I had it in my diary that Keep On Dancin’s were playing tonight but it wasn’t until the day of the gig that Facebook showed a four band show. Keep On Dancin’s launching a cassette single, while the two bands ahead of them on the bill, Adelaide’s Rule of Thirds and Brisbane’s Occults were both launching 7” singles.
It’s an eclectic bill, not quite a bill of two halves, more like a bill in three acts. Screaming Match start with post-punk, Keep On Dancin’s bring their 60’s influenced reverb and the two final acts of the night both play a style that could lazily be described as almost Goth. It’s too Goth for me, at least, the first two bands being the night’s highlight.
There was a time, not too long ago, when the lighting at Black Bear Lodge took a turn for the better, but tonight it’s as bad as it ever was, so bad that once again I’m forced into using the f1.7 50mm lens. Twice in a week, it’s almost becoming a habit. Even with its low light advantages, I still have to use ISO 2000 and shutter speeds of 1/20 to 1/30 for the most part.
Although I’ve seen some video clips, this is my first time seeing Screaming Match. Drea announces that it’s the band’s fifth show, although I’m not sure if this is an exact truth or a rough approximation of just how new a band they are. Sometimes you see local bands that restores your confidence in the local scene, that not every band is trotting out the same tired landfill indie and who’s main career goal is to follow up some triple j airplay with a sync deal to use their songs in a teen drama or for a sporting highlights montage. They’re not the finished item, a couple of the songs in their set aren’t as strong as the others, but you can definitely believe the hype about Screaming Match.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years I’ve spent in Brisbane is how risk averse the Australian music industry is. It’s something that I think has become worse with the introduction of triple j Unearthed, with the industry now looking like they want acts to do the hard yards themselves and waiting to see if there’s any cross over from Unearthed to triple j proper before becoming interested in them. The process takes years, from observation it’s often 4 or 5 years before people actually start taking serious notice of you. In the UK and the US, a band can go from forming, to recording an album to playing the stages of the world and all the big international festivals within 18 months.
As I’ve argued on countless occasions on this blog, the big festivals have continually shown themselves to be risk averse, the same acts forming the local content at festival-after-festival, bands recycled time and time again. When you have Australian acts into double figures in terms of festival appearances in any one festival season, something is wrong.
And of course the mainstream music media just falls into line behind the industry. Things have changed since the 1990s, but if this was the UK, and if Screaming Match were a British band, a NME or a Melody Maker would have be fighting over declaring a band like them “The Best New Band in Britain”. I couldn’t even see Time Off or any of the local street press ever doing anything like that for a local Brisbane act, let alone anything like the now defunct triple j magazine or Rolling Stone. No Australian media is ever going to put a really new band on the front cover and make any bold proclamations about how good they are. No band makes the front cover in Australia until they’re well established and connected to all the right people.
It’s not just that there’s a chronic lack of criticism in the Australian music media (and 99 times out of a hundred, any bad review is going to be of an overseas act), but there’s no trumpet blowing. There are some good bands in Brisbane, in Australia in general, some eventually do make it to the big time, the front covers, the big festivals, the overseas touring but they’re made to go through the same process, essentially “pay their dues”, before the industry will accept them. More often than not, the difference between a good band that makes it and a good band that doesn’t is who they’re connected to, who’s on their “team”. It’s more than evident in Queensland, where all Brisbane bands are created equal except some are more equal than others.
They might be new, they might only have a handful of shows under their belt and a short set of songs to play, but Screaming Match are a revelation. They are the best new band in Brisbane.
(Of course having drafted this on the train journey to work this morning, a couple of hours later Mess+Noise proclaim Oogas Boogas as “The Best Band In The World”, so what do I know)