Since the release of their debut album The Rhapsody Tapes, Melbourne’s Ocean Grove have been on a rampage. Selling out venues like The Corner, and touring with bands such as Architects, Limp Bizkit, Crossfaith, and The Amity Affliction, the last two and a half years has been a wild ride. This all looked to be in jeopardy earlier this year, as it was announced that vocalist Luke Holmes and guitarist Jimmy Hall would be departing the band.
They had been there from the start, and them leaving was a massive deal. Ocean Grove played their final set with Luke and Jimmy at Unify The Gathering 2019 but were insistent that this was the beginning of a brand new chapter for OG. Bass player and clean vocalist Dale Tanner would proceed to step up to become their frontman, while former member of The Beverly Chills, Twiggy Hunter, would join the band to play bass. Having only completed a tour with Hands Like Houses with this new lineup (that I was unable to attend), I was excited to see how this new lineup would work for the band. So when they announced the Ask For The Anthem Tour I couldn’t wait to check them out.
Opening the show was recent UNFD signing, Sleep Talk. A few weeks off the release of their debut album Everything In Colour, they clearly had something to prove. People flowed in more as the set continued, as they played their popular songs “Slowfade”, “If I Die”, and “The Sun”. The drummer was a highlight of the set, as the extra spice he put on their songs with extra fills, and by mixing up the beat, made everything so much more interesting. They ended their set with “Everything In Colour”, and received a joyful reaction from the audience, who appeared to enjoy themselves.
Next up was Melbourne rockers Public High. A new act for me, their dose of powerful rock was an interesting change of pace for the show. Their riff-heavy songs involved a whole lot of dancing and hair swinging and rounded out with catchy verses and choruses that planted a smile on the face of everyone watching. The vocalist was armed with a powerful sense of stage presence (and a powerful head of hair) and did not disappoint as he marched around the stage and unleashed his passionate vocals. They made sure everyone was good and warm for Ocean Grove.
The penultimate act of the night was the punk rock trio from Queensland, Something Something Explosion. Their classic punk sound was also an interesting addition to the bill and continues the sense of musical genre diversity that has been present throughout every support act so far. Moving around the stage as they played and making sure the crowd was awake, their high energy performance demonstrated just how coherent they are at playing their music. The pace changed dramatically however, when towards the end of their set the bass player left the stage, and the main vocalist/guitarist and the drummer performed their rendition of the popular Slipknot song “Snuff”. This was the chance for vocalist Grace Drummond to show her stuff, as her incredible vocal range tore Howler a new one. Hitting the high notes and absolutely nailing the cover, she did the song every ounce of justice she could have done, and had the crowd up in arms in support of this. Producing a gigantic amount of applause of cheering, this version of “Snuff” is something I am dying to hear again. They finished their set with bass player Daimon joining them back on stage, as they smashed through their final few minutes of goddamn good punk rock.
The room filled quickly as Ocean Grove were about to begin, and there was a noticeable buzz of excitement running through the room. The members made their way onto the stage as they began to play “Ask For The Anthem”. Dale was the last one to enter and immediately dived into the crowd. His charisma is immediately noticeable. His mesmerizing vocals, quirky stage attire (a checkered cropped jacket, a Black Flag shirt, and a kilt), and incredible stage presence make it impossible to be looking anywhere else. Massive singalongs and dancing are already a mainstay from the enthusiastic audience, and is unrelenting as they play through “Glass Gloss” and “Intimate Alien”. Standing still is impossible, and the big smile on Dale’s face makes sure there is a matching one on everyone watching.
The lineup change is unnoticeable, and if anything, they sound better than they have in the past. “Mr Centipede” has been a favorite of mine since the release of The Rhapsody Tapes, and seeing it performed at its peak was an absolute treat. And goddamn if that riff after the chorus doesn’t get me going every time I hear it!
Dedicating this one to the oddballs and the weirdos, “The Wrong Way”, is met with an orchestra of supporting vocals from the audience. You can tell how special this show is to everyone involved. Dale proceeds to mention the importance of this tour and this show in particular and says how cool it is to have everyone here that is still with them. This leads into a cover of “My People” by The Presets. The thought of how well this song matches the OG vibe had never crossed my mind, but now I was seeing it, it made perfect sense. Dale continued to dance all around the stage, spinning and twirling his way through the bass-heavy track. Making sure that the aforementioned smile is still present, he climbs the side of the stage and just about hangs off the ceiling as he finishes the song.
“Slow Soap Soak” gets everyone bouncing and covered in beer, and leads into a brand-new song. Bouncy and atmospheric, it appears to be a cool take on the new OG sound. Twiggy features heavily in backing vocals, and oh boy I can’t wait for this to be released. Another one of my favorites “Thunderdome” features loud singalongs and a whole lot of movement from the crowd. It has been so good hearing Dale’s renditions of these songs. He adds his own flavor to each of them, and it makes Ocean Grove sound better than ever. This takes them off stage for about a minute as they are immediately met with chants of “WE WANT TWIGGY”. A change up from the traditional “ONE MORE SONG” it is a humorous change of pace. Returning to the stage, Dale says that this will be their last song, and promises that there is new music coming in a matter of months. “Stratosphere Love” closes the night, and puts the full stop on the best Ocean Grove set I have ever seen.
