LIVE: Totally Unicorn, Batpiss, The Pinheads, Tim McMahon @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, 13th May

A pounding and joyous mess from what might be the live act of the year.

I didn’t know Tim McMahon was on the bill tonight, so it’s a doubly-pleasant surprise to see him for the first time and generally dig on the big fuzzy tunes he lays down. Somewhere a bit folky, but with the effortless tune of a Smudge and the whirring distortion of Dinosaur Jr, it’s a lot of fun and just the right way to kick off the night.

Life’s never dull when The Pinheads are on stage but they spend a considerable portion of their time off it, clambering up the walls and sprawling on the floor. Their usual dark and gleeful rumble matches the raucous mood in the room (and the semi-pitch black lighting), and the visual spectacle of the band dressed up as the high priests of some lunatic deviant space religion is as brilliantly daft as ever. While it’s raucous, nutty and untethered, don’t be fooled – there is some serious talent in here, both in the crazed songs and in the technical execution. All the elements, in fact, of a 100% rock n’ roll band, one of the most reliably mental live shows in Australia.

It’s my first time seeing Batpiss, but it’s not something you forget in a hurry. This is bruising and relentless stuff, though still cut up with melody – a primal roar from start to end, a battering ram of a set, but with its firepower firmly set to ‘song’.

Where do you start with a band like Totally Unicorn? All the normal rules don’t apply – this isn’t about a crowd going along to sing along to a band on a stage, it’s more communal than that. It’s not about a band trying to impress anyone with their stage show, it’s both more primal and more interactive than that. Hell, the songs themselves aren’t even the main event here, the whole set is a soundtrack to a gigantic party train that’s long since left the tracks, and is hurtling towards a cliff. Singer Drew – who starts the night half-dressed as Left Shark and ends it in his underwear – is the centre of gravity, but it’s one that is constantly on the move, standing on the bar, climbing up the walls, star-shaped on the floor out in the crowd, and – at one memorable point – trying to gatecrash the other venue next door to sing a few bars while standing in the crowd at the Tijuana Cartel gig in The Oxford Art Factory’s main room.

The music is brutal but friendly, the band shirtless and tattooed and a tight, precise machine, all screaming and bruising hardcore with a grin on its face. This is less a gig than a full sensory experience, a titanic celebration of joy and noise that transcends dull facts like whether you even like the songs, or if you don’t like being yelled at by a bear of a guy in a shark suit. Only the truly soulless couldn’t enjoy this.


Totally Unicorn 




The Pinheads 

Tim McMahon