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Photography by Rachael Barrett
Lovin’ those pines. Photography by Rachael Barrett

Somerville Auditorium

Sunday, April 19, 2015

It’s always an auspicious occasion and station manager Jason Cleary began by thanking just about everyone ever for making the 22nd In The Pines possible (a lot of people have made this thing tick!). He then made way for the duo of Gina Williams & Guy Ghouse. Bringing a set of songs both sung in and continuing the Wajdik tradition, Ghouse’s percussive and polyphonic guitarwork provided a bed for the broad, sweeping arcs of Williams’ melodies, with Waryngka a particular highlight.

Throughout the set, Williams explained the language and the practices and beliefs that underpinned the songs, providing the less familiar with the tools to be as drawn in – and educated – by the music as possible. As they went, they only increased in power, which made their set a thrilling and perfect introduction to the afternoon.

The Wilds elicited a different kind of country welcoming, all laidback, warm and inviting, in what was a perfectly timed slot. The Eduardo Cossio Quartet launched their set with the barnstorming Difficulty, a lean, rangy tune that thrums like Led Zeppelin as played by a bunch of wired tightrope walkers. Led by the effortlessly charming Cossio, the four-piece navigated a set of harmonica and saxophone-led instrumentals; an Andean baroque folk suite, cast in miniatures. When Cossio, natural as you like, leaned back from the mic to howl in the final moments – like a far off hardcore band had snuck into the mix, or Aborted Tortoise testing their vocal mics – it summed up the genius of his dense, flexible compositions.

With an average age of around 21, Aborted Tortoise were the youngest act on the bill, but that didn’t stop them from playing one of the tightest and most energetic sets of the day. Raw is the word we’d usually used to describe the quintet’s brand of no-nonsense, power chord punk rock, but the group’s songs are refined and infectious beyond their years. With vocalist Connor Lane’s penchant for channelling a young, slacker version of Iggy Pop, it’s not hard to imagine these five on a much bigger stage in the near future.

Outside of Statues, the most bombastic presence on the Pines twin stages was the inimitable Maurice Flavel, who led his Intensive Care through a set of shining, sweating and bombastic gutter anthems. With a bevy of backup singers echoing his heaving, bluesy incantations, Flavel would have been sure to part the clouds (had there been any).

From the first note, Hideous Sun Demon oozed effortless charisma.  Rarely does “rock‘n’roll” feel like an apt description for a band formed post-1985, but the foursome are total throwbacks, effervescent in their stage presence more animated than just about any rock band in Perth. The quartet exploit their instruments to maximum effect – honestly, it wouldn’t seem out of character  for someone to smash a guitar – while frontman Vincent Buchanan-Smith, with the aura of a seasoned rock star, flailed and yelped and turned his throat inside out like a seasoned rock star.

Husband’s laid-back sound proved a stark contrast to the wicked enthusiasm of the past half-hour, and it took a few songs to click. A Joy Division cover is always a ballsy move, and the dense layers he and his band added to their slumbering take on the usually spirited, bass-driven Disorder proved awkward for the first couple of minutes, but with stirring grooves and a rousing rendition of Ian Curtis’ half-shouted vocals, Paolini and company reinvented the song to claim it as their own.

Shit Narnia played in the peak of the afternoon warmth, with the closing bass rumble of Claremont Boys earning them a deserved ruckus from the crowd, while the swaying c(o)untry lilt of I Wanna Be Castrated provoked  knowing grins from the assembled moshing contingent. As the set went on, the only thing matching the increasing heat stageside was the flush of front-Narnian Hugh Manning’s face. With newer and as yet unrecorded material forming an increasingly part of their set, 2015 is auguring very well for the Albanycore artpunk lifers.

Lanark’s live show is always a daunting prospect; despite their gigging experience, their shifting dynamics are much better suited to the studio. Which is not to say they’re a bad live band, but things can and usually will go wrong, like when Damian Diggs’ in-ear monitors failed during the group’s uncharacteristically heavy opening gambit. But when Lanark were on point, they were phenomenal. Rarely does a band with a sound so heavily rooted in waves of dreamy guitar tones devote so much attention to grooves, but those middle-moments in Gambler when Michael Ewing’s basslines take centre stage were powerful enough to rattle bones.

