"Blood Harvest" showcases unique Perth talents, farms enthusiastic crowd at The Rosemount
Blood Harvest. Death metal band? Horror film? Red Cross Blood Service advertising pitch? Nope. An awesome night of quality local music and art at one of the homes of the Perth original music scene. According to Jules, one of two guitarists in Old Blood, the name Blood Harvest has no hidden meaning, and was not intended to invoke any sense of zombie apocalypse. They just thought it was a pretty cool name - and as it turns out - so did the big crowd that turned up to enjoy the harvest on Saturday night. The idea of Blood Harvest came from Old Blood’s desire to celebrate the local music that they love.
“We wanted to showcase a mixed variety of bands that we really like, and bring the diversity and talent of the broader music and arts community together. We threw in the chicken eating competition and the live artwork to make it something a bit different.”
- Jules, Old Blood guitarist
Despite the heavy metal name, it was great to see families around during the evening, with the chatter and laughter of kids filling the air as different acts serenaded the outdoor garden crowd. Inside the main room was where the mostly rockier, harder hitting acts played to appreciative fans. Blood Harvest was a celebration of great music, great people, and a real testament to this small but passionate city’s thriving original music scene.
With 16 acts throughout the evening for the measly price of $30 (that’s $1.87 per act!), you would have been hard-pressed to find an excuse not to make it down to The Rosemount Hotel for Blood Harvest. It was also the first time I’d been in the main band room since The Rosemount's refurbishment, and I was really impressed - I particularly liked the exposed ceiling. Finally shedding it's reverberating bat-cave days of old, the room also boasts a brand-new DNB PA system that packs a huge punch and provides justice to great bands.
Lightning Jack kicked off the night with a solo set of Deep South USA blues. The curators could have had any act on the 4.30pm bill, first up, playing to the few early comers. But their commitment to quality is evident, as Lightning Jack fit the vibe of the outdoor stage perfectly, playing a really convincing set to a small but appreciative crowd. Inside, Dan Howls Band was kicking things off with their blend of "rock trio with a blues tinge". Dan’s voice sounds like he’s spent his entire life in a dingy bar in New Orleans, drinking triple shots of whiskey and smoking four packets of cigarettes a day. It’s brilliant. Their tunes were intricate enough to be engaging, yet simple enough to be hard-hitting and emotive. Despite the smoky and gravelly timbre of Dan’s voice, he was versatile and melodic, and the drummer playing with bamboo sticks meant the whole set was a brooding simmer: never too in-your-face, but drawing you in closer and closer. When I shut my eyes, I was right there in that dingy New Orleans bar with them.
Jacob Diamond was next up on the outside stage. The heaters came on, and delicious smells of pizza and burgers filled the courtyard as the intricate sounds of Jacob’s solo set of originals and covers filled the air. At one point, he segued unexpectedly into a beautiful rendition of Disney staple “Some Day My Prince Will Come”, a song maybe never heard before at the Rosey, but one that everyone clearly enjoyed as they soaked up the warmth coming from both the heaters and the stage. I’ve been a big fan of Jacob for a while, and was keen to hear his new single (which he’s launching at Satchmo’s on July 8). It was a beautiful mix of alternating time signatures and complex harmonies with unusual melodies twisting and turning in completely unexpected ways.
Meanwhile, the aural delights continued with Bonney Upwelling on the inside stage. With what sounded like African and Latin American influences complete with flute and conga solos over danceable grooves, the swelling crowd responded warmly to a kind of music not heard widely in Perth. All the while, Jack Bromell was steadily crafting his live artwork outside. Set up just by the steps so people could check out his talents as they walked in and out of the venue, it was a great addition to the line-up, and something cool for the kids too, as I noticed a few looking on with awe as the artwork took shape. Jack said he “gained a certain amount of inspiration from his environment” as he continued with his art.
Cal hit the courtyard stage after dark, playing straight up filthy blues, complete with plenty of expletives. He apologized for his tendency to drop f-bombs, with a gripping monologue about his soccer team’s unlikely victory over Sorrento earlier that day. He was so stoked, and he let everyone know it. Moving inside, the crowd was steadily growing and the vibe was heating up. Grievous Bodily Calm are developing a growing support base, and it’s no surprise to me why. This band has one of the freshest sounds in town right now, with their completely genre-defying style. Their music is intelligent, yet packed with completely filthy grooves, which appeals to lovers of jazz, heavy rock, and everything in between. They seem to be hitting the stage almost weekly - and with good reason.
Despite there being so much on offer for my ears, even reviewers need to eat. After running across the road to smash some great Thai food for dinner, I came back to the phat beats and slick rhymes of a Colab jam session in the outside courtyard. The crowd outside was now pumping. Those who hadn’t had a chance to see Colab at their residency at the Moon Café would have been in awe at the raw talent of the rappers, who were crafting improvised verses on the spot. Empty and Beckon were joined by a band of amazing musicians in their own right, and they all had the crowd intimately engaged with their arms in the air bouncing along to the beat.
After the raps wrapped up, I headed into the main room to catch Rag n’ Bone. I don’t quite know how I’d managed to not catch these guys before, but I’m really glad I eventually did. The volume in the main room was cranked up as the crowd swelled and filled up space right in front of the stage. Rag n’ Bone didn’t disappoint, with swirling vocals over heavy bass, dark guitar riffs, and driving drums. They performed with a huge energy that can only be experienced to its full extent at a live show. The lead singer Kiera’s commanding voice is a major drawcard for me, really giving Rag n’ Bone their unique sound. Their high-octane energy on stage transferred into the crowd, as evident by the headbanging that ensued, and even some enthusiastic fans who were mouthing the words to every song.
Finally, the main act, the curators of the night, Old Blood hit the stage themselves. The main room was packed with a sea of people moving to the tune of an extremely well-polished and tight sound. You know a band has an audience under its finger when the room doesn’t stop moving the entire set, when nobody is embarrassed to move their body, because everyone is transfixed, and experiencing the same magic. Old Blood is the kind of band that brings people together, making strangers friends, letting people forget their problems and fears, and hypnotizing them to just be in the moment. That’s what it felt like to be in that room. It was also a special moment when, to rapturous applause, lead singer Tony thanked the traditional owners of the land on which the night was being held. Old Blood plays the kind of set that makes you can't help but dance one minute; want to drown yourself in smoky whisky the next. They gave you a sense that you were in their living room and they were playing an intimate gig just for you. It felt very personal, like you were part of a big family. That’s the beauty of the Perth music scene, in a way, they are all one big family. This definitely came across in their special Blood Harvest set.
After Old Blood, when unfortunately the crowd had thinned out a bit, Soukouss International took the lucky remaining punters on a musical journey to West Africa. Initially, the crowd that was there probably for the heavy rock grooves of the previous bands looked on with mild interest as the Soukouss started playing. But it’s impossible not to smile and move your body to their infectious groove, and before long the room was moving, everyone imitating the charismatic lead singer as he danced around the stage in between verses. What a great way to finish an awesome evening.
At its heart, Blood Harvest was an incredibly successful celebration of the Perth original music scene. As Tony from Old Blood said on stage, there are so many other bands they would have loved to have put on the bill. There was just not enough space. I don’t think anyone would doubt that. For a city as small as ours, the breadth of quality music we have is astounding. A conversation with a friend as I walked out the door confirmed that he was just as stoked as I was to be in this musical city and to be a part of this magic. That was a sentiment that you could feel reverberating throughout everyone in attendance that night. Cheers to Old Blood and Ruby May for organizing such a great event; I can’t wait until next year!