In 2023, the team at Backseat Mafia Downunder embarked on an extraordinary auditory odyssey. Our journey was a kaleidoscope of sound and emotion, ranging from the pulsating rhythms of cutting-edge electronic artists in Sydney’s underground clubs to the soul-stirring melodies of indie folk singers echoing through the serene landscapes of Tasmania. Each concert was a unique narrative, creating unforgettable, electrifying moments that defined the team’s 2023 live music experience in Australia.
Check out our team’s 5 best shows of 2023 below.
Arun Kendall Senior Editor
The Church, Odeon Theatre, Hobart 03.06.2023
The band were on stage for a phenomenal three hours with an intermission, but it honestly felt like five minutes – there was no ennui, no urge to check the watch. Every song was immersive, the performances of the band transfixing. The creaky old boards of the Odeon Theatre provided a perfect stage.You would be hard pressed to find a band with this level of longevity that still innovates and expands its metier with such style and panache. The joy of the band was infectious, the absence of ego or attitude refreshing. It may have been dark and wintery in Hobart on Saturday night but the radiance from this band was immeasurable.
Ed Kuepper – Theatre Royal, Hobart, 16.09.2023
This was a mesmerising performance with Kuepper’s band, containing decades of experience, delivering a thrilling set that was like a greatest hits collection. Celebrating the release on vinyl of two of his solo albums (‘Honey Steel’s Gold’ and ‘Electrical Storm’), Kuepper solo work is a brilliant mix of the esoteric, jazz, psychedelic and absolute unadorned commercial pop – sometimes all within one song. The Exploding Universe of Ed Kuepper was an apt title for a magnificent performance that did indeed blow the mind. Kuepper’s songwriting prowess is made abundantly clear, as is his ability to coax together a stunning array of musicians to deliver his universe to the lucky audience.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Odeon Theatre, Hobart, 11.11.2023.
If you’ve seen BJM in action, you know what to expect, although as one member pointed out to me, this was a different incarnation than any one before. The common thread is the utterly cathartic sense of restrained chaos – a burning fuse that never erupts into a flame but emits light and heat. And this is what BJM do so well – the music is glorious, shimmering and at times quite euphoric, but there is a barbed-wire spine, an intensity that threatens to derail. The best analogy I can make is that of a luxury car with all its nuts and bolts removed and replace by sticky tape. It’s a comfortable ride but one in danger of falling apart at any moment. The journey is magnificent and reaching the destination a little late, a little worn, where everything collapses in a wash of feedback. A slight hint of sulphur in the air, a frisson of excitement: it all adds up to something quite special.
Fazerdaze, Enmore Theatre, Sydney, 15.10.2023
I noted in my review of the recent EP ‘Break!’ that a corresponding harder edge has developed, with a resonance that is a little more world weary and worn from the vicissitudes of life. Live, this translated in a driving energy and palpable thrum reflecting the resilience and empowerment of the artist. And yet still the delivery was intimate, despite the cavernous venue: Murray’s demeanour was warm and self-effacing, the band enthusiastic and giving – a great camaraderie was visible on stage. A gig that was over too soon.
The Lovetones, Marrickville Bowling Club, 14.10.2023
The Lovetones, much beloved by us here at Backseat Mafia and headed by the enigmatic and avuncular Matthew J Tow, were in brilliant form – their sound augmented by the addition of Young as a third guitarist, creating something that seemed far bigger than the constituent parts. The shimmering jingle jangle sound had more layers and intricacies than the number of musicians on stage could produce: euphoric indie pop songs that positively sparkled with more radiance than the spinning glitter ball in the centre of the room.
Jess Hutton Reviewer & Photographer
Kite String Tangle @ OAF 03.11.23:
What’s truly remarkable about The Kite String Tangle’s live performances is his ability to create a 4D experience as a one-man show. With multi-instruments at his disposal, he effortlessly weaves intricate layers of sound and emotion, captivating the audience from the very first note. It’s a testament to his world-class talent and multi-faceted skills, delivering the experience of an entire room filled with talent, all from the solitary vantage point of the stage.
Sunk Loto @ The Metro 10.11.23:
Taking the stage at the Metro Theatre, the band picked up right where they left off 15 years ago, delivering a performance that was both nostalgic and refreshing. As the opening notes of their classic tracks reverberated through the venue, the crowd erupted in a frenzy of headbanging and sign of the horns. Sunk Loto’s signature blend of heavy riffs, thunderous drumming, and powerful vocals resonated with the audience, creating a sonic tapestry that left no soul untouched. The Metro Theatre was not just a venue; it was a vibrational battleground where Sunk Loto unleashed their musical prowess with unbridled intensity.
