By The C: Icehouse, James Reyne, Pete Murray, Baby Animals, Killing Heidi, Motor Ace @ Catani Gardens, Sunday 14 March, 2021

All images by Maria Boukouvalas; lead image: Ella Hooper of Killing Heidi

“Must BYO High Back Chair.” If this is how we must enjoy live music in outdoor settings for now, so be it! As seagulls squawk and high-back-chair-carrying punters block St Kilda pedestrian crossings, we do like to be By The C side with a stacked all-Aussie line-up supplying the soundtrack to our revelry. 

Many people watching live music in front of the ocean and palm trees

The crowd pumped for By The C festival

MOTOR ACE

The thrill of hearing Motor Ace performing Death Defy, which became The Secret Life Of Us’ theme song, performed in St Kilda where this cult TV series was filmed, cannot be downplayed.

KILLING HEIDI

Killing Heidi definitely got the leopard-print memo, and rock out onstage looking a million bucks. Ella Hooper absolutely embodies rock’n’roll as her explosive dance moves cover every inch of the stage. Mascara starts the singalongs and, yep, it’s fair to say Killing Heidi are killing it. Then we learn it’s Killing Heidi’s bassist’s baby’s first festival – cuteness overload!

Hooper’s engaging personality bursts from her every pore and she totally wins over this audience of seated folk munching on snacks. Hooper actually loses herself in the music so much that she announces Superman Supergirl as the band’s final song. Punters exchange wide-eyed, panicked expressions. They’ve just gotta play Weir, right? Damn straight. Weir follows. This band is mighty. And then Hooper retrieves her sunnies from the floor of the stage, beside the stage-right foldback, and puts them back on before leaving the stage. What a compete and utter rockstar! And it’s just gone 1pm!

BABY ANIMALS

This Sydney band’s self-titled debut album sold more copies than Nevermind in this country, topping the Australian charts ahead of Nirvana’s second album. While we admire the Baby Animals backdrop, which features their band name fashioned out of gaffer tape, many in the front stalls confess that the walls of their teenage bedrooms were decorated with posters of the luminous Suze DeMarchi.

Opening their set with Rush, Baby Animals bring it from the very first millisecond and DeMarchi is an absolute powerhouse. She also refuses to settle for less and isn’t here to f-ck spiders – “It’s not loud enough!”, “Please turn the smoke off, Ricky. It’s doing my head in!” Then she addresses someone in the wings, “Can I get a beer up here?” A beer is delivered to Australia’s answer to Joan Jett and then they’re off and running. Early Warning bursts out of the gates and we’re in awe of DeMarchi’s powerful voice – she’s an absolute weapon.

Band on stage performing live

Baby Animals

“You’re gonna be hungover tomorrow but, you know what? Live music is back and you’re gonna have a good time.” That we are, Suze, but at this stage of the day most restrict their movement to a spot of chair dancing while consuming lavish spreads of kabana, pretzels, dips and cheese – but no sharing, unfortunately. “Thank you for bringing your own chairs,” DeMarchi kind of quips. “Very well behaved.” Post-set, one gent is overheard asking his current girlfriend whether a Hall Pass for DeMarchi would be out of the question.

PETE MURRAY

The most-nominated artist to never win an ARIA (17 noms!), Pete Murray brings a dreamy, mellow vibe to By The C. His backing band sport grins from ear to ear (especially drummer Grant Gerathy), which serves as a reminder that we’re not the only ones who have been missing gigs; creating performance opportunities for musicians is vital. It’s easy to see why Murray’s smash hit So Beautiful was deemed The Most Performed Australian Song Of The Year at the 2005 APRA Awards (swoon central!) and fans hover beyond the peripheries, proudly brandishing signed Murray merch and hoping to get their idol’s attention.

Musician singing into microphone

Pete Murray

Murray’s The Night EP entered the ARIA Albums Chart at #22 this week (read our review of the release here) and performing a couple of these new tracks – including Found My Place and If We Never Dance Again – within his set today certainly won’t hurt future sales.

JAMES REYNE

No one nails the white jeans look quite like James Reyne (show-off!); still so svelte in his sixties! Reyne and co. deliver a greatest hits set that draws heavily from the Australian Crawl songbook – Daughters Of The Northern Coast, Oh No Not You Again, Beautiful People (how’s the quirky chorus phrasing?: “I said, beau/ tifulpeople”), Errol and the audience-participation fave, The Boys Light Up – alongside smash hits from his solo catalog including Hammerhead, Fall Of Rome and Reckless. A joyous performance containing endless singalong ops.

ICEHOUSE

Icehouse’s Zoo Twilights show in Melbourne on 26 January, 2020 was the last live show before lockdown for many local peeps, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome this iconic Australian band back to the stage.

As the band files out to take their positions, we’re stoked to note that Michael Paynter is amongst them.

The sun sets over St Kilda beach, Icehouse’s light show and visuals burst into (colourful) life, and we’re all upstanding, swaying/dancing wildly in front of our high back chairs for set’s duration. Icehouse’s discography is astounding: Hey, Little Girl; the punk-tinged Walls; Davies/John Oates (of Hall & Oates) co-write, Electric Blue; Don’t Believe Anymore – you’d be suitably chuffed if you wrote just one of these songs, right?

Snippets from Crazy’s OG film clip – featuring Iva Davies’ glorious, so-‘80s, lion’s mane mullet – grace the giant screens during said song and the unexpected twists and turns within Iva Davies’ masterful songwriting sparkle in this live setting. Does Davies sound ever better than he did back in the band’s heyday? We wouldn’t have thought this were possible, but jeez! He sure is in fine voice this evening!

Band performing live on stage

Icehouse

Coming out from behind the keys console and strapping on his guitar, Paynter takes some of the lead singing parts during Touch The Fire and those among us who get to experience his majestic, Farnsy-esque pipes for the very first time are gobsmacked. Street Cafe unplugged – performed by Davies, Paynter and guitarist Paul Gildea all strumming and harmonising to perfection – is a standout moment. Scorching sax solos dominate. Then Davies plays oboe while Paynter takes lead vocals on the hauntingly beautiful Man Of Colours and we’re in heaven. Right when we’re thinking that Paynter’s delivery couldn’t possibly be topped, in croons Davies – “He says, I keep my life in this paintbox/ I keep your face in these picture frames…” – bringing added world-weariness to the rendition and breaking collective hearts.

Evan, Davies’ son, is welcomed to the stage to play extra guitar on Icehouse’s unofficial national anthem, Great Southern Land, which is further enhanced by the epic footage of our island home that graces the LED screen backdrop. The Jean Jeanie cover is a fitting  tribute, considering Icehouse (then called Flowers) gained popularity in the early days while fine-tuning their skills playing Bowie songs on the Sydney pub circuit.

Fun fact: Icehouse supported Bowie on the European leg of his 1983 tour, invited to do so by The Great Starman Himself.

Davies points out that Daryl Braithwaite is watching from sidestage and we even score an encore tonight! “This song is probably enough to kill a couple of middle-aged men on this stage,” Davies jests while introducing Nothing Too Serious. As this uptempo number kicks in, a herd of loose units who have been repeatedly sent back to their high back chairs throughout Icehouse’s set pour into the front section from all angles for an enthusiastic boogie and singalong. Post-set one of these rambunctious space invaders – late-teens, by this scribe’s estimation – praises Icehouse’s superb set, “except for the ten-minute cover” (The Jean Jeanie). Oh, how we’ve missed chatting with randos at gigs. And what an epic day of live music! All killer, no filler.