The Panics, New Rules for Boats, Felicity Groom and the Black Black Smoke & The Bakery (26/10/2007)

October is a certainly a spring season but it was very much a cold winter’s night at the Bakery for the return of Perth’s favourite prodigal sons. With the weather dishing up everything but a fully blown thunderstorm, the Bakery looked like an Alaskan dock area with the newly erected Soco Cargo next door and modification of its own sea containers. With this being the first show of their new tour and the gig selling out earlier in the week it was going to be interesting to see how many would brave the weather and to no surprise the indoor bars were crowded from early on.

First on the bill was Felicity Groom and her motley bunch of cowboys The Black Black Smoke. Perth seems to have been producing a lot of good alt-county groups in the last few years and these guys are no exception. Being still such a young band but with an undeniable pedigree (Kill Devil Hills, Jebediah and the Bank Holidays) we can expect bigger and better things to come in the future.

Next up were perennial and hard-working local favourites New Rules for Boats. With brand new debut long player in hand the band seem fresh and re-energised as brother and sister duo Sean Pollard and Miranda Pollard shared vocal duties to create the crazed pop harmonies they are so well known for. Running through tracks such as Ten Cent Coins and I’m Your Tenant from their new album Thousands, NRFB put on an excellent performance that the crowd warmed to immediately. Closing with well-known favourite Skips on My Record it is clear the five-piece are going to be around for years to come.

Not to disrespect the support acts but it was obvious who the punters had braved the cold to come and see. The return of the favourite band that used to be the favourite local band opened to a seriously packed main room and spines started tingling when the theme music from Kill Bill echoed through the stacks. First track Something in the Garden started with their typical country pop sound and it immediately made the crowd forget about the nastiness outside. Moving straight into Sleeps Like a Curse single and crowd favourite My Best Mistake, frontman Jae Laffer then announced they would be playing the whole of their new LP Cruel Guards to rapturous applause.

Next was Ruins, aptly dedicated to Ben Cousins, followed by Twin Sister and Live Without and at that point it was clear that the Panics are a band at the top of their game. They were bristling with deserved confidence after releasing an album that should see them finally crack the commercial market and this showed in their stage banter and frequent instrument hopping. Laffer from acoustic to keys, Jules Douglas from electric to keys and Drew Wootton was “going to play the trumpet now” which never quite eventuated. A particular highlight came with the title track from Cruel Guards in which Laffer mounted a harmonica and belted out a sterling rendition of one the album’s standout tracks. Bassist Paul Otway then ironically thanked the crowd, intentionally or not, for supporting local music and continued on with Creak and Sundowner both from Cruel Guards.

Radio favourites can often make or break a live show with fans either getting hysterically excited or a shade disappointed and unfortunately for The Panics it was the latter. When the first organ chords were played the crowd knew immediately that latest single Don’t Fight it was beginning and there were cheers all round until it came time for that infectious hip-hop trumpet hook to come blaring out. Unfortunately as this reviewer had hoped, a live trumpeter or two didn’t suddenly arrive from stage left, but instead a backing track was left to fulfil the most important element of the song. Surely out of all the musos the boys know the through the Perth community they could have found someone to play on their biggest song to date, so please Panics if you read this review, find someone to play those horns live as it will fulfil the potential of this amazing song.

They had another backing track for the strings on album opener Get Us Home after Laffer declaring that his best mate Drew (Wootton) wanted to be just like Slash when he was a kid before humorously passing him a bottle of Jack Daniels. Coming back for the single-song encore they reminded us that they will always be Perthites by announcing that excellent show closer This Day Last Year had been written on a bed in Mount Lawley. Not to say that they aren’t amazing musicians and the songs with the backing tracks didn’t sound fantastic, because they did, but one would expect for the first gig touring an amazing new album that they would pull out all stops and give fans one of the shows of the year and one they would never forget. This was a very good show that showed that The Panics are up there with the best in Australian pop today, but what was a very good show could have been one of the greats with just that little bit more effort and magic.