Posted 21 August 2017 by Adz Carter
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With the Passport To Airlie Battle Of The Bands Competition now up to Heat Two, this event is definitely in full swing. Five bands took part in this Battle Of The Bands yesterday, and during this Battle, all five bands came out swinging (and it was soon apparent that “swing” was going to be an operative word...).

Beatle-esque four piece Autumn Hearts got things underway in a very upbeat and positive way with the Hoodoo Gurus style ‘Things Happen For A Reason’, which made great use of the wah wah peddle. By the second song, ‘What Have You Done With Your Life’, Autumn Hearts showed that not only did they specialise in upbeat melodies, but infectious ones as well. Then what followed was a fantastic psychedelic number like a lot of late 60s pop, with the same sort of vocal harmonies used by bands like The Turtles and The Byrds. 
The two guitarists didn’t just use their mics for singing though, as there was lots of witty banter between songs, making Autumn Hearts seem like absolute naturals on the stage. ‘Parachute’ also encapsulated some more great vocal harmonies between the two guitarists, as they were backed up beautifully by the bass player and drummer. While the last song, ‘Train’, had vocal harmonies reminisant of tracks off The Beatles albums ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Revolver’, and perfectly summed up a set of good ol’ fashioned guitar driven rock.

Bluesy funk trio The Reo Fenders kept things movin’ (and groovin’) at a smooth and steady pace, boasting raspy blues vocals, great riffs and solos, chunky funky bass, and oh so precise drumming. Said drumming was proven straight away with ‘The Ciggy Song’, which featured wipeout style drums backing up some sensational surf style rock. ‘The Stab Song’, containing some great blues jams, was not a song about stabbing someone, but could very well have been about stabbing the listeners in the ears with some killer riffs that incorporated distortion to great effect. 
Not enough can be said about this extremely talented guitarist, but the rhythm section couldn’t be faulted either, as the pounding of the drums and the thick groove of the bass showed that The Reo Fenders are the sum of all parts. All three of these musos make up one incredibly tight band, the style of which was captured oh so well in the blues swing of the last song, which was just as catchy as the common cold.

Alt rock trio Elise’s Vendetta came onto the stage loud and proud, with lots of punk style, attitude, and energy. This was a classic era Nirvana style three piece (i.e., a vocalist/guitarist, bass player, and drummer), and, just like Nirvana, there was lots of angst in the vocal delivery, and dare I say, plenty of teen spirit. What set Elise’s Vendetta apart from many bands like Nirvana (and tons of shoe-gazer rock bands that they spawned,) though, was their mix of great grungy/rock riffs and booming drums juxtaposed with soft and slow melodies, and silky smooth bass lines. 
As this entire set of originals was a delight, there was no distinct highlight. However, an instrumental jam that showed shades of Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and even Franz Ferdinand, was rather noteworthy, as it seemed to expose the bands influences for all to hear and revel in. This talented trio closed with some post grunge/indie rock like that of Filter, giving further testimony to the fact that rock not only survived the death of Kurt Cobain, but is alive and well, and living on in the hearts and hands of bands like Elise’s Vendetta.

Diplazar were yet another band to come out swingin’, going along with the day’s trend of swingin’ grooves and infectious blues. During the upbeat pop of songs like ‘Someone New’ and ‘Remember My Name’ everyone in the audience was, at the very least, tapping their feet, as it was impossible to keep still while this band were doin’ their thing.
‘Down Town’, a song about “going out and partying and having some fun”, sounded like Cat Empire and Chili Peppers jamming together, with almost rap style vocals in the verses, lots of five string bass in ya face, and an all-round fun funky delivery that made the song sound just as enjoyable as its subject matter. 
In stark contrast, the song ‘Young and Old’ told a story “about a girl” (don’t they all?) with a rise-fall-rise tempo, which seemed to serve as quite a metaphor for many relationships. This song was just one of the highlights from a sensational set of original songs that were part funk, part blues, part Powderfinger, part Whitlams, and all Diplazar. All this from a band so young it seemed that they had no right to be able to play so well, and even more impressive still was the fact that this was only Diplazar’s fifth gig!

Within 30 seconds of their opening song, Big On Tangents showed that they were also big on sound, big on good vibes, and big on Jamaica. There was a reggae feel right throughout all original set, but with a twist, as The Police-esque opening song (with the bass player/singer displaying Sting-esque vocals) was a great sign of what was to come. There were more amazing rock/roots/reggae sounds during the second number, which saw the guitarist take over on vocals, while the bass guitarist provided backup vocals, and the drummer (local legend and musical all-rounder Justin Ngariki) kept the oh so sweet beat. One standout of this extremely engaging set was ‘What Pedals’ (a song about the American nuclear arms race in the 50s and 60s), which, despite the dark subject matter, had a fun feel to it, and had a number of dancers flock to the front of the stage almost immediately. 
More dub/reggae followed in the next song, with the bass player providing smooth dub/reggae vocals that sounded so spot on they were just plain errie coming from a white guy. Great solos also carried the song (and of course the entire set), which danced around the bass and drums that really put the “rhythm” in rhythm section. These three musos gelled amazingly well together, perhaps proven the most during the incredible instrumental outro that was the icing of the cake of this all original set, with refreshingly familiar flavours.

I mightn’t have had any cake for my birthday yesterday, but my celebration was nonetheless very sweet. Getting to see five of Newcastle’s finest bands on a Sunday afternoon? Well, I could certainly think of worse ways to spend one’s birthday, especially when all the bands were so damn talented. Unfortunately, not all bands could be winners, but the two bands that did make it through to the first of the two Semi Finals were The Reo Fenders and Diplazar. Congratulations to both bands, and I look forward to seeing you both again next month in the first Semi Final.


So who will be joining them in the Semi Finals (as well as Arcades and Lions and Bravo Victor from Heat One)? Who knows, as once again they’ll be another five amazing acts competing this Sunday from 4pm – 8pm at the Stag & Hunter Hotel. Entry is of course free, and five live acts for free sounds like a pretty darn good deal to me. Also, purchase any drink at the bar, and you could win a $50 bar tab to use at the bar or bistro. Plus, any drink purchase sees you go into the running to win a three day festival pass for the Airlie Beach Festival of Music! Oh, and if that wasn’t good enough, make any purchase of $5 or more and you could also win the brand new Fender Strat drawn at the Grand Final!
So this Sunday afternoon, why would you want to be anywhere else?...

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