Following on from their album -Anon. release and launch shows in October, Hands Like Houses have kept momentum high into 2019, announcing their largest headline tour of Australia yet. The tour’s stacked line-up of Ocean Grove, Endless Heights, and RedHook meant that this was a must-see for us! Getting to be in the gorgeous surrounds of The Forum theatre again was icing on the cake.

RedHook took to the stage first. Though I haven’t necessarily gelled with the Sydney band’s music so far, I was keen to see them in action. From their instantly explosive start, it was clear that RedHook’s set was going to be something of high energy. Sounding huge with thunderous beats and easily enjoyed riffs, the vibe was punchy, and with rapid shifts from melodic moments to rapping or screams.

Through the RedHook set, my attention was drawn to the bassist again and again due to his energy and infectious sense of groove. I’ve since learned that his name is Suburban and he’s a studio/touring musician for the band. Regardless, of his role, Suburban is incredble. The dude was fully into it and brought endless energy and life to the stage, whether he was focused on the bass or delivering vocals.

I appreciated Suburban’s full-blown outward energy on stage far more than what seemed like a stylised performance from vocalist Emmy. While the latter was polished, it unfortunately felt more like posing than a natural extension of the music. It seemed too choreographed to be engaging or drawing of us into the meaning of the music. A couple times I felt like “We’re here too!” in wanting for RedHook to involve us, even if we maybe didn’t know the words. It’ll be interesting to see how this new band progresses.

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In contrast to RedHook, Endless Heights’ arrival to the stage after changeover was an instant call for connection. As “Taste It” played and led with delicious guitar noise into “You Coward”, frontman Joel Martorana approached the microphone and wordlessly had his hand outstretched to us. It was easy to oblige and join in with the Sydney quintet and bear witness to Joel jumping and punching outward.

Endless Heights’ set seemed to be a demonstration of the dynamic their music stretches across; moving from easy and swayable tracks to harder hitting tunes and back again. Temporarily melting into the beautiful “Come A Little Closer” (with more experimental sounding vocals than usual, I noticed), the energy was again bouncing and wild with “Toxic” and we were encouraged to sing along. As always, Joel and guitarist Jem Siow hold nothing back on stage, with the other band members on stage (including a fill-in bassist?) immersing into the music in their own way.

Since I’ve been playing the newly released version of “Paralyse” on repeat, it was a treat to hear this beautiful song live again; measured and intimate in its sharing. The noisy talkers around me during this more subdued song copped daggers. They were drowned out with “Run” though, a song that seems purpose built to lose one’s shit to. Jem and Joel demonstrated how to do just that, with wild guitar work and mic stands wielded in the air respectively. Crowd interaction was off the charts for this, and “Drain” was a feelgood cherry on top we could all bounce along to. Christian Hrdina‘s slick guitar finish was a perfect end to Endless Heights’ set.

Ocean Grove have been through a lot over the last month and a bit! We last saw them at Unify, which was the Melbourne band’s last show with vocalist Luke Holmes and guitarist Jimmy Hall. There at The Forum would be our first chance to see new bassist/vocalist Twiggy Hunter in action, as well as the first opportunity to see Dale Tanner’s shift from bassist/vocalist to being purely on duty as vocalist and frontman. Honestly, if you Googled images for ‘smooth transitions’, you’d see Ocean Grove on stage at The Forum: They nailed this change.

Opening with “Ask For The Anthem” (which has been competing with “Paralyse” as to which one I choose to play on repeat), the Ocean Grove set was an instant good time. Dale danced around the stage and his rapping of the verses worked well in place of the heavily altered vocals of the recorded version. I was too immersed in the music at the time to notice what the crowd around me were doing, but dancing is a given. I don’t know how anyone could stand still to that song.

It was then “Glass Gloss”‘s turn; the second of the band’s recent singles. With Sam Bassall’s thunderous beats punching it home, the Odd World dance party was a reminder that Ocean Grove as a collective are continuing to soar on the trajectory they’ve worked at for some time, regardless of what is rearranged within the project.

