Dead Letter Circus @ Hi-Fi Bar, Sydney (25/5/2012)

The Hi-Fi was gently broken in by instrumental outfit Meniscus. With their soft/loud song structures and slow crescendos, they lulled the audience into a sleepy, delay-driven stupor before waking them right up with crunchy power chords and frenzied sound-scaping, before ending with one terrifying, primal shout. This contrast in sound was particularly interesting as it effectively summed up the evening that was to follow – clean, sterile, yet highly emotive instrumentation washing over the audience through some of the crunchiest and most traditional-sounding gear on the market.

Next on the bill were Twelve Foot Ninja, a band that left some punters speechless for the full 40 minutes of their set. Heads turned as the band, all donning ninja pants, ripped through a set of reggae, acoustic folk and sludge-metal faithful to Meshuggah, Sticky Fingers, Opeth and Faith No More. A skull-crushing, hard-hitting chorus would usually be followed either by a flourishing, South American acoustic passage or a dub-soaked reggae verse, and the transitions were seamless. Vocalist ‘Kin’ conjured the vocal qualities of Greg Puciato, Scott Weiland, Jonathan Davis and Mike Patton at different times during the set, the last of which is a fitting comparison, considering the instrumental contribution Mr Bungle’s saxophonist had on standout track Manufacture of Consent. Despite the obvious absence of said saxophone in the live performance, all the influences were worn on their sleeves, and yet sounded re-invigorated and somewhat original.

Fair to Midland were next to grace the stage with a spoken-word introduction before launching into full metal assault, marrying this barrage of sound with icy, crystal-clear keyboard tones and a god-tier vocal range. The fans absolutely loved it. All the guys sang along as their ladies rolled their eyes at their respective partners’ now flourishing man-crushes. Vocalist Darroh Sudderth demonstrated a clear connection with the audience, but not before tripping over and absolutely destroying his crown jewels on one of the foldback speakers. It was an excruciating blow to a front-man that gave his all and even carried on, eventually finishing the set singing amongst the crowd with fans and friends.

In 2010, Dead Letter Circus wrote a song called Here We Divide, and it was simply made to be a set opener. The energy was packed tight into the Metro Theatre-like confines of Sydney’s Hi-Fi Bar. The song was the perfect way to start a set that, ironically, made an effort to reward long time fans. Immediately following this song was The Mile, a track from their days of old, indicating that up-front, the band was truly appealing to those fans who were there with them from the beginning. Vocalist Kim Benzie even made a point of asking the punters if they were at a particular gig they played years prior, in much smaller confines. These older tracks sounded fresh in a live sphere, and the band has obviously put time into consolidating their old and new sound into a cohesive style that works well in a live scenario.

Standout track Big appeared late, the band having made room on the set for all the old material. By this point, Benzie was quivering under the strain of his own highly demanding melodies, but he held it together just in time for an offstage break, while drummer Luke Williams had the stage to himself, letting loose on all manner of smooth surfaces, acoustic and electronic. The band finished the night with Next In Line, a track purpose-built to retain sentimental value among old fans. Just like the widespread favouring of traditional amps and effects in the creation of highly modern sounds among the Aussie-Prog scene, Dead Letter Circus connected with their fanbase by doing new tricks with old songs, and it was a treat to witness.