Swanston Street was sprawling with people enjoying the sultry summer air, whilst punters inside Max Watt’s were drinking a bevy or two, awaiting the onslaught on their senses.
Prog rock Sydneysiders Making are doing a stellar job of warming up the throng. Their heavy rock guitar arpeggios during “Come to Me” and static drenched sounds please the crowd.
Just after 11pm Battles take their spots on the stage; drummer John Stanier’s conspicuous tall crash cymbal and Ian Williams’ inverted keyboard provide an interesting stage visual. Bassist Dave Konopka is twiddling knobs and creating loop upon loop during opener “Dot Com.” His funky bass grooves kick in and Stanier starts drumming with searing intensity, and precision. He is phenomenal. His Helmet hardcore roots have served him well. Williams is tapping his guitar fret board and playing his inverted synth providing the melody. All three members are accomplished musicians in their own right. Battles are tighter than Brian Mannix’s skinny jeans.
Oscillating soundscapes, reverberate around the venue. Each song builds slowly; layered and precise sounds emanating, hypnotising the crowd into submission. All surrender to the music, eyes pealed on the stage. Prog rock has never sounded this good live.
“We wanna let you know that we love you very much,” confesses Konopka in a brief interlude where he addresses the crowd. “We’re here to play Laneway, but here is where the special moments are.”
In “Tyne Wear, Stanier plays the sleigh bells as intensely as he drums, his white shirt drenched in sweat, whilst Williams is cavorting about between his synthesiser and guitar, and Konopka grooves steadily. The setlist draws from all three albums, including their latest release La Di Da Di but it’s the behemoth “Atlas” that draws the most thunderous applause and screams from the fans. Atlas, live is nothing short of breathtaking. Ex member Tyondai Braxton’s distorted vocals sampled over pounding tribal drums, giving the hit it’s dance sensibility and the synth drenched back drop providing a foreboding foil. There isn’t a still body in the house.
For the encore “The Yabba” off their latest album is introduced as one of two songs written about Australia. Nine hefty math rock songs performed in one hour and the show sadly comes to an end. Battles are relentless in their delivery, and had us all transfixed from the get-go. They are a must see act.