Body Type sounded like a band on an unstoppable trajectory on the 19th of August.
Before a note of music was played, the Matildas’ loss to Sweden had yanked what was supposed to be an exciting night of bracing femme-centric rock and roll back to a subdued torpor.
The streets outside the Corner Hotel were full of yellow-and-green swathed football fans in communal commiseration, pooling the game’s residual tension. The first of tonight’s bands, Sweetie, had their work cut out for them, but, much like their Jane Campion namesake, the Eora four-piece took about 0.5 seconds to reset the energy from “a bunch of blokes in anoraks quietly chatting about music and football” to “feminist rock and roll party!”. This is a band that feels very much about finding power in a collective and using it for good, in this case, garage rock.
Lead singer Lily Keenan gives a big smile and the occasional “Go the Tillys!” between songs about destroying cities (Godzilla), overcoming adversity (Punch the Shark) and a barnstorming cover of the Beastie Boys’ Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun. Her raspy, bluesy conversational way of singing is the band’s not-so-secret weapon. On songs like their stellar single Liminal Bliss, Keenan uses it to elevate straightforward big-riff rock and roll to something more timeless.
By the time they closed their set, the band commanded a near-capacity room. With this being the last show for a while for bassist Janae Beer, the band celebrated with a cuddle pile, which instantly made every other gig I’ve ever seen seem slightly lacking in comparison.
It’s not often you hear subpar sound at a gig like this, but few lyrics from any band tonight were comprehensible, and multiple punters noted the odd mix that made the lead guitar feedback piercing, the bass woolly and subdued and the rhythm guitar almost absent. Naarm’s own Gut Health, however, are such a curious-sounding band with so many tiny moments of silence in their songs that they almost mixed themselves.
Join the Kill Your Stereo community with our FREE weekly newsletter
Bursting out of the gate with Eloise Murphy-Hill and Dom Willmott’s dual staccato guitars, Adam Markmann’s driving circuitous bass riffs, Angus Fletcher’s razor-sharp drumming and enormous post-punk energy, it’s easy to see why they were must-gets for this year’s Meredith Music Festival.
Highlights from a blinding set include Memory Foam, singles Inner Norm and The Recipe and the soaring, closing track Stiletto. A big part of the thrill of a Gut Health show is seeing lead singer Athina Uh Oh in action, a front person freed from an instrument and commanding the space – sometimes crawling over the barrier – to connect us to songs that feel like the city’s nervous system tuned, tightened and flung on a stage.
Arriving at the song that accompanied Willy Wonka introducing his guests to his chocolate factory, Body Type gets a rapturous reception and gives back as much love as they receive. The band dive into Holding On, the first song from the album they’re here to celebrate. That album, Expired Candy, is already set to be a lock on many end-of-year lists, and over the next hour, the band encapsulates why it should be number one.
Freshly conditioned hair is thrown around with abandon as song after song of inspired pop-punk is propelled into the crowd. Cecil Coleman’s unflaggingly energetic beats, Annabel Blackman’s faultless lead work, Sophie McComish’s charisma-oozing vocals and fiery guitar and Georgia Wilkinson-Derums melodic bass all combine to be something bigger than its parts.
Weekend follows and, alongside older songs like The Brood and Sex & Rage, tracks from Expired Candy sound like a band on an unstoppable trajectory. Where there was roiling energy and reactionary cries, an assertion of themselves in a masculine world. Newer songs sound more controlled and dynamic, and like Body Type, have claimed that space and are now the ones inspiring reactions. Tonight, those reactions are all good.
Songs like Summer Forever, Anti-Romance, Expired Candy and Tread Overhead all show a band that operates as a unit, with no member taking precedence. Blackman’s flowing lead guitar lines and poise are a thrilling counterpart to McComish’s unbridled joy and Wilkinson-Derums’ frequent pacing of the stage; her push to connect with the other members keeps a sense of dynamism going that matches the songs perfectly.
These are not songs to be played – or listened to – standing still. Far from this constant sense of motion being exhausting, there is an invigoration and inspiration inherent in the songs and the band, so by the time they hit their set closer, the titanic Miss the World, there is a sense that something is just beginning. Fifty bucks says it’s not just the start of the greatest – and properly-funded – era of the Matildas.