It’s always nice to witness something a bit different, with so much live music available in Melbourne it’s hard to not find the usual post punk bands on offer, but this past Friday a hoedown took place in what is surely one of the most fun venues to be found Southside: Red Bennies.

A large part of the atmosphere is credited to Texas Jack’s Cabaret Burlesque Bonanza. Part of the troupe was The Paper Street Soap Company Band. A traditional country and folk music collective who played some original songs as well as covers, their performance was mixed up with skits from the MC Texas Jack as well as Burlesque dancers (the horse routine by Miss Honey B Goode easily being the highlight of the night).

When the cabaret show was over it was hard to get the same energy back but the audience was not headed anywhere. First band up was Quarry Mountain Dead Rats, an all male band also in the traditional country strain. There was some slow numbers but for the most part the exceptionally fast banjo playing kept the audience dancing.

Pushing things along the Ben Wright Smith Band played a set earlier. Now this is a band to watch. Comparisons to Bob Dylan have been drawn, but Ben Wright Smith is more than just another performer able to play a harmonica and guitar in tandem. Most notable a distinction is his great backing band that included a cellist (a very suave gentleman who chewed gum most of the time). Ben Wright Smith performed a duet with his keyboardist, which unfortunately proved how much stronger his vocals are. Perhaps two microphones next time, though using the same microphone is so Grand ole Opry. The band’s song ‘Benny the Kid’ was the stand out, performed with perfect timing to create a story telling around a campfire kind of atmosphere.

Last up was Howlin Steam Train. Sadly, a lot of the audience might have been confused when the Ben Wright Smith Band played and left straight after. A shame for them because Howlin Steam Train added a more bluesy element to the night, with a good drum beat and duel vocals.

Well, after that whiskey soaked affair and some good old fashioned dirty fun, the Ben Wright Smith Band’s album ‘Autumn Safari’ is now available for purchase.

– Hannah Joyner