It’s not often that big international bands will make the trek to our isolated shores twice in the space of a year. But we all know that playing a festival (as the Dandys did last year, at Parklife) is not the same as playing your own gig. And as fantastic as this particular band’s festival sets are, their headlining shows blow them out of the water.
Brisbane non-Spanish speakers, Los Huevos start the night, cluttered to one side away from Zia’s elaborate set-up for the Dandys’ set. With an impressively glitch-free set and an instrumental/cowboy/surf vibe going on, they ensure the crowd’s excitement was well-lubed.
Zia McCabe leads the Dandys’ way onto the stage, and they ease into ‘Mohammad’, with the audience likewise easing into the rhythmic sway that the shoegazey brilliance of this band often demands, despite being rather lesser known for it than their songs used to promote phones/television shows/whatever.
A few songs in, front man, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, comments that there seem to be some “major sound fuck-ups”. It’s evident to anyone familiar with their music that their levels have been off and it’s several songs yet before the situation is rectified and Taylor-Taylor’s vocals are heard as intensely as the instrumentals. But the band works remarkably well around this, although their enthusiasm is far more evident once the mixing desk’s glitches are sorted out. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen before ‘Holding Me Up’ and the song is barely discernible with all the layers of sound overthrowing Taylor-Taylor’s voice.
Before long, they launch into ‘We Used To Be Friends’, one of their most popular tracks. Peter Holmstrom proves that he is one of the most underrated guitarists, taking the opportunity to show off his skills and love of pedals. This is soon followed by ‘Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth’, which again forces the pace and excitement rampantly upwards.
Taylor-Taylor performs a solo version of ‘Every Day Should Be A Holiday’, remarking that the other band members need to use the ‘loo’, before Zia, Brent DeBoer and Peter take up their places on stage once again because despite Taylor-Taylor’s talent, it just doesn’t quite feel right without the rest of the band there.
They delight with several new tracks, including the more guitar-driven ‘The Wow Signal’ than their more synth-oriented tracks, and the soft ‘Rest Your Head’, whose tempo sounds like about what would be expected from a track titled as such. Even with their elaborate back catalogue, the Dandys manage to please everyone, playing their well-known, pop-esque tracks alongside those from the 90s, highlights including ‘Horse Pills’ and ‘Get Off’.
The intro to ‘Boys Better’ is long and intricate, and is a fitting end to the show. The encore is exactly what an encore should be: something a little bit different, special, and not written into the set. McCabe strolls back out with a beer and pizza and tells the crowd that they don’t really do the ‘encore thing’ but that she would sing if they wanted. Which they do. Very much.
She sweetly sings ‘The Tattoo Song’, popularised by the Smothers Brothers and many American summer camps, and expresses the Dandys’ gratitude on the band’s behalf.
Having been around for almost two decades, there are few faults to be found with the Dandy Warhols’ performances, and this night at HQ was no exception with the Dandys proving yet again that they are no popular throw away, but one of the few bona fide rock ‘n’ roll bands.