Wednesday September 21
What can any band make of Wednesday night? It’s too late for desperately trying to prolong the weekend and not far enough along for people to pretend they’re ahead of the curb. Add to that the fact that most everyone’s going to drool something about work in the morning when you try and jam a whiskey bottle between their teeth and you’ve got yourself a subdued crowd.
When the first supporting act took the stage at ANU Bar it took a moment for people to react. A quiet reluctance to leave the security of benches, booths and pool tables dissolved gradually but Avalanche City weren’t phased. In fact, their opening song might have been the highlight of their set. It was spacious, bold and entrancing, but they soon settled into friendly folk jams. They were enjoyable, although it sounded as though they hadn’t settled on their sound just yet. The drone of conversation continued as they occasioned comparison with My Morning Jacket.
Picking up the reins were Georgia Fair, a young Australian duo. During a foray into their YouTube I discovered that their music is nice but their videos are really, really lame. This impression was compounded by their performance. At its best the music was wonderful, but the delivery was lacking. You couldn’t shake the feeling that they didn’t care to play it. When the lead singer prefaced a song with the words, “This next one’s a lullaby…” it felt as if he was stating the obvious. The standout numbers struck me as fantastic songs but if a band seems disinterested in their own music, what are you supposed to make of it?
Not so, The Panics. Back in 2007 The Panics’ third album, Cruel Guards, won the annual J Award on triple j and was nominated for a handful of ARIA awards. Four years is a long time in the world of music. The Panics’ fourth album, Rain On the Humming Wire, is purposeful and broad, even flirting with a kind of stadium rock. Would this be the sound The Panics were broadcasting? It would. They brought a sound so big it seemed stifled by the ceiling.
Headed by their diminutive frontman, The Panics’ tracks spanned from their first record to their latest in a set that showed no insecurities about the quality of their legacy. Right on the tail of new track Low On Your Supply they busted open Cruel Guards with an entrancing show of force. In fact, the level of delivery was never lacking. When the anthemic Don’t Fight It came on, the crowd finally engaged. If people were there to see that song, they weren’t afraid to show it. Who can blame them? It’s a fantastic song, even if the brass section playing the thrilling horn refrain were nowhere to be seen (actually those horns, along with all the other string sections, were created electronically. I learnt this from Laffer when I interviewed him after the release of Cruel Guards - Ed.).
Unfortunately, their bigger numbers like new album opener Majesty sounded out of place in the dark, loosely populated bar, even if they were delivered with a pulsing, cohesive energy and perhaps because of it. The ANU Bar and I have never seen eye to eye on their sound setups and this was another instance of uninspired arrangement. A real highlight was the encore, begun with a solo acoustic rendition of In Your Head off The Panics’ first album, because it was the only moment when everything sounded just right. And to the people who talked through it: you missed something.
Whether closeted by the venue, the day of the week or the crowd, the show was always prey to its trappings. More power to The Panics for playing like king shits anyway.