Charming five-piece The Rubens played ANU Bar on Friday 2nd October, touring after the release of their sophomore album, Hoops. With two special guests, Melbourne 9-piece Saskwatch and Sydney duo Winterbourne, the show, and the crowd, had the mood of a mini-festival.
Although Winterbourne was almost unknown by the crowd before the show, you can be sure that they left with a strong base of new Canberra fans. They had a tight sound, impressive technical musical ability and well-rehearsed tunes complemented by their strong banter and their amicable vibe. As they conversed with the crowd and each other, they seemed like two guys jamming in their living room, in the most naturally brilliant way. Speaking to them afterwards, they reflected on how great it was to be touring with a band like The Rubens, defending a moment when James momentarily forget the first line of a new track by joking that it’s all good as long as the banter is funny.
The nine members of Saskwatch made the stage almost as crowded as the mosh pit, with about as much dancing. Nkechi, the lead singer, was alluring in a long shimmering skirt, with dance moves that matched her strong vocals. Finishing with “Hands”, Saskwatch left the crowd pulsing with energy.
Between Winterbourne and Saskwatch, people left to get drinks, but before The Rubens came on the crowd only squished closer towards the empty stage. They responded to the roof-shaking cheers as they entered with “Switchblade” of the new album, but didn’t neglect their first album, encouraging the crowd – although they didn’t need to – to sing along with old favourites like “My Gun” and “Best We Got”. Lead singer Sam Margin has an impressive stage presence, at one point even spraying a can of cider into the crowd and inadvertently soaking a few eager fans in the front row.
The number of fan-girls as the band stood behind the merch desk after the show was simply overwhelming. A friend of mine who is the self-confessed biggest fan of The Rubens was overcome with joy, having spoken to Sam and told him just how much she’d loved seeing the band at Splendour in the Grass. In contrast, another friend, who is a family friend of the three Margin brothers in the band, Zaac, Sam and Elliott, was teasing them for selling socks (with The Rubens written across the ankle) as merchandise.
Since their debut single “Lay It Down” The Rubens have been seen as incredibly swoon-worthy. The idea that people seem ten times more attractive the moment they’re in a band is further enhanced by The Rubens’ fame and the fact that they sing such heartfelt, bluesy tunes about love and heartbreak.
ANU Bar made for a slightly different feel to the last time that I saw the Rubens, at the Triple J One Night Stand in 2013, an all-ages gig in Dubbo. ANU Bar is intimate, but large enough to host serious gigs, while the separate section of the room for live music means you can get out of the crowd to buy a drink and relax.
It was an excellent gig, filled with fans who were absolutely stoked to see these three excellent bands.