Dunedin-based four-piece, Soaked Oats, brought their Sludge Pop Tour to Auckland last night, displaying a level of personal growth in their sound and performance that was sadly lost on the Galatos crowd.
If Galatos should ever close its doors as a music venue, it might find a second life as a wormhole to the past. Just under a year ago, Soaked Oats played the Auckland venue to a crowd that were unbearably drunk, disconnected, and disrespectful, with last night’s performance proving to be a carbon-copy experience separated only by improved stage visuals.
With doors opening at 8 p.m., I arrived at 9 p.m. to a hollow venue with five other attendees, knowing that watching supporting act, BEING. would be comforting compensation for the limited crowd. Having double-booked across town at LOT23, BEING. was slightly later to arrive than expected, which fortunately gave the venue time to fill to an adequate level.
When she did take to the stage, it was with the same relaxed and open charisma as expected, comfortably moving from Fold into the Sea, to a cover of When I’m With You and into the slow, dreamy Lucy. Lead singer, Jasmine Balmer, often performs spoken-word poetry segments when performing live – when delivered to the right audience, these moments invite the crowd to a hidden and intimate place within Balmer’s creative mind.
Sadly, in both attempts, these interludes were largely ignored by the crowd, who seemed intent on shouting to each other while pretending the band on stage didn’t exist. It was heartbreaking, and the social atrophy within the crowd only worsened as Soaked Oats took to the stage shortly afterward.
The slow build of their opening track was peppered with lead singer Oscar Mein politely trying to urge the crowd to a more mellow place, before this hope was abandoned and the band embraced their grunge-stoner-pop sound with Shuggah Doom, Perfect Song, and Gum-15. Soaked Oats are described as ‘sludge-pop’, while much of their sound last night seemed to – enjoyably – capture the feel-good vibe of the Hare Krishna chant inside a coating of LSD and 70s stoner-surf pop.
This happy-hippie-grunge feel continued through Don’t Chew and Cherry Brother, the latter evoking the U.S. folk drawl of a young Bob Dylan. The band departed momentarily before returning for an encore, during which Mein again tried to silence the crowd as politely and earnestly as possible. Despite his best attempts, and the screaming, frustrated cursing of the bartender to the crowd, the moment of peace was never found, with the band relinquishing control and returning to a louder, high-energy finish with Dance Yrself Clean and a stage full of frenetic improvised percussionists.
Soaked Oats have matured as musicians and performers, with this latest tour showing a band just a fraction away from perfecting their sound. In the right space, both of these bands are absolutely unmissable, and unforgettable. Unfortunately for both Soaked Oats and BEING., nearly everything else about this gig at Galatos seemed to be stuck in an endless, repetitive past loop, relegating this gig to a place I would soon like to forget.
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Trevor Villers: