As I sat out the front of The Curtin Hotel, waiting for the bands to run through their sound check, I watched the throng of twenty somethings huddle in their social cliques, around beers and tobacco. Tonight there was a diverse group. There were your bogan gutter rat sort, traditional denim punks, a selection of second-hand store femmes and your occasional average joe staring in bewilderment. Everyone was excited to see The Garden.
Hailing from California the twins Fletcher and Wyatt Shears’s Neo-punk sound along with a rather self-made fashion aesthetic had attracted a particularly expansive following. Performing from Saint Lauren Paris’s Fashion Week to dank and decrepit pubs in Melbourne, it seems you can’t turn around without finding a fan of The Garden.
By the time sound check was completed a modest but enthusiastic crowed were assembled for the first supporting act of the night, Miss Destiny. A hard rock act from Melbourne, they certainly had the look down. With almost hazardous self-cut hair, leather jackets and mismatched clothes, they looked as if they were ripped straight out of the golden era of rock. Despite their rather meek presence at first, the moment they hit the music, they sounded like it too.
Miss Destiny flew off the rails with perfect timing, gut busting bass, tight rhythm, stunning drums and a husky roar from lead singer, Haz Haz that was almost hard to believe considering her quiet persona from just a moment ago. A stand out, ‘Killers’ started with a military drum intro that soon diverged into a traditional rock structure before detoured again through rather adventurous bass refrains and vocal melodies with all the energy of reckless abandon.
Grimaces and a habit of hedging their bets before new songs did detract somewhat from the experience. In a genre that dedicates itself to over the top energy and boisterous egos; to break a cardinal rule in letting the crowed know you stuffed up seems particularly sinful. Taking all of this into account, their consistent use of interesting vocal melodies -often an element over looked in hard rock bands- Timing that was nothing short of perfection, short, deconstructed solos and over all energy still allowed Miss Destiny to be one hell of a ride.
Following Miss Destiny were the four piece prog rock band, Gold Class. By this point the crowd had swelled and the room was full. Golden Class, almost from their inception, had garnered a rather commendable following. A yeah and a half later and they were already a recognizable name in Melbourne. Unlike the previous band, they had a particularly understated appearance. You wouldn’t spot them as musicians if you passed them in the street.
With a fusion of haunting Morrissey like vocals that fill your head to the brim and bass lines that would make Interpol proud. Golden Class’s presence was inescapable. A well-rehearsed band that are perfect to close your eyes and sway to.
It can’t be ignored, however, that Gold Class are missing a sense of individuality in their music. Their influences were simply too prominent. As powerful and captivating as front man Adam Curly is, it was still rather noticeable how repetitive his particular style was throughout the set, making it difficult to differentiate between songs. Their music was intoxicating, well executed, full of self-reflection and character but it would be a stretch to consider them original. I look forward to hearing what they create in the future as their sound matures.
At last it was time for the main event, stubbing out cigarettes and quickly necking the last swigs of beer, everyone began to hustle up to the band room. Eager to get a decent spot to watch the Shears brothers belt out their eclectic brand of punk.
While they are branded frequently as Neo-Punk, after listening to The Garden’s live performance it feels as if this label does nothing to truly capture their music. From the Californian surfer rock at the heart of their deeply reverbed, chaotic bass lines, their rap like lyrics, trance and techno backdrops and seemingly jazz-punk infused drums that fuck with any sense of timing and rhythm. The Garden are simply more than any box you could try to put them into.
To watch these two brothers perform with blistering energy as they tear through songs that enjoy a brief existence was enthralling. When Fletcher wasn’t blowing the crowed away with drum solos that destroyed any cognitive concept of timing he was flinging himself from one end of the stage to another and even into a crowed of eager fans. Wyatt’s Fun, off kilter vocal stylings, moving from deep repetitive syllabic movements to high pitched screaming was actually a delight and kept your attention wrapped at all times.
The twins undeniably know showmanship, understanding that a gig is more than just playing your set. The Garden’s performance allow the crowed to feel as if they are actually participating rather than passively listening, as they rightly deserve to do
Their selection of songs, all taking part in an alternative universe created by the twins and a handful of close friends, discuss topics of walking apples and if you’ve ever seen one. Vada vada -whatever the hell that may be- and other rather untranslatable words. While the brothers swear there is intent and meaning behind all their songs it seems as if the public will be kept guessing for now.
At the heart of all of this madness was a very simple concept of uninhibited fun. It was evident in their music, performance and their fans. The Garden provided banquet of raw, immediate, barely organized chaos and the crowed ravenously devoured it all.
The night can only be considered a success. A line up that overflowed with talent and a headline that never slowed for a moment. As I sat smoking the last cigarette of the night I listened to those around me discuss their performance with enthused and expressive declarations of love. The Garden entertained and lifted us all from the mundane for a brief but glorious moment. After that performance they have one more lifelong fan.