Against The Current @ Factory Theatre 29.09.23:
The air was charged with excitement, and when Against The Current took the stage, the energy in the room was undeniable. They kicked off their set with an electrifying performance that showcased the powerhouse vocals of Chrissy Costanza. Throughout the night, the band effortlessly weaved through their discography, treating fans to a mix of hits from their two albums and five EPs. The setlist was a rollercoaster of emotions, from their fast-paced melody ‘Weapon’ to the soul-stirring ‘Legends Never Die.’ Each song was delivered with passion and precision, and the crowd responded in kind, singing along with every word.
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers @ The Metro 17.11.23:
As the band launched into their performance, the venue resonated with the perfect pitch of high-octave screams from the crowd. It was an ode to the unapologetic bad-assery of feminine friendships, and was a personal highlight of the year. Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers etched an unforgettable legacy onto the walls of Metro Theatre, cementing their position as an undeniable powerhouse in Australia’s vibrant rock scene.
Frank Turner @ Enmore Theatre 22.11.23:
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls released an unwavering energy that enveloped the audience in an aggressive and infectious love, especially apparent during the electrifying performance of the hit single ‘Recovery‘. The sight of a devoted sea of fans reaching toward the stage, representing a diverse mix of ages and vibes, vividly highlighted the broad and enduring appeal of Turner’s music and the profound love he has cultivated from his dedicated fanbase.
Andrew Fuller – photographer and reviewer
Frank Sultana – Bluesfest Byron Bay 07.04.2023
Frank Sultana was fresh back to Australia and onto Bluesfest Byron Bay following on from his win in the solo/duo section of the International Blues Challenge 2023 in Memphis, U.S.A. back in February. Frank has a whiskey-drenched vocal delivery which lends a large slice of authenticity to his material, which is richly steeped in the pre-war Delta blues, and is backed by a hugely talented band.
Steve Poltz – Bluesfest Byron Bay 09.04.2023
Canadian troubadour, Steve Poltz is an act to behold. Gig photographers re generally only allowed to take photos from the security/photo pit in front of the stage for 3 songs.
For Steve Poltz, I was enjoying his songs and banter so much, that I left the photo pit after those three songs, and joined the crowd for the rest of his performance. His between-songs banter is hugely hilarious, and delivered with an almost Robin Williams-like, maniacal intensity which eaves his audience in fits of laughter.
The Silversound – The Brunswick Ballroom 07.05.2023
Melbourne supergroup, The Silversound turned it on to full psychedelic at their album launch back in March. This was a band that I had been following since their first single, Shaker, dropped in November of 2022. Making a hit-and-run raid into Melbourne, I arrived barely 10 minutes before the show began. The band showed how mature, and largely independent musicians, with all of their experience, can elicit the same sense of excitement in true music lovers as exciting young bands. Aside from superb renditions of all of the tracks of the album (and believe me when I say that they suit the adage of ‘all killer, no filler’) The Silversound also performed one of the most mind-bendingly psychedelic versions of The Beatles, Tomorrow Never Knows. An exhilarating afternoon.
Molchat Doma – Dark MOFO 16.06.2023
Often with the announcement of Dark MOFO performers, even the most ardent music fans will have to research some of the artists, and so it was when I looked into this band from Belarus. I initially had some reservations due to Belarus possible involvement in the Ukraine war, but I found out that the band had denounced the war, so decided it would be worthwhile going to check them out…….and boy, was I not disappointed.
The band, who were on their first ever visit Down Under, is a three-piece post-punk/dark-synth outfit. I am often taken by bands that don’t speak, or sing in English, as I often view the vocals in most songs as another ‘instrument’, and that the lyrics don’t always have to make sense to me. Again, this is how I found Molchat Doma to be, with Egor Shkutko’s baritone vocals taking a grand space within the overall sound of the band. Roman Komogortsev (guitar, synthesizer and drum machine and Pavel Kozlov (bass guitar, synthesizer) provided the backbone of the music, with their style leaning heavily on European music from the early to mid 80’s. Hints of Joy Division, The Cure, Depeche Mode and even the motoric beats of danceable Krautrock pervade into into the fabric of their song-writing whilst overall, they continue to pursue their own sound.
The Woodland Hunters – The Union Hotel, Brunswick 14.10.2023
Having already been involved with The Silversound, I found that two of that band’s members play with another band within the Melbourne scene called The Woodland Hunters. Again, having earlier reviewed their album, Small Mercies, I fortuitously found myself in Melbourne on the day that they played their album launch for the long-player.
