Poison City Weekender surfaces each year in the wake of BIGSOUND – Melbourne nonchalantly shrugging its shoulders and reminding Australia of why it’s the music capital. The first night of this year’s PCW was exactly that; an evening of some of Melbourne’s finest coolly sharing the stage with international acts, shrugging their shoulders and showing the world what we do best.
2017 saw Hachiku’s debut, the Melbourne-via US-via Germany songstress releasing her self-titled EP through Milk! Records, and firmly placing herself on the Melbourne music map. It was only fitting that she eased PCW into full-swing for 2017, claiming the side stage at The Corner with a full band, armed with dreamy indie-pop.
Sandwiched between a guitar and a synth, draped in a cosy hoodie and her signature bedroom hair, you can see the echoes of her writing these tracks in makeshift bedroom recording studios, comfortably sharing her music with the world. The sparse crowd was appreciative, yet you could feel them brimming with anticipation of things to come.
Hachiku’s entire set was a kind of post-modern musical imagining. Each member was sufficiently disjointed, both from each other and the crowd, but they united musically to create a kind of magical reverie. From a downbeat opener, the set blossomed, energy built, and whispers of great things to come were heard.
New York’s melodic punk group Worriers then took to the main stage, opening with “Good Luck”, overflowing with jangly riffs and hooks; “I hope you/I hope you hate New England”. Lauren Denitzio’s songwriting anchors the band, her musical intelligence and talents making her something formidable. Not to mention that her voice is strongly reminiscent of The Cranberries’ vocalist Dolores O’Riordan – having that voice interplay in layered vocals gave texture and depth.
Not to be too clichéd, but their on-stage energy was amazing. I know it’s an overused term, but that’s the only way to describe the group. Each member was effervescent, engaging the crowd and each other, and delivering flawless punk – this is a band who know what they’re doing.
The set elicited a good amount of head nodding from the crowd, which in Melbourne is the highest form of praise – not just for the music, but the messages as well.
Before launching into “They/Them/Theirs”, Lauren gave the succinct introduction of, “This song’s about how I don’t understand the gender binary or why we need it”.
Milk! Records’ second representation of the night, Loose Tooth, then commandeered the side stage, their hazy guitar pop a perfect reprieve, following the intensity of Worriers. Luc Dawson’s relentless and driving bass lines were the fulcrum of the set, from which jangly guitar riffs and dreamy vocals branched. Heavily featuring from EP Saturn Returns, the trio were relaxed, casually bantering about the logistics of stage diving from the small stage.
Probably my favourite part about this set was the realisation that we were three bands into the evening, and the majority of musicians hadn’t been male. I know some people think this shouldn’t be a big deal, that it should just be a natural, unspoken thing, but it isn’t. I can’t remember the last time that I went to a gig that was so non-male centric, where the crowd was so respectful, and where it felt like the women on the line-up were there because they’re great musicians, and not just because a promoter is trying to fill a ‘diversity’ quota.
And after so highly praising the minority-rich evening, Jeff Rosenstock took to the stage, along with his three male band mates. I guess we’ve got to give the boys a chance. He dove straight into “We Begged 2 Explode”, before a seamless transition to “Pash Rash”, the opening duo from 2016’s Worry. He was an enigmatic front man, pouring himself (and a lot of sweat) into his music, letting the crowd play his guitar, and providing perfect banter.
“Festival Song” appeared mid-set, taking the already outrageous energy of the ska-tinged pop punk to another level. The flow between songs dominated the second half of the set, blasting through ‘Hell Hole’, ‘June 21st”, “The Fuzz” and “While You’re Alive”, in a dizzying display of energy. The levels of observed skanking were far below what I’d anticipated, but the sing-a-long, jump-around set was beyond expectations.
Camp Cope’s second gig was at PCW in 2015, opening for acts including Jeff Rosenstock. Now here they are, headlining the first night. Following an acknowledgement of country, the trio ripped straight into a new song, introduced by Georgia Maq as, “a new song for women and queer people… who are very hard to find, apparently”. The new track was driven by a chunky, thumping drum and bass line, combining as a solid groove. Their views surrounding the music industry were summarised perfectly in sardonic lines, “yeah a female opener/that’ll fill the quota mate”.
Following the new track, the group ripped through “Done”, “Flesh and Electricity” and “Jet Fuel”, Georgia’s powerful voice met with most of the voices from the crowd. The group were overwhelmed by headlining the evening, and were super stoked to be there – there were definitely nearly some tears.
The crowd was giving back every bit of love that Camp Cope showed, surges of energy in the second half of “West Side Story”, and with closer, “Lost”. In fact, the crowd loved them so much that they roused Georgia back for an encore, which reiterated the important messages carried through music. “Last Friday I was in hospital because I was suicidal, this song’s about that,” she earnestly reveals, before playing “Song for Charlie”.
The whole set was a journey through feminism, breakups, medication, mental illness, the music industry, and the little things, like lighting a stove, watching Netflix in bed, pay rates, and going to shows. Every time I see Camp Cope play, my faith in humanity is restored a little.
Photo by Matt Warrell.