Ladies and Germs, this town of Sydney needs an enema. I’m not talking figuratively, my fellow fiends. I’m totally on the literal vibe here. There are days when the Big Smoke is so backed up with the brown stuff that you’d need to send in a drill and shovel team just to get the party started. It’s not always enough to be the one who points out the emperor has no clothes. Sometimes you have to summon the testicular fortitude to take a forty four magnum to that pompous bag of trouble and, by opposing, end that miserable fuck.
Next week, I’m told they’re going to have a food festival in the Harbour City. Some intellectually challenged publicity agent has come up with the idea that we should close the Coat-hanger for 12 hours and lay astro-turf across the road so that 6000 gourmet fucks can have breakfast. If there is a God he will open his bladder. It will be like Noah re-stocked his ark. A mighty wave will smite the unjust and the more unjust alike.
(Readers with atheist beliefs may be shocked to hear that the skies did in fact open in what the Sydney Morning Herald described as a deluge. The Anzac Bridge became an impromptu wet t-shirt competition so I don’t know if I have God to thank for this eye opening spectacle. Rather, I’d prefer to assume I was able to lay some pretty heavy voodoo down with my typing. In other words; don’t fuck with me lest I write you to death. But I digress…)
Surely, one day soon, her mayoral highness Clover Moore will get her wish and turn this city into the happiest kingdom of them all; a toy town where we can all be merry and gay. I use that last word advisedly. Back at the start of the last century it meant one thing and by the end of the century it meant something quite different. A third meaning has emerged in recent years and that is the one I believe describes most accurately Ms Moore’s ambitions – though chat comes a close second.
With the would-be witch of Darlinghurst grasping the reigns of power, it’s no surprise that the City of Sydney will spring out heaps of cash for banners down George Street advertising the commercial stage production “Wicked”. The money no doubt comes from her re-election campaign funding. It helps the consumer to recognise the product. “There will be fun,” she cackles from her carefully mounted broomstick. “Saccharine coated pseudo fun for everyone”.
Ms Moore thinks rock and roll clubs need disabled access and armed security guards to protect any crips who might actually turn up. She would have you believe she is mutton dressed as lamb. Rotting zombie carcass dressed as mutton, more like. Or wowser puritan dressed as dyke. Take your pick ladies and gents, I’ve got a million. I’m a writer. I just sit here making shit like this up.
But I hear you ask “what has this to do with rock and roll?” Well, nothing and everything. We live in a city that will close itself down and inconvenience hundreds of thousands so that six thousand dorks can have smoked salmon and capers on their toast. Meanwhile, the New Christs can play the Excelsior to a half filled room of eighty punters. Priorities? I’m told that chefs have groupies now. If they half fill a plate and drizzle a line of sauce down one side, they think they’re artists. Well, I piss on them. If God won’t, somebody has to.
When dreary kitchen hands can cop a blowjob with a soufflé, you know something’s gone seriously wrong with a society. Next we’ll have waiters claiming professional status and demanding six figure salaries. Ugly waitresses will demand identical tips to their prettier colleagues. Beached whales have feelings too and looking like you walked into the back of a bus is no reason to be discriminated against.
It is the Saturday of the week before the impending horror of the Crave festival and I desperately want to fill my ears with noise. I want screaming guitars and devil drums. When the world is neither hot nor cold, sound and fury signify everything. I hear that there is going to be an in-store at Mojo so I diligently head in to town. Those guys at Mojo know their stuff and they wouldn’t have just any bunch of losers play.
The band calls themselves “The Red Brigades” and the press release suggests they sound like a cross between Sonic Youth and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Well, that should be a warning. It’s not that I have anything against Sonic Youth or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. You can stake out my CD collection and you’ll see evidence to the contrary. It’s just that, when bands say they sound like X meets Y, they seldom do and would bore the living shit out of you if they did. Who the hell wants to sound like anybody meeting some other nobody? A quick check of their Myspace page does not greatly further their cause. They sound like wet paint drying whilst the grass grows. Faux anguished squeals over an effects pedal wash. There, there. Did the nasty man abuse you when you were a child? Yes, they clearly come from Melbourne and apparently they’ve gone straight back there.
