In The Pines 2017
I have always viewed the Somerville auditorium as a sun-dappled utopia. There is something deeply comforting about the towering pines overhead which stand like stoic guardians, protecting a bubble of arts and culture. At times encasing a wonderful season of outdoor films throughout PIAF, and then, once a year, housing RTR FM’s In The Pines. Held on an often notoriously rainy Sunday in April, the Pines is the kind of festival where you can bring along a picnic blanket and a quaint cheeseboard and laze for the early afternoon before rousing to dance around for a bit. Kids are welcome and safe (in protective ear-wear of course), and it is sage to heed the advice of my friend and refrain from wearing white canvas shoes. The ground underfoot is very much like the delicious but perplexing bottom-layer of a YOGO dirt dessert but it’s the best fun to get just a little bit messy anyway. This year, the day was clear and Telecasters ruled supreme (until the mid arvo when the frustratingly ‘in vogue’ Jazzmasters came in to steal the show). As always, RTR put on an eclectic mix of acts, many hailing from Perth, to align with their ethos of supporting local music.
In The Pines 2017 seemed an interesting mix of fresh acts and what I will term ‘nostalgia-core’ bands, some of which rely too heavily on their now-stale-but-once-popular tunes without cutting away and making something fresh. Like most things, I turn to breakfast foods for the answer. Fresh slices of toast are great when they’re hot, crunchy and allow for the perfect level of butter-meltedness. Toast that has been sitting out for just a bit too long, however, is just slightly too firm, slightly too brittle. It is the piece that a mum-figure eats to take one for the team.
Our experience began with the tail end of a lovely little set by Bells Rapids. If you close your eyes you can hear a crystalline blend of Sleater-Kinney and Speedy Ortiz with the added bonus of vocalists with clear-cut formal training and technical knowledge at their helm. The beautiful harmonies between Tanaya and Stella made me hungry for a full-length set, which can be hard to come by when all of the members are smashing it in various other projects. But it’s OK, I can wait.
Solar Barge list their genre on Facebook as “PSYCH-DRONE / SHAMANIC FOLK / ANCIENT METAL”. As they came in their ‘big band’ form at In The Pines, you can start to imagine the grandiose aural carnival they put on. Introduced as ‘Ra and Friends’ by RTR breakfast darling, Caitlin, huge kudos need to be thrown at Solar Barge for playing in masks. They pulled off what would have been a difficult and at times uncomfortable performance to score major avant-garde-post-rock brownie points.
The band was decked out with double bass, a brass section and some heavily dystopian sounding cymbals and bass lines, but I couldn’t help but feel more absorbed during the Ben Witt aquatic (AKA modulated) guitar lines than the super heavy stuff. It was nice to see the Blue siblings in an entirely different context to Heathcote Blue - I’m not very familiar with amplified double reed woodwind instruments but it looked like Madeline was playing an electric, synthy oboe?! Crazy.
Film and TV Editor Howie described Solar Barge as a “mini Empire of the Sun”, our dear friend Mupp thought the costume design evoked images of Yu-Gi-Oh; I just felt that with their intricate intros building into crashing crescendos, Solar Barge are instrumental post-rock in full stride.
Phil Walley-Stack reminded me of The Pigrim Brothers. Both bands seem to emit the same Mum-core easy listening quality which make them perfectly placed early afternoon palette cleanser. Craig Hollsworth and his crew took things up a notch, but you couldn’t expect anything less from a Collie boy. Known for his membership of The Bamboos (no, not the Tim Rodgers backup guys, the original Bamboos), Hollsworth had the perfect balance of Dad-rock fun with a dash of angst to remind you of a hormone-ridden youth, misspent in the ‘emo’ subculture. But the element that really stood out to me didn’t have much to do with Craig’s reflective storytelling, it was the delightful addition of baritone guitar used in lieu of bass.
In an entirely different vein flowed Doctopus onto the adjacent stage. Doctopus are my fav 420 bro-rockers of Perth. Classic crowd pleasers, they were probably the first act to really get the majority of the auditorium onto their feet, helped along by front man Stephen Bellair’s sojourn off the stage and into the dirt. I love the textured depth they are able to provide with only 3 members, but I guess the grungy, fuzzy pedals help.
Following the anthem that is Wobbegong were THE current shoe-gaze act of Perth, Dream Rimmy. Leading lady, Ali (of BOAT SHOW), swaps out yelly dole-wave vocals for more Cocteau Twins influenced sounds. Think sweet, soft, and reverby as opposed to raw, loud and slacker. Their huge Fender array of Deluxe reverbs, Jazzmasters and Strats are backed up by true skill, cohesion between personalities and a wonderfully meandering shoegazy style.
