Back You are here: Home Reviews Live Review: Keep On Dancin's, Martyr Privates & Roku Music @ Black Bear Lodge 15.11.13

Live Review: Keep On Dancin's, Martyr Privates & Roku Music @ Black Bear Lodge 15.11.13

I arrived just on time for Keep On Dancin’s single launch at Black Bear Lodge, even though it was a painfully early 8pm start, but I didn’t want to miss any of the line-up.

Keep On Dancin’s had some superb support for their show, including Roku Music and Martyr Privates – a testament to the quality of their own music. Like many bands in the Brisbane music scene at the moment these three all exhibit nineties influences, but of a much more sophisticated variety than many of the other young bands riding on the coattails of the success of nineties-grunge-popsters like Go Violets.

Roku Music present the most pronounced nineties lo-fi sound of all three, practically deluging and drowning Black Bear Lodge with their ambient and moody sound. I am immediately hauled into some kind of tranquil reverie that I do not emerge from until they finish their set. This is the immense power of Roku Music; they are not background music and they are not a fun distraction. Their sound is transportive and it takes me to a place I am only too keen to stay in.  Although their shoegazing sound has been done in the past by nineties icons like My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Dandy Warhols, nobody in Brisbane is doing it now and certainly not as well as Roku Music.

Roku Music play the kind of songs that demand everything from the audience to fully appreciate what they are doing. If you expect to go to a gig for Roku Music and have a chat with your friend as they play you will miss everything and likely be confused as to why I am praising their sound. What makes Roku Music great is all the little things each member is doing to create their mighty sound - thus is the essence of noise-rock. If you’re not listening closely enough it will just sound like noise. But if you relax into the music and give it the attention it deserves, its full power will become apparent.

Unfortunately with Roku Music’s live set, the drums overwhelm the vocals a little too much, even if the vocals are meant to be somewhat subdued; it gets to the point where I can barely hear any vocals at all. Indeed, when Jody Gleeson and Inez Tulloch sing together it is impossible to distinguish who is singing what or what they are even singing, but this is the point of shoegaze and noise-rock. It is about the final culmination of sound – not the individual parts. And the end result is certainly a remarkable one.

Roku Music are a tough act to follow, but Martyr Privates do a good job even if their sound cannot not quite match the intensity of Roku Music. Martyr Privates are more fun, another grungy neo-nineties group, but more Brian Jonestown Massacre than My Bloody Valentine. Their sound boasts repetitious and melodious riffs with not quite as much reverb as Roku Music, but enough that they feel like a logical follow-up act. The energy of Martyr Privates is completely different from Roku Music too. Whilst Roku Music stand back and let the music speak for itself, Martyr Privates take charge of the stage with an exhilarating live performance.

Things calm down with Keep On Dancin’s melodious and dreamy set, but are no less intense. Indeed, their set instils a sense of catharsis in me by the time they finish, having confronted so many complex emotions with songs that recall heartbreak, loneliness and betrayal. When the band start playing it finally clicks into my head why Black Bear Lodge feels like the perfect place for these guys to play. With a red curtain providing a backdrop for the band as they take the stage I am instantly reminded of that iconic scene from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks where Dale Cooper has a very important dream.

For the uninformed, Twin Peaks is a cult mystery television series from the eighties set in a small, northern-American town.  The woodland décor of Black Bear Lodge perfectly evokes the atmosphere of the series, as does the dramatic red curtains on stage. What is even more evocative of Twin Peaks, however, is Keep On Dancin’s sound. With their intoxicating reverb-laced guitar and Jacinta Walker’s silky vocals there is no other image I can recall but that of Twin Peaks and its famous theme song. The Twin Peaks comparison is most wonderfully demonstrated when the band plays the melancholic ‘Baby’, one of their most recent releases.

The energy on stage is balanced, with the band maintaining a sense of poise that matches the elegance of their songs, with tambourine player Tegan Rickards facing her back to the audience for most of the set. But this is not alienating for the audience; the band’s standoffish presence contributes to the intensity of the set - anything else would overwhelm the poignancy of their songs. Unfortunately, some of the audience do not quite ‘get’ Keep On Dancin’s reserved live set, namely, a group of girls that dance around in front of the band, attempting to mimic them and make fun of them, an unbelievably rude act I would have never thought I would see at a Keep On Dancin’s gig. Perhaps this is why a band as great as Keep On Dancin’s are not headlining larger venues and selling out their shows – people like these girls exist and unfortunately, they are in the majority.

Keep On Dancin’s are music for grown-ups. Like Roku Music, the power of their sound comes from their simplicity and not from an energetic stage presence. It requires that the audience listens and lets the band transport them into a state of mind that is like having a beautiful dream and terrible nightmare all at once. I guess Brisbane just isn’t ready for music giants like Keep On Dancin’s.

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