Saturday 10 October, 2009
Wickham Park Hotel, Newcastle


To be honest I wasn’t expecting much from this performance. I’d heard about this new band but whilst interested to see it, opportunities to be able to get out and see bands these days for me are limited. I was very much in favour instead of saving my cash for the following week’s New Christs show which is booked in for a venue approx 500 metres from tonight’s gig.

I’ll get it out of the way first, the ‘featuring Deniz Tek’ is what eventually drew me and probably most to The Soul Movers’ gigs. Deniz and any other traveling act featuring anything Birdman related has always been given fair and enthusiastic support from Novocastrians. I doubt it still stems from Deniz’s early intern days whilst learning his doctoring trade in Newcastle, more so Newcastle’s love of Detroit rock and the countless inspired by Deniz in the first place to pick up a guitar.

Suprisingly enough for Newcastle, the Wickham Park Hotel was not filled with old Birdman shirts tonight, instead the crowd consisted mostly of locals at this re-born blues venue. Gone are the days when this place was strictly off limits to men as Newcastle’s only lesbian bar, it is now regularly packed with 40 - 50 yrs + blues and rock enthusiasts enjoying free entry and blues cover bands. That said, the crowd was considerably smaller tonight than for the week prior whose lineup consisted of a fast blues rock cover band that perhaps Chris Masuak would have been proud to be associated with.

I arrived with only two songs left of the first set. First impression was that of a tight and semi-polished band who played up-tempo classic (60s) soul rock. My opinion was that despite a few up dancing the band seemed kinda flat. Lizzie Mack, whilst hitting the notes and obviously a good singer didn’t seem to be too enthusiastic or overly confident. Deniz likes the Stones. Anyone familiar with Tek’s playing would very quickly notice a subtle departure from his usual style, a lot lighter, less abrasive and not bar chord orientated, and had clearly spent considerable time perfecting note for note riffs from some classic old songs (if only I’d pinched a set list I could list them).

The interval of the two 45 minute sets was announced by Deniz in a familiar ‘short break... 15 minutes’. The highlight of this break was the case of ‘who souvenired Deniz’s guitar picks’ during the interval. Interesting to see Deniz, then Pip Hoyle, then Andy Newman (of the 2008 ‘Visitors’ reformation) searching the floor between the stage and bar in earnest for a small piece of triangular plastic that Tek may have dropped. Gear was searched, pockets emptied, and even a public service announcement by Lizzie Mack requesting the souvenired picks to be returned were to no avail. Bass picks (thick) offered to Deniz were clearly out of the question for these riffy songs so it was lucky that Andy found a secret reserve stash of guitar picks. If only I could have had on me just one of the many, many of his picks I’ve souvenired off of him over the years..

A different band came out for the second set. Yep, still ‘The Soul Movers’ but ready for some action. Mack was right into it, tambourine in hand, talking about the stories behind the writing of the songs, barefoot and really standing up (tall) as an attention commanding front person. This was a completely different performer than the first set. She was ready to open up and belt these songs out. Her original songs were real standouts lyrically and vocal delivery was nice. Dressed unpretentiously, barefoot, and with tambourine in hand, Mack is a solid vocalist who I’d like to see again.

Tek loves the Stones. The story is there in Vivien Johnson’s mythologising book about the day Deniz met Keith Richards. Quoted is how Deniz practiced and practiced Stones songs, learnt them by heart, to perhaps optimistically have a chance at trialing for the then vacant guitar place. Until now I hadn’t seen such a reverence for Richards’ style in Tek’s playing. Tonight he changed that. Tonight Deniz was letting out all that repressed urge to play like Keef and even mix up within his own signature stances quite a few Richards ‘poses’, the slight look sideways head movements after certain chords, shoulder shrugs, subtle pick raising, Keef stuff. Mixed amongst tonight’s distinctly 60s playing style were glimpses of Tek’s signature and very familiar licks during solos but for the most part he remained (from what I’m used to with him) clearly out his hard rockin comfort zone and completely in what is obviously a style he is not only familiar and comfortable with but also passionate about. I’ll go so far to say that I haven’t seen Deniz play so passionately and with obvious sheer joy than since a few select DTG gigs in the late 90s.

The supporting cast for Tek and Mack were by no means stuck in the background. Pip Hoyle played his consistent and unassuming role on the left wing just as anyone familiar with him will imagine. Pip is always there with and for Tek. You would be hard pressed to find a more humble person with such rock pedigree and involvement in worthwhile Australian rock than doctor Hoyle. Andy Newman, who I only became familiar with during the 2008 ‘Visitors’ reformation, is an outstanding bass player and didn’t miss a beat during the show.

The highlight of the second set was watching the interaction between Tek and drummer Calvin. This guy was phenomenal, well worth just turning up just to watch him beat the shit out his kit. I’ve seen people hit a kit hard, but with such improvisation, reverence to soul drumming, and brutal tribal beat, he really stood out. Rising from his stool frequently to emphasise notes, the interaction between him and Tek clearly inspired and pushed Deniz on with the energy emanating from this kit. Eye contact. Deniz had Calvin locked in with ‘that’ glare for most of the end of the set. Just like Nik Reith had a unique connection with Deniz on stage, so did this guy. I’d be very surprised if Deniz doesn’t continue some kind of collaboration with this drummer.

All up the second set was different from the first. The crowd who may or may not have come to see The Soul Movers or the lure or ‘featuring Deniz Tek’ were all into it, dancing, and reacted vocally and warmly when the band really warmed up and hit the big ones, especially towards the end of the show. By the way, after a long absence, Deniz finally brought out ‘the’ white Epiphone.