It’s a Friday night and although there are a large number of bands performing in the city tonight, I’m choosing to stick close to home (about five minutes from it, even) and attend Steering By Stars’ single launch. Held at the Estonian Hall in North Adelaide, being in the venue so early on gave off that slightly awkward feeling of being at a primary school disco but tonight, instead of drinking Coke, I was drinking Coopers and the fashion had improved significantly.
Performing to a mere handful of people was Sparkspitter, the first act on tonight’s bill. For a three-piece, the amount of sound Sparkspitter were able to produce was quite fascinating. A post-rock Battles, if you will, the band performed a set quite unlike any other I’ve seen from an Adelaide band in a long time. It’s a brave move, dedicating a career to this intense instrumental music, and I understand how it’s definitely not going to be to everyone’s liking, but I enjoyed how much the band have clearly thrown into producing sounds which do in fact, snatch and keep your attention, regardless of whether you like the genre of music or not. Rohan Goldsmith did some excellent work on both the drums and lap steel, creating some great loops which permeated through the entire set. It was a shame that not many people had turned out early enough to catch Sparkspitter, but no doubt they’ll continue turning heads as the year rolls on.
Joe McKee is in town to launch his solo record, Burning Boy, and is the second act to take the stage. The former Snowman member has swapped the huge walls of sound for a more minimal and sparse approach to delivering music but it didn’t mean that his performance was anything short of captivating. Armed with a fantastic Gretsch and a series of loop pedals, McKee delved into the dark and chilling areas of Burning Boy, with the help of Steering By Stars’ Lachlan Wilson on keys. Moving in and amongst the audience during “Lunar Sea” and generating an earthy and icy ambience with the ensuing deliveries, McKee made sure his presence was acknowledged, even if a decent percentage of the crowd continued to drink and chatter as the set continued. Powerful vocals, killer stage presence and sharp looks proved to be a combination that worked all sorts of favours for McKee – his music may not catch your attention immediately as does a lot of Snowman’s material, but once he has you in his grasp, McKee’s live performance definitely has the potential to moisten even the hardest music critic’s exterior.
Tonight’s the second or third time I think I’ve seen Steering By Stars perform and it’s always great to see progression and development in a live show. What first caught my eye about the band’s first record Cables was the brooding post-rock I didn’t know this city had simmering away within its walls. From the sounds of it, the band’s sophomore record seems to have explored some different directions, while developing on the foundations their debut had already laid. The biggest thing I noticed about the band as live performance group this time round, was how much tighter they sounded as they delivered some pretty intense music tonight. Launching “Ties That Bind” tonight, you can tell that Steering By Stars have made some threateningly shadowy tunes.
Wilson’s vocals have come out from the walls of sound produced by he and his band mates and now take on a more prominent role, instead of remaining ever-so-slightly below the surface; he’s always sounded hauntingly impressive, but as the set continued, Wilson seemed to gain a great sense of momentum and really let out some epic, guttural vocals. Penetrating percussion and bass courtesy of misters Smeets and Reveruzzi added to the darkened setting already composed (not just because the venue was pretty dark itself); there may not have been much in the way of band-audience interaction, but the whoops that followed each delivery spoke levels on their own.
Steering By Stars are due to hit up Melbourne and Sydney still on this launch tour and I’d highly recommend getting along, even if their sort of music isn’t the usual you’d normally enjoy. I was the same until I saw them live and have been hooked ever since – definitely testament to the great talent Adelaide’s producing at the moment. I only hope we don’t lose them to the interstate market.