I’ll confess; I am not a regular punk-rocker. Before I pulled up Spotify, I was under the impression Tired Lion was some sort of folksy indie band, populated by sad Irish men with beards. Still, after a few listens spanning their latest stuff- Cinderella Dracula– and their 2015 EP Figurine– I was charmed by their sheer spirit and energy, and infected by lead singer Sophie Hope’s irreverent edge. I was more than willing to tag along to their Badlands Bar gig in Northbridge. I even dug out a leather jacket and a pair of boots.
It was unsurprisingly busy, and the crowd was a good mix; some young, some barely legal, others wearing safety pins in their ears. Despite my loner status, and dead camera, I was happy to nab a $5 glass of wine and people-watch. It’s a testament to Tired Lion’s appeal that such a large range of people showed up. They’re a quintessentially Australian band, and Perth seemed proud to have them back on home turf. Even though I was relatively unfamiliar with them, I was happy to be seeing a band that understood Perth’s culture and environment- and therefore, understood me. It’s an almost possessive feeling. Mention Heath Ledger to someone in WA; you’ll see what I mean.
Unfortunately, I missed first local act Glasswave, but I did catch second act Tiny Little Houses. A quartet of Melbourne boys, the band was excellently raucous, looking as if they’d stepped straight out of a John Hughes film. The lead singer, with his cutoff jeans and spectacles, carried himself with such confidence that he made lines like “this is a song about hating yourself” actually work. His voice was alternately affected and moody, with some drawled out vowels almost reminiscent of The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas. Their droll, resolute anger spread out to the crowd, spurred on by some talented drumming and instantly catchy guitar riffs. There were a few songs from their 2016 EP Snow Globe, and a few that they announced ‘were brand new’. It was a fitting opening, and I have a feeling that Tiny Little Houses will be back in Perth, headlining, in no time at all; they were just that enjoyable. I fervently hope they keep their ironic 80’s aesthetic, too. Right down to the Breakfast Club-style floppy hair.
However good Tiny Little Houses were, though, it was clear that Tired Lion was the main draw. People piled into the room, crushed against the front of the stage, lining walls and perched on barstools. There was a pervasive sense of excitement. I found a nice spot by a side table, sat down and waited. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It probably wasn’t Sophie Hopes to come skipping out in a crushed velvet top and skater skirt, though, looking so perfectly at home that I liked her on sight. No other word for it; she was just cool. The rest of the band were scruffily unaffected, too- drummer Ethan Darnell, guitarist Matt Tanner and bassist Nick Vasey all looked like they’d been teleported from 1998. It’s somewhat uncommon to have a female-fronted punk band, although there are a few popular ones, like Gossip, or Paramore (in their Misery days) that come to mind. I’m not sure why, because as Tired Lion proved, there’s nothing more riveting than a small, fierce woman giving her absolute angry all to the mic.
They launched straight into Not My Friends– a statement song with strong, repeated riffs, and Hopes’ voice cutting straight through, amused but still bitter. Her strong bond with the audience was immediately apparent; they loved her, cheering when she demanded to trade glasses with a man at the front. She even inquired about birthdays, greeting a few people she recognized. Best of all, she waxed lyrical on coming home to Perth, lending a celebratory note to the gig, a sort of ‘welcome home’ vibe. It made everything seem much more spontaneous, as the band fell into song after song, seemingly on a whim. Suck, a crowd favourite, saw the band bathed in bright pink light, as a particularly enthusiastic audience member tried his hand at a crowd-surf. Driven by a relentless bass line and Hopes’ dark, pleading lyrics, it was one of the stand-outs of the night.
Another was the unnamed sixth song in the lineup- one I hadn’t come across before, and delightfully in waltz time. Starting slow and building up to a crescendo- and subsequent tempo change into 4/4. Hopes’ constant refrain of “I am trying” slipped into a scream, becoming almost electrifying. It was an example of how playing around with musical conventions can yield brilliant results- too many bands don’t even think to experiment. Agoraphobia was fun, too, as the crowd got rowdier. It was more playful than truly angry, but the swell of pure sound at the end was infectious, as a simple 2-bar instrumental repeat turned into an anthem. My glass of wine was long gone, but I felt inordinately tempted to join the headbangers at the front.
There isn’t much variation in the type of songs Tired Lion writes, but there doesn’t need to be; they’re all punk-rock excellence. They fit seamlessly together, both via CD and live, and each of them was enjoyable in subtly different ways. Hopes trod a thin line between mocking and genuine anger, but she really gave everything to it, as did the rest of the band, each musician continually strong throughout the set. Most importantly of all, they looked like they were having a good time. A band that doesn’t enjoy themselves will never translate well into live gigs, and Tired Lion had an absolute ball. Everything- the music, the drunken shouting, the flashing, disoriented lighting- spoke to a joyful catharsis.
Of course, Cinderella Dracula was brilliant- a song written about Hopes’ struggle to maintain the dual identities forced upon her. Intense red lights and her scream-singing lent the song a revolutionary edge. It was refreshing to see a woman interrogate an issue that affects many women, too. A lot of girls can feel somewhat intimidated by the punk scene, dismissing it as a boy’s game without ever really trying it out. Singers like Sophie Hope prove that punk isn’t just a fringe thing; it’s a genre that everyone can relate to. Whatever she sang, she connected with, and her vocals carried that emotion over to the audience. I’d loved the track at home, but the stop-start, and sudden explosion of drums and electric guitar, was even more effective in person. My ears were ringing, but it was a willing sacrifice. Their encore was fantastic, too- an impromptu Blur cover that worked so well it was surreal. Song 2 never sounded so good.
Punk will always have some kind of raw feeling behind it; it appeals to our most primal instincts, after all. Tired Lion was all of it; exhaustion, fear, anger, desire. Everything from the bass line to the drumming pattern worked to incite a riot in the listener. Standing in a crowded room, watching people jump up and down, screaming themselves hoarse, while Hopes tossed her hair and the band shook with pure energy- it was fantastic. I can’t wait until they come back.
Maybe next time, I’ll be at the front.
Photo sourced from Facebook.