PASSPORT TO AIRLIE BATTLE OF THE BANDS COMPETITION - HEAT FOUR

Posted 4 September 2017 by Adz Carter
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Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, and the Stag is where the entertainment is!
For the fourth week in a row, the Stag & Hunter Hotel has been the gracious host to the Newcastle chapter of the Passport To Airlie Battle Of The Bands Competition, and what a competition it has been so far. 
Hard to believe though that not only is it already spring, but at the timing of writing, it’s already Heat Four of the comp! What is it they say about time flying when you’re having fun?... This Sunday, it was a sure sign that Spring had started, as there were five bands that put the Heat into Heat Four... 

Red City kick started off things in a grand way, opening with an original which was mellow to begin with (providing a good setting for a Sunday arvo), before reaching a rise-fall-rise finale. The next number had a brilliant bass intro (and a more upbeat raised tempo than the previous song), with a ‘VS’ era Pearl Jam sound, complimented by a sensational solo, all while the drummer absolutely beat the preverbial out of his kit. 
Entering a Rasta zone, Red City then blew out a song that seemed to be about partaking in janga, with vocals that sound like a primal scream. The lead singer got to display his vocal chops even further on the next song, sounding like a hybrid of Corey Glover from Living Colour, and Caleb Followill from Kings Of Leon. With an all-round rock feel mixed with stop-start rhythms, this was a blend of alt rock and reggae at its finest. There was something refreshingly familiar about Red City’s sound, but something very unique about it too. It felt really fluid and hot, yet funky and solid.

If there was such a genre of music as “heavy country” (which there isn’t, but please bear with me...), Slide Milligan would play it perfectly. This bluesy three piece weren’t heavy as in metal, but leaned towards the dark side almost as much as Darth Vader. Slide Milligan opened their set of all originals with the brilliant ‘Blood Red River’, which was just as much in the tone of Leonard Coen as it was Kenny Wayne Sheppard. The toe tapping ‘Comes Around’ had not only a similar title to a Johnny Cash song, but also a similar tempo, and a similar subject matter to many songs by the Man in Black. The guitar intro to ‘Sharks and Dolphins’ swept in like a tornado, while the booming bass played over drums like a thunder storm, as the singer channeled his inner Dr Hook. Raw, grungy, gritty, dirty blues followed with ‘Tomorrow’s Yesterday’, which was capped off with an incredible long instrumental jam style solo, and while ‘Get Along’ stood out because of its uplifting message and melody, it’s galloping pace made sure it didn’t seem out of place. Every song was a good fit, and so were all three members, as the oh so talented rhythm section were a good fit for a master of the lap slide guitar and eerie brooding vocals.

Dubbo five piece The Pits were a feel good funky band, but not in a traditional way, mixing both bossa nova and ska with modern day punk in the first number alone. The second song ‘Salty’ had shades of Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and My Chemical Romance, as well as sounding like the soundtrack omitting from speak easys in the days of prohibition, especially with the drums and trumpet, which were on point at all times. As they were for ‘The Love Birds’, which was almost German in sound with its dark oom-pah style. The twisted love song ‘Hot Love’ travelled down a bossa nova road, as the rhythm section jammed while the guitarist’s solo danced in between them. Also, in between songs, there was lots of genuinely witty banter, at times making The Pits a very fun band. This was true of the music too, as despite its title, ‘Dead Body’ was an upbeat ska song, with great harmonies from the singer and guitarist, and drums like a tommy gun. The last song ‘Killers’ had the lead singer let fly with wild almost heavy metal style roaring, and was a very apt title too, as by this point The Pits had well and truly killed the entire audience (in the most humane way possible...).

Stone Sun’s opening track had more hooks than Floyd Mayweather, not to mention knock out drums, and it’s swing and infectious groove was a great sign of what was to come (as was an improv jam while the lead singer dealt with a broken guitar string). ‘Memories’ made the four string bass sound like a five string, hailed back to the days of Tumbleweed (anyone else remember them? I hope so) and the short guitar solo was sweet icing on the cake. 
It was apparent by this point that the music of Stone Sun was most likely born out of basement jams, what with their radical riffs and great use of the effects pedals/distortion. A great take on the blues classic ‘Hey Joe’ (popularised of course by Hendrix) bought the house down, just before a touching yet rockin’ ballad about the singer’s wife melted many hearts. An extended instrumental intro opened up the last song ‘Zero Win’, which was about the hard slog of being in a band. But Stone Sun were such naturals and consummate professionals that didn’t make being in a band look like a hard task at all.

Thomas Macokatic, formerly the front man of The Karma Collective, has since formed a new band, called simply the Thomas Macokatic Band. There was nothing simple about the music though, absolutely nothing at all. ‘Under The Sun’ started off like a song channeling Crowded House, then evolved into Radiohead, with stellar guitar work from both guitarists, and the rhythm section sounding so soft and so mellow. The indie rock/pop flavour of the poignant ‘Kids’ was completely captivating, as was ‘Calling You’, which took the crowd on a musical journey. Thomas’ transition from electric guitar to acoustic was so smooth one could hardly notice it, on a song that was just as smooth, just before ‘Before You Go’, which was like Powderfinger, only so much better. From start to finish, the music of the Thomas Macokatic Band was hard to catergorise, but it was still enjoyable to try to put one’s finger on it. Imagine if you will, a set of music reminisant of early 90s alternative rock that could be performed perfectly by Jeff Buckley. Overall, the Thomas Macokatic Band were exceptionally talented, and Macokatic is one amazing songwriter, also providing mesmerising vocals over songs that were simply hypnotising.

Yesterday may’ve been Father’s Day, but Heat Four’s five bands made sure that this Sunday was a real mother... The competition as always was incredibly fierce, and the points awarded to each band incredibly tight. But two managed to come out on top, with those bands being The Pits and the Thomas Macokatic band. Big congrats to both bands, who now advance to our Semi Finals over the next two big weeks. Have we advanced to the Semi Finals already? It seems we have, as our four Heats are now done and dusted, and our first Semi Final is indeed next week. Make sure to join us then to see five of our ten Semi Finalists battle it out for their chance to get into the Grand Final (taking place on the 24th September). Also, be at the Stag & Hunter Hotel next week between 4pm and 8pm for your chance to win a $50 bar voucher, and to go into the running to win the brand new Fender Strat, which will be drawn at our Grand Final.
Oh, and as per usual, entry to the comp is absolutely free of charge, so see you at The Stag!

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