Excelsior Hotel, Surry Hills, NSW
Friday, October 21, 2005

Ananandale Hotel, Annandale, NSW
Saturday, October 22, 2005

HOLY CURSE + Friends
Barbecue @ Chateau de Thomson, Sydney
Sunday, October 23, 2005


Remember when the addition of a country-of-origin in brackets behind a band's name would be enough to spark interest among people wanting to check them out? Australia sure was an insular place in those days. There probably was a bit of that happening with French tourists Holy Curse, a name that's totally unknown to all but a handful of Sydney's potential gig going public but who carried the epithet "(FR)" in Sydney live music listings.

It's fair to say that French rock and roll bands are almost unknown in Australia - and the situation's not much better in their homeland. It's also accurate to say that Sydney's a more enlightened place after Holy Curse's Annandale gig, but more on that later.

Friday at the Excelsior is their first show on Australian shores and it takes place just a few hours after their singer Eric has touched down after a 22-hour flight. The rest of the band arrived a day earlier, settled into their accommodation (courtesy of the Oz Rock Thomson family of the eastern suburbs) and warmed up with a radio interview on Wayne DZ's alternative music show on 2SER-FM.

The opening act is Ashley Thomson's hastily-convened Chinese Rocks, whose presence on the bill came about because of the unavailability of half of Drug Squad 66, the two-piece Ash has with his son Spike. Chinese Rocks loses their drummer via a text message the day before and Holy Curse's drummer Gooloo is recruited on the strength of a half-hour rehearsal and they're off and running.

Ash cultivates an underground rock loser aura with most of his songs about drug addiction, mental asylums, transvestites or generally fucked up situations. It's always an entertaining if sometimes erratic ride and tonight hovers over the precipice at points as Ash yells out chord changes to his bemused bass player, Gazza Lockhart from The Meek. Gooloo hangs in there and doesn't jump the first plane home to Paris so it holds together OK. "Chinese Rocks" becomes "Chinese Cocks" and a new original, the memorably titled "I Only Buy My Heroin From Her", gets an airing to grins all round.

Next up, Southern Preachers, a brand new band from Sydney's southern suburbs. Two of the guys, Darren and Mark, are the backbone of the now defunct Killer Klowns, an enduring outfit with classic Oz '80s influences. Tonight's their first outing, other than a party six months ago.

The band's spread its wings since that debut when it played songs drawn almost exclusively from the Citadel catalogue. A few originals litter the set and they've come along well. They have a show on hoem turf in November, playing the Crest at Sylvania with Adolphus. Precious few of the notoriously travel-shy Sutherland Shire people make it out tonight, so hopefully they'll pull a few heads closer to home.

Holy Curse are very "up" for their first show and don't disappoint, belting out an hour of rocking but soulful tuneage. You probably don't know their old stuff so the fact that they played mostly new stuff won't mean much, but you can cop an earload of it all by buying the double CD compilation "Wear Your Fricken Seat Belt" just released on local label Off the Hip. Special kudos to "Let's Go Surfing" and "Sister Soul"; both are built on the dual foundations of hi-energy and soul. "Long Gone" tears the crowd a new arsehole with its mean, heavy duty riff.

HC wear their influences fairly obviously (right down to their choices of T-shirts) but don't fall into the trap of outright copyism. Sonics Rendezvous Band is a fairly universal forebear for anyone mining this territory, but they're by no means the only precursor - there's liberal dashes of hardcore and blues in there as well.

The quality of this band is inherently obvious in the quality of the players. Vinz is a killer bass player, nimble and fluid with a big, beefy sound. Paui (aka Sonic Polo) works his guitar like he was born playing it with a melodic mid-tonal range and some jaw-dropping leads. Gooloo is right on the money with his warm feels. Eric's enthusiastic stagecraft and classic blues belter's delivery belies any residual jet lag. In short, Holy Curse has that indefinable thing that sets the best Real Rock and Roll bands head and shoulders above most of their competition.

Off the Hip label chief Mickster Baty is well pleased with his signings, and made the trip up from melbourne that afternoon to catch them.

Megastar Overdrive are an inner-city supergroup of sorts, playing covers drawn from the Johnny Thunders/Heartbreakers catalogue. Guitarists are Surry Hills fixture, Bones Martin (Missing Link), and Paul Hayward from The Baddies, Paul Larsen from the Celibate Rifles is on drums. Clyde Bramley (Wetsuits, ex-Hoodoo Gurus) is on bass and Ripley Hood (from a late line-up of Mushroom Planet) handles vocals.

