My last memory, before rushing outside into the comparatively cool, wet air, is an elbow to the neck. The densely packed Tote band-room has a thick layer of condensation on the windows and the muggy, butterfly-house interior is stifling, to say the least. The sold-out band contains a rowdy crowd that let loose from the word ‘go’ and, in the haze of heat and hedonism, it was hard to find one’s bearings. Feeling faint and getting battered left to right, I felt like my brain had left me to visit another state. Air, air! Please, air! But, isn’t suffocation and mosh pit battle scars what a rock and roll show is all about?
Total Control began the night, the band room quickly filling up. Total Control is one of the many side projects of Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s Mikey Young. A faint sense of eighties oi punk amidst obvious post-punk and indie rock influence fills the room; punchy vocals and synth. The bass is deliberately overpowering, thudding like a great beast. The room seems full of Dustin Hoffmans circa Rain Man; punters swaying forward and back, as if in a trance. The indistinguishable vocals of the singer, though, bother me to no end and I think the only words I got out of the set were “remember to forget” and, I think, “eldritch”…nevertheless, they are a warm-up act and warm up the crowd they did indeed, via sharp snares and speedy axe work from Mister Young.
Super Wild Horses follow- a local sweet-and-sour guitar and drums duo- for an oddly short set. The voices are sweet- with a dash of spice, eh?- and point to their musical root in sixties girl-pop, brought about in 2000s Melbourne, with a pinch of The Slits about them. Although, as with any two-piece, they are boxed in by the limits of their instruments, their music brims with a sense of urgency, fun and the notion that, at any minute, they could turn punk and rip your shins off.
As my previous sweat-soaked rantlet indicated, the crowd was jammed together like a hastily-packed suitcase. San Fran’s Thee Oh Sees start up their excitable post-punk-pop storm. Oh hai, hecklers! They’re starting earlier and earlier. Frontman John Dwyer squishes his face up against his guitar and runs his tongue along its side (“Is it so wrong for a man to love a guitar?” “Yes it is, if he puts his balls inside it and strums himself to ecstacy!”) when not wailing out amidst the band’s garage rawk.
The band play largely from their new album Warm Slime (the title track of which was a catalyst for many limbs to flail dangerously and erratically) and the crowd went, to put it mildly, apeshit. I may well be stoned to death in the city square for even hinting at this, but, as the show progressed, I couldn’t help but feel stymied by the sameness of the band’s sound. I had trouble recollecting one song from another as I reminisced post-show in front of a fan on “three”. It’s another “well, I just don’t get it” moment for me, as I listened to the glowing fans proclaiming it “the best show ever”, regailing each other with “amaaaaazing” moments from the show they had seen ten minutes ago. I can see where the attraction lies: Thee Oh Sees put on a rollicking, raucous live show that is testament to the band’s dedication- especially in this bloody heat. But, like parmasen cheese, Two and a Half Men and jeggings, lots of people love it, but I don’t. Please send death threats to…