Ambleside: ‘Still Life’ Tour @ Workers Club, Melbourne

After a lengthy period of quiet, it was a pleasure to see Ambleside return with the spellbinding and urgent “Still Life”. The Adelaide based collective kicked off a tour in celebration of the new chapter; visiting Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. We were lucky to catch the tour at Workers Club, where a chilly evening didn’t stop punters from finding their way to the Fitzroy venue.

The event was made even more alluring with Weighbridge playing! Seeing them play their first show in January (on the Void Of Vision tour for “Kill All My Friends”), I had a whole new sense of enthusiasm to pick up what this band were putting down in a live setting since the release of their incredible Limbic Resonance EP.

Within moments, Weighbridge owned the stage, filling the Workers Club bandroom with energy.  EP opener “Narcolepsy” was the perfect place for the set to start, with vocalist and guitarist Sean Ross stunningly nailing every note; from the sky high questions to the more gritty moments of frustration. It was immediately impressive seeing this band be so all-in and delivering their tight sound with apparent ease.

Making their way through the songs of Limbic Resonance, the energy was kept high and the live versions of these grooves, precise rhythms, and tempo shifts frankly couldn’t have been better. Hearing favourite song “Something Bleak” live was a treat for me, but other standouts of the Weighbridge set was the flow of attention shared between instrument and voice, both expressing themselves so emotively (most noticeably in “Gums & Teeth”), and seeing people getting into the set and singing along with the band (and Jack Bergin!) for “Gaunt”.  The frenetic peak of “Use” in its final minute was a perfect way to end the set. Weighbridge continue to impress and I’m keen to see what 2020 brings for them.

Needless to say, second band Earthbound had their work cut out for them in following on from Weighbridge’s performance. Opening with “Monochrome” from their Liquify EP (released in 2018), the start was an explosive one, with vocalist Tom Armstrong tilting easily from singing to screaming. Heads were gently bobbing along with the band, who were putting a whole lot of energy into the experience, as well as smiling and clearly having a good time amongst themselves on stage.

The timing didn’t seem as tight as the set before it though, and it was a challenge for me personally to connect with the music. My unfamiliarity with Earthbound’s songs made this harder, and I admit that my attention waned. I would have liked to feel the sentiment behind the music, and it just wasn’t quite there unfortunately.

Credit to Earthbound though, they were unrelenting (especially the effort behind the drum kit) and gave everything they had. I respect their drive even if the set didn’t resonate with me personally. There were some moments where they shared solid and strong riffs and coupled this with an urgent and drawing pace. I just would have loved to see more connection with the music and the audience.

Whoops! I was so busy having a good time talking with friends in the Workers Club bar area that I missed the start of Reside‘s set. I know, this is an absolute crime. I entered the bandroom to find the Melbourne ‘sadboys’ in full swing. Band members were bouncing around the stage, punters were joining in with singing “whoa-ohh”s, and frontman Liam Guinane was reaching out to the crowd; actively/physically expressing what he was saying with his body language and facial expressions. It’s easy to get drawn into a Reside set, and the vocal crowd members around me seemed to show that this was felt by many.

Flowing into “Brevity”, the building tension of this song was divine, finally exploding into instrumental freefall. It was a pleasure seeing people falling into the moment along with Reside. Liam was perched on the speakers at the front of the stage at some points, being fully accessible to the crowd, including sharing his mic. Coming across raw and questioning in these personal songs, these were some big vibes for this little bandroom.

Playing “In This Moment” was another memorable moment of the set, with Liam metaphorically holding up a platter with his guts upon it with his vulnerable singing, and the band reinforcing the same emotions, with heaviness and groove.

Moving into “Replace Me” to end their set, it seemed almost laughable for us to have Liam teach us the chorus now, just as has happened since before this song was even released, given how integral this song has become to the genre. A mainstay of honest struggle and hope, “Replace Me” needs no introduction now; holding its own and with everyone already knowing its words. Moving me on every listen (including there at the Workers Club too), it was a huge way for Reside to finish their set.

And then it was Ambleside’s turn. From where I sit, it seems like the band have been going through a transition of sorts over the past year or so, and taking time behind the scenes to perfect this. Of this transition, we’ve so far seen “Blur” and “Still Life”. Well we got to see a whole lot more of this at the Workers Club, kicking off with “Blur” to start proceedings.

The mood was chilled, both us and Ambleside, and it felt like we in the crowd were there to casually hang. The band seemed happy and energetic on stage, and Ambleside’s vocalist Dan Stevens invited us all to sing along with him – which we did! Dan bounced around and moved with as much opportunity as the stage afforded him without crashing into his bandmates or their instruments.

It was soon clear that we’d be getting a hefty dose of new music that night! My notes are sketchy about these new songs, but “dynamic” would be a good word for the first unreleased song, which had a punishing pace and moments of quiet, before blowing out into something huge. A second newbie that followed it came with some magical harmonies, and I enjoyed the relaxed mood in amongst the fierceness of the song. It saw the band go chaotically wild on stage; bouncing, dancing, and head banging.

Going then to something more familiar, “Tired Eyes” gained enthusiasm from the crowd with its punk rawness. Punching the air and shouting along with their band, it was continued wildness from the band, with the ending seeming like icing on top of the experience.

With more new music, it was a pleasure just to take it all in. Barely-there singing and tandem voices (Dan and vocalist/guitarist Dean Lawrence) worked well, as did the mood that was set by instrumental monotony/steadiness before heading into something more emotive and tangled. The vibe was somewhat experimental, seeming to join one song into another. With the following song, the two vocalists reinforced the same lines together, coming across strong and so good that I can’t wait to hear these new songs in their recorded form and get to know them more! It’s well worth mentioning the way the song felt held by the beautiful guitar work.

Turning up the mosh flames (maybe starting to get the most action out of the sedate crowd of the entire night), “Good Enough?” from Shape Me offered space for everyone to lose themselves to. Maybe it was just my ears, but I picked up some differences or tweaks with how the song was played, reinforcing my impression that Ambleside are more than ready to focus more on their new music as soon as they can.

Flowing into “Wash Away”, if you don’t move to this song, I’d recommend checking your pulse. It was nothing but joy with this song, courtesy of its sonic thunder and the collective of voices. Picture people clambering on back for a mic grab, smiling faces in the thick of the mosh, and a sweaty and unified sense of enthusiasm.

With Dan expressing the band’s appreciation, “Still Life” saw the end of the set, feeling fucking great with its warm tones and voluminous sound. Received enthusiastically and played with every last scrap of energy the band hand, the newest single ended Ambleside’s set on a high. Keen for what I expect will be a big 2020 for the Ambleside crew!

[Photos of Weighbridge and Reside courtesy of Liam Davidson, and photos of Earthbound and Ambleside are courtesy of Ethan Zahorodnyj]
Kel Burch

Creator and caretaker of Depth Mag, Kel uses her superpowers of empathy, word-weaving, and feeling everything deeply, to immerse herself in music before returning to reality to write about her experience with it. [Loved the read? Shout Kel a latte.]

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