Leadfinger on the road: Twin guitars assault Adelaide, locals pretend it isn’t happening

leadfinmger adelaide augustLeadfinger rocks out. Adelaide slumbers.   Mandy Tzaras photo.

It’s going to take a while to recover from this weekend. Each of the bands above play very different rock from each other, and were all well-suited in the line-up. Curiously, at each gig I was reminded of the late Darby Crash.

Friday night gigs are always a bit weird as so many of today’s musicians have day jobs. So, for example, they finish a week’s work and, instead of coming home to a beer or four and a chewie, people have to hurry home, put their gear together, get their stage concentration going and head out the door.

So a Friday night gig has all the makings of tired people fucking up and so on; for myself, I have work the following day, so I have to curtail the popping of champagne corks (cue: mock-chorus of “aaww” followed by a hail of empties).

Leadfinger 
+ Colonised+ Dark Avenue + The C-Bombs
Enigma Bar, Adelaide
Friday, August 12, 2016

Leadfinger
+ Rat Carcher + The Pro-Tools
The Metro, Adelaide
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Mandy Tzaras photos

For a variety of reasons I only caught a few minutes of Colonised and Dark Avenue. I’ll have to rectify this as both looked good and I do apologise to the bands. Their Facywacybuk sites are here and here

Spare a thought for Tony, the C-Bombs singer. Half his time is spent in his shop Retro-Bait in the famous wine-making region of the Clare Valley, a couple hours’ drive north of Adelaide. So he shuts his shop at the end of the day, clambers into his car and hurtles down the blacktop through the rush-hour, gets changed and hurries back out.

So the The C-Bombs should, by rights, do woeful Friday night gigs, right? Also, the Enigma, I don’t like it as a venue. Kinda wanna-be bikie and wanna-be chicky-babe chic, always reminds me of the place you go to when you don’t think you deserve anything better and should be charged more for less. The "all-ages" gig (presumably replete with old-age pensioners armed with Zimmer frames, colostomy bags and all going berko on prune juice and shandy) hammers away behind the apparently cardboard wall at the back of the room, making conversation a screaming match above and beyond most gigs - even between bands in our room.

Despite this Darrell (spelling? Daryl?) the sound guy performs a miracle with the sound; hardly any of the bands are familiar with the amps onstage, and I’m sure you’d expect chaos to result.

Nah. The C-Bombs played their best gig I’ve seen yet; Szkolik looked gangsterish and sounded tuff, Phill made the skins cry and Sean Tilmouth (how many outfits is he in now?) made the speakers do what they should never be allowed to do. Fuck they were good.

Tony, of course, is the vulnerable, self-conscious reluctant hard-torn singer; their opener, "Black Eyed Bruiser", may as well have been written for him. Moving like a punch-drunk boxer somewhere between about to start a riot and a brutalised little-boy-lost with the grace of a young bear, it’s hardly surprising that he commands the stage, even when he’s carefully placing his tinnie on top of a speaker. It’s at this point that I first think of Darby Crash, the man’s evident intelligence at war with the manimal in himself. The Bombs have a squirming, laid-back ferocity about them and they’re an ugly, beautiful, charming, clumsygraceful treat.

Their Fuccywukkybuk site is here and The C-Bombs’ CD is a cracker.

So, Leadfinger have jobs. They get up rather earlier to do their jobs, get to Sydney to get a plane to get to Adelaide. We love them for it. They deserve, of course, greater attention and acclaim, and they’re so fucking good at what they do I should imagine there are bands seriously scared of sharing a stage with them.

Leadfinger have a specific sound to them, but tonight they’re playing with unfamiliar amps. Darrell does a great job balancing out the sound and from the first chords the band are swinging in an incisive, heavy-gorgeous way. The synchronisation of this outfit is spectacular; hearing it all on a record is one thing, but watching it all snap together like finely-machined parts is an amazing spectacle.

