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Now for our regularly scheduled program featuring Brisbane’s very own WHALEHOUSE.
The security guard mumbles something to me as he scans my ID. I look at him confused. I’m too kind/impatient to ask him what he said, but he had looked at my shirt. I assume he’s complimented me on my sick WHALEHOUSE tee. He says something like, ‘you must be a big fan’. I nod my head and say thanks. Of course I’m a fan.
The bitter autumn-night breeze is nulled as I climb the stairs into Black Bear Lodge. An attractive noise escapes the black curtain that hides the stage. It’s Average Art Club. I’ve made it just in time for their set as they support headliners WHALEHOUSE on their Sexy Whale Beach Party single launch. The name Average Art Club sounded familiar on the bill and I was pleasantly surprised as I walked in and realised I’ve seen them before. I enjoyed their sound the first time I saw them, and a welcoming sense of nostalgia fills my body. Average Art Club’s sound resembles that of my late high school years. Vocalists Lisa Murr and Hannah Manic’s beautifully rich harmonies remind me of early Jezabels, Murr’s husky yet smooth vocals even resemble that of a young Stevie Nicks; and I don’t make that comparison lightly. The band are held together by solid drum rhythms that often change through each song as well as ominous synth keys giving Average Art Club a thicker sound than the average indie band. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Average Art Club on a big festival bill in a year or two; they are ticking all the right boxes.
The crowd filing in past Black Bear’s black curtain are vast and varied; hipsters, punkers, musos, teenyboppers and a young Rick Springfield lookalike. Though stylistically stark and diverse, we all have one thing in common: anticipation to see one of Brisbane’s premiere punk outfits take the stage.
The background music fades as the lights dim. Surfaris’ Wipe Out blasts through the speakers. Screams echo as WHALEHOUSE take the stage, but not before they kick off this party by dancing through the crowd to the surf rock riffs. Green sea weed streamers hang from the ceiling above the stage and a broken cardboard surf board hangs behind the drum kit. WHALEHOUSE are dressed in homemade whale covered dresses. Punk’s DIY aesthetic lives! Even if it’s as colourful as a Play School set. Vocalist Zoe Wilson takes the mic and stares intensely into the crowd as she begins her loud, charismatic and furiously passionate vocals. Sharing the role of co-fierce-vocalist is Amy-Rose Lawson who accompanies on the heavily distorted guitar. The chords are simple but resemble the early punk days with catchy melodies and a danceable-drum beat thanks to drummer, Sonya Chamberlain.
The band’s charming humour is scattered amongst the songs as well as the banter in between, often taking inspiration from underwater themes. It’s like I’m in a late-night episode of Spongebob. The three bandmembers feed off each other in both humour as well as their performance. Wilson and Lawson switch positions on stage for my personal favourite, Good Christian Girl; a fiery albeit slower punk anthem that showcases clever song writing and solid instrumentals. Thankfully, WHALEHOUSE include their cover of DEVO’s Girl U Want into the setlist. It’s a track that wowed me on their BIGSOUND showcase as the band revamp the track and make it their own. Wilson is at her best when she’s jumping around the stage, mic in one hand and tambourine in the other, screaming the lyrics with a theatrical passion. DEVO laid the foundations, but Girl U Want is a WHALEHOUSE track; it’s better than the original.
WHALEHOUSE treat us to another cover, Pat Benatar’s Heartbreaker, which sees Lawson pick up the mic once again. Though it’s a rough cover, Lawson’s performance is captivating and powerful. WHALEHOUSE begin their newly recorded single, Sexy Whale Beach Party. The crowd erupts in applause before twisting their hips to Chamberlain’s rapid punk drum beats. The audience scream the lyrics back to the stage as Wilson wails, “Sexy Whale! Beach Party!”. It’s a short single, but punk rock never strayed over two-and-a-half minutes. WHALEHOUSE end their set with crowd favourite Fresh Bread. It’s a quirky and political track that I can’t agree with one-hundred percent; I enjoy fresh bread.
WHALEHOUSE aren’t the typical modern punk band; they aren’t screaming politically charged anti-Trump lyrics, instead they sing about Sexy Whales, spaghetti and fresh bread. Their discography isn’t full of 420 anthems about smoking weed, instead they hang green streamers from the ceiling, their passion is for a different kind of weed. WHALEHOUSE aren’t the shoehorned three-men-one-female hard rock group that gain recognition for their diverse line-up. They are three kick ass chicks who take the stage with ferocious energy, delivering fast paced punk tunes with a DIY attitude; embodying what punk was all about in its conception in the 70s. This is my fifth time seeing WHALEHOUSE, and on each performance they deliver. This time is no exception.