THE SCREAMING TRIBESMEN
+ THE CASANOVAS
The Gershwin Room, Esplanade Hotel
St Kilda VIC
Friday, September 23, 2011
Words: MARK BREKAU
Photos: RICHARD SHARMAN of Blackshadow Photography
Share It's Wednesday morning, and while out shopping I visit JB Hi-Fi to secure the free music press. Get home, make coffee and read said music press mags before lunch. Turn the pages, but there's nothing new. Head toward the back pages and spy a quarter page ad with a blue vampire image. Pay closer attention. Look twice to ensure my mind isn't playing tricks on me, for I can't quite believe what I am reading.
It's true. It's bloody true. Yesterday I booked a ticket to see Melbourne's Huxton Creepers'reunion gig, and after hanging up the phone I thought it would be fabulous to see the Screaming Tribesmen reform for a gig. Twenty-four hours later and here they are, turning the dream into reality.
Grab some scissors and cut out the ad. Discover my daughter looking at it minutes later, only to take a dislike to the blue vampire image it contains. Child starts quibbling, wife investigates and issues a verbal broadside to husband about leaving said ad on the table, showing images apparently 'unsuitable' for children. Hide the ad, grab the laptop and seek refuge in the lounge. Log onto the net and head for The Espy website, find the gig is 100% correct and book my ticket. Ring around my band mates and find both otherwise engaged on the evening of the gig. One tries to cancel his engagement, but his wife says no, and he listens! So flying solo for the gig, I start the countdown. 16 days to go until I see the Screaming Tribesmen play Melbourne for the first time in 24 years…
The Gershwin Room at the Esplanade Hotel (the Espy) is an eclectic live venue of long standing. For example, it's hosting The Screaming Tribesmen and rapper Ice Cube in the same week. I don't recall seeing the Tribesmen play there before, and the last time I saw them perform was around 1987, so there's a 24 year gap between gigs. Melbourne is cold tonight and parking is abysmal. Once abundant and free, parking is now restricted and charged. Bloody council! Thankfully I find a two hour spot around 10pm, just near the hotel. Enter The Espy and find it full of football types, watching an AFL match on the big screen. Push past and hand my ticket to a lady who duly stamps my hand. Enter the Gershwin Room and stop. It's the size of the crowd, or should I say lack of size. Not quite three men and a dog, but not far off it either. I hold fears that the band reunion has been ignored by Melbourne, and my fears are almost confirmed once The Cassanovas take the stage. Slightly rusty, they power through their set, breaking only to tune-up guitars and receive applause from the small, yet appreciative, crowd.
Grab a beer and watch the roadie set up the bands equipment, standing beside two other people who also appear solo tonight. As the stage builds, so does the crowd. A mix of ages and appearances, a few in sixties attire, but most in modern casual clothing. Most are middle aged men, with many sporting balding or bald heads. Thankfully, I have a full head of hair, and its shoulder length, exactly the same length as when last I saw the Tribesmen. Around 11:30pm the intro music is played, the lights dim and I notice the crowd has increased, quite significantly in fact. Possibly 150+, although I can't see to the back of the room, so there could be more. Then the guitarists enter, the roadie ushering them on stage one by one, handing them their 'axes' while the crowd clap and whistle.
Visually, and clothing aside, the band look similar to the last time I saw them. Warwick, like myself, has attracted a few kilos over the years, dons a well worn band t-shirt and displays a full head of hair. Bob looks impervious to age and remarkably relaxed in black shirt, blue jeans and black cowboy boots. Mick remains thin, with long brown hair that shows the early signs of thinning. But it's Chris that makes the most visual impact. He looks extremely healthy, sports a suntan, wears glasses and is dressed in a casual white shirt, blue jeans and black boots. He also sports a bald head. Where's the hair? There's no sign of the rock star 'barnet' he once sported in the eighties, and visually he looks more like a teacher than a rock star. On stage, there's a visual comparison with Andy Partridge from XTC.
Without introduction, 'Casualty of Love' kicks off the set, a fast number to rekindle Melbourne's love affair with the band. 'You better run' leads into 'Ice' and then 'High time', before the melodic 'Girl of my dreams' slows down the tempo. Mick then thanks the audience for attending, and makes reference to the fact his ears are still blocked from the day's flight down south. Then Bob plays a bass line that gets my heart pumping, its 'Move a Little Closer', a personal favourite, and as the band play my mind wanders back to previous gigs, especially one memorable performance at the Prince of Wales Hotel. I'm in heaven. Next up is 'Infidel', and then 'I've Got a Feeling', and the crowd go mad (well, as more animated and excited than before!)
Despite an absence of 24 years, the band is well rehearsed and tight musically. There are no major mishaps, and the songs are played at the same pace and passion we are accustomed too. Nothing is slowed, or changed, from the way they were presented back in the eighties. After 'No chance' Mick introduces the band, and then Chris introduces Mick. The crowd applaud each member, the band smile and launch into 'Left In The Dark', 'Colour Me Gone' and 'Top of the Town' in quick succession. Well almost, as some tuning is required between songs.
'Igloo' and 'Two Blind Mice' are met with hearty appreciation. Its then that a sense of sadness prevails, for its been 24 years since I last saw the band live, and now they only have two or three songs to play until they finish, possibly for the last time. Then Chris plays a fleeting guitar solo to introduce 'Date with a vampyre', the crowd go wild and the band power through their signature tune. As they perform, and in front of Mick, a tall and stocky chap appears and bounces around, singing loudly, as if his life depends upon it. Sweat pours from this brow as he punches the air and sings, nee shouts, his way through the song. Next to me the Asian chap finally removes his hoodie, and I find him singing merrily away as well. The crowd go wild, the band finish and stand together, without guitars, to take a bow, enjoy the adulation and savour the applause. A second bow and then they depart. Exit stage left, as is the case.
Within a couple of minutes they return to the stage. Mick thanks the crowd for their support, and they play two more songs. Then it's officially over. The lights come up and the band departs backstage, all but Chris, who remains on stage to shake hands and apply 'high fives' with the fans. He remains for two or three minutes, before he too leaves one final time. The roadie wastes no time in cleaning up, and I secure a set list from the drum kit, the only one still available, with his help. Thank you.
I then head home, reflecting upon the terrific live performance I'd just seen, from a band that I never thought would play live in my home town again. The Screaming Tribesmen are definitely one of Australia's premier rock bands, and they delivered the goods tonight, just as they had done in their heyday. Personally, there's no more sadness tonight, because I have been satisfied musically by a band I hold in high regard (for example, the band t-shirt I own has been worn in 14 countries since 1987. Alas, it's currently in storage pending use, due to an issue with the author's weight!)
Then as I cross the West Gate Bridge my mind begins to wander. I find myself creating a stellar line-up for my ultimate Australian gig, to be held at the Espy at some future date. It features the Screaming Tribesmen, the Lime Spiders, the Hard-on's (with Keish), the Huxton Creepers, Bored!, The Stems and the Powder Monkeys, and they will play the same bill over 7 nights. Talk about pure indulgence! Now I'm confident I can get all the bands to play, bar the Powder Monkeys (Tim Hemmersley, RIP). So I wonder if Mick, Bob, Chris and Warwick would be interested in reforming for another gig next year…