Been a long time since I was right into the Thunders stuff and Megastar Overdrive deliver it well, but it's probably played too tightly by these guys to accurately mirror the Heartbreakers for whom sloppiness was a chemically-acquiired art. It's all in pursuit of fun but the lack of punters in tonight is galling for all concerned. All the local bands generously donate their share of the door to the French tourists.

It's a different scenario at the Annandale the following night where a big crowd turns out for the Crusaders' first Sydney gig in about a year. The Crusaders don't play often (drummer Mickster being Melbourne-based) but an album is in the wings and there's an Argentinian compliation ("Wave to the Grave") to launch.

Hell Crab City open the batting and (shamefully) it's my first chance to see them live, despite the fact they've been playing all over Sydney and as far afield as Brisbane. It's good, very loud, driving hard-eddged trash-punk, with a dash of metal in the mix. Twin guitars and a singer with a touch of the Angrys in his vocals. A good quality engine room anchors things to the floor.

Any band with Al Creed's lyrical guitar playing is bound to be good, and that's the case. I'm not familiar enough with their songs to pick highlights but there's once with a chorus based around the word bitch that stuck pretty well. An album's been recorded and is being shopped.

Can't say I caught as much of The Clear Spots as I wanted. They started late and were still going when Holy Curse opened up. They're young and raw but would be a great support for Billy Childish's sole Sydney show in December, playing a similar style of minimalist garage stomp.

The Curse lift another notch when it's their time on stage. Any jetlag yields to the prospect of playing one of the biggest shows of the tour in front of a comfortably-packed Annandale, probably the reigning spiritual home of rock and roll in Sydney these days. There's more than usual interest in a support band and it's clear from the chatter than many people are in to see what this French band has to offer. They're not let down.

They open with a Sewergrooves cover ("Saturday Night", appropriately). It's again a killer set, with Sonic Polo the undoubted star of the night on guitar. This was, until a year ago, a two-guitar band, but it looks as Paul is enjoying the extra room to move. "Let's Go Surfing" reflects the fact that this is what most of the band tried, for the first time, in the bracing waters of Bondi Beach earlier in the day.

Two ex-New Christs in Christian Houllemare of Big Al Creed are invited onstage (Christian slinging on bass so Vinz can experience an audience eye's view of his own band for the first time) to rip through "No Way On Earth". There's a second Aussie cover, the Gurus' "I Was a Kamikaze Pilot", especially for Dave Faulkner (rumoured to be in the audience) that goes over a treat.

The band's dragged back on stage by the overwhelming audience response and unleashes "Superfortress", which is about as political, lyrically, as these guys get. A big, grinding groove that evokes the plane of the song title's name, there's a sting in the tail as it morphs into "I Wanna Be Your Dog". A few jaws remain on the Annandale floor when it's all over.

What can you say about a Crusaders show that hasn't been said before except that the band's as tight as anytime in living memory (something various members explain away as a side effect from lack of alcohol)? There's the usual run of songs from the various albums and EPs, the pick of which (still) remains, for me, "Yeah Yeah" and the anthemic "Wave to the Grave". A sprinkling of newies are unveiled.
These guys have loads of attitude and the shtick remains the same, but if you're going to trade in trashy, fuzz-packed '60s punk it's unlikely it can be done better than they do.

Sunday's essentially gig-free for Holy Curse as they have three days of recording sessions starting from Monday, but trying to persuade guys who look and play like their instruments are welded to them like extra body parts is nigh impossible. The Frenchies are shown old-fashioned Australian hospitality with a barbecue at Ash and Carol Thomson's place. Before long, there's a drum kit and amps set up in the house and a procession of players steps up to sit in with the tourists.

Mark Sisto of Radio Birdman spin-off The Visitors engages with the Curse for a series of MC5 and Stooges covers, a warm-up of sorts for his own band Vindicator Electro and its show with them at the Empire at Annandale on November 3 (although you won't find any of those songs in his band's set list). The tourists have promised some surprises and I wouldn't miss that for the world.

Word is, Mark enjoyed the barbecue jam so much he's signed on for backing vocal duties in the studio this week, with a bloke by the name of Deniz Tek bringing his guitar along as well.

HOLY CURSE (* headlining shows)

Thu Oct 27 Oxford Tavern, Wollongong NSW (+ The Unheard)*
Fri Oct 28 The Union, Prahran (+ Penny Ikinger and The Evolution + Les Dominados)*
Sat Oct 29 Rob Roy Hotel, Fitzroy VIC (+ The Lords of Gravity + The Naked Eye + support)*
Mon Oct 31 Cobra Room, Tote Hotel, Collingwood (w/ The Shimmys)
Thu Nov 3 Empire Hotel, Annandale, NSW (w/ Vindicator Electro + Mink Jaguar)