Free Kick Final 2011 – The Tote, 22nd of May

There is no better way to extend your weekend than catching a gig on a Sunday night. Especially if it showcases four up-and-coming local bands, supports charity, and has a guest performance from ARIA award winning Dan Sultan. Oh, and every band has to perform a Nick Caver cover. That was exactly the promise of the SYN supported Free Kick Final.Royal Chant kicked things off with their passionate/feral/raw genre of indie-rock, and soon enough The Tote Band Room was reverberating with the tunes that have helped them to set sail on a musical journey all the way from the central NSW coast. American-born lead singer Mark Spence had plenty of energy to give, but perhaps the most noteworthy was his raw emotion. Lyrics of songs such as ‘Bored Awake’ and ‘Ghosts’ from debut album Raise Your Glass and Collapse had musical highs and lows, with peaks and troughs that gave their set and debut album almost a ‘bipolar’ feel. With Spence’s gritty nasal sound reminiscent of REM combined with the light and shade of Philadelphia Grand Jury, Royal Chant could easily find themselves a slot on the garage indie rock scene.Meanwhile Royal Chant were getting the ball rolling, a certain young punter with nothing but a good time in mind was giving the bar a run for its money. As Red Rockets of Borneo took the stage, she catapulted herself onto the dance floor, from then on in becoming the barometer of the event. Needless to say, with the gritty, punchy sounds of RRoB hitting the audience, the young dancing queen was ripping around the dance floor. And she did this for the entire set, with lead singer Jean-Philipe Lopez not letting up for more than a few seconds. At times the fast-paced lyrics were tricky to decipher, but this didn’t take away from the energetic vibe of the set. The Rockets were also visually captivating, with the band (closely resembling a group of matadors) and Lopez prancing on, off, behind, and on top of the stage.Next up, and with a slight change of pace were the Rain Party, another emerging Melbourne band. From the outset lead singer and bass player Neige Koppes produced some impressive vocals, which judging by the captivated looks from the audience, was leaving few in doubt of both her talent and this band’s potential. Not without a hint of Howling Bells and Alanis Morisette, it was great to have a strong female sound to add to the bill. Needless to say at this point our dancing barometre had slowed from dizzying speeds to a jive with a little more feeling, spurred on by strong guitar riffs and melodies coming from the stage. With an EP being released later this year, expect to hear more of tracks such as ‘Whisper’ and ‘You Told Me To Stay’ on the airwaves.Closing out the bill was I, A Man; another local band receiving a lot of hype in the indie community. These guys have been touring around the Melbourne scene lately, with the group seeming natural and relaxed on stage. This band has all of the right ingredients: solid vocals, interesting lyrics, and catchy riffs; but most of all a lead singer who has ‘that’ presence on stage that captivates audiences. The undercurrent in songs such as ‘I Ran My Ghoul’, ‘Big Ideas’ and ‘Haight-Ashbury’, created by some beautiful bass guitar work and vocal harmonies mesmerized the audience (dancing girl was now swaying). Move over Death Cab For Cutie, there are some new kids on the block.While guest performer Dan Sultan gave the audience an acoustic taste of his award winning talent, the judges deliberated, finally concluding that the Red Rockets Of Borneo deserved to take the crown at this year’s Free Kick Final, winning a place performing at the Reclink Community Cup, being held at Elsternwick Park on Sunday June 26.- Dannika Bonser


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