Something In The Badlands: Demon Days and friends make a splash with "Magic Eyes" EP launch
In 2008, Australian filmmaker Aidan O’Bryan wrote and directed a documentary titled Something in the Water which posed the question, “What is responsible for Perth’s sparkling talent pool?” Could this phenomenon be attributed to the environment; the culture of the music scene; the famous (or infamous) isolation; or was there simply something in the water?
Perth has birthed a significant number of Australia’s musical talents within the past twenty years. Acts such as Eskimo Joe, Birds of Tokyo, Gyroscope, Jebediah, John Butler Trio, and The Panics have all grown in Perth before migrating over east to graze the greener pastures of Melbourne and bask in their latte-stained streets and miserable weather. And, all the while, Perth has watched on with pride. But ten years later, in an internet-led world where influences are injected through smartphones, breeding new waves of musical talent, O’Bryan’s question still stands.
Badlands stands invitingly close to McIver station in the heart of the city. Beyond the red and blue strobe-fest and clip-clopping sounds of the mounted police patrolling the station, music emanates from the warmly lit locale. In the outdoor area, I found the strikingly youthful crowd sipping on reasonably priced schooners while Rick and Morty played on a projector in the background (still angry about that one, Badlands). Members of performing acts were dotted around the venue, mingling with attendees and giving the environment a gentle aura of familiarity. The line-up for the night was Butter, Priscilla, Grievous Bodily Calm, and Demon Days, with the launch of Demon Days’ EP, Magic Eye, being the cause for celebration.
Once inside and in front of the stage, the four-piece group Butter was first up, setting the mood for the night to come. Reinforced by the gentle sounds of trains passing outside, Butter performed a set that resonated with Badlands’ grimy downtown locale. The jazzy fusion of hip-hop and soul held together by deep, smooth male vocals made the whole thing blend together like… well, butter. The band did a great job of easing the audience into the chilled out and mellow environment of the main stage area with their seamless tempo and rhymes, complimented by the venue’s friendly staff sensible attendees.
The next act was Priscilla who were a far cry from the other acts in terms of genre. Priscilla is a three-piece electro-pop group composed of two keyboardists (one of whom is the vocalist) and a drummer. They opened their set with a high intensity electro-pop instrumental song, allowing the drummer to showcase her raw talent. As she delivered explosive drum solos, the two accompanying keyboard players acted as support, raising the excitement of the crowd. They then proceeded with a uniquely Priscilla-y cover of ‘Sorry Not Sorry,’ by Demi Lovato. The set was rounded out with two of the band’s more chilled-out singles, one a ballad and the other an upbeat, synth-driven banger titled ‘You’ve Faded’ which ended the set as strongly as it’d started. While Pricilla’s appearance may have seemed a bit out of place within the night’s neo-jazz and soul line-up, their poppy electronic style and lead keyboardist’s chords on his Sub 37 and Nord Stage 2 were jazzy enough to make them fit in nicely.
Next up was Grievous Bodily Calm, a five-piece group who incorporate elements of jazz, hip-hop, soul, beat, funk, rock and electronic into a visceral, blood-pumping instrumental experience. Grievous appeared to be in their element up on stage. The sampler and keyboardist entered a world of his own while performing solos which ran up and down the keyboard at incredible speeds and left my head banging and a stupid grin on my face. The band treated us to a taste of a new song from their soon-to-be released EP (which is said to drop sometime over the next few months,) followed by a charming vocal rendition of ‘Replicant’ by the drummer who also delivered a rambling monologue about anime or something.
Finishing off the night was the main act, Demon Days. As the band walked on stage, both a flute and saxophone stood ominously at the front: The jazz-funk-neo-soul group had a surprise addition to their five-person roster that evening. Performing songs both new and old, all members gave extremely confident and stellar performances. The addition of the guest wind player really showed off the cohesiveness, adaptiveness and stage experience within this young group. During musical interludes between chorus and verse, we were treated to excellent solos on both flute and sax which had the packed room cheering them on. It was hard not to feel the energy radiating between the band and crowd.
While the main stage area was packed, at no point did I feel overwhelmed or crowded and, with plenty of space to breath and to dance around, the set was extremely enjoyable. Singer, Bella’s stellar vocal performance, dancing and energy embodied the fact that the group was clearly enjoying themselves up there. Set to tour Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, this really felt like a bit of a going away party for Demon Days. And both the band and the night went out on a high.
Jazzy soul-funk seemed to be the trend at Badlands that night and, while replaying the chorus of Demon Day’s ‘Disco Baby’ in my head on the Uber ride home, I found myself going back to the question in O’Bryan’s documentary. What is responsible for Perth’s sparkling talent pool? It’s probably a job for someone much smarter than me to figure out. But, heck, I’ll give it my best shot:
Perhaps it is our fate, as one of the most isolated cities in the world, to act as a sort of spartan training ground for these young and emerging talents, subjecting them to the harsh conditions of a vague and undefined musical culture which allows for expressions of creativity and originality. Cut off from the rest of society, it’s up to these young people to express themselves in original and bold ways that don’t conform to current regional trends. Then and only then can they be shipped off to Melbourne to set and evolve the cultural music meta while making room for a new generation to cultivate, emerge and repeat the cycle in the Badlands of Perth.
Just don’t leave too soon, guys - it’s always a blast seeing all of you live at the local.