BIRD WEDNESDAYS: Emlyn Johnson, Doctopus, Rag n' Bone, Last Quokka shine
Wednesday nights at the Bird. I don’t know about you, but this has to be one of the best live music congregations in Perth. Weekly lines-ups consistently showcase the best of what Perth has to offer, and this week was no exception. Emlyn Johnson, Doctopus and Rag n’ Bone played support for the double single launch of anti-fascist nice guys, Last Quokka. Welcome to the first instalment of our Bird Wednesdays review series.
The night kicked off with Pex and Kenta of Zerodent spinning post-punk tracks between sets throughout the night preparing patrons for an evening of anti-establishment indulgence.
Emlyn Johnson was the first to play. This was my first time hearing him and I was truly absorbed. I guess I’ve been living under a rock. That tone, that depth, that sound, that composure. I could compare him to other artists of probable influence, but I’m not going to because that would detract from his originality- a profoundly beautiful artist. Sure, there were patrons talking and laughing loudly near the bar, but despite this, the crowds’ attention did not waver, for Emlyn has a commanding presence whether he realises it or not. ‘Yeah’ was my personal favourite of the set, a silent ‘fuck you’ choice of song in response to a heckler who cried out ‘Wonderwall’ when he asked for song requests. The heckler was me. He closed the set with an enchanting, almost unrecognisable cover of ‘Home and Away’. If he were to release an album of cover songs, I’d certainly buy it.
Doctopus were up next. I’ll never get sick of these guys. Last night’s set seemed a little more freestyle than usual, but they were endearing and charismatic as ever. The crowd seemed a little sedated compared to a lot of the Doctopus sets I’ve seen in the past; they may have still been caught up in the haze of Emlyn’s performance, but I’m going to blame it on the waning moon, the crowd sharing a communal post-full moon respite from lunacy. Regardless, Doctopus lifted the mood and enticed a few laughs from the audience. Steve confessed that he’s a terrible pool player and wouldn’t confirm whether his ability may have been squandered by too many drugs. The heart-warming comradery of this music scene never fails to astound me, as was displayed by their cover of Emlyn’s song ‘Cactus’. The only thing I ever want more of from these guys is volume because they’re the perfect band to get loose and empty an overflowing mind to.
Then came Triple J’s feature artist of the week, Rag n’ Bone. Any lethargy hovering in the air disintegrated almost immediately by the sheer prowess of this self-proclaimed polished scunge band. The set was a consistent combination of full, defiant vocals from Kiera - fat, driving bass from Sara - eccentric, detailed guitar work from Axel and tight, reliable, bad ass drumming from Jamie. Their songs are politically charged, expressing a sense of shame in our leaders, and feelings of displacement within a nation they call their home. Kiera resisted jumping into the crowd this time, probably due to a lack of faith that they’d catch her (let’s blame it on waning moon). I certainly hope increased exposure of these guys won’t cause them to be a more restricted act to catch at local venues, because they’re a real gem. Get em’ while they’re hot. Mmm.
Last Quokka is a rather new band. I caught their first gig at Yardstock (Yard #3) back in April, and to be honest, no one would have ever known it was their debut performance. They nailed it then and they nailed it last night. It’s Proto-Punk in 2016; less dishevelled than The Velvet Underground, whilst harnessing pop aspects of early Joy Division and the lyrical honesty and angst of Fugazi. Lead singer Trent described LQ as an aggressively political band who call out the bullshit of the powers that be, whilst ultimately embodying a sincere sense of hope in a system so broken; that things will someday change and improve. Trent discussed how when he was in his early twenties the Perth music scene seemed irksomely exclusive and pretentious, that you had to earn your place to be there. He went on to say how things have definitely improved a lot in recent years with key figures such as Stephen Bellair and Steve Hughes founding events like Camp Doogs and Magnolia’s, helping cultivate a nurturing environment where everyone is embraced and accepted for who they are and what they do.
They opened their set with ‘Suburbs’, the first of the two singles released last night. With a chorus like ‘I just can’t wait to get out of the fucking northern suburbs’ the song really speaks for itself. If you’ve ever lived anywhere between Carine and Yanchep, then I’m sure you’ll understand. The songs that followed covered themes such as socio-economic class systems, anti-Semitism, fascism, more suburban disdain and urinal politics. Ray and Jose locked in together keeping the momentum on point as Kirill hung out comfortably on his own whilst Trent worked the stage embodying a sense of fortitude amidst the seriousness of the topics being presented. He broke the fourth wall jumping out into the crowd a few times, most notably in a passionate act of defiance against Reclaim Australia during ‘Nazi Scum’. A lucky member of the crowd won a T-shirt for answering correctly to how many series of Buffy there are. I took a stab at eight, now I know there are seven. Before playing their final track, the second single of the release ‘Econovan’, Trent addressed the crowd on the issue of this week’s Four Corners segment regarding the Don Dale Detention Centre. He stated defiantly that ‘we need to do better (Australia)’. Issues such as these are the exact motivation for Last Quokka’s reasons for existing.