Midnight Juggernauts

with Dappled Cities and Kirin J Callinan

It's not often that Melbournians witness their celebrated Forum Theatre bare of spectators, but such was the reality at The Forum on a chilly Thursday evening, as just a handful of enthusiastic punters gathering minutes before the first support act.


Kirin J Callinan took to the stage for what proved to be a performance of unparalleled eccentricity. Callinan is blessed with an exceptional voice, a ghostly, booming quality that succeeds in crafting a haunting presence. Meanwhile, the reverberating roar of an electric guitar surged across the sparse dance floor utilising an array of loops and effects courtesy of pedals. It would be Callinan's only accompaniment, the performer resembling strange cross between Winnie The Pooh's Eeyore and Jeff Buckley, in a truly unique display.


An unorthodox, scrambling mess of noise ensued in a polarising approach to performance, Callinan's scattered, manic segues devoid of rhyme and reason. The word here is bizarre, his threadless, free-form style puzzling many. The confounding show was taken to new, baffling depths as he removed his shirt for no apparent reason, his set then continuing as normal. It was as if Callinan realised his set was in freefall, and understood the tact as a step towards rectifying the problem. He couldn't have been more wrong, and things only worsened when his enthusiasm led to an amusing repertoire of dance moves bolstered by an abnormal amount of pelvic thrusts, each more enthused than the last. This, combined with whimsical lyrical content – a crooning, confronting plea of ‘ Don't go down to the basement / Daddy's buried there' – painted Callinan as an exceptionally peculiar individual, but ultimately one with little to no connection with an appropriately astonished audience.


After all, even Callinan's execution of his music - regardless of whatever genre you wish to call it - falls flat and fails to entertain, the fiddling of pedals and a criminally-underused guitar missing the mark entirely in an effort to engage with a crowd. He left the stage, shirt in hand, and the crowd that had amassed were rightfully cynical, most speechless.


Sydneysiders Dappled Cities were next, opting to road test a bunch of new songs penned for their next album. The move paid off with stunning success, the material heightening anticipation for their latest offering. A methodical march of percussion kicked off the set, jangling guitars and keys aligning to forge an enticing hook. Dappled Cities showcased great confidence, an accomplished outfit that excels in ingenuity, their compositions a spirited collection of intriguing twists and turns amidst a backdrop of fine indie-rock.


Dappled Cities forge a collision of their energetic best, each element combining into one glorious fit of indie-rock heaven in an extremely polished, highly disciplined performance. You just get the feeling that Dappled Cities are a band ready to ignite, especially with songs as good as their single The Price, a Triple J favourite. The band were received well by the notoriously complacent Melbourne public; an epic, emphatic finale of crunching guitars and crashing cymbals following to leave a lasting impression.


A giant cloud-like monstrosity - an object lost, too, on the band - hung from the ceilling, as Melbourne's own Midnight Juggernauts appeared for their headline appearance. As psychedelic visualisations, scenes and images began to project high above their ensemble, a dizzying, blinding light show of strobes and rainbow shades lit up the venue. A heavy blast of synth backed with impressively raucous beats announced the band, Shadows helping set the tone for the performance that would follow. Predictably, Midnight Juggernauts brought a dose of magnificent dance-electronica that would intensify the evening time and time again, with pumping basslines encouraging the once-placid crowd to degenerate into ecstasy.


The band wield an authoritative yet comfortable groove effortlessly, combining well to bring slick, accessible anthems into fruition that work so well in a live setting. Favourite Vital Signs propelled a further onslaught of the band's hyper-electronic textures, their craft buzzing and echoing with metronome precision. Midnight Juggernauts worked tirelessly to create an entertaining, pulsating spectacle, and one that encapsulates a city nightlife. For that reason - much like any given scene - there was a degree of monotony. Still, one feels compelled to surrender to the music and simply let go in favour of boisterous fun, Midnight Juggernauts' sheer, unchecked enormity both truly powerful and a pleasure to witness.


Whilst the first third of the night was to be dismissed, the music that followed is sure to linger long in the minds of enchanted punters. Both Dappled Cities and Midnight Juggernauts look set to seize further fame and prominence having proved in this one night that they are more than worthy owners of each. It's nights like these that go a long way to restoring one's faith in our homegrown exports, and any such night is a special night indeed.

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