Starting off the long-awaited launch since Riot Runners got together to channel a style that took them in all the right directions, Nikai set a chilled out pace between two classic guitars, a tambourine and voices that held all the warmth and purity of an Australian summer we all miss. Swapping instruments and songs between each other, this down-to-earth pair played a few fan favourites, some of which have been earning radio play already including Lost, Oak Tree and Beg You to Leave. New song, All I See, was put to the test on the night as well, giving hope to the future release of more creatively acoustic tunes.
Before everyone got too comfortable though, The Sunbirds came next, full of youthful gusto, a familiar rebellious nature that had the band seem plucked from the very 60s themselves, and hair-raisingly good harmonisation from the vocals of their drummer and frontman, to the collaborative rhythms of the experimental keyboardist. Rocking out together to rhythms that got heads nodding were songs off their EP, Emergency Christmas, including I Shook, Tinsel & Skin, as well as a cover of the Hummingbirds’ Blush, proving that The Sunbirds’ future could easily be as bright as their namesake. But for all the spirited front they put forward, it’s important to remember that they are not rebels, but artists with a song of the same title to boot.
Kingston Downes took the night’s festivities up a notch, slipping into party mode with a grand display of lighting, energy and showmanship that made this Victorian three-piece a force to be reckoned with. Drawing the crowd in with songs like Break through the Fire, Soldier and a fan favourite, You’ll See, this alternative outfit invited their fans to drink up, move around and enjoy the night, even playing the good hosts themselves as they danced across the stage and threw in a party favour in the form of new song, Cure Innocence. But this was not all-nighter for these Kings as the wait for the headliners was almost at an end, though if the crowd’s response to their set was a good judge, Kingston Downs would have no trouble boosting their attendance list at their next big bash.
With faces and arms painted in fluorescent streaks, axes and drumsticks at ready with the front rows filling with eagerly awaiting fans, Riot Runners took to the stage, ready to celebrate the spoils of battles they faced on their way to the top as a solid outfit that got together and gave it their all, leaving nothing for shame, or the imagination! There is a method to their madness – songs like Overthrown Again and 5...4 with more grit and channel than a rural asphalt road had every foot and head in the room rocking in unison, while other tracks off the debut EP, including a cover of Edwyn Collins’s Girl Like You brought a deliberate aural feel to the set, helped along by the crooning vocals of the Runners’ frontman. Hard work pays off and that much can be said for these groovy musicians, not stopping to rest on stage as they shook along with fans, or outside of the venue walls with the promise of new material in the pipeline, even on the night of their first official musical release. It may be a long stretch of road ahead for the Runners to have their name in lights as bright as their stage makeup, but it’s a journey they will no doubt enjoy – and if you get lucky, you may be able to tag along for a guaranteed groundbreaking trip.
Review by Rebecca Grant