The Empire Hotel, Annandale
Thursday, November 3, 2005

Words & Pictures: THE BARMAN

If their first Australian tour was a chance for French band Holy Curse to visit one of their main places of influence and rub shoulders with some of the participants, their final show on these shores was an elevation of that experience.

Names on record covers became acquaintances in the flesh - some renewed from European shows, others new. This farewell gig was as good an opportunity to let out the accelerator and cut loose.

Their pairing with Vindicator Electro (pictured right) was an inspired one (if I don't say so myself). There's an obvious nod to Detroit rock in both their styles, although dismissing either as mere Birdman cops is lazy in the extreme. Soulfness lies at both their hearts.

The same can said for the inclusion of Mink Jaguar as the opener, but that's another exercise in contrasts.

While VE and the Curse employ solid muscle to varying degrees, Mink Jaguar don't as much assail as wail with deep deposits of traditional rock and roll and rhythm and blues running through their musical veins. They're not very theatrical - they all dress down and although the drummer wields his sticks with flair as he makes his way around the kit, the bass player and guitarist/vocalist are more or less tied to the spot - but their songs really cut it.

No minks or jaguars were harmed in the taking of this shot.

The rhythm section is tight as the figurative piscatorial rectum with the ability to swing on occasions. When they do, it's deadly. It's the bedrock on which the band is built. The songs are great and the guitar player has his chops down, at not stage overplaying. They have a great song about Campsie and a few others worth your while. Go have a listen for yourself if you don't believe me.

Holy Curse has been in heaven for two weeks and it hurts to go home, so they're determined to leave an impression on the good-ish sized Thursday night crowd that's started to fill the room. They take time to give out some generous plaudits to a few people invovled with the tour and they're off like a Renault down a very steep hill.

Vinz gets down and dirty on bass, Eric lays down vocals.

The inclusion of the newly-recorded "Preacherman" in the set is welcome;"Let's Go Surfing" just gets better. No point taking apart the set number-by-number when you won't know many if any of the originals; just grab the latest album on Off the Hip here and hear for yourself.

Visually, HC looks every inch a rock and roll band (hence the earlier reference to contrasts in style). That's not the main pre-requsite to being good, but presentation is often an important element of rock and roll. From Paul's knee-bends to Eric's engaging, shades-clad presence, they dish it up with rocking savoir-faire.

Ex-New Christs bass player Christian Houllemare reprises his guest spot of 10 days earlier at the Annandale in "No Way on Earth". Second guest spot of the night is Vindicator Electro's drummer (bloke by the name of Masuak) who borrows bandmate Dean Coulter's guitar for a stupefying "City Slang". Very cool and let's hope they make it back out to Australia in the not too distant future (once the dust settles on the credit card debt).

"C-c-c-c-c-c--ity Slang".

Vindicator Electro has played less than half a dozen public gigs in their short life so there's a mix of the curious (the majority) and the converted when they hit the stage about 11. Johnny Cash's "When The Man Comes Around" grabs premier place on the grid as the band flexes its muscles and revs into gear.

Holy Curse is a hard act to follow tonight but Vindicator Electro put their collective shoulder to the wheel and lay on a great set. Difficult to classify - the Detroit tag, again, is a little cursory as they cover many more bases - and capable of a gritty grandeur, they hold the crowd's attention to the end. Dean Coulter's cowboy hat isn't the only giveaway. VE are a little country, a lot rock and very pop (in places). Songs like "Dusted" plough the latter ground to good effect but the common thread is a sort of freewheeling energy. A sprinkling of newies (the memory's tested 'cos I didn't grab a set list) pepper the line-up and are a sign of a band not just slapping something together for the hell of it.

There's the odd dip into Doorsian territory - keyboardist Bruce Tatham teases with snatches of "The End" and "Touch Me" at times. Coulter's originals deserve to be recorded (a few of them have been in his former band Decline of the Reptiles) as they really are the heart of this band.

Like the other acts on the bill, the quality of songs is the main thing but VE also like to put it across with flair. The set turns into a freestyle wrestling match when a fishnet fan tangles with frontman Mark Sisto. Never one to shirk a challenge, Sisto goes on to claim a technical victory. What is it about female crowd participation and The Empire? Last time I was here - with Holy Curse after their Annandale show - there was a performance art spectacular underway with someone blasting balloons off a woman's body with fireworks. Back in August, someone tangled with the Intecontinental Playboys on their Lords of Gravity support.

The pictures tell the story: