If I ever met someone who told me girls can’t rock, the first thing I’d do (before promptly never speaking to them again) would be draw their attention to Canberra’s music scene. Over the past few years our nation’s capital has seemed to be a sufficient platform to support the rise of a number of quality, female-led, indie/punk/alternative rock groups who are raising the bar of rock ’n’ roll in this city (not to say the boys aren’t meeting it as well). I’m talking Moaning Lisa, I’m talking Slagatha Christie and now, I’m talking Dalmacia.
Dalmacia are an all-female trio who draw their main inspiration from alternative rock acts of the nineties. Having released one single, “Hold My Space” earlier this month with a launch party at Transit Bar, the girls wasted no time in setting things in motion for the release of their second single, “Let’s Go Again”. Before I tell you all about the launch party for their sophomore single, however, I have two confessions to make.
The first is nothing more than a humorous anecdote illuminating of the way words float around in my mind. Due to the title of Dalmacia’s single, “Let’s Go Again,” until about a week prior to the launch I was unaware they were releasing a second single. In my naiveté I believed that they had enjoyed the launch of “Hold My Space” so much that they thought, “Let’s Go Again,” but this time at the Phoenix. I’m glad I came to my senses before the show.
The second confession is one I regret having to make and sincerely wish was not true. Due to a number of various factors on the night in question (all of which I doubt you’d believe if divulged) I missed the first set of the night, Babe Fiasco. For this I am truly sorry. I have seen the band before at the same venue and can confirm that they tore the place apart. If they played anything like they did at The Postmaster’s single launch (which I heard they did) then I’m extremely sorry for missing them.
As I walked into the iconic Canberra pub the second act of the night were setting up. The New Party are a pretty new band on the block and despite never seeing them live before I had come across some Instagram videos and was intrigued. Loud, brash and unashamedly in your face, The New Party demanded attention. With an intense mixture of sludge, thrash, punk and grunge textures, the band consistently gave me serious “Bleach”-era Nirvana vibes (that’s the album before Nevermind that no one knows about). While they balanced feedback and anxious riffs well, I think The New Party embraced their loose vibe a little too much and would benefit from tightening up their screws a little bit. These boys, however, are only new and I believe with some time and practice they could become a staple in Canberra’s heavy scene.
After The New Party’s noisy display it was time for Sally Jones to step up on stage. Placing Jones there on the lineup was an interesting move and one I was sceptical of as I watched her walk up to the stage, acoustic guitar in hand. The placement of Jones, a solo acoustic artist, had it’s positives and negatives. I was initially afraid that the different styles of The New Party and Jones would be quite jarring. However, on this point I was pleasantly surprised. Jones’ appropriately placed chords and earnest lyrics delivered by her incredible voice served as almost the perfect transition music, creating the feeling of some sort of intermission between the heavier bands. Already accustomed to speaking volumes over the drowning sound of The New Party, the problem with placing Jones on this slot in the lineup was the crowd found it hard to quiet themselves down to let her be easily heard. Despite this Jones played unfazed and was a treat for those who actually took the grace to listen and pay attention.
The next act for the night were psychedelic swooners Slow Dial. The guys have been around for a few years now and have established themselves at the forefront of Canberra’s rock ’n’ roll scene. I have seen Slow Dial a few times before and after each time I come to understand their music a little bit better. Drummer, Zac Gaudie, provides the backbone to the sound with, sometimes groovy, sometimes laidback but always solid, beats for bass player, Oskar Urbas to lock in with or move around. Guitarist Mark Wilson and vocalist/guitarist Damon Mudge work well together to build colourful landscapes over the foundation laid by the rhythm section. Together the four musicians move between hard rock inspired riffs to slow moving psychedelic sections easy to get lost in. Slow Dial are not afraid to wear their inspiration on their sleeves as an impressive medley between one of their original tracks and Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” has almost become a staple in their live shows. It becomes apparent that these boys are unafraid to make make their mark.
The Postmasters served as the penultimate band of the evening and after spending some time minding the merch desk it became apparent they were eager to do their thing. As they launched into their first track of the night the lead vocals were a little bit quiet but this was soon fixed before their second. The Postmasters have been playing their unique brand of early-2000s inspired indie rock for a while now and it’s evident that they know it well. The guitars weave together between jagged riffs and spidery leads as the drums maintain a never-ending momentum with spiced with sporadic fills. The bass balances it all out acting as a bridge between left-field chords and the manic drums as lead vocals will often soar above the party below or cut through when they need to. The Postmasters know their craft and they know it well.
Finally the time came for Dalmacia to grace us with their presence. If there were any signs of tentativeness as the girls walked up onto stage they were quickly blown away as they launched into the first song. Playing with a confidence I haven’t seen in the band before, it was soon established that this was their show and they knew it. Their sound is rooted in classic alternative rock and they play it well. The key to most styles of music (and alternative rock especially) is dynamics and drummer, Katherine Bray, proved to the audience she had an excellence grasp on this.
Sometimes it is hard to fill the space in songs with only three members but Dalmacia know how to make this work. Where vocalist and bassist, Ash O’Leary’s, melodies fitted well alongside chugging riffs from guitarist Georgia Hanneford, Bray helped make transitions smooth with excellently executed fills. In classic style Dalmacia moved from slow, pensive verses to loud raucous choruses with all three working together to make these subtle when needed and jarring when necessary.
Each member of Dalmacia are very personable on stage. As a member of the crowd I felt like I was just watching a bunch of friends jam and this was comforting. Even when the dreaded head of technical difficulties presented itself, the girls took it in their stride. While a good intentioned (but misguided) attempt at help from The New Party drummer made things a bit weird there, it was all forgotten in no time and everybody’s time spent at the gig was well and truly validated. In a rising wave of females showing Canberrans how to rock again, Dalmacia are on their way to the forefront.
Written by Tom Spillane