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Live Review + Gallery: Basement, Australia 2016

Basement / Turnover / Break Even
Review: Matt Doria – Factory Theatre, Sydney 27/05/2016
Photos: Billy Zammit – Corner Hotel, Melbourne 29/05/2016

The last time Australia caught Basement, they were playing shitty club shows with shittier PA systems. Crowds 100-strong, no barriers, and floors sticky enough to tear the shirts off fallen moshers. That was back in 2014, when the Ipswich punks had just risen from the (shallow) grave after an 18-month hiatus and released a surprise EP to moderate-ish fanfare. Tonight, however, they’re taking control of the 800-capacity Factory Theatre on the back of their “comeback” LP, Promise Everything – an album that not only took the world by storm, but transformed Basement into a legitimate theatre act not to be fucked with. Hype? Check.

Before their first song is even finished, an almost packed out hall is up and alight in the inveterate breakneck potency of Perth unit Break Even. Mark Bawden is your standard cliché hardcore vocalist – scaling the stage in a black hoodie, almost straight up eating the microphone – but clichés are clichés for a reason, and Bawden nails the aesthetic without a hiccup. His vocals cut fierce through a battlefield of crunchy breakdowns and clean guitar solos, the mosh-inclined crowd in his palm as he screams blunt and wistful. Jem Siow is equally poignant on bass, whipping around the stage with every booming hook and roaring chorus. The whole band shine on “Hells Gates”, a cut that invokes as much reflection on life as it does merciless two-stepping.

It makes sense that Turnover frontman Austin Getz looks like Jesus, because his voice is fucking holy. The indie rock foursome cruise through their set with a shimmer that’s equally dusty and glazed, cuts from the gauzy Peripheral Vision washing us away in their ethereal glow. There’s a naturally calmer tone to their performance, which, though uncanny after Break Even’s relentless exertion, feels entirely welcome. They’re progressive, moody, and smothered in vibes; guitarist Eric Soucy stands out in the mix, soft hooks braiding twangy bass leads and cymbal-heavy drum beats. “New Scream” chugs on with a fizzy summer-pop flare, but the highlight slice is undoubtedly “Diazepam” with its layered vocals and swervy bridge, impossibly easy to lose yourself in.

Basement take to the stage as a silhouette draped in a golden hue, smoke billowing over them as the opening chords of “Whole” spur the crowd into hysteria. No need for warmups and introductions redundant, the quintet reach peak frenzy around a minute into their hourlong set. Basement shows are more or less synonymous with stage diving, but tonight, the stage instead becomes a platform for the band to show off their own moves; vocalist Andrew Fisher slinks around carefree in his trademark baseball cap, while bassist Duncan Stewart slaps with passion and guitarists Alex Henery and Ronan Crix trade reels of bark and grime. On drums, James Fisher is downright callous, bashing out enough deathcore-level kick drum to convince Factory Floor punters that they’re in the midst of an earthquake.

Though only taking five of the 14 tracks on display, cuts from Promise Everything soar with ridiculous ease: jumping along to the beat on lead single “Aquasun” is basically mandatory, as is losing your shit when the band pummel into “Brother’s Keeper”. Jams like “Oversized” and “For You The Moon” dim the energy without letting any flames die out – brief alt-rock respite and a catch of breath amidst otherwise endless skate punk insanity. The older numbers are undeniable too, fan favourites “Bad Apple” and “Earl Grey” especially tearing shit up with their tried and true mosh-craving fortitude. Closing the set on “Covet” felt like a weak choice when Promise Everything’s title track sat just two songs above it, but deflated ending aside, it’s safe to say that Basement slayed.

This is the kind of performance that bands reserve exclusively for DVD recordings – which, um, we kind of need, now.

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