Ian Amos photo
The Sonics in Sydney? What you got out of this gig depended on what you wanted.
If you longed for a show by the “classic” Sonics lineup of “Boom” and “Here Are The Sonics” albums you were always going to be fresh outta luck. That band hasn’t existed since 1967 or ’68. If, however, you wanted a great rock and roll gig with spirited and often inspired renditions of the band’s back catalogue, you almost certainly walked away with a big fat smile on your dial.
In most minds, The Sonics were the surprise packet of the first DIg It Up! travelling revue in Australia a few years ago. Sunnyboys might have been sentimental favourites, The Fleshtones the dynamic attention-getters and Hoodoo Gurus the much-loved headliners, but The Sonics tore the house apart with a raw and righteous set that belied their superannuant appearance.
Let’s make it plain: The Sonics unwittingly made the template for garage punk in the ‘60s and did their reputation justice in Australia.
So, ho to the Governor Hindmarsh, best rock pub not only in Adelaide but in Australia as far as I’m concerned. Off to see The Rteverend Horton Heat. Dead opposite the monstrous Ent Cent with its vast bowl of an arena, where the punters, grim at the thought of mystery beer in a disposable plastic cup at a fool’s price, head to the Gov for food and drink made by real human beings for real human beings.
It occurred to me tonight, that if I lived around the corner, it’s likely this place would see me once a day for something or other, whether it be for lunch or the occasional after workie, or a slap-up dinner for four mates - rowdy, but still, you know, civilised. The bar staff, without exception, have always been excellent, which is not something you can say of most pubs. Those in the band room tonight are brilliant.
Rockabilly has had a huge revival over the last couple of decades. I remember the first revival, spearheaded by the Stray Cats tour in, I think, 1981; a large number of punker types went and, the following weekend, about five percent were wearing quiffs. And it kinda grew from there, I think, mostly as an underground thing, but it never quite had the spotlight turned on it in the way that the Cats copped it.
But with the Reverend Horton Heat playing alongside what they call “punk rockers” in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and sharing the same label, Sub-Pop, as Nirvana, when Cobain and co. suddenly broke all over the world, everyone interested in Cobain and co. bought LPs from Sub Pop - and the Heat had a sudden increase in fans world-wide. Without really intending to, Jim Heath (as his custom scratch plate declares) was the spark-plug that triggered an engine of revolution.
The Sonics, 2016-style, owning the stage in Adelaide. Nick Spaulding photo
Opening support Juliette Seizuere & The Tremor Dolls had a lot to contend with in Adelaide tonight. First up, not enough punters in early, crowded stage (The Sonics’ Dusty brought his own kit from the States), a line-up re-arrangement (only the two guitarists remain), and singer-guitarist Shannon recently had an operation.
This is the first time I've seen them - I have tried to catch them before but never managed it. I enjoyed them, they're kinda powerpop with surfin' girl-pop overtones. Yeah, you'll spot “influences” but as always, it's about the music and the delivery. I have feeling that in several gigs time and in a smaller venue, they will be a force to reckon with, so I'll have to see them again. I've heard the CD is good: it's on Off The Hip.
Speaking of Off the Hip’s Mick Baty, and indeed of Loki Lockwood of Spooky Records, Subtract-S are the premier support band of choice these days. They're unsigned. They're great fun, have a swirling, varied sound and swap vocals between Sam the Bam and Tomway Army. They're always worth seeing, and many of us have travelled inordinate distances and gone to some inconvenience to dance at their feet. Doesn't take long. Get to a record company, boys, and get something out, those download cards are useful but won't make you money at a gig. The world awaits.
Luke Peacock and Vic Simms.
Conceived by Luke Peacock of Robert Forster-produced Brisbane outfit Halfway, The Painted Ladies are a black and white supergroup brought together to celebrate and reinterprete the classic 1972 live-in-prison LP "The Loner" by Koorie country iconoclast Vic Simms.
The band released the fabulous album "Play Selections from The Loner" in 2014. Produced by longtime Simms spruiker Rusty Hopkinson of You Am I, the album revealed a fabulous and rootsy rockin’ combo and an all-killer set of songs, highlighted by the unabashed all-Australian classics "Get Back Into the Shadows" and "Stranger in My Country".
Both are depictions of a young black man’s life experience that remain both lyically potent and musically thrilling. In the Painted Ladies’ hands the former became a hard-driving pop-soul rocker, and the latter a sullen and beautiful, six-minute moan of alienation and anguish that builds to the sort of electrical storm that your average Died Pretty or New Christs fan should identify with. (And yes, I’m talking to YOU!)
Leadfinger 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 and guests. Shona Ross photo
It’s just not fair. They couldn’t just be content with releasing “Friday Night Heroes” - a record that’s on the (very) short-list for Aussie Album of The Year. Those unassuming Leadfinger blokes went and put on a live show to launch their record that was as good as Real Rock and Roll gets.
You can dismiss the above statement as hyperbole and never hunt down their music but it would be your loss. If Sydney’s live music scene replaced half its acts with bands as good as Leadfinger, we’d be Melbourne. Venues would magically re-open. People would go out again. It’s that simple.
The dilemma in Sydney is that gig-goers who used to consume live music regularly now conserve their funds and energy for something special or familiar. That indirectly pushes down the quality of bands – except, maybe, on a subterranean level , where the kids go – and that makes punters less likely to take a chance. Ergo, The Law of Diminishing Returns collides with Cultural Fragmentation. Hello: Cover Bands and Heritage Acts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that at the right time and place, but if it wasn’t for originality, we’d have no history to chase down.
And you worry about minor shit like Trump getting his hands on the thermonuclear launch codes…