sleepmakeswaves at Max Watts, MelbourneSupport: And So I Watch You From Afar| Fierce Mild
October 5, 2018 at Max Watts, Melbourne
You know that scene in Raiders where Indiana Jones lifts the Golden Idol from its perch and replaces it with a bag of sand. For a few seconds he smiles in triumph and turns before all hell breaks loose. It’s a flash-point in a timeline that is filled with twists and turns and highs and lows, where the desire and strength to keep going is built on passion as much as success and success is not measured in dollars but by internal fulfilment.
I feel like that’s a metaphor for so many of the underground bands we love. That elation of forming, writing some tunes and performing them for other humans is soon followed by giant boulders and cave implosions, but also, if you’re lucky and work hard, by a relationship with an audience and self-fulfilment. Wealth? Yeah right.
And so to sleepmakeswaves, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary with a short Australian tour supported by none other that the phenomenal And So I Watch You From Afar. Sleepmakeswaves are a band who represent so much of what you find in the wonderful people who live on the tightrope that balances confidence and doubt as they create and perform the music they love. They are confident enough to follow bands like ASIWYFA, Rosetta and This Will Destroy You, but as humble and genuinely appreciative as when I first saw them in 2011. At Echoes and Dust we are privileged to follow some bands closely for a number of years, see their shows and have several chats, and we’re stoked to see smw hit ten years.
I guess I should tell you something about their Melbourne show last Friday night. It opened with locals Fierce Mild who were six or seven performers (I didn’t think to ask if they were using live projections – sorry) and this included cello, which is about all you need to know to conclude that they were already at 50% before making a noise. When they did start we were treated to a feast of layers and dynamics in a collection of tunes that carried you along a voyage to the bowels of the Earth that was a bit Laura meets The Red Paintings via Dumbsaint. Smw have made a good habit of including bands with rather energetic and theatrical vocalists on their lineups and it worked famously once again. At the conclusion of the set the singer urged the crowd to stay for the next two bands and there was 100 percent compliance.
Pretty much all you need to know about the lads from Belfast is that everything you’ve heard about their live set is true, so long as what you’ve heard includes words and phrases like; fuck yeah; mind-blowing; intricate and precise; so full of energy you could use it to download seasons one to three of GoT; joyous; better than sex; more fun that most things you’ve had fun doing; explosive, and; don’t wait another 13 years before you come back to Australia!
There is no other band in Australia playing anything close to the sound of ASIWYFA, and the crowd loved them. The set started strong with ‘Gang (starting never stopping)’ and stayed strong with crackers ‘Like a Mouse’, ‘Wasps’ and ‘Terrors of Pleasure’, but a chunk of the crowd that had already started a pit really lost its nut when we hit ‘Search:Party:Animal’ and ‘Set Guitars to Kill’ (thanks to the guys who picked me up off the floor. Literally.) I grinned a lot through the nine tunes. My mouth hurt from grinning. Go see them when you get a chance and take out you’re earplugs – you’re gonna go deaf when you get old like me anyway.
Talking to smw bassist and occasional keyboard/macbookist Alex before the show, he promised I’d like their set and he wasn’t wrong. It started with a short film telling the story of the first ten years of the band (sadly minus some of the beard-trimming action seen in another promo), which saw heaps of yelps and cheers of recognition from the crowd. What a great idea. Immediately we were all part of the story, part of the family. It was a point Alex made later on in the set – their fans are a diverse group, all individuals and different, but we’re all united over this one thing, and how much that means to them. Yeah he is a deep thinker.
Now on stage, they opened with the perfect quinella of ‘birds’ from their first album and ‘we sing the body electric’ from their 2009 split EP. “But they always play them” I hear you say. Yeah sure but that’s because they are so fucking good so calm down. From here the set mainly harvested from ‘Love of Cartography’ and ‘Made of Breath Only’, such as the ‘midnight Sun’/’glacial’ pairing, ‘How We Built The Ocean’, ‘The Stars Are Stigmata’ and ‘tundra’, which they explained was inspired by the ASIWYFA set they saw at SXSW in 2012.
Otto talked about the contrast in their songs – deep and dark or happy and light, and they brought that contrast to the set. We saw ‘(hello) cloud mountain’ up against Stigmata and back to ‘Something Like Avalanches’. We also heard the epic ‘Your Time Will Come Again’ for the fist time ever in Melbourne (we would have heard it better except the crowd suddenly decided this was the time to catch up on important world affairs ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), and even more special was the first song they ever wrote, ‘by moving the stars I have found where you are hiding’, which is really fucking beautiful and needs to be re-recorded and released. In the meantime google it.
‘A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun’ has in recent years dropped off the set as the traditional closer, but thankfully the crescendocore anthem reappeared, as massive as ever before the final dichotomy served up the wonderfully bouncy and upbeat ‘Great Northern’ to close yet another thumping show. The danger of a retrospective set is always how much, and what you leave out. Not only did the choices satisfy fans old and new and provide an abundance of airdrumming and fist pumping opportunities, the sneaky buggers managed to squeeze in two surprises. Magicians I say!