Monday, May 07, 2012

Brother Ross Nelson's DIG IT UP!
Hoodoo Gurus 30th Anniversary Invitational – Sydney, Sunday 22 April 2012

The Hoodoo Gurus 30th anniversary invitational, Dig It Up, landed Sydney with what may well have been the best line-up of rock n roll action that many could recall – ever! A 10 hour feast that didn’t let up. Hats off to Tim Pittman and his Feel Presents cohorts and the Gurus for pulling together such a stellar line up.

Spread across four venues within spitting distance of each other, with the main course being served up at the Enmore (capacity around 2000),with supports in much smaller rooms at Notes, The Sly Fox Hotel and The Green Room. While there was no possible way to see every act, we were safe in knowing no matter where we ventured, there’d be something worth a look. My strategy revolved around the Enmore and darting across the road for whatever I could catch during breaks.

The Hard Ons got things underway but I missed most of their set queuing for my ticket. The three songs I saw conjured up recall of the many nights I saw them during the 80’s. Always masters of sonic overload, barely restrained and that’s what I witnessed again albeit too briefly. I should get out to see ‘em more often. The first dash gets me the tail end of The Straight Arrows – contemporary local garage rock that seemed on the money with plenty of movement on stage and a tight, rockin’ sound. They wrapped their set with a cover of “The World Aint Round, Its Square” hit the spot quite nicely.

Next up on the main stage were The Fleshtones. They’d been out here twenty or so years back that I’d somehow missed but their reputation precedes them and there was a big audience ready for fun and they didn’t disappoint. Sure, I’d have loved to hear them play a set full of stuff from way back but what we got was all good. High kicks, cheesy grins and numerous crowd incursions from Keith and Ken. I recognised a couple of songs from their more recent records, a song about the Ramones and even an instrumental “Day Tripper”. A fun set that set the mood for the day.

I caught a chunk of The Lovetones set at Notes. Matt Tow has been a mainstay of the Sydney scene for years, he knows his craft and these Tones albeit without the antics of the previous 'Tones, pleased me and the crowd with an impressive selection of tunes. Next up was the “surprise” (not) band Kids In Dust, aka Sunnyboys. The last time the original line-up played together was back in 84. The last I saw of a band under the name was sometime late 80’s when Jeremy Oxley played out with a different line up and I recall that occasion as being somewhat chaotic due largely to Jeremy’s unhealthy mental state. But this was the real deal – he was obviously well enough to perform and looking excited to be back. The crowd was with them immediately and the band responded.

I didn’t recognise the first song but from the second, “Love To Rule” through the rest of the set, it was spine-tingling stuff. Memories of so many killer nites back in the day flooded back and here they were reeling their best off right here, right now. It was a hit and lovefest with much of their first and best album covered. “The Seeker”, “Tunnel of Love”, “Liar” and the closing “Alone With You” amongst highlights. While the songs were a tad more measured in their delivery than at their peak, everything was played with precision and gusto, a perfect comeback and the emotional highlight of the day without a doubt.

Managed to catch a few songs of Belles Will Ring next – another local band whom I’d not seen before. They featured one of the guitar players from The Lovetones as lead singer displaying enough over three songs to make me want to hear more of their beautiful and effervescent pop.

Long having been a Redd Kross true believer, their set was a definite highlight amongst highlights. Tight as a very tight thing and armed with a choice set list, they brought it well and truly as they romped through “Annette’s Got the Hits”, “Lady in the Front Row”, “Switchblade Sister”, “Frosted Flake”, “Blow You a Kiss In the Wind” and an absolutely poptastic “Pretty Please Me”. Bless the McDonald brothers for they know rock’n'roll only too well. As does the next guy up on the Notes stage.
Steve Wynn last played Sydney in 87 with the last version of Dream Syndicate – the one with Cutler on guitar in place of Precoda. That show was pretty awesome and nothing much had changed. With a band comprising Steve’s wife, Linda Pitmon on drums, Keith Streng and Ken Fox, we got a choice selection of DS tunes including “Tell Me When It’s Over”, “Halloween” and “That’s What They Always Say” plus a host of equally wonderful songs from Steve’s extensive back catalogue. An almighty set.

Meanwhile, back at the Enmore – Rob, Deniz and Jim from Radio Birdman (we can surely call Jim a Birdman with so many years of solid service) with Dave Kettley from New Christs also on guitar and a drummer who I was unfamiliar with but who nailed it impressively. They were on form and on target with a set built around Birdman songs with a few covers (including a spot-on “Hindu Gods of Love”) and some Visitors tunes also. Super charged, right on the money. I missed Royal Headache, a new-ish local band doing good things and one that I was hoping to see and also Kim Salmon and Spencer Jones. But hell, I needed to stop and grab some sustenance for a half hour before the final run.

Died Pretty was next. I last saw them sometime around 1992. Another band I’d seen perform some heroic shows and others being an absolute shambles. They built themselves into something truly special by the late 80’s. Tonight they picked up right from around that time in full flight and sounding quite amazing. For me Godbless, Winterland and Sweetheart were top of the deck.

Made a dash back to Notes to catch some of The 5678s and kinda regret missing the last piece of Died Pretty’s set. In fact, it was the only small regret of the day. Moments of cool but an over-riding sense of what could have or should have been is what lingered after their set. Funnily enough, I’d seen them in New York in November and they’d left me with the exact same impression. Maybe it’s me… But the next band I’d also seen in NY and so I knew what I had the right to expect.

To think I’d be seeing The Sonics again so soon seemed ridiculous – but it was true! In 2012! In Sydney! Incredible but true. I’d done my best to keep my enthusiasm in check with friends cos I didn’t want to set expectations too high. But any sense of them falling short on what I’d already witnessed were right out the window from the get go. They claimed the stage and ripped into “He’s Waitin’” and then it was manna from heaven all over again. With Gerry’s vocals more than ably supported by those of the new kid on bass, Freddie Dennis, they set about delivering the goods or the greats. “Louie, Louie”, “Have Love Will Travel”, “Money” (all the covers which the Sonics did are still the best covers ever!) plus “Boss Hog”, “Strychnine”, “Psycho”, “The Witch”, the whole shebang. Larry extracts the perfect tone from his guitar and effortlessly peels off the riffs, Rob Lind is focussed and his sax is integral to the whole thing, The perfect frat-rock foil to Larry’s guitar. Ricky Johnson on drums was an ace replacement for Bob Bennett. Being a 45 minute set, it seemed like Gerry was able to pace himself vocally early on but a few songs from the finish he must have decided he still had plenty in reserve and really brought it. Amazing and glorious, the set of the day.

Forever embedding their status of kings of whatever you want to call it with their Sydney audience. Incredible! Which left our hosts, the Gurus, to send us home. Being the 30th anniversary of “Leilani”, their run through the debut album is a sentimental touch-point for many. “Stoneage Romeos” still holds up as an incredible jukebox of styles and sounds. Picks for me were “Tojo”, “I Want You Back” and “My Girl” though it all went down a treat. We got a bunch of other songs in the second half of the set to ram home the combo’s well-established credentials in popsongdom. It’s a well honed live show of flash, bash and still a bit of trash to crown an absolutely fantastic day.

As we spilled outside and started to take stock, some were calling to do it all again next year. For me that’s too early and I’ll be happy to hang onto this one for a bit longer.

Photos by Ross Nelson

Coming soon - The Melbourne leg...

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