The town of Oakleigh isn’t exactly an epicentre for live music in Australia. It’s a passive suburb, best known for its Greek produce and ease of access to Chadstone Shopping Centre. In other words, you’re more likely to devour a tasty kebab than stumble across a quality gig.
For one balmy Sunday night, however, Oakleigh may as well have been Glastonbury or downtown Texas. For ninety minutes the foundations of the sleepy town were ready to crumble at the slap of another bass line. Even residents of the adjacent cemetery were awoken from their slumber due to the reoccurring tremble.
The source of this reverberation? Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears.
The term ‘gig of the year’ gets thrown around like a kid on work experience. Yet, for tonight, the title is apt. Lewis and his Honeybears were astonishing, a masculine heave of funk that grunted and bellowed from one track to the next.
Before continuing, it would be remiss not to discuss support act The Frowning Clouds. They are a quality outfit, landing somewhere between Deep Sea Arcade and a low-fi Vines. Unfortunately tonight just isn’t their night. Between snapping strings, out of tune guitars and an obnoxious bass player, they never quite get their inspired brand of mid 60s rock together.
As for Joe Lewis and band, words struggle to do justice. There were moments when the crowd was so swept up in the vibe of the performance that everything else became inconsequential. The group could’ve pumped out ‘Puff The Magic Dragon’ and we would’ve been none the wiser. By the end of the night Lewis’ shirt was drenched and his horn section exhausted, yet every punter still rowdily demanded one more taste of southern funk.
To discuss tonight’s specific song highlights would be superfluous; the band nailed every track. From ‘Livin’ In The Jungle’, ‘I’m Broke’ and ‘Sugarfoot’ to the raucous ‘Booty City’ there was not a single trim of fat. Given the visceral nature of these renditions, it makes returning to their recorded counterparts somewhat difficult.
Complementing the band’s powerfully dirty Motown fuzz was the playful antics of its members. Joe Lewis picked up amps, swung the mic cord like a lasso and gnawed at his electric strings. Co-lead guitarist Zach ‘Rooster’ and bassist ‘Wild Card’ Bill alternated between strutting through the mosh and spinning on the stage floor. They proved not only masters of their craft, but showmen of the highest standard.
It’s considered risky etiquette to switch from third to first person when scripting a review. It’s also considered a cardinal sin to incorporate vitriol. I apologise to you in advance, but on occasions such rules must be neglected.
You need to see this band. You need to see them right fucking now.
– Paul Bonadio