Years ago while still in high school, I found myself performing in an improvised theatre team that went all the way to the School Theatresports final at the Enmore Theatre (courtesy of Impro Australia). I fondly recall reflecting in the moments before our performance on the fact that I, a mere 16 year old nervous school boy, was sitting in the same dressing rooms as hundreds of incredible artists had sat before me (I’m talking The Rolling Stones, Oasis, Coldplay, KISS, The Offspring, Arctic Monkeys, The White Stripes…Marilyn Manson?). I was so lucky to have had as much fun on that stage as we did that night and experienced performing in that wonderful space.
Every gig I attend at the Enmore reminds me a little of that experience, and I feel a strong affinity with the venue. Plus the Enmore is, since opening in 1908, the longest running live music venue still operational in NSW mmm history. So when my friend Jess said, on a whim, “hey Will, free ticket to Birds of Tokyo at the Enmore, you in?”, my eyes lit up (thank you Jess!).
That said, I wasn’t sure I liked Birds of Tokyo the first time I heard them. As a WA alternative rock band, it should have been love at first listen (WA produces some incredible artists, Tame Impala and Karnivool springing to mind). I heard them way back in 2010 when my good friend James gave me copies of albums Day One (2007) and Universes (2008). Lead singer Ian Kenny had been on my radar through his work as front man of Karnivool. His high vocal range always worked well against crunchier riffs, but to me, it was strange to hear his softer side on Birds songs like “Wayside”, “Off Kilter” and “Broken Bones”. I persisted and was ultimately sucked in by incredibly catchy hooks and dancey rock anthems like “Wild Eyed Boy” and “Silhuoettic”. There was even some Karnivool-esque work in “Eduardo”.
I caught their “Broken Strings Tour” at the Enmore in 2010 and saw them both days of Big Day Out in 2011, but somewhere soon after, my interest dropped off. I think I thought Triple J played them too much, or I was scared their success might kill Karnivool, or some other ridiculous excuse like that. But years later (and I mean I haven’t listened to these guys for at least 5 years), I was astonished to find I still remembered the words to those songs off Day One and Universes. When “An Ode To Death” to started, I was all the way back in my room as a 20 year old listening to Birds of Tokyo again, only this time with the comfort of knowing Karnivool would continue to be active for many more years.
I realised while watching the band that Ian Kenny’s musicianship and energy will probably always keep me coming back to Birds of Tokyo. He’s an incredibly talented singer with immense control and power in his flawless delivery. Soaring notes are a specialty. The band is exceptionally tight live and provide a diverse sound across their multiple releases (some of which I’m not the biggest fan – March Fires didn’t do much for me). Most interesting about this band however is the album they have just released (and the subject matter of their tour), BRACE. This album is heavy. Almost Karnivool heavy. So when the title track slammed into the crowd, my immediate impression was “woah, Birds don’t do a lot of metal-sounding music, how is this crowd going to enjoy it?”.
And the crowd loved it. I loved it. People jumped, head banged and fist pumped through the songs catchy chorus “Brace for the end / Destroy it all / of everyday disillusion / Destroy it all” and its multiple crushing breakdowns. Other songs had similarly hard riffs, and the response was hugely positive. It seemed people that I might have otherwise thought would give heavy music a miss were happy if Birds were playing it.
It was that “otherside of the coin”, that new perspective on something I’d previously really enjoyed that peaked my interest in Birds of Tokyo, and it seemed as though they were doing it again to a much wider range of fans. And it was happening in the Enmore, where I continued to discover new and memorable experiences. So keep being a part of the history of this awesome venue and look out for Enmore gigs on Viva!