WAMFest

l just happened to be back in Perth when l got the call. One of those classic non-paying jobs… Writing a review for a bunch of bands sitting under the ‘PALOUR GIGS’ umbrella, sheltering from the fierce West Australian sun as part of WAM Festival (Western Australian Music Festival)

The Parlour team ironed out the details over a body bash at city beach, followed by a sandwich at mum’s, and l am ready. Pad of paper, check. Pencil, check. Beer, light of course, check. Esky… or a wine cooler bag, check. Addresses and times, check. And transport?
When l lived over here, a while back now, one of my earliest and favourite gigs was a young band called the ‘GO-STARTS’ who used to play at the broadway tavern, often on a Wednesday night. The Go Starts was the fabulous DOM MARIANI’S first band, his second band ‘THE STEMS’ which he formed with Richard Lane played what I'd call a mixture of 60’s psychedelic surf punk pop, made quite a name for themselves not only in the west but all over this big country of ours.

Anyhow, l used to grab my mum’s bright green mini minor, not the white one with big flowers on the side… l think that was the car before.
I'd drive out to the broadway tavern with a couple of mates, religiously, every Wednesday night.
Many, many years later and here l am, in mum’s car but this time a Suzuki swift, driving out to see Dom jamming with a band called ’THE FLOORS’ and we’re in someone’s backyard, not Wednesday but a sunny Sunday afternoon!
The band is setting up under a back verandah of corrugated iron, with us punters settling into a varied array of chairs randomly arranged with care under a jacaranda tree, sipping our boutique beers. l think to myself where else in the world would a band get sunburned doing a gig but Perth…

Tell you what though, these ageing rockers… it’s as is if god has looked down upon them and said ‘ look, l know it’s been a hard life with fleeting fame and depleted bank accounts, so what I'll do is endow you with good hair, yeah… lots of long jet black rock and roll hair’.
So the band, they looked the part. The lead singer looking vaguely like he could have performed with the RAMONES or MUDHONEY, take your choice.
All dressed in black, with shades and of course the hair. The drummer, well l thought he stole the show with his head rolling as if it wasn’t connected to the rest of his body, and the way he kicked his sticks. He made me think of Keith Moon, he made me think of Elmo.
And then there’s Dom, sporting a cool set of shades reminiscent of Kim Salmon in his ‘Sin City’ days. And they had a double bass, a big thing… how cool was that!
Which again brought Perth connections home, didn’t Phil Kakulas play the double… didn’t we all when we were younger? l know l always wanted to, and that he thankfully still does

The wonderful thing about these gigs is the atmosphere. Like, l don’t know any of these people… l’m a blow-in but from the east, it’s all personal.
This isn’t a pub, it’s someone’s backyard and we’re all there ‘cause we love the music!
So, love the suburban vibe of this thing

Before l know it I'm chatting to Jai, then to Laurie whom dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, hat and glasses makes me think l’m chatting to Hunter S Thompson - but without the gun fetish.
But it’s better than that, he’s the sound guy… l love sound guys, they know everything and everyone. Before l know it l’m filled in on everyone who’s at the gig… over there is the lead singer from ‘TALL TALES’, never heard of them? Well pull your finger out and do some research! And then there’s Greg Dear! Dear Greg!

Of course, as a former West Australian my favourite bands were THE TRIFFIDS, THE SCIENTISTS, THE STEMS, THE TARANTULAS, THE VICTIMS, CHAD’S TREE AND GERMAN HUMOUR - with THE GO-BETWEENS AND THE SAINTS [both of whom l had claimed as honourary sand gropers]
and then there was the ‘HOLLY ROLLERS’. And here he is… in Rosie's backyard!!

Have l discussed the music? Well, l should shouldn’t l?
They played a muddy, bluesy, boogie-woogie, funky 70’s sound with a bit of stomp to it, a bit
Ted Mulry, but way cooler…
Hey l don’t know, I've never done a music review before, I'm just making stuff up here….
And that’s just the first band!

Meanwhile, a footnote….. which is kind of like important information to put you in the picture so to speak. These gigs happened a while back. Late 2016 to be exact, although l realise that really isn’t very exact as such but is about as exact as l like to get. Between then and now l’ve been working tirelessly on my review, which is the bit you have just read.
l saw it as an introduction, the preface, to put you in the mood for the review itself which would have been a cracker of a review… Probably would have opened up new career opportunities for me, it was going to be that good! But those guys at Parlour… They come over as being real nice and friendly… initially. But run a little late on your review… something as minor as a couple of months, things change... There’s one guy, goes by the name of Glenn, though l seriously think that’s just a cover… big hairy tough type, all bad breath, menacing looking [at least the hairy bit is true]. Try telling them about the artistic endeavours of writing the ultimate, consummate, linguistically superlative feat of a good review. It’s like pissing in the wind!
So I need to abbreviate. Cull and record. Phone it in before the printers ink it up… go to press.

