Christening BIGSOUND’s outdoor QMusic stage, a spruced marquee set-up in a car park off the main streets of Fortitude Valley, the EMI Party featured a selection of the label’s current Australian darlings.

Arriving to see Ball Park Music doting a throng of industry types with the chorus of ‘IFLY’, “I fuckin’ love you/I think you’re pretty,” is a humorous sight, and the irony is probably not lost on the ever-charismatic Sam Cromack. Bouncing front of stage, he’s the funnel for the energy that’s charging behind him in the rhythm section of the Hanson twins (no, not those ones).

After giving the first of many (obligatory) thank you’s to the record label that will punctuate the evening, they deliver a ripping version of ‘Sad Rude Future Dude’ to the whooping crowd, then the lead single from their forthcoming sophomore, ‘Surrender.’ There’s a distinct contrast between the slightly unwieldily rock/pop delivery of the former, and the focus of the latter, from it’s hip-hop influenced drum groove and vocal harmonies – albeit delivered with a rough charm.

Their new single is a nice evolution to the off-beat stylings of their familiar work, best captured in the passionate turn of ‘It’s Nice To Be Alive’ that closes the set – the quintet losing themselves in its twinkling chorus. As Cromack lulls the opening couplet, “boring as batshit/you people make me so curious“, the irony is probably once again nestled as an  internal grin for the Ball Park Music frontman.

As the audience does a lap to retrieve sustenance from the drinks tent, Oh Mercy march on stage to deliver a few slices of their sweaty new album, Deep Heat. Its sonic departure into seductive drum rolls and slinky bass, against Alexander Gow’s newfound desire to be a rock star, works serviceably in the live setting. Gow however, dressed in a golden bomber jacket with the album title emblazoned on the back, doesn’t quite nail the flash and sass of his attire.

It feels as though he’s giving it half-half, not quite losing himself in the Iggy Pop/Mick Jagger theatrics he’s aiming for, but not settled to just croon intensely at the mic either. Not so much stalking the stage as pacing it. Still, the likes of ‘Deep Heat’, ‘Fever’ and the rollicking ‘Drums Of Love’ show that while the new sonics may not suit stage-wise – it’s an adventurous new take for the once relaxed outfit.

As the bodies swarm to the front, it becomes clear that closing act for the EMI Party are the real draw card. Playing an all-new set (bar a rough-and-ready take on ‘Deja Vu’), the trio showcase their forthcoming album Leave Your Soul To Science, which off the evidence of tonight’s six songs, is going to be at once as familiar as a warm handshake – for fans – and a firm grip for those who’ve strayed in the band’s near half-decade absence.

Dempsey, who’s never left the live circuit in that time, remains a magnetic frontman. His light banter with the crowd is swapped for intensity as he sings like his life depends on it on the bustling open chords of ‘Miracle Cure’; or over the tight pincering guitar lines of new single ‘Survival Expert.’ Jokingly introduced as: “Not a song about Bear Grylls”

The fierce metronomic drumming of Clint Hyndman threatens to topple the lighting rack that’s rocking precariously behind him, while Stephanie Ashworth, sleeked in black, is locked in her usual cool demeanour, effortlessly swaying through loping basslines and the understated groove of the suitably slow-burning, ‘The Fireball At The End of Everything.”

A triumphant little set – but as the motto ‘too many bands, not enough time’ rings in the back of people’s minds, the QMusic stage is quickly evacuated as people shuffle to one of eleven other venues, with the strains of Paul Dempsey’s warm rasp equally ringing in their ears: “gotta see what it is/and it’s everything/and it’s endless.

– Al Newstead

Read more BIGSOUND coverage with our BIGSOUND BlogBIGSOUND LIVE 1st Night Wrap-Up, and review of Jeremy Neale @ Ric’s Bar.

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