+ WHITE TIGER
Squatter's and Forrester's Arms Hotel
Thebarton, South Australia
May 5, 2012
By ROBERT BROKENMOUTH
Share In every school across the state, in every jail, in all the cruel government edifices, and inside the indifferent industrial giants, the workers are excited.
Peter James, of Melbourne label Iceage Productions and the band Monolith, is coming to town. Monolith is playing the Squatters and Forresters' Arms tonight, along with White Tiger. At the door I buy the White Tiger CD, out now on Iceage Productions, even though I have various mixes of various rehearsals. You, dear reader, need to do the same, as do the workers, comrade.
Alright, alright, I made the first bit up.
There's the usual crowd here, plus a few oddballs, and precious few government workers. I wonder about all the characters with the baseball caps and hoodies threading in and out until I discover that, just a stone's throw away in this new and considerably improved Squatters, there is second band room filled with thrashing youngsters with hoodies, baseball caps and a 1984-era hardcore sound, possibly going berko in the mosh pit, although they look much too polite for that.
The stage in the old main room, where we are, in between working on our 'flu and rheumatic fever out in the perishing beer garden, is considerably improved. There is now a real stage instead of the two-centimetre thing people used to trip over, and even a raised thing for the drums (which, tonight. everyone uses to store gear on). There is a new sound system which is ruinously wonderful, a real and proper mixing desk which works, and works rather well, and is operated by a bloody good mixer who, I am unreliably informed, sleeps beneath the stage during the day and drip-fed black Sabbath. So even the sound-checks have me scurrying to the potty to empty my bowel.
No, I'm not going to report on the graffitti. Oh, alright, then. It's shit. My band's better than your band, shitty band stickers and moronic tough guy messages. Thankfully, however, no glory hole.
Given what the Squatters' was like two years ago, I must salute Dick Dale, the new proprietor, and publicly forgive him his awful horror movies. Dick wears a fez and a porno bowling club shirt and handles the front bar. This is the stuff Australian music legends are made of. Hard to believe he made films like 'Blue Dog' (DO NOT see it. Life's too short).
But, despite the cold in the beer garden and the bizarre flashbacks I kept having because of the adjacent thrashers (bloody hell, I didn't think most of this stuff was very relevant or interesting back then) and resisting strong youthful urges which cause me to think it would be a good idea to get incredibly drunk incredibly quickly ... what digression?
Oh, yes, despite all this I was excited.
And, I'd persuaded a friend to come along as well, and the poor bloke travelled for over an hour to get here and, because his home moved further north during the gig, took him over two hours to get home again.
Monolith did one of the pieces on that recent Melbourne experimental compilation what I reviewed here a while ago, and I recall I didn't like it that much. I had no idea when I put keys to file that Monolith was Peter James (himself) but, y'know, reviewers are damned beings. Goes with the territory.
It's always instructive - at the least - to see bands after you've heard them first.
Most, of course, disappoint, merely tootle through the tunes we all know, rather like a pick-up pub cover band. There's got to be some sort of vibe.
Then there are bands which impress mightily onstage only to stuff it up with the resulting LP or CD.
Monolith I had no idea about. So, to see Peter, a six footer with long dark, obviously recently washed hair (I think he was the only bloke there with clean hair), carefully, lovingly operate his four machines laid on a table which came half-way up his thighs ... well, it was discomforting just to look at him. However, the precision and thoughtfulness in how he constructed his pieces was positively ethereal. He looked a little like a scholar working on a brittle papyrus. I liked Monolith a lot, there was breadth and depth, complexity, nuances and it wasn't too samey the way a lot of machine music often is. The music itself, well, Peter actually touched the keyboard itself in only two pieces, and in one piece only briefly. My overall impression is something unexpectedly warm and ethereal, but which also shifts into things like Eric Blair's worst nightmare, then into tunes which wouldn't be out of place on FM radio or even Triple M (if these megaliths had taste instead of playing stuff which makes advertising jingles sound exciting). Radio is the voice of the people, and the people want white goods and soap.
Tangent? What tangent?
If I were to offer any criticial comment, I'd suggest a focal point; pertinent, simple lyrics and a vocalist with a distinctive voice. Anyway, apart from that - buy the cd to keep you warm this winter.
Patrick Kavanagh and Anastasia were on next and, despite honourable intentions I was lost in conversation, what I could hear of it thanks to the thrashing teenagers, with a friend of a friend just back from Haiti, and I got a thorough grounding in voudou, which I'm now going to have to follow up.
More books to buy and read. Libraries are so empty these days, we all need our own library.
I think I may have missed someone else as well, but we were talking about psychedelic poisons.
