Friends, Howler, Zulu Winter, July 24, Corner Hotel
Ahh, Splendour sideshow time, one of the best handful of weeks of the year, and on this particular night we were privileged to see three Splendour acts on the one bill. Zulu Winter, Howler and Friends that is, and there was a surprise from the latter group when percussionist Matthew Molnar did not turn up on stage. Although they didn’t say anything at the time, we later found out he'd been asked to leave the band
right before they were due to come to Australia. A decision apparently just as confusing for him as it was for us as he’s a super nice guy and talented musician, but life goes on, he has a new band and we look forward to hearing what else he puts out.
Meanwhile, back at the Corner Hotel, Zulu Winter were also lacking - not for band members but for some of their equipment, waylaid due to airport mishaps. This all-too-frequent problem for travelling musicians saw Dom Millard without his synthesizer, but he battled on, improvising sounds for the whole set with the keyboards available to him. What a trooper. Lead singer Will Daunt has a nice line in witty banter and his charm and working class accent helps set Zulu Winter apart from other touring English bands. The rest of the band are equally as quietly talented and have their own charms, not least of which was guitarist Henry Walton's swimming-esque moves with his instrument while playing ‘We Should be Swimming.'
Howler took the stage looking as though they'd just come from egging a house or some other shenanigans, and lets hope they never grow up. Certainly their aura of juvenile delinquency differentiates them from other thrash/indie bands. This didn't stop them being heckled, with several guys in the audience joining in then heckling each other like a group of hobos, which amused Howler enough to invite the crowd onstage for the last few songs.
More venues should have a curtain around the stage. It certainly helps to create a nice tension. The audience waited patiently while a Cure song barely drowned out the drum tech and faint sounds of “Mic one, testing, testing,’ and then finally the curtains opened, and there amongst the artificial smoke was Friends.
Samantha Urbani was a sight to behold, and plenty of girls will probably be seen in coming weeks with customized Tupac T’s (cropped and with attached jewelry on his ears and nose), “This song is about dying!” she yelled, and if any guy in the audience says he didn’t get a huge boner at the moment, then he is lying. Heaps of girls were probably crushing on her too. Dancing as though she had been practicing to Cyndi Lauper songs since girlhood, Samantha navigated the stage like she was in her bedroom and didn’t care who was watching. There were also plenty of Michael Jackson inspired over-the-shoulder looks (see: ‘boner’) and she even hopped into the audience and cheekily touched people’s faces as she danced past. Those who got touched stood in awed confusion, almost as though they didn't know what to make of her. She was almost too sexy. A few guys wolf whistled but it was kind of awkward, and she soon noticed the crowd's lack of movement. “How about we express our excitement with our bodies?” she optioned coyly and finally the audience got the memo: time to dance. The band covered ‘My Boo’ and got a warm response. Urbani introduced the other band members, the keyboardist taking the opportunity to tease the crowd “You paid $45 for this? Why is everything down here double what it is back home?” Urbani joined in, “Yeah I would not pay to see us. Is there anything I could do to make it worth your money?” And sensing the obvious response she quickly added, “Keep in mind I’m not going to actually do what you ask me to” before at least five guys yelled “Show us your tits!” The heckles rolled right off her though as she ran off stage to grab some T-shirts to throw into the crowd. Then, sadly, it was time for the last song, ‘I’m His Girl.’ Sensing the improved audience response, Urbani picked people out of the crowd to dance on stage with her. At the end of the song she delightedly caught a black bra thrown at her before passing it to the keyboardist. “It’s a hat” she explained before walking off stage, but not before two female fans/dancers accosted her for a photo, and without hesitating she obliged them, eyes wide like a lunatic. Ugggh, such a babe.
: Hannah Joyner