Words by James Lavel
Californian desert rock pioneers Yawning man have been together in various forms since the mid 80’s. Their unique sound has inspired the likes of KYUSS and QOTSA to name a few. This is their first visit to Australia so it’s kind of a big deal. Couple that with the fact that they’re playing at the new Crowbar/Brightside amalgamation is a huge plus. The mix of these two iconic alternative hangouts is a massive win for Brisbane punters hoping to mix with like minded people.
Kicking things off tonight were sunshine coast stoner rockers Psycho Honeymoon. Guitarist Jason Johnson’s Melvin’s shirt and Nic Thorn’s 5-string bass grabbed my interest as they tuned up. It wasn’t long until a doomy guitar tone (that only a down-tuned Gibson through an Orange can achieve) bellowed over the room. Adam Morris rounded out the sound by placing each vocal note right where it needed to be. It was great to see Michael Gardiner (ex-Transvaal Dimond Syndicate) back behind the skins filling in for Dave Thorne who was out for injury, and absolutely killing it as usual. As they worked through their set, I was impressed with the technical proficiency of Nic Thorne’s bass work, particularly in their track The Waffle. Sweeping soundscapes coupled with killer riffs showcased Jason’s flexibility. These guys could be an amazing instrumental band; the fact that they also deliver an interesting mix of clean vocals over sludgy tones is just a bonus. With an album just around the corner these are some guys to keep an eye on.
Six-piece desert rock group Numidia take the stage with a plethora of instruments. Three guitars, drums, keys, bass and a fiddle left me eager to see what they had on their serving plate for the evening. As the lights filtered through their colour hue the beautiful soundscape of their track Azawad filled the air. Their presence felt like a warm hand beckoning you towards the stage. Shane Linfoot’s beautiful guitar licks and harmonizing vocals carried me deeper into the trance. Their second song Sinner had a more classic rock feel reminding me a little of Graveyard or Witchcraft. Bass player Alex Raffaelli and drummer Nathan McMahon are an extremely impressive rhythm section. The way Nathan approaches cymbals was refreshing; he used them to highlight the feel of the band rather than the usual “hit them as hard as possible” approach. Selin Akbaşoğullari worked in keys to create a deeper level of sound, which was a really important touch. Halfway through their third track A Million Martyrs the lights cut out, drowning the room in darkness. Although not planned it felt like an invitation to close your eyes and get lost in the music, so I did. Their fourth song Te Waka had an almost tribal feel. It was clear there was some cultural depth to these guys mixing Middle Eastern and North African sounds taking us on a musical journey around the globe.
I couldn’t put my finger on why the vocal harmonies sounded so familiar until Numidia graced us with a surprisingly fantastic cover of Midnight Rider. James Draper’s soothing sweeping vocals are just great. At last, out comes the fiddle I had eagerly waited to hear. Mike Zoias whittled into the sound with ease. At this point I made a note of the mix; it was perfect. Everything was clear and concise which made the addition of Shane’s now slide riffs all the more appealing. Under the Water saw Mike Zoias stop playing altogether to take over lead vocal duties. It felt as if each member of this band was on their musical journey but somehow found a way to walk together. The group finished on Red Hymn bringing everything to a perfect ending. I will be watching very closely for the return of Numidia; I suggest you do the same.
I ducked out for a cheeky beer before returning to see Yawning Man on stage setting up. There is something special about an intimate gig like this where you can watch musicians you respect dearly do their thing without a barrier or bald-headed security guards staring you down.
Yawning Man are hard band to describe; if you could bottle desert sand, road trips, marijuana and long sits on a porch overlooking nothing you’d have Yawning Man. It was cool to see a stage setup with no mics. Gary Arce’s guitar setup was impressive. A large pedal board sat at his feet for weaving the signature Yawning Man sound scapes and riffs. The guys kicked things off with Perpetual Oyster,something people here have been waiting years to hear live. It was surprising to see such a young crowd tonight; it really goes to show the power of music breaking through generational barriers. Revolt Against Tired Noises played out next. Mario Lalli’s bass rig produced the loudest/best sounding bass tone I have ever heard. To say I could feel the bass would be an understatement. I looked at the guy next to me who was convinced he was going to melt into the chair. His tone was literally rattling my teeth and I was starting to get concerned about the structural integrity of the venue.
This power continued into their first tack from ‘Macedonian Lines’ Virtual Funeral. Yawning Man have this way of finding something simple and building on it in a way only they can before bringing it all back together, and its pure magic. It was really special between songs to see Gary chatting with the crowd personally; it almost felt like a guitar clinic at times. Bill Stinson kicked off the next song with a steady beat before Gary and Mario join into what forms Ghost Beach. They then progress into Macedonian Lines and Melancholy Sadie before taking us to Skyline Pressure. It felt like these guys could play all night. The chemistry on stage could only be achieved by hard work and hundreds of gigs; they communicated through hand gestures and nods, knowing exactly where they were going to take us next. The last song of the set was Bowie’s Last Breath and at that point Mario kicked on his distortion pedal. I didn’t know that his bass could get any better than it was but there I was, mouth open, and my body feeling like I’d been pushing a mower for six hours. The crowed called for an encore before the band left the stage and they happily obliged, pulling out one last killer tune.
Yawning Man are currently making their way around the country; if you get the chance, don’t miss out as this experience may never be available again.
With thanks to the legends at Your Mate Bookings, Fixation Brewing Co + Mad Hatter Productions