Far from being a clone of The Silversound, The Woodland Hunters played a less psychedelic, but meatier (albeit highly nuanced) brand of rock music which harkened back to the glory days of the late 60’s and early 70’s and the experimental periods of bands such as The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. The packed venue, given that this performance was a Saturday afternoon matinee show, was testament to the popularity of a band still creating great music and performing it so amazingly well live after 10 years together.
Deb Pelser Live Editor
Otoboke Beaver, The Factory Theatre 21.10.2023
At the Factory Theatre in Sydney, as part of SXSW, Otoboke Beaver unleashed a show that was nothing short of manic brilliance. The all-female Japanese punk band took the stage by storm, their presence an electrifying fusion of raw energy and playful defiance. The audience was instantly captivated as they ripped through their set with frenzied guitar riffs and breakneck drumming, each song a raucous, high-octane explosion of sound. Their performance was a masterclass in controlled chaos. Pegged against the barrier, unable to move, I was filled with a mix of exhilaration and apprehension, mesmerised by the raw, chaotic spectacle unfolding before me, feeling both the thrill of the music and the intense crush of the crowd.
Måneskin, Hordern Pavillion 22.11.2023
At the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney, Måneskin’s show erupted like a volcanic blast from the glam rock heavens, a frenetic, sexually charged carnival. The Italian quartet, draped in their trademark skin-tight, gender-blurring attire, strutted the stage with a Mick Jagger-esque swagger, oozing a raw, unapologetic sensuality. Each song was a fiery sermon of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery, delivered with a punk-infused ferocity that set the air ablaze. The bass throbbed like a primal heartbeat, guitars screamed with a hedonistic fervor, and the vocals – oh, those sultry, raspy vocals – wrapped around the audience like a velvet vice. Amidst the strobe lights and the roar of the crowd, there was a sense of rebellious euphoria, a communion of souls united under the banner of unadulterated, dirty rock.
Peaches, City Recital Hall Sydney 4.03.2023
During World Pride, Peaches marked the 20th anniversary of her groundbreaking album ‘The Teaches of Peaches’ with a scintillating performance at Sydney’s City Recital Hall, a venue that was transformed from a space of refined acoustics to a pulsating temple of avant-garde expression. The air was electric with anticipation as Peaches the undisputed queen of electroclash, (using a walker and wearing a vulva hat,) took the stage, exuding an aura of defiance and empowerment. Her performance was a visceral journey through the album, each track a provocative fusion of electronic beats and unapologetically bold lyrics that have challenged and shaped the discourse around sexuality and gender norms. The hall resonated with her iconic synthesizer riffs and thumping basslines, while her theatrical, often boundary-pushing stage antics captivated the audience, creating an atmosphere of uninhibited freedom. Amidst a crowd as diverse as the spectrum of human identity, Peaches celebrated not just the legacy of her music, but the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights, turning the concert into a powerful statement of pride, resistance, and the enduring power of art to challenge and inspire.
Bikini Kill, Sydney Opera House 13.03.2023
At the Sydney Opera House, Bikini Kill crashed into the hallowed halls with a raw, unyielding force. In this cathedral of high art, the iconic pioneers of riot grrrl punk stood as defiant prophets of discord, their music a searing blaze against the complacency of the establishment. Kathleen Hanna’s voice, a razor-sharp weapon of feminist fury, sliced through the air, her lyrics echoing off the walls like the battle cries from a bygone era, now resurgent and more vital than ever. In the midst of the staid, sculpted architecture, the crowd became a sea of flailing limbs and liberated shouts, each song a cathartic release of pent-up frustrations and a collective middle finger to patriarchal norms.
Fontaines DC, Roundhouse Sydney 2.02.2023
At the Roundhouse in Sydney, Fontaines D.C. unleashed a performance that was a mesmerising eruption of post-punk brilliance. The Irish quintet, armed with their brooding lyrics and a thunderous, almost anarchic energy, took command of the stage like punk rock generals leading a charge. Their sound, a gritty and electrifying fusion of poetic rage and melodic insurgency, set the crowd ablaze. Grian Chatten’s voice, a hypnotic blend of snarl and lament, acted as a beacon, guiding the audience through a labyrinth of raw emotion and existential angst. The Roundhouse transformed into a whirlpool of ecstatic chaos, with bodies surging like waves in a storm, each song inciting a greater frenzy, a wild, cathartic release of pent-up energy and passion.