Live Review: Bad//Dreems + Special Patrol + The Hard Aches – Fat Controller, Adelaide (11.12.15)

It’s been a fairly solid year for Bad//Dreems – as I write this, the boys prepare for a festival set at Port Macquarie’s Festival of the Sun. Last night, however, they performed their final headline show of the year to one of the more ruthless crowds I’ve been a part of in some time. Hosting ‘A Very Bad Xmas’ at the Fat Controller on a Friday night, the boys pulled together a solid line up of bands that represented both some exciting new talent emerging out of Adelaide, as well as some music that took quite a lot of us back.

The venue was filling up from early on, the line extending around Bank St well before 9pm. It just goes to show how much the Baddies crew have worked their way into the hearts of music fans in this city; give Adelaide music fans shit all you want, but there’s a ferocious element to the loyalty that is paid to our bands that is undeniable. Inside the newly decked out club venue, Adelaide duo The Hard Aches were the first band to play and I was glad I had rocked up particularly early to see them play. Having made a name for themselves through this year over countless live shows, the punk act threw down a set that highlighted all this experience they no doubt would’ve picked up along the way.

Their debut album Pheremones instantly made The Hard Aches an act to watch and there’s definitely a huge year awaiting them in 2016 if this year of shows and praise is any indication. They perform with the confidence of the Smith Street Band and God God Dammit Dammit but there’s something so fresh about the noise The Hard Aches make that set them apart. A mosh pit had started early on among the smaller crowd gathered at the front of the stage and by the end of it, more people had been drawn in. A lot of fun and I can’t wait to see them play again.

Special Patrol had the next set and going by the amount of people who had come out from near the bar and seated areas for this set, theirs was a set people were equal parts intrigued and excited by. Special Patrol have played a few scattered shows here and there through the year, but I would hazard a guess and say it’s been about five years since I last saw the Myles Mayo-fronted group perform live. Once stalwarts of the Adelaide music scene, there was a time where you’d be seeing Special Patrol everywhere. Life, I suppose, took over (as it does) and they became one of those bands that, when it’s announced they’re shaking the dust off and getting on a bill like this, people will turn up. In contrast to the band who played before them, Special Patrol doled out some great folk-infused rock tunes that had people singing along and generally grinning with nostalgia in the first few rows. Their set also provided the perfect opportunity for more people to filter in and secure positions for the headline set – a great calm before what would become a chaotic storm.

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Now, I won’t lie – I think half the reason I’ve enjoyed watching Bad//Dreems climb the ladder and develop over the last few years probably has been off the back of a terrible impression I received back in the early early days. In a triple j climate somewhere between the wind down of Children Collide’s and the emergence of your Violent Soho’s, it was hard to find bands that stood out and lived up to the hype. Following a generally forgettable show these guys were opening on, I thought they would fade after the Adelaide novelty wore off on the east coast. However, I wanted them to get better (as any young band tends to), because they’re obviously a talented bunch of musicians. That much was clear.

So now, here I found myself some time after 11pm three or four years later: sitting on a gear case side stage in a Bad//Dreems t-shirt, holding guitars away from a crowd of girls trying to drunkenly yank them out into the angry black hole that was the Fat Controller core crowd. Regardless of whatever image has surrounded them in the last year so, these guys have turned into one of my favourite bands this city’s produced and to sit and watch nearly 600 people ready to rip the venue apart out of enthusiasm and excitement for their music was definitely an experience.

The sound wasn’t great, but I’m not sure if that came down to where I was positioned, the fact that there were guitar leads, pedals and foldback wedges being pushed and pulled in different directions through the night or whatever else. First song in, and the Fat Controller’s barrier (read: chain fence) had bent inward. Four songs in? Bits of wire had bent even further in to the point that venue staff and security were trying to hold the fence up. To give the front row of lads their due, there were a few decent attempts at coming together to re-establish the barrier but by this stage, it was so out of shape it didn’t do much. “Everyone just chill out,” frontman Ben Marwe muttered at one point but again, it was to no avail.

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In terms of the music, this was probably one of the loosest Bad//Dreems shows I’ve been to recently. When you’ve got a crowd this amped, it’s hard not to just flow with it and although there were clearly some problems up on stage in terms of sound, it didn’t hinder the hardcore party quality these guys brought to their headline set. Debut album Dogs At Bay has become the album of the year for many people and it was easy to see how much of a chord it’s struck with a crowd like this. Both girls and guys were screaming lyrics back at the band as if it was a long-time classic and who knows? In a few years, perhaps it will be regarded as such.

Alex Cameron leans over the crowd, offering his guitar to a ravenous front row, while James Bartold bounds back and forth on bass, grinning like a maniac. This band has become such an entertaining live group that in each individual member, you can note development and growth really clearly. Marwe has this odd ability to project some excellent strained vocals over the crowd in one bout and in the next, turn that energy completely inward on himself, turning to bury his head in the neck of Cameron or guitarist Ali Wells while yelling directly down the microphone.

There was no encore to the show but the set didn’t really feel like it warranted one, to be completely honest. After people had dispersed out and upstairs, the immediate dance floor area looked like a festival had battered it, not a club show. The excited chatter that filtered around outside would definitely lead to this gig being a highlight of the year for many fans in attendance and I have to pay that. It might not have been the best technically but shit, if these guys continue to play at the tenacity and drive they do, the Bad//Dreems profile is only going one way. Upward at skyrocket level.

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