A coming of age band comprise the soundtrack to school bus rides, afternoon study, mornings spent getting ready for school dancing in front of your bedroom mirror; they follow you into adulthood’s more personal rituals of morning sun salutations, Himalayan salt crystal lit baths, and late-night scrawling in your journal; they keep you awake for the Route 30 drive home—speeding through a sea of golden canola paddocks, and they carry you when your heart is heavy and broken. Growing up with The Paper Kites in my back pocket it is hardly surprising my most listened to genre of music last year (according to Spotify), was indie folk. I have emerged from my chrysalis of teendom alongside the ever-evolving Melbournian band, and on Saturday night their melodies brought me to the dimly lit Main Room of the Rosemount for a live music experience that cannot be captured by a singular adjective.
Perth young blood, Riley Pearce tempered the crowd, just he and his guitar leading the crooning audience in song. Knuckles drumming guitar body, Brave resonated in strummed strings, and the room came to life with the hope, the heartache, and the invincibility that is youth. People were aglow as the melodies transcended them to a moment in time; past, present, or future. Words of love and loss resonated strongly with the crowd—seen in the way their open palms rested across their hearts, and their eyes stayed shut letting the creamy music wash over them. But when the boy behind the microphone’s recount of mornings spent in his own company with his Park Dogs gave us a more intimate glimpse into his raw reality, I felt a connection between performer and audience on a more human level.
Music has the power to touch our souls more deeply than anything else in this world, and as serendipity would have it, while tales of distant friendships were told through the lyrics of Elephants, I received a message from one of my special humans in London. Call it coincidence, it’s all just energy baby!
Energy and then some were what The Paper Kites brought to the stage. Opening with Revelator Eyes the boogie vibes were high—silhouettes dancing in rainbows. Whilst I felt strongly connected to the music that raised me, it wasn’t a wholly spiritual experience. The comedic, cheeky personality of the band (not found anywhere in their music) came out when frontman Sam Bentley spun stories of how the group’s music springs into existence.
“So with this next one, I thought I had something half good,” Sam said.
“I played it to my brother, and he said ‘you know you might have something here’.
“Now, he is not musical by any means, in fact, he couldn’t care less, he is just a sounding board.
“Pretty happy with his approval, I went home and showed my wife, but she thought it needed tweaking and changing.
“I did change it, and now I’m not sure about it. But if you don’t like it, I’m not changing it again.”
This quick wit wove its way into the stage banter, but what’s indicative of a band’s natural stage prowess is how they work with, not against a venue. And TPK had a lot of working with to do. Midway through their performance, they settled into three of their quieter, more ambient songs. Taking us along for an “arty” experience while the quintet played, shrouded in darkness, we were asked to join them and close our eyes. But the strings and heavenly harmonies had to contest with the thrumming static of the fallback speaker. That was until Sam conjured a crackling campfire narrative to go with it. Suddenly we were embraced by the warmth of the embers, swaying in the darkness, stripped bare and vulnerable like the lullaby lyrics of Arms.
Though the band admitted the dichotomy of TPK audiences were either couples in love or depressing singles, it wasn’t all sombre songs. The Of Monsters and Men-esque anthems of Woodland, Bloom and Featherstone left us enchanted in a childlike state—trumpet rifts transporting us to a simpler time of barefoot, bushland exploration.
A pre-warning was issued about the band’s encore policy.
“We have a couple of songs left for you tonight,” Sam said.
“For some reason at our gigs, people seem to be disappointed if we don’t play an encore.
“But if we don’t know that you want one, we don’t give you one.
“You’ve been warned,” he said.
After some time, cheering, stomping, and whistling, Sam led the band back to fill our souls with some more genre-bending goodness. The rolling electric guitar, toe-curling harmonies and underlying synth of Deep Burn Blue lingered long after the dancing stage lights dimmed and cooled.