Brisbane psych-pop outfit The Belligerents brought their ‘Science Fiction’ tour to Melbourne’s Howler on Friday night. Last month, the five-piece have released their debut album, scoring a nod as triple j feature album, representing the popularity that The Belligerents have gathered. Supporting The Belligerents was Sydney’s Bus Vipers, the solo project of Sydney-via-Canberra musician Daniel Ahern, who act as a three-piece for live performances. The two groups combined to showcase the prospering psych scene that continues to grow in Australia.
Like The Belligerents, Bus Vipers has only just put out new music. The Federal Highway EP was unveiled on 8 September; the same day The Belligerents’ Science Fiction came out. Bus Vipers’ debut six-track EP demonstrated a broad pallet of influences from Innerspeaker-era Tame Impala to the whacky and distorted sounds of Talking Heads. The inspiration of Talking Heads became far clearer when the Ahern-fronted band masterfully covered ‘Once In A Lifetime’. The underrated tracks from the Federal Highway EP, ‘Daniel’s Dream’ and ‘Daniel’s Exercise’, came across as the most striking tracks, particularly the catchy riffs on the latter. Ahern’s vocal delivery on lead single ‘CSIRO Weeds’ was another highlight, performing the song with the greatest gusto I’ve seen from an artist this year.
The Belligerents set began in mysterious fashion. With the venue in complete darkness, the band members entered the stage one-by-one to what sounded like a Stranger Things theme-inspired song. The quintet kicked off the night with Sam Sargent’s booming drum beats in Science Fiction opener ‘Sorry to Say’. But, it wasn’t until front-man Lewis Stephenson shed the weight of the guitar and exposed his part nerdy, part ninja, mostly awesome dance moves that performance hit full-throttle.
The group ran through all the favourites that the band have crafted out in their short time together, including ‘Before I Am’ and new synth voyage ‘Flash’. However, it seemed all the crowd wanted to hear was the Science Fiction title-track. As soon as Stephenson’s faint falsetto sounded the beginning of the track, the audience broke out into raptures. The Belligerents closed out the show with their two most loved songs, ‘Caroline’ and ‘In My Way’, with Stephenson showing off his recorder skills along with his kung-fu kicks.
For a band as established as The Belligerents, the gig could’ve been a touch better. There was nothing terrible about the performance. The band were backed by mesmerising visuals, front-man Stephenson proved he’s a true showman and their songs are catchy and loveable. The Belligerents may just benefit from a unique hint to truly offer their audiences something fresh.