En Tout Cas @ The Evelyn, Melbourne (08/01/10)

Aunty Evelyn waited in her tacky lowlit splendour as soft lamp light played off ethnic rugs and a set of coloured lanterns was draped over a lonesome microphone stand.

First support act Jaguar Spring had all the elements of a promising local band. They looked the part in skinny jeans and band t-shirts, their rock chick drummer afforded a tick of approval and their songs were catchy yet soulful, with soft verses drifting into heavily distorted and kicking choruses. Though while they are ambling along the right path, they fit the generic mould a little too snugly. Jaguar Spring could benefit from some reckless driving, possibly knocking over some roadbocks and taking a risk or three.

In immediate contrast was second support Fire Fire! leaving any inhibitions offstage, the all-black clad Melbourne boys delivered and a set of enthusiastic indie rock with some darkly honest undertones. Hands outstretched and growling deep vocals from behind synth keys, vocalist Marc was an engaging performer. Displaying the right amount of contemplative fragility to appear crippled by the pain of his own lyrics, the enigmatic frontman yelped in anger and loveless frustration, punctuating each vocal flourish with exaggerated hand motions grasping thin air. Inside was a highlight, with Marc spitting the kind of lyrics that could incite a nervous breakdown. “Inside my mind... It takes it’s toll on me” could seems recklessly melodramatic but Fire Fire! retained a introspective musicality that made it all believable.

Launching their new single Dengue Fever, off their forthcoming EP, Melbourne boys En Tout Cas took to the stage with a laidback and low-key demeanour, their name spelled out with masking tape on an amp propped up by a milk crate. Similarly simple and charmingly youthful, the four piece provided a captive audience with catchy splendour of light and bouncing indie rock.

Opening with a string of catchy yet disposable tracks, the real punch came in Out Of Time, a sharp, radio-worthy and evidently danceable song that fed frenetic energy to a crowd eager to provide backing vocals.

Lead vocalist Jimmy was instantly endearing, offering a meek and youthful innocence without flashy showmanship. But while humble and unpretentious is great, a bit of aggression goes a long way, and shouts of “Don’t you think that it’s time?” during Quarter Sins was a welcome vocal change alongside a heavy bashing drumbeat.

The crowd had the upper hand from early in the evening. A Hawaiian shirt dress code drew suspicious comments from Jimmy and the power of crowd heckling saw drummer Stew pressured into the removal of his shirt (no complaints here) before one of the aforementioned Hawaiians procured a disused tambourine and accompanied the band in a display of DIY audience instrumentality.

New single Dengue Fever is a killer; the kind of track that inspires abandonment of all social self-awareness and makes you dance. The audience swelled with excitement at the very first line of the upbeat tune. Before long, the symptoms of the fever began to show and the tiny stage was swamped by an influx of joviality that saw audience members taking drum sticks and bashing at the drum set, violently shaking tambourines and shouting well-known lyrics with arms draped over the shoulders of mates.

With a party of shirtlessness and wild dancing having hijacked stage control, the evening ended in the shambolic perfection of a singalong that lasted long after the music stopped playing. The most idealistic Disney movie writer couldn’t have envisaged a more perfect closing scene.