So where was l?
We were there at the gig watching ‘THE FOOTS’ when it was decided we needed to get in the car and drive to see the next gig. l was unaware there was a next gig… but there was and it needed to be reviewed and l apparently was the man to review it. l sharpened my pencils and we struck out to find a bottle shop… for directions of course.

So we end up in another Perth backyard. Newer this time. More 70’s, as opposed to 1920’s
kid’s, trampolines, adults and beer, astro turf, bunting and large umbrellas.
Sometimes it’s just that simple. The band had started. Obviously, no one had rung them to tell them the reviewer was running late! The first thing that struck me was that while the band was playing on a little concrete patio, the drummer was playing from within the laundry. Sheer genius! You know that thing that bands have about drummers… Girl drummer?? Boy drummer?? Behind the band, or out in front of the band…?
well this band had solved all those issues in one quick and easy solution… put the bugger in the laundry. Like l said, genius.

The band was ‘RALWAY BELL’. The sound was sparse, down-on-your-luck country.
Imagine you’re driving your rig from Kal to Leonora, your wife’s left you, the banks put a hold on your visa card, your Johnny Cash CD keeps jumping no matter how many times you give it a lick..  and you do like to give it a lick. And the fuzz have just pulled you over, which neatly brings me to the lead singer. He’s a texas ranger, and he’s pulled me over on my highway; he’s kicking my tyre’s, chewing gum, looking at me through his mirrored sunglasses… him and a couple of jet black crows looking for a dodgy tail light.
This is the greatest persona since Iggy… the lone highway cop… fronting a band in a Perth backyard with the drummer in the laundry. l say again… genius.
And of course every great frontman has his foil in the lead guitarist. l swear l have never seen a person in whiter jeans than this particular lead guitarist. l think there may have been some sort of OCD issue with bleach. l make a note to speak to him in person, maybe throw him the line about has anyone talked to him about putting his life story in print… get him to loosen up,
get his tongue wagging.
Tell you what though… you just couldn’t eat a lions club sausage-in-white-bread-with-tomato-sauce-and-mustard from out front of bunnings in jeans that white, the risk would just be too great! There are stories here l can feel it. Stories that need to be told.
Then there was the slide guitar guy….so so ‘TRIFFIDS’… so Evil Graham Lee… so Perth.
These guys need a manager l’m thinking as l’m told we are off again, back to the earlier gig.
Am l living the dream? Driving around the outer-inner suburbs of Perth with a couple of light beers in my mums wine cooler with two bonafide Melbourne groovites in a hired honda!

We arrive to absolutely no fanfare what so ever, these Perth dudes play it cool… l dig that.
l pulled up to be greeted by my new mate Laurie, still with his finger on the pulse.
Mixers are the way to go, they know what’s happening , who it’s happening to and when it’s going to happen. You can always spot the mixer… They’re the ones in loud Hawaiian shirts looking pre-occupied. Laurie who with his shirt, glasses and hat reminded me of Hunter S Thompson without the gun fetish, was now pointing out all the rock celebrities in the crowd. But l was here to see ‘DATURA 4’… Dom, Greg and the band.
They’d just taken the stage and they had a girl drummer… and even better than that, she’s wearing a ‘BIG STAR’ t-shirt. She’s hitting those cymbals like it’s personal. l’m so in its not funny! And the sound… well it was like tasting a good, well-aged red with your lobes rather than the lips.

l’ve got notes taken on the day but l’m the first to admit that by this stage they were illegible and it’s hard to extract any coherent meaning this far down the track.
But l do get strong memories of feeling like l was watching the love child of ‘THE TED MULRY GANG’ with say ‘HOWLIN' WOLF’ with some ‘FATS’ to lubricate the action.
Strutting boogie, funky, rock love… is there such a thing..? Should this be a category at the ARIAS? l at least think so. ‘DATURA 4’ would be up there on my shortlist as hot favourites
and as we left they were beating out ‘CREDENCE’S’ Suzi Q
How good a day is that!?

Tim O'Sullivan