A Live Experience with The John Steel Singers, Milk Teddy and Half/Cut

Ryan2Packing on to the tiny Curtin stage, The John Steel Singers (JSS), proved to be the perfect addition for everyone’s long weekend Sunday session. Running off the back of their latest single ‘Can You Feel The Future’, the 7 piece band from Brisbane played a crisp set of infectious indie-pop jams. With support from half/cut and Milk Teddy, it was a night of subtle bass grooves and punchy rhythms.

First to grace the stage were Half/Cut, an atmospheric cloud of guitars and soaring vocals. Although they played a rather melancholic blend of music, each song without fail had a very danceable bass line, which made it a crying shame there weren’t more people dancing. “Coming of Age” was the undeniable stand out from the set, taken from their debut album Ecco Locale, released in late March. Though, it wasn’t just the music that won the crowd over, the absolutely charming presence of the band’s front woman Jessie made them even more likeable. Even though she had to stop talking at one point, Jessie captivated the crowd with her ethereal vocals, effortlessly soaring above the music as though she was a graceful bird.

Following half/cut were the shoegaze wonder band Milk Teddy. Once again the spotlight was stolen by the lead singer, this time it was Thomas Mendelovits with his hilarious between song banter. When not chatting with the audience or laughing too hard to sing songs, the band played a relaxed set of alternative-pop, like taking a nice Sunday stroll through the park.

Dressed in a uniform of black and white, The John Steel Singers packed themselves onto the cramped stage with two guitars, a bass, keyboards, saxophone, drums and percussion. A fairly scattered crowd started to bunch towards the stage, disappointingly small but understandable given it was ANZAC eve. That didn’t dishearten JSS though, bouncing straight into their set with a song I was not familiar with and still haven’t been able to identify, but boy was it a doozy. Speared by the repetitive and catchy lyrics “Because I know how it feels/because I know it so well”, the booming bass and swimming rhythms started to slowly entice the crowd into movement.

It wasn’t until the first twangy sounds of “Happy Before” that the crowd’s energy really raised. The driving bass, a constant over the spread of the whole night, ensured that everyone shuffled forward, bobbing up and down on the spot. In a veil of mystery provided by his sleek black sunnies, lead vocalist (one of many) Tim Morrissey fronted the coordinated effort needed to perform the band’s songs live. Thick vocal harmonies are one thing that you won’t miss out on when listening to JSS, and their live performance didn’t shy away from highlighting their technically challenging vocals. Charging into their next song “State of Unrest”, the band kept the energy rolling as the punchy drums led the way for a very jammy breakdown.

With minimal banter, JSS proved that this was going to be a set of no-nonsense grooving. “MJ’s On Fire Again” did just that. Stripped back, slow burning and sexy, this song stood out as a definite highlight of my night. I’m a big fan of JSS. Their captivating and infectious melodies, paired with their extremely danceable rhythms gives them an edge over similar bands.  Not to mention a very likeable set, so it’s no surprise that classic JSS songs had positively delighted the crowed. Though as the saying goes, ‘out with the old and in with the new’, so it was time for one of their latest singles ‘Weekend Lover’. Definitely their strongest performance of the night, showcasing their tight band dynamic and the absolutely enthralling hook “I can try to love you on the weekend.”

A quick break for a string change and they were off again, delving deep into their catalogue to find ‘Rainbow Kraut’ from their 2010 album Tangalooma. Stealing the attention of the audience, and a small circle of very enthusiastic dancers, trumpet player Pete Bernoth pierced through the rest of the instruments with his joyful and bright playing. It’s great to see a band that still find enjoyment in playing songs from early in their career, and to find a band that do it with the same kind of energy as JSS is a real treat. The real treat of the night however, was the band’s loveable new single “Can You Feel The Future”. This song was a real pleasure to experience live, very jammy, very groovy and very fun. It is an 8 minute song, a fact that would turn most people off, but if you stick with it, you’ll find that the song evolves and morphs, following the jungle rhythms of the bongo and the sharp jabs of saxophone. Like a jungle animal, the crowd fed off the energy of the band, bouncing along till the end.

Like many, I’ll be keenly awaiting The John Steel Singers upcoming album (currently no release date) and hoping for the announcement of another tour in support of it. If “Weekend Lover” and “Can You Feel The Future” are anything to go by, we can expect a groove-heavy album, filled with jungle rhythms and infectious melodies, and just a little touch of that John Steel Singers edge.