Excelsior Hotel, Surry Hills
January 16, 2004

It’s been a long time between outings by Sheek the Shayk – nearly six months, actually – and the trashy end of the Sydney live music scene’s been all the poorer for their absence.

First things first and advertised support, gal punkers Miz Ann Thropic, are MIA, thanks, we’re told, to two band members having a falling-out. Replacing them is four-piece Tito Rivera, who I’d heard about but never caught live.

Where to start? Tito Rivera are out-of-tune, faux-confrontational art punk. Fronted by a singer wearing not much else than underpants and tatts, they’re as annoying as hell (and probably intentionally so). The singer spends much of the set spraying butane gas on various parts of his body and threatening to light the quiff of the guitarist from The Baddies.

Self-described lesbians (they’re all guys), there’s probably a use for the cucumber the singer had stuffed down his boxer shorts but I’m not about to suggest it while he's brandishing that gas bottle. The Reservoir Dogs-style masks on the guitarist, bass payer and drummer are nice touches and probably essential if they want a job with another band.

It's mildly amusing for a while but a jelly wrestling match between whoever had the shits with each other in Miz Ann Thropic might have been better value, or maybe someone should have just bunged a G. G. Allin tape on the PA and Tito and Co could have had the night off. Time to retire to the front bar to catch up with other drunks and eyeball the West Indies vs South Africa cricket on Foxtel...

The Crisps have been around for more than a year and I’ve been ridiculously tardy getting along to a show. A four-piece powered by the terrific drumming and singing of ex-New Christ Stu Wilson, they play energetic, strong guitar pop-rock.

Don’t know the songs (none of the three on their demo is aired tonight - pity 'cos "Evil Twin" is great) but they’re mostly hooky and full of dynamics. These tunes deserve to be recorded sooner rather than latger. Veteran Graham Hood on bass and the vocals (he of the ‘80s cowpunk band The Johnnys and, more recently, Orange County) and guitarists Dave Git and Chris Nacard ensure The Crisps are the sum of the parts. Go see ‘em soon.

On to the main event and the Sheek likes to call himself Senor Johnny these days, so he sports a sombrero instead of the usual Middle Eastern headgear. The band members are well-seasoned veterans who know how to mine the rich vein of Sonics/Nuggets/Birdman-inspired garage rock. It’s not pretty sounding but it’s pretty good with just enough schtick to make it stick, if you get my drift.

Speaking of schtick, the Sheek really is the focal point. The Golden One gesticulates, ceremonially removes his hat and places it, icon-like, on the stage before him. Nothing spectacular - and you do wait for something different after a few shows, drawing the line at cans of butane gas - but there's something comfortably re-assuring in today's Sydney about watching a man in a full face mask who isn't holding up a service station.

It’s done to a soundtrack of your basic primal grunt - nowhere moreso than on “Half Ape, Half Girl”, which marries the dumbest of lyrics to a sledgehammer riff. If you know the current album, “Hour of the Seventh Moon”, you’ll be familiar with what they pump out. It’s a good representation of the band live. So extra points for honesty.

The set list is strong on the recent tunes, not surprisingly. "She Gives the Sign" is just about my fave (gave it a spin the morning after) but you can probably reel off half-a-dozen others than sit just as well on a night like this.

At least one band member reckoned it was a so-so show with too many rough edges. Suppose that’s the way when you don’t play for so long. Still, it’s doubtful too many in the audience would lose any sleep over the odd bum note. We're not here for Beethoven's Fifth and most of us go home happy. - The Barman