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No Cake, Maple Moths

$No Cake
Image: No Cake Live at Hiway Bar, 20/03/22

Walking into Hiway Bar is a funny experience. As a space, there's something faintly off — the bar is right next to the stage, the drink selection is peculiar, the room’s an odd shape, there’s a cheugy “Welcome To The Jungle” neon pink fluorescent sign which immediately makes me recoil every time I see it. But this is exactly what new(ish) venues in Sydney should be throwing at the wall: they keep working on the venue, the sound is now top notch, they’re committed to booking music just about every night of the week. Let’s help them succeed.

All those minor nitpicks aside, since things started reopening again I’ve been delighted to increasingly feel the sense of walking into this room and for everything to be exactly as it should be.

When I walk in on this particular occasion, Maple Moths are two thirds of the way through a blistering set. Scorching down-tuned buzzsaw guitars ride atop absolutely deafening stoner rock bass and drum groove. There’s an effortless Big Dick Energy about playing sonic ear candy like this with total self-awareness, absolutely leaning into the catharsis and leaving you in a sort of daze as they blast your eardrums with beautiful feedback and noise. It’s like a more atmospheric Jesus Lizard, a bit of the soul of the Jimi Hendrix Experience playing doom metal. They fucking slap.

I head to the merch stand to ask if they’ve got anything for sale but they’ve forgotten to put someone on the desk and No Cake’s merch legend doesn’t know what the deal is. (They've since released some new tunes on their Bandcamp.)

Enter No Cake. One Moog synthesiser into a well-supplied pedalboard. One four piece drum kit (looks like stock backline?) with a bloody gong behind it. And one bass guitar. Yowling strained vocals yelled over a swaggering groove. Little proggy deviations. Some genuinely gorgeous passages. And then the rest of the time they just rock the fuck out. Peter Kostic drives the agenda, playing a thunderous, leaden groove not dissimilar to his contributions to Front End Loader. He’s drenched with sweat, grinning and having the time of his life. Kat Harley (who I first came across as the bassist for Border Thieves and who now plays with The Laurels amongst many other projects) is the band’s special sauce, filling the midrange with sonic sugar, lead lines and drones. And then Keith Hamlyn grinds away on the bass, a muscular, crunchy sound that you might associate with the harder sounds of the early to mid 90s that were often recorded by Steve Albini.

The band appear to be still in early days playing this material. There were a few missed cues, a few awkward grins, a couple of flubs — but in the room they melt away in context.

The band finish a good hour of material and walk off to yells for more. The sincere kind. They awkwardly return, jam away at a half-finished piece of music. It’s good. Everyone leaves satisfied.

And from there, what’s to say? It was a rock gig. It was a super good rock gig. It was transporting. I still can’t hear properly. I loved it.

Joe Hardy
21 Mar 2022