Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Howler

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Howler

Written and photographed by Sarah Rix


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It’s always nice to get a warm homecoming. Melbourne’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever took to Howler’s stage on a Saturday night for the first of two sold out shows – receiving an enthusiastic welcome from a crowd that seemed more like friends and family than they did fans.

Opening the show was Closet Straights, the outfit of Melbourne-based artist Alex Lashlie. Performing as a three-piece, the band drew to mind acts like Canadian artists The Stills and Broken Social Scene – the latter particularly true during the slowed “White Rock”. It was also a noteworthy juxtaposition when they performed the fast-tempoed “Fellow Man” and followed it up with the more plodding “Farmer’s Wife”. An interesting stage presence made it memorable, though it’ll be interesting to see how far the band can go given their reference points to acts that peaked in the mid-aughts.

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It was also a blessing to see women on the bill for a fairly male-dominated evening (but more on that in a bit.) Up second was Poison City-signees MOD CON. The three-piece gave a heavy nod to acts like Pavement and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs – particularly in their song intros, featuring “Maps”-esque guitar lines that might have Nick Zinner tilting his head. While at times it felt they were lacking in cohesion amongst the three instrumental parts, the off-kilter presentation might still be considered part of the appeal. If anything, it was a welcome change of pace for the evening and a reminder that the music scene is, finally, moving into the future.

But with one step forward, you get two steps back – right?

Between set changeovers, a group of drunk bros – aka those guysat the gig – centred themselves by the stage. Between chugging jugs of beer, literally high-fiving each other over photos of their latest conquests, joking about sharing a woman, and other bros-being-bros conversation that I managed to overhear (not by virtue of me wanting to eavesdrop – they were just really loud,) a woman turned to me and rolled her eyes, muttering: “There are too many guys here.”

She wasn’t wrong. It’s not a fault, but Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s brand of indie guitar-led rock inevitably attracts the “live for the festival vibes” and “sick muscle shirt, bro” demographic. It’s easy music to like, comes across like a British throwback, and would sound good in a field – a point they’ll look to prove when they play this year’s Coachella Festival. Someone’s got to do it and it may as well be Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever… But, if I’m playing devil’s advocate here, it’s also hard to reconcile a space for what they do within such an already-occupied, well-represented territory.

I digress into politics and the shape of the industry, though. To get back on track I’ll offer that genuinely, it’s nice to see bands succeed and to see them give their audience want they want.

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Coming on stage to disco music and with the room swathed in reflected strobes, RBCF were quick to get the audience involved. Both “Wither With You” and “Sick You” got people shoulder dancing – the room looking like a pogo stick factory. Thanks to three vocalists, the five-piece band is also able to constantly switch things up and share the spotlight. This is a positive for them, given the material might otherwise feel a little tired. While they certainly have enough members to keep things interesting on instrumentals, “Tender is the Neck”, from 2016 EP Talk Tight, seemed to falter slightly; its bridge is built for people who think King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are too risqué.

Of the new material was an introduction to “An Air Conditioned Man” and “Talking Straight”, though it was the jangly single “Mainland” that was the most successful – the crowd already familiar with it and willing to lend their voices.

“Most of these songs were written about 50 metres away,” they said following the excellent “French Press”, a song which helped them both breakout and closeout their hour-long show. “That’s why it’s good to play in Brunswick.”

With the recent formal announcement regarding the release of their debut, Hope Downs (due out June 15), it is evident Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is ready to captivate audiences around the world. You always have to start somewhere, though, and Melbourne isn’t a bad place to begin. The Howler audience was more than willing to remind RBCF of it, too.

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