Nuggets @ Sydney Town Hall, Sydney Festival (25/01/12)

In the final weekend of the Sydney Festival, Sydney’s historic town hall has been converted into the Paradiso bar and taken a step back in time to the days of frantic garage rock and psychedelica. Celebrating the release of Nuggets: Antipodean Interpolations of the First Psychedelic Era, six of Australia’s finest garage rockers came together to pay tribute to the past, and show what the future has to offer.

Sydney’s own Bloods opened the show. The trio’s enthusiasm was endearing and their punk inspired surfer tunes gained a great deal of size in the acoustics of the old hall. Notably; they were the only band of the night to make a major note of their ‘60s cover song – a roaring rendition of Don and Dewey’s ‘Farmer John’.

Novocastrian two-piece Gooch Palms have a notoriously audacious live show, and true to form lead singer Leeroy’s pants only stayed on for one song. While this was certainly memorable, Gooch Palms really flashed their wares when they played their slower numbers. On stage antics – such as mooning the crowd and punching themselves in the head – distracted a lot from the songs, but if their goal was to get a laugh, they succeeded.

Each one of Step-Panther’s punked up shoegaze tunes have some great ideas, but ultimately all end up falling short of great. Their set was a mix of biting riffs and dreamy guitars, but was weighed down by washed out vocals and middling song writing.

Sharing two members between them The Murlocs and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard showed what’s best about the two sides of the Aussie garage coin. The former played tight, harmonica driven rock, the later a schizoid mess of buzzing guitars and squawks. Both acts were very physical, hurling about onstage and making as much commotion with their bodies as they were noise with their instruments. King Gizzard had the biggest crowd of the night and they earned it – turning a 20 minute set into a 20 minute workout.

Veterans of the Sydney garage scene The Laurels muscled psych sounds were the first truly big enough to fill the whole hall. Their silhouettes swayed in front of a trippy, ever-changing backdrop, crating a harmony of audio and visual pleasure. Their set was too short and nothing that followed could match the band’s doomy riffs.

Not that The Straight Arrows didn’t make a red hot go of matching it. Their blistering scuzz (and toilet paper antics) proved a high energy finale to an enjoyable batch of bands. Their playing was machine tight: the kinetic guitar licks underpinned by ferocious drums, while retaining a sense of loose fun. Single, ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ was a highlight that had the whole room moving.

The night was a fantastic celebration of our vibrant home grown garage scene and a great opportunity for bands normally regulated to Sydney’s tinier stages to make some noise in a big room. While the focus of the night may have slipped away from the Nuggets release, it rarely left the music on stage.