LET THE KIDS DANCE

Gazoonga Attack
+ Digger and the Pussycats
+ The High Society
Spectrum, Darlinghurst
Friday October 29. 2004


WORDS: EARL O'NEILL
PICTURES: SIOBHAN STAFFORD OF MINE SPECIALTY

You know there’s gotta be changes going on in the world when the Exchange Hotel in Oxford St - once a seriously gay disco palace - reinvents itself as a rock and roll venue. And what a venue it is! Candy-striped walls, chandeliers, couches in cosy spots, a suitably “intimate” (read: small, low ceiling, low stage) atmosphere. Fact is, 2004 has been a year for rock and roll like this rock pig hasn’t witnessed in over a decade, and, fucking bloody hell, aint it grand!

Swallowed an Oxford St Acclimatiser in the Brighton, unfortunately, no longer near as seedy as it used to be, and rocked up in time to catch the last few songs of The High Society’s set. These guys are tight and proficient and all, but, especially in view of what was to follow, they lack that special thing that makes a punter want to come back. Good but, y’know, not great.

I was having a good time anyway. There aint too many places I’d rather be than a noisy, smoky little bar full of rock and roll and all the attendant sights and sounds and smells. I’ve been doing this since I was 13 and it still takes me away to a better world. So, yeah, I was happier than a pig in slops. The barmaid in the cutdown AC/DC T-shirt and red and white striped hair was knocking back shots and I was pacing myself, sorta.

Digger and the Pussycats are a duo that take it just about as minimalist as you can get. Some folks think that any gtr/drum duo are just some kinda White Stripes rip-off, which makes about as much sense as calling The Libertines a Beatles rip-off. The White Stripes have simply legitimised the duo as a valid format, which makes a lot of sense to anyone who knows what King Biscuit Time was all about.

They kicked off with “Just a Little Bit” and got on with it, got better and better. These guys don’t even bother with a kick drum, they just hit it hard and rock, and rock and roll. Spastic dancing, falling over, slipping around on that carpet that no-one thought to nail down, fuck, they were great. I’ve seen bands with six guys crammed on stage that can’t generate the energy and passion and sheer fucking fun that Sam and Andy knocked out in their all too brief set. Well, it seemed brief, but my brain was starting to misbehave on me a bit, kinda like it did when I wrote off my motorcycle on the Princes Highway a few days earlier, only with a better excuse or two.

Hey, I was having a ball, old and new comrades, ugly blokes and cute chicks and all sortsa folks to rock around and have a quick, intense chat with and move on, yeah, keep moving, keep at it, cos yr not gonna live forever, eh? Not here for a long time, just a good time, a great time, and we better make the most of it cos we’re in time-on in the last quarter of the great democratic experiment and too many fucking idiots have no idea of what made it such a wonderful thing to experience and are prepared to sell it all out for fear and lies. It mighta been Benjamin Franklin who said something like “People who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” If it wasn’t him, it was Thomas Jefferson, and if it wasn’t him, I’m happy to take credit.

Gazoonga Attack are a great rock and roll group. The nearest thing, in local, kinda, terms is Radio Birdman’s January ’96 tour. Now, GazAtt don’t quite have the songs or the skills, which is hardly the point. They don’t have the history or the legend, either, but they have something rare and special – a charismatic gang identity. They give off that aura that makes you think, hey, this is what it mighta been like seeing The Who in ’64. Pennie Smith, in her classic series of pix of The Clash, referred to their natural ability to “pull shapes”. That is, they didn’t have to think about what they were doing, they just did it and looked ultra-fucking-fantastically cool. Gazoonga Attack do that on stage. They pull shapes like almost no-one I’ve ever seen.

Whatever they do, it looks so right. Elea can put her foot up on the foldback wedge and not look like a wanker. Tamara can fall over on her back, keep on playing, and not look like a wanker. They can get away with it because they are so obviously into the moment, they’ve thrown themselves into rock and roll so completely that there is no artifice, no self-conciousness.

What there is, is a massive, enormous passionate electric drive. I listened to their new CD about eight times yesterday while writing a review for a US online music mag who’ve promised me freebies (but will they be as much fun as “Sex Nerd”?) and within the four or five chord rocking format, inside and behind the stinkfinger rhythmic drive, is a depth and breadth of passion, desperation, loss, yearning that verges on the fucking scary.

For all that, this wasn’t the best GazAtt show I’ve seen. It just wasn’t quite as intense as I’ve seen them. I blame Elea’s running shoes. Converses are okay, but Adidas or Puma or whatever are the province of lamearse boogie bullshit bands like The Angels or some such crap. Thing is, that even when down on their usual standards, they are still streets ahead, Brisbane to Sydney freeways ahead of their contemporaries who get all the press, all the attention… And more power to ‘em. A band that is allowed to develop at their own pace will be a better band than one that is pushed and promoted and shoved down punter’s throats and pressured, pressured, pressured.

Gazoonga Attack look great, sound great, are great. I bought the CD and would’ve hung around longer to party on with all the rockin’ folks (the last rockin’ venue on lower Oxford St was Mars, at least 12 years ago) only I had to meet some people in some CBD bar and didn’t get home for another two days. That kinda shit is pretty easy to do when you’ve had a rock and roll blast of Gazoonga Attack quality. I would’ve ridden to Newcastle for the Saturday gig, except for the unfortunate motorcycle incident.

Did anyone else notice that Big Jack Howard’s spreadeagled Victory Vees were uncannily like those Richard Nixon pulled when he was getting on the chopper after resigning (to avoid impeachment)? Art, of all kinds, peaks in time of repression. Sex, drugs and rock and roll can just be careless fun, but the rock and roll, especially, can stand for a whole lot more. Gazoonga Attack may not realise it, and may not care, but their singular attitude is a righteous expression of the right to dissent. And the right to dissent, folks, is not just what makes life worth living, it makes life, for us lucky Westerners, what it is.

“I’m feeling dirty baby, wash me clean, I got a six-pack, a reefer and some nicotine.” Yeah, so fuck you, Dick Cheney, and fuck you Osama bin Laden, we got a life to live and we aint gonna waste it on people who just don’t fucking get what it means to be young and alive and searching for another peak experience. Now, I’m gonna take an XS650 for a test run, and I’ll be singing rock and roll songs all the way.

(minus just a mouthful)

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