Words Alexandra Ferrier.
Straight off the ocean and into the Gershwin Room at The Esplanade Hotel was a sea of Kyuss and Unida shirts from tours past, donned by the young and old. This is the third time in two years John Garcia has returned to Australian shores, this time touring his self-titled solo album. Bringing with him fellow desert rockers Waxy and hooking up with local legends Mammoth Mammoth, once more, in a gesture of good faith and with an abundance of alcohol, the Melbourne crowd welcomed Garcia ‘home’.
Mammoth Mammoth kicked off the evening in the only way they know how and the only way that was expected; with a can of Melbourne Bitter and a whole lot of ferocity. Vocalist Mikey Tucker stalked the stage and the crowd, joined in and further added to the already sweaty atmosphere. Pete Bell and Ben Couzens held the stage on bass and guitar respectively, while Frank Trobbiani punished the kit. It’s been a while since we’d bore witness to Mammoth playing live but wherever the hell they’ve been of late, it didn’t matter. You get what you’re given with this band and the growing crowd was quite content to take it.
California natives Waxy followed. Declaring their honour in being hand-picked by Garcia to come along for his Australian tour, expectations were high that the band would blow brains, especially considering they’re also Palm Desert locals. Unfortunately, as their set went on (and on) interest from the crowd was lost. It felt generic. Though aesthetically the band played well, forces out of their control impacted their set, such as keyboardist Jack Kohler’s playing going unheard. The volume was too low and he couldn’t be heard well over the guitar and bass, which was a shame as the psychedelic element was missing. The waning interest was notably picked up by front man Robbie Owen, to the point of asking the crowd if we actually wanted a last song.
Head to toe in white, complete with dark shades, Garcia strutted to centre stage for the massive opener, ‘Demon Cleaner’. He strikes you as a man that will just keep going and going. It’s hard to tell whether playing the music brings a sense of maintenance to the legacy that was once Kyuss or whether it’s for our own gratification, as a crowd, to hear these songs live again. Possibly a bit of both. Guitarist Ehren Groban was simply stunning, executing each song with a fiery passion that aided to the building excitement. There was a fine mixture of tracks from the newly released solo album, including My Mind, Rolling Stone and 5000 Miles, which live, held their own amongst classics that many were holding their breath for in an off chance them being played. The show progressed from 1994’s Welcome To Sky Valley to 1995’s And The Circus Leaves Town with Spaceship Landing inducing a massive reaction from the crowd. Then, it went all the way back to 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun with Thumb and 800,with bassist Mike Pygmie and drummer Greg Saenz being the driving force behind these particular songs. The transition all felt so effortless. As the evening drew to a close, like some sort of ‘farewell… cop this’ moment, Green Machine and Whitewater ended the evening in an encore that made many leave the Gershwin on a high. No pun intended.