Vicuna Coat, a local five piece, warmed up The Evelyn with an impressive and enjoyable set of their version of 60s garage pop, with touches of country and psychedelia here and there. Gordon Blake, one of two singers along with Kat Winduss, busted out some of the best sitar playing this scribe has witnessed in pop music, all the while shaking his Beatles-mop from side to side. Check these guys out if you can.
Second on were The Queen’s Head, a group of young men who specialise in a very specific vintage of pop music – 1986 Labyrinth-era Bowie. A peculiar choice, certainly, but the Melbourne four piece largely pulled it off with one track called ‘Tonight’s My Only Chance’ particularly standing out as something quite original.
The band are fronted by Subaudible Hum’s Danny Griffith, who performed in a rugby jersey, baseball cap and fake raybans, presumably to show that he was not taking himself too seriously. Griffith’s deep Bowie/Ian Curtis vocals were definitely the focal point and worked very well along with the layered synth sounds being performed with a keytar, as well as bass guitar and a drum kit with electronic drum pads integrated into it. The Queen’s Head are quite possibly a required taste but work well within their niche.
Next up were Harry Howard And The NDE, comprised of Edwina Preston on organ, Clare Moore on drums, Dave Graney on a headless bass guitar, and Harry Howard on vocals and guitar.
Having cut his musical teeth in the late 1980s post-punk groups Crime and the City Solution and These Immortal Souls, these days Howard favors the kind of garage rock that informed many of the punk and new wave bands of the 70s and 80s. Several of the songs performed tonight reminded this writer of The Modern Lover’s first album, especially ‘Roadrunner’; the simple rhythmic structure, sneered/exaggerated vocals and Vox continental organ sound being an integral part of the NDE’s (Near Death Experience) sound.
Howard and co. performed a solid set, highlights being ‘Old Man Blues’ (not related to Mose Allison’s ‘Young Man’s Blues’) and ‘Blood Test’, which saw Preston perform with a stylophone, a hand-held synthesizer operated with a stylus, which sounds fantastic.
Between sets a montage of clips were projected onto the screen at the back of the stage, seemingly from a homemade horror movie, complete with over the top expressions of terror, improvised costumes and chocolate sauce blood. Upon closer inspection, however, the attentive patron could recognize some of the best known faces of the local music scene, including Van Walker, Liz Stringer and Kim Salmon.
The clips were from This Body is Wrong For Us, the purposefully B-Grade sci-fi movie made to go with the album of the same name, of which tonight was the launch. Walking onstage in white bodysuits, replete with tassels, glittery eyemasks and one giant, fluffy hat, Go-Go Sapien had landed, though from which planet it was hard to ascertain.
The band is the brainchild of frontman Will Hindmarsh, along with fellow sapiens, Emily Jarrett, who handles keys and weird synth noises, Cal Walker, a commanding figure onstage with his long hair, bushy beard and flying V guitar, bassist Kalon Salter, and drummist Iain Wilson.
The band ripped through their new album in the order in which they appear on record, kicking off with ‘Recreational Derelict’, sounding something like The Triffids, if they had taken acid and gone to space. They then stepped everything up a notch, inviting out trombonist Gordon Blake and trumpeter Stu Thomas for the rock freak-out of ‘Altered Ego’, a standout track from the new album, which is all guitars and horns and James Brown dance moves.
Go-Go Sapien are a great band because they manage to ride a unicycle between the most ridiculous of concepts, i.e. their humorous lyrical content, stage costumes, making and starring in a sci-fi movie, whilst backing it up with catchy songs and accomplished musicianship. Hindmarsh himself was constantly grinning, full of the positive, cheeky sort of fun that encapsulates the band. At various points he abandoned his guitar to join Jarrett on the synth, creating odd melodic noises, which blended with the crunch of Walker’s guitar parts adding to the idea of their epic sci-fi theme.
After completing the 11 album tracks the group disappeared offtstage, only to reemerge in shiny silver jumpsuits, like spacemen from a 1960s TV series. A complete costume change before encore is something you don’t see at The Evelyn very often, so it was great to see that these guys weren’t pulling any punches for their launch.
To finish off the night they dipped into some old favourites from their first album, Merman, which had those in the know singing along. These encore songs were particularly enjoyable, possibly because the crowd were more familiar with them and so reacted accordingly.
Thank the gods of music that we have bands like Go-Go Sapien who can act as an antidote for whenever rockn’roll takes itself too seriously. They are proudly over the top but know how to rock the fuck out with their tongues in cheek. Good stuff.
– Alex Watts