The Vines, Papa Vs. Pretty, Bleeding Knees Club, Step Panther @ The Metro, Sydney (27/8/11)

Local Sydney punk band Step Panther opened the night in front of an almost empty Metro Theatre. Their blend of short, fast punk songs filled with harmonies reminiscent of the 1960s and walls of noise didn’t seem to translate well in such a large (and empty) venue. The crowd was somewhat unresponsive except for one punter, whose frequent calls of ‘Rock and Roll!’ led to some awkward stage banter. Despite this and the onstage guitar repairs, the band blistered through their half an hour set with their distinctly unusual garage rock songs such as Rock ‘n’ Roll Alien.

There has been an increasing amount of hype around Gold Coast duo Bleeding Knees Club of late. Sounding like a mix between Wavves and Pavement, the band’s purpose seemed to be summed up in the song Have Fun in which frontman Alex Wall chants “I just wanna have fun”. The band seemed to have a small amount of the audience bopping along however the short and simple surf punk songs soon got repetitive and monotonous.

Papa Vs. Pretty possibly played the most diverse set of the night. The Sydney outfit were energetic and attention grabbing from the very beginning, playing through a number of the tracks from their debut album, United In Isolation, as well as a few older songs. Frontman Thomas Rawle’s vocals were flawless and the rhythm section of Angus Gardiner on bass and Tom Meyers on drums was unbelievably tight, laying a solid foundation for Rawle’s solos. The building dynamics of Heavy Harm was a real highlight, with the crowd enthralled by the whole band as the sound swelled to epic proportions. The more up-tempo songs such as Wrecking Ball and Honey were also a feature, with Rawle jumping up on the fold-back speakers and the crowd dancing along. Judging from this performance alone, Papa Vs. Pretty should be headlining venues of this size in the very near future.

As the curtains drew open, The Vines were greeted onstage with a heroes welcome. The hour and fifteen minute set comprised of tracks from the new album, Future Primitive and a variety of older crowd favourites as well as a few memorable moments.

The band opened with the title track of the new album and the crowd reacted accordingly, with a mosh pit being formed and many of the punters screaming along to the lyrics. Right from the get go, frontman Craid Nicholls seemed overjoyed by the crowd’s reaction. He threw himself around the stage and high fived the front few rows whilst the band blasted through new songs Gimme Love and Candy Flippin’ Girl as well as old crowd favourites such as Get Free, Highly Evolved and Ride. In amongst the walls of noise created by Nicholls and guitarist Ryan Griffiths, the rhythm section of Hamish Rosser and Brad Heald kept the band grounded and the songs driving along. What differentiated this from any old Vines gig were the acoustic songs such as A.S. 4, which broke up the set lists and let the crowd catch their breath. The full-band vocal harmonies of All That You Do and Nicholls’ solo performance of Leave Me In The Dark showed off the diversity and abilities of the band.

With Craig Nicholls’ birthday coming up, the band disappeared off stage only to return with a cupcake and a single lit candle. In typical Nicholls fashion, the cake and candle were tossed into the crowd (with the candle appearing lit in the crowd moments later during an acoustic number), only after the crowd had taken the liberty to sing happy birthday. Although no guitars were destroyed in the process, the group made an impressive job of destroying the stage set up during Animal Machine, with a band hug and a mischievous wave from Nicholls whilst the curtains closed drew the night to an end.