Head spinning and voice shot, I noticed Sean Duncan (wearing one of the most awful beards I've ever seen) head off to set his gear up and dutifully followed along. The story of the night was that Sean thought he'd booked his flight to get in at a leisurely 9.30 am ... but of course finally got here at 10pm...
Sean's 15m sets are always impressively painful and powerful, there's a real diamond-making pressure to his work which you simply cannot escape. I think he finally went on about midnight, and was utterly horrible and ugly, caused me great emotional pain to watch, and was too compelling to run from. So I urge you, and all your friends, to hurry out, find this man on fuddyduddybook, befriend him and invite him to perform at every party you must go to but don't want to... especially for children, they'll love him. Encourage him to film every performance and release a dvd. 'Uncle Sean's Friendly Stories for the Young at Heart'.
White Tiger are, to me, legendary, mythological and a dirty Adelaide icon. This, their CD lauch, is their second gig in three years, and apparently their last. I'm not sure how many rehearsals they've ever had, probably less than five. In anyone else that would be ludicrously lazy. In White Tiger, is just adds to the tension.
Their first gig was the only example (other than Rowland S. Howard's acoustic gigs) where I'd seen time go utterly peculiar. Their song lasted forever, you didn't want it to end, and then, disappointingly, it did. And you looked at the time and ... not much time had gone by at all. Their first gig - god, how long were they on for? twenty minutes? twenty two?
Typically, they take an eternity to set up and soundcheck (to be fair to the mixer, they're almost impossible to mix anyway). In any other band you'd laugh at their utter inability to be professional. But if you criticise them for that ... you'll never get it. Their names ... I will not divulge.
The bassist is a quietly spoken, intelligent professional who, today, looks like a short, albino Masai warrior. He wears his empty mask over his bald skull as he squats with his Rickenbacker bass, meditating into his groove, and, as the Tiger find their feet he creates a disturbing imbalance to the primitive worship on the rest of the stage. Actually, his bass is wonderful, groovy, spacey and completely against the general melange.
I confess I do miss the original bassist, who 'could not be with us tonight', but the piece tonight is an intense meshing of spirit and primal desire, a mix of the pretentious and the determinedly free which - in one of those 'it shouldn't work, so why is it working?' moments - rocks like a fucking behemoth.
The drummer is one of the best in Adelaide - flexible and determined, who, front and centre, drags the piece around the room, hammering out a series of rhythms which the rest of the big cat are forced to deal with. His kit is a painted 44-gallon drum, two real drums, a cymbal, a loincloth, a hand-made demon mask and a daubed star of david on his er, belly. Despite wearing the second-most awful beard of the night, he is a fucking phenomenal drummer, utterly instinctive and fearless.
The guitarist is a hotch-potch of stolen 7ts style, except for his playing, which is, as ever, as if a more paranoid Shaggy had got hold of a stolen amp and an actual electric guitar. He cuts in and out of the bass and the drums, trying to trip them up, kick their legs out from under them, brush them aside. It doesn't work, and despite the musical argument, eventually, apparently emotionally spent, he lays the guitar on his amp and sits on the drum riser, head in his arms as the juddernaut roars onward.
The machinist, clad in shabby black jeans and T-shirt, at the side of the stage roars and bellows into the mike and I'm frankly glad I can't work out what he's on about, it doesn't sound very nice. He's using a mac and a couple of boxes, and great swathes of dark force surround us. This new sound system is shaking the concrete beneath my feet, and I'm sure I'm levitating. In the far corner is the new member, looking a little like Poseidon's wife, wrestling with a keyboard and other boxes. Just as one of their instruments failed utterly during their first performance, it was her turn tonight. I don't know where the mixer was, but she was quite hidden, so he may not have noticed quickly enough.
Finally, realising the song was hurtling like a damaged train toward a crowd, the guitarist stands up, hauls out a whistle and blows, not into a mike, but over and over to break the band's hypnotised state. This takes a while, the tiger slowly sliding out of the zone and back to reality. The guitarist throws his hands up in triumph, the drummer follows, the bassist remains locked, the others sink back, exhausted, frustrated, but back to reality.
My friend has to catch two very after hours buses, so I escort him to his bus and, drained and exhausted, I grab a cab, come home, strip my stinking clothes off and hang them on the line so the rain will clean them, go upstairs and scrub myself, wash myself sore, dry off and clamber in to bed.
It is three am, my throat hurts and my ears pulse with evil sibilance for the next two hours, keeping me awake.
Buy the fucking CDs from Iceage Productions. I don't care if you do regret it, just buy them. Spend your money on real culture for once instead of keeping a bank and its shareholders in comfy chairs.
This was supposed to be White Tiger's last gig.
Fuck that. Contact them on fuddyduddybook, get them to your town (in whatever country you live), feed them and water them, light their fuse and get out of the fucking way. Your town needs White Tiger.