Better Half‘s launch of their Maybe I Was Wrong EP last night was a good excuse to head back to the Cherry Bar. The cosy and eclectic venue was made even cosier with a sold out crowd, keen to see the Melbourne band in action. Released last month, the five tracks of the EP are a showcase of genuine lyrics combined with stellar and strong instrumentals.
Reinforcing this vibe was opener Clove, a firm favourite of Depth’s writer Josh Hockey (who was very excited to pick up the band’s EP Grey for $5). Giving off an inclusive sense of warmth, the alt-rock/punk band’s set was easy to feel a part of, even if you didn’t know all of the words. The stage at Cherry Bar felt very full with the five members and their gear, but somehow they managed to jump and move and dance without crashing into each other. That fluid sense of synchronicity and effortless connection came into their music too; whether they were sharing their brand of honesty accented by potent pauses or intensity. With high energy the whole time, beautifully vulnerable lyrics, and a very entertaining-to-watch bassist, Clove’s set was very ‘wow’. They included some new music in their set which we are very keen to hear again.
The second band of the night Reside also teased new music on the way and shared some of it with us. They opened with “Fidelity” off their 2017 EP Closing Doors, which was a wild start for the set. Big energy and intensity on all fronts is what struck me most about Reside, as well as how much they reminded me of Movements; both because of their sound and also because of Patrick Miranda lookalike frontman Liam Guinane.
Changing up the usual expectations of a set, the band split into two for a moment, having Liam and Ariel Johnson only on the stage sharing a new track together, while the rest of the band hit the bar. Intertwining harmonies in this acoustic moment were an intriguing taste of what’s to come for them. With the band reuniting and then covering Movements’ “Kept”, as well as belting out their own music with the help of a very affectionately vocal crowd, Reside’s set was as meandering as it was moody and honestly pretty tough to put into words! I’m intrigued by this band.
Where were all the Easy Life fans last night? The Sydney band could have used some heartfelt backing with their set. Despite a very cool soundscape welcoming us to the Shellharbour guys’ sound, they seemed out of sync, as well as had some technical issues making it tough to hear the vocals.
Fast-paced and determined to bring the hype, Easy Life never gave up, and brought the goods with songs from their 2017 There Can’t Be This Much Water in the Sky, such as “Light Me Up”. It was a grinding bass interlude and yelled vocals that revived the set for me, injecting some ‘yes’-ness back into this very endearing mess. “I’m Fading Away” saw the set end on a high, and in my head I’d have loved to see a wild crowd going off to this instead of a bunch of us just bobbing our heads mildly.
The wildness came with abandon toward Better Half though, as the main event opened strongly with “Fixate”. Remember when I reviewed Maybe I Was Wrong and said “I can already picture the “FIXATE! RELATE! COME BACK TO ME!” of the chorus being screamed back at Better Half in a live setting”? Well it happened for real last night and it was everything I’d hoped for and more. Riding the wave of satisfaction from the high of that opening, the band veered into older song territory, as a nod to longstanding fans.
Sounding as impressively polished as they did on the EP, Better Half’s set was unrelenting fire. Frontman Christopher Vernon held his post with a centredness and strength of composure like he could stare down a storm. And in this case, the metaphorical storm was a wild crowd of Better Halfheads enthusiastically getting into “Stop”, punctuated by crowdsurfers and stage dives. Just mind your head on Cherry Bar’s ceiling.
For a lot of the set, my attention was captured by just how much the crowd were getting behind these songs. I played ‘spot the musician’ with the crowd surfers, watching Christopher’s Belle Haven mates Jake Zammit and Tom Mitchell getting into it, as well as Aburden‘s Kyle Burrows. Even Greyscale Records’ Ash Hull had a go. It felt as fun and as celebratorilly high vibing as the music being shared in front of us was deserving.
Given that the EP was released last month, to have a crowd singing along enthusiastically enough to match the singing on stage is a testament to how much love was in the room and for Better Half. The tender beginnings of “North” were a noticeable example of this, and though the guys’ facial expressions on stage showed their focus was on playing their songs, I swear I caught ‘holy shit’ flash across bandmembers’ faces of just how huge this experience was. And what a goosebumpingly incredible moment it was to have everyone join in on: “You used me, you’re so shallow, she was wrong though, she was wrong though”. The quality of music on Maybe I Was Wrong made it easy to be part of this. The unwaveringly strong live experience of the EP was enhanced by looped riffs and other instrumental interludes between songs.
As the set came to a close, Christopher shared the experience of being just a teen when notes were written down that eventually became these songs; giving us an insight into how overwhelming the experience might be for him to see these lyrical seeds come to life. With unbreakable conviction behind their music end-to-end, Better Half pulled off a memorable experience in launching Maybe I Was Wrong. Ending with “Rest Your Head” was the moshable emphatic singalong cherry on top of it all. What a band!
[All photos courtesy of Albert Lamontagne]