Gig review: The Rubens – Channel [V] Online

Originally posted at Channel [V]

The remarkably impressive, near-hyperbolic rise of the unassuming bunch of lads from Menangle, The Rubens, has been one of the more noteworthy music stories of the last 12 or so months. Coming out of seemingly nowhere with one knockout hit and progressing to a critically and commercially successful album, The Rubens have been described as the next big indie rock band Australia has to offer. To determine if the hype is all it’s made out to be, I joined the throng of young folk sticking the middle finger up to the arrival of Sydney’s Winter and headed into the dry, warm Enmore Theatre to experience them for myself.

Support band Walk the Moon seemed to me an odd fit with the headliners from a purely musical perspective. But when the singlet-ridden, strong jawlined, handsome chaps from Ohio took the stage and answered my question of “What’s with all the young girls with glittery facial paint?” it all became clear. The frothing teen demographic The Rubens so happily bask in is completely at home with this pop-rock quartet from the States. Although not exactly my cup of tea and for a moment ignoring the fact that their set included a brutal butchering of a Bowie classic (RIP Bowie/my soul) the group led by the flamboyant, gyrating lead singer brought the Enmore to a squealing fever pitch of burgeoning-estrogen-induced excitement. Their brand of inoffensive synth-tinged rock, very much in the vein of our own Strange Talk, is super fashionable at the moment and the bands Healthy Harold-esque stage banter of “harnessing all the bad energy in your life and shooting it out your fingertips”(ugh… vomit) was definitely a home-run with the salivating crowd. My personal thoughts however: Walk the Moon? Great cool, how about you stay there… forever. Kthxbai.

With the frothing masses of underage grommets at critical level The Rubens took to the stage opening with ‘The Day You Went Away’ and utterly enthralling the mainly pubescent crowd. What strikes you first at a The Rubens gig is the ample difference in sound between their recorded music and what you hear in the flesh and is a true credit to the boy’s technical skills. The tweaks and distortions that become apparent when face to face at a gig with the lads, utterly ticks that most important of boxes when it comes to live music which is offering a slightly alternate aural experience to say, putting their CD on at a packed house party.  Lengthened, deeper guitar exploration and unexpected vocal variation is very much the par of a Rubens gig and the boys should be commended for committing to giving the punters something slightly divergent but still recognisably on brand and from the crowd’s reaction, immensely enjoyable.

Unfortunately not as much can be said for the gents stage presence which this reviewer would liken to a wet sock on a string dangling back and forth across the Enmore theatre. I understand the honourable notion of ‘letting the music speak for itself’ but when the most amount of movement on stage is lead singer Sam’s constant, irritating pushing back of his voluminous ‘Pantene Pro-V’ fringe (which I actually counted and at the end of the gig reached 7 bafillion hair strokes) it makes for a fairly underwhelming visual experience.

Besides what turned out to be the second ferociously painful cover of the evening (a particularly bland take on The Roots ‘The Seed 2.0’) their biggest songs including ‘Don’t Ever Want to Be Found’ and highlight of the set ‘Lay It Down’ truly shone as the bands rich song crafting ability was pushed to the fore. Staying out way past their bedtimes, the adoring crowd ate out of the hands of The Rubens boys, clapping and singing along at all the right points and all earning gold stars on their star charts for being Super Awesome Fans!

As the night neared its conclusion and everyone started getting the “I’m out the front” texts from their Mums, The Rubens finished up the night by inviting their younger brother, their old school-mate, their neighbour Trudy, Trudy’s goat, the Mayor of Menangle, their Mum’s postman and the ghost of their English teacher’s hamster Nibbles onto the stage and all 83 of them entered into a good old fashioned country hoe-down. Ok, not really but there was some extra dudes on tambourine or something and it was kinda cool I guess.

So does The Rubens live show live up to the hysteria that has dominated their recent rise to success? Maybe not entirely. Are they still an impressive young band with excellent song-writing ability who are destined for prominence in the Australian and possibly international music scene? Definitely. Do I feel better now that Walk the Moon helped me ball up my bad energy and release it into the sky? Fuck off. Questions were answered, good tunes were heard and some 14-year-old’s training bra was hurled onstage, so all in all an enjoyable night in rain-drenched Sydney was had. Oh and hey Sam, to borrow a favourite line from my Grandma “Get a haircut you silly duffer how can you even see through that ridiculous mess!”

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