Excelsior Hotel, Surry Hills
Saturday, September 4, 2010

Words and Photos: THE BARMAN

Brisbane rock writer Andrew Stafford declared Hits "the best band in the country" in an e-mail to a slew of Sydney people a few days before this show. Anyone who'd seen the same bill at the Excelsior back in May wasn't offering contradictions.

I was otherwise unavailable then night and feel like shit tonight. It's with a head full of 'flu and a heart-full of worry that I traipse to Slurry Hills. (The latter's because I parked in a timed parking zone with no money for a meter - The Barmaid knocked off all the coins I had in the car - plus I always wanted to paraphrase "Electrophonic Tonic" in a review.)

True to his word, Andrew Stafford was there. He'd endured the 10-hour drive down to Maitland the night before to catch both bands. He's also put his own money down to split the costs with label Merenose to press a run of the Hits' scarily great album "Living With You Is Killing Me" on vinyl. That's commitment.

There's commitment too in what Hits do - even if part of that involves beating their raging hangovers to death. I have a feeling Hits don't do mornings. Or afternoons.

Whatever the time of day, it takes commitment for any interstate band to get up on a stage in Sydney, where there are too few venues populated by even too fewer people. We're living at the Church of Indifference, as a previous bunch of Brisbanites might have observed, so it's a pleasant surprise to see a big crowd at the Ex tonight. The curious and the already indoctrinated are as one, straining for a spot at the front of the room.

Hits ease their way into their set - like a blind man feeling his way onto a trapeze. There are no nets and once he takes that first plunge into the abyss, the momentum is unstoppable.

Vocalist Richard is into this from the get-go, hair still the way it probably was when he woke and wearing his best op shop Anzac Day suit. Evil Dick looks like the black sheep who snuck into his late uncle's Vietnam vet reunion to swipe everyone else's drinks while they weren't looking. His war stories are about personal crises and all the shit that goes with everyday living. He harangues. He gesticulates. He doesn't let up. Not one bit.

The heart of Hits is Richard and guitarist Tamara, partners and musical soulmates in this rock and roll endeavour. Tamara adds the guitar spice, the smeary lead-breaks that punctuate the songs. The wise-cracking couple would be hard-pressed to find people more in sympathy with their musical devils than those assembled around them tonight.

Bassist Ed lays down hot, sticky sonic tar for the others to walk over. No fuss, he just does it. Drummer Gregor Mulvey rolls out a steamroller rhythm with just enough give either side of the beat. Stacey (above) doesn't do much more than fill in the gaps with rock-solid, barre chords but they flesh out the sound exceedingly well. No-one in Hits is a virtuoso, but together they're fucking unstoppable.

We get most of the album ("Fuck The Needy", "Living With You" and the Lee Hazelwood cover "The Night Before" are killer) and a few new ones. That last point is reassuring because many bands hoist themselves to a level they're comfortable with just stop. That doesn't look like happening to Hits in the near future.

Their set's too short but that means it's not long to wait for the New Christs. The room is comfortably full by the time they blast into a now familiar and well-oiled set.

If you've perused these reviews you'll know the high regard in which I hold this band. No elucidation needed and it warms the cockles of my heart to see so many people in.

It's not often I hang back at a New Christs show but I spend most of the set near the mixer, appreciating the sonic fireworks in balanced stereo. My ears are already fried and flu mutating into a heavy head cold is no way to spend a Saturday. Sniff. Like you care.

So we'll leave the detailed rundown on the headliner till another review. They rocked as they usually do and that's the truth, but it was Hits' night. If someone in Europe doesn't pony up some airfares to get their collective arses on a plane to some festival sidestages, there is no justice in the world.



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