The Spanish Club, Melbourne
MAY 5, 2006

Pics & Wheels by JULIAN WU

On a cold and very wet night we head over to Fitzroy through the football traffic, chauffeur-driven in the back of a panel van full of sacks of Heat Beads. The amigos at the Spanish have dragged us all the way across town again- another indication of how Melbourne’s venue epicenter is shifting ever north.

As a smoker myself, I appreciate the smoke-free band room here. It’s a big kinda art deco-y space, which reminds me of going to places like the Ballroom or the Venetian Room in years gone by: it feels a bit dislocated to be watching sweaty rock music in a gracefully faded old place like this. The only problem is that the room empties regularly as smokers disappear to the front bar for a fag. It breaks up the vibe a bit, though the music in the front bar isn’t too bad - on a visit for more (excellent) sangria I hear the Rezillos, Wire and Radio Birdman.

Only caught four songs by the Stabs. They are a noisy, churning and very fluid three piece, who seem to take the take the whole rock thing pretty lightly. They are popular with the (large) crowd. I’m pleased to see Wu is already up front, risking life and limb for some good shots.

Between bands in the main room, dj Dr. El Suavo is spinnin’ some cool cheesy vinyl, looking very sharp in a white jumpsuit with Mexican wrestler’s mask and fez. He has a theremin too, but it’s not plugged in to the PA. A pity really- I’ve finally finished my “Mamma Mia”-style theremin rock opera, based on the music of the Flesh Eaters, called “Drag My Pony Dress In The Mud”, and it’s just itching to be heard. Not tonight though.

The Nation Blue are also a three piece. Aggressive, in your face, intent on destroying their own gear from the off, over the course of 45 minutes the attraction wears off a bit. There’s not a lot of light and shade in their set- everything is full throttle. Imagine the Mark of Cain, or Unsane, without the slower menacing stuff.

Their unique playing style made the Nation Blue very popular

Some of the Man’s Ruin burlesque girls are here, searching the crowd for unattached Hicks, as per their myspace postings earlier in the week. The club bouncers are a humorless bunch, full of orders - don’t stand there, don’t sit there, you can’t smoke here, no drinks in glass, sit down, move along. The only escape is the side alley at the back of the club, which provides a charming and unobstructed view of the men’s urinals.

Thankfully, Sixfthick take the stage fairly early, and I do mean take. Ben and Geoff stake out their territory, very quickly, including the first few rows of bystanders, and the band are straight into it. The first part of the set parallels the track listing of “Cane Trash”, with “The Five Tips”, “Flight of The Shitbird” “Ashtray” & “Beat Myself” coming out in rapid order. Shirts are taken off, glasses smashed on heads, tattoos are flaunted, a very fine moustache is stroked. They aren’t afraid to take some hard knocks, either, slamming into all comers and rolling on the floor. It’s a bit odd to realize Ben is wearing long johns under his ripped jeans- guess he wanted to be prepared for the Melbourne winter weather.

Ben spots the cops.

“40 Cents” is dedicated to the Fortitude Valley Tourism Board, and is followed by a full on “I Was Just Cleaning It”, which leaves me speechless. The fusion of the two brothers’ voices, and their sweaty animal stage presence, AND the heavy duty back up, is almost too much to take… Spooky Records main man Loki looks very pleased in his perch behind the mixing desk.

Geoff takes a break from prowling the stage and dance floor to pour a beer into his boot and offer it round, with more than a few eager takers, before Ben commands the crowd to get on their knees and pray. A couple of hundred folks comply, and are treated to an off the cuff sermon: “My name…and my god…is ROCK AND ROLL! Hallelujah!” -before being blessed in the holy name of rock, to rise up again healed and rejuvenated. This semi-spoken word interlude seems to have given the band a breathing space, and they tear through a couple of killer encores of “Dogshit Blues” and “Post Powder Blues” before they (unwillingly) leave the stage.

God knows what Europe will make of them later this year, though personally I expect they will down a storm. They are doing a string of east coast dates before then - miss ‘em at your peril.

& an OP Bundy chaser, thanks Barman.