– by Hannah Nissen
Over the last few years, the Perth music scene has taken a bit of a beating. With lockout laws in place and excessively strict sound curfews implemented, there is an increasing number of venues being forced to close down, due to either a lack of revenue or council complaints. Already this year we have lost such great locations as The Bakery, Ya-Ya’s, and Devilles Pad, with more set to shut in the coming months. With the proposed cancelation of Transperth’s late night train services and more licence law crackdowns to come, it seems Perth is destined to be designed as one boring nanny-state.
However, The State of The Art Music Festival was a testament to the fact that the people of Perth just aren’t just going to let that happen. Last Saturday a diverse crowd poured out onto the streets of Northbridge to celebrate an inclusive day of some firm Perth favourites as well as introducing the sundry crowd to an eclectic line-up of up-and-comers. The day paved the way for a new era in the Perth music scene, the event gaining more exposure than ever before. While government funding seems to be getting pumped into million dollar stadiums and arenas surrounding Elizabeth Quay, it was SOTA that once again proved the bustling city of Perth and its people are all about good vibes and hidden local gems.
Kicking off WA Day in style, the sun struck down on a day dedicated to local appreciation. With over 60 bands playing over 6 stages, the Perth Cultural Centre acted as the cultural centre of Perth, boasting something for everyone as a flurry of characters spanning all ages came together to bask in the undeniable glory of local acts bred from this, our isolated city. The day saw the likes of household names including Birds of Tokyo, You Am I, Katy Steele, Sable, Boys Boys Boys! and countless more, and although not one band was without undeniable, immense talent, the new bands on the block particularly stood out to me as the favorites of the day.
After a quick scope of the grounds and the realisation I just would not make it to see everyone, I followed the crowd as they seemed to gather, and was greeted at the WA Museum Grounds Stage by the uncompromising sound of alternative hard-rock favourites The Love Junkies. This was the first chance I had ever gotten to see them live and although they were on early afternoon, the onslaught of fast, infectious sound gathered an admiring crowd, enduring in their attempts to match the band’s frenetic energy. Having supported bands like La Dispute, Band of Skulls, and The Vasco Era, it’s not wonder these guys have been making a name for themselves across Australia and internationally.
The set was a fiery frenzy of fast and hard bursts, comparable to that of Modern Life is War with their heavier songs like ‘Oxymoron’ and ‘Television’, with a softer, more neophyte-appropriate fusion of White Stripes and Horror My Friend with some of their more stripped back tunes, like ‘Chemical Motivation’. While all the heady songs were supported with great power, all the while maintaining intensity and engaging the swarming crowd. Lead singer and guitarist Mitch Mcdonald’s don’t-give-a-f*** banter was a warmly softening break from his poignant blares, and bassist Robbie Rumble matched the exceptional vitality from drummer Lewis Walsh with vengeance, all supporting each other to producing an unbelievable amount of exertion. The band gave everything back to the crowd the second they received it, plus more. Ending with the title track off Blowing on The Devil’s Strumpet, Mausoleum cemented the powerhouse individuality of the band. They blended raw guitar with stabbing vocals. They blended acoustic phases with facets of hard-core and wrap it all together in a sweet overcoat of 90’s grunge and they sure as hell woke me up and welcomed onlookers to the full day ahead.
Later on in the afternoon I got a chance to catch the final few psychedelic tunes from Dream Rimmy at the Wetlands stage. The fluid riffs spilled out onto the path, waves of airy, drawn-out keys played off the haunting vocals and invited onlookers of all ages to appreciate the contagious ambiance. The songs off their self-titled EP have some serious 90’s influence, specifically ‘Pacific Rim’, which emphasizes the cavernous echo of Ali Flintoff’s vocals through its lingering guitar hooks, and also ‘Spring Break’, which sound reminds me of something straight out of a Daria soundtrack. Ending with the soothing song ‘Running‘, the crowd was guided gently into sundown, folding their separate ways with a gratified smile.
Stoner-rock boys Mt Mountain hit the Urban Orchard Stage in the early evening, unfortunately losing some of their crowd to You Am I, however the intimate audience meant they were relentless and unapologetic in their dragged-out jams throughout the set, which I believe ultimately concreted the command of their style and the impact it had. With monstrous reverberations of the bass heavy beat, the aspects of psychedelia, evident in the croon and swoon vocals from Stephen Bailey, stand out as somewhat spectacularly. With this beautiful blend of chaotic vibrations, bouncing off the tight drumming of Thomas Cahill, songs such as ‘Chantry’ dragged my head down with a heavy tide, using both the psychedelic and rock genres to the best of their abilities, playing one off the other, and ultimately, cultivating the two as they were meant to be. With sounds similar to that of Sleepy Sun, they demanded attention and are sure to continue doing so to bigger and better crowds as the next Perth band-to-watch.
If you were to ask me why I believed we have one of the best scenes in the world, I would answer with this; Perth is one of the most socially sequestered places on earth. We were given the beautifully grueling task of figuring it all out for ourselves, as well as being given the intimate, humble scene to grant musicians the confidence to try everything and anything. It seems a lot of bands in Perth make it, only to then ship off somewhere else in Australia, however the reason Perth bands can be unlike anything we’ve ever seen elsewhere is because a small network of incredibly talented musicians can practice and collaborate big ideas on a small town scale, with vast influences playing off each sound, forgoing anything else out there. All of the amazing bands at SOTA managed to represent their little patch of this little town, unreservedly, and proved that no matter what, even with a finish time of 10:00pm, Perth’s incredible talent will continue to thrive.
Photo Credit: Matthew Picken