Immigrant Union @ Ding Dong Lounge
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Immigrant Union @ Ding Dong Lounge

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Once relieved in the refuge of Ding Dong Lounge’s air conditioning, and an ice-cold beer in hand, I was with an open mind to the first artist of the night, Hayley Couper. Not being too well versed on the dreamy pop songstress, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the assortment of gear surrounding her solo stage set-up offered no clue.

First impressions inevitably came into play. Battling off-kilter sound levels, and the noise of the unused snare drum’s vibrations, we embarked on the haphazard musical experiment with her. A couple of minutes into the confusing instrumental intro, just when the amalgamation of her prerecorded synth loops ensued slightly off rhythm, I couldn’t help but cringe at the messy noise it all spawned. Couper looked like she needed a few extra hands to create what she was frantically trying to pull together.

At this stage, I wasn’t holding too much hope for this set, but I soon stood corrected. Upon her first breath into the microphone, the attention of everyone in the room was held captive. Her angelic voice was awe-inspiring, and permeated through the acoustics with an established sense of belonging. What loosened the grips of Couper’s velvet vocal spell was her rudimentary reaction to backing track difficulties during Love Addicts Anonymous, going something like “Shit, fuck…” followed by abrupt silence.

What could have lost me was now somewhat endearing, and I found myself giving her an encouraging applause. As she played out her remaining originals, and a well-selected cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, I couldn’t help but think she was sold short having to take on all components of the performance herself. She has notable vision and talent to be practiced and refined, which I hope to someday see accompanied with a band.

Royston Vasie were next up, who are making headway in the myriad of acclaimed Melbourne rock bands since their debut album Tanah Merah was released last year. They’ve certainly perfected how to take hold of a crowd too, as if their brainchild of laidback vocals, distorted guitars and all encompassing psychedelic sounds needed any help with that. They rolled out their power garage tracks including Wreck Your Health, Come On, and of course their Hives inspired crowd favourite, You Want It Now.

 

By this stage, I was well primed for headline act, Immigrant Union. My penchant for American ‘90s pop rock left me with a predisposition to this band, although predominantly made up of Melburnians, American singer/guitarist Brent De Boer’s (former Dandy Warhols drummer) influence is ever present. Alternating vocalists Brent De Boer and Bob Harrow add a resonant diversity to the band. When De Boer wasn’t crooning dreamy psychedelia on highlight tracks like In Time, I Can’t Return and Shameless, Harrow’s uncanny similarity to the sound of Lemonheads evoked a sentimental stirring, found on Alison, in particular. While elements of Dandy Warhols and Dinosaur Jr. percolated through each song, it was done so in such an inspired way that while successfully appealing to the confines of that genre, they still maintained nous for exploration.

All in all, this night saw three bands that will surely only get better from here. 

BY ASH BARTLETT

Loved: The crisp air-con.

Hated: Err.

Drank: Too many beers.