Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar is one of the smaller and more intimate venues Melbourne has on offer. After releasing the stellar album Liar, Brisbane based She Cries Wolf announced an Australian tour in the album’s honour, with Last Chance on the route. Having Liar on regular rotation since I reviewed it, I jumped at the opportunity to catch the band in the flesh (actually ending up buying a ticket twice by mistake, because I didn’t want to miss it).
To open the night, locals Red Lotus took the stage. More atmospheric than chaotic, the set was impressive! Slow and steady instrumental climbs lifted and encouraged vocals, before the Melbourne band took metaphorical leaps from full heaviness into high peaks. Thoughtful and fire-tinged, the set’s first epic song pulled all of us present into it.
To me it was clear that Red Lotus were here just to be who they are and share their music. No facade, nothing for appearances, nothing just to be cool. Just them. In the paisley wallpapered playground of Last Chance, we were swept up into rhythmic intricacy and vocal screams from frontwoman Stephanie Briffa. With a captivated crowd taking this full and majestic set alongside me, I found myself feeling lucky to have these experiences available to me in Melbourne. Live music is alive and well here!
As the set continued, stunning melodic guitar soared while dynamic vocals told a story. I appreciated the tandem vocals between bassist Luke Sullivan and Stephanie, as well as how comfortable the band seemed in both exploratory, light, and vining sounds, as well as deep breakdowns and growls. Red Lotus have a tough sound to put into words, coming across as experimental with a sense of funk, plus metal, plus dreaminess. Finishing up, I couldn’t fault any part of this band and their set, where beautiful vocals, warm and drawing bassline, light entrancing guitar melody, and fierce beats combined to form something amazing. Why don’t I listen to Red Lotus more often? [Find them on Spotify here!]
In fact I’m honestly not a regular listener to any of the bands on this bill aside from She Cries Wolf, though happy to take them all in. Watch the openers, people. Discover new music! Second act Death in Bloom had crossed my path with single “Shelter” last year, and hit the stage feeling fierce, fiery, and full. Just while I was questioning to myself how much energy could fit crammed onto the tiny Last Chance stage, bassist Abe Miller went for a tumble.
Setting an angry and hectic pace, Death In Bloom’s steady and driving songs hit like a sledgehammer, with searching vocals attempting to reach above the solid instrumentation. “Tempest” offered a rabbit hole dive into heaviness, with windmilling fierceness courtesy of wildness on drums at times. Last Chance offered close quarters with these steady two-steppable songs. The great guitar tone and raw vocals were enthralling.
I felt like I would have got more out of Death in Bloom’s set if I’d been more familiar with the songs, but it was still strong; pulling out fat riffs, moments of alarm/urgency, and edge of sanity chaos. “Hellebore” as one example made for a strong slice of music, and I appreciated the sick bass tone, the pull into the song’s story courtesy of vocals, and huge spaciousness left for pit action. [Death in Bloom on Spotify]
Sydney heavies Heists have been hand-picked to join She Cries Wolf on their tour! The quintet came barrelling out of the gate as their set kicked off, sparking a practically immediate mosh, and dropped drinks. Continuing their pummeling pace, searching guitar melodies wove through their set, including “Defeated”, the most recent single released by the band.
I wondered (again) how this much fierceness could fit on the tiny stage as “Disquiet” poured out at us. Seemingly designed to be emotionally moving (well, it was for me!), the gradual downward slide of the song was punctuated by a ‘fuck it’ level of breakdown. Constant movement and plenty of energy kept the Heists set enthralling, despite my unfamiliarity with them. [Heists’ Spotify]
“I’ve tried to live as an honest man, but everyone fucking loves the liar”
The moment we’d been waiting for had arrived with She Cries Wolf taking to the stage. From the opening stirrings of “Perjury” playing, I was hooked. The fact that I was reviewing and needed to somehow remember facts and figures of the experience for that purpose was forgotten as I watched the Brisbane band rip out the first four tracks of Liar. And impressively so. I found myself stunned and speechless at how great it was, and all my past self has given me in my notes of the set is “How to word?”. Gee, thanks for that.
As incredible as the recorded album, She Cries Wolf’s sound was full, moving, and hard-hitting. The drum punctuated roars of “Perjury” ran into the breakneck pace of “Magdalene”, showing the ridiculous vocal skill of frontman Luke Harriss in the meantime, and the eye-grabbing theatrics of guitarist Daniel Belic.
Instrumentally awesome, these songs and how they were being shared was blowing me away. You couldn’t have asked for the band to sound any better, and each of the Liar tracks were nailed in their full dynamic brilliance. As a band, She Cries Wolf are hard to look away from in action, especially when they’re coming at you with something so all-immersing as “Love Trader” (one of my favourites, so I was stoked that it appeared on the setlist). I just stood there and took it all in, probably with a smile on my face, gobsmacked and starry eyed, with magic made on stage via overlapping vocals and ridiculous drumming.
Even music aside, the quartet’s stage presence, energy, and eye contact was drawing and mesmerising. It was all a bit of a ‘pinch me, I’m dreaming’ moment for me, and I had to look at other people there (shout out to Nick Brown of Backbone Sunday Sessions podcast!) to make sure I was experiencing what I was experiencing for real. People still clearly had their wits about them in this waking dream enough to grab the mic at times, adding their voices to lines like “FEAR IS TRADING LOVE FOR MEANINGLESS SEX!”.
Though the setlist was Liar heavy, She Cries Wolf made a stop in older material, sharing “Baal” from their self-titled EP. They also later played the thick and hectic standalone single “Cultist” whose controlled aggression paved the way for pitting, and let guitarist Daniel continue his signature (impressive) intensity, including eyes rolled back in his head as he became lost to the song, or staring intimidatingly out at us.
Briefly sharing about Liar, Luke spoke about how the album came after a period of the band feeling creatively blocked for some time. He came across as grateful for the album to have come to life, as well as appreciative of its reception. But it wasn’t a chatty set and we were quickly back into the music with “Pine”, another favourite of mine. With “Pine”‘s sense of reverence with what’s being lyrically delivered (“How could they laugh? It was only last night”), its moments of wildness, and its amazing bridge, I couldn’t help but tear up a little. How does it get any better than this kind of song being powerfully and skillfully delivered in a live setting?!
Though I could happily watch She Cries Wolf for hours and hours, good things have to come to an end and their set was soon over. I found myself wondering how drummer Luke Gallows keeps up with “After Death” when it kicks in at its most ridiculous. It was “Moments (After Death Pt. II)” that ended the night; a suitably full and impactful piece of music to round out the ride of the set, with Luke (Harriss) intensely immersed into the song.
Hands down, this was one of my favourite shows of the year so far, and the crowd that squeezed into Last Chance were a fortunate bunch to soak up something so special. Anyone who loves Liar would be crazy to miss this experience! Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth, you still have a chance!
Thank you to Aidan Griffith for the photos of She Cries Wolf!