Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Thurs 18 July
For a band with such clear artistic direction in their album jackets, there’s little pretence when the five members of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever file quickly onto the stage, to cheers from a crowd wryly amused by their walk out to the 80s Top 40 tune of fellow Aussies Mental as Anything’s Live It Up. With their acclaimed debut LP Hope Downs building on the strong discography marker of their French Press EP, this band are having the time of their lives.
That comes through loud and clear as they rip into the opening two songs Colours Run and Julie’s Place} in barely five minutes: the three singer-guitarists in triangulated combat like Real Estate on steroids, jostling for space on the cramped stage. Fran, with his Happy Mondays T-shirt and acoustic guitar, takes the mic first, with livewire lead guitarist Joe White stage left on Stratocaster and Tom Russo to the right with his Gretsch. Baseball-capped brother Joe Russo plucks the bass, his back to the audience for the most part, inches away from the cymbal of Marcel on drums.
After a second’s pause to draw breath, The Hammer hits next – Tom taking up main vocals as the band glide into this 80s indiepop number, sounding a little like The Bodines. The Don’t Fear The Reaper-like riff of Sick Bug is a big hitter, with red-haired Joe W spreading the classic rock’n’roll staple lyric of “I want you, I want you, I want…. you” like a contagion through the sell-out crowd. While we await Clwb’s expansion, a few hundred more could have seen them at the Tramshed, but intimate and sweaty is probably just how RBCF like it, despite some muddy sound.
The Welsh-Australian Stella Donnelly [above] joins Tom on vocals for the sweet Read My Mind, bringing them closest to the classic Go-Betweens vibe (though Fountain Of Good Fortune runs close), with Joe W, who spends around half the set inventively soloing, as the band’s most magnetic performer, laying down an Isley Brothers fuzzy guitar riff. The whole band lock into a shimmering War On Drugs-y motorik riff on dreamy single In The Capital, and the brilliant French Press also sees Joe W’s liquid guitar leading the other two in a hypnotic freakout, with even the more reserved Tom playing back-to-back with brother Joe before stepping out beyond the monitors. Talking Straight is their most direct song and chorus, while the new wave of Exclusive Grave and Time In Common crackle with energy.
There are a few diolch yn fawrs all round before new tune Big Fence, with Tom singing on the tiptoes of his New Balance before Fran takes the mic. It’s the melange of 70s, 80s and modern rock and indie that means Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever will be shining across the topography for a while yet.
words CHRIS SEAL photos DALI POULSOM