Garage to V Brisbane semifinals @ The Troubadour, Brisbane 01/03/2007

The red stairs of the Troubadour are full. There are people holding the door open for the line wandering out and down along the mall. It’s a big turnout for tonight’s competition. We’ve all been a part of a friend’s bands rent-a-crowd at some stage or had our mum and dad come watch us play. Tonight is one of those nights for four very good, and each very different, Brisbane bands.

Each band gets a twenty minute set and The Greys’ style of languid, dirty post-modern rock sees them play only three tracks, but it’s enough to ensure the impression is made. Their songs resonate with distortion, rasping vocals and a nice level of gain in the bass. On occasion these three short-sleeve-business-shirted lads could be likened to a grittier version of 78 Saab. This showcase indicates they may not yet have the types of tracks that fill a festival spot and hold everyone’s attention, as this genre of rock is not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t just scored themselves a new fan.

There are rumours that the 90’s revival is destined to happen soon. On witnessing and hearing The Butcher Birds, I would suggest the second coming is certainly nigh. A cross between early Veruca Salt with lashings of brillance reminiscent of The Breeders, these rock chicks (and guy) put in a very solid performance, the calibre of which makes this ex riot grrrl smile. As with all emerging bands, there is such great potential for development and it’s evident that once their song-writing ability expands to include solos, bridges and a little less repetition in the lyrics, they could well progress in the same way The Donnas did – out of the garage and into the stadiums.

It’s immediately evident that Cardboard Castle’s influences range from california punk to dark rock and back again to jangly pop. If you crossed Grinspoon, Butterfly Effect and Blink 182 together, you’d get an idea of what these young guys are belting out this evening. The harmonies work, the bass lines are strong, there are lots of “songs about a girl”, and there would be plenty of opportunities to sing along once you knew the words. The sound is great, however it’s all a bit like a lot of other bands doing the rounds at the moment. It is anticipated that, although it’s apparent they’re not ready for a festival debut just yet, there are good things to come. Look out for A&R reps fellas, they’ll be after you.

Now, here is where I thwart convention regarding reviews and really make this personal. I would love to be out in the hot sun, cold beer in hand, dancing in the grass to these guys. The Hopes really impress with their unique, yet quintessentially Australian, sound. People get up and dance to this happy, harmonic, pop-rock, layered with a bluesy-folk sensibility. Think Jebediah does Belle and Sebastian and you’re getting close. The most original and best songwriters by far this evening, the crowd response (and ensuing conversation around the bar) indicates that The Hopes have made more of an impact than they possibly realise. If you appreciate a more positive vibe, seek them out. You will not be disappointed.

Guest headliners Operator Please take to the stage earlier than anticipated, but that’s okay as it’s a school night afterall. Riding high on the wave of their recent success with single Get What You Want enjoying high rotation on Triple J, their live performance is compellingly tight with great harmonies and a fabulous display of musicianship. The violin melds perfectly with the guitar on most of the tracks and keyboards add depth and complexity to otherwise simple arrangements. Despite all this, half way into the set the songs start to sound a little too much alike and the crowd begins to wane accordingly. Resuscitating the performance with banter and a couple of high energy tracks, they end on a high note, demonstrating why they’ve come so far at such relatively young ages.

All of the bands in tonight’s competition have put on such a good show that the judging must have been challenging. After much anticipation, Butcher Birds are announced as the winner and will be jetting off to the finals in Sydney in mid March. Good luck guys!