Tonight I noticed quite a lot that I hadn’t noticed last time they were here, and that’s partly due to the newer songs. Dillon and Reggie are locked-in to each other by osmosis or something, they’re a tight unit. Yet Stewie and Mick seem to be more connected with Reggie onstage, like there’s some sort of emotive umbilical there …

Stewie and Mick have worked damned hard as well. Mick’s guitar is bloody good, they synch in so tightly there’s simply no room for another nut or wafer… in between the painstakingly constructed songs (so deftly set up, they just flow naturally) there are a few moments where Mick and Stewie’s guitars enter into a call and response situation, it’s engaging and exciting, not knowing where it will all end up.

The crowd - many new to Leadfinger - all loved the headliners. It’s hard not to. Their method and pace varies and they all make this glorious series of songs topple over and over like boulders down a hill. Afterward, they all looked somewhat tired, above and beyond the gig. I think if I’d put in a full hard week the last thing I’d want to do is piss off to Adelaide and play a gig. It’s a lot of damn work and effort.

Does it show? Not in the band, nor their performance. A great night out. We left early and I still didn’t get to be until 0230. (Cue that chorus of sympathetic noises, please.)

Ho to the Metro where I had the kangaroo and apparently the chicken curry was also excellent. The Metro is one of the best venues in town; there aren’t that many to come close with the position, food, drink and quality service. I love this place.

This is Rat Catcher’s fourth gig and … honestly, every now and again you see a band in the early stages of their development and you think, this is the beginning of something big. Sometimes that turns out to be true, too; I felt it with The Sputniks in ’79 (the drummer was Clare Moore, the singer, Dave Graney) and the Lizard Train (dammit, they almost made it) and the Boys Next Door (who went against expectation so thoroughly that over two thirds of the crowd had left by the third song, and the band loved it).

rat catcher

Rat Catcher are, I was told, punk pop. Well, no, they’re not. They have the punk tag because people need a nail in the wall to hang their shitty leather jacket on, but what they do is closer to power pop, fed through the structuring of some of the better UK or US punker outfits like GBH or Descendants. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if these blokes had never heard of either of those two bands.

Rat Catcher are fucking good. At the Metro tonight is a similar amp problem: the room is a bit too small for these FUCKINGLOUD amps so instead of cranking up the lesser amp, the band go to some trouble to turn down to a level they can all work with together. That’s really fucking smart. They care about their songs. And so they should. I hope they’re recording soon, I need them on my car cd player.

The singer has a distinctive Australian twang - to hear him is familiar and real, rather than hokey Ocker. He stands there, rather shy, concentrating on remembering the words and fitting them in to the band’s rapid-fire delivery, his eyes mostly closed or looking at our shoes. But he’s incredibly captivating - because he’s working hard. As are the two guitarists and the bass player. Two guitarists? Yep. And the return of the term ‘twin guitar assault’ is upon us. I wasn’t going to mention it, despite the clangour of Leadfinger which well and truly fits the definition, but Rat Catcher really go to town with the concept.

Each song is perfectly crafted and set up, there’s no song the same at all, they burn rubber and rip into each like today is their last day. The bass player is spectacular, driving us into the wall, the drummer knows the entire kit and can’t stop, the two guitarists ensure they both play contrasting parts which interlock - it’s the fucking intelligence of the music which grabs you as much as the band’s power and force, but the difference of this quiet chap at the front, delivering smart, pithy lyrics about the people they know and the world as they see it… it’s another country.

Rat Catcher need to release a swag of singles, cos they’re clearly a singles band. If I had to compare, I’d say a more complex and diverse Meanies, bordering on later Buzzcocks. But fuck that. Comparisons don’t mean shit. Rat Catcher have their Fartywartybuck page here and I urge you most emphatically to travel from anywhere in this country to see them. Port Hedlandites, get your socks on.

(Barman, I know that four of the five Rat Catchers have beards, but this is because they forgot to shave for a couple of months and…)

pete howlettPoor promoter and Pro-Tools leader Pete ‘“The Stud” Howlett (pictured right) has had a cold. Last night he took over the door, and was the most unconvincing door bitch I’ve ever seen, not least because of the facial fuzz. So tonight he really has to push it out.

