Words by Natalie Blacklock.
After a long few years and a lot of hard work, Brisbane’s very own WAAX have finally finished their debut record and are in the midst of touring in support of it. Through their recent stint working with Grammy Award winning producer Nick DiDia and the ‘King’ of Brisbane music, Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning at their studio, LaCueva, in the picturesque Byron Bay region, WAAX have certainly grown up. Anyone who has attended a famously wild WAAX show might be surprised by the local 5-piece’s more mature and expansive sound on this new record. Due for release on August 23 through Dew Process, ‘Big Grief’, is set to deliver a degree of introspection and honesty only hinted previously, laying bare a healthy dose of raw emotion and slow, subdued moments paired with shredding guitars and face-melting vocal prowess. The WAAX crew have made their way home to Brisbane for a two-night stand to road-test these new tunes as well as a bunch of old favourites on their I Am Tour presented by Dew Process and Select Music.
The Triffid beergarden is abuzz with Friday knockoff drinks as Brisbane was granted a collective reprieve from the recent chilly ‘Ekka Winds’. Inside the venue’s bandroom, the initial crowd contingent was small, but almost expected on a night where every Brisbanite’s favourite mighty Brisbane Broncos were wrapping up a gritty win over the Penrith Panthers over at Lang Park.
Opening up the show early were C O L T S; an eclectic group of Brisbane-based musicians from a bunch of local acts including; Average Art Club, bcharre, finance, Rattus Rattus and YELLOWCATREDCAT. Channelling an array of influences including Beach Fossils, DIIV and Slowdive, the 5-piece; James Gatling (Vocals / Guitar), Lisa Murr (Vocals / Bass) Adam Head (Guitar), Joey Touk (Drums) and Thomas Kinsella (Keyboard) combine to offer guitar-heavy walls of sound, coupled with driving rhythm sections to deliver clean-cut, no frills, meaningful pop music. The stage presence of C O L T S is strong as they power through the first half of their set. January, the first instalment of the band’s twelve-part ‘Calendar Collective’ series, is a standout, reminiscent of the art-rock vibes of TV On The Radio. Sending Friday in the best way possible, the crowd are treated to an impromptu dose of ‘Sexy Saxophone’ as the band are joined by their Sax Man, Bohdan Davidson before ending their set with newest single, August, which takes a look at the nature of addiction and it’s power to consume every aspect of one’s life. From their impressive set, it is clear that C O L T S have big things coming just around the corner.
In keeping with the exclusively Brisbane theme of the line-up, next up were local sweethearts, sweater curse. With only two tracks to their name in 2017, the 3-piece picked up slots supporting Ball Park Music, Horror My Friend, Polish Club, The Hard Aches and These New South Whales and earnt themselves a spot at Laneway Festival 2019, as winners of the Triple J Unearthed competition, making it clear that sweater curse are only just getting started. sweater curse has an simple yet dynamic stage presence, which allow the band; Monica Sottile (Vocals / Bass), Chris Langenberg (Vocals / Guitar) and Rei Bingham (Drums) to create captivating, charming and evocative jangly melodies.
Following an all-in singalong entrance to P!nk’s So What, sweater curse explode into their start of their set with Take Some Time and Z9, which features on the recently released Domestic La La Records split 7” with fellow Brisbane pals, The Cutaways. On this track particularly, Chris’ vocals are incredible – powerful, instinctive and totally unexpected. sweater curse don’t miss a beat as they offer up quality stage banter and a new tune (only played for the third time) followed by 2017 track Don’t Call Me at the halfway mark of the set. Their set closes with two stand-out tracks from their debut EP, ‘See You’, as the crowd is treated to Mon’s Song; highlighting troubled relationships, psycho-analysis and vivid dreaming followed by the honest, hard-hitting Can’t See You Anymore. Overall, sweater curse presented a solid insight into their unique brand of slightly depressing but groovy indie-rock, undoubtedly recruiting a slew of new fans in the process.
The evening’s headliners, WAAX, are probably best described as the little Brisbane engine that could (and did) – making absolutely no apology for their raucous entrance into our hearts and minds over the last few years. Formed in 2013, the 5-piece have gone through a number of line-up changes, but have not strayed too far from their shrill alt-rock best. After coming to the industry’s attention at BIGSOUND 2014, WAAX landed key support slots for the likes of Kingswood, The Delta Riggs, Ecca Vandal, Emperors and Stonefield before releasing their first EP, ‘Holy Sick’, in 2015. Since then, Marie “Maz” DeVita (Vocals), Tom Griffin (Bass), Tom Bloomfield (Drums), Ewan Birtwell (Guitar) and newest member James Gatling (Guitar), who’s pulling double-duty after playing in C O L T S earlier; have been a constant in the Brisbane scene, playing sold-out rooms and melting faces left, right and centre.
From the moment they enter the stage to the familiar strains of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, WAAX pull no punches ripping straight into new track FU and older banger This Everything, which sees both Birtwell and Gatling teetering on the barrier, guitars held high. Frontwoman Maz DeVita is on fire as she jumps and flails around, wearing her heart passionately on her sleeve for the emotive No Apology. Taking a moment to shout out to the girls in the front row, she exclaimed that they are the reason she is in music – a powerful reminder of the ‘Girls To The Front’ movement. By this point, the crowd were heaving as WAAX turned it up to 11 with a few treats for long-standing fans; the hard-hitting foursome of ‘I For An Eye’, ‘You Wouldn’t Believe’, ‘Wild & Weak’and ‘Same Same’ back-to-back.
In giving everyone a moment to catch their breath, DeVita invited one of her musical idols and familiar Brisbane face, Patience Hodgson from The Grates to join the band for an energetic rendition of The Gossip’s Standing In the Way Of Control. A clearly stoked Hodgson exclaimed, “We’re so lucky to be here tonight. Fuck Yeah! Go Us!” before WAAX ripped into the slowburn of Nothing Is Always. Taking a minute to shout out to their parents in the crowd, WAAX introduce two more new tracks from ‘Big Grief’; History and Fade – both of which demonstrated a dynamic, emotional rawness and maturity from the band. Closing their set with the tour’s I Am, DeVita proclaimed, “This is a community. This is a family. We love you all”; a sentiment which the crowd reciprocated 10-fold in their chants for an encore. On returning to the stage, guitarist James Gatling locked eyes with him Mum in the moshpit and called her out to crowdsurf as they launched into Labrador cuing the deafening screams of “I’ve been disappointed lately”.
In their final stand, WAAX invited C O L T S, sweater curse, Patience Hodgson and a bunch of their best mates to the stage for a fun and joyful flashback to peak 2004 with a cover of Thirsty Merc’s In The Summertime. With soaring guitar lines, drums that thump like a kick to the guts, and piercing yet passionate vocal delivery that offers fleeting moments of sweetness from DeVita before she reverts to her howling best, WAAX are the real deal. After a long while as the ‘bridesmaid’, their well-earned moment in the spotlight is here and WAAX are ready for it – they’re pushing ahead hard and fast and aren’t slowing down for anything or anyone.
Be sure to catch WAAX on the remaining dates of their I Am Tour. For dates, locations, and ticket information click HERE.
Saturday 17 August – The Corner Hotel | Melbourne (18+)
Sunday 18 August – Wrangler Studios | Melbourne (Under 18s afternoon show)
Sunday 18 August – The Corner Hotel | Melbourne (18+)
Friday 23 August – The Cambridge Hotel | Newcastle (18+)
Saturday 24 August – Oxford Art Factory | Sydney (18+)
Sunday 25 August – The Zoo | Brisbane (Under 18s afternoon show)