”Klub Barfly”
KB Hotel, Surry Hills, Sydney
May 8, 2004


Tough ask to find a better bill than this in Sydney tonight - so where are the punters? The KB is an “up close and personal” venue but is only sparsely populated as both bands set up (belatedly, as a bass player and a drummer are briefly MIA from each.) Admittedly, the Klondikes and the Puberts aren’t household names, but ya gotta wonder, all the same.

Tonight’s one of the final shows for PBFO with all members domiciled in the same city, with Steve Lucas about to re-locate to Melbourne, where wife Jan has landed a new plumb job. That doesn’t mean the PBFO is ending, but it will make those informal and apparently very fun gatherings called rehearsals a little harder to organise. Gigs will still happen in both Sydney and Melbourne, so that’s a relief.

And it does matter. The mainstream might not have noticed but PBFO slipped out one of the most unaffected and happily retro Australian albums of 2003 on Laughing Outlaw, and have now started to garner glowing reviews offshore. They play an unashamedly fun style of ‘60s rock-pop with its foundations firmly placed in Carnaby Street and its headspace considerably altered by all manner of diversionary activity. What a great night out.

Your Puberts are showing.

Jeff Beck’s “Hi Ho Silver Lining” is the soundcheck before the Puberts launch into the gig proper, and tonight that means “Days of Future Passed” from go to whoa. Rebecca Hancock, whose vocals were such an important contribution to the album, has apparently been convinced to become a fulltime band member and adds acoustic guitar, occasional keyboards and recorder to the live mix.

It’s an irreverent, quirky and very cool album and the gig reflects as much. They might not be the tightest band on the planet, but going with the flow seems to be in their collectgive spirit and they have a great time. Tonight, the PBFO makes a concerted effort to keep the volume down (the venue has some issues with neighbors) but can’t help but get into the swing of things. One more Sydney gig looms on June 12 at the same venue. Are you gonna be there?

Senor Lucas gives that last drink a thumbs down.

Onto the Klondikes, the current vehicle for Chris “Klondike” Masuak, erstwhile guitarist for Radio Birdman, et al. The man himself is looking as flash as a rat with a gold tooth in a tailor-made pinstripe suit and derby hat ensemble that gives Steve Lucas’ cravat a run for its money. It is Australian Fashion Week, after all. Only a sharkskin suit would have put it in the shade.

Tonight’s set is more a preview of the album than a crowd-pleasing run through a set of covers, as has been the case in the past. No complaints from this quarter. It’s very much a part-time thing for all concerned but I’d love to see the North 40 grabbing some high profile supports and getting some notice taken.

The North 40's Matt Sulman gets wound up.

At least the crowd has swelled by the time they kick off. The North 40 might even be a little tighter than last time around. Songs like the opener “Stupid Planet” and the Eastern raga-like “Traffic Jam” (with chanting and extended drum intro) are as good as anything Klondike penned with the Hitmen or Screaming Tribesmen. A fair slab of the rest of what’s on offer could have sat comfortably with either band, or the subsequent Juke Savages. But that last outfit trod on Texan blues turf with a fair bit of regularity; this is more a rock offering.

It’s probably self evident that the North 40 are seasoned players, all capable of belting out a tune. Vocalist Matt Sulman might have copped a going over last review for his stagecraft which looked uncomfortable, but there’s no denying he has a fairly great set of bluesy pipes.

The band is in something of a holding pattern with an album in the can, awaiting final mixdown and mastering before it lands in the hands of us expectant punters. When that’s happening is anyone’s guess as there are some scheduling issues to be worked out. Tonight’s set, however, puts the emphasis on the band’s own songs rather than a heavy content of covers, and shows the long-player will be worth the wait. See and hear for yourself when they again do the Klub Barfly thing on July 17.

Sulman leads, Klondike locks in.

This man admits that he cannot play guitar with his mouth closed.

The North 40 does make some concessions to calls for various faves, however, and you can always expect the odd Hitmen or Birdman cover in there. The encore, in fact, is a string of five covers with the band and crowd alike thoroughly enjoying themselves, even after the scheduled finishing time of 11.30pm. It’s a night when the North 40 Shakes Some Action and I Don’t Mind that one little bit. Not the least after I've taken my Electrophonic Tonic and said Aloha to Steve and Danno before lapsing into some City Slang.