Goodshirt/Dappled Cities Fly/Dropping Honey
Annandale Hotel, Sydney
Thursday May 29 2003

By JOHN McPHARLIN

Throughout the ever diminishing number of beer soaked music venues in this wide, brown land of ours, there's a rising cry of frustration from many an aging punter, "Will no one rid the kingdom of these young upstarts?!?". There certainly does seem to be an almost endless supply of young hopefuls, ready and willing to be anointed as the Next Big Thing as soon as the NME can find a bit of space for them on the cover.

They come from the U.S., they come from Scandinavia and increasingly they come from down around our way. Various collective names have been suggested, some a lot less complimentary than others, but my favourite at the moment is Dat4novavines (which slights the likes of Jet and Dallas Crane by their exclusion, but you just can't fit everybody in).

Yes, the New Zealanders do get lumped in with the Aussies though. Let's face it, they do all spend some time here while they're waiting for the spotlight of global stardom to shine its warming glow upon them and most Yanks and Poms can't tell the difference anyway. I've even had one local punter try to tell me that the Datsuns and the D4 are both splinter groups from the Datson Four, who are Canadian for fuck's sake.

While most of us weren't looking, New Zealand does seem to have become a very fertile breeding ground for rockin' quartets. For those Aussies who grew up knowing little more about NZ than that it had a population of about two and half million people and about 40 million sheep, this has come as quite a shock (apparently the population is now more like 4 million, but they're still outnumbered by the sheep by about 10 to 1).

In the minds of most Aussies, the major exports of NZ are still mutton, wool and dole bludgers and there's nothing an Aussie likes more than to tell a joke that involves a New Zealander turning out to be a sheep shagger. For the last century or more it was often said that Australia "rode to prosperity on the sheep's back" and there's been suspicion in some quarters that, far from this being just an economic metaphor, it might have been a euphemism for scores of lonely jackaroos mistreating their flocks at night in a way that's expressly proscribed by state and federal laws and condemned in no uncertain terms in the bible, so we could probably stand to be a bit more circumspect about pointing too many fingers in this direction (and come to think of it, do you sometimes wonder nervously how the word "jackaroo" might have come about? I know I do).

Goodshirt are apparently the latest in that long conga line of Kiwis stopping over on their way through to international greatness. Knowing nothing about them, I was expecting a full on rock experience in the manner of the Datsuns and D4, but these guys turned out to owe more to Spilt Enz than to the current wave of Kiwi garage rock.

The biggest surprise of their set was that although they looked like a standard four piece, there was no bass player. All the bass sounds were being generated through the keyboards, along with the more usual keyboard sounds and some of those beeps and blips a la the Cars as well (I kept expecting them to burst into a chorus of "Just What I Needed", but strangely it didn't happen). Going beyond the Cars, their other influences appeared to be Devo in some of their more commercial moments and Roxy Music (the first album, before they got too slick and super commercial).

I'm tempted to say about them all the things that others were saying to me about Gerling a few years ago, before I actually got to see Gerling - at this very same venue as I recall - and found that I'd been severely misled and that Gerling's "electro-rock-fusion" wasn't much more than just techno for people who couldn't be bothered to dance.

Fortunately Goodshirt had more to offer than that. They started slow and soft, but reved up both themselves and the audience as their set progressed, even rocking out in a Blur colliding with the Foo Fighters at the salad bar of a Holiday Inn kinda way (though one song did continually sound like it was threatening to turn into Crowded House cover, but segued away from it each time at the last possible moment). Apparently they've played at the SXSW Festival already, so I guess we can expect to be reading about them on the front page of the NME any day now.

Supporting band Dappled Cities Fly stunned me with a couple of moments of absolute brilliance during their set, reminiscent of a very fired up Bluebottle Kiss, while the rest of their set was more your standard indie strum and hum (or strum and twang) and many songs didn't end so much as just suddenly ground to a halt as if someone had hit the switch and cut the power.

Opening act Dropping Honey drew less of an audience (and mainly floor sitters at that), but the few songs I caught were more interesting and more consistently dynamic than either of the acts that followed them.

At the end of the night I left reeking of cigarette smoke, so even if I'd been deaf I reckon I could have worked out that this was a "younger" gig. One noticeable difference between this and the average "old fart" gig these days was the high percentage of the audience who were smoking. Ah, that does take me back to the heady days of my youth when no popular local band needed to hire a smoke machine; everyone was on the cancer sticks and the clouds of tobacco smoke just rolled across the audience like an early morning fog. Now we all have to reach for our inhalers instead.
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