By Sam Farringdon
I awake at some rude hour on my friend’s sofa. Sunlight slapping me in the face like some irritating sibling. My brain feels like it’s on vacation; left in it’s place is an endless loop of The Ramones sing the hook from Bonzo Goes To Bitburg. BAAAAA-NA-NA-NA MY BRAIN IS HANGING UPSIDE DOWN! I survey the empty rum, wine, and beer bottles arranged around the room with all the cognitive dissonance of a drunk interior decorator. The ashtray is overflowing. There’s a scent in the air that suggests quite a bit of “incense” has been burning. What fresh new hell is this? What the hell happened last night? I shake the dust out of my hair, and pull a blanket up over my head.
I resume a restless slumber, where I am transported through a strange portal of space and time to an imaginary Max’s Kansas City in New York… constructed entirely through years of obsessively thumbing pages of punk photography books, and reading first-hand accounts of just about everybody-worth-a-damn who graced the hallowed stages… And I’m flashing forward through the times: watching Alice Cooper playing ‘I’m Eighteen’ in 1970; David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust tearing through ‘Moonage Daydream’ with The Spiders from Mars in 1972; The New York Dolls tarting up ‘Lookin’ For A Kiss’ in 1973… and I’m not sure if these are actual dream constructs or mere recreations of videos obsessively tracked down on YouTube over the years.
Within the dreams, I can feel myself drawn to the sexy flamboyance of the performances and the sense of danger pervading the theatrics… But throughout these episodes of idealised time travelling, there’s a persistent glitch, a persistent vision interrupting with a flicker, like a pirate TV broadcast… a vision of a creature bathed in crimson light in the darkness… a woman? Looking like… some kind of undead bride with a devilish glint in her eye…. she’s cackling maniacally and curdling my blood with her nightmarish screams… These visions recur with a feverish intensity, each time with a more thunderous soundtrack of tribal drums and dirty great big guitars, roaring like some kind of psychedelic monster truck from Mad Max or something… this intimidating creature, definitely all woman, leers at me, spits and screams at me “YOU’RE THE VILLAIN – YOU’RE THE VADER!!” and suddenly, the walls of Max’s collapse and dissipate into my subconscious, and I’m back in a place that is real, that exists beyond my dreams, a place that I actually know, and I realise what I’m recalling is Moana’s fucking dynamite rendition of ‘Vader’ from the night before.
I wake up with a start. THAT’S what happened last night. It’s all coming back to me now. In the process of trying to obliterate my mind with drugs and booze, what ACTUALLY blew my mind to smithereens was Moana giving the show of their lives at their EP launch at The Oddfellow in Freo.
Theatrics and music don’t tend to really mix in this town; they tend to flow uniformly within their own streams. However, Moana blended the two to spectacular effect on Halloween night – complete with a resplendent, camp Dracula-type compere. The visual collision of horror, sex and rock’n’roll cool [read: black] was the perfect reflection of the universe in which their music exists.
On the small confines of The Oddfellow stage, Moana herself cut an imposing figure – part dark prophet, part ghoulish scream. She commanded attention with every yelp, every slashing chord and every brooding look (intensified by her Bowie-esque different coloured eyes). She ensured that every song lived and breathed to service the all consuming dark and twisted Moana universe, and, coupled with the make-up and dark glamour of the band’s presentation, each song was elevated and intensified.
So great was the culminative effect on the performance, perhaps there’s a strong argument for incorporating both the look and the theatrics as a permanent part of their act. ‘Elephant Bones’ in particular really sprung to life, driving a stake through the heart of it’s recorded counterpart, unrepentantly leaving it for dead. An ominous mood was set with a chilling rendition of ‘The Black Monsoon’, before all hell broke loose with the ferociously spellbinding rendition of ‘Vader’ that so haunted my dreams.
Sometimes you witness history; sometimes you witness something close enough to it that you can’t help but get excited by the momentum it may bring. I’ve seen Moana maybe half a dozen times at different points this year, and they’ve always been good, but last night was the first time that I felt like the potential matched the presentation. Moana herself is so magnetic, expressive, and dynamic; the more theatrically she performs, the more fearsomely the band plays, and the more engrossing and immersive the songs, the show, the universe becomes – and the more exhilarating it becomes to watch. Moana have continued to carve out a favourable niche within the Perth scene that is very much their own, but they should continue to push the sky away. If they do that, they will continue to build their reputation, especially as a live act, to become completely unmissable.
And if they performed the way they did last night, I reckon they would’ve done alright at Max’s too.