Dispatched from Australia, STUART LYNCH reports on Melbourne’s live music scene.

FIRSTLY, apologies to Washington for completely missing the opening set. I can unfortunately offer no plausible excuses, but will of course endeavour to get to a show in the not too distant future.

And so we were left with the somewhat nautical double bill of The Boat People and Seabellies, on the Melbourne leg of their East Coast ‘Home Sweet Home’ tour, after playing a bunch of gigs… you guessed it, overseas. Ahem.

Despite a lengthy delay due to equipment problems, and frontman Trent Grenell ’s self-confessed resultant drunkenness, Seabellies began in confident form, charging in with a well textured, rhythmic wall of sound reminiscent of LCD Sound System and !!!. Although the languid crowd was initially hesitant to respond, some friendly coercion from Grenell brought the punters literally to their feet, and the show gathered momentum.

Seabellies’ strength as a live act seemed to be in crossing conventional musical genres, with an electro-pop base frequently swaying toward dance or rock sentiments. The New South Wales six-piece blended an array of instruments with a powerful unity, introducing trippy synthesizer and xylophone sounds, and with particularly impressive use of a brass section of saxophone and trumpet on particular songs. This was in addition to Grenell’s multitude of talents, playing guitar on occasion and even finding a drum to hit when not restricted to his usual synth / vocal role.

The Boat People took to the stage on the back of the release of second album Chandeliers in July, and subsequent growing hype following local and national radio play. The Melbourne-based Queenslanders looked comfortable and practised from the start, using the contrast in songwriting styles of Robin Waters and James O’Brien to keep the audience on their toes.

Waters’ chorus-heavy pure pop ensembles had immediate infectious appeal, none more so than tongue-twisting ‘Awkward Orchid Orchard’, and the sublime, ethereal ‘Unsettle My Heart’. The use of airy vocals and metaphorical lyrics added a mystical dimension to the simple catchy tunes, and managed to create an original angle on the guitar pop genre. O’Brien’s 80s-inspired grooves offered a slightly different approach, focussing on driving rhythms and with a more literal lyrical stance. This was epitomised by the aptly named ‘Born in the 80s’, incorporating a bursting energy with cute stop-start kitsch.

In the true spirit of touring camaraderie, the night ended with Seabellies returning to join The Boat People on stage for a bizarre, hilarious version of Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’. Though the crowd could hardly have been less prepared for the inclusion of 80s hairspray rock music, they appreciated the sense of humour of the choice, as well as both bands’ extra efforts to put on a show. Despite clearly not taking this part of the show too seriously, the temporary ten piece did not miss a beat, displaying the kind of honed accuracy that will stand both bands in good stead as they look to continue their ever-upward mobility in the coming year.