The fact that the ANU Bar Refectory sold out its first run of five-hundred tickets and then released more for The Panics/Little Red/Oh Mercy could mean one of two things: either this would be a night of enthusiasm and energy, or a squished, cranky four hours spent craning over other people’s heads.
By 8pm a healthy line was already forming at the door, and soon Melbourne four-piece Oh Mercy shuffled on stage. They didn’t need to be so shy, as their collection of ‘garage/lounge’ tunes - think Augie March chills out in Honolulu - created a gentle and interesting start to the evening. Unfortunately there wasn’t a great deal of engagement between Oh Mercy and the audience, and the band looked relieved when they stepped off stage to let someone else take over.
Next up were Little Red, a five-piece ball of energy from Melbourne. They announced their intentions early with the vast amounts of water and beer set up next to their microphones. Something similar to The Beach Boys in stovepipe jeans, Little Red had no trouble reminding us that indie musicians know how to have fun. Their classic song structure, coupled with gorgeous vocal harmonies shared between everyone but the extremely animated drummer, won the crowd over in no time at all. If the music wasn’t entertaining enough, Little Red also kept things interesting by rotating their lead singer every couple of songs. At times the sheer energy of the set meant that the songs got away from the performers, but no one was the slightest bit concerned. Little Red also achieved something very rare: causing a crowd to call for an encore from a support act.
The audience sufficiently warmed and cheering at any opportunity, The Panics took to the stage, and the crush at the front was anything but cranky. They were clearly impressed by the enthusiasm of the Canberra crowd, many of whom knew the words well enough to take over from lead singer Jae Laffer. Although The Panics seemed rather laid back after the energy of Little Red, the crowd made up for this and the band settled in to bask in our admiration.
Canberra was the eleventh stop on the Perth band’s national tour, but they showed no signs of flagging. Together, this five-piece work as an extremely cohesive unit, sailing through songs that sound as if they should be technically challenging. They also refuse to be defined by the song that ranked number ten on last year’s Triple J Hottest 100, ‘Don’t Fight It.’ The Panics had plenty more to show off, combining bittersweet chord progressions with plenty of guitar and bass, Laffer’s curiously soft yet arresting vocals, and Myles Wootton’s drumming that gives impact rather than just volume.
Unsurprisingly, Don’t Fight It made people run from the bar into the audience, followed by many bars of synchronised arm-waving. While the set seemed cut short, possibly by ANU’s notoriously strict closing time, I’m not sure who had a better time at this gig - the people watching, or the people on stage.
With Little Red & Oh Mercy
Venue: Uni Bar, Australian National University | North Rd, Acton
Date: 10 May 2008
Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au or 132 849