When your night starts with a Ween cover band, it can really go either way. Thankfully they were the perfect opening for The Gin Club’s show at the Northcote Social Club. Weened proved to be a wise choice and their set was short, sharp and fun.

Following Weened were Dirt Farmer, a five piece from Albury-Wondonga. Their lo-fi, cruisy tunes were played to a near empty room which is a shame as they are really quite good. Though their set was marred by constant guitar and bass issues they roped in a couple of spares from The Gin Club they went off without a hitch. Dirt Farmer’s soon to be released EP has “future Triple J darlings” stamped all over it.

Unfortunately the same could not be said of Howl At The Moon’s set; sliding down a slippery slope into an aural mess of wailing girl rock that was wholly uninteresting to watch. There were a few moments of genius, sounding how one would imagine PJ Harvey might sound if she was backed by Sonic Youth. For the most part the crowd was unmoved and as their set drew to a close, with the exception of a few hardcore fans standing down front, they were all but drowned out by people immersed in their own conversations.

By the time The Gin Club took the stage, the audience was crying out for a good time and the band did not disappoint. Appearing tonight in all of their nine piece glory, the Brisbane band have been taking the live scene by storm for the last 5 years. Touring with a vicious intensity since the realise of 2010’s Deathwish and a subsequent live album, they are possibly the most accomplished and exciting to watch bands on the Australian live scene.

Led by a chatty Ben Salter, the band launches into what will be a non-stop almost two hour long set. The controlled air of chaos onstage was punctuated by an appeal to the crowd for a lighter that guitarist Dan Mansfield needed to use as a slide and when a lighter was not forthcoming, a shot glass still dripping with tequila was produced and “Pennies” began. As the song came to a close, the band shuffled instruments again with an impressive speed and cellist Bridget Lewis sang
lead on “Milli Vanilli”, a haunting narrative inspired by the Australian floods. Ben took over on vocals again, growling “I was a rookie, I couldn’t resist” with a voice suggestive of heavy cigarette and whiskey abuse since infancy.

After a slight problem with on stage crackling (and not of the delicious Christmas kind) the show is off and racing again until a drunk moron threatens to derail everything. During their more subdued, quieter songs the very, very drunk punter shouted and stamped his heavy work boot clad feet in some sort of interpretive dance party of one at the front of the stage, making Peter Garrett’s wild limb flailing look worthy of the Bolshoi ballet. Having showered himself and a good part of the audience in beer, Ben Salter pleaded “Can you please pipe down?” which the embarrassed audience member did, though Salter spent the rest of their set eyeing him cautiously. Drunk guy ended up buying a tequila shot for the whole band and all seemed to be forgiven.

Crisis with the drunk guy averted, the band played another Deathwish single “Shake Hands” and encourageed the audience to do just that. “Get to know the cute girl next to you” teased Salter, grinning broadly. They introduced “a song everyone can dance to” and explain that “we’re not really a dance band, we won’t be playing at Summadayze anytime soon. We
will leave that to Pendulum.”

After the tomfoolery of the last few songs in the set, they stripped things right back with a mournful, a capella version of “Abigail”. The audience was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, before breaking into rapturous applause at the song’s conclusion. It was easily the highlight of an incredible set, closely followed by the room shaking singalong
of “Wylde Bitche.”

Winding things up with “Julia”, The Gin Club came back onto the stage for a perfectly executed two song encore of The Temptations “Get Ready” and The Rolling Stones “Sweet Virginia.”

The beauty of The Gin Club is that it is a real amalgamation of intensely talented artists making something bigger then the sum of their parts, everyone sings and no-one stays in the same place for long, constantly switching place in a dizzying haze of instrument shuffling. There is not one bad thing to say about them.

The total lack of ego and constant good natured piss-taking between band members further endeared them to their audience, who watched on with rapt attention approaching adoration. Their set at The Northcote Social Club was easily a highlight in what has been a stellar year of live acts. The Gin Club are an unmissable band, next time you see them in town, do not miss them.

– Madison Thomas