Hotel Great Northern, Byron Bay
Sunday December 15
It’s a comfortably full room out the back of the Great Northern, people thronging through the door on a balmy Sunday night, the lateness of the gig of no consequence at this time of year. Felt hats and flowing shirts abound, people looking like they’re in the Allman Brothers Band but smelling like they’ve just stepped from the perfume counter at Myer – an odd combination, faux hippies all, but a music loving crowd, so we’re off to a decent start.
Three-piece Doctopus are assaulting eardrums as we arrive, and it must be said straight off the bat, that the sound in the room tonight is nigh on the worst I’ve heard in a venue with a reputation for muddy, thick, overwrought sonics – Doctopus are thrashing about like no one is watching, but from where I am, it’s a shitstorm of bottom-end, barely discernable, and so the band just come off as garage hacks. I’m sure they’re not, but I couldn’t hear a goddamn thing – or, to be more precise, I could hear everything, but it mushed together into nothing.
This didn’t bode well for Pond, headlining tonight, and my worst fears are confirmed once I walk back into the bandroom from the relative comfort of the front bar – you get glimpses of why these six are so good, that flowing then jarring psych rock sound, crooning then screaming, it’s something these guys do better than most, but these glimpses are few and far between.
Thundering, booming, head-splitting sound just bounces around the room – I try seven or eight different vantage points but just can’t find a place where I can hear what’s going on. I sound like an old man, bemoaning what ‘the kids’ are calling rock ‘n’ roll these days (they all seemed to be having a good time), but surely it wasn’t just me.
The band, fronted by the enigmatic Nick Allbrook, are having a fine old time though (obviously the foldback was working) and so groove their way through a set that has the crowd moving with them as one, showing they’re worthy of the growing hype, that they’re a band worth keeping an eye on. Just see ‘em somewhere you can hear ‘em.
Samuel J. Fell