Live Review: Sons and Daughters, Songs, and The Laurels – Keystone Festival Bar (12.01.2012)

The Keystone Festival Bar provides a festival atmosphere in the middle of the city – but without the long lines and abundance of Southern Cross tattoos. One thing exactly like a festival is the price and type of alcohol they serve, with the exception of being able to buy bottles of wine. The price and selection of alcohol aside, if this were a permanent venue I’d be here all the time.

Sydney band The Laurels are on first and their music is a great way to start the night. They don’t speak to the crowd and leave a loop pedal on between songs, which means everything they play blends together. The band have a couple of problems with sound throughout their set, mainly feedback, and the singers’ voices are sometimes muffled under the guitars.

Having said that, it doesn’t detract a lot from their show, since the guitar solos are long and dreamy; something you can get lost in for a few minutes. They create a great atmosphere and it’s clear the band are comfortable with each other on stage, as they move through each song effortlessly. They keep their “shoegazer” image for the whole set and wander off stage without so much as a goodbye or thank you and leave us to wait for Songs.

Songs arrive on stage without fuss and their opening track is short. They move quickly through their set, and like The Laurels don’t waste time with introductions or banter. Some feedback can be heard early on and it’s hard to hear singer and guitarist Max Doyle’s voice at times. But Ela Stiles’ voice is strong enough to be heard over the band and she sounds amazing.

The only criticism I can give is that they’re concentrating very hard while they play. It’s hard to feel engaged until they play their last song; it’s clearly their favourite to play together. The band have just started to warm up when they stop abruptly and walk off stage. I’m disappointed – I want to see them play more.

Sons and Daughters arrive on stage and lead singer Adele Bethel is energetic from the start. Despite being “fucking delirious with jetlag,” she jumps while she’s not singing or goes and touches guitarist Scott Paterson on the shoulder during the solos. She almost falls over towards the end of the set and jokes: “I’m a bit of a dick, just to warn ya!”

Paterson talks to us about how long it took to get to Australia but Bethel interrupts and says “Whattya doin’, havin’ a moan? Moaning Scottish bastard!” Early on, they face the same problem as the other bands, the vocals are sometimes lost under the guitars, but Bethel’s voice gets stronger as the night goes on. She can be heard a lot more clearly when they play ‘Taste The Last Girl’. The band has a strong stage presence – Paterson and bass player Ailidh Lennon are almost as animated as Bethel – and their enthusiasm is contagious.

Their set is a mix of old and new songs, with ‘Johnny Cash’ and ‘Fight’ from their first album making appearances. Singles from 2011’s Mirror Mirror, ‘Rose Red’ and ‘Breaking Fun’ get a great reception but the highlight is the last song of the night ‘Dance Me In’. Bethel’s voice is perfect while she gets us all to dance and clap. She surprises us by slipping in lyrics from Goldfrapp’s song ‘Ooh La La’ and they fit perfectly at the end of the chorus. The band thank us and wave as they walk off stage to cheers and claps from a satisfied Sydney Festival crowd.

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Justine McNamara

I'm an Australian living in New York. I work in marketing but I write about music, New York, and my own personal experiences.

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