Mark Sultan’s voice was sounding extra husky and rock ‘n’ roll at The Tote as he played his first solo show in Melbourne. Having only just procured laryngitis a day or so earlier, the show turned out to be a bit of a flop. He was unable to perform the whole set, but he had a good crack at it, and performed the couple of songs that he did play very well under the circumstances. The set was light on music, and heavy on the in between banter, but it was forgivable (to the more understanding people in the audience) given his sweet personality and good sense of humour.

Inviting people from the audience up to sing for him, Mark was joined by a couple of local garage favourites, including Andy from Digger and the Pussycats, and Linda from The Dacios, as well as a couple of random civilians, one of whom was admittedly strung out on DMT, and the other of whom sounded a bit like a parakeet with down syndrome being brutally beaten by golf clubs, as she giggled her way through the intro to Buddy Holly’s ‘Rave On’. Linda put on a stellar performance, almost certainly outshining the man of the night in his frail condition. After having one last crack at singing himself, Mark spat the dummy and walked off stage, to a very riled up audience who were a bit of an embarrassment to Melbourne to be entirely honest.

That said,  all wasn’t lost for real fans. Mark booked two more free gigs for Melbourne, one in the 2am slot at Pony (which if you’re a Melbourne musician, you have to play at least once in your life), and one at Bar Open on the Sunday with Digger and the Pussycats, Constant Mongrel, and others.

The band room in Bar Open was overheated and smelt a bit like something terrible that you couldn’t quite put your finger on, but regardless, it was packed and washed out with familiar faces from the disastrous show at The Tote; showing that all had been forgiven since the previous Saturday. Digger and the Pussycats preceded the man of the night, and put on their usual set of cheeky garage punk, ripping through crowd favourites ‘I Wanna Be Your Slut’ and ‘Coming To Get You’ (perhaps better known as ‘You Drive Like A Cunt!’). By the time their set was finished, the crowd was reeling in anticipation for the fully recovered Mark to take the stage.

For a one man band, Sultan’s sound is really fucking big. Like, REALLY fucking big. He plays guitar, drums, and sings all by himself, and still manages to muster up all the noise and stage presence of a full band. He’s obviously been listening to the Pebbles compilations, his sound recalling the golden age of surf and R’n’B induced garage rock ‘n’ roll. He uses all the chord progressions and song structures you’d expect of such music, and sings with a raw, untamed voice, which had the audience up and moving and singing along in loud drunken slurs.

Linda didn’t outshine Mark this night as she drunkenly stumbled around the stage behind him in what could best be described as some sort of haphazard mating ritual gone terribly wrong. Although, her and the other few people who joined her on stage made the show supremely entertaining themselves. By the end of the set, almost the entire crowd was dancing unabashedly, and the smell of sweat was added to the list of unsavoury things you could smell in the room.

As Sultan finished his last song, the crowd was chanting for more. Having a plane to catch at 8am the next morning, Mark sadly didn’t play the encore that the audience so badly desired. But after one hell of a performance you couldn’t expect to see in a show of any genre but rock ‘n’ roll, you could hardly complain. This show made up for the unfortunate show at The Tote and then some, a show that in this instance was unfortunate if you’d missed it.

–       Ella Jackson