Beasts of Bourbon
+ Six Ft Hick
+ The Bird Blobs
Gaelic Club, Surry Hills, Sydney
Friday August 12, 2005


When I walked into the Gaelic, I thought, Holy Shit, sounds like Tad! Only a thinner, lamer, less intense Tad. Much thinner. I suspect The Bird Blobs may not have heard Tad, or even of him. They may take their cues from the Birthday Party. Clattering drum and bass riffs that cycle throughout the song, screeching freeform Fender Mustang noises, lotsa other folks seemed to enjoy them, so good luck with it guys.

Six Ft Hick aren’t just a band, they’re an event! Musically, it owes much to ‘80s hardcore but with that twisted Queensland farmboys edge. Two singers, brothers, the angry tattooed one and the one that looks like, well, like a Queensland farmboy who’s moved to the city and got a responsible job. It’s the quiet ones you’ve gotta look out for. The drummer looks like the kind of guy who’d come around to redo the wiring in your loungeroom after an excess of home entertainment devices took it out. Which may not matter, except to give you some idea of the disparate types that end up putting time, money and effort into presenting the music they care so much about.

So catch the Hick, they’re worth it. A mate of mine txted me “Ring me and hold yr fone up” so I did, and she got to hear the whipping song, wherein the quiet looking singer whips himself with the buckle end of his belt, leaving neat little red squares across his back and chest. The Hick put on a performance, and that’s what you want, isn’t it? When was the last time someone told you they went and “heard” a band, eh?
Lotsa girls squeezed up the front, possibly to get a good view of Rock God, Tex Perkins. He followed the rest of the band out after a suitable delay and gave forth a series of Nazi salutes. That’s a cheap trick at the best of times, but it made sense eventually.

Musically, at the very least, this was the worst Beasts show I’ve seen in the 21 years since I first caught them (they dressed a lot better then, too). They did all the usual things, but it sounded flat and uninteresting. Spencer Jones was, for some reason, wearing multiple layers of coats and jackets, leading me to wonder why the rhythm guitarist and engine of the band was so inured to the heat. But that was just a detail. Really, it’s time someone hauled Gregory Perkins to account.

As a frontman, Tex has always had a fair ol’ streak of the ham in him. I saw him do a fancy James Brown type trick with the mike stand once, and all I could see was him practicing it in his bedroom, it so lacked in spontaneity. Generally, though, he’s been smart enough to place himself in good bands that more than make up for such ego-driven shortcomings. Until tonight, anyway.

The crowd were generous and good natured, tossing flowers and old boots onto the stage. A few songs in, an attractively proportioned rock chick raised herself above the seething mass (possibly on a bloke’s shoulders) in front of Tex, her head at a possibly coincidental fellatial height and started waving her arms about and suchlike. Tex placed a hand upon her head for a moment, long enough to get the, ahem, message across. Emboldened, she raised herself up another meter or so, whereupon he pushed her back down and, as she fell into the crowd, he muttered, midsong, “Don’t push it.”

Whoa! Who don’t like sharing the limelight? I sure wasn’t the only one thinking such things, discussing just such things after the show. But it does highlight a weakness of the Beasts of Bourbon as they now stand.

Charlie Owen is a great guitarist, but very much a sideman. Kim Salmon was, technically, at least, less of a guitarist but every bit as much of a frontman as Tex, and that is what gave the Beasts so much of their power as a live act. There was always this tension between Tex, with the look and the voice, and Kim, with the guitar and the attitude. They pushed each other and it made for a great band and a lot of great shows. Evidently, Kim doesn’t talk to these guys anymore and knocked back a substantial amount of money to tour with them 18 months ago, when they last played in Sydney. It’s obvious that Tex prefers it that way, ‘cos there’s no-one to get in his way. Pity, really.

So, with Spence fading into the backdrop, the stage was left to Tex, in his torn T-shirt (that is SO Richard Hell!) to take his uber-rock fantasies to the N-th level. Bear in mind, this is the guy that wrote “Goodbye my friends, you disappoint me. Well, you’ve all grown old and become junkies.” Maybe he’s since realised that an attitude like that isn’t likely to win you too many friends anyway, or help keep the ones you’ve already got.

Just in case anyone missed the point, he delivered another round of Nazi salutes after the last encore, letting everyone know just how much deep contempt he held them in. You fucking arsehole! This was by no means a young crowd (apart from a few ‘tourists’ from Bondi Junction or thereabouts, slumming it for kicks), it was exactly the sort of crowd that’s been seeing the Beasts, the Cruel Sea, even Thug and Hot Property, for over 20 years. The people that form the bedrock of Tex’s support base and whatever cred he may have.

Against this, we had Brian Hooper, who, just 18 months ago, was told he wouldn’t walk again. Well, he is, with a limp, mind you, but he kept on his feet with a big lump of bass guitar around his neck for an hour and a half. One fuck of a lot more inspirational (if you’re into inspiration through tragedy) than Lance Armstrong with his ball cancer and pushbike. Onya, Brian, and more power to ya.

Two memories struck me afterwards. One, the Beasts of Bourbon show at the Phoenician Club in ’92, with the Low Road lineup. A great show, when they were at, or near, their very peak. Speedie did stage, Dmitri did lights and John and Martin, of ad-and-vid-award winning fame filmed the gig on 16mm. Where did that get to? I should chase down the participants and find out. The other was a party, maybe a year later, at John’s house, Tex was living there at the time. Martin was playing records on what turned out to be Tex’s stereo, his room being most convenient to the kitchen where most of the 30 or so party animals were living it up. At some point, Tex showed up, stared at the happy gathering, grunted, went into his room, closed the door and killed the music. It didn’t stop the party, but it remains an emblematic snapshot of the Aryan Gregory Perkins.

We just wanna know, Tex. Where did it all go so wrong?

Is Earl right or wrong? Deposit comments here and we'llprint 'em. Here are a few:

Mickster of
great review earl, let me sum up for you: TEX = WANKER

Wes Cale from NSW:
whats the bother earl? caught train from central coast, got pissed at strawberry hills,met friends, stood in front l/h speakers,bad revisited,arms and legs askew,rockin and rollin for 1.5 hrs singin songs and twitchin, n, jerkin and lovin it!! im 42, was at the phonecian in 92, did hell to pay support+you am i ? that was then, this is now. mate just called 6 days after show he's still amped and gushin.his wife and kids think he is an idiot, mine too!! p.s we were to busy rockin to look up and take notice of the shit you speak of.who cares, spencer is the soul of the beasts

David Gordon from Victoria:
Who the fuck is Earl O'Neill anyway? I was at the Melbourne show and they played really well. I spoke to friends at the Sydney show who said they played really well as well. Sounds like Earl has a personal problem with Tex.