PASSPORT TO AIRLIE BATTLE OF THE BANDS COMPETITION- SEMI FINAL #1

Posted 11 September 2017 by Adz Carter
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I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, time flies when you’re having fun, so that’s probably how we’ve already made it to the first Semi Final of the Passport To Airlie Battle Of The Bands Competition. After four fantastic and fast weeks, five of the ten winners came together in this first of two Semi Finals, and as they’d all done in respective Heats, gave it their all, rocked their hearts out, and rock the crowd’s world! 

The Thomas Macokatic Band opened their set with a great mellow melody, before reaching a crescendo of fast paced rock rhythms with smooth bass lines. This set a brilliant tone for the rest of the performance, with flawless instrumentation all round, and fantastic solos within each song of guitar driven rock. ‘Kids’ was a perfect example of one of their songs to feature great riffs (not to mention a catchy melody and one hell of a beat), while ‘Calling You’ was like early Coldplay, but more guitar based with its garage rock outro, which followed beautiful harmonies from Thomas and the bass player. The second last song had a Jeff Buckley melody mixed with a mid to late 90s indie rock/Radiohead vocal style (Thom Yorke eat your heart out!), over the top of Led Zep-esque guitar, and blended seamlessly into the hauntingly beautiful ‘Before You Go’, which travelled over so many musical hills and hollows.
This set closer summed up the Thomas Macokatic band exceptionally well: Four musos who quickly became caught up and lost in their music, and took their very captive audience along with them.

Just as they did in Heat One, Arcades and Lions took to the stage with an almighty roar, thrashing their instruments around like no one’s business, during a Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds on speed opener. Also like they did in Heat One, Arcades and Lions tore through a set of songs with
 elements of both grunge and classic rock, and even 80s pop, but with a much harder edge. Great examples of this hard edge were the bass powered ‘Just To Get You High’, and ‘You Know’ which featured great vocal harmonies between the two guitarists, as well as great riffs bouncing off each other, followed by amazing solo after amazing solo. 
Another distinct highlight of this set was ‘Expectations’ a grandiose stadium rock style number, but without the pretentiousness. Not to say that there wasn’t lots of great rock n’ roll swagger throughout the entire Arcades and Lions set though, as these four young men were fantastic as f*ck and they knew it.

Like a crack of thunder, Boneman blasted onto the stage, taking the listener on a quick journey with an uplifting instrumental, mixing guitar, bass, and drums with violin. The dark bluesy ‘Walkin’ Times’ also took the listener on a ride, right down the road to the hard rocker ‘Sally Jane’, which sounded like guitar being played over a swinging rusty gate, and was just as jarring. This is not a criticism though, as just like with every song in this set, it was a jolt to the senses, and felt very real. ‘Dark Retreat’ a song seemingly in two parts, was less jarring though, starting off with a slow sweet melody, before retreating to Tex Perkins country. An even more inspiring song came in the form of the sets only cover, the post-apocalyptic tale ‘Morning Dew’, originally penned and performed by the Canadian folk singer/songwriter Bonnie Dobson, and popularised by The Grateful Dead. First released in the early 60s, the song’s lyrics about the threat of nuclear war made it a timeless tale, and were done justice here by the band, as they took the song in a slight Led Zep direction. Despite not having a traditional rock n’ roll sound, Boneman had a traditional rock n’ roll attitude, captured amazingly well in the delivery of every song. There was also an unexplainable charisma attached to this band, making it all about sex and violins... (Okay, so there was only one violin, but you get the point...).

A sweet instrumental jam lead into Diplazar’s opening number ‘Remember My Name’, which not only captured 80s and 90s rock/pop, but bucketful’s of energy too. This energy seemed to be contagious, as by the second song, Diplazar had people dancing their preverbials off to some bluesy funk like that of James Brown. More old school sounds and high energy came along with the 60s pop of ‘Someone New’, which not only had people on their feet, but had many people singing along too. Considering that some knew the songs well enough to sing along, it seems that Diplazar had definitely bought some fans with them, and it wasn’t hard to see why people would flock to their shows. Many of their songs had a familiar feel, like staples of commercial radio. This was especially true of the extremely funky ‘Down Town’, which was absolutely impossible to keep still during, and made for one hell of a cardio workout! No two Diplazar songs sounded the same, as the band transcended many genres in their set, and sometimes transcended them in one song along. The set’s closer ‘Rough Patch’, had a melancholy intro, but raised the tempo soon enough to match the previous bouncy number. Forget your shitty night clubs, this was where the REAL dance music was!

Powerhouse trio Reo Fenders made their triumphant return to the Passport To Airlie stage, and just as they did in Heat Two, gave all a very thorough tutorial on the blues. The opening number had the lead singer and guitarist boast gritty vocals and Stevie Ray Vaughn style solos, then by the second song, he’d established himself as a player in a league of his own. The raw dirty blues of the third song was juxtaposed wonderfully with some incredible blues/funk, like that of Hendrix jamming with Stevie Wonder. This blended brilliantly with the ZZ Top style fifth number, which also combined Eric Clapton/Cream-esque riffs, and was peppered with even more magnificent solos.
 ‘Stab Song’ was a welcome return to this set, as, just like it did the first time around, ‘Stab Song’ hit the jugular of all of the audience. More blues based guitar rock followed, just before the funk swing of ‘Gravy Train’ brought this blues train into the station. This last funky number really gave the oh so rhythmic rhythm section their time to shine, and while Reo Fenders may put a lot of emphasise on guitar, this three piece are still of course the sum of all parts. Each and every song contained great grooves courtesy of the bass player and drummer, providing a super strong backbone while the guitarist played like an absolute demon.

As entertaining and brilliant as band comps like this always are, the devil is in the detail as usual, as not everyone can come out on top. The winners of this first Semi Final however, were the Thomas Macokatic Band, and Diplazar. Big congratulations to both bands, and I look forward to seeing you both at the Grand Final, taking place in just two weeks’ time. We also look forward to seeing you at the Grand Final, but in the meantime, we still have one more Semi Final to go. Who will go on to join Thomas Macokatic Band and Diplazar in the Grand Final? Who knows, as with so much top talent in this high caliber comp, it really is anyone’s game. So join us next week at the Stag & Hunter Hotel (between 4pm-8pm) for Semi Final #2 to see another five fantastic bands battle it out for their place in the Grand Final. As always, entry to the comp is completely free, and with any drink purchase you could find yourself picking up a $50 bar voucher. Also, just by spending $5 or more, you go into the draw to win a brand new Fender Strat (worth $1300), drawn at the Grand Final!
What more incentive could you possibly need?!
See you at The Stag!

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