Words By: Laurent Shervington//Drew Krapljanov
The WAM Awards night on Thursday felt like a huge celebration of all things WA at their core, with awards being given out to a bunch of categories that represented Western Australian artists from around the state. The awards were well deserved and the hall of fame speeches were insightful, altogether a great night to be amongst creatives in Perth.
Tomas Ford being the energetic and hilarious MC for the night, began by performing a bunch of songs from Kucka, Mathas and Timothy Nelson in his typical eccentric fashion.
The live music section of the night started off with recently crowned ‘Best Indigenous Act’ Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse, who performed some stripped down acoustic ballads, complementing the atmosphere of the venue well and providing an enjoyable intermission to the formal proceedings.
Next up was local pop act Joni in the Moon, who captivated those closer to the stage with her voice and stage movements, cycling through her newer songs with a level of confidence that was truly admirable and powerful.
Jacob Diamond was the last act on for the night, showing the crowd why he was a worthy winner of the Big Splash competition with his incredibly smooth and jazzy take on the singer-songwriter style. His song ‘Who Do we Fight ‘ being a particular highlight.
Overall the night went over a treat, an excellent taster for the weekend ahead at WAM Fest.
Little Skye @ Flyrite
Little Skye kicked off the festivities wonderfully with a unique, and captivating performance. Despite the small audience and the technical difficulties cutting their set short, they played confidently and elegantly through unpredictable and intelligently crafted song structures. Carried by great lead guitar embellishments and creative and versatile drum groove, their set was simply captivating.
Jeff’s Dead @ Universal Bar
A mere three piece, Jeff’s Dead displayed an incredible amount of talent with an energetic confessional folk rock performance much in the same realm as the Mountain Goats or Andrew Jackson Jihad. The songs featured frequent and unpredictable dramatic shifts dynamically, and a versatile and impressive vocal performance by frontman Jeff Strong. The song Blood River was a particular highlight as it showcased the band’s synchronicity, shifting between a sombre, hushed verse into a passionate, crooning chorus.
Leaf Crown @Mustang Bar
On first impression, Leaf Crown was intriguing and unassuming. The subtle and forthright lyrical content was like a cloak and dagger against the easy-going, alt-country instrumentation. While the simplistic and repetitive music left something to be desired at sometimes, it complemented the thought provoking lyrics tastefully giving the songs nuance and emotional depth. The Red House Painters influenced Happiness is a Loaded Gun was a powerful standout.
While they were lacking their bassist for this performance, Husband was unfortunately unmemorable and unengaging. Their opening song began interestingly enough but wandered into an overly loud, flat chorus. Their following song featured some great lyrics that painted an interesting narrative of the consequences of war on a family but followed much the same formula of the song that preceded it. What ultimately undermined their performance was the poor structuring and pacing of the songs, leaving little in terms of engaging dynamic and creative ambition.
Cubs @ The Moon
With a sound similar to 90’s Dream Pop band Mazzy Star, their gentle and soothing sound lacked the charm, the subtlety and the ambition. The set suffered from overwhelming repetition making the songs dynamically flat and dull, with a small amount of depth in the lyrics to engage the listener. While there were glimmers of some interesting lyrics and unique guitar atmospheres, these moments were too infrequent to elevate the material beyond anything outstanding.
The Pissedcolas @ The Bird
After a five-minute walk down William Street, I arrived just as the local Post-Punks the Pissedcolas began.Their set was murky and intriguing, with great performances and bizarre musical ideas. The sheer volume and ear piercing noises between the two guitars complemented each other adequately, creating an abrasive and relentless soundscape. While their execution and performance of their material was unique, the song structures lacked fluid transitions and pulled out the energy of the performance. While the songs were propelled by excellent drum and guitar performances, the keyboards were completely inaudible in combination with the other instruments and the crooning, apathetic vocals did not assist in amplifying the intensity of the engaging instrumentation.
Verge Collection @ The Bird
Alt-Folk outfit Verge Collection took to the stage and smashed out an energetic and eclectic set, delivering solid song after solid song from the sea shanty of Pushed Out to the wonderful hoedown of closing track Too Much About You. A particular highlight was their recently released single, Our Place shined with a rolling snare groove, a smooth and shimmering lead guitar line and a tongue-in-cheek vocal performance behind the driving instrumental tension. The set showcased not only the depth of Verge Collection’s lyrical content but also the musical prowess of it’s members, each of them playing with high energy and subtlety.
Hyla @The Bird
Local shoegazers Hyla was my first band of the day, showing off a sound reminiscent of The Verve’s first album, with a strong rhythm section and a huge sound entertaining the growing audience at the Bird.
Rag n Bone @ Block Party
Post-punk band Rag n Bone took to the Block Party stage along with The Love Junkies drummer to deliver a huge set with pounding bass and frenetic guitar drawing quite a crowd for late afternoon set. The band cycled through their catalogue, playing a few from their EP from this year’s ‘A Woman Under the Influence’. Altogether the band ended up giving one of the best sets of the day, so hats off to them.
Fait @ Block Party
Another Shoegaze band doing the rounds at WAM was Fait, a band with sound akin to an instrumental Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine, but using a vibrant set of keys to add potency to certain sections of songs. Unfortunately the band’s sound wasn’t allowed to reach its full potential by abnormally quiet speakers, which didn’t give the wall of sound the band are normally known for.
Hamjam @ Block Party
On the other side of the Block Party was local duo Hamjam, whose chorus driven songs soundtracked the abundance of people coming through the gates of the Wilson Street carpark as well as entertaining those who were close to the stage. The band played through some newer songs as well as their always enjoyable cover of ‘Wicked Game’, stopping to throw cans of beer to crowd members who wanted in on their stash.
Skullcave @Jimmy’s Den
Next up was heavy band Skullcave, a heavy trio that stops at nothing to bring you the most brutal sounds they can muster, keeping them at a high level in terms of Perth’s heavy scene. Skullcave were engaging as always, their more sludge/doom inspired moments being the highlight of their set.
Hip Priest @The Bird
Dressed in some (presumably) comfy bathrobes, Hip Priest took the stage to deliver a solid set of songs that cruised through the annuals of 90s indie rock and power pop. While Guitarist Axel Carrington’s guitar seemed to be summoning some kind of demon (thanks in no small part to the 16 second digi delay he had on his pedalboard) the band rallied off the incoming apocalypse to give one of the best performances of the day at WAM.
Silver Hills @The Bird
The dreamy/almost shoegazy sounds of Silver Hills filled the Bird around 9pm and the somewhat large crowd that had formed seemed to enjoy the set for what it was, well written pop songs with various elements of indie rock and pop woven in between. The Hills might be the most forward thinking and original band in Perth but they certainly know how to keep a crowd dancing and entertained.
Tired Lion @Block Party
The last band I intended to see on the night was Tired Lion, the winner of the ‘best rock act’ at the WAM Awards and a generally hyped band from this past year. While the band played to the crowd well, forming an intense mosh pit that saw many a crowd member sprint through, I couldn’t help but feel the band rested too much on their laurels and never really showed off why they deserved the acclaim they had achieved in the past year. Despite my own gripes, the band captivated the vast majority of the audience, marking the end of a great day for a lot of punters.