Children Collide, Dune Rats, Bad Dreams @ The Zoo, Brisbane (24/8/2012)

A nightmare crept through The Zoo last night. Bad Dreams began the story, steering the budding crowd with their signature dark twisting sounds before Dune Rats, two locally grown rodents who showed the crowd just why big things are just around the corner for them.

While the support acts were perhaps aptly named for a something dark eerie, the nightmare began when headliners Children Collide and their evil effects pedal stepped up. The first song when smoothly, luring the crowd in. But somewhere in the second song it all went wrong. Their sound become new age and psychedelic, spreading out into an longwinded instrumental of blurred notes and trippy, vibing sounds. There was confusion in the crowd, were Children Collide taking a new direction? It sounded good, the harmonies where blissful, but it certainly wasn’t the big rock noise everyone had come to The Zoo to hear tonight. The instrumental continued as the shadowy figure of a techie ran crouched down across the stage, desperate to get to front man Johnny Mackay’s effects pedal. Mackay announced what had now become clear; the effects pedal was the devil.

After some fluffing about, a remarkably calm Mackay plugged his guitar straight into the amp and weaved Skeleton Dance into the story of the night. The effects pedal was taken out of view to be tweaked and tortured back to life, but on stage the sound was now something of a pub-on-a-week-night quality. Plugging straight into the amp was not bringing out the best in the guitar sound. Still, Across The Earth stormed out over the crowd, and for anyone who doesn’t knows this song, it has a killer solo that drifts up into the high end of the fret. On the one hand, it was horrible. Nightmare horrible. The amp was giving out a gritty sound that was a bit like mashing sand into your ears the higher the notes reached. But the beauty of that particular solo carried out over and above the reality of the sound, encouraged but energy and cheeky smiles of all three boys.

The effects pedal made a reappearance soon after, but almost immediately it was off on it’s own tangent again. The set basically followed this pattern for the rest of the night: effects pedal makes its own sounds, effects pedal gets banished and the techies play with it. Comes back sounding all right for a moment, then back to strange warping sounds. At one point even an enthusiastic but overly confident crowd member had a crack at setting it straight. But it seemed it was on a path to destroy. Through it all the Children Collide boys never blinked, certainly never got angry, just got on with the show, smiling all the way. Maybe a bit of anger could have helped, most electrical things can be fixed with a good smack. In the end, the manager was nudging them off the stage before the set was finished. Instead of the crowd demanding and encore to finish the night, it was management being rallied by both band and crowd for the last two songs. They won. It was a minor victory, and it drove the nightmare to a frenzied end. The kind that makes you wonder why you don’t have nightmares more often, because this one felt pretty good.