An eager group packed into the justly named ‘the den’ below the Chippendale Hotel to see Shining Bird on the weekend. Quite a feat considering just down the road hundreds of thousands of people celebrated the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. A testament to the devout fans of Shining Bird as well as the newly acquainted, looking to familiarise themselves with three exciting Australian bands.
Borneo are a band as described by Triple J’s unearthed as “BORNEO are a 5 piece Sydney band making disco influenced rainbow Rock’n’Roll with a moon rising in Australian sophisto-punk.” Borneo began the night with their unique assortment of ‘lairy’ kits and ‘airy’ shorts. Comfortable in their clothes and comfortable on stage they delivered an entertaining set. Keeping it very light announcing “We played at a competition at a mall today, we lost”, before firing confidently into one of their songs.
The duo from Unity Floors followed with their dynamic pairing of heavy strumming guitar and pounding drums. They describe themselves as “amateur rock” but together they crank out a frenzy of carefree guitar work and spot on drum arrangements. Accompanied by their witty collection of small truths in their lyricism they carried an electrifying momentum through the entire set.
The impression you immediately get from Shining Bird is that they are distinctly Australian. Not the drunken patriot with a flag draped over their shoulder, but a sheer appreciation of Australia’s natural beauty as they sing of roaming bush landscapes and sun-accentuated ocean views. They impress the audience with their affectionately named ‘Eucalyptus Pop’ as they add a touch of class to the Australian sound, without taking themselves too seriously of course.
They refuse to miss a beat and are immediately fascinating. Their award winning and solemnly captivating track Rivermouth feels very personal. Dane Taylor’s characteristically ‘affectatious’ Australian voice vibrates in the small cove and rumbles in your chest. Complimenting Dane is Alastair Webster (Lead Guitar), Russell Webster (Keyboards, Electronics), Nathan Stratton (Bass), Ricci Quirke (Drums) and James Kates (Percussion) who go nearly shoulder-to-shoulder on the small stage. Also accompanying the coastal crew is Michael Slater on the sax. Hailing from Nashville, Slater proceeds to deliver a lengthy sax solo. Not something you’d expect from an Australiana band, but welcome nonetheless. His sax contributes further uniqueness to an already interesting sound.
The crowd are readily embracing Shining Bird and each other, with the most fervent owning the front of the stage. Suddenly a hand flies in the air signalling James Kates on the tambourine. Surely spotting a trusted confidant in the crowd he tosses it to the punter who picks up the rhythm immediately, blending into the cool, misty sound created by Shining Bird. The setting was perfect for interaction with both Dane and Alastair venturing into the crowd, guitars in hand, back to back.
The set comes to an end but the long-time fans of these beach daydreamers know better and await their instantly catchy track Keep Warm. This ‘knee bending’, ‘plod along’ of a song is a great way to finish as it’s immediately inclusive. Again reinforcing their appreciation for the Australian climate and how it has shaped a variety of their experiences. Indicative of a group of mates who come from a place where the forest meets the sea.
Photography by Nyssa Mitchell