Words Emma Cooper.
On a sweltering Sunday at the tail end of November The Tote in Collingwood hosted one of its famous Sunday Six Packs. Opening the sessions were psych-rockers Lucid Planet, complete with incense sticks in the amps and lyrics bearing philosophical musings. It’s a hard gig to open in the sober daylight, but Lucid Planet suited the languid, muggy Melbourne afternoon, with psychedelic soundscapes and hypnotic, bass-driven rhythms burning easily into post-rock Tool-like bursts.
Following Lucid Planet, Sydney-based Shanghai brought some sexy swagger to the stage. Shanghai is an experimental outfit featuring variously keys, bass, percussion, guitar, theremin, flute, saxophone, and trumpet. Full of surprises, this band weave through genres faster than you can call them; snapshots of metal, punk, pop, glam rock and free jazz flash before our ears, faintly doused with a campness reminiscent of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. They add neat musical references throughout, from the snatched bars of jazz standard Round Midnight to a swift, rocking unexpected cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, but the works are distinctly their own. Even the unanticipated tuning of a new guitar for lead guitarist / singer / theremin player Luis Rojas was turned into an interesting musical segue and held the attention of the delighted room.
Opening with a Mexican showdown style instrumental, the band launched into what’s best described as a jazz-infused rock party, with vocalist Chantel Bann adding glamour, humour, and a touch of a kooky Kate Bush in her tone. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more fun, the band asked if we wanted a hoedown. YOU BETCHA WE DID! And a hoedown we got; a country-ska-metal out-there crazy brilliant hoedown. Check out the animated video to their new single Caveat Emptor, animated by Melbourne artist Jarrid Elvin:
Hard rock four-piece El Colosso stepped up next, conjuring memories of Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Down. Only formed nine months ago, the band was tight, and well-paced changes of gear kept interest high. The last track particularly showcased the band’s range with an expansive, moody ‘70s guitar solo.
As twilight fell the Tote filled, and Fuck the Fitzroy Doom Scene (FtFDS) treated us to tracks from their newly-released album Facing the Ruin. This inventive, ‘70s influenced stoner rock Melbourne band feature outstanding guitar work, and powered by magnificent drummer Alejandro Adams, they switch rhythms and pace with an absolute mastery of form. FtFDS can be characterised by their laconic approach to lyrics. Vocals aren’t the feature of this band, they let their guitars do the singing, but when they do say something, we listen. One of the best local bands around.
So how do you follow a band like FtFDS? You get I am Duckeye on, that’s how. Serious rock musicians Matt, Sam, Jules and Sean have created a not-so-serious, highly entertaining genre-parody band with a very broad repertoire and some rather special choreography. Think surf rock (like Weezer, if Weezer sang songs about teabagging). Think ‘80s dance (like Bowie, if Bowie had written a song denouncing homophobia, and had bemoaned the ‘balls minestrone’ in his leopard-print leggings. He may of course have done both). Think jazz scatting turning into punk rock in the style of Green Day, if they’d done a song about – well, not something we can write here actually. And think death metal, if there were death metal songs about teddy bears. They even paid hilarious tribute to FtFDS with some keenly observed stoner rock. Brilliant.
We missed the last band (Red Sky Burial – sorry chaps), probably because I am Duckeye made us laugh so much we had to leave, either that or we had sunstroke from hanging out in the yard for the free BBQ, but this gig-fest of a Sunday was programming genius by El Colosso’s Craig Fryers, and had us entertained all day with a great range of original talent. Roll on next year.
Shanghai are just finishing off their debut album The Ultra Violent, which will be released early 2015. Their single ‘Caveat Emptor’ is available now.
El Colosso’s first album is due in January 2015.
I am Duckeye’s latest album, Commando TOO is OUT NOW!