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Gig Review: The Main Guy & the Other Guys

The Main Guy & the Other Guys @ The White Eagle Polish Club with Buck et al, NozL. 19th July 2013
by Geoff Dunn

It’s cold. It’s been raining on and off all day and I’ve spent a good deal of it umming and ahhing about whether to go out tonight … I’m on a bicycle you see … turning up sodden and cold to a gig is not my idea of a fun night. But then, about 6pm … What ho … the radar’s clear! I’ll go! See, it’s that easy and I wonder briefly what on earth I spent my time looking at before weather radars appeared in my life.

I hear a band from out in the street as I ride up … at least I’m not early this time … a couple of smokers outside, the bike rack’s empty … I head inside. There’s a band playing, pumping away but that’s about all … I count 6 patrons in the bar and the three smiling bar staff make a total of nine. I fail in my beer pronunciations again. I practice with the staff and get smiles and a little cheer when I get it right but as soon as I’ve walked away with my beer I realise I’ve forgotten again.

There’s a tall thin lad sitting on the door, he’s sporting a lazy silver mop of hair and wearing a tailored grey waistcoat over a long sleeve shirt with a faint check and fluorescent orange earplugs … he regards me with a look I’m sure he reserves for the many idiots he encounters and says that he can hear me fine but I’m not convinced he’s the one with the hearing issue … turns out this is Buck from Buck et al … more on Buck later.

In the hall the crowd’s a little thin … I grab one of the couches up the back and settle in. NozL are up, be-robed and be-Fezzed and not just you’re average street Fez but tall, statement Fez adorned with strange curling insignia sitting well with the priestly mutterings of keyboardist-lead Tom Harwood.

They love their aural wipeouts this lot… crescendos and intensity building mashups with the odd jazz chord and, in the midst of a particularly disorienting one, I swear I’m immersed in an ode to Joy Division. NozL dip and dive in their ferociously musical way, at once punk, ska and smoothly transitioned intervals lulling me into false calm before well-positioned rantings and swirl of wipeout. I find myself besmirking an enormous grin at the sheer nerve of their outpourings and energy. People are trickling in and I sincerely feel they deserve a bigger crowd … a way bigger crowd.

Back to the bar, it’s quietly humming now. I’m in a conversation with bar staff and friends about flu vaccine efficacy and mosquitoes as disease vectors (in particular Aedes albopictus, commonly known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito and chikungunya … nasty … go look it up)

Buck et al take the stage and I see the frontman is the lad from the door … though now he’s standing on seemingly impossibly thin legs. An effect not helped (or perhaps greatly helped) by the front-panelled black leather tights he’s