GIG REVIEW: Magnus ‘Humbugg3r’ Single Launch + Street Pieces ‘Cthulhu’ Single Launch + Supports, Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane, 20/07/2019

Words by Rangi White.

Photos by Elizabeth Sharpe // @ummagummamumma – Full gallery HERE

There’s a special kind of anticipation that I get when I know I’m about to witness a band that I have been told is incredible, but haven’t actually heard any content from before. To me, as an overall experience the combination of seeing them for the first time alongside hearing them for the first time imbues a certain type of honesty, I think, into how I perceive them…and in all honesty, I’m glad, because honestly, what I witnessed last night at the Woolly Mammoth was mind blowing. Honestly.

The Woolly Mammoth’s ‘Mane Stage’ was graced with incredible people and tunes yesterday evening as the Humbugg3r Single tour, courtesy of Sydney I-don’t-know-what-to-say – rock band Magnus, came to town joining forces with Brisbane rockers Street Pieces for their new single Cthulhu to be launched in style with supports from local Brisbane legends RHINO and The Iron Eye

Charging onto stage with stampede-like ferocity to bust the night wide open was RHINO bringing with them every tonne of their hard-hitting heavy rock sound with them. Featuring the talents of Simon Benson (Vox) Damien Brown (Bass) James Wassenaar (Guitar) Geoff Newnam (Guitar) And Heath Kelly (drums) I was once again trampled by their sonic affinity for loud noises. With a sound that somehow walks the line between stadium-rock and heavy metal while balancing blues and grunge on each horn, I can quite confidently confirm the wise words of Benson last night; “RHINO… is a beast.” I adore the way they mix generic influences, rather than sticking to one sub-category of heavy rock they dabble in elements of heavy metal with shattering breakdowns and half-time grooves as well as softer, less intense musical moments that are altogether bluesy, grungy, and even proggy. It’s pretty damn cool watching dudes who love what they do rock at what they do and have a damn good time doing it…A brilliant performance to kick things off.

Coming from a very different background in genre afterwards was The Iron Eye consisting of Nick Lythall (Guitar/Vox) Antonio Mancini (Drums) and David Webster (Bass) who exhibited a more modern sounding platter of contemporary Alt-rock to a slowly growing audience. An obvious feature to mention in terms of this band is the voice of Lythall his high tenor vocal timbre was very powerful and I loved the way he manipulated it with vocal effects in different areas of their songs, it helped add a lot of texture to an already texture-rich band. The combination of their range of rhythmic use (gliding between straight beats to jumpy, syncopated ones) and the electronic sound-pad set up (at the disposal of Mancini) I thought cemented a structural musical basis from which the repetitively catchy vocal melodies of Lythall were more definitively audible. I truly enjoyed their alternative rock sound, and the interesting, relatable lyrical content that came along with it, I would recommend this band to anyone looking for performers who can combine complexity of badass musical skills with the catchiness of pop-style melodies in a well measured ratio.  

By this point in the night a few people had wandered in and the Mammoth was starting to seem lively, and on next was definitely the band to enhance that. Exhibiting the likes of Ben Tilney (Vox) Alex Miller (Guitar) Jon Mengede (Bass) and Marcus Mclachlan (Drums,) Street Pieces are on the high of a successful release with their latest single and music video Cthulhu and last night they demonstrated it with oodles of style. With a sound that emanates influences from the deepest darkest depths of the 80’s they played a show that had all the necessities of a killer rock n roll set…the screeching guitar solos on behalf of Miller were epic to behold. They had a vast amount of onstage energy and the audience seemed to reflect it enthusiastically. Evidentially they have a strong local following as more and more people arrived for their set, and it created an engaging crowd atmosphere – the newest additions to the floor were of a different age and musical background to the other bands/fans and the variations in their behaviour…levels of soberness…were interesting to watch. Overall, I thought the new single Cthulhu took on a heavier blues rock styled approach in comparison to their previous, more mainstream sounding rock vibe and I enjoyed it immensely. 

Magnus. Wow. Proper proper wow. They call themselves “Oddly timed stoner jazz rock with a dash of goth” however whatever the hell I saw last night was a boatload more than that. Featuring the deep, poetic vocals of Arne Heeres (Vox) the six stringed mastery of Chris Wilson (Guitar) alongside the stage splitting grooves of Blake Cateris and the pure rhythmic prowess of founding member of Cog, Lucius Borich on the drums I was completely surpassed in my expectations of what I would hear from this band. They show a maturity in their song-writing ability that I am unused to seeing and hearing them play brought on a mix of emotions in my mind…captivated, awestruck, confused, and even a little unnerved would have been a few that I experienced. Their sound takes shape as some sort of groove-based kaleidoscope, the fluency with which they change keys, time signature, and tone was reminiscent of some sort of musical display of acrobatics. What interests me vastly is how they can somehow maintain contemporary song structures and elements in their song-writing but with the amount of detail and additional generic nuances they add, you couldn’t describe their sound as even being close to contemporary.

While writing this review I’ve had to listen to some of their recordings as I was intrigued last night by Heeres lyrical ability above other things…the words of his songs and how they are sung come off as aesthetically pleasing in a poetic sense. He seems to address many social and personal issues in his lyrics but in a way that suggests confidence and understanding, and that is one thing I find to be missing in most vocalists. On top of that, I noticed a correlation between the lyrical topics and the way they are musically represented…I know that’s gibberish, let me explain. For instance, the song Hands like Houses is written about the discomfort experienced via social situations and the awkwardness that ensues…the song begins with an oddly timed bass line that actually sounds awkward, and that appeared to me as some sort of sonic metaphor. That kind of mastery when it comes to song-writing is one I think many artists dabbling in (roughly) the same genre as Magnus aim to achieve. Of course, I can’t finish without mentioning Lucius Borich…I’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing him play as such and my brain was in actual pieces after trying to follow his flawless display of percussive ability. I pride myself on being able to follow the basic structures of most drum parts in songs and my ability to mentally emulate them but fuckkkk… you win, Lucius, I was stumped. Magnus situated themselves in my mind as one of the best live acts I’ve seen come through Brisbane and I’m looking forward to thrashing their album until I can tap my foot along to it without falling over.

One thing that I did have qualms with last night however was the turnout for Magnus. Although Street Pieces brought in a few extra locals, by the time Magnus played the room had substantially emptied…I was somewhat furious. Whether it was the lateness of the set times or some other unintelligible factor, it saddens me that bands with such ability, and intelligent socially relevant messages aren’t able to draw people from our music scene in comparison to the general brand of local garage-core we see on a daily. This is not a criticism towards Magnus, this is just me griping about people. Sorry.

Other than that, I was astounded by each bands performance last night and left with a tonne of inspiration residing in my head, which as a music lover, I can say I was rather appreciative of. To witness such a performance was something special and I can confidently say next time Magnus plays in Brisbane I’ll be there…and this time, I’ll lock the doors.

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