Snowman, Baseball, Stature:Statue @ The Zoo, Brisbane (16/07/08)

Check out some photos from tonight’s gig here

For a Wednesday night, The Zoo is filling up nice and early. Stature:Statue have obviously brought along some die hards that stand front and centre the whole set, but the general vibe even to the uninitiated is that these guys are kicking ass. This Brisbane post-punk 4-piece have been kicking around since early 2006 but have really picked up the pace in the past year and it shows. They are energetic from word go – a blitz of guitars with breakneck drumming only letting up in the liberal sprinkling of tight, punctuated stops during their tracks.

While the vocals of frontman Luke can be a bit much at times, for the most part he captains the group with the spirit and voice of an indie Zach De La Rocha. A mid-set menacing bass line topped with space-echo guitar sees crowd interest wane a little before the band yanks back their attention with a thrashfest of machine gun drums and yelping reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 80s number Magic Johnson.

Melbourne’s experimental rockers Baseball live up to their reputation of eccentricity tonight. Ringleader Thick Passage trundles onstage dressed in wife-beater, running shorts, Albert Einstein hair and a trinket anchor tied around his neck – fitting attire for a performance that seems part childrens’ storyteller, part pirate with tourettes. It takes a few songs for his violin to gain presence in the mix but his gutteral, bleeting vocals are unmissable. Bassist Monika Fikerle (Love of Diagrams) sings backups early in the set that are particularly loud and unflattering, leaving the guitar work of Ben Butcher (The Assassination Collective) and rocket drums of Evelyn Morris (Pikelet) to steer the ship through stormy weather. Morris sings wonderful lead for their third track and later in the set her shrill voice provides a sweet counterpoint to Passage’s full throat screeching and rambling spoken word, which he does as impressively as mewithoutyou vocalist Aaron Weiss.

By the fifth track all the kinks have been ironed out, though it seems the band works best in their short instrumental bursts. Passage offers pearls of wisdom such as, “Anyone can fly! Yippee! Wow!!” throughout, and finally his violin prowess shines when plucking his way through track seven. Wedged between these tracks is Mozart and The Whale, an all-too-short infectious ditty with a Talking Heads quality about it which Passage dedicates to “people who’ve been out to sea, seen some whales and heard what they had to say”. Instrument-hopping is rife amongst these four and Morris whips out a piano accordian for Song Of The Righteous before swapping posts with Fikerle for the last two tracks. It seems an odd time to trade as both are better at their main instrument and the highly charged adventure of originality disembarks in stagnant waters. Probably not their best show ever, but it certainly gives a good idea of what these crazies are all about.

With all the frenzied thrashing out of the way, Snowman step onstage to create a more controlled, atmospheric and emotive chaos. A lazy comparison of Perth’s avant garde rock darlings would include The Dirty Three and Nick Cave, or possibly the rock n roll verision of The Necks. However Snowman have their own thing going on, least of which is the captivating presence of Aditya Citawarman on vocals, violin and keys and Joe McKee on guitar and vocals. We Are The Plague is an early highlight in the set, its dancehall beat coupled with McKee’s insistent vocal urging sounding like a public announcement from a distant planet. The Gods Of The Upper House escalates to a battle cry with a jagged, Bungle-esque chorus screaming “We are machines”. Bassist Olga Hermanniusson appears reclusive onstage, facing the crowd only to sing sparse backups on a few tracks. Her modal alto saxophone riffs on Daniel Was A Time Bomb fit the song well but are executed with the amateurishness of a high school student.

The Blood Of The Swan is a moody, introverted piece where McKee’s rich baritone voice and Ross DiBlasio’s considered drumming really comes to the fore. For the majority of the set though, it’s the mad genius of Citawarman that really steals the show. Citawarman deftly bashes out complex piano runs, plays virtuosic violin and emits eerily operatic melodies that you’d expect of a 17th Century castrato. On top of that, he rocks back and forth over his keyboard or exaggerates this by standing up and convulsing like a possessed children’s toy doing a haka. You Are A Casino is easily the most accessible track of the set – a surf rock classic that asks for Rock Lobster dance hands in the verses and bursts into Rocky Horror Picture Show exuberance in the chorus. A limited 7” vinyl of You Are A Casino with B-side Swimming With Sharks (from their self-titled album of 2006) is on sale tonight along with their newly released long player The Horse, The Rat and The Swan on Dot Dash Records.

In their brief set Snowman run the gamut of emotions, hurdle genres and play with a maturity that belies their average age of twenty five. They are a musical vapour that cannot be pinned down – a heady concoction of post punk experimentalism, swampy blues, rockabilly and surf rock, not to mention the operatic leanings of Citawarman’s vocals. Of all the bands tonight Snowman gel best, a quality that surely contributes to their well deserved cult following. The crowd, hypnotised from what they have just witnessed, takes a minute to realise the end is nigh before stomping their feet for the obligatory encore. McKee thanks all in attendance and prefaces the final song with “We’re not going to be back for a really long time, so we’d better do one”.

A Snowman performance is one to be experienced rather than read, so if they’ve already passed through your town you may be waiting an awfully long time to catch them again. This tour is not only in support of their album , but a final lap of honour before relocating to London indefinitely. To quote a very good friend of mine, tonight has been “a brain-liquifying show”.