Live review: Palma Violets in Sydney

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Bianca Cornale had a look at latest NME faves, Palma Violets, at Oxford Art Factory. Here’s what she thought:

I went to watch London’s Palma Violets with expectations of bitter, sweaty, garage punk. Accompanying the British headliners were Brisbane’s Bleeding Knees Club and Melbournians, Teenage Mothers, and I didn’t think my desire for a bit of raucous fun was unrealistic.

Teenage Mothers did indeed fulfil my wish. They’re soon playing a London show with my post-punk idol Lydia Lunch, and I dearly wanted to approve in her taste of support. They’re also notorious for antics which render them a bouncer’s worst nightmare, and have a reputation for getting thrown out of their own gigs. Having briefly run into them back stage, unashamedly huffing bulbs of nitrous oxide, I knew one way or another it would be an interesting set. Rest assured it was the good kind of interesting – Teenage Mothers often utilise dual vocals and there was even something vaguely and strangely Hispanic about their guitar shredding. The epic five-piece blazed through their track “Mother Satan”, with ghoulish electric organ and sounding Bad Seeds reminiscent. Big tick of approval.

Markedly less impressive were Brisbane’s Bleeding Knees Club. I’ve seen these three-chord slackers in headline and support slots before, and always to more enthusiastic audiences. Their forged Californian whine fell on mostly immobile punters. As their set wound-up the crowd unwound, and a cover of The Dandy Warhol’s cult-classic “Bohemian Like You” did derive a good response. But maybe their 90’s garage sound has lost whatever appeal it had briefly after their first album. For the most part their new material was perfectly summarised by a loud audience member who denounced them as “a cover band of their own band.”

By the time Palma Violets took the stage there was clearly an imbalance in the mix, wherein the bass and keys were far too loud – drowning out the guitar to a point of absence. However they muscled through their set to the gratitude of a boisterous crowd. The band opened with a cover of “California Sun” by The Rivieras and made punk by The Ramones. But their token London vocals were far too familiar; akin to the likes of The Vaccines and The Big Pink and any number of other similar UK bands. However the NME 2012 song-of-the-year, “Best Of Friends” did showcase front man Alex “Chilli” Jesson’s admirable scratchy screaming, especially during the audience’s euphoric rendition of the chorus. Shortly after this was another single from debut 180, “Step Up For The Cool Cats”, which had a spontaneous intro of the crowd’s building slow clap.

Though the band had a great energy and stage presence, I felt they didn’t have the tunes to back it up. Palma Violet’s songs are catchy but bordering on formulaic, and don’t present anything that we haven’t all heard before. Crowd members were happy to dance and get sweaty, but I just couldn’t party past my flaccid civility.

Palma Violets put on a good show, but one which also made me wonder why so many people care about moderate, methodical music.

bianca cornale


Review by Bianca Cornale. Photos by Matt Sitas. See the full photoset on Facebook.