Shutdown 66 +
The Sailors
Saturday November 9, 2002
@ the Hoey

WORDS AND PICTURES: John McPharlin

Yeah, I'm late as usual. In fact I'm later than usual; not only have I missed the opening act, but as I approach the door I can hear that the Sailors are already on stage and in full swing (and believe me, when you mention swinging in the same sentence as the Sailors, you're lifting the lid on a very wide range of deviant possibilities). The fact that I see Kev "Big Daddy" Cherry going in through the door just ahead of me isn't much consolation, since he has his own radio show on Saturday nights (on 2RRR-FM, as those in Sydney would already know), which gives him an excuse for being late; me, I've just been slouched on the couch, scratching my nuts and failing to keep an eye on the clock...

As is typical when the Sailors are playing, there's a tight crowd towards the back of the room and a sizeable chunk of empty real estate up close to the stage. This makes it a hard trek from the door to the bar, but an easy step to the stage afterwards. This is the first time I've seen them as a four piece and for a few seconds I forget that the Barman mentioned in his review of their new album that Matt Heydon, from Spencer Jones' band Cow Penalty, has now joined the band, so I suffer a brief moment of tortured self-doubt before I'm completely sure it's them, but there's little room left for doubt once I catch an earful of the lyrics (a tender song about the many ways of love, with the catchy chorus "your cunt, my ass" - though the Barman has referred to a song with a chorus of "your cock, my ass" in his review, so I could be wrong, but it definitely sounds to me like they're going for a major "C" and not a minor "C").

The Barman has raved about their new album. However most of the newer songs must have been put toward the early part of the set, because I haven't got the new album yet but I am familiar with most of what I hear in what remains of the set (including those continuing concert favourites "Swashbuckling Faggots" and "Trim the Bush"), or maybe it's just that in the new songs they play tonight they continue to fool around with the same themes, so they sound familiar (ominously familiar, like the slap of rubber against skin as your doctor pulls the gloves on tight before that dreaded proctological examination... now bend over and say "Aaaaahhhh!").

Given that Sydney is hosting the Gay Games at the moment, they're pretty game themselves to be touring here at this time, but caution and restraint don't seem to be part of their lexicon. Continuing their hyperactive passage out of the closet and into the garage, tonight's performance is another frenetic and confrontational display. The twin guitar (no bass) attack isn't just confined to the stage either, with one guitarist taken to leaping off it for extra emphasis, just about knocking me over in the process - twice! While it's nowhere near as upsetting as being kicked in the head by a crowd surfer, it's still mildly disconcerting as I'm much more accustomed to such trouble coming at me from behind (shit, now I'm starting to sound like I might be quoting the lyrics from one of their songs).

When the set ends, there are many calls from the audience (from a safe distance, it should be noted) for that song with the chorus about punching someone in the arse "with the fist of my cock", but while they haven't run out of enthusiasm or energy, they have run out of time and having left the stage, they are unable to return.

One of the few to have ventured close to the stage during their set is Roll Cage's Ashley Thomson, looking pretty amused with the performance we've just witnessed. In the brief chat we have before he wanders off "to work the room" he tells me that none of the pictures I took for him with his digital camera at the recent Roll Cage launch came out, but mercifully he blames the camera rather than me, saying that he thinks he's now finally worked out the correct low light settings.

I get another beer and then hang loose waiting for Shutdown 66 to start and what a start it is! Right near the stage the Hoey has a couple of inconvenient poles supporting the ceiling and the management have made the best they can out of a bad situation by wrapping a narrow ledge around each of them at about elbow height, which is perfect for resting your glass... or your elbow. Having wasted no time setting up their gear, the band's warm up starts sounding more serious and next thing I know the singer's standing next to me, thrusting his mike in my direction and signaling me to grab it. Having been jumped on by one of the Sailors already, I feel I've done my bit for audience participation this evening, but he really does only want me to hold it for a few seconds while he clambers up onto the aforementioned drinks ledge. Then he takes back the mike and the band are suddenly full on into the first number while he leans out over the audience, holding on to the pole with his free hand and belting out the first song.

