Pale Waves at Max Watt’s: Prissy and perfect

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Pale Waves at Max Watt’s: Prissy and perfect

Pale Waves
Words by Sam Beros

British neo pop-punk outfit Pale Waves performed in front of hundreds at their second-ever show on Australian shores.

Originally signed by British label Dirty Hit, the fourpiece have spent the past couple of years bringing a neon glaze to the frenetic pop-punk energy of the mid-2000s. Max Watt’s, alt-pop haven as always, housed the performance.

The energy throughout the room was friendly and open – Jordy Polbodetto of Selfish Sons, the first band of the night, referred to the group as “the loveliest people you will ever meet”, and the crowd was thoroughly emblematic. Between striking power chords and a powerful emo croon, the band managed to make their way into the hearts of Pale Waves fans, many of whom were chanting along by the end of the set.

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Soon after was outfit Teenage Joans. The Adelaide twosome brought a razor-sharp blast of youthful punk energy. Even with just two members on instruments, the music sounded huge. The group were true performers; with Tahlia Borg on simultaneous vocal and drumming duties, Cahli Blakers was free to shred mid-schoolgirl kick (awesome) about twenty-odd times. A well-fit opener for the main band of the night.

The Manchester band played hard-to-get early on, riding through three of their biggest tracks back-to-back with a mysterious inter-song silence. First was Lies off their newest – a clean mix of 80s emo and nostalgic pop punk. You’re So Vain boasted strong Avril Lavigne vibes and a drum sound almost wide enough to rattle the venue, soon succeeded by the surgically tight You Don’t Own Me.

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On a Pale Waves record, grit gets polished to a tee, but the rawness of the performance breathed new life into the hooks. Not that they were any less adherent to preciseness on stage: dressed in a sharp black and white aesthetic in conjunction with a similar backing screen, the group gave a bout of neo-nostalgia controlled yet undeniably live.

It took until about halfway through the show for the band to really begin to open up past the music, but once they did, inter-crowd dialogue made for one of the night’s most memorable moments. After the irresistibly hooky 90s tune Change, lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie asks the crowd if it’s “time for a shoey” – and soon enough, boots began to make their way to the stage. After denying one suitor for being too fabric-y, guitarist Hugo Silvani fulfilled the tradition. The whole interaction had a posh, prissy Britishness to it.

Cranberries-esque Red came and went before the most stunning visual of the night came into fashion as Baron-Gracie donned a pride flag as a cape around her – the greyscale goth backdrop priming the piece for centre stage in glimmering rainbow glory. “One thing about me,” she explained, “is that I’m very gay, and this song is about a girl.” Immediately after came the smoothest song yet in Clean.

A few more tracks swing by – another mid-2000s-esque banger, Unwanted, stands out – before the band wordlessly leave the stage, holding everybody waiting: it doesn’t take long at all for the crowd to begin calling for ‘one more song’ in unison. In routine, the group make a return for two last tracks, finishing out with LGBTQ+ anthem She’s My Religion and Jealousy, a gnarly ode to selfishness.

But the band were anything but. Pale Waves gave so much – from clean alt-pop tunes to immersive alt aesthetics, the group brought a bright edge to Melbourne. Beautifully bratty, prissy and perfect.

Keep track of the latest Pale Waves tour dates, releases and social links here.