LIVE REVIEW: LAST DINOSAURS, MILLIONS & THE GRISWOLDS @ OXFORD ART FACTORY (21.04.2012)

Forget Gorillaz and their Feel Good Inc. If there was an institution offering good times with super happy fun friends then Saturday’s show at Oxford Art Factory was where it was at. With three young, talented, homegrown and handsome bands on the bill to boot what more could you really ask for?

The Griswolds opened to a decent-sized crowd. They’re a quintet that utilise guitars, bass, drums, a laptop and additional percussion to create a rather full, round sound. Although, visually they looked rather haphazard. I know you shouldn’t judge a band by its cover but it was a tad jarring to watch a tough-guy in a Hawaiian shirt wearing face-paint, accompanied by a guitarist who looked like a cross between a heavy metal lover and a paisley-worshipper, while the drummer was content in his Kurt Cobain tee. It may have been random but what cohesiveness they lacked in this domain was certainly made up for in their psychedelic-tinged pop music that blended effortlessly together.

Truth be told, the frontman’s face paint could’ve been zinc. It looked cool and glowed in the dark, and I like to think it was an excellent compliment to the sunny music they made, so shit hot that he needed it for protection! Naturally, they made the perfect opening act to Last Dinosaurs because songs like “I Have Fallen For Your Spell” could’ve been by the latter, even though these guys use more percussion and some extra loops. At other moments their set seemed as madcap as one by Jinja Safari. They would close with the romp and glitter of “Mississippi” and follow it with another American-influence in “Heart On The Line,” which sounded like something by Vampire Weekend.

Millions are a rich four piece, perhaps not money wise but their sound is lush, layered, retro-tinged, with a modern twist. If they’d been old enough to live through the eighties one could imagine them being a little like The Church because they would have offered their, then modern, take on sixties sounds. Plus, they’ve got clear fans in the headliners, as various members of the band would enjoy watching their performance at different moments from the side of the stage.

They started with some shiny pop that was as light and youthful as a number by Yves Klein Blue, very catchy, melodious and hooky. “Those Girls” boasted rather wistful lyrics but musically – like the harmonies – it soared. This was followed by a track that started off like a slower ballad, an ode to yearning before the band notched it up to eleven with as much force and grunt as The White Stripes’ “Blue Orchid”. Nice.

While hints of the sixties had permeated the guitar sounds earlier in the set, a cover of “Be My Baby”– a hit made famous by The Ronettes – all but confirmed the group’s obvious penchant for this particular era. Their parents would’ve been kids during this time and they certainly had some mighty, big shoes to fill. And yet they pulled this all off with a rendition that was less pop ditty and more sadness-tinged rock, something that would’ve made Mr. Spector proud from his cellblock, no doubt.

Their set was completed by an old song – the first one they wrote – and a new one that had a tease and tickle groove that seemed to sit somewhere between the song, “Fever” and a Pajama Club number. “Slow Burner” saw the Dino’s guitarist, Lach Caskey drumming along on his legs from his vantage point while “Guru” was some slacker rock, pure and simple. Millions had basically put on one tight performance and proved that they’re definitely ones to watch, especially considering that they will have an EP out sometime this year.

At 10:30 the curtains opened to reveal a polished band with some equally impressive visuals and animations of the sky, universe, infinity and beyond. They may have learned a few things from their famous touring buddies like Foster The People and Foals to name a few, but they started off strong with some catchy, Strokes-flavoured guitar and soon had the audience collectively eating out of the palms of their hands.

“Time & Place” was an early crowd favourite as the kids danced and bopped along to this catchy pop tune as the milky way shone on the screen. It was rather quaint and sing-song, with frontman Sean Caskey and bassist, Sam Gethin-Jones singing call and response to this danceable indie rock that is not unlike what Franz Ferdinand or Red Riders do and did so well. “Saturn” was similarly upbeat and rollicking with some finger pointing to compliment the atmospheric, U2-inspired guitars that cut through the air.

There was the glistening water of “Weekend,” one you could imagine The Drums performing with ease thanks to its sounds of the sun and surf and “Sunday Night” seemed to offer more cheery fun. We were all having a ball as Caskey introduced his brother, Lach. He performed an impressive solo before the subsequent and pleasant slice of pop, specifically of Fleetwood Mac-variety.

Caskey would then introduce his friend, Andy and dedicate the track of the same name to his mate. It was all calypso beats and if you blinked you would’ve just seen the hula girls sashaying away. “I Can’t Help You” also seemed to come from a Waikiki beach and the Oxford Art Factory was all flowers and sunshine as we hopped and danced along to the band. Clearly taken aback, Caskey declared that this enthusiastic crowd were the best of the tour so far.

Last Dinosaurs’ songs are like mixed drinks. They bubble and fizz with sugar but they also contain just the right amount of punch. Some admittedly have similar ingredients but what makes them appealing are the subtle changes in composition that, when combined together, make a rather refreshing drink. Like the first sips of water after a spell in the desert, this music will sate your thirst and refresh you. Thanks to the vibrant and shiny indie-pop vibes that are sweet but not too saccharine.

While the set had been well received up until this point it was the closing numbers that were definitely the best. First they played a medley of songs that Caskey had enjoyed as a kid while watching Video Hits. They were Modjo’s “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)” and Spiller feat. Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)” which received mixed reactions. Those old enough loved it and some people even managed to come up with some syncopated dance moves while the younger punters were left a little confused by the nineties blast from the past.

From the opening notes it was obvious that previous single, “Honolulu” was going to be a big one. It boasted the punchy “Heys” and it was all light, beachside dance moves and unabashed joy. It was so special I figured it’d be hard to top because there wasn’t a person in the house without a huge grin on their face. But there was another pinnacle-in-the-making in “Zoom”. This one even got some people crowd surfing and stage diving. And despite the lack of encore, we all laughed and delighted in having made our own pleasant, little piece of history. So all that’s left to say is if you weren’t fortunate enough to be there the first time around then make a note to witness the second Sydney show, or other dates. You won’t be disappointed because history mostly repeats.

Originally published on 22 April 2012 at the following website: http://theorangepress.net/2012/04/last-dinosaurs-w-millions-the-griswolds-oxford-art-factory-sydney-21042012/

Visit The Orange Press’ homepage at: http://theorangepress.net

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