17 Mar, Metro Theatre
Over the weekend I attended the Sydney show of Cub Sport’s BATS world tour, and was treated to the best indie pop this continent has to offer.
The first support of the night was the New Zealand-based solo producer Merk, an indie pop/rock artist with the instrumentation of bands like Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Mild High Club, blended with the mellow, monosyllabic lyricism of Mac Demarco. Visually, his baggy baseball tee, sunburst Stratocaster and short fringe reminded me of the kind of American scene heartthrob you’d see on the cover of a teen magazine in the early 2000s. As he kicked off the night, Merk and his band were met with a slowly but steadily increasing crowd of enamoured young fans, swaying to the smooth synths and sweet, catchy vocals.
Up next was Cairns-raised, London-based artist Eves Karydas, whose commercial quality pop sound marked a significant departure from the nostalgic lo-fi production of Merk. Visually however, Eves’ outfit had me wondering whether or not there’d been a 2000s revival and I’d just missed it. Her attire was a seamless segue from Merk, with platinum blonde hair, pink crop top and baggy Burberry pants that had her looking like the newest star of Lizzie McGuire. Eves and her band offered a rich, sonic palette of electronic instrumentation and catchy repetitive choruses. Her delicate airy vocals complemented by the firm low frequencies of 808 drums and Moog bass lines drove danceable grooves and exciting drops that had the crowd seriously moving.
Since this was only my first time seeing Cub Sport, I can’t comment on how far they’ve progressed, but this tour showcases a world-class spectacle complete with roaring fans, matching outfits, impressive lighting arrangements and exploding confetti guns.
For the uninitiated, Cub Sport are a Brisbane-based pop group whose popularity has soared in recent years following a viral Like A Version and successful singles that have charted worldwide. Fronted by lead guitarist and vocalist, Tim Nelson – who produces most of the band’s songs – Cub Sport features airtight instrumentation from Sam “Bolan” Netterfield (keyboards, vocals), Zoe Davis (lead guitar, bass, vocals) and Dan Puusaari (drums).
The BATS album chronicles a 21st-century love story as the tour follows last year’s engagement between the bandmates and lifelong friends Tim and Sam, telling their story of the vulnerability and excitement involved in coming out to each other after a lifetime of platonic friendship.
The set began with O Lord and oh lord was it a sensational entrance – it only took about three seconds for about 500 phones to shoot up and start recording the group as the LED lettering in the background slowly lit up to spell ‘Cub Sport’. The song is an epic gospel-inspired track with roaring harmonies, each layer building in the choruses, filling the room so richly it felt as though it was being sung by an actual choir. The heartfelt lyricism immersed me in their journey, the conflict they’ve felt between growing up in conservative religious families and accepting their sexuality.
Their ethereal performance was littered with angelic moments from the band’s all-white attire, to Tim and Sam’s anecdotes about house hunting that informed Banyo Blue, to the sly glances they gave each other throughout the show, and to the bouquet of flowers given to Tim by a member of the crowd during Solo III.
In addition to the gospel flavours of O Lord, their production featured colours of R’n’B with autotune and vocal processing (although absolutely not needed to keep Tim on-pitch) and gorgeous falsettos that had the crowd screaming. Watching their show was like being at the Royal Easter Show, surrounded by pretty lights and eating fairy floss as their delicate dreamy lyrics were just as soft and easy to consume.
Cub Sport truly have the best of both worlds: they have all the benefits of catchy choruses and clean production whilst maintaining the immense emotional depth that relates to their journey, rather than the vapid meaningless lyricism that’s all too common in today’s pop hits.
The show’s encore closed with the cover that helped put them on the map – Kanye West’s Ultra Light Beam had the entire crowd singing along before the band sweetly bowed and exited stage left.