Words By Natalie Blacklock
Following the release of standout debut single Cut Your Teeth, and critically acclaimed second single Back To Back, Brisbane 4-piece, Waxflower had a huge 2019 – signing with Select Music and touring with the likes of Sly Withers, Between You & Me and The Dead Love, as well as landing support slots with The Maine and Simple Plan. Now, Waxflower are back with their emotive new single Together and are out on the road again for a quick East Coast capital city run of dates, bringing their impassioned and nostalgic punk-rock to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane as presented by Select Music.
The venue for the evening is one I haven’t yet seen a band in. Greaser, located at the grungier end of Brunswick Street, is the “secret” subterranean bar vibing retro American-style cool which has found a home in the cellar of a 130-year-old heritage Fortitude Valley building. The venue is dimly lit, and inside is a virtual labyrinth of nooks and crannies divided by century-old exposed brick arches with faded vintage stencil advertisements and stunning art murals by Sindy Sinn and Natty B adorning the walls. Part laneway dive bar, part diner and part live music venue – on paper Greaser seems like the perfect venue and I was excited to see it in action.
First up on the bill were Brisbane-based outfit, Melaleuca. The 4-piece are a relatively new endeavour dabbling in fun alternative rock / power pop with a healthy dose of fuzz and vocal harmonies. They’ve hit the ground running releasing their first EP, ‘Face Down’, ahead of their debut festival appearance at Mountain Goat Valley Crawl last weekend. Opening their set with their EP’s title track, Face Down, the catchy chorus made for an instant favourite amongst the intimate group of punters lining the walls of Greaser. Following up with a newer track, Grocery Store, Melaleuca offered a well-rounded sound which filled the room.
The band slowed their tone on Abbotsford, bringing together vocal harmonies and simplistic yet potent guitar riffs and drum tones as Andy Francis and Jane Millroy shared the Guitar and Vocal duties beautifully. Offering a moment of sentimental mushiness, the band reflected that it was in this venue where they played their first show only about two months ago. Another new track, Worse, went over well with the crowd as the catchy lyricism evoked feelings of playful nostalgia. Closing out with another track their debut EP, Minutes, Melaleuca delivered a repeat-worthy and well-executed fusion of grungy alt-rock. With their sound already possessing great depth and meaning, there is no doubt Melaleuca will be accomplishing great things this year. Make sure to catch this wave early and enjoy the ride!
With a super-quick set changeover done and dusted, Headstrong were up next. Hailing from Sydney, the 5-piece combine the raw energy of melodic emo with the fast-paced rhythms of pop-punk to create a distinct and unique sound. Influenced by the likes of The Story So Far, Knuckle Puck and Trophy Eyes, Headstrong have already earnt themselves a strong supporter base after a number of high profile support slots and a stack of local shows under their belt. Without a doubt, Headstrong were definitely the heaviest band on the line-up and their set-up proved that with Frontman Josh O’Loughlin setting up camp in the first few rows. Right from the outset, the crowd were there for it, clapping along, as the band ripped straight into the fast-paced Wither, which saw Guitarists James Venites and Thomas Flood throw themselves around like no one’s business in true pop-punk style. Headstrong wasted no time, quicklyfollowing up with the band’s first single Suffocate and a call for “Brisbane! Bang your fucking heads” to which the growing crowd gladly obliged.
The set was an intimate one, with Frontman O’Loughlin telling the crowd that they “play loud and fast pop-punk but we’re playing without backing tracks tonight so we sound raw like we’re in our practice studio” before launching into Social Caterpillar, a song dedicated to those working unsociable hours in the Hospitality industry. Headstrong had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand through their cover of Fall Out Boy’s Sugar, We’re Going Down, inviting them ever closer to scream along and jump around. Closing their set with newest track, Distant, the crowd lost it as the band gave it their absolute all – even their merch guy, Ricky, got in on the action on guest Vocals! Headstrong were fun as hell and an absolute pleasure to watch – keep an eye out because there is definitely big things to come from these Sydneysiders!
Barnaby Baker is Friends of Friends – a project which draws inspiration from a variety of new-wave influences, is complimented by post-punk and electronic, with the Friends of Friends sound walking the line between pop, melancholic alternative and dance, offering screaming guitar lines with moody atmospheres, dance-driven bass and infectious drum rhythms. Following some technical issues during their set changeover, Friends of Friends got underway a little behind schedule, saying “it’s been a mess, but we got here”, before opening with the jangly pop number Heaven before launching into the catchy Too Young, which really reminded me of both Slowly Slowly and The 1975.
New track, Way Out, was an instant hit with the front row who couldn’t help but jump and bop along with Baker and his accompanying Guitarist and Drummer. Introduced as a “moody song about making babies”, Deathbed, was an interesting introspective view of complex relationship dynamics when you’re in love. Closing out the set with 2018 track, Human, the crowd was left wanting just a little bit more. Friends of Friends have made waves creating their unique brand ambitious fusion pop that works for dancing with your friends, or as a security blanket when you’re stuck at home alone – and it’ll be interesting to see where this project heads next.
The evening’s headliners, Waxflower, although still relatively new in the scene have quickly developed a cult following and a sold-out hometown show like this is certainly testament to that. Taking influence from a bunch of 2000’s Australian punk, rock and hardcore bands including; Stealing O’Neal, Faker and The Mission In Motion,the band; Tristan Higginson (Vocals / Bass), Jordan Beard (Guitar / Vocals), Nick Hargans (Guitar) and Daniel Seymour (Drums) – who you might recognise from fellow Brissie outfit, Columbus, have endeavoured to bring a genuine and unique perspective on alternative rock, writing hard-hitting songs with genuine lyrics and catchy choruses that resonate with audiences from the first listen.
Emerging in identical black button-up shirts with an embroidered broken heart on the pocket (which fittingly matched their stage banner), Waxflower and the packed out Greaser were ready for a huge set! Opening with new single and reason for the tour, Together, the band offered a tight sound straight off the bat with vocal harmonies of Higginson and Beard reminiscent of early Kisschasy. As the band launched into Cut Your Teeth, the pop-punk vibes emerged with catchy-as-hell lyricism and strong instrumentation providing the perfect platform for the crowd to scream along, mosh their little hearts out and even let off some impromptu handheld confetti cannons.
Frontman Tristan Higginson then took things down a notch, opening up about his recent struggles with mental health. He spoke about since Waxflower played their first show in this very venue 7 months ago, they’ve played 18 shows down the East Coast and how that’s been a powerful thing for him and his wellbeing. Following a sweet and wholesome dedication to his band mates, Higginson led them through the feel-good Getting Better before unleashing the intense and hard-hitting (and my personal favourite) 16 Floors, which echoed the angsty sounds of The Used from the mid-2000s.
An unexpected cover of Snow Patrol’s 2006 track Chasing Cars (with added pop-punk flair), incited an evocative full-crowd singalong before Higginson told the crowd “I don’t mean to be the ‘you’ve got one last chance to move Brisbane guy’ but you’ve got one last chance to move Brisbane, so make it count” as they closed their set with the upbeat and poppy Back To Back, Waxflower really brought the party, and even more confetti! As the house music kicked in again, the band took a cute group photo on stage before hugs, hi-fives and proud friends and family made their way forward to pass on their congratulations – all pointing toward a very promising 2020 and beyond for these Brissie boys.
Be sure to catch Waxflower at their last show of their ‘Together’ Tour. For all the details, click HERE.
Sunday 1 March – Crowbar | Sydney (18+)