The canopy of orange balloons and duct-taped custom lighting rig behind the Transit Bar stage made it pretty clear: ARCHIE were going for something more than just your regular rock show. Their version of a single launch was more like Canberra music prom – a debut, if you will – and their quickly growing fanbase was 100 per cent up for it.
Harrison Lambert and The Heartbreak Bandits lived up to their soulful name in the opening slot. There was one point in the set where singer-guitarist Lambert ventured out on a slow-burning guitar solo, building it with deliberate shape and space. It was a genuinely impressive moment, and the band behind him picked up on that theme, displaying real craft in adding their own voices while still giving each other room to breathe.
Sydney’s Butternut Sweetheart provided a change of pace. The brainchild of producer Luke Moseley, the duo teed up a delicate balance of programmed electronic sounds and deep appreciation for the live breakbeat drumming that underpins the music of Shigeto and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The combination blossomed on recent singles ‘Bury Me’ and ‘Two White Lines’ which were both highlights.
ARCHIE took to the stage amid wild scenes. Lead singer Grant Simpson’s microphone wouldn’t work for him, which meant the band played their intro groove on loop while a solution was found. “Check 1-2,” said Simpson finally, in the most hype mic test I’ve ever witnessed. And that was it, ARCHIE had won over the sold-out crowd having barely played a note.
The four-piece were assured, blitzing through 45 minutes of bright guitar pop with wide-eyed, relentless joy. A couple of carefully chosen covers offered a reminder that, despite appearances, this four-month-old band is still finding its feet.
New single ‘Stranger Danger’ appeared early and was a favourite with the young, eager-to-boogie crowd. It’ll feel familiar to fans of Perth’s Spacey Jane or, if you want to go back deeper into Australia’s guitar pop history, Hungary Kids Of Hungary and San Cisco circa 2011.
A cameo from esteemed jazz saxophonist John Mackey drew chants of “John, John, John” from the crowd and broke up the set nicely.
If anything, ARCHIE did this too much. Though running contests in between songs was fun, and handing out halftime oranges provided a delightfully unironic breather, my only thought was that they ought to back their music more.
Bassist Olivia Faletoese and drummer Alex Wanjura form a highly sensitive rhythm section that Simpson and multi-instrumentalist Geromy Houghton work off beautifully. Warm synths crashing over the mix, and delicate textural shifts pointed to a version of ARCHIE that’s much more sophisticated and refined than their novelties suggested.
But then again, it’s the way ARCHIE created an atmosphere in the room that will make this show stick in people’s memories. The thing is, they didn’t need any of it. All 200 of us punters were sold on the band’s musicianship and songwriting alone. And as the songs keep coming, this band will keep finding new and unexpected ways to channel that energy into something special.
“We are ourselves / we don’t need no one else,” sings Simpson on ‘Blink’. This band can, and happily will, do what they want. ARCHIE: they’re named after a very good dog, and they’re on to a very good thing.