Review: West Thebarton Brothel Party, She's The Band, Zen Panda at Jive

Words by Paul Maland
Photos by Morgan Sette

It’s been a big year for West Thebarton Brothel Party — the Adelaide seven-piece landed national airtime and critical acclaim from premieres across both triple j, the radio station that both angers and delights listeners nationwide, and Rage, the country’s premiere after-hours armchair asylum. The band also played spots at Groovin’ The Moo, BIGSOUND 2016, and a co-headline spot at this year’s A Day of Clarity in Adelaide, helping secure their position under the emerging national spotlight.

The band’s exemplary live work landed the group a nomination for Live Act of the Year in the National Live Music Awards following their nomination for the same category in 2015’s SA Music Awards, and also helped the boys score a signing with premiere Aussie label 123 Agency.

To celebrate, fans have been rewarded with a 7” of two new singles, 'Red or White', 'Dolewave', and a homecoming at Jive almost as packed as a stage with all seven members present.

To get things started off was the ABC’s enigmatic national treasure Peter Goersfavourite band, Zen Panda (“The band […] will be bigger than Jesus!”); Zen Panda put on a show that’s worth moving your feet to as much as vocalist Sam Lavers - the frontman moves on stage with a spasmic charisma reminiscent of Joe Cocker, and has the musical chops from solid and varying backing instrumentals that complement each other well.

Zen Panda play a cruisy, layered and psychedelia-ridden range of material that’ll be sure to rouse deserving acclaim in the future, and could even justify a drive all the way to the band’s home region of The Fleurieu Peninsula once the pace picks up.

She’s The Band took up the stage next to deliver a politically-driven taste of the heavier side of the night’s musical palette. She’s The Band do a great job of taking the energy, passion and inherent fire-in-your-eyes angst of hardcore-punk and splashing it with a fitting and deserving political message, complete with the breakdowns to match.

Some of our very own Yewth DJs took to the deck in between sets to dissipate any tensions or uncertainty about the night ahead, complete with bangers from the likes of Talking Heads. Finally, after a taste of both the heavier and lighter sides of the night’s music, it was time for West Thebarton Brothel Party to take the stage and show why they’ve received two nominations for Best Live Act over the past two years.

Thebbies have come a long way over the past three years, and have gradually evolved in to a band with a deserving following to really drive home some of the group’s mosh-anthem sing-along material. While more nuanced tracks like 'Two-Bit Loser' have begun to find their way out of regular set-list rotation, the new material that comes in its place is more than enough to get fans excited for airplay in the pit or in the studio.

For a band whose live work is obvious given their critical acclaim, it may come as a surprise to most that Jive’s headline show was only the band’s third time this year playing as a full seven-piece outfit. Guitarists Tom Gordon and Josh Battersby have enjoyed similar critical acclaim cutting their teeth in their other band Horror My Friend, leaving West Theb to perform in smaller numbers at events like Stonecutters throughout the year. Whether it’s with the full line-up or a dialed back iteration, the band are sure to justify where the time off-stage is being spent when it does come time to rile up the crowd.

It can be easy to dismiss a band with a name like West Thebarton Brothel Party as a bit of a joke, if not from their name, but from the sheer novelty of having up to five guitarists, and, occasionally, up to two percussionists on stage at one time. The great contradiction about mosh-heavy bands like West Thebarton Brothel Party is that they’ll manage to get your average beer-swilling punter ready to jump around and have a sing-along, while also subtly tackling heavier topics like cancer, the faux-romanticism of living on the dole, and the otherwise socially and financially disenfranchised, without taking it too seriously.

New tracks like 'Stuck On You' (finalised the night before the show) had punters sticking together in an amalgamation of sweat, beer and comradery while dealing with another iteration of Jive’s over-protective security staff. As seemed to be a pseudo-theme for the night, and as I’ve mentioned before, having overzealous security staff on hand to do their job and protect anyone from getting hurt is a justifiable and understandable consequence of the venue’s license requirements, however, having three bouncers standing immediately in front of the stage and physically pushing punters as they fell forward runs the risk of doing more harm than good, on top of simply killing the vibe a little bit.

By the end of the night, any animosity amongst the crowd or security staff acting as reluctant human shields was quelled by a mammoth set complete with the stage-dives, crowd surfs, shoeys and encores local audiences have come to know and love from outfits like Thebbies.

Be it on the couch trying to decipher how you ended up watching Rage at 4am, in the car driving home, or after passing a punter on the street wearing a shirt with something about a brothel written on it, West Thebarton Brothel Party are a name sure to keep popping up on stages gradually large enough to fit both the band and their following in the months to come.

Singles Red or White and Dolewave are available now on a limited run 7" via Clarity Records