Halfway, The Aerial Maps, Hoolahan @ Sly Fox, Sydney
17th August 2018
Halfway are hometown heroes in Brisbane but that success hasn’t always translated to other cities such as Sydney when it has come to live shows. Thankfully the occasion of the launch of their new album Rain Lover and the chance to see them at a relatively intimate venue in Newtown, made for a healthy and enthusiastic turnout.
Up early were locals Hoolahan, still riding high on their return from hiatus and their ‘comeback’ album Casuarina. Bathed in red light, the band played an assured set, built on guitars that channeled jangle pop, post-rock and washes of gentle indie rock dynamics. Shared lead vocals added another layer of variety through a set that, even though it had a low-key vibe, was also able to find warm and chugging, rhythms on songs such as Instant Gain and sparkling widescreen sonic qualities.
The Aerial Maps are another band that has been reactivated and is showing the same spirited approach to their music. Led by Adam Gibson, and in this iteration also including Peter Fenton (Crow, The Tall Grass) and Alannah Russack (The Hummingbirds), the band created some diverse and emotive musical backdrops for Gibson’s unique style of storytelling. He’s a poet, a raconteur with a devilish glint in his eyes and larrikin smile on his face. Tales of characters and geographical locations from across Australia populated his songs as the band dug into everything from dirty garage rock to cinematic excursions closer to the Dirty Three. Gibson’s style invites the audience into the performance. You could hear the words and be transfixed by his fascinating delivery.
Halfway certainly don’t shortchange their songs, fleshing them out with eight band members playing guitars, pedal steel, drums and keyboards. The magic of what they do lies in how they blend and arrange those instruments. Sure they can conjure a rich and dynamic sound but it is never cluttered or crowded with too many cooks in the kitchen. Space is the key, particularly on their new album which was aired in full, though they interestingly played it out of order, choosing to open with the stately and touching dreamy wander of latest single, The Metallic Taste Of Bad News.
The bass of Ben Johnson was prominent in the mix, anchoring the songs with melodic runs and solid, Krautrock-leaning repetition that added weight to their sound but never overwhelmed the other four guitars which balanced each other out with great subtlety. Post-Rain Lover, we were treated to Dropout, Dulcify and Bret Canham’s Leather Jacket which showed how far the band have come musically and yet how they’ve managed to retain the essence and quality of their songwriting and sound.