Live Review: Dead Letter Circus + Fair to Midland + Twelve Foot Ninja @ Ferntree Gully Hotel – 17 May 2012

Review by Billy Geary
Trekking all the way out to Ferntree Gully for a gig is always an interesting experience and Thursday night was no different, with a line up boasting some of Australia’s and America’s best alternative rock bands. With Brisbane natives Dead Letter Circus having been on tour with Texan five piece Fair to Midland in the States for the past few months, it was time to bring the party (and Fair to Midland) back home for their own national tour.

Local staples Twelve Foot Ninja have been given the support slot for the entire tour, and clearly loving the experience. Opening with ‘War,’ one of the band’s heavier numbers, the audience was instantly engaged. The most impressive thing about Twelve Foot Ninja is their ability to move between genres with the flick of a switch, this trait exemplified through ‘FEAR’ and ‘Manufacture of Consent,’ both featuring plenty of heaviness with a dash of reggae and dub influences. Similarly, new track ‘Shuriken’ will be one to look out for on their forthcoming album showcasing vocalist Nick’s outstanding vocals and a smattering of samples. Twelve Foot Ninja’s set came to an end via a powerful rendition of ‘Clarion,’ reminding punters exactly why they’re known as one of the tightest live acts in Melbourne.

Fair to Midland’s 35 minute set was nothing short of cathartic. Within the opening few bars of ‘Whiskey and Ritalin,’ vocalist Darroh Sudderth threw himself into an unsuspecting crowd, dislocating his finger in the process whilst still managing to hit every note. This was an indication of things to come, with Sudderth leading a very chaotic and enthralling set. ‘Walls of Jericho’ and ‘Golden Parachutes’ highlight perfectly Fair to Midland’s penchant for combining beauty with heavy riffs, with guitarist Cliff Campbell possessing a great stage presence. Closing with ‘Dance of the Manatee,’ Fair to Midland had cemented dominance, inspiring a mass sing-a-long in the chorus. Upon the conclusion of their set, it was clear that many in attendance would leave as new fans of the Texans and, given what they experienced, it was easy to understand. Here’s hoping Fair to Midland hurry back for some headline shows and longer sets, god knows they deserve it.

Having been on tour almost constantly in America, the UK and Australia for well over a year now, the Dead Letter Circus machine is now a very well oiled one. Thursday night was the perfect example of this, with the quintet delivering a somewhat short but very sharp set filled with plenty of hits. The initial one-two punch of ‘Here We Divide’ and ‘Big’ quickly saw the crowd in full voice, while an early rendition of old favourite ‘Lines’ was a welcome inclusion to the set list. With guitarist Rob Maric taking a break from touring, fill in Clint Vincent did an excellent job in his place, with the delay soaked guitars ever apparent. These days, it’s almost a guarantee that the majority of the crowd knows the words to every Dead Letter Circus track, making for plenty of moments where vocalist Kim Benzie was almost made redundant – the most obvious being the customary ‘See you at work on Monday’ line in ‘Disconnect and Apply.’

Notably, new single ‘Wake Up’ translated very well into a live setting, bassist Stewart Hill driving the song behind Benzie’s perennially impressive vocals. ‘One Step’ garnered what was probably the greatest response of the night, both band and fans throwing themselves right into the song. Following a mighty impressive drum solo courtesy of Luke Williams, the headliners bounded back on stage for an encore featuring the lively ‘Next In Line.’ If bodies in the front few rows weren’t sweaty before now, they definitely were at the conclusion of the track, with plenty of limbs flying all over the place.

Over the past few years Dead Letter Circus has grow into one of the country’s biggest rock bands. Their show at Ferntree Gully helped show exactly why that’s the case, as well as introducing punters to a very, very exciting band in Fair to Midland. A top night all round.

Review by Billy Geary

Artists: Dead Letter Circus –
Fair to Midland –
Twelve Foot Ninja –
Venue: Ferntree Gully Hotel –
Date: 17 May 2012

Photo Credit: Annie Wilson – Amped Photography

** Photo Gallery: Dead Letter Circus + Fair to Midland + Twelve Foot Ninja – The Hi-Fi, Melbourne – 18 May 2012