"Good evening, we are the Native Cats and you need us now more than ever," intones Peter Escott, vocalist and button pusher staring us down. The sonorous voice and compelling lyrics make Native Cats one of the more underappreciated bands going. Perhaps as they’re from Hobart and signed to a label based in Boston, Melbourne hasn’t caught on, but there is an energy about this band few bands manage to match about their new album Process Praise, and its rendering live.
Opening with Hit and launching their second album, as are the headliners, the audience, most of whom are holding pints, have a lot of hair and look a lot like Charlotte Gainsburg or a member of Fleet Foxes, are wrapt. Julian Teakle's guttural bass and intimidating looming presence offset’s Escott’s intelligent fury and forces deep melodies which Escott avoids (except when playing his melodica). Cat’s Paw highlights his us of the Nintendo DS and a drum machine run through a Korg, which sounds like no other band in existence. Songs veer between sparse, sexual new wave pop with bitter lyrics about isolation and physicality (Cavalier and closer Dani Dani) and a rich layered 80s pop (Elements of Style). That they choose to live in the sparse end of the spectrum, sounding like a pissed off Young Marble Giants, actually gives them a greater power; melodies sound lonely and lost and the rhythm aggressive and taut.
Few bands articulate and understand menace as well as Batrider. The Adelaide three-piece knows exactly how to balance the weight of each instrument and the resultant power is impossible to deny. Their new album Piles of Lies makes up most of the set with Hold a Grudge, Just Another Person and Hand Cream standing out, despite the dynamic shifts and raw, tearing vocals which sound as if they’re fighting against the plate reverb and a rhythm section that Alibini would pay to have his name attached to.
The stench of Indonesian cigarettes drifting in from the mingling groups outside accentuates the stoner rock aspect of their music sweetly, and it’s the music that arrests attention. Sarah Chadwick’s guitar is either a shivering afterthought or a million broken metallic frequencies ricocheting in an icy vacuum. Sam Featherstone’s bass is like a compressed 303 tone that moves like an endlessly shifting cord and Stephanie Chase’s bright forceful drumming and copious reverb elevates what could be dirges to something altogether stronger. It’s a unique sound and an incredible show.