Papa vs Pretty, The Vasco Era, Glass Towers @ ANU Bar, Canberra (26/10/2011)

The ANU Bar on a Wednesday night is tricky. It’s the mid-week slot that is so often the pit-stop for local touring bands. The unfortunate reality is that Canberra hardly ever gets non-school/work nights for local tours and this night would be another test of the local’s motivation to see quality Australian music.

I turned up at around 8pm to an almost empty venue and was immediately worried that one of the biggest up and coming Aussie bands would have a paltry audience.

The first act, Glass Towers played their opening chords to an empty room, but it wasn’t long before a smattering of pool players and early-arrivals sauntered into the room. The lucky few that witnessed this young Sydney/Byron Bay band were treated to a solid set of indie tunes inspired by Pavement, Two Door Cinema Club and Foals. The talent shown by these teenagers was obvious as they performed with seemingly seasoned confidence, especially drummer, Daniel Muszynski, whose enthusiasm (and skill) on the kit was entertaining to watch. Glass Towers were finalists in 2010’s Triple J ‘Unearthed High’ and their attitudes and talent will no doubt garner them a good following.

The crowd must have doubled in size by the time perennial live favourites, The Vasco Era, hit the stage. The opening song, Honey Bee, must have gone for around 10 minutes as bassist, Ted O’Neil spasmodically flung himself around the stage with wild abandon. This was my first experience of seeing a live Vasco Era show and little did I know how amazingly frenetic their act is. From lead singer and guitarist Sid O’Neil’s passionate (albeit somewhat erratic) vocals, natural guitar playing and barely discernible conversations, to the ‘standing-up-belting-the-crap-out-of-the-drums’ style from drummer, Michael Fitzgerald, this band’s 45 minute set never got boring. Perhaps the majority of the crowd were as stunned as me to see a band wreak havoc on stage in this way. Their style ranges from classic blues to flat out rock with a whole lot of yelling in between.

Highlights were their cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Child and a contrastingly quiet Sid O’Neill solo. The Vaso Era ensured that the impressed crowd would definitely be coming back for more.

By the time Papa vs Pretty hit the stage, the crowd had grown to a satisfactory size and there was a definite buzz as the young Sydney 3 piece hit the stage. With a recent ARIA nomination (for Best Rock Album) and a growing stack of singles from their debut, United in Isolation, this band is on the up and up. Their opening song, One of the Animals set the mood for the night as the crowd sang along to what has been a solid indie hit. Lead singer Thomas Rawle may have been taking hints from the previous act’s stage presence, pulling off rock moves aplenty through the heavier songs.

The band ran through tracks from their debut album as well as their earlier EP’s. The poppy Darkest Way and Heavy Harm showed that this trio were just as adept at pulling the volume back, but the real highlight of the night was certainly the much rockier Honey. Solid backing vocals from drummer Tom Myers laid a sturdy foundation for Rawle’s soaring lead line.

It’s hard not to be impressed by a band as young as this giving such a professional and quality performance. Rawle’s guitar shredding would be impressive for someone twice his age and I noted some older heads in the audience nodding and applauding at his prowess. It’s almost sickening watching youngsters with this much talent hit the stage and for these guys, there are certainly bigger things to come. In future years, it’ll be a privilege to know that I saw them at the ANU Bar on a cool Wednesday night before they become superstars and let it all go to their heads.