San Francisco Bathhouse
May 28 | Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

THE SOUTHERLY winds that have purged Wellington over the last week got some respite at the San Francisco Bathhouse, where two local bands threw out melodies which danced around like fur coats. Both bands seem to be able to write catchy pop hooks in their sleep, throwing them out with the ease of drunken taunts. The bands were having considerable fun during their performance, and the audience threw themselves around on the dancefloor in support (particularly during Family Cactus’ set). The two bands are another sign that Wellington’s indie pop scene is as healthy as ever.

The Friendly Barnacle is a super-group of sorts. Featuring yet another Phoenix Foundation member doing great side-project work (Warner Emery) and the ubiquitous godfather Lee Prebble, the band incorporate drum machines and sweet vocals to great effect. Their songs were more raucous live than their recorded music (and twee name) suggests they will be. A mix of the jangly Flying Nun sound (think the driving rhythms and high notes of the Bats) and the boy-girl power pop of bands like Vaselines on the night, their songs sounded, simply enough: great. Alhough their songs did often end as if sand was thrown on top of it. A sweet performance, from a band hopefully will record more.

Family Cactus are about to release their debut album Come Howling in June, and have been making a name for themselves in Wellington. The seven-piece seem to be aspiring to the pop standards set by the Phoenix Foundation, and they incorporate a wide range of genres into their harmony-drenched, well-crafted music. Instantly familiar, like an old pair of jeans, (though at points a little too familiar – ‘In Transit’ has a riff that bears comparisons to Wilco’s ‘War on War’), their music should have wide appeal. And while it remains to be seen whether they will approach their recorded music with the same vigour and eye for experimentation that the Phoenix Foundation do, there is certainly no doubt they can support their songs with a great hook. The middle of their set featured some more deconstruction, and when they explored the sonic possibilities that three guitars can provide, they sounded quite something. They’re a band with some considerable talent, suggesting their June album is well worth checking out.