Close Counters // The Night Cat, Melbourne // Friday, February 21 // Interview + Live Review

Photography: Chelsea Sienna

Imagine this, you’re backstage as you prepare to play in front of thousands at a festival. Whilst you set up your gear, the before act is none other than Liam Gallagher himself. Wonderwall echoes across the amphitheatre with fans screaming every word at the top of their lungs. You look to your other band members in bewilderment wondering how you’ve gotten yourself into this position.

This was the case late last year for Tassie duo Allan McConnell and Finn Rees as Close Counters brought their live band show to Meredith Music Festival. The pair have worked tirelessly to earn themselves the midnight slot at the ‘Sup. Reliving this potentially career defining set Allan told the T-Rex Musiq team that Meredith has seen their reach grow with not one, but two Night Cat shows lined up.

“It’s huge. We’ve never done anything like this with ticket sales before…we’ve never been able to do that before Meredith. I reckon we owe a lot to that set.”

In September last year Finn and Allan were in the exact same position playing a one-off show at the Night Cat doing their first ever full band show. 6 months on they return to the venue arena but with a whole new aura. Selling out the first show has allowed the pair to express themselves further than they have ever before in a live setting.

“Without too many spoilers you’ll see we’ve added some special effects…pyrotechnics and stuff,” Allan shared. “We were able to bring heaps of guests that would dance or play an instrument with us, which was sick.”

With demand increasing for their DJ sets, Allan wanted punters to know what they should expect now from a Close Counters live show.

“When we’re doing the full band, we want to be pulling out all the stops,” Allan explained. “You know, really going hard. Full of energy with visuals, lights, costumes, dancing…just anything we can think of.”

Walking in you could tell Allan wasn’t lying. The whole venue was decorated with Close Counters banners. Under the name Piewack, Finn does most of the general design and visual work for the group, with Rhys Newling overseeing it all.

Check out Finn’s work with the Groovin the Moo lineup video here:

Sophie McAlister DJed before the main set. McAlister showed why she is a genuine local weapon killing the vibes with a mixture of tropical house and jazz. many occasions Close Counters have shown they are able handpick an excellent crop of artists with JK Group and Allysha Joy (DJ set) also supporting.

In their fresh band kits that were christened at Meredith, Finn and Allan entered with some fine instrumentation. This would be the only time the pair would hold the stage on their own as more guests accompanied them as we travelled further down the setlist. These included the likes of reputable local acts Elle Shimada, Lucky Pereira, Allysha Joy, Josh Kelly and Maggz. The Close Counters live show has revealed how connected the Tasmanians are to the local music community.

“It’s all a big family,” Allan said. “We’re indebted to them for helping us build the live band shows because it was so much work for them. We’re trying to work out ways in which we can pay them back creatively wherever possible.”

It’s easy to get lost in the number of artists that’ve helped put together the Close Counters live show. One that appears to have had the biggest impact has been Lucky Pereira.

“Yeah, Lucky especially on the drums has just taken everything to the next step for us and took the show just where it needed to go,”Allan added.

The local drummer/DJ is involved in a number of projects with aims to do some techno releases of his own in the future. Lucky falls in the bloodline of Australian percussion royalty with his father, Ray, playing with the likes of Paul Kelly and John Butler in their prime. Joining for HEY!!! an everyday punter could easily have mistaken Lucky as the third member of Close Counters as he made his presence known on the drumkit.

With their previous live band shows being a roaring success, it was impressive to see how much Close Counters have elevated themselves in such a short space of time. The band have become tighter with monstrous live instrumentations. In HIGH NOON the instrumentation sent the Night Cat into raptures as the lights dimmed to reveal illuminating eye features on all band members leading to an unsuspecting techno section.

Moving confidently across multiple genres of music in one set displays why Close Counters possess a unique attractiveness. The electronic/dance duo have a sound that appeals across the whole Australian festival scene having already played at Strawberry Fields, Splendour in the Grass, Falls Festival and Meredith. With the added DJ card, the two are placed in an advantageous position.

“It’s something that we don’t ever take for granted,” Allan said.

Keeping their cards close to their chest, between their more popular sampling releases of HAPPY SONG and SOULACOASTA came a surprising cover of Gal Costa’s Pontos De Luz, famously used in Kaytranada’s LITE SPOTS. Executed to perfection, the cover seamlessly slotted into the setlist as if it were a Close Counters original.

To add to the never-ending list of surprises, in came the sparklers for SOULACOASTA! A dazzling finish to a great night.

With the Meredith rush starting to slow down, Close Counters are starting to take some time off now to write. However, they have still managed to keep themselves busy with upcoming performances at Meadow and with Confidence Man on an upcoming tour. With offers increasing for the Tasmanian duo to play at festivals and bigger concert venues, expect shows at the Night Cat to become a rarity.

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