Wooden Shjips, Secret Birds, Nite Fields @ The Zoo, Brisbane (25/03/12)

While Sunday night is usually a time to stay at home to nurse hangovers and bruised egos/regrets from the night before, tonight is not a regular Sunday. San Francisco’s Wooden Shjips are back nearly exactly a year on from the last time they wooed us. With their fifth studio album West ranking as one of their best releases to date, all in attendance are keen to see how these songs stack up on the live stage.

Unfortunately, tragedy strikes and the rather talented local experimental pop four piece Nite Fields are forced to pull out due to illness. Fortunately, Secret Birds are also on tonights line up playing one of only a handful of shows for the year. The knob twiddling duo extend their set to accommodate. At first, whilst technically impressive, the duo are suffering as the volume is simply far too low for the bands soundscapes to shine through. However, around halfway through the set the band expand to a five piece (including members from Nite Fields) and launch into an epic piece to end their set. The Neu! sounding track featured extreme wah and kraut rock grooves as the band and track spiral out of control. An impressive spectacle that more than made up for the earlier sound issues.

It takes a rather long time to change over between Secret Birds and tonight’s headliners, but as the lights dim and the projector fills the back room with a sea of stars, it is pretty clear that it is time to sit back and get lost in the music of Wooden Shjips. Unfortunately as the band begin it is pretty clear they are suffering from a few technical issues as frontman Erik ‘Ripley’ Johnson’s voice and guitar are almost inaudible and his trademark reverb laced delay vocal is heavily lost in the mix. This gradually changes as the night progresses much like the ever-evolving projections on the wall.

The Shjips have always been a band that have a reputation for being unremarkably tight and tonight is no different with bassist Dusty Jermier locking into every hit from Omar Ahsanuddin’s extremely minimalist drum kit. West’s Black Smoke Rise is an early highlight with it’s Door’s like keyboard line supplied by Nash Whalen underneath Ripley’s heavily flanged guitar musings.

It is the Dos tracks that are tonight’s highlights with the sludge of Motorbike backed by changing shapes and colours over the Golden Gate Bridge seeming too perfect. While an extended version of Aquarian Time with its looped keyboard line ongoing groove locked into the minds of the entire venue.

While tonight’s show was slightly suffering in attendance partly due to its unfortunate Sunday time-slot, those present tonight were by no means disappointed. Wooden Shjips proved why they are one of the best modern day psych/space bands getting around with an incredible set both musically and visually, while Secret Birds showed that Brisbane has a flourishing scene of its own. With any luck we will have a whole new Shjips album by this time next year which will give them another reason to keep up their annual March visit. Next time, be sure not to miss it!