Always a hard room to fill, and with wildly variable acoustics, the John Curtain is tonight host to three of Melbourne’s brightest up-and-coming bands. Though few arrive in time for the glowing opening set from the mysteriously titled Velma Grove, the nattily dressed sextet play as though it’s packed.
Boasting violin, trumpet, banjo, mandolin, harmonica and whatever else they could manage, the crowded stage is soon in throng to their chiming harmonies, whistling solos, stomping washboard-rhythms and blustering enthusiasm. Amidst songs full of Arcade Fire-like bravado, the band crack gags, call out for Band-Aids (presumably the medical not Almost Famous type), and perform with impressive confidence. Despite a proclivity to build every song to an acoustic-driven crescendo, and singing in voices that don’t always sound like their own, there is enough talent here to make their forthcoming debut album worth seeking out.
As the crowd fills the room and the chattering grows louder, Winter Moon open to a warm reception. Pushed along by nimble drumming, forcefully trebly bass and distortion-saturated guitar lines, the five-piece immediately impress. With no small boost from phenomenal singer Milly Moon - who channels Karen O and Janis Joplin while still cracking a smile – the band leap from one driving rock number to another. For all their obviously arresting qualities, flautist and vocalist Chloe Faith is the band’s secret weapon. Lending strangely soft yet piercing melodies to the furious energy the band exude, her adeptness makes a powerful counterpoint to Moon’s belting. While an occasional tendency to overplay undercuts the songs’ inherent drama, tracks like Hitting Home show the talent here is undeniable, the charisma magnetic and future success is all but inevitable.
You and the Colonies are on especially impressive form tonight. With some of the finest harmonies this side of wherever Fleet Foxes currently are, the band dispatch majestic arrangements with no pretense or grandstanding. Sounding as if they’d be equally at home at Woodford or on the bill of Pitchfork Festival, it’s hard to believe this is their first show in seven months. Songs like I See Ships and the closing If You Insist wrest attention from the packed room. Songwriters David Scarr and Tim Steers are perfect foils for each other and when the voice of Cynthia Sear joins, it’s a rare bliss.