Photography by Rachael Barrett
Thee Gold Blooms

Thee Gold Blooms are making a bit of a noise around the nation, but on this day they were thrilled to be on the Pines stage (a view stated by many acts on the day).  Energetic and enlivening to say the least.

Grim Fandango graced the stage for what might be one of their last ever shows to play one of the most impassioned sets of their near-decade career. Armed with the trebliest guitars of the festival, Tom Ware imbued every lyric with a fragile sincerity, wrecking his vocal chords and exposing himself like a raw nerve with earnest delivery.

Photography by Rachael Barrett

Psych five-piece SpaceManAntics are so righteously tight that at times the songs barely cease to exist, let alone matter, but buoyed by at times almost impossibly kinetic drumming from George Foster,  nothing flagged too bad until the ridiculous melodic lift of Katzenjammer sent their set into the stratosphere as the sun started to track down.

Photography by Rachael Barrett

Statues provided the heavier, noisier slot populated in recent years by Drowning Horse and Scalphunter. Vocalist, Jayme Van Keulen, told the crowd that they were about to experience something different from the rest of the day, asking them to come down to the front and express themselves any way they wanted. What ensued was an assault on the senses, that very likely regeared the crowd for what remained of the evening.

Direct from the ’90s, The Rainyard were initially enlisted to take the stage at this point, but circumstances worked out other wise so The Jangle Brothers – a combo featuring The Rainyard’s Jeff Baker and Adrian MacMillan, alongside Header’s Ian Freeman, with backing by Joe Algeri, Dave Wallace and Mark Eaton of The JAC, with guest drumming from ‘Jangleaire’ Sid. Freeman showed great phone on the mic and with a tambourine, while Baker coolly caressed his guitar as Algeri jumped all over the stage. In actuality it was probably more fun than The Rainyard would have been and by the time they ended with Header’s 1996 hit, Restoration, thoughts of ‘next time’ were being considered by on and off the stage.

Photography by Rachael Barrett
Rachael Dease

Rarely is a musician more suited to their physical surroundings than Rachael Dease was under the towering pines beneath a darkened sky. And rarely is that musician one of the most compelling performers in the country. Dease and her backing band of three (later expanded to six with the addition of a trio of violinists) intoxicated the audience with a haunting brand of desert noir. And that voice – bellowing and brittle – is one of the most beautiful sounds you’ll ever hear from a human being.

Photography by Rachael Barrett
Methyl Ethyl
Photography by Rachael Barrett

Methyl Ethel are kicking all sorts of goals at the moment and this occasion was no exception. The trio lock down on the shoegaze and dream off, as did Fait* a little later on, with some excellent visuals taking the Pines crowd into some kind of haunted elsewhere.

Photography by Rachael Barrett
Felicity Groom

Felicity Groom sounded a little hoarse when she spoke, but in song her voice soared as her band swapped instruments and back her through a good deal of last year’s Hungry Sky album. Sometimes tribal, often ethereal, it was a stirring set highlighted by the always excellent Higher, Higher, Taller, Taller.

It was really wonderful to see The Rosemary Beads back and taking a prime slot on the Pines line-up. Any worries that only a handful of gigs had been played in the lead-up to this marquee event fell by the wayside as singer/guitarist Tim Underwood and bassist/vocalist Gretta Little were joined by drummer Warren Hall taking the place of the much missed Cam Munachen, who passed away in 1995. The songs have aged well and Worried About Fucking still sounds a bit naughty even now. More gigs are afoot, which is even more good news to know. A real highlight.

Photography by Rachael Barrett
Photography by Rachael Barrett

Abbe May owns all she purveys and the final slot of this year’s In The Pines was certainly embraced, then spanked by this spirited singer/songwriter. Songs from her forthcoming album Bitchcraft were aired, along with the songs that have brought May to the fore, as well as a turn at En Vogue’s Don’t Let Go with help from Joni Hogan and Odette Mercy. It was also great to see was the return of May’s brother K.T. Rumble to the band. Great adventures are in sight.

Thanks RTRFM for holding onto and growing the tradition that is In The Pines. It’s truly a special gathering.


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