Tote Hotel, Collingwood
Friday June 3, 2005

All Photos by TRACEY KEMP of Dogs Hind Leg zine

The copiously-informed Grunnen Rocks website recently paid tribute to The Drones (amongst other "Aussie" bands). This is yet another indication of the strength and popularity of The Drones, and illustrates just how far they've come from their humble Perth origins.

The band's Melbourne album launch at the Corner Hotel was sold out by 10pm, and it was a fair bet tonight's show would sell equally as fast. In the end the "Sold Out" sign was prominently displayed by early evening.

The first band on the bill was Sydney's Holy Soul. My knowledge of Holy Soul was limited to some hearsay (and the review of their EP on this site), and a comment (made by someone of credibility and authority) that while their recorded output was strong, reports of their live show hadn't always been so favourable. But if there had been any creases in earlier live shows, the band had certainly ironed them out by tonight. The sound was unmistakeably swampy – it's fair to say the band probably wouldn't have existed had it not been for the Scientists' efforts in creating the Oz Swamp sound in the 1980s.

But the set was anything but derivative, illustrating a variable tone, tempo and texture that gave an extremely suitable ambience for the rest of the gig. The band's final song strayed from the silt of the earlier tunes to embrace a forceful power pop feel that brought to mind The Only Ones – but without the junkie underpinning.

Kim Salmon's presence on the bill – allegedly playing a set of Scientists tunes for the last time – was apparently a consequence of reviewers everywhere comparing The Drones to Salmon's seminal swamp garage band. Henry Rollins once declared Salmon a living national treasure and if any ever proof was needed for that assessment, we got it (again) tonight.

With trivial fanfare Salmon shuffled onto stage and eased into the Taxi Driver imagery of "Travis". A colleague of mine directed our attention to the fundamental simplicity of the song structure, and Salmon's ability to continually elaborate and re-interpret chords that he's being playing for over 20 years – case in point being We Had Love where Salmon seemed to indulge in some experimentation common to the band's name, just to see what he could come up with. The tunes in the set – "Swampland", "Human Jukebox", "Shine", "Set It On Fire", amongst others – are classics that never their lose their currency. As always, this was a pleasure to witness (and good to see the ubiquitous Julian Wu embracing the performance at point black range, his arms gripping the foldback monitor like a child hugging its mother).

The Drones plenty of informed hype accompanying them at the moment, and it's well placed. The band's earlier recordings are rough but endearing, displaying a sound shaped by the forces of blues, swamp and garage. The band's recent album – described to me recently as "more radio friendly, but in a good way" – has taken the band from the margins of the Melbourne independent scene to a more visible, yet still avowedly stinking and sticky pub scene.

If The Holy Soul are the obedient student, Salmon the charismatic teacher then The Drones are the brilliant protege. The technical quality of the sound stumbled a bit tonight, but no-one spent more than a second worrying about it. Lead singer and guitarist Gareth Liddiard has a very distinctive face (he's yet another candidate for a Archibald Prize portrait), his voice probably the best it will ever be and his stage presence dominating without domineering. The set drew predominantly from the recent album, "Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By", including "Baby2", "Shark Fin Blues", "You Really Don't Care" and "Locust". The version of Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer" was a genuinely killer moment (and a long one at that).

The encores were merged into the main set itself – the set finished sometime after 1.30am, and not even The Tote's place in Melbourne musico-cultural legend would allow it to sanction music much past that time. At the end of the night we found ourselves basking, again, in another night of Tote musical excellence. And if you were there, you'll know what I mean.

Spectrum, East Sydney
Saturday May 12, 2005


With tonight's gig at inner city Sydney venue Spectrum culminating with The Drones launching their second CDLP and first for In-Fidelity Records 'Wait long by the River and the bodies of your enemies will float by", the rest of the bill seemed to be a fresh but mixed bag.

I missed local Sydneysiders Stereo City who'd had played earlier, but Bakelite Age followed and featured former members of Melbourne bands The Meanies, Tomorrow People, Dung, The Egos and Snout.

With that lineage it was curious to see what this band would produce and, to some extent, theydelivered what was expected. It was a distinct brand of Melbourne indie rock. What really surprised was the guitar combo; both of them proving quite capable lead and rhythm guitarists, capable of sharing lead guitar duties.

Metal Dog followed and featured Ben Ely (ex- Regurgitator/The Stalkers) back to playing bass and providing lead vocals for this trio.

With the drummer of Metal Dog wearing his LA Guns t-shirt (ex-members of LA Guns would later form Guns'n'Roses); I should have had a strong inkling of what to expect. Metal Dog offered its mix of glam meets punk, with strong hints of metal; which recalled the likes of KISS, Aerosmith. The Ramones, Black Sabbath and early Metallica. They had me marvelling at how Melbourne's The Casanovas are fast becoming incredibly influential advocates as far as local bands pursuing this kind of sound. It seemed dead and buried at the beginning of the '90s.

The Drones followed and began by featuring a couple of tunes "The Freedom In The Loot" and "The Best You Can Believe In". Although most bands spend the first few songs "warming up", the same could not be said of The Drones. Their set was largely writ large with the band's menacing and intense kind of rock. Guitarists Gareth Liddiard and Rui Pereira warmed to their guitar duties in no time.

The Drones were really at their best throughout songs such as "Shark Fin Blues", "Sitting on the edge of the bed cryin' " and "Downbound". With the rhythm section rock solid and unobtrusive; this allowed both guitarists Liddiard and Pereira to cut loose and deliver some of the most incredible guitar playing seen out front of a band of this nature; a band whom would not necessarily attract pretty young girls to shake their hips with short and catchy songs and / or pretty boy appearances.

The Drones closed the main set with "You really don't care" and encored with "Country Love". I've already seen a wide variety of live and loud rock music, throughout 2005, but The Drones at Spectrum cannot be forgotten in a hurry.