Live Review: Joyce Manor demonstrate raw and emotion-wrenching set at The Rev in Melbourne

Full disclosure. I’m not the world’s biggest pop punk fan. Hell, until I found Modern Baseball and Basement, I avoided the overtly emotional genre like carpet cleaners avoid The Tote. Joyce Manor are one of the select acts on the pop punk spectrum I can’t get enough of – something in the combination of their sharp, to the point songs and boyish charms has me sold.

This is my second time reviewing Press Club within a week. This should surely stand as a testament to their voracious gigging, as a result of the very, very positive response to their music. The Reverence Hotel’s larger stage and perhaps better acoustics saw the band sounding the best I’ve seen them, a particularly delicious bass tone the driving undercurrent beneath their set.

Their set-list was the same as when they played alongside Horace Bones, showcasing the strengths of their surprisingly extensive catalogue of songs. Vocalist Natalie Foster was her usual commanding self, consuming every corner of the stage and directing the audience to come closer. How she can round out flawless vocal delivery on massive lyrics (like track ‘Suburbia’), while bouncing across stage, is truly some kind of superhuman feat- and immensely captivating.

One of the reasons I’m so late with this review (excluding the havoc this flu is wreaking upon my body) is California-based Allison Weiss. Embarrassingly, I’d never heard of her before Thursday (understandable when you consider my prior pop-punk avoidance regime). Her live band was two guitars, bass and drums, delivering a distinct pop-punk tinge to her indie-pop sound, and she left me confused. Not in a bad way, just trying to figure out where she lies on the musical spectrum.

The absence of post-production details and synth removed ‘poppiness’ of her sound, despite her set being rounded out with a declaration of her love for pop music. Her music is honest and happy – the first thing that I noticed when I walked into her set was the blissful smiles on everyone’s faces. People singing a long. People who weren’t familiar just having a great time. Even the band members were having a great time. She’s a captivating performer, her between song banter oscillating between mocking herself, proudly declaring her newfound understanding of Australian culture, and gratitude to be playing a small set on the middle of a massive tour. “I’m gonna play you a bunch of sad songs… Thursday night sad club. Is this why you came out, like ‘let’s get fucked up and cry’?” she asks, before jumping back into her set.

Oslow are a unique band on the Australian music scene, their sound lying somewhere between alternative-emo and post-punk. Yeah. That kind of unique. The Sydney four-piece are led through their tracks by vocalist/bassist Dean Farrugia; I’m personally of the opinion that having a bass-playing vocalist results in some interesting vocal and bass lines developing, perhaps contributing to Oslow’s unique brand of punk. The math-rock influenced guitar work leaves some tracks feeling like a collaboration between This Town Needs Guns and Basement, with deep Australian influence.

There’s echoes of pop-punk throughout their set, with some seriously demure/sad boy vibes. I can’t stress the demure point enough – they thanked everyone involved with the tour at least twenty times; “we’re so honoured to be part of this tour with Joyce Manor, it’s a fuckin dream for us”.

Joyce Manor’s set literally started with a punk jump – this may have incited a bit of pop-punk terror within me – but that was forgotten by the end of the verse. The entire room, crowd and band alike, were just having a great time. Songs were introduced with just their title, the tracks hurtling by, catchy opening riffs and stoic lyrics reverberating through your head. It really did reiterate the shortness of their tracks, the average being just under two minutes, and the craftsmanship that’s required to write a song that’s so concise, but so musically rewarding and emotionally deep.

Material spanning their entire discography was performed, each song eliciting a sing a long and mosh. It definitely didn’t help when the band claimed the crowd was “heaps more crazy” then what the crowd was currently delivering. The crowd shamelessly yelled out requests, and the band obliged nearly every heckler.

This was definitely one of the most entertaining sets I’ve ever seen, perhaps mostly due to the state of intoxication of vocalist/guitarist Barry Johnson. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the contributing factors were fantastic, but he definitely was the crowning glory of the set. He covered a lot of material, from questionable blood stains on the mic (not his), whether anyone had any ecstasy, playing Poison City Weekender, the ‘ban’ on Coopers beer, shoeys, and his own state of intoxication. The band even started playing while he was talking, just to shut him up.

The set was rounded out with “Heart Tattoo”, absolute madness, and innumerable crowd surfers flying over-head. Joyce Manor didn’t even get a chance to leave the stage before they were roused back for an encore – you don’t get a response like that without putting on a damn good show.

Joyce Manor are on tour with The Smith Street Band, tour details and music available here: http://joyce-manor.com/

The reviewer attended this show on June 1st.