Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever @ St Luke’s, Glasgow, 15 Jul

Melbourne's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever come to a heatwave-battered Glasgow with an evening of faultless beach pop and tightly-packed grooves

Live Review by Tony Inglis | 24 Jul 2019

In a recent interview with The Skinny, Joe White, one-fifth of Melbourne’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, commented that the idea that they are the most exciting guitar act to see live right now is just "one person’s opinion". On a balmy night in Glasgow in St Luke’s church, the stained-glass windows illuminated by the evening sun, it's this author’s opinion that this reluctantly accepted title is pretty much on the money.

Following a confident support showing by Brighton’s Thyla, a quartet that mixes dreamy 80s pop in the vein of Hatchie with chunky Wolf Alice power chord riffs, Rolling Blackouts take the stage to a sold-out, but mixed crowd. It’s a party atmosphere, the band’s beachy fun a perfect match for the city’s current heatwave. It’s matched by young folks in shorts and coloured shirts, perhaps enjoying the long Glasgow Fair weekend in the park earlier in the day, equally rivalled by older men with a tendency to stand arms folded through songs, which is a shame – Rolling Blackouts may have mastered pop songs that hinge on melancholy, but their music is certainly danceable.

This is mainly down to a unique triumvirate of rhythm. Joe Russo and Marcel Tussie are utterly unwavering in their ability to keep a crowd, or a groove, going. Russo barely peels his eyes from his bass all night. But it’s the addition of Fran Keaney’s acoustic guitar work – always there in the background, always driving tracks onward – that gives Rolling Blackouts heft. A song like Sister’s Jeans, a little more lightweight and wispy in its composition, is given weight on record, and even more so live, thanks to this dynamic. On songs like Bellarine, its heaving bass is even more monstrous with this collective piling up of sound. They tear through numbers that all feel tight and perfect for a live setting – not a bad return for a band with one full record to their name. Even new tracks like Read My Mind, and one unreleased (Big Fence), feel familiar. 

But as the blue spotlights seem to shimmer behind the band, creating a seafront scene that seems, if not deliberately, to be hammering home the point of where these songs were really made for, it’s clear that actually what Rolling Blackouts do best is not necessarily the jangly indie-rock they are now known for. On mid-show highlights like In the Capital and An Air Conditioned Man, and then pre-encore with the magnificent French Press, usually in roiling outros, all five members lock into grooves that become hypnotic and drone-like, verging on shoegaze. These moments – extended into minutes – feel like they could go on forever.