After a fortnight of bad press for Stereosonic’s turbo culture, it’s comforting to find that smaller festivals are still capable of filtering out the unwanted shirtless types. Last Sunday began the summer’s first gig under the Rotto Live banner, with Aussie rockers The Rubens and The Panics showcasing their talents on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. Rotto Live is held at the Rottnest Hotel on the no-cars-allowed holiday island just off of Perth, where you’re as likely to see a quokka nibbling away at breakfast as you are another person.
The Panics were first up and seemed genuinely refreshed by a visit to their home state, having relocated to Melbourne. Frontman Jay Laffer was resigned to a crowd largely unaware of the band’s music aside from 2007 hit Don’t Fight It, which drew the majority of onlookers to their feet for some good old fashioned groovin’. The relaxed Sunday Sesh crowd warmed to the journeymen’s new material, although the times when multi-talented Jules Douglas (backing vocals, guitar, keyboard) strapped on his guitar could have been reduced. The triple-thronged guitar attack caused a swirling confusion of sound that would have felt more layered and intricate with keys instead of the extra guitar. The Panics ultimately gave a good account with some delicate instrumental work to accompany the narrative-to-your-life style of music they have become known for.
New South Welshmen The Rubens kicked their set off with live song Stampy, but it was their third song, Elvis, which dragged the last remaining bums off seats and had people vying to get through to the front of the stage. From then on the band had concert-goers licking their lips in anticipation of the next song from their self-titled 2012 debut album. Highlights included Never Be The Same, which allowed frontman Sam Margin to showcase his vocal talent, as well as much-loved singles Lay It Down and My Gun, which brought the set to a close. The short set left revellers still in need of some dirty dancing tunes, having only just started to kick into gear, and compromised to the tune of Nick Cave’s dark thoughts blaring over the speakers. The Rubens left with a promise to return with a fuller list of songs, and can hardly be blamed for a short set with only one album to their name.
A packed ferry home allowed the atmosphere to continue onto the mainland, and the presence of The Rubens, beers in respective hands, underlined the communal nature of these ‘boutique’ festivals (Interestingly, and totally irrelevantly, Sam Margin must be in a higher pay bracket than the other band members, it was his shout on the journey home). The idyllic Rotto sunset was the perfect backdrop for the end to a day of quality Aussie indy rock.