A neon pink inverted cross flickered in the darkness. A few moments passed, then the stage lights beamed to reveal the excited crowd gathered close to the stage at Crowbar (26 April).
One by one, Melbourne rockers Pagan took to the stage for their triumphant return from Europe. As the band played a blues-rock groove, singer Nikki Brumen leapt into the centre, swung her hair in a windmill motion, and roared: “You wanna dance with me, Brisbane?!” The answer was a resounding yes.
The night’s energy ignited with the exciting, opening set from Blind Girls. Members of the Gold Coast post-hardcore group couldn’t stand still, often losing balance from their furious playing.
Standing in a darkened corner of the foggy stage was lead singer Sharni Brouwer. Her hair hung over her face and she slightly jerked her body to the shifting rhythms. The music paused for moment and Sharni leapt to centre stage, letting loose a blood-curdling shriek.
It was an impressive opening, so much so Pagan’s Nikki admitted to feeling intimidated having to follow.
Local black metal band Hope Drone are hard at work on their third album, but took the time to debut some new material for fans. Under calming blue lights, guitarists Chris Rowden and Karl Hartwig’s hands blurred from the speed of their strums.
Effects-slathered guitars rumbled like the ocean’s roar, while blast beats sent deep kicks inside chests. Fans gathered closer to the stage, nodding their heads, mesmerised by the lush noise.
Pagan oozed rock attitude. Xavier Santilli thrashed his guitar while playing blackened rock riffs, and bassist Dan Bonnici and drummer Matt Marasco blasted disco rhythms.
Fans close to the stage smiled as they shoved each other, and fans at the back grabbed their friends and roared in their faces. The biggest space was centre stage and reserved for Nikki, who threw her body across the floor. She knelt for a moment, standing back up with a wine bottle she raised high and poured into her mouth.
Replenished, she swapped the bottle for her mic and roared over her bandmate’s clamour.
The band returned to the cries for an encore. “You are our family,” Nikki told the crowd. Matt thumped a slow beat and Nikki strode towards him. Guitars began to grind, and Nikki raced towards the crowd.
She suddenly stopped inches away from fans and screamed in their faces. Fans howled back, raising their fists in approval of Pagan’s full-throttle energy.