Gig Review: The Basics @ The Espy, 27th December

Last night The Basics played what could well be one of their last headline shows to a packed bandroom at the iconic Espy. Ably assisted by some quality support acts, the guys put on a great show that only further demonstrated that this is one of the most charming and likable bands you can possibly imagine.

It was actually my first gig at The Espy, and I couldn’t have been more impressed with it. There are two massive bandrooms (that I saw), and entry was effortless and, above all else, free. Despite being a Monday night the place was heaving, with both bandrooms absolutely packed. The acoustics were great, and the choice of music in betweeen sets was diverse and pretty much spot on, with my personal highlight being a bit of Beirut goodness.

We arrived at the venue about halfway during the second support act, Stonefield. I, like most music fans in Australia, had heard of the band before, but I had never actually checked them out properly. The band, consisting of four sisters, won a prestigious Unearthed J Award nomination, as well as the Unearthed High competition, and I was very keen to see what the fuss was all about.

And I was extremely impressed. It’s not the type of music I usually would listen to- it was raw and in your face, drawing heavily on influences such as Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. The massive sound emanating from the stage was in direction contrast to the four small figures upon said stage, but the packed and enthusiastic crowd was indicative of the fact that the girls really are onto something, and already have a dedicated following.

I grabbed their setlist after they departed the stage, so perhaps a longer-term fan of the band will be able to make more sense of individual songs than me. For me the highlight of their set was a simply wonderful cover of Whole Lotta Love, featuring some true powerhouse drumming and vocals that did justice to the original track.

But really every song that they played was worthwhile, and the crowd responded with a huge amount of energy for considering that they were an opening act. I’ll definitely be checking Stonefield out in the future, and can understand the hype that has been surrounding them this year, especially considering that the sisters are still high school students.

Surprisingly, the bandroom emptied significantly after Stonefield departed the stage- illustrative perhaps of the fact that a lot of people were at The Espy just to drift between bandrooms and hope to catch some good music, or that Stonefield already have huge drawing power in their own right. Either way, there was a very decent break before The Basics were scheduled to arrive on stage, and it was all too easy to secure a spot in the front few rows and watch as the bandroom slowly began to fill again.

By midnight, when the band were scheduled to appear, the room was once again completely packed, however there was no sign of the stage being set up, and everyone was starting to get ever so slightly restless. Finally, Tim, Wally, and Kris appeared on stage and began setting up their equipment. It was nearly half past midnight by the time they were ready to play- as they would later explain, they got the set times mixed up.

Regardless, The Basics began playing, and the party really began.

They were even more enjoyable than the last time I saw them, playing a set full of fan favourites as well as extremely entertaining banter and interplay between the three band members. Wally was of course flawless on drums and sporadic lead vocals, and seeing him in action got me even more excited for the impending Gotye Laneway sets. However Kris and Tim were not to be outdone, and also took turns leading songs: overall the band flawlessly shifted the crowd’s focus between bandmembers, demonstrating just how tight they are as a live band.

Second Best and Rattle My Chain provided an early excuse for those at the front to move around, with the latter in particular featuring some simply frantic drumming from Wally. When all three band members harmonised vocals The Basics really did light up the Espy.

The highlight of the set for me was Just Hold On, an absolutely song with a really infectious swing feeling to it. Hey There provided a bit of a change of pace, as did Memory Lane, and I was once again left amazed at the class, quality, and quantity of The Basics’ music.

Meanwhile the banter between the band was as awesome as ever, providing the crowd with many laugh out loud moments (none more so than when the band interrupted one song to scream “Wally don’t leave us!”). Of all the bands I have seen live, these guys really do nail crowd banter just about perfectly, to the point where it becomes a part of their show, rather than just an interruption of their music. The Basics are three very likable guys, and it really shows when they perform live together: they seem like the genuinely are having a great amount of fun.

The No. 1 Cause Of Death Amongst Youth Today was brilliant, with the chant of “I am an ordinary boy, I tell an ordinary story” getting much of the sizable crowd singing along loudly. It is yet another very fun and catchy song from The Basics, and it was great to hear it live after it was omitted from the setlist the first time I saw them live.

The crowd for the most part was pretty cool, with the first few rows really getting into the show. However here’s a tip on concert etiquette: it is best not to jump around mindlessly using others as walls to rebound off like an obese wrecking ball, especially when it is a pretty chilled show. In particular I felt really bad for the few girls in front of said wrecking ball, who were constantly getting buffeted from behind, but to everyone’s credit we didn’t allow a few idiots to ruin the fun of the show.

Much too soon, The Basics departed the stage, and for a while it seemed as if they weren’t going to do an encore. However some enthusiastic stamping from the crowd soon saw the three guys reappear. Unfortunately the gig lost much of its momentum during the encore break, and it seemed as if the bandmembers themselves were a bit out of it, perhaps contemplating the future of The Basics or perhaps pissed off at the few idiots in the crowd who were doing their best to ruin the show for everyone else.

Better was a great track to reappear with however and, as if to lift the band even further, the crowd really got into it. A cover of a song called (I believe) Hey Rain saw the three guys singing a capella and with their eyes completely shut creating a really sublime sound, and followed by the crowd taking over lead vocals briefly and doing an admirable job.

Finally the band played a truly brilliant cover of Roxanne, with Wally providing lead vocals to great effect. And, just like that, with very brief goodbyes, the show was over. There was no talk of it being The Basics’ last show, even though the band sent out a newsletter that made it sound like it definitely could be. Whether this eventuates or not does not change the fact that this was a captivating, fun, and charismatic performance from one of Melbourne’s best and longest serving bands.

With Wally focusing on his solo stuff next year, the future of The Basics is, as ever, a mystery. However if this was indeed one of their last Melbourne shows, then it is hard to imagine a band bowing out with more grace and dignity.

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