The Crusaders + Thee Psycho Delmatics + Lords of Gravity + The Shimmys + The Unspoken Things
@ The Tote Hotel, Melbourne
Friday, April 29, 2005

Pictures: MICK BATY

Domestic logistics prevented me from arriving early enough to see Adelaide band The Unspoken Things' first away gig. I had hoped to see the set – the band's four track EP (recorded almost 18 months ago) is worth a listen – and reports from those who witnessed the set were universally positive.

Hopefully they'll make the trek across the Princess Highway again soon, possibly in support of their forthcoming debut full length recording.

The Shimmys were about three songs into their set by the time I'd found a beer to rest casually in my hand to begin the night's birthday celebrations.

Housed in the Tote's upstairs attic known as the Cobra Bar – a room marginally bigger than the Town Hall Hotel in North Melbourne, but not much bigger than my own lounge room (but with a lot more beer stains on the floor) – The Shimmys shimmied and grooved their way through a highly entertaining set; and for the third consecutive occasion, band members wore new matching outfits (this led me to wonder if one of the defining distinctions between male and female garage outfits is an attention to fashion – your average male garage band will think nothing of wearing the same crusty t-shirt and jeans for 20 gigs in a row, despite the protestations of all around them).

A particular highlight came at the end of the gig when Anita summoned The Hoodoo Gurus' Dave Faulkner to the stage for some back-up vocal duties on "Money", and some very entertaining knee-bound air guitar moves.

It was back downstairs for the Lords of Gravity set. For mine, this was the best bracket of the night – the Lords' garage meets Adelaide psychedelia c1967 sound was remarkably crisp tonight (particularly in light of the band's absence from the stage for 6 months, and an apparently very 'unplugged' rehearsal session a few days before the gig).

There was an unmistakeable Masters Apprentices' tone and psych-blues chord progression about this set, and it hit the mark perfectly. In fact, for about three songs straight, I could have sworn that the ghost of "Turn Up Your Radio" was wandering the room – but each time in a slightly different guise, with the band's resonant performance ensuring this was no simple rip-off. There was a dedication to 'the Adelaide crew', and although it was directed at others in the room, the ensuing garage-psych extravaganza made me remember that my home town has actually produced some very good music in its contemporary history.

Unfortunately due to a need to get some air and more beer (though in hindsight that might have been the time to have some well chosen glasses of water) I missed Thee Psycho Delmatics set upstairs (I wonder how Dave Delmatic - pictured above - managed to kept himself out of the audience's face in such a restricted physical environment). But what I could hear of the set sounded as robust as usual.

The Crusaders finished the night off. In their purple crushed velvet outfits.
These guys are possibly the house band that Richard the Lionhearted took with him to play after a tough day fighting the Muslims to reclaim the Holy Land. In the case of The Crusaders, the Holy Land is the land of rock'n'roll, - and the Crusaders are out to return it to its rightful garage keepers.

The band's on-stage banter has a subtle confrontational edge which – to continue the crusading metaphor – can be a two-edged sword, depending on the attitude of the audience.

Thankfully everyone in the audience tonight was happy to be here, knew what they were getting, and were very satisfied with what they got – and Ron Peno did plenty for the mood of the night by invoking his own idiosyncratic dance moves adjacent to the stage.

Mickster took leave of his drumkit toward the end of the set to light four candles on a small sponge cake and lead the crowd through a rendition of Happy Birthday to celebrate Off The Hip's fourth birthday – and in a throwback to earlier Crusaders moments, the cake was then hurled into the crowd.

Some more songs, and the night was over, a very enjoyable birthday celebration for the lads at Off the Hip, and a very fitting celebration to a label, recording outfit, retail store, magazine and general ethos that continues to serve the garage rock and powerpop loving population in the best possible way.