Landing spots as featured artists on both Triple J Unearthed and RTR (thanks to their recent EP release, ‘Heavy’), I’m sure that years from now I’ll be boasting about having seen Dream Rimmy play intimate venues. Just to further cement their so-hot-right-now status, the video clip for Landslide features some delicious zoom-based cinematography; if that’s not a demonstration of a finger on the pulse, then sign me up to Luddite’s Anonymous.
Sometimes popularity speaks volumes. And in the case of Childsaint, it is entirely warranted. They took out the great honour of crafting the most played song on RTR in 2016 with their breathtaking track ‘Hallelujah Heartache’. An honour bestowed not because the band are estrogen-fueled, but because they fucking rock. You would be a fool for thinking that the only drawcard of the band is their all-female lineup, I caught them at the FOAM album launch and was impressed with their moody, reverby sound and drums that kick your sternum into life.
It was a real pleasure seeing Apricot Rail after their hiatus. They represented the good kind of RTR-specific in-the-last-decade kind of nostalgia-core as they balanced the ‘old’ with the new. Bringing some great new tracks to the table from their recent album, the set was heartfelt and uplifting despite probably being their last gig together for the foreseeable future. To put it simply, Apricot Rail make the kind of music that I want to hear whilst watching a beloved lead character run toward their love interest. It just incites that movie-quality moment of liberating clarity.
Down the other end of the vibrant spectrum are Daniel Susnjar’s Afro-Peruvian Jazz Group. These guys were my pick of the night, which I excitedly communicated to anyone who would listen. I classify myself firmly in the ‘fan’ box after seeing the group perform at Fairbridge- I think one member of the audience actually cried during one of their sets, it was that god damn good. My outspokenness held true, they were outstanding. But I can’t help but feel the verbal prelude for each song that was allowed at Fairbridge added so much. Hearing Susnjar describe each song and instrument with passion gave the performance an extra dimension, but because the sets were so quick at In The Pines, there just wasn’t time for Dan and the band to let people in on these awesome little factoids. The audience were not clued into the disadvantaged social context that Afro-Peruvian music emerged from. Musical instruments were hodge-podge and hastily made out of any materials on hand, and that knowledge is so valuable if you want to truly appreciate the musicianship involved. I found myself running around shouting “He’s playing the jawbone of an ASS! How cool is that!?!... That thing he’s hitting is a JAWBONE”. Nevertheless, DSAPJG bought a suave and classy element to the evening, as promised.
As a testament to the eclecticism of In the Pines we shifted from jazz to… something completely different with Rag ‘n Bone. Axel and his colossal semi-circular firing squad of pedals led the charge of post-punk noise. Cavalry came in the form of Harley of FOAM filling in for the injured Sara on bass and the crystal clear vocals of Kira, whose vocals prove that reverb sounds the best on voices that don’t need it. I feel like their music would be perfectly at place in a post-apocalyptic Western film.
POW Negro were another act I instantly fell in love with after catching them at Fairbridge. But they seemed classier and more refined in the university context, using their only verbal interlude between tracks to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land for their resilience. I also noticed the very understated slide guitar during this performance. When an e-bow makes an appearance, you know you’re in for a treat.
I don’t feel that I have anything meaningful to say about Sodastream. I love their 2017 album Little by Little and have boundless respect for bands that utilise double bass. It was just really bloody good. These sentiments held true for Hideous Sun Demon. The wild success of each members’ side projects show the incestuous nature of the Perth music scene. But you gotta love it, right? The snappy set times played well into the style of HSD. I can only imagine the logistical nightmare caused by the tight scheduling. Sound checking on one stage whilst another act plays seems insane. The added challenge of being in the open air means the sound is always going to be near-impossible to get perfect, so huge props have to go to RTR for making it work.
That being said, the scheduling for the rest of the night left me perplexed. Tangled Thoughts of Leaving can be described as heavy ambient, which was a weird choice so late in the evening. Off the back of Hideous Sun Demon they felt like a bit of a downer. Huge ride drums and crash rolls blended with doom chords to create a sound that weighed so densely in the air, save for some light piano interludes. In continuing with cinematic similes, I imagine it being the background music to a film about the world ending in a fiery mess. Tangled Thoughts disconnected my scalp from my skull, in a good way. But I couldn’t help but feel like I just wanted to be at home, alone rather than gearing up for a huge finale.
Leading me to Jebediah and my convoluted toasty metaphor. I don’t get the nostalgic charm of Jeb. Bob Evan’s nasally delivery stood as an angular juxtaposition to the two very heavy acts precedent acts and felt jarring as a closer. On paper, it makes sense, a blend of looking forward and looking back, but with the local music scene as thriving as it presently is, why not end on an up and comer? My one persnickety gripe aside, the 24th In the Pines stood as a wonderful continuation of what has become a ritualistic showcase of our diverse and flourishing local music scene.