Tonight’s show has a real international flavour. Australian pop-rock band Stand Atlantic are out on a huge tour supporting their debut album ‘Skinny Dipping’, bringing support from Los Angeles’ In Her Own Words along for the ride. It’s a busy night, a sweaty night, and The Star & Garter might look like the storeroom in an antique shop, but it’s buzzing with energy.
Local openers Shaded (4/5) kick the night off with a huge blast of pop-punk. Fast and fun from the word go, they breeze through an assured set of sing-a-longs that has the crowd enraptured. Dancing, whirling, it’s all spins and high-kicks, but the songs never suffer as a consequence. Riffier numbers get heads nodding and it’s all crowd-pleasing. Singer Matthew East has a bucketload of personality, but his bandmates are equally entertaining to watch. It’s slick, it’s professional and it’s a tonne of fun.
After such an assured opener, In Her Own Words (1.5/5) get off to a dreadful start. Playing bright pop-punk music similar to the headliners, they’re keen to show off material from their new album ‘Steady Glow’ but it’s a strained and bland set. Things improve, but they struggle to find a groove and a large part of the crowd heads out to the bar before the second song is over. There isn’t much to bring them back. Energy levels are low, dull backing tracks leave the band standing awkwardly and no one really smiles. Once or twice they pull out a great song like older single ‘Silver Lights’, but the set drags on forever. It almost seems they’ve saved everything for the closing song so at least they leave the stage with a little dignity.
Stand Atlantic (3/5) take to the cramped stage and launch into their set. It’s not a great start, ‘Bullfrog’ is a terrible choice of opener. Its chanty chorus blunders out of the PA and the whole thing is executed with next-to-no finesse. Miki Rich and David Potter leap around, but without a solid song it’s a hopeless mess. ‘Speak Slow’ fares better and singer/vocalist Bonnie Fraser looks far more comfortable when she straps on her guitar, but it isn’t until third song, ‘Push’, that they finally kick into gear. Playing a big chorus with plenty of punky guitarwork really brings out the best in the band. Yes, they’re a little tour-weary but they bring a tonne of energy with them, even in the small space available.
In such a small venue there’s no security to stop the endless crowd surfers and the band have to retreat from the stage edge. It’s wild and no one cares once the set is in full swing. Older material such as ‘Coffee at Midnight’ and ‘Sidewinder’ sound brilliantly assured, but it’s on the slower songs they sound at their best. The simplicity of ‘Toothpicks’ really stands out, and they follow it with a faultless and heart-wrenching rendition of ‘Burn In The Afterthought’, which is the night’s highlight. In a set of hits and misses, you can’t help but wish it was more consistent because when the band’s personality shines, it shines brightly.
Words by Ian Kenworthy (@WhisperingSand)