Review: City Calm Down

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Words by Jack Herz

City Calm Down brought their brilliantly crafted live show to the Fat Controller in Adelaide and more than delivered on the hype of their debut album ‘In a Restless House’.

Opening the night were a 3-piece Adelaide band called Problems who create heavily washed out guitar and synth pop with hip-hop influenced percussion. Their set mainly consisted of slow-burning tracks that at times even delved into ambience. The downside to the bands consistently chilled out, down-tempo set was that it would oftentimes be easy for the mind to drift off along with the music. Also, as everything was heavily laden with effects, including the vocals, it at times became hard to distinguish what sound each individual instrument was actually making. However, this could also come down to being an issue with the acoustics of the venue itself.

Next up was Brisbane artist Hannah Shepherd AKA Airling, who had a similar setup to the previous band, with the loss of guitar and the addition of a bass. Specialising in beautiful vocal melodies wrapped around dreamy synth riffs, the set made clear that this upcoming artist has only just begun to show us what she is capable of. Shepherd also occasionally shared vocal harmonies with her drummer, who reached into his upper range and came out with a spectacular falsetto which paired particularly nicely with Airling’s equally captivating crooning.

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Following on from Airling’s set, City Calm Down moved to the stage dressed in matching attire, consisting of dark jeans and button-ups and begun to set up their equipment without the assistance of roadies. As they moved about, plugging in cables and testing mics it became clear that this is a band that take their work very seriously. Once the set up was complete, warm synth tones began to pulse through the speakers and the audience erupted with cheer. Lead singer Jack Bourke flashed a quick smile before breaking into their song Border On Control. Bourke is a natural born performer, flailing around the stage, commanding the audience’s attention, all the while never loosing his footing and always keeping in time with the music. Speaking of the music, City Calm Down are really good at performing songs which build and rise before giving way to moments where a single instrument is used. Moments where nothing is heard but vocals right before the entire band explodes back into the mix all at once. This anticipation is what makes them such an entertaining live band.

As their set continued, two extra musicians snuck onto the stage to join the five-piece, bearing a saxophone and a trumpet. Their presence added a whole other layer of depth to the performance, never stealing the spotlight but merely borrowing it at certain intervals. Their inclusion felt most crucial upon the bands cover of ‘Spanish Sahara’ by Foals (which you may have heard on Triple J’s Like A Version’ segment). This wasn’t even the only cover the audience were treated to however, as the band also performed a strikingly accurate rendition of David Bowie’sLet’s Dance’, which had the audience following its lyrical instructions to a tee. It would have surely brought a smile to the Starman himself if he were alive to see it. Capping their set off with one of their first released songs ‘Pleasure And Consequence’ pleased new and old fans alike. As the band left the stage, there was no call for an encore beyond a couple of punters. Now, normally people scream for bands to return because they are left somewhat dissatisfied. City Calm Down’s set however, marked a rare moment whereby a lack of these screams equated to sheer contentment.

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