AU ABROAD

Papa Vs Pretty + The Vasco Era + Glass Towers - ANU Bar (26.10.11)

Unfortunately due to a mix up on the door, I was late into the gig on the night. As such, I could only hear openers Glass Towers from afar, and although it wasn't the clearest sound, they sounded like a bright and engaging opener for the night - which made me glad for the crowd who saw them, because the two bands that followed were absolutely mesmerising.

The Vasco Era

Being a double headliner tour, someone had to be up first, and The Vasco Era took to the stage earlier. It's not an exaggeration to say they truly are the epitome of rock and roll.

Sid O'Neil's musicianship injected fire into the songs - the noodling guitar and the thrashing chords, mixed with the subtler, quiet moments, showed his diversity not only as a performer but as a song-writer. His banter with the crowd was charismatic, asking for requests and engaging on a modest and hilarious level. He is one of those genuinely charming musicians who seems to consider his fans as equals, as opposed to those musicians who put themselves on a level above their audience.

Ted O'Neil's bass playing was not only spot on, but his stage presence was the most entertaining on the night (not to belittle the other musicians who performed, none of whom were far behind). Akin to a train wreck, it looked like he could lose it at any moment. He leapt around the stage, controlling his bass like another limb. It seemed possible he'd hit someone, or lose it and fall, but he never did. The energy that he exudes on stage is something that really has to be seen.

It would be criminal if I failed to mention Michael Fitzgerald's drumming. It was powerful and energetic, in the rawest sense. Not once did he let up the whole night, and with Sid and Ted, he held the music together, through both the surge and the calm.

I don't normally analyse each musician individually, but in this case it seems apt. That three talented people can come together to form something so much greater than each individual is momentous in itself. The Vasco Era's brand of powerful and intense rock is captivating in so many ways, and I feel lucky to have seen them live, because I'm not sure how well that captivation translates to a recording. There aren't many bands that can build tension so well, moving between exploding guitar stabs and thundering bass lines, to solitary, delicate finger-picking in an instant. Unpredictable, loud, energetic, and most of all interesting, The Vasco Era were something different, in the best way possible.

Papa Vs Pretty

Like The Vasco Era, Papa Vs Pretty aren't a trio that demand your attention, so much as draw it willingly.

Despite frontman Thomas Rawle's seemingly erratic movements on stage, every song sounded accurate to a point. Running his fingers along his guitar with ease, it looked almost as if he'd be more comfortable holding one that not. Throwing himself into solos, the rest of the band leapt into each moment with him, without sacrificing their playing.

One of the most exciting things about watching trios is that it's harder for them to mask mistakes. Especially in terms of guitars, if someone slips up it's much more noticeable than if there's another instrument to cover it up. Which is why it's even more exciting when a band like Papa Vs Pretty come along and blow you away. Without missing a beat, the band gave off an enormous sound, especially considering they're a three-piece.

Tom Myers' drumming was jaw-dropping, and really launched the band that bit further. Masters of the intense drop-in, the timing from all three guys was precise and exact. They really know how to carve out a line between in-your-face rock and infectious hooks, so it's unsurprising that Papa Vs Pretty are up for the ARIA Rock Album of the Year award.

Playing through fan-favourites like "Heavy Harm" and "Honey", the crowd's reaction was pretty warm for a Wednesday night. It was nice to see enough fans out to support these guys on tour.

To have two acts like this co-headlining a tour is something to behold. Both ferocious and lively, their performances not only sounded great (prior warning: might wanna take some ear plugs!), but kept everyone's attention! You'd have to be insane not to check both of these bands out if you get the chance - gigs don't get much better than this.