rag bone

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The WAM Festival is always a whirlwind of creativity and excitement as Perth comes alive to showcase some of the amazing musical talent housed within its dusty corridors. While there was far too much for one man to see, I did my best to leg it swiftly between pints and sets to build a reasonably complete image of this fantastic event.

First up over at the Mustang Bar, Childsaint brought their glimmering dream pop sound into the waking world with relaxed precision. Thick lashings of dripping reverb and a spine-tingling guitar tone were the foundation for sweet vocals which ebbed and flowed through the down-tempo sound-scape. The band members themselves looked less than enthused, but perhaps it was the insomnia which inspires them to make such chill music.

Thee Gold Blooms were up next at Mustang. These chipper fellows seemed thoroughly enthused and bumped their way through a fun, very retro feeling set. While there was more cheese than an ’80s fondue party, you couldn’t fault them for the love they obviously feel for the music and for performing. There were some unfortunately dissonant guitar riffs and strained vocal lines, but nothing you couldn’t shake off. Harder to shake off, however, was Rag n’ Bone’s combination of noisy menace and insightful pop melodies as they came raining down. Insistent music in the best of ways.

Over at the Block Party Stage hosted by Ezra Pound and illuminated by beaming sunshine, The Weapon Is Sound brought the summer time reggae vibes. There is honestly nothing like seeing a group of musicians so in their element and performing a style of music that speaks of love and good times. The mainman, Tayo Snowball, has a voice like butter and his bluesy guitar licks, complete with Hendrix-style teeth picking, were just a glory to behold. The basslines, too, rolled perfectly over the left leg forward beats and dashes of delay and ‘verb made for a lovely dubby atmosphere.

A quick dash over to The Bird presented some grungy awesomeness in the form of Black Stone From The Sun. These two boys produce an absolutely massive sound for a two-piece and their style hesitated on the border of metal-esque darkness while still maintaining a good energy. I don’t think I’ve heard dirty vocals of such a calibre while the sun was still happily shining outside. Unfortunately, this would be the last time I could make it into The Bird. Despite the amazing array of acts performing here over the rest of the night, the patron limit was just too restrictive considering the big talent they had billed to play.

Back to the block, Grace Barbè was already rocking the stage with her impossibly funky vibes. Her voice, a little bit of sunshine and a quiet beverage is all you need to melt into a very contented vibrating puddle of happy. This is not to mention the masterful guitar playing and generally ecstatic vibes that this crew bring to any space they engage.

Up next were Gunns who set the mood perfectly as the sun began to wane. The essence of laid back, sparkling vocal harmonies and washed out retro guitar tones were like a warm ocean of sound accented by crispy percussion. Gunns manage to pull off a popular sound with no sense of the saccharine and some tracks were almost Pink Floyd-esque in their relaxed consideration and cascading effects.

Another quick jaunt across the ‘bridge and I managed to catch Community Chest, a mix of talented musicians who progressed easily between mellow and uptempo vibes. While this sounds completely paradoxical, Community Chest were light-hearted and groovy while also being ‘casually epic’. Very well worth a gander the next time you see their name.

Lacking a souped up, nuclear powered, time defying Delorean to catch all of the acts, a quick jog back to the block party was required to see the arrival of Singaporean retro-rockers The Pinholes. These guys were just having an awesome time and as a result, so did the crowd. Without being condescending, they just seemed like the sweetest dudes out. They played damn hard over their first gigs in Perth and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were catching The Beatles in an alternate universe. Their banter was also some of the best in the business, as after each bizarre song title the lead singer was quick to explain that while he didn’t know what it meant, it didn’t matter; because this is rock’n’roll.

The sun had now completely left us to our own devices, and meeting the night with a lush, futuristic sound were the cutting edge Kučka. A three-piece from Perth, via what I can only imagine is the waviest corner of the galaxy, Kučka are a part of the revival of the bumping drum synth sound with a hint of ’80s heart ache. Classic percussion, input with precision via a drum machine/sampler, provided the basic architecture for gorgeously crystalline vocals and shimmering arrays of synthesized sounds. The addition of some seriously big basslines, sometimes clean and sometimes dirty, made for some truly cracking, yet lithe and thoughtful music. You can expect nothing less from the group who walked away from the WAM Awards with gongs for the Best Single (Unconditional), Best Electronic Act and Best Experimental Act.

While ‘Best Blues & Roots Act’ The Floors hammered out their souls on the killin’ floor of the C.I.T. All-Ages Stage, a mere skip away Diger Rokwell was pumping out pure gold at Connections. After a little searching, there he was, high atop the crowd in the secluded DJ booth, laying out lush lines of slow house with a focus on heavy sub and airy, euphoric pads. While the night was perhaps a little too young for the full weight of his set to be felt, it was a wonderful reminder that Diger Rokwell exists in the world, making a magnificent variety of music with an all encompassing sense of creativity and enlightenment.

With unfortunately little time to spare, I was back at the Block Party stage to catch the powerful electronic wiz kids Slumberjack. Far from a sense of the soporific, Slumberjack were nothing if not bombastic and played with an obvious desire to get people moving. Their speciality? Big bass party music. Despite the long day, even I had to dust off my two-steppin’ shoes and have a wobble to their bouncing tunes. Depicting the hallmarks of the modern dance music sound, high resolution lushness was the constant in this set, and their compositions easily hold up around the world in a fiercely competitive style of music. While there were perhaps moments of uncontrolled chaos during transitions, this felt like a necessary aspect of this generally wild day of music. Expect to see these boys on a constant rise.

All up, the WAM Saturday Spectacular is a day when Northbridge teams with the energy of live music and the colour that it adds to our city. Long live WA music.

JAMES HANLON  |  Photography: Cole Maguire

Thee Gold Blooms

Rag n’ Bone

The Pinholes

The Floors

WAM Festival Block Party