The Brass Monkey, Cronulla
August 29, 2003

Ever get the feeling you’re being cheated?

Standing outside the venue - a poor man’s version of inner-city brasserie The Basement, but in the southern Sydney suburb (and old Barman stomping ground) of Cronulla - I did, and it had nothing to do with the music. It hadn’t even started.

It was 7pm on a Friday night – the advertised opening time – and unlike some re-cycled Danny Sugerman fantasy, the doors (geddit?) remained firmly shut. And they stayed that way for another 45 minutes. Now if this sounds like yet another I-94 Bar rant against a venue (thanks John McP, you’re a hard act to follow), you’re exactly right. At the risk of punter dissatisfaction getting in the way of a review, I’m gonna unleash both barrels. Skip this par and the next if you want to cut to the chase and hear what the band was like.

Call me a whinger, call me a joke, just make you call me when it’s your turn to shout the drinks, but I am sick of venues bullshitting about start/opening/show times. Especially when friends of the management waltz straight past and walk in. The Brass Monkey is such a tiny place (it legally seats 78) that you have to call ahead and book, so I did. A table for four under “Barman”, thanks, to be told seating was on a “first come, best dressed” basis so we better be there when the doors open. We were and they didn't. Access was stalled for 45 minutes because "the support band is doing a sound check and it’s in their contract that no-one be around till they’ve finished" is pure bullshit. So is pushing advertised starting times back an hour to squeeze out more hard-earned from the patrons. When I was a lad, support bands didn't have contracts. They didn't get paid. Speaing of which, I’d like a dollar for every time a venue lied to me about this sort of shit. Here endeth the venue whinge.

The doorman (who looked like Hair Bear) did a good job hosing me down. It remains a strange experience, seeing a band in a place where the licensing conditions make it compulsory to partake of a meal. (Incidentally, Chris Masuak of Radio Birdman played a solo band show here earlier in 2003 and reckons he cleared the tables of diners within two songs!)

There must have been less than 100 people in (seated, plus standing room) when four-piece Sevenlives kicked off with an unplugged set. I won’t be too hard on their four-part harmonies and bongo drum but it was all a little too hippyish and emo for me. Maybe I was wondering too hard about what had to be sound-checked and maybe the material suffered from a lack of loud guitars and whatever else they usually employ to provide light and shade, but it was too samey.

They did get one thing right when they closed their set with an acknowledgement that it was good to see the headliners (affectionately described as "these fuckers") back. Those fuckers were, of course, the Persian Rugs who are, for the uninitiated, three-quarters of the Hoodoo Gurus (Dave Faulkner on keyboards, vocals and guitar, Brad Shepherd on guitar and Mark Kingsmill on drums) with ex-Crusader/Thurston Howler Kendall James on bass. Not that their antecedents are all that relevant in the live context because they don’t include one Guru tune in their set. Ever. They do tell jokes, though, and also rock so there are valid comparisons. This is a new band in the sense of playing an unashamedly “old” style of music - ‘60s punk. Have we ever told you we like '60s punk?

The house is packed with about 120 people by the time the band makes it to the stage with the assistance of a torch-wielding stage roadie (shades of their stadium days there) and it’s straight into the set, drawn almost entirely from the debut album "Turkish Delight". It's reviewed elsewhere (in gushing fashion) but suffice to say it translates perfectly live.

Sixties punk music is a pure, almost naēve thing, stealing bits and pieces from all over the place. The Rugs’ brand is steeped in clever hooks and off-kilter lyrics (naturally enough). Although dyed-in-the-wool Gurus fans find it a juxtaposition to see Dave Faulkner behind a Farfisa organ for much of the night, it makes perfect sense to me. For one, it gives Brad lots of room to spear off into Fuzz Lead Break Land and he takes full advantage. Secondly, it adds textures that, for all their splendour, twin guitars just can't summon up. Mark Kingsmill continues to be the drummer others aspire to be with his trademark hard-hitting precision and Kendall James seems to have slotted in a treat, judging by the levels of good-hearted derision thrown his way by Messrs Shepherd and Faulkner who book-end him on stage. Dave even name drops the Crusaders (the Thurston Howlers going unmentioned).

“Mr Tripper” gets an airing (from the CD-EP of the same name) and Dave laments that no-one bought it. Well, I did - and I’m here to tell you that you can scoop up an even rarer 7” vinyl version, sans one song, on Illustrious Artists that sounds a little hotter in the mix. The bulk of the set, however, comes straight off “Turkish Delight” and is played with such enthusiasm that you can forget all the Guru hits and enjoy this on its own merits.

Big statement, I know, but the best songs in the set are as good as anything the latter-day Gurus did. Full of energy and catchy.


The Rugs throw in no covers and one album outtake, whose name I didn't catch but sounds like it should have been responsible for bumping out the CD track list to 14. "Cornered" (take note: fuzz guitar magnificence), "(Turn) The Other Cheek" and "Nickels and Dimes" are all '60s classics in their own right. Delivered with style, panache, good humour and volume, they're tonight's hit picks.

Anyway, it's as spirited and enjoyable set of songs that I've caught this year and it's enough to wipe away the early evening difficulties, if not the hefty drinks bill for the Barmaid and me, plus dining companions. Correct me if I'm wrong, but did I whinge again? - The Barman