Check out the slideshow below for images from the Ocean Grove show:
All photos by Albert LaMontagne. Copyright 2019 Albert LaMontagne / Sound the Sirens Magazine. Please do not use or distribute these images without the permission of Albert LaMontagne. If you use these images without permission, you are a terrible person.
Berwanger – Watching a Garden Die
Josh Berwanger continues to evolve as a songwriter
At the height of Vagrant Records’ early success in the late 90s, the label was buoyed by the incredible draw of their two biggest names- The Get Up Kids and Saves the Day. And while those two bands took a chunk of the notoriety, there were plenty of great bands that called the label home. One of those bands was The Anniversary. The Lawrence, Kansas band shared musical similarities with both TGUK and Saves the Day, but were unafraid to branch off into slightly more synthesised terrain that gave their songs an added element. Coupled with their super easy to digest harmonies and fantastic male/female vocals, songs like “The D in Detroit” still has a place in countless “favorite playlists” all these years later.
Since their initial break-up, guitarist and vocalist Josh Berwanger has been busy writing and recording a bevy of music under the moniker Berwanger. His recent discography is a talented kaleidoscope of songs that traverse genres from folk and indie, to more rock and straight forward singer/songwriter fare. There was plenty to like on his 2016 album Exorcism Rock, an album that delved into a little bit of psychedelia and fuzzed out indie rock. His 2017 album And the Star Invaders saw a gradual move away from the more electrified to the imaginative kind of singer/songwriter we’ve seen from the likes of Devendra Banhart. True to form, Berwanger continues to evolve as a songwriter, and his latest, Watching A Garden Die, is the next chapter in his thriving songwriter cabinet.
The gloomily titled record is mostly upbeat and diverse. While he may have shown a kinship to indie/folk songwriting of the Banharts and Obersts of the world previously, Watching a Garden Die features the kind of seasoned and more classic toned work you’d find on a Crosby, Stills & Nash record, or even a Paul Simon record. Songs like the softly, almost whispered “Even the Darkness Doesn’t Know”, and quietly moody, introspective “Paper Blues” (until that electric guitar solo hits) harks back to a time long ago of unfettered hair and soulful folk music. The album’s best moment is probably a combination of the wistful, pedal-steel toned Americana of “When I Was Young” and the equally effective, spacey indie rock of “The Business of Living”. The latter giving Grandaddy a run for their money in that music department. These two songs in particular showcase an artist fully aware and capable of his abilities to craft music that’s personal but exhibits the kind of draw you want from a record this close to the heart.
The album doesn’t have the more ruckus moments Berwanger exhibited in his earlier work (outside of perhaps, the more upbeat power-pop, new wavy “Bad Vibrations”). At times the album takes just a few listens to grab you. But when you listen to songs like the spritely “Friday Night” and the somber reflection of the twangy “I Keep Telling Myself” a few times more, you find the depth of the record. There are elements that reveal themselves on the second, third, fourth listen, and that’s rewarding.
Berwanger’s songwriting ability was never in doubt, and his new material continues to expand his songwriting reach. Watching a Garden Die, while not a frantic effort, is quiet composure.
Fences – Failure Sculptures
Failure Sculptures is a steady outing
Christopher Mansfield, under his alter-ego, Fences, has made himself well known through the collaborations with Macklemore and Tegan & Sara. It’s set him up with well-deserved excitement for his new album Failure Sculptures. The genre of pop scores a good reputation with artists like Fences. I wouldn’t necessarily categorize this album as pop, but Failure Sculptures has catchy songs that will appeal to a large scale, however it keeps the integrity of accomplished music. Each song provides a story that allows you to drift into your own thoughts. He also uses idioms like there is no tomorrow.
“A Mission” is a lower-toned song that launches the album with an echoing sound of voice and guitar, and it sets an example of the whimsical type of music that is shown throughout the album. Mansfield has a way with words and was definitely listening in English class. A+ for storytelling. OK, you twisted my arm, I’ll point out some idioms: “body sways like trees in a storm” sung in “Paper Route” and “lately I just pass by like a cloud” heard in “Brass Band”. It’s a great way to paint a picture in your listeners head.
“Same Blues” exposes a folk side to Fences. It has a lovely addition of cello in the background. It is enchanting and flows so well, which makes a terrific inclusion to the album. The plucking and acoustic sound of “Wooden Dove” has a powerful effect, and suits the song well. It follows the theme of echoes and storytelling. Although “War Kid” is a song about divorce, it is a pleasant way to end the album, and it features more idioms; “tears falling like bombs“.
This type of music allows you to drift and flow in and out of your own thoughts. It’s a friendly haunting and emotionally driven set of songs (and don’t forget about the idioms), and while it is quite predictable in a pleasant way, Failure Sculptures is a steady outing.