22 March, Moonshine

So for one reason or another, four-piece Sydney-based garage band Straight Arrows have flooded the airwaves as of late and every time I jump in the car, there they are. When I heard they were playing at my local, Moonshine Bar in Manly’s Hotel Steyne on this unsuspecting rainy Thursday, I felt the deepest obligation to see them in the flesh.

I arrived just minutes before the support act, Sydney’s Rosa Maria were due to start, a band that also happened to be in my crosshairs for the evening. The venue was as cosy as ever with its hardwood floors and studded leather booths. However, the howling winds and sporadic bursts of heavy rain didn’t have the best effect on the turnout for the night.

Smart casual seems to be the memo for Rosa Maria – with a well-presented look across the board – tucked in button-up dress shirts and prominent belts in a show of unison and an indicator of their attention to detail (barring the moustache-clad lead singer, Herjas Noons, who rocked a white tee).

Slipping into their first song, No Life For Two, with a totally blasé attitude and quiet confidence – which can rightly be assumed is to be carried throughout their entire set – they instantly set the bar for what’s to come with their incumbent genre-bending mixing pot of psych/surf/blues rock fusion.

From the reverb-drenched psychedelic lead guitar to the resonating sounds of their classic yet unique jangly surf rock chords, Rosa Maria came out in full force and ticked every box. Their hip shaking, foot tapping, head banging tunes were enough to shake the floor in a spectacular seismic fashion.

After smashing out their most popular hit, Girl In 507, much to the joy of the crowd, Noons rested his voice box and swapped out with guitarist Bobby Diamond, as he took charge and threw down one of the most memorable moments of the night. His raspy voice sounded like it had drowned in three lifetimes of whisky drinking and cigar smoking as he gargled his ode to the obvious blues base that lifted the band from the belly up; syphoning a roaring applause from the crowd.

Their set came to an end and the room was electrified after the musical treat that had just been served. Without too long of a transition, Straight Arrows assembled on stage and didn’t hesitate as they exploded into their first song, Fruit Of The Forest, despite the fact the crowd seemed almost reluctant to get involved and commit to the textbook head thrashy garage they were exuding. The room had somewhat emptied out since the support act finished, the later Thursday set obviously filtering out tomorrows 9-5’ers from the venue.  This, however, meant nothing to Straight Arrows as they smashed out their set without inhibition.

Their latest single, Down and Out, struck the right chord with the crowd as its groaning distorted riffs exploded into a kaleidoscope of sounds. Lead singer Owen Penglis churned out his signature pronounced Aussie vocals in a beautifully hard-hitting sequence of tight musicianship, layered onto their characteristic distortion fuelled guitar.

A few notable songs passed as the crowd morale seemed to fade and the vibe started to shift down a gear as more pundits trickled away from the stage the later the night gets. Some excitement was roused as they announced their next song Petrified which they confess was written about wood. The combination of grungy distorted guitar, heavy drums and Penglis’ boyish vocals allow for a brooding build to one of their more popular songs. The screeching feedback of the lead guitar recoils towards the amp, a token of their zero fucks style of set given thus far.

As someone who is new to the world of Straight Arrows but who is a fan of other artists drawn from the same cloth, I can’t help but fight this feeling that there’s an element missing from their set that could really cement them as a phenomenal live act. It could’ve been the time of set, or the lack of crowd, but as their set ends I feel a sense that there is more to be desired.