I back up to try to get a decent photo and in the process bump into a guy having trouble with his digital camera. Only it turns it's not his digital camera, it belongs to the Shutdown 66 drummer, who has asked him to take a few photos of the band in action. Somehow he's extended the built in zoom lens and now can't get it to retract. As we both try unsuccessfully to figure out which button to press (none of them seem to do anything, but who knows what other settings are being stuffed up in the process), he comments dejectedly that this is exactly the sort of problem you should expect to get y'self into when you let a drummer force his camera on you. Amen to that brother.

It appears I'm not going to be getting that many good pix tonight either, because none of the band members seem to want to stand still for a second (except for the drummer, but there's always someone else hurtling in front of him). The singer in particular, once he comes down from the drinks ledge, is all over the stage and off it too; down into the audience, down onto his knees, up onto the bar at the side of the room and all without the pace of the music easing up for a second.

The stage act is great, but it's the music that seals the deal. There have been a lot of garage/blues revival and garage/psyche revival bands over the last decade, even more so in recent years, and some of them have been bloody great, but these guys absolutely sound like the real deal. You could take tonight's set, slap it on vinyl and package it as a lost classic recorded by some unfairly overlooked band of young hopefuls at a dance at the local Mechanics Institute hall in 1965 and no one would question it - they'd be too busy trying to round up the former members and package a reunion album, tour and video.

This band has got it all, from the raw RnB of the Pretty Things/early Stones to the over-the-top amphetamine rave up of the Yardbirds to the desperate, go-for-broke intensity of all those obscure sixties mid-western one hit garage bands, who were so busy trying to emulate their idols that most of them didn't realise that in their crude and basic, but sincere and earnest, approach they were actually making an original contribution to rock'n'roll themselves. Clearly Shutdown 66 do know full well what they are doing, but that doesn't make them any less honest (and it sure doesn't make them any less exciting to watch and listen to).

Towards the end of the set, when the singer makes a second foray up onto the bar, the drummer picks up his floor tom tom and joins him on the bar (yes, I do definitely mean "on" the bar, not "at" the bar). Man, I've seen a few guitarists do that, I've seen plenty of singers do it, but this is the first time I've ever seen a drummer do it. Not content with marching up and down the bar a couple of times, the punters frantically grabbing up their drinks out of the way before they get kicked over, the drummer gets down and makes a full circuit of the room before making his way back to the stage.

It's a good size crowd, but certainly not shoulder to shoulder, which is how the drummer is able to make it around the room. The fact is that it should have been shoulder to shoulder though, sold out almost as soon as the doors opened with late comers being turned away by the bouncers (self-appointed amateur web critics excepted of course). Why isn't some bloated multinational conglomerate putting the hard word on these guys? Where's the fucking mass media promotion, the rock press full page display ads, the late night TV promos, the casual "impromptu" mentions by the morning crew, the guest appearances on The Panel and Rove Live, the bogus street teams, the cynical virus marketing...?

Like Ashley Thomson's Roll Cage, their songs are currently only available on vinyl, though thanks to the long arm of the promotions department at Corduroy Records a "radio sampler" on CD of their three current albums has found its way into the Bar's mailbox. When I worked at Bondi Junction, the secondhand stores near the studios of 2MMM and 2DAY (both of which are in the same building, strangely enough) were chock full of CDs gold stamped "promotion only, not for sale", so apparently the radio station staffers are accustomed to supplementing their incomes by carting the review freebies down the street an armful at a time for that extra beer money. That's probably the only way you're going to see any of these tunes on CD in the near future (but don't expect this particular copy to turn up there, or on eBay either, any time soon), though if/when Get Hip release their records on CD in the U.S. you might be able to buy them here as expensive imports.

I know as much about this band as you do, unless of course you haven't read the Barman's recent interview with front man Nicky Shutdown, in which case I guess I might know a bit more than you do, but that still isn't much. Since this is their first visit up to Sydney from Melbourne, maybe I can console myself that there's no reason to have heard much about them before now, but then I read that they've already toured Scotland, Japan, the U.S. (including playing at the legendary Las Vegas Grind) and Europe and I start to wonder why the fuck haven't I heard of them before now? I'm certainly going to be listening out for them in future!

After what I've witnessed tonight, there are some new gods in my version of garage heaven.

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