Posted November 25, 2009

Waves Nightclub, TOWRADGI, NSW
Saturday, October 31, 2009


If you’re from Wollongong, Tumbleweed form an intrinsic part of your rock and roll heritage. They have a proud lineage which dates back to the late 80’s and continues in a handful of bands in the present, so it isn’t surprising that their first show in almost ten years would be a sell out and getting out of my car the air was a sea of anticipation hanging above the crowd which milled in the car park.

I entered the club and climbed the stairs to be confronted by the angry screech of Baby Machine who seemed to relish the grandeur of the stage, moving freely and confidently and clearly having a blast. Baby Machine are one of those beautifully angry girl bands that send a chill up my spine and the sound pumped out by this three piece seemed perfect on such a big stage. Their last song contained sentimental hooks to Wollongong and set the tone for the night – no longer stuck in the city, this was going to be a celebration of rock and roll on this particular piece of the coast.

Next up were Hytest who offered a generous mix of songs from both EPs as well as new material delivered in full Halloween spirit. Clad in capes and black eye make up, they injected a second helping of energy and the enthusiasm of their tight, upbeat, bass heavy sound spilled into the room. The evening’s tribute to Wollongong continued with a sing-a-long ode to Tarrawanna.

Although the comment has no doubt been made previously, you can’t help but note that the Tumbleweed family tree is represented in Hytest by Michael Curley, brother of Jay and Lenny from Tumbleweed and Dave from the Proton Energy Pills. The Curleys are the Kennedy family of Wollongong rock and roll and their influence on the scene resonates in a number of bands.

When for the last song of their set they invited a guest singer on stage I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the 1,500 plus crowd who was surprised to see Nick Oliveri from Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age wander out and grab the mic. and collide through “Jnr. High Love”. Word has it he has become quite the fan of Hytest so let’s hope the friends they are making, as well as their infectious tunes; help pave the way for a deserved full length release in the near future.

As soon as Hytest left the stage the collective anticipation became tangible and it seemed only fitting when stoner royalty Oliveri wandered out again to proclaim - “It’s been a long time coming, too long…” before inciting the crowd to chant as one and welcome the band to the stage.

They opened with the instrumental “Fritz”, from their Weedseed EP, which provided the space to get acquainted with the stage. Initially, they seemed uneasy, but the mellow “Atomic” allowed them to ease into themselves and give the audience a chance to get to know them again. Because Tumbleweed are like a friend with a drug problem, somewhere along the way something went wrong, and they weren’t who they used to be. You know you shared some good times together, and you always return to them, relive them, but it went bad, and now your trust must be earned.

The watershed started with the combination of the jumpy “Hang Around” and melodic “God” which twisted itself into the fluid “Ocean” and then continued throughout the 80 minute journey of highlights from their first four releases. When the first stage divers started, the trip back in time was complete causing newly reunited guitarist Hausmeister to remark – “I haven’t seen this since 1996” around the time the first split occurred. The band slowed things down midway with “Acidrain”, which did little to stop the crowd participation and the stage was soon crowded with security.

The set itself was almost identical to one performed on Triple J’s live at the wireless in 1993, a sonic time capsule and celebration of all that they were. The bass heaviness, the big muff tone and dripping, warm guitar melodies providing a backing for Lewis’ vocals which have deepened over the years and lost the captured youthfulness and polish of the recordings.

The cover heavy encore of The Fall’s “Mr Pharmacist”, Blue Cheer’s “Come and get It” and Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive” rounded out the evening and showed that they had become very comfortable indeed. Their bottom end growing alongside their confidence to become a menacing undertow amid a sea of cymbal wash as Lewis mounted the drum riser and beat cymbals alongside drummer Steve O'Brien.

At the end of the set when Lewis remarked that - “It’s off to Homebake now I guess…” you couldn’t help but feel like you were witnessing a scene from a feel-good movie about an against-the-odds comeback. One can’t help but wonder what the response of a younger, and undoubtedly, less sentimental, generation at Homebake will be? And, beyond that, where will the wind blow Tumbleweed next?