The National Campus Bands Competition State Final


The Rosemount Hotel

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The National Campus Bands Competition is a Big Deal, let us never forget. From the field of scrappers and garage bands have risen some truly iconic Aussie outfits, including local names Eskimo Joe and Jebediah (it’s contractual – you have to mention those two every time you write about the NCBC). On Saturday, six acts went head to head for the honour of heading to the nationals, with Iceage Sugar stepping into the slot vacated by the injury-plagued Mister Wolf.

Opening act Bears And Dolls set the bar low with their Emilie Autumn/Amanda Palmer posturing, all forced whimsy and deliberately wacky costuming. There’s the ghost of something interesting going on there, but lead singer Brooke Wilkie’s Minnie Mouse falsetto and deliberately arrhythmic dancing comes across like Tori Amos having a stroke. Some decent musicianship and songwriting could not overcome what was essentially an exercise in ‘look at me!’ theatrics.

They’re There delivered up a nice line in jangly surf rock, with elements of ‘80s paisley pop lifted straight from the Stems/Church playbook. Singer Dylan Melsom’s vocals could certainly be stronger and there’s little chance anyone would object to a change of name from something that sounds like a pretty obvious placeholder until something better comes along, but these guys are certainly worth checking out – take as evidence the fact that they took out the number three spot.

White Avenue were next off the blocks. In terms of music genre, they pursue a similar line to their immediate predecessors on the bill, with perhaps a heavier, crunchier edge that draws from more ‘70s rock influences. They’re a tight act, and if they could perhaps learn to know when a song is supposed to end rather than dragging it out past its natural conclusion, impressive instrumentation and a palpable sense of fun more than make up for it.

Here’s a factoid: The Fuzz Bucket on the bill on Saturday are the second band in Perth to sport that name, and a member of the original incarnation was in the audience to check out the new kids. The three piece impressed all and sundry with some astute, no frills rock

St James Sirens generated the loudest response from the crowd on the night – there’s no doubt about that. They also sounded more like Karnivool than any other band on the roster – is there a connection? This town certainly loves its ‘Vool. The Sirens were far and away the most technically proficient band of the night, and they play exactly the kind of populist heavy rock that will draw a crowd; while it’d be nice to hear something that stretches the boundaries a bit, it’s hard to complain. They took second place.

Late replacements Iceage Sugar served up some delicious indie pop but the night belonged to White Avenue, who are off to Sydney to knuckle on in the nationals. Once again, it was a strong showing for the NCBC – but we should be used to that by now.