+ YOUNG HEART ATTACK
+ GIANTS OF SCIENCE
Coogee Bay, Sydney
July 30, 2004
Another night, another DKT-MC5 show (never thought I'd type those words!) and it has to be said that the band had a lot to live up to after the previous evening's fireworks. It's great to see "Coogee Bay Live", as the old Selinas is known, crawling with people and if the front beer garden is a bit chilly, the main room is going to reach blast oven temperatures later in the night.
I haven't stepped inside the Coogee Bay Hotel since 1997 (apart from the odd buck's night where none of us made it past the front bar) and if the concert room has been drastically re-configures, it's lost on me. Those pillars are still there, a third of the way across the room, as is the long bar down one side.
Shit, it's hard to get a drink here. The venue could lift the ratio of bar staff to punters, especially for these big shows, although this has to be the only pub in Sydney where punters form orderly lines to get served. It looks like we're in London waiting for a bus at one stage in the Arden Bar, so I piss off to the more down market section where it's just as bad.
I missed Giants of Science for no good reason but wished I'd skipped Young Heart Attack as well. I lasted four songs into what was singularly the worst live band experience I've endured in the last decade.
Hailing from Texas, they come armed with twin guitars and a male-female vocal combo (he would have looked at home on The Strip in Hollywood; she looked a cross between Carol Brady from The Brady Bunch and Sharon O'Neill, if anyone remembers the Countdown era of Oz Rock in the '80s).
Y.H.A. seemed determined to make a mark and they did - unfortunately, it was the sort that you see on the bottom of toilet bowls that haven't been cleaned.
It was probably imagined, but if the crowd didn't let out a the collective groan in response to the male singer bellowing: "HELLO MOTHERFUCKING SYDNEY!", they should have. I counted seven devil's head hand signs in the first two songs. The culprits weren't the usual gormless, badly dressed heavy metal drones in the crowd - all the gestures were emanating from up the stake.
Was all this excessive posturing? Well, er, yes. The lead guitarist looked like he was having a fit and threw himself into the DKT horn section's chart stands, at one stage. The songs were a cross between Jimmy Barnes and the crass middle-of-the-road metal that the worst American bands seem at home with. A mate sent me an SMS: "This is like a Darkness tribute band except with a cute go-go dancer". My sentiments exactly as I head to the door. Did they dare cover "Over and Over"? Mail the answer to someone who cares more.
If last night's DKT-MC5 was stunning, this one goes a notch further. There's a horn section for one thing, adding the odd bit of colour. More importantly, both guitarists are literally sparking off each other like exposed wires on both sides of the stage.
Brother Wayne leaps into "Rambling Rose" (with the horns already figuring) and 1300-plus people go berserk. Most of them probably don't know a thing about Levi's sponsorships, fights over film rights or any of the other shit that gets in the way of the music, and what's more they care less.
Michael Davis steps up for his slice of the spotlight with "I Can Only Give You Everything", before "Sister Anne" waltzes into the set list. Quite a powerful lady she is, too, for a nun. By now Mark Arm and Evan Dando are doing their thing, the pair spending the outro alternately whacking on a cowbell one of them is holding. Then there's a surprise, of sorts, with a Dennis Thompson drum solo morphing into "Skunk (Sonically Speaking)". A rare treat, not often played on tour so far, but as Kramer explains, the band is puling out a few different things tonight.
Arm again handles most of the vocals with Dando spending a lot of the night next to the foldback desk, chainsmoking and grooving to the music. You'd be a harsh critic to rubbish either singer on the strength of tonight, although Dando careers into Loopyland at one stage as he drapes an omnipresent scarf around his face, burkka-style. To be honest, my first vote for vocalist would have been Scott Morgan or Rob Younger, had either of them been available, although the idea of Lisa K of the BellRays is an inspired one (and I wish I'd thought of it first). So with the unavailability, long-term, of all or any of the above, the firm of Arm & Dando do the business - and do it well.
As alluded earlier, Kramer and Tek are simply stunning, the latter throwing himself bodily into his work in a way that finds him on his knees more than once, wringing that last note out of the mighty white Epi. The thrill Deniz is getting out of playing these tunes with people he's acknowledged as tremendous personal influences is palpable, and he's still wearing an ear-to-ear an hour after the show.
Tek and Kramer are two competitive players, make no mistake. Any real or imagined disparity in lead break distribution is corrected tonight. At one stage Deniz goes momentarily out of tune and Wayne shoots him a broad grin, probably more out of sympathetically knowing how he feels than anything else. It's hard to think they're both not bringing out the best in each other and urging the other on, as they swap licks and burn holes in the floor with their solos.
Tonight is about the songs and "Miss X" comes off a treat. And as in some Kramer solo shows, "Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)" turns into an audience participation. Now that might sound dodgy but there's no smell of cheese, with the punters picking up the ball and running with it enthusiastically. Such devotion among Sydney crowds is rare. The freaks are satisfied with "Starship" in all its free-form glory. More power to Mark's Arm.
For all the rabble-rousing of their early days, the closest today's Three/Five go to political commentary is the Kramer rant in the lead-in to "American Ruse". Even now, this song carries more weight than Michael Moore and probably describes the times in which it was written more accurately than one of his movies does for contemporary events. That's not to say Bro Wayne, at least, doesn't take an active interest in politics. It's just that this show is mroe about the music.It also seems half a world of gigs tighter than the early outings I've heard, and packs more punch in the guitars department.
Dennis Thompson is again a star - moving the other Deniz to dub him, post-gig, as a cross between Elvin Jones and Keith Moon - and who's to argue? The man himself once threatened to kick my arse, via a third party, after something I wrote. I wish he'd come down the pub to do just that - hey, I actually was in his neighbourhood- because I would have gladly bought him a drink...if only to avoid being treated like one of his snares. He's every inch a monstrous hitter. "Machine Gun" is his handle, but if you've ever fired one of those suckers you'll know that he's far more accurate.
How you get into a show like this is entirely up to yourself. Once again for the slow ones: This isn't the MC5. But DKT hardly cheapens the legacy, especially for those of us not lucky enough to have seen the original incarnation, other than on film.
Judged on its merits, it's a killer show. You guys in New Zealand, Japan and Europe have it all to look forward to. - The Barman
(fuggit - gimme a case!)
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