Review: Quivers @ Northcote Social Club (Melbourne)

Bron is a Melbourne-based science journalist who loves to return 'home' to a band room any chance she gets. She has 25 years' experience and has worked for Rolling Stone, Blunt, The Sydney Morning Herald, JUICE and many more.

Watching Melbourne indie-pop favourites Quivers grow their sound and gather fans has been a real treat since their 2018 debut album, 'We'll Go Riding On The Hearses'.

Now, it feels like they're on the edge of something even bigger, with their third record 'Oyster Cuts' to be released on US label Merge in August.

Tonight (21 June) was the first real chance they had to road-test the new songs live to the city crowd, and it was a delight. Mostly, but we'll get to that later.

With frontman Sam Nicholson sharing they'd be back in November at The Corner Hotel for their official album launch, tonight's show was a mix of old and new, and it wasn't hard to hear the progression as they skipped around their catalogue.

They opened with a bang, too, launching into the shimmery, jangly 'Gutters Of Love' from 2021's outstanding 'Golden Doubt'. Released in the middle of Melbourne's lockdowns, isolation and curfew, it was an album that became like the friend that couldn't come over and hang out.

For this reviewer at least, it was a nostalgic, sunny, happy-sad soundtrack that offered one of the true glimmers of musical joy in a time of no gigs, no socialising and no real confidence we'd ever be standing in front of a band in a packed room again.

Incredibly, three years on, it's still a joyous record with no bad associations of the time (unlike, say, the 'Animal Crossing' theme song).

The band rolled out a few of the album's best moments, including 'When It Breaks', the darker 'Hold You Back' and 'You're Not Always On My Mind', with the latter feeling like a bridge between that album and Quivers 2024.

While 'Golden Doubt' was steered by the vocals of Nicholson, with gorgeous harmonies from bassist Bella Quinlan and drummer Holly Thomas, the upcoming album sees all three share the lead.

Tonight, Quinlan showed what a revelation she is as lead vocalist. Her mellow, understated touch on songs like the 'Oyster Cuts' title track and single makes for the perfect vehicle to carry the band's move into more new wave, dream pop territory.

Other new tunes, like 'Apparition' – which has tinges of Guided By Voices, particularly in Nicholson's vocals – show just how much Quivers had no intention of making another 'Golden Doubt', and it's fantastic.

There were a lot of new tunes on show tonight, including 'Pink Smoke', 'More Lost', 'Screensaver' (with Quinlan endearingly trying to explain and demonstrate the old DVD logo that would bounce around screens in a time that now feels about half a century ago).

'Fake Flowers' was another highlight, as was the sprawling, dark closer 'Reckless', which the band needlessly seemed nervous about how it all could go "horribly wrong".

It was almost a perfect night, too, but there was one – and constant – issue, which I've found hard to put into words, because I understand that a live music crowd is a dynamic and unpredictable beast, and it's what you sign up for being a fan who goes to gigs.

However, tonight, one dude having an admittedly great time got progressively more drunk and obnoxious, so much so that by late in the set he'd managed to take up so much space there was about a metre around him.

This wasn't even the issue so much. What was wholly uncomfortable was the way he leered at Quinlan, and loomed over the stage in front of her, reaching out to her and incessantly trying to get her attention.

While this can be seen as just an excited fan, he didn't just take up space in the crowd, but seemed to take up Quinlan's and the band's space. Whether he saw it as such or not, it was intimidating and aggressive behaviour, and hugely disrespectful.

Quinlan, of course, handled it coolly, but she shouldn't have had to for what ended up being the entire set minus the last song when he finally stumbled out with a friend unable to rein him in.

Why make a big deal of this? I questioned whether I'd even mention it, but live music should bring people together; tonight, instead, it reminded me yet again of the entitlement and disregard for boundaries that, honestly, you get sick of tolerating at gigs and, more generally, in society.

It should be called out and not excused. Nor should accomplished women onstage have to deal with that kind of intimidation and objectification.

That said, it fortunately didn't take anything away from what a fantastic show Quivers put on, on the eve of the release of an album that may very likely be the one that sees them crossover to a much bigger and international audience. Get out and see them while you can.

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