High 20s and a clear, blue sky – perfect conditions to head up the highway for Theatre Royal’s Country Daze. The mini-festival arranged to pick up punters from Collingwood and Brunswick for the trip up to North Northcote (See ‘Castlemaine’). Arriving at the beautiful 1850s built theatre, most were early enough to take their time on a couple of pots or explore the town for a feed before the big rock show. There was a good mix of locals and out-of-towners in the front bar, ready for the slew of music, but not in any kind of hurry.
Flour opened up the evening with their punk rock attitude and no-frills attack. Underneath the shout of Ramones-esque lyrics, the guitar and bass hooks kept the toes tapping and head nodding. They may have been the first of six bands on the bill, but they were definitely the loudest. TV Haze then turned down the volume and turned up the melody. The gents mention that they haven’t played since April but you wouldn’t pick it. At times, their melodic vibes inspired the right amount of swaying and shoe gazing. The drummer’s Dinosaur Jr. shirt helped the crowd hear one of their influences a little more obviously. TV Haze also gave us the first Dead Moon tribute of the day – this one in t-shirt form.
The Pink Tiles then brought their jangly, fun, pop vibes to Castlemaine. With two hot long players loaded with pop gems, they got people shaking it all around and swinging their hips. Paul Maybury’s versatile guitar work was on show in every tune, while the tambourine and keys ramped up the ‘60s make-you-wanna-dance atmosphere. The guys finished off with a fitting tribute to Fred Cole – a guy that many of us were lucky enough to see live, living the DIY ethos realer than most. Poison City’s newest recruits, Mod Con, tightened things up with a rhythm section full of finesse and grunt. A bit of banter only added to their strong stage presence and command – approachable but in charge. See them when you can. They’re about to be one of Melbourne’s best bands.
Cable Ties drew a big audience with their genre-bending mix of garage, punk rock, boogie, and post-punk. Singer Jenny McKechnie rarely took a breath during the set, taking us from raucous guitar work into howling vocals – it’s the solid rhythm that allows her to go this nuts (but still stay in control of it all). Bassist Nick Brown and drummer Shauna Boyle did everything effortlessly and took their songs from awesome Krautrock spaces into garage stomps at a moment’s notice. Melbourne’s lucky to have a band as relentless them.
Rocket Science’s headline slot was filled with energy and fun. And plenty of nostalgia for me – having been a fixture in the city’s scene when a lot of the audience started going to their first bunch of gigs. Kit Warhurst’s drumming was as tight as ever and Dave Gray’s bass grooves locked in to give his bandmates plenty of space to create the unique Rocket Science layers. Roman Tucker’s vocals, keys, theremin and dancing was contagious with plenty of punters doing their version of the gyrating Tucker. The set included numbers from ‘Welcome Aboard the 3C10’, ‘Contact High’, and ‘Eternal Holiday’.
Tim and the team at Theatre Royal are onto something special with a place that needs to be visited by Melbourne gig-goers. It’s funny that one of Melbourne’s best venues is just over an hour away from the city.
Highlight: Goin’ up the country.
Lowlight: The bus leaving right on time.
Crowd favourite: Rocket Science’s ‘Being Followed’.