The complexity and strength of the Melbourne music scene can be put down, in large part, to the work of PBS 106.7FM.
Since 1988, PBS has lifted the veil on its transmission, appreciating the inclusiveness and interaction of live music. Their once-titled Live Music Week became a staple across the city but was eventually reimagined in 2011 and transformed into its now ever-popular Drive Live. The annual program, centred on local talent, sees three bands pile into Studio 5 as a small crowd of lucky listeners watch on. As it now enters its ninth year [going down from Monday February 4 to Friday February 8], we’ve revisited nine of the most unforgettable performances to have gone down.
NO ZU (2013)
Describing their sound as ‘heat beat’, NO ZU certainly brought the fire to their 2013 Drive Live set. The collective’s percussive funk burst into life in the station’s Studio 5, as members leapt manically across the room capturing the energy of their vivacious recordings.Between clanging drums and rhythmically chanted “yeah yeahs”, even radio-listeners found it hard not to bounce along to NO ZU’s energetic performance. A cohesive jumble of trumpet, keys, guitar and an assortment of percussive instruments produced an erratic big band sound, proving the band were onto a good thing.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (2013)
Before King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard exploded internationally, the psychedelic seven-piece were involved in Drive Live 2013. The same year saw the release of the band’s second and third albums Eyes Like The Sky and Float Along – Fill Your Lungs. Pedalling a raucous garage-infused psych sound, this Drive Live performance saw the band launch full throttle into a cover of The Reatards’ ‘I Gotta Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Between Stu Mackenzie’s distorted howls and the power of the outfit’s dual drummers, it was plain to see these guys were destined for big things.
Courtney Barnett (2014)
Another artist caught at the tipping point of their career, Courtney Barnett hit Drive Live at a time where she’d just started making waves behind a string of well-received singles and EPs. While Barnett’s laidback sound and conversational drawl was a stark contrast to the raucous energy that often ensued as part of these live-to-air shows, the overflowing audience lapped up every second of her performance. A staple of Melbourne’s music scene and one of its most successful exports, it was clear that Barnett would be a force to be reckoned with.
Hiatus Kaiyote (2014)
In 2014, Hiatus Kaiyote zoomed home from the Grammys for a special hometown set at PBS. Arriving as part of their debut album Tawk Tomahawk, the track ‘Nakamarra’ had just been nominated for Best R&B Performance at the prestigious awards. The band’s new brand of soul had piqued ears far and wide, including those of everyone from Erykah Badu and Q-Tip – the latter of which would share his vocals on ‘Nakamarra’. Hiatus Kaiyote’s live performance of ‘Breathing Underwater’ was a shimmering, funk-fuelled journey that enlivened the Studio 5 space into something otherworldly.
The Drones (2016)
Ahead of their seventh studio album Feelin Kinda Free, Australian rock stalwarts The Drones delivered a blistering live set to PBS Drive Live, giving a glimpse of new tracks ‘Taman Shud’ and ‘Private Execution’ in the process. Wailing guitars dripping with reverb, thunderous drums and frontman Gareth Liddiard’s frenetic yelps and growls materialised into something memorable. The Drones’ sound is perfectly compatible to the live setting and they made that screamingly obvious, tearing up Studio 5 with unbridled energy.
Just prior to her EP Live From Her Room being unveiled to the world, fierce R&B soul singer Kaiit had the undivided attention of the PBS crowd as she hit Drive Live with a stunning performance. Through her silky voice, bold rhymes and hypnotic beats it was impossible not to get swept up with the energy emanating from Studio 5. Performing celebrated tracks ‘2000 n SOMETHIN’ and ‘OG Luv Kush Pt. 2’ among others, Kaiit had her Drive Live audience captivated and solidified her reputation as an artist to watch.
Cash Savage and The Last Drinks (2017)
Cash Savage is renowned for her intensity; from the sheer power of her delivery to her staunch demeanour, to see her perform live is mesmerising. Packed into the studio, Cash Savage and The Last Drinks were a tight unit oozing frenzied fury, ensuring there wasn’t a still body amongst the crowd. Violinist Kat Mear’s almost menacing touch to an already apocalyptic sound was enough to evoke goosebumps, even for those listening in at home as the band tore through a gripping rendition of ‘Run With The Dogs’ from their latest album One of Us.
The Peep Tempel (2017)
The Peep Tempel’s visit to Drive Live was cemented further in glory since the band entered an indefinite hiatus later that same year. Nine years strong, the Melbourne garage-punks had just released their final album Joy, arguably their best yet, when they took on Drive Live. The band’s cataclysmic sound was destined for their beloved radio station and the memory of their momentous set is almost enough to fill the hole they’ve left since going off the grid. Eliciting the noise rock sound and lyrics entrenched in satire – Australiana and blokey aggression which saw the nation eating up their biggest track ‘Carol’, it seems the band were in their prime for what would be their last year.
Tropical Fuck Storm (2018)
No stranger to Drive Live, having appeared with The Drones as well as a solo set in years past, Gareth Liddiard made his return with his newest project Tropical Fuck Storm. The newcomers, featuring long-time PBS presenter and Mixing Up The Medicine devotee Erica Dunn, had been causing a stir since rearing their heads with ‘Chameleon Paint’ and a handful of 7” releases the year prior, and were already gearing up for a massive takeover with their cosmic sound. If you’ve seen TFS live, you know they put on a hell of a show, and their visit to Studio 5 was certainly no exception.
PBS Drive Live 2019, featuring Ainslie Wills, Private Function, Thando and more kicks off on Monday February 4 and runs till Friday February 8. Entry is free, but you need to RSVP. Visit the Drive Live website to secure your spot.