Todd Pickett plays in both The Wilds and The Kill Devil Hills; Ryan Dux plays in both The Floors and The Kill Devil Hills – and the enthusiasm with which each band’s rider was consumed, it’s kinda remarkable that none of the bands’ sets were lacking in energy or intensity. They each played with a band-of-brothers camaraderie, clearly relishing their time together, and it’s this chemistry, and musical intuition that make all 3 bands such ominous beasts on stage.
The Wilds opened proceedings. That they have been recently nominated for a Best Country Act WAM feels a bit reductive – The Wilds defy such easy classification. Chris Davis’ songs are steeped in the very emotional directness that characterises so much country music, but musically their dark underbellies suggest a far more gnarled, mongrel breed. As anyone who’s seen them can testify, there’s something really special about this band. They never waste a note – their songs creep up inside of you, seducing you with their profound melancholy ache, before bursting like supernovas… On their night, they are capable of taking you deep down the rabbit hole, before elevating you to an innate level of ecstasy that’s as rare as it is overwhelming. But if tonight wasn’t quite that night, their brood and dynamism ensures that The Wilds will never be anything less than captivating.
By some fluke of misfortune, I’d somehow never managed to catch The Floors before this evening. I’d heard them spoken about in hushed and revered tones, and, cynic that I am, I was concerned that couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations. But more fool me, because they came out and absolutely blew my fucking head off. The Floors were, undoubtedly in my mind, the crowning glories of the evening – their set was an absolute earthquakin’, hip-shakin’, loin-baitin’, trouble-makin’ cacophony of primal raw power. The relentless viciousness of their blues stomp was so bruising, it would have made Goliath think twice before approaching. Brothers Luke and Ryan Dux punished their guitar and bass with frenetic abandon, while drummer Ash Doodkorte attacked his kit with the precision of a man dead set on destruction. All the while I stood rooted to the spot, completely transfixed, enraptured in my own troglodyte wonder, swearing to myself that I would not miss this band in this town, or any town, again, as my face melted off and my body pooled into my shoes – a natural reaction to the sheer heat being generated before me on stage.
That The Kill Devil Hills were still game enough to follow after the title bout had already been won, speaks volumes to the size of their brass. Of course, the fact that they were headlining probably didn’t leave them much choice. For a long time, The Kill Devils seemed to be “The Great Band That Could”. How they became “The Great Band That Could’ve” is reason for debate. But last night they reminded that, even in their slightly more youthfully regenerated state, they still remain masters of the boozey, bleary eyed lament and razor-sharp rumination. Their songs are built upon foundations of sustained tension and release and, for the most part, they held the audience in the palm of their hand – ‘Gunslinger’ still smoked with the intensity of a Peckinpah western; ‘Cockfighter’ still came on like a repetitive sucker punch from a deranged maniac; and new song ‘I Am The Rut, I Am The Wheel’ (quite possibly the most accessible song they’ve ever written), more than held its own among other tried and true stalwarts of The Kill Devils’ back catalogue.
Perhaps it was in contrast to the relative brevity of the previous two sets, but The Kill Devil Hills did seem to linger for maybe one or two songs too long. However, they were the band that everyone was there to see, and they were received appropriately rapturously. As far as a Saturday night in Perth goes, could you really hope for a better line up of bands? Particularly in such an intimate and electric setting? I think not.