Exile on Smith Street
Fitzroy, Melbourne
Saturday, April 21, 2007


The signs were very good leading up to tonight’s King Brothers gig.  The night before had seen the Double Agents extract as much goodness as physically possible from the frequently challenging sonic environment of the Spanish Club.  The next day – punctuated with the mundane domestic tasks that permeate one’s daily existence – was equally prophetic. 

The skies had opened slowly, but surely, in the late morning, an increasingly irregular occurrence.  My usually dysfunctional attempts at home handy work had been successful – an irregular occurrence of its own type – and the preparations for Sunday’s chidren’s party had gone perfectly to plan. 

Finally, Essendon had showed some psychological and physical fortitude to overrun St Kilda by five goals (meaning that for the third time in four weeks, I didn’t have cause to declare that I hated football).  Somehow it seemed like it was going to be a good night…

And so it was.  I arrived around 10.45pm (having spent much of the evening making and icing children’s fairy cakes, but that’s another story). Immediately, there’s another good sign – the proprietors of the venue have added Coopers Pale Ale to the list of beers on tap, and we’re saved the disappointment of having to drink that stale local domestic beer that masquerades as a drinkable brew.  Brew safely in the hand, it’s time to watch the charmingly titled Trough Lollies (appropriately hailing from my home town of Adelaide) in the final stages of their heavy rock set.  Lots of guitar, lots of Lemmy-like vocal screaming, lots of attitude and, to be perfectly honest, a good slab of fun – particularly if your standard night out has a sizeable quantity of bourbon its regular mix.

The King Brothers promised a lot.  Prior to the gig Bruce Milne remarked that he’d seen the King Brothers during one of his trips to Osaka and remarked that the members of the band spent more time in the audience than on the stage.  And in the intimate confines of Exile on Smith Street (or whatever name it goes by these days) there wasn’t much to divide audience and band. 

The King Brothers walk onto stage and take their places.  There’s two guitarists – I think (but don’t get it confirmed, so apologies to all if the identification is not correct) that Keizo Matsuo is on our left, and Masafumi ‘Marya’ Koyama is on our right.  Bassist Ray Bcanero Shinnosuke is wearing a very swish white suit, sunglasses that look vaguely like an item Paris Hilton might wear and a lurid maroon sombrero.  Drummer Taichi – listed on the bio as providing “drums power” is not someone to be messed with.  He’s built like the proverbial brick shithouse, beats the absolute buggery out of his kit and resembles a genetic blend of Russell Simmins and a sumo wrestler working off an insult.

But back to the show.  In light of the excitement that evolved as the set went on, it’s hard to remember how things started out.  Like the Blues Explosion – the comparisons are unavoidable (even the band itself is happy to concede the direct stylistic influence of the Blues Explosion) – the King Brothers start and keep going til they stop.  It’s blues rock, but with a manic edge that might almost raise the eyebrow of a seasoned Delta bluesman.  The standard three-chord fare of blues rock is punctuated with screeching feedback and howling vocals. 

It’s obvious early in the piece that the King Brothers are only comfortable mixing it up with their audience.  As soon as the music starts up it’s like watching animals in brutal captivity, prowling the confines of a caged area.  Suddenly – it might have been a couple of songs into the set, it might’ve even been the first song – Keizo has made his way into the crowd and is doing his version of the meet and greet.  Local public radio personality and punk rock impressario Kev Lobotomi is the recipient of a warm embrace and adoring kiss, and there’s a lot of rock’n’roll love in the air. 

In a sign of what’s to come, Shinnosuke climbs up on a speaker cabinet to get the best possible panoramic view of the crowd.  Not to be outdone Marya starts to scale the stairs that lead to the mezzanine area.  Within moments he’s clambered along the rails to the corner of the balcony area.  The laws of physics suggest he might not stay there long, but the look in his eyes indicates that he’s a past master at such dangerous theatrics.  Keizo comes over to gesticulate to his band mate to come down and I’m wondering whether I should put my beer down and get ready for a fireman’s catch.  Marya jumps down, hits the deck and keeps playing, writhing around the floor like a fly that’s had a wing pulled off by a sadistic child.

Eventually they’re all back on stage, tearing straight back into their musical pursuits.  But hang on, there’s more to come.  In a flicker of an eye the band has re-located to the middle of the floor.  Taichi has a snare, bass and hi-hat and he’s perfectly content.  Now the sweat from the entire band is spraying straight into the audience’s faces, Marya’s shrieks, shouts and snarls are pummelling into our ears. 

There’s a bit of over-exuberant behaviour in the crowd, but Toshi – promoter, fan, roadie and the most reasonable security guy on the planet – keeps everything in complete control.  At one stage I catch a glimpse of Taichi obscured by a water wall of perspiration, his shirt completely drenched.  Keizo looks like he’s in the middle of a bizarre punk re-birthing session, wandering in and out of consciousness, channelling spirits of living and dead punk rockers.  Marya is lost in the crowd again and Sinnosuke has climbed another wall, refusing to be outdone. 

You’d think the music would’ve taken a back seat by now, but the audience is dancing like a community irrigated by Stanley Owsley’s specially concocted water supply.  Every chord hits the mark, not a beat is missed.  Taichi’s drum kit is crying out for respite, but there’s no respite. 

Finally the music finishes, Sinnosuke jumps back to ground level and the band stumble off, exhausted.  Shinnosuke walks past and there’s some congratulatory hugs.  He’s absolutely sodden, a reflection of the genuine attitude put into this performance. 

There’s a collective catching of breath and we ponder just how fucking good this show was.  Who cares about the metrics – this is a night that will go down in local music history. Everyone who cares about the power of rock’n’roll must see the King Brothers.