LIVE: Sleepy, Shaky Handz, Wolf Cola, Zzzounds @ Brighton Up Bar, Sydney, 22nd Aug

ZzzoundsI’ve enjoyed Dave Drayton’s stuff before, notably with his excellent Pinch Hitter project, but this is the first time I’ve seen him as Zzzounds and with a guitar – what an eye-opener it is too. The songs come from the same boisterously maudlin place as Wil Wagner (if you’re a Wagner or a Smith Street band fan, you’ll love this), but he does things with the guitar that’ll make you weep. I’m no virtuoso, but I’ve never even seen anyone play like this before, instead of plucking or strumming, the strings are played mainly by finger-tapping on the neck of the guitar. Go look at the pictures if you’re curious, but the effect is astonishing; he makes the damn thing sounds someone’s playing a piano. The quality and earthiness of the songs elevate it all way beyond a novelty, and it’s quite honestly one of the most quietly wonderful things I’ve ever seen live. Just fantastic stuff.

See a full photo set of Zzzounds here

Wolf ColaWolf Cola have a straightforward approach – take influences they like and then pley the heck out of them, and whether or not they make sense be damned. We are treated at various stages to a rollercoaster ride through a variety of genres, doo-wop grunge being a personal favourite collision of sound. It may not be consistent across the set, but that’s also pretty fun to hear – given the amount of music available to everyone these days, why should a band sound exactly the same all the way through a set? I rather like the abrupt changes in tone, it keeps us on our toes. There are some rough edges in the execution, sure, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s battered out with enviable gusto.

See a full photo set of Wolf Cola here

Shaky HandzShaky Handz were just about the first band ever to appear on this blog, and over time the Ted’s Records fandom has not diminished one iota. While they get more confident, and more gleefully nutty with each live outing, they are consistently the happiest bunch you’ll see on a stage today, rivalled only by the grin-festival of a March Of The Real Fly show (who are 50% made up of Shaky Handz members anyway). Their regular set-closer “Can’t Say No” is absolutely titanic tonight, and I’m (yet again) left grinning like a lunatic as the last notes are smashed out.

See a full photo set of Shaky Handz here

SleepySleepy have jumped straight onto the list of bands in my head that I now automatically and excitedly look out for new things from. Tonight is the launch show for their EP (on sale tonight with hand-crafted covers, nice), which has been receiving some decent bits of press recently. This is as it should be – yes, the songs recall the 90s with alarming clarity, but when the songs are this good, who really gives a damn? It’s got flavours of Ash, Superchunk, Sonic Youth’s poppier moments, and it comes via a three-piece package that delivers way more sound than it should, just as the classic three-pieces of yore knew how to.

It’s probably that level of craft that really appeals to me, the way that we get more than just one task out of each band member, and it that it all combines up into something bigger than you expect. Husker Du used to pull off the same trick, and when it works it’s a kicker. The songs are insistent, instantly hooky, and never outstay their welcome – some (like one of my personal favourites ‘The Ride Up’) are barely over two minutes, but yet never feel under-cooked.

In many ways they’re a very shy band, with Martin’s voice as charmingly un-shouty as it’s possible to be – but make no mistake, there’s enough guitar and song per square inch here to level buildings.

See a full photo set of Sleepy here