En masse bouncing continued into “Intimate Alien”. Dale seeming to work overtime to cover all the vocal sections, but nailed it nonetheless. His exaggerated facial expressions, backflip, and stage dive added to the infectious good time that unfolded. Twiggy swaggered across the stage and seemed very at home in his new role. You’d be forgiven for thinking he’d been a longstanding fixture in Ocean Grove.

The good times didn’t stop for the entire duration, even when things slowed down a little for “Mr Centipede”, as well as a subdued and connective moment with “The Wrong Way”. Maybe it was just me, but the song choices of this set really hit home how Ocean Grove’s latest songs are truly just a continuation of where they were already headed by way of sound. Ending with “Stratosphere Love” with big smiles, infectious grandeur across all parts, and Dale diving into the crowd, it was a mammoth way to close off a very good time. We are with it now, Ocean Grove!

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Stunning lights and huge riffage welcomed us into the Hands Like Houses set. It was very quickly understood what we were in for: HUGE production. Without any encouragement needed, the packed out Forum crowd began clapping their hands over heads with the start of “Kingdom Come”. Rotating red lights and pummelling beats added to the anticipationary sense of MUCH more to come that -Anon.‘s opener creates.

Flames blasted along with “Monster” as frontman Trenton Woodley coolly and casually danced and sang. The grooving sound was amazing from near the sound desk, fitting for the sparks and huge applause it received as it finished. As they impressively moved into “Drift”, it became obvious how full of life the Canberran band are, and just how fully present they were with us.

“Thank you so much for packing this room out. Holy shit!” Trenton said, looking out at The Forum and taking it all in. It had already been a breathtaking whirlwind from the band, courtesy of lighting, sound, and stage presence – and we were just three songs in!

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Powerful beams of light shone out into the theatre as the set continued. Though Hands Like Houses aren’t a band I personally listen to often, they’d created an atmosphere that felt inclusive and it was great to be a part of. It was a pleasure watching every musician on the stage having a genuine good time and smiling out at us and making eye contact as they played. The noise of applause and cheers between songs was fittingly overpowering, as was the dancing and singing along. There was a lot of love in this room, and it felt that we were all invited into the Hands Like Houses family, with flames and light show to celebrate!

Trenton shared that usually his in-ear monitors would prevent him from hearing anything other than the band. “But tonight I’m hearing every goddamn word!”. In another quieter moment, Trenton shared the gratitude the band had for being where they are. A ten year journey of hard work led to this point: “The frickin Forum, holy shit! This is not something we take lightly.”

If it’s not already clear, the production throughout the set was seriously top tier. Co2 cannons emphasised “Tilt”, and red lights under the faux ‘sky’ of the Forum softened the riding pace and handclaptastic “Introduced Species”. Throughout the whole set were blasts of flames, spark ‘fountains’, and Co2. This full-on action packed stage show added to a definite WOW factor, and the visual massiveness multiplied the intensity of their show. I found myself wishing I’d known more of these great anthemic tunes to join in!

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Not content with just eye contact and beaming smiles, Trenton leapt into the crowd momentarily, and bassist Joel Tyrrell wanted to share ‘magical vibes’ with us in the audience via surf board. To spread the magic surf vibes, Joel climbed onto a surfboard and was slowly and steadily held by the crowd, which moved around the hall and back to the stage while “Bad Dream” was played. Vibes received!

On the topic of vibes, there was a lot of joy to behold at The Forum, including Trenton’s dancing on stage complete with finger pointing, a full crowd of phone lights for a lighter moment, and the sexy bass slaps of “New Romantics”. They must have been tired, but the show continued to feel FULL and exciting throughout until they left the stage.

Returning for an encore, our last moments with Hands Like Houses were lovely. Picture strobe lights and flames combined with shoulder sitting fans emphatically singing along with their band. Feeling at times like we were hanging with friends, the experience was relaxed yet still so HUGE. Lights beaming through Co2 blasts made for rainbowy moving clouds, which added to a sense of this all being quite surreal. Fireworks shooting from the bass was just another level of ridiculous production to add to the craziness!

Seeming tearful/emotional when they left the stage, I’m going to assume Hands Like Houses loved the experience just as much as we did!

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[Photos and video by the amazing Liam Davidson]
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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