A man in need of another beer, owner Nev at Mojo sits forlornly at the counter. This is his party and he’ll cry if he wants to. He explains that the band have cancelled at the last moment. It’s true that the room isn’t exactly full of disgruntled punters. Apart from the tramp asleep in the corner, there’s Nev, Tara, Me and Johnny Bunt. I was sure Frank would turn up soon and that’d make a pretty decent turnout for a gig in Sydney. Okay, it’s true. That sucks but that’s no excuse to put your tail between your legs. You don’t form a band to get rich or famous. You do it because that’s what you are genetically predisposed to. Joining a band fundamentally underlines your lack of social skills and your inability to coexist with the world around you. It is a badge of dishonour not for the feint of heart or anyone with another choice. If the going gets tough you don’t run back to mummy in tears; especially when you name your band after an Anarchist terror faction.
Besides. I might have seen these guys and written nice things about them if they’d have bothered to play.
Everyone seems to think Melbourne is the place for live music. I’m told they’ve got the crowds and the venues. But good bands? God once said he’d save Gomorrah if Lot could point out a couple of good men. I ask Nev to name me one decent band to come out of Melbourne and his silence allows the tumbleweeds to blow around the shop. I at least can point to the Shimmys. Their divine grace alone spares Melbourne from my righteous wrath. I mean, any city that can produce the Shimmys can’t be all that bad. That said, if any fool mentions the Eddy Current Suppression Ring, we go straight to Def Con 1 and press the button? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s some shit that just can’t be allowed to stand.
Fortunately, Mojo has this Iggy and Ziggy live in Cleveland disc playing and I snatch up the last copy before Johnny Bunt can get his mitts on it. It makes the journey home somewhat better than it would have been without it. That Niagara disc is some hot shit too. I know ten years down the track, that’ll still be on the playlist. The volume turned up, we while away the hours with some decent new releases until someone gets it together to play in this ‘burb. Eventually, someone puts the sun out of its misery. We knock back a generous hit of Wild Turkey and hit the street.
People wept when they closed down the Hopetoun despite the fact no-one in charge there had thought it sensible to put on a decent band in the last year. Death by disinterest is what I call it. There are, however, no such outpourings of grief in Ultimo. It’s the last night at the Ivory Lounge and I can’t say I’m surprised. The noise limiter keeps cutting the PA every time a band tries to take off. The damn thing isn’t even at the back of the room so it’s like a telescopic rifle aimed straight at the stage. Bands quiver in fear that any high note will shut them down. A bit of foam rubber and some duct tape over the infernal gadget’s microphone would have worked wonders. (It did when they had one of those infernal things at the Coopers Arms in Newtown.)
So, pity “The Alohas” who only know one volume setting: too fucking loud. Playing surf instrumentals means they are used to pumping the guitar amps up to eleven because they just don’t have to worry about drowning out the vocals. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing but the noise limiter is none too happy about their preferred manner of discourse. If I have one complaint about “The Alohas”, it is they have a tendency to form a jerk circle and forget there is an audience in the room. They flat out refuse to share their good time with anyone else and that means they’ll always be third on the bill.
“The Booby Traps” should be one of the biggest bands on the planet. They have it all; the songs, the playing, charisma and the presentation. Their last album was genuinely world class. They play Sixties style garage but they bring enough of themselves to the show not to wallow in nostalgia. They have a way of making this oft-heard musical style sound like they only invented it earlier that afternoon. You can listen to them, watch them and dance to them. Basically, if you are not a complete retard, you are going to have fun at a Booby Traps gig.
So why are they always pulling the support slot? They have loyal and loud fans but they just do not seem to have enough of them. It’s a phenomenon I’ve seen before with bands like the Barracudas and the Chesterfield Kings. It doesn’t seem to matter how good they are, they just don’t seem to be able to pull in the numbers and clean up. Maybe Sydney just doesn’t know how lucky it is to have a band this good. If they got a half way decent shot at Europe, we’d never see them again. They’d be booked solid for the whole Northern festival season for the rest of their natural borns.