Normally, the 'Tools seem to play more or less straight-forwardly, but tonight they’re absolutely pushing the limits of endurance. There are endless moments where Pete’s singing to his chest rather than the mike - again I’m reminded of Darby Crash; the famous thought that they considered stapling the mike to Darby’s lips would be useless here of course, Pete leaps about like a just landed fish, throwing his guitar about like a twig; any stapling to the mike would be torn out within seconds.

There are moments when Pete looks like he’s about to fucking explode, he’s so full of pressed-in energy. When he pleads with Andy McQueen "Can we do a slower one, please?’ his band mate laughs and comments that Pete looks like he’s about to have a heart attack, the room roars and from then on we’re all joining in the jeers and comments between the songs which belt out like batmobiles on steroids. Nick Spaulding makes a smart comment, Pete comes back with "Shut your mouth, Nick! You’re not too old I can’t put you over my knee and spank you!".

The band spend half the night joking and swearing and they play like they’re fucking drowning in sweat. Pete looks like he’s having a bath up there. “How’s my hair?” he asks. Given that his blonde rooster crop is squashed flat over his forehead, the inevitable answer is ‘terrible’, so he snarls out a comb, fixes his hair and tosses the comb (with his keys attached). The next song starts and his proud pomp lasts for four seconds before clinging to his face again like dead yellow seaweed.

pro tools metro

This set is the best I’ve seen, too; mostly powerful originals in which the covers are fun but second-best by comparison with the powerhouse on stage, self-deprecating savagery and rough banter.

Petition the The Pro-Tools on Facebook. Demand an album. Demand four. Book The Pro-Tools for someone’s wedding, particularly someone who doesn’t like loud, obnoxious music. Book The Pro-Tools for the funeral of someone you really hate.

Leadfinger follow, and, while slowing down the pace a bit, radiate power and confidence and most of us have sore feet by the end.

Again the set is mostly drawn from “Friday Night Heroes”, and slotted in there is a rendition of Brother Brick’s “Chokito”, and a version of “Gimme Shelter” which segues into “Down on the Street”, and back to “Shelter”. One of the most impressive things about them is, of course, that complex yet down-to-earth essence of themselves which they bring to the stage. If they ever get the chance to tour the US or Europe, they’ll still - always - be a band of blokes who do what they do for the love of it. Money always changes things, but with Leadfinger I doubt it’s possible they’ll change dramatically. The simple way in which they engage the entire room with just a few words and notes, that talent is something few possess.

There is much amusement as Leadfinger now come to grips with the amp problem. Stewie’s amp is on the lowest possible setting and it takes the Metro’s sound man, Nigel, to intervene to crank up Howlett’s patented Pro-Tools brand amp appropriately; weirdly, at one point Mick has his guitar plugged in but turned off and Howlett’s amp was still squealing.

Leadfinger, it’s strange to say it but their new album “Friday Night Heroes” is a very different animal from the live beast, which is a very special treat to watch. Leadfinger are one of those bands which you can actually watch for hours (and apparently they’re used to doing three hour-long sets in their home terrain), focusing on the drums and bass for a long period, then the interaction between the guitars, and so on.

Apart from being absorbing to watch, everyone in the crowd except your faithful reviewer is part-way hammered and dancing like idiots; women have wandered in from the street and within seconds they’re doing creditable imitations of Elaine Benes, complete with kicks. It’s one of those nights, where it seems time stops and the new day will never begin.

Tonight, Leadfinger don’t want to leave, they keep pulling off their guitars and realising they want to keep going, so they and play until they realise they’ll be shut down if they continue. I’m embarrassed to tell you what time I got to bed.

If they don’t come back soon, I’ll have to go to them.

Leadfinger can be found at this website and on Facebook.  Gentle readers, open your wallets, pull out your plastic, and add to your collections.

Tags: leadfinger, live, adelaide, pro-tools, c-bombs

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