Real Estate + Feathers @ The Zoo, 13.03.2012

Running late again, I get to The Zoo twenty minutes after Tight Slip are due to start but with still another ten minutes left of their set. I can hear them playing as I walk up to the venue’s front door, but in the time it takes to walk up the stairs, get my hand stamp and walk into the room, not only have they finished playing but they’re already onto dismantling the drum kit and loading out. To begin with I assume that the band only played a really short set (despite being advertised to be playing from 8 to 8:30) but as the night goes on I start to think that all the bands are just playing earlier than listed.

One of the great joys of going out regularly and seeing live music in the town where you live is watching bands how bands you like progress over time. I first saw Feathers play as in their original three piece incarnation with Andrea on drums, when they were raw and sparse. I’ve seen them a fair number of times since around town, including the second incarnation of the three-piece and what I think was their first show with current drummer Susan at the Step Inn, which probably wasn’t their greatest show and what you might expect when you get in a new drummer and they’re not as familiar with the songs as they would be with more time. Somewhere along the line the band became a four-piece, with a bassist Innez Tulloch being added to the line-up and Michelle moving to guitar, and the last few times I’ve seen them it’s been a four-piece. It’s made a massive difference to the sound, with it having become a lot more lush and less sparse than it used to be. Having two guitars, as well as an extra voice has really filled the sound out and the band sound so much better for it. It’s the classic punk/post-punk situation; the post-punk bands that evolved out of the punk scene were a lot more interesting when they’d had a couple more years experience of playing their instruments and had also improved their song writing. Feathers are really impressive tonight and although they’ve been on the scene for a few years, they’ve become one of Brisbane’s bands to keep an eye on. I still think that their weakest point is their cover of the Stones’ Play With Fire, but have thought that for a while.  It’s always a good sign (if you ask me) when the weakest song in a set is the cover.

In noticing how good Feathers sound I start to wonder if there’s a new sound system at The Zoo as everyone (even all the support bands) has sounded so good at the recent gigs I’ve seen here. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been to too many shows at Woodland and The Hi-Fi in recent times.

It might be a Tuesday night, but there are at least twice as many people here for Real Estate as there had been for Wild Flag on Sunday night. There’s so many beards tonight that I’m feeling in a minority by not having one. It also seems like there’s about a 90:10 split between males and females but maybe my observations on the crowd are being unduly influenced by so many beards in one room.

Real Estate start 15 mins early which makes me think whether everyone did, having missed all of Tight Slip despite being there in time to catch the last ten minutes of their set, and with Feathers also seeming to have played outside of their advertised time slot? The alternative is that Real Estate just wasnt to get on with it and get it over. It’s hard to to consider this when there’s nothing in the way of between song banter other then telling us it’s their last Australian show and mentioning a few times that they’ve got a couple of song left.

When the band first start, it all seems a bit indie scmindie but as the set grow they really warm to me. Even so I’m, not sure if this is the right environment to see them in. It’s warm, summer evening music for relaxing to, not quite background music but on its way, it’s slow driving music, windows rolled down. It doesn’t have quite the same effect standing in a hot and dark room staring at four guys on a stage who are are doing their best to not really be bothered about the whole occasion. Every review I’ve seen of them has used the word ‘jangly’ but I wouldn’t say it it is really. Maybe slightly but it’s nowhere near the jangly indie pop I grew up with the 1980s and the Byrds-influenced bands of the period, it’s a lot more psychedelic that that courtesy of a combination of chorus-ed and flanged/(or phased) guitars (I could never work out what the real differences were between a Phaser and a Flanger other than it sounded like a more subtle effect from the flanger).

They’re not the most exciting of bands to photograph as they’re just not the most visual of bands, even though collectively they’ve got the whole hipster look sorted between them; from short and sensible, preppy style haircuts, big glasses, the shorts and deck shoes combo, too short trousers, striped t-shirts and the bassist has the obligatory beard. On top of that, the singer looks a bit like Bill Gates. Within about a song and a half I think I’ve got enough photos, although before leaving I take a few from the top of the stairs for a change. I think I’ve probably a bit spoilt from having seen St Vincent and Wild Flag in the last few days, with the Wild Flag show in this same room really being a performance to saviour, but it’s not the worst way to spend a Tuesday night.

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