“The Booby Traps” work their magic despite and in spite of the PA. The power dies and yet they pound on, sure footed. When it comes back on line, they’re still on the beat. You watch their frustration as yet another great guitar solo or vocal wail disappears as its plug is digitally pulled. Their version of the Kink’s “I Need You” is made more phenomenal by the number of times they manage to cut the power leaving vocalist Carrie and drummer Alex to fill the gaps. The fact they pull it off just underlines their power.
We get a lot of stuff off of the “Making It” CD. We get “Dig Your Attitude”, “Stop!” and “Diddley Wrong”. There’s a kick arse version of the Dave Clark Five’s “Anyway you want it” and it’s all over way too soon. The band ignores cries for an encore and wish headliners, “The Bakelite Age”, luck with the PA. They would need it.
I’d like to say I stayed for the “Bakelite Age” but I’d also checked those clowns out on Myspace earlier and that wasn’t any kind of shit I was buying into. Did I mention the fucking Eddie Current Suppression Ring? These guys sound like a shitty Eddie demo consigned to the dustbin before anyone got the chance to embarrass them about it.
Besides “Bosom” were about to do a set over at the Roxbury. Should I stick around and listen to a bunch of dreary art school types reinterpret psychedelia with whiny out-of-tune Mark E Smith style vocals or should I make a run through the rain and see excitable young art school types play “Femme Fatale” like it was a Ramones’ song? I think we all know the answer to that.
“We’re gonna play a cover now but I can’t remember who the fuck it is by,” singer Wiz Traill giggles before doing things to the Velvet’s classic that would probably put Grandpa Lou in his grave just perchance to spin. “Everybody knows she’s a femme fatale, she’s just a fucking sleaze. She’s a femme fatale.”
Wiz is a foul mouthed out-take from a John Waters movie the censors would never allow to happen. I’m not being critical; I actually find it rather endearing. I’d go so far as to say I’m a fan. Wiz has taste but most of it is bad. She demands we suicide bomb her heart. On “Firecracker” she leads the cheer squad for the Trench Coat Mafia as they mow down Columbine. She sings of the virtues of copping a “Turkey Slap” but can’t decide if having a “Stalkarazzi” is a good thing or a bad. They might be freaks and weirdoes and fucking Nazis but their attention is rather flattering. She accuses the audience of being sick for applauding their performance.
The band themselves sound kind of like walking into CBGBs in 76 and hearing one of those bands that never made it to the big time but you still had all their records. If you have that Max’s Kansas City or CBGB Album, you’ll know what I mean. A world of Cherry Vanillas, Mink Devilles and Electric Chairs; deviant blow-ins from Akron and Baltimore. It’s better to be a semi-was than a never-did-nothing.
“I was on the radio this morning and they asked me what our influences were,” Wiz confides with us in a manner that suggests there is no internal censor working between her brain and her mouth. “I said Transvision Vamp and serial killers. It was such a weird question and that’s all I could come up with.”
It’s raining hard outside and water is pouring in through the roof and between the lighting rig. People are dancing in the rapidly forming swamp in front of the stage. Electricity sparks and crackles in the rafter. It’s like living in some glorious horror movie. Somewhere, Clover Moore is thinking of the children and working out how to keep them safe from this potential carnage. I’m remembering how the Funhouse floor used to become a trampoline when Birdman or the Hellcats played there. I’m thinking of the glass strewn floors of Garibaldi’s and squat gigs in London. I’m thinking about the Hopetoun and the wretched stink of its men’s toilet; the bottomless pit that Johnny Casino created when he went through the floor. I’m thinking of three dozen dodgy dives that threatened would-be punters with death by disease, violence or natural disaster. At least there are still some kids who’ll risk life and limb for a bit of noise.
I’m thinking maybe the future of rock and roll is safe after all. Just don’t tell Clover fucking Moore.
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