After the shocking realisation that it would be completely impossible for me to go to this year’s Splendour in the Grass festival, I took solace in the fact that many of the bands I was keen to see there would be performing sideshows in Melbourne. Keeping my bank balance in mind, I painstakingly wheedled down a long wish-list and chose carefully betweens those shows which clashed. In the end, I decided on four shows: Mumford and Sons, School of Seven Bells, Two Door Cinema Club and Jónsi. I also happened to score a last-minute free ticket to Florence + the Machine, as someone I knew had a spare. Here’s a brief recap of all the sideshows I attended!
MUMFORD AND SONS
To kick off my string of sideshows was Mumford and Sons on August 28 at the Palace Theatre. I had seen them previously at Laneway Festival at the beginning of the year, but I was in a bad spot at that time and one of the main speakers malfunctioned, which noticeably decreased the sound quality. Remembering their set as the sideshow date approached didn’t make me feel excited to see them. However, after the show, I was extremely glad that I bought a ticket; Mumford and Sons blew me away.
The execution of all their songs was flawless, and thanks in part to the great venue, the sound was incredible. The band members themselves played their instruments (which included accordion, banjo, mandolin and double bass) with energy and emotion, and were also entertaining in between songs with their witty banter. All four members of the band can sing, and I just couldn’t fault their moving four-part harmonies. The crowd was also highly responsive, constantly moving and cheering, without being too rowdy.
Mumford & Sons performing ‘Winter Winds’ at The Palace in Melbourne.
SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS
This three-piece psychedelic pop band from America played at Northcote Social Club on August 1. Because I stood right at the front, I wasn’t able to experience the full sound due to the speakers being located on the sides of the stage, projecting outwards. However, from what I could hear, the band performed really well; the audience was drenched in a wave of other-worldly synth sounds, bright guitar, floor-moving bass, catchy, clever dance beats, and the beautiful harmonies of twin vocalists Alejandra and Claudia Deheza.
FLORENCE + THE MACHINE
Florence Welch and her band played at Festival Hall on August 2. I had heard only bad things about the Festival Hall, and my worst fears were confirmed when I got there. The seats were uncomfortable, and the sound was horrible. So horrible. However, because Florence is such an amazing performer, she made the venue’s flaws almost disappear altogether as soon as she opened her mouth to sing. Her stage presence is second to none; how she manages to run from one end of the stage to the other, jump up and down and spin around in circles without getting the slightest bit out of breath and still maintaining perfect pitch, I’ll never know. One highlight of Festival Hall was the stage aesthetics: the lights worked harmoniously with the music to produce a breathtaking display of flashing colours. The lights and smoke machines really contributed to Florence’s already haunting performance. She really allows herself to become completely absorbed in her craft, which encourages her audience to do the same.
TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB
This show was initially held at East Brunswick Club on August 3, but after tickets sold out in such a short amount of time, it was moved to Billboard. While the sound quality wasn’t the best that night, the crowd was more than enthusiastic. Two Door Cinema Club — while not the most entertaining or engaging band to watch — performed well, and their catchy songs spoke for themselves; it seemed like no one in the venue could help but move to their music. Overall, it was a very enjoyable show.
Sigur Ros’ frontman Jónsi performed at the Palace Theatre on August 4 to an audience with high expectations; expectations that were met from the very start of the first song, which consisted only of Jónsi’s vocals and acoustic guitar. His soft, angelic falsetto cast an eerie silence over the entire theatre; it was like every single person there was holding their breath in awe. Jónsi and his band’s eccentric style, combined with an assortment of unconventional instruments (among them: an electronic drum-pad, glockenspiel and ukulele), made for a wondrous, magical performance. That may sound clichéd, but if you have listened to Jónsi’s album, you will be well aware that his music sounds like rainbows and sunsets. To top it all off, they all sang “Happy Birthday” to a fan in Icelandic, thus melting everyone’s hearts.