Back You are here: Home Reviews Live Review: EMPERORS, Tape/Off, Waax @ The Waiting Room 15.08.14

Live Review: EMPERORS, Tape/Off, Waax @ The Waiting Room 15.08.14

The venue is very small, and I’m told “sold-out” means about fifty people.  A little drum riser comprises an otherwise minimal floor-level stage, with fairy lights hanging from a low roof to set the scene. The Waiting Room has literally been converted from a suburban West End house to a live venue. During the day it doubles as a café, and it's BYO so the fridge and ready-made Esky are already brimming with ice and beer.  Beverages are immediately offered on entry, by the headlining band no less, which is a refreshing change from many ‘conventional’ venues where the norm is to elbow your way to refreshment. It's a good thing the bands appear to be sharing backline as there's no space for multiple speaker stacks or drum shells.

First off are punk inspired rock n rollers Waax. Singer Marie oozes primal attitude and mad energy with vocals that soar over a heady post-rock rhythm section. Her vibrato is world class, a raucous voice box landing midway between Karen O, Brodie Dalle, and Joan Jett. She leans against a keyboard while twin guitars speak in distorted melody to each other across the stage, riding sonic waves into a solid and constantly shifting sea of bass and drums. Waax could be at home on any big stage of the 60s, 70s or today. The opening crowd is transfixed by a clearly blues influenced punk rock sound and it isn't hard to see why. Waax have garage grunt and a lo-fi feel, yet their projection is loud and polished, and engaging. A clear winner over many of their Brisbane rock-roll contemporaries.

Following on from Waax are Tape/Off, immediately heavy, bass driven, and for want of better terminology, loud. The sound is dirty as hell, an immediate reminder of Kyuss. I can’t work out what pedals frontman Nathan Pickels is using but I want them and the Soho-esque angst hidden behind his blonde, bearded smile. Every instrument roars, an air of menace weaving its way into a huge grunge-rock wall of rhythm. There's a hint of melancholy, catharsis and hope in the dirt of the sound as trance-like Pickels repeats "I'll try anything" to his audience. Tape Off leave no room for more sound, they're full to the brim and it's all beats and distortion. Midway through their set drummer Branko Cosic comes to the fore, showing off some impressive chops well worthy of this or any professional band. For the grunge lover, this band would be Nirvana, no pun intended. Their set ends with a total wall of noise, apt for the genre.

Headlining act Emperors hail from Perth and they've travelled a long way to bring a 90s inspired punk-grunge sound to Brisbane. They’re tangibly different to the preceding acts commanding immediate comparison to The Breeders, Jebediah, and Dinosaur Jnr. Guitarist Adam Livingston and bassist Zoe Worral-James share vocal harmonies over hook-laden melodies to create a catchy sound that's immediately accessible and enjoyable. This is radio friendly rock that teenagers in the late 90s would have loved, and very likely will again. Emperors possess a tightness that's palpable and in keeping with the theme of the evening, they boast a sound that while artfully contained, could easily outgrow the venue. "This is the first time we've been here...and if f***ing rules....we're probably the most uncool band to play the coolest venue" says Zoe, epitomising the bands’ humble punk ethic. I'm surprised the crowd isn't jumping, but then I remember the wooden floorboards and the size of the sold-out room we're sharing. Despite this, they cry “ready when I say go” and the room is definitely ready for more. Sadly it’s the last song of the show, and it’s time to say goodbye to a crowd-pleasing mix of Australian and American punk rock n roll. Emperors offered a decidedly enjoyable end to an entertaining evening.

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