Totally Unicorn + Twine – Whammy/Wine Cellar: February 15, 2024

A Two For One Night as 13th Floor Reviewer Simon Coffey, darted between venues, to see Totally Unicorn (AUS) + Carthage + Dick Move @ Whammy and Twine (AUS) + Swallow The Rat + Neither Do I @ The Wine Cellar on a single night in Tamaki Makaurau.

Australian ‘mathsandmetalcore’ group Totally Unicorn were originally from Wollongong but are now Sydney based, formed in 2010, though through the ravages of time, many original members have fallen away, leaving vocalist Drew Gardner as the last man standing, currently he is held up by Aaron Streatfeild (guitar) Adam Myers (drums) and Dean Podmore (bass), though this may not be true, as sometimes the internet is not my friend. With three albums and an array of singles in the mix since 2010, it seems criminal I’d not heard Totally Unicorn before.

TwineTwine is another Australian act, this time from Kaurna Land (Adelaide) made up of Thomas Katsaras (Guitar + Vocals), Alicia Salvanos (Bass), Jackson Pagett (Drums), Ricky Albeck (Guitar) and Thea Martin (Violin) if the internet isn’t toying with me. Twine describes themselves on X as a ‘noise rock band hoo haa’. On listening to their kete/catalogue of wha/four singles released over the last toru/three years on Bandcamp, they have a sound approaching 90’s avant-garde bands the likes of Slint and The Dirty Three, they combine violin with guitar harmonics and eruptions of feedback. 

Sadly, since I mahi for a living, I couldn’t attend Camp A Low Hum, so seeing them both tonight was a fortuitous opportunity not to be missed, made easier by the addition of Dick Move and Swallow The Rat to the bill by someone with good hearing and taste buds.

Neither Do I (Scheduled for 8.15pm/Actually onstage 8.28pm) 

Confusion reigned early on as the first announcement of the Twine show had The Ringlets playing, quickly it changed to Neither Do I on the bill, which features a member of the aforementioned band. A three-piece their first song had a considered almost mathematical alt punk (USA version) feel reminiscent of the folkish punk bands of SST sound. After a considerable length of time tuning his guitar (very Flying Nun) their forthcoming single had a droning albeit shoegaze aura, bass-heavy emotional. The third song lifts the energy, and it becomes apparent that the bassist is the driver of the sound, and the drummer is in the mix as well, they are the backbone of Neither do I. Later I hear there is much more guitar tuning…

Dick Move (8.45pm/8.53pm)

Dick MoveAll right Auckland are you ready to rock? A frugally filled room rebounds and reverberates Dick Move‘s punk rock poetry. Undaunted, Dick Move gives it 100%, no 110% and the favoured fortunate few are rewarded. As is the guitarist who receives a beer on the Whammy Contraption’ (it was also an exemplar for the members of Totally Unicorn) The room fills and the energy is unabated, Dick Move are consummate punk rock professionals, never disappointing this reviewer live.

Swallow The Rat (9pm/9.20pm)

Swallow The RatA huge sound erupts a few fragile folk retreat to the wall. Swallow The Rat are off to SXSW in two weeks and this is an opportunity for them to refine their brilliance. Once again I am enamored by the guitar sound, his ambidextrous skills are just astounding. The egalitarian sharing of vocal duties between bassist and drummer adds so much more dynamics to their show. The brave of heart are forward as Swallow The Rat present their post-punk reverence time and time again in majestic semblance. Post-punk never sounded so good in Tamaki Makaurau.

Carthage (9.25pm/9.25pm)

CarthageCarthage are a young 5 piece band out of Western Springs College, and play enthusiastic death-goth-punk, really rather competently. First time seeing them, I hear elements of pre-goth embedded in the songs. The gruff vocals, the norm for anything death, flow over the harsh guitars, while the Fugazi-style drumming is perfectly pronounced. Later in their set, there is a distinct The Birthday Party/SPUD vibrancy coming through. There is even a softer side to the group late in their set in an instrumental harmonic song that leads into a vocal crescendo. A band to watch out for.

Twine (9.45pm/9.59pm)

TwineThere is always something about seeing a violin in a band, the elemental sound it brings to the group is emotional. Walking in as they start, after prattling with the drummer from Swallow The Rat (a bit annoyed at missing the second half of their set that featured new material), I think to myself it’s going to be an alt-folk show tonight. But as Twine evolves into a wall of distortion. in and out of the slew of songs they play, it’s unnervingly enticing. The lead vocalist talks of leaving Adelaide at 3 am, experiencing Auckland traffic and doing numerous radio interviews. As the five cascade through a set including their few songs online, the room refills and the audience captures the moment. Occasionally the violin becomes the focal point, and in a moment a subtlety emits from Twine, but only for a moment as the decline into chaos remerges. I wish I could’ve stayed to see Twine finish their set.

Totally Unicorn (10pm/10.22pm)

Totally UnicornVocalist Drew Gardner is running up and down the front of the dancefloor as his compadres slam out a heavy opening salvo of noise. There is no let-up, no pause (except to swig from a beer can) A chair becomes a stage prop, and he asks if anyone is working tomorrow, to introduce Weekday Warrior from their 2022 album High Spirits/Low Life. The microphone falls in the melee and he rides the monitor like a hog, it’s a theatrical show tonight it seems. Musically, Totally Unicorn are possessed by a visceral level of punk grittiness and hardcore, and you can’t help but want to be an extra in a Totally Unicorn performance piece. A Camp Low Hum won’t know what hit them!

It’s a  pity the two shows weren’t combined and presented as a twin venue show for one price.

Simon Coffey