Live Review: The Sinking Teeth in Sydney
I arrive in Sydney late Thursday night by train, then walk to my hostel near central, and sleep for probably nine hours. In Lord of the Fries the next day, for around twenty minutes, I eat onion rings and cycle through three Google apps on my iPhone, thinking about how I’d never seriously listened to punk-rock music.
Now, on Saturday night, at Brighton Up Bar, ten to fifteen early arrivals are concentrating with anxiety-assuaging single-mindedness on pop-punk locals The Great Awake while apparently waiting for “everybody else” to arrive. I’ve positioned myself on a lounge at the back of the room, making notes like “the great awake suit the small venue vibe,” “I haven’t heard octaves like this for probably ten years” and “what’s that Alain de Botton quote on being spared the relentless pressure to be original?”
My legs intuitively relocate me from the lounge through a crowd of around 20 interested-seeming people when the sounds of Newcastle’s alt-doom indie rock four-piece Maids arouse what the internet tells me is my tympanic membrane. From this I tell myself that the band is totally on game and powerful in a self-actualised and rehearsed-seeming way, but drummer/singer Sean Cook is contradicting this narrative, saying things as explanation like “last night was the first time I went out with my fakey.” I’m grinning and thinking to myself “this band is fucking with me” and, despite tonight having ingested zero drugs or alcohol for some spontaneous-like unthought reason, “this is System of a Down with a Katy Perry vibe.” I repeat this thought when they bang out their new single Girl Power and finish with something that vaguely reminds me of Meshuggah.
Piss-taking punk-rock three-piece Ebolagoldfish are next, announcing their entrance by saying “better late than never, especially if you want to have kids” and immediately elevating the crowd to what will be their ~30 minute punk-rock plateau. Fifteen to twenty people are enthusiastically singing and chanting to many epic choruses, probably from the 2014 album Prophet & Loss, and I use my iPhone to write “most observers would fail to construct a factual-explanatory narrative in which they don’t admit this band is absolutely the crowd favourite so far.” I continue looking at my iPhone for around five minutes, writing another note wondering why I’m “not getting it” and feeling “no connection” with the performance at all. I conclude, in sincere-sounding self-talk, that I can’t blame Ebolagoldfish for my pre-existing disinterest in their genre, but (without reducing them to “that time A. A. Gill went to L’Ami Louis” scorched earth) I can blame them for not letting me enjoy it during their set.
While simultaneously looking at updates of my friend’s chinchilla on my iPhone and happily thinking to myself “big donut” when I notice the venue’s entrance is a hole in the middle of the room, I notice the crowd is packing in for the headliners and collectively expressing an unspecific anticipatory excitement, 50-70% being definitely, by now, drunk.
Melbourne “puke punk” three-piece The Sinking Teeth take to the stage and at some point say “there’s some fancy basketball players in your town. I think they’re called the Hornsby Glebe Trotters.” I immediately tell myself that “this is how The Sinking Teeth let you know they’re here for you,” as I’m laughing without understanding. Bassist Julian Doan, guitarist Nick Manuell and drummer Adrian Van Bloom have a really cool time when they perform and at about fifteen minutes in I’m making notes on my iPhone like “grinning drummer, everybody is locked in for loud and brutal instrumental, and everybody else is nodding their head.”
The set is reaching some sort of climax, the crowd is staring, enraptured, like Lester Burnham at a high school basketball half-time, and when they perform Pavement, their kinetic new single and raison d’être, everybody is swaying and bumping and grinning even more. After this, they perform a song called “play losing my virginity” requested by some guy who also wants them to do another song that doesn’t exist called “cones.” The set is ending and, here, at Brighton Up Bar, for around four minutes, life, the situation, live music, is funny.
On Elizabeth Street, walking back to my hostel, at an o’clock indistinguishable from midnight, I’m trusting Google maps, half-unconsciously recalling memories of Mario Kart, and wondering why I enjoyed The Sinking Teeth when I didn’t have any time at all for the two other punk-rock/pop bands. I tell myself, in an act of dissociation that would move Freud, “maybe punk-rock isn’t that bad after all.” But the real difference was that The Sinking Teeth helped me forget that I was watching a punk-rock band, kindly providing an easy, natural-like enjoyment in their performance for their audience to sympathetically identify with, enabling emotions and, for some, dissociative trance. Maybe that’s it: they’re just aesthetically sincere, subtly self-aware and funny – with their Pavement tour, The Sinking Teeth offer something utterly captivating that is probably not occurring elsewhere in the punk-rock meme-pool. Album set for July.
Review by Mitch Elliott.