By: Gilbert Potts
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Northcote Social Club | March 8, 2015
It’s been a couple of years since Sheffield instrumental rock quartet 65daysofstatic made their first visit to Australia. Back in the country for the Adelaide Festival of Arts, they added some dates to play not only tracks from most recent release Wild Light, but an additional set consisting of their debut album The Fall of Math in full. This is what they had performed at a handful of shows in Europe and the UK last year to mark the tenth anniversary of the release of FoM, and the prospect was pretty tasty (I think my friend Nick may have actually wet himself a little).
Melbourne’s Labour Day long weekend was sorted music-wise, with two consecutive dates and support from Perth’s Tangled Thoughts of Leaving and from The Red Paintings, here from Los Angeles to support Mogwai in Adelaide. The bands all played a different set each night, although that wasn’t the original intention for 65dos, but more on that later.
I’m not always a fan of acoustic sets, particularly for complex layered music like that of The Red Paintings, but the minimalist version with Trash McSweeny singing on guitar and Alix Kol providing violin, worked superbly. Somehow the pair captured the power and intensity of songs like ‘The Revolution is Never Coming’ without drums, bass, electric guitar and cello. These are songs from the heart and Trash sings with bags of emotion which is probably the key to retaining that anger and despair so evident with the full line-up. That a violin can convey such a breadth of emotion was the other reason the songs on both nights worked so well. Sunday saw a trademark human canvas and body painter (who was in fact Micci from visiting Japanese band Vampilla) as well as an artist off stage, painting in response to the music. Trash and Alix were in full costume both, which I hadn’t expected, although deep down I’d like to think that’s how Trash dresses as he walks around LA. Both nights they played great opening sets, but it was still very much a teaser and I so much want to see the full show again. Fingers crossed.
I’d seen Tangled Thoughts of Leaving four or five times before and they sound better each time. Their jazz-heavy incarnation of piano-led instrumental rock translates powerfully onto the stage, and each time there’s some new twist or a change to the intro of a song. What doesn’t change is the passion, energy and commitment that explodes on stage each time as they hammer home their driving rhythms, while off-beat melodies and flourishes are shared between the four of them. Each of the two nights sees a mix of older and new, but it’s the tracks from 2011’s Deaden the Fields that really showcase their impressive compositional and technical skills, having been massaged and matured into some of the best music of the scene. A European tour and dunk! festival are imminent, where I have absolutely no doubt they will get the reception they so highly deserve.
Quick turnarounds saw the headliners starting on time and hit the ground running. Well, not so much running as with a wall of samples and keys with ‘Another Code’ (I’m not going to use full titles) and the delicate intro to ‘Arabic’ before its intense crescendo and explosion of guitar.
As the crowd showed their appreciation, Joe Shrewsbury said hello and explained they would be playing The Fall of Math from end to end, and although it looked good on paper, half way through you got the feeling 65dos were not entirely happy with how it was all going, and not just because of the remnants of jetlag. Having peaked very early with ‘Retreat! Retreat!’ after only six minutes, and ‘I Swallowed Hard’ barely two minutes later, the set got a little introverted and angst-filled around the title track and ‘This Cat is a Landmine’, before ‘Hole’ lifted the tempo and spirits again. The fact the sound setup wasn’t coping that well with the dynamics and range of inputs didn’t help much, and we were facing the bizarre situation of brilliant, well-loved songs played with great skill, but the whole thing not quite working as a live 65dos show. I imagine it would have been a different story if they were playing Hamer Hall, but they weren’t.
After the break it was on to Wild Light, and this did work well as a whole album. The night was brought home with a couple of old favourites, ‘Debutante’ and the incomparable ‘Radio Protector’. It had been a great night and a friend of a friend, Chris, who had heard very little of the band before coming along that night found it hard to believe something as impressive as FoM could have been a band’s debut album, and Nick was happy as, so it’s likely my response was not shared by everyone.
In any case the band ditched the idea overnight and returned on Monday with a set that felt very different, even though it only involved replacing four FoM songs (‘Another Code’, ‘Default This’, ‘Fall of Math’ and ‘Landmine’) with two from We Were Exploding Anyway (‘Crash Tactics’ and ‘Weak 4’), and shuffling the order. It was a longer set too, and they played without a break this time. After opening with ‘Heat Death Infinity Splinter’ Joe welcomed the crowd (a smaller one from the night before) and told us they had changed the set and why, but offered that if anyone was terribly upset by the change they could come up to the changing rooms later and he would hum FoM it to them. I immediately turned to Nick who gave me the “guilty as charged” look as he contemplated taking the offer up, but in the end it didn’t come to that.
Joe was more chatty on stage, more relaxed. He teased a couple of punters who were ducking out of the room, had a go at his guitar tech (who played additional guitar on a couple of songs), spoke about magpies and stealing biscuits from hotels, and found a couple of other chances to drum up a laugh from the crowd. It seemed he’d freed himself of a yoke of their own creation.
It’s amazing that a band who creates songs that can be so sad and despairing can bring them to the stage and have you dancing and grinning from ear to ear. A guy just off stage left was giving the airdrums one hell of a workout from start to finish, absolutely under their spell and he wasn’t the only one who’d found a little more room that night to get lost in the music. ‘I Swallowed Hard’ was explosive and its position in the set was far more effective, this time following the gorgeous ‘Sleepwalk City’. ‘Retreat! Retreat!’ returned to where it feels best – near the end after around 80 minutes. This was followed by ‘Radio Protector’ and they closed the massive set with ‘Safe Passage’.
That Monday night we experienced three great bands including 100-odd minutes form 65daysofstatic and a real feeling of joy in the room, despite the end of the world being a common theme. Those who were there on Sunday still got three great bands and 20 brilliant songs from 65dos, and bragging rights for years to come that you were at one of only a handful of straight-through live performances of The Fall of Math (only one in Australia). For those there on both nights, well that was like taking both the red and the blue pill.