It was as if Ballarat had taken over The Corner this evening, with all of the acts coming from the area, including a rare show from nineties band The Dead Salesmen. It proved to be a decent, if somewhat patchy, evening.
First up was singer/songwriter Juan Alban. Formerly of the band Epicure, Alban’s solo work was very much of the man with an acousitc guitar variety. Unfortunately, when put alongside the other acts playing this evening, he seemed woefully out of place. His songs were so earnestly sincere and striving to be beautiful, they simply came off as self-conscious and, worst of all, boring. This is a mortal sin in music: shock me, challenge me but never bore me. This was sooky sooky la la music at its most painful, with song titles like “A.M. Drunk” and “A Death In The Family” speaking for themselves. Lighten up, mate, it’s a Saturday night, for God’s sake.
Thank heavens for The Turnarounds. The four piece, also from Ballarat, totally woke up the crowd who were nearly asleep and erased the bad taste left from the previous act with their straight ahead, gloriously rowdy rock. Reminiscent of bands like Helmet and the Cosmic Psychos, The Turnarounds were perhaps the best band on show this evening. Armed with some great tracks like “Let In The Boys”, “War” and the stomping “10 to 1”, the band put in a thoroughly enjoyable set that really engaged the gathering crowd. They had a great sound to them and were, above all else, fun to see and hear, with their various stages of facial growth and a classic rock and roll swagger to them. Hopefully, they will return to Melbourne at some point due to the great set they put in this evening.
The Dead Salesmen originally formed in the late eighties, and developed something of a cult following over the subsequent decade or so. Their difficult to pigeonhole sound and style garnered them a solid following over the subsequent decade or so. Having called it a day around the turn of 2000, tonight was a rare one off gig from the legendary Ballarat band.
Having not been overly familiar with the band’s work, this scribe went into the gig with open ears and an open mind. Unfortunately, the band, performing as a five piece this evening, failed to truly connect with the bulk of the audience other than the section of die hard fans, possibly in from Ballarat for the evening, that were gathered up the front. Lead by singer Justin “Hap” Haywood, the band were good at what they did. However, their approach to mashing up genres and styles with they music, such as rock, country and the blues, and they way that they threw it all together came off as the musical equivalent of throwing paint at a wall and seeing what stuck.
Haywood had a strong presence on stage, with his almost conversational and hip hop vocal style and delivery, with a solid band behind him. After a while, his limited range did become apparent and, at times, a bit monotonous. The band were in solid, if unexceptional, form though what might have seemed cutting edge twenty years ago seemed a bit twee and old hat this evening, as many bands have come along and are doing what The Dead Salesmen do with infinitely more ability and skill.
Opening with “Mother’s Favourite Son”, the band proceeded to make their way through a decent selection of their back catalogue. One got the feeling that you had to be there when the band were popular in the first place to really appreciate or ‘get’ The Dead Salesmen. While not grossly offensive in any way, tonight did feel like you were the partner of someone at a high school reunion and that you didn’t totally understand all the subtleties or in jokes that you would if you were part of the scene.
There were some good songs played this evening, such as “How Dark The Heart”. “Anchor & Hope” and a great version of “Shoe”, which prompted audience members to throw in a good natured way the aforementioned footwear at the band. It did feel like the band, while having a solid sense of musicianship and sound to them, were very much playing for the aforementioned group at the front rather than the room as a whole, which was unfortunate. As a result, the performance felt very detached and, at times, left this scribe a bit cold and thinking that sometimes things from the past should stay as one remembers them. It can be an interesting experience going back and realising that you have moved on from what you once loved.
Overall, this was a patchy but decent night.
– Neil Evans