Garage to V WA final @ Artrage Bakery, Perth (28/2/2007)

There are band comps and then there are band comps. And there are band comps that give your band the chance to play alongside artists like the Pixies, Gnarls Barkley and the Pet Shop Boys. Welcome to Garage to V, everyone.

From the hundreds of applications, four WA finalists were chosen to compete at the Bakery – The Flairz, The Government, The Plastik Scene and The Vans – for the right to represent their state at the national finals.

The first band on, The Vans, suffered from the inevitable case of opening band syndrome but, to their credit, did everything they could to counter that. The band’s most valuable asset is undoubtedly the voice of Ryan Harris, and it wasn’t until he put down the electric six-string and settled in on the acoustic that those vocals really showed their full potential. Stage left, Adelle Chylek assumed the Bez role for the night, introducing the band at every opportunity and, with her bass all but lost in the mix, was there as much for stage presence as she was for musical contribution. Midway through the band’s set, phones around the venue started buzzing, with Radioman appearing as a free download. Fitting, as the song was definitely a highlight of The Vans’ performance.

Following The Vans were The Plastik Scene, who, despite probably having the potential to be a great band on record, struggled to pull their weight on stage. The main selling point for this band is the concept itself  the combination of electronic sounds and conventional rock instruments  and when done properly this is the kind of music that could put Perth on the map. Though the rhythm section is probably the strongest all night, The Plastik Scene’s performance offered nothing that a well-produced EP couldn’t. The Massive Attack-slash-Moby-slash-Bjork vibe failed to come to life, leaving too many what-ifs.

The Flairz offered the opposite. With no real concept at all, The Flairz are all about the live show and plain old-fashioned rock and or roll. Still in their early teens, co-lead singers Dion and John Mariani are as experienced as any other musician playing on the night and they proved this for the duration of their set. As far as the performance element went, they barely put a foot wrong. There were the obligatory R&R poses, the centimetre-perfect tempo changes from drummer Scarlett Stevens and the cooler-than-thou presence of the band’s new addition, Georgia Wilkinson on bass. The best and worst thing about the Flairz is the novelty of it all, and that is something will be keen to escape. Though they are a quality band in their own right and more talented than most people double, nay, triple, their age, every one of their four songs came off as a cut-and-paste from the bands they’ve grown up listening to.

The final band to grace the stage was The Government, who teased the crowd with a drawn-out reverb-heavy intro before launching full-pelt into the Breeders and Hole-inspired sound that shall be known as ‘fuck me boots’ from here on in. Though frontperson Jenna Hardie has the face of a young Polly Jean, her vocals drew so much more from Kim Deal’s trademark style, while the sounds coming from bassist Sarah Norton, guitarist Anthony Chiovitti and drummer Chris Howe owe a lot to all those early-1990s bands from Seattle. But any band that wants to take their music out of the garage (and to V, evidently) needs the presence and image, as well as the sound. Though the eventual winners didn’t quite match the style and swagger of The Flairz, the band couple the sex appeal of their music with the sex appeal of their stage presence  just like Ms Love, Ms Deal and Ms Harvey.

As the judges conferred, The Silents provided the soundtrack to a venue full of anticipation. As one of Perth’s brightest hopes, The Silents have developed a strong reputation and won’t need to worry about winning slots at festivals – they’ll have offers pouring in as soon as their debut album hits shelves. At this show though, The Silents are little more than intermission music to the other bands’ fans, as punters and bands alike sat nervously awaiting the outcome. The retro-rock four-piece pulled together newer tracks (Ophelia, There’s No Future) as well as their ever-growing stash of ‘old favourites’  including Triple J staple Nightcrawl and Little People.

With all the ‘there can only be one winner’ clichíƒÂ©s put aside, the verdict was about as accurate as possible. The Flairz will have no trouble winning fans as they continue to grow, The Plastik Scene will no doubt find their feet in the studio and The Vans will convert the masses once they can record a dozen songs as good as Radioman. But The Government are now just one gig away from the biggest break of all.