Menu ▲

Live review: Liars & HTRK, June 6 @ Carriageworks – Vivid LIVE

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on June 10, 2014

Carriageworks has become one of my favourite Sydney venues. The industrial setting, vast hangars and enormous performance spaces allow for incredible sound and a wonderful setting for all genres. Tonight, we were there to see Liars as part of the fantastic Vivid LIVE line up. Next door, in the larger room, The Presets and Pet Shop Boys were doing their thang – but we were in for something a lot darker and a lot weirder.

HTRK (“hate-rock”) took to the stage as the room was slowly filling up. The Melbourne-born, London-based duo create dark, thought-provoking, strange music – and even stranger videos. Their sound isn’t exactly what I’d listen to on a daily basis, but it was intriguing, encapsulating and meditative.

Performing tracks predominantly from their recently released album Psychic 9-5 Club, beat-maker Nigel created thoughtful, deep and singular beats which all seemed to ring out, reverberate, echo and finish before the next beat began. Singer Jonnine was still throughout, and it was interesting to hear the beautiful tone of her voice distort itself by deliberately creating off-tune harmonies and unsettlingly syncopated melodies. Their music and lyrics evoked sadness, despair and existential emptiness. The repetitive beats left the audience in a trancelike state throughout (save for the one long-haired guy whooping throughout – it’s possible he walked into the wrong room in the venue.)

But HTRK weren’t just about the music: two short, unnerving films aired during the set. In fact, the songs performed while the films were shown were almost certainly more soundtrack than standalone. Shaky cameras, shady lighting, warped silhouettes, dingy London scenery, extreme close-ups of fish swimming and truly disturbing on-screen messages flashing at the audience were disconcerting and enticing, all at once.

By the time they finished, the audience wasn’t sure whether to applaud or silently file out in an orderly fashion, and it ended up being about half-half. Anyway, while  HTRK’s creepily introverted music is almost the opposite to that of Liars, it certainly set the off-centre tone for the forthcoming headliners.

After an impressively quick changeover, Liars took to the stage one by one and launched straight into new track Mask Maker. Sydney-born frontman Angus Andrew came out in a seriously unnerving beanie-balaclava thing. Made of the same multi-coloured string featured on the cover of their latest album Mess, it had two unevenly cut eye holes and a drape of rainbow strings hanging down the front. It reminded me of the intensely horrific sack thing worn by Scarecrow in Batman.

Angus seemed to do whatever he could to distort his own face throughout the set: he partially removed the Mess mask after two songs, but kept it on his head and used it to keep his blonde locks in place, covering his face for two more. His hair became something of an accessory throughout, and was twisted and shaken like nothing else. It was actually impressive to see his hair used as a stage prop.

The first few tracks were from the electro-heavy sixth album Mess, and the rest featured tracks throughout their discography including tracks from Sisterworld, WIXIW and They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. It was frantic and noisy, almost anti-melodic. The agitated intensity didn’t go anywhere during the entire set. That three men can create so much noise is nothing short of astounding, and the audience lapped up every moment.

Behind the band, a projector screen gave off seizure-inducing visuals which were bright, psychedelic and probably seizure-inducing. Combined with the heavy beats, glitchy electronic and dance elements, it was funny watching the crowd figure out how to move. Despite the EDM-style beats on Mess and the techno-influenced beats on other tracks, it’s hardly straightforward. So audience member were all dancing or bobbing along to a different beat and through a variety of movements, which was nearly as entertaining as the band themselves. It basically resembled something halfway between a rave and a mosh pit.

Many of the older tracks (like No. 1 Against The Rush) were something of a melodic interlude. Not that they provided any solace or anything, but the few times we could hear actual guitars sounds (or hell, a non-abrasive melody in general) were soothing in comparison to the brash dance-punk tracks. It was really well balanced, and while the intensity was never too much, there were no lulls or dull moments either.

Late in the set, Angus mentioned that his mum and dad were in the audience. Considering the downright weirdness of the music, I couldn’t help but wonder what they thought of Liars. It’s not exactly radio-friendly, catchy, or plain old accessible. Then again, I have no idea what music his parents enjoy, so who am I to judge?

Mess on a Mission was my favourite track of the night. First single off Mess, (and the first track to get me back into Liars,) it sent the crowd wild. The whole audiences seemed to chant the simple but powerful mantra, ”Facts are facts and fiction’s fiction.” 2004’s Broken Witch was another highlight – the tracks with lyrical mantras, industrial riffs and heavy synths were the most powerful of the night, particularly in the acoustic haven that is Carriageworks.

Liars are not for the fainthearted. But they put on a powerful, engaging and altogether brilliant live show that is nothing short of a sensory overload. In fact, even if the music scares the absolute shit out of you, they’re still worth seeing live, and it’s great that Vivid Festival put this on. Together with the haunting opening set from HTRK, it was a night of unforgettable organised chaos.

(Watch this incredible video clip, BTW)


Comments are closed.