Words: Bec Wolfers
Photos: Thomas Oliver
Last week, for the third time in a row, I found myself at the hot mess Ric’s Bar has become on a Thursday night. It’s safe to say, the evening’s offer of three dollar basic spirits has transformed what used to be a fairly standard turnout into the event of the week in The Valley. Getting in and out of the bar with ease by the end of the night would have required some kind of magic tazer. And with bouncers at Ric’s now patting everyone down on the way in, violent weapons are sadly no longer an option. (Just kidding…sort of. There’s only so many times you can avoid getting shoved by someone in an ironic hat, without getting a little ragey).
Now, everybody Vogue.
But I digress. I dragged my tired ass out to see Thirteen Seventy, supported by Slow Riots, last week, and I’m happy I did.
“Come in from outside!”, Slow Riots’ singer and guitarist, James, urged the scattered Ric’s crowd, as the alternative trio took to the stage. Their first track, Smoke Signals, began with an addictive riff and a long, instrumental intro. It’s immediately clear that this is a band with a sound so big, Ric’s can barely contain it. The band’s combination of shoegaze, post-90s alternative rock and elements of prog is pretty delicious. James effortlessly switches between rhythm and lead guitar moments, holding his own against Slow Riots’ crazytight rhythm section (with Shannon on bass and Jacob on drums).
Shannon vs James
Slow Riots’ entrancing musaks and confident stage-straddling helped the crowd fill out, with a small group gathering to sit on the floor in front of them by their next song. I really dug the vocals in the second track, and the way that the creeping, mysterious, quieter moments of the music opened up to satisfyingly heavy grungegasms. Slow Riots know how to construct a piece of music to keep it engaging for the listener, while mostly eschewing traditional song structures.
Jacob + sticks
I’m taking a wild guess that James was kind of drunk…perhaps he shouldn’t have joked about bashing up Rics’ security guards…but, hey, that’s rock ‘n’ roll. (Well, according to Axl Rose). However, as mentioned earlier, the new policy of security pat-downs at Ric’s gets kind of tiresome when you’re walking in and out a lot.
Paddy’s Place was a standout track to me, an instrumental the band has recently released as a single. I genuinely like this piece of music, but question whether it was too early in the set to play such a chill song. The track following it was the vocal highlight of the set for me, with a very 70s, Black Sabbath/Zeppelin feel.
Slow Riots tinker with different guitar effects really well. James has an expansive pedal board, but Shannon’s is nearly as large (which is unusual for a bassist). My favourite track of the night was the band’s newest song, North Korea. With tons of dynamics, it had me alternating between moments of emotional resonance, and the urge to headbang wildly.
The only criticism I can make is that James’ voice seems to have trouble cutting through Slow Riots’ epic music, except when he’s cranked up to a yell. He uses a lot of drony vocal melodies that often get a little lost. Then again, this may have had something to do with the venue. Ric’s is notoriously hit and miss with sound (it’s just the nature of its space, though I love the joint dearly).
The next song put the ‘slow’ in Slow Riots – a very leisurely jam indeed, and the most emotive of the night. Taking the audience on an epic journey, it created a wonderfully spaced-out atmosphere. This is a band happy in their own world, that isn’t hung up on pandering to crowds or trends.
I must commend James on mentioning Slow Riots’ name a bunch of times and pointing out the merch desk – so many bands forget to do this, running the risk of being forgotten (you can get the limited Paddy’s Place EP for only $2 at a show).
Pussy and box – The Paddy’s Place EP
Longitude Latitude was the last song of the set, and one I really loved. It featured a phasy, plucked intro, engaging chord changes, and some pretty exciting, heavy moments where all the band members synced up. Jacob is a skilled drummer, able to complement the quieter moments of the set, while also knowing when to crank it up to 11.
I think there is a great deal of passion beneath the slacker, stoner-ish veneer of Slow Riots. Sure, the band is maybe a bit silly between songs at times, but music is about having fun – and there is true depth and maturity in the music they’re making. When the band’s heavier moments explode, they really get into it, with Shannon’s sways and James’ hyperactive spasms making it hard for the audience not to move along. Towards the end of the set, James jumped into the crowd with his guitar and thrashed around, to the approval of the fray.
By the end, it was clear that Slow Riots had gained some new fans, with several gig-goers swarming the band as they packed up. Apart from the vocal issues, and a few overdrawn ‘rock and roll’ endings (these always annoy me, for some reason), I genuinely enjoyed this set. This is a fucking great live band, and they’re getting better all the time. You should go check them out, so you can be all, “I knew about them before their infamous bouncer-bashing jail debacle”. (Yeah, I called it first.)
Slow Riots’ next show is Thursday 21st March at The Elephant Arms, with Trip Sinister and The Androgyny.
Slow Riots links
Only two-thirds of Thirteen Seventy were able to play Ric’s on Thursday (Maybe I should re-christen them Nine Thirteen for this review?…sorry. Math joke.) With the band’s bassist, Tony, calling in at the last minute with a violent sick-attack, singer/guitarist Clint and drummer Fi bravely took to the stage as a two-piece to play their show.
Fi + Clint collide
Despite this setback, they did a damn good job. The band began with a great opening riff, showcasing their post-90s alt, and slight 80s Aust-garage rock, sound. Fi is a very able drummer, and compensated well for the lack of bass guitar. I can only imagine how tight her drumming would sound with a bass to lock onto. The missing piece of this trio was only occasionally noticed in the songs’ choruses, where some bottom end could have helped fill out the sound. In any three-piece, you are going to notice a missing member pretty strongly – so, really, these two did a commendable job. Clint has some fantastic vocal hooks, and is a charming frontman. His personable, calm, confident-but-not-cocky stage presence is lovely to behold.
Taylor Hanso…sorry, that’s Clint
After Thirteen Seventy’s first song, Clint explained Tony’s absence to the attentive Ric’s crowd, quipping, “But, as Freddie Mercury said, the show must go on…”. Thirteen Seventy’s second track, Rubble, featured a strong grunge influence in the guitar sound, and a slow, steady build in the song’s dynamics. For some reason, I couldn’t get the idea of a heavier Hanson out of my head for this track – but I think maybe I was just mesmerized by Clint’s magnificent blond mane, and something in the song’s melody. Transitioning next into a ripping, fast-paced track, Thirteen Seventy flipped the coin and showed their range, as echoes of Motorhead and Guns N Roses flicked at my ears.
Thirteen Seventy know how to combine catchy, but atypical, chords together with solid dynamic structures. I get the sense that this is a band who enjoy the art of writing ‘a song’. I could identify which parts of their tracks were verses, and which parts were choruses, pretty clearly, and that’s becoming rarer and rarer these days, with many alternative bands’ broad experimentations becoming the default. Audiences and radio have always enjoyed music they can grab onto, so I think this quality could prove a strong point of Thirteen Seventy’s.
When drummers sing: Episode One
Mid-set, Fi took to the mic, her vulnerable vocals beautifully accompanying Clint’s phasy guitar licks. The ethereal melody of this song carried through, entrancing the crowd – I was reminded of The Cranberries – until an unexpectedly heavy riff erupted. I actually saw someone near me jump at this moment; hooray for surprising the crowd!
Clint clearly knows his way around gear; another frontman with an impressive pedal collection. Shifting adeptly between sparkling clean tones, reverbs, phasers and chunky distortions, he kept the guitar sounding interesting throughout the band’s set.
I enjoyed Thirteen Seventy’s fifth song a lot. With an engaging vocal hook, and the verse’s picked guitar riff, I was reminded of Alice in Chains – particularly during the epic, passion-filled chorus. Clint has an impressive vocal range, proving able to hit hoarse, heavier moments, as well as clear, soulful melodies, with conviction and ease.
This set was a good mix of mid-tempo, ballads and heavier numbers. Fi was hitting hard in every heavy moment, truly working overtime to drive things home. I really dug Thirteen Seventy’s seventh song, though of course bass would have added more dimension. There was this catchy vocal hook in it that grabbed me; a magic moment that was repeated only a couple more times. I love sparse highlights like these in songs. It’s the kind of phenomenon where you’d listen to a record for that one part again and again, until suddenly you know the track off by heart, and love the whole thing.
In Medusa, I found another highlight; an epic rock ‘n’ roll mid-section that sounded like an ending (though I’m not sure if this was because there was no bass). Guitar fuzz crackled and seemed to be dying, hanging in the air for a superlong pause – until the band unexpectedly launched back into the song’s chorus. This bait-and-switch is the kind of moment that works really well live, playing with the crowd’s expectations and turning them on their heads.
Clint thanked the crowd before the band’s last track, Exit – a stripped back track that tumbled into some lushly heavy moments. All in all, I enjoyed Thirteen Seventy. It was cool to experience what must have been a unique show for the band. This was the first time I’ve seen them play, and I’m eager to experience them again as a three-piece. It’s difficult to review a band that you know is missing an important component, but I truly applaud them for playing a tight set. If a band still sounds good missing a third of its membership, and commits to playing a show even in the face of that, then it’s a band that cares about what it’s doing.
Thirteen Seventy’s next show is also Thursday 21st March, at the Beetle Bar, with Dameena and Trash Queen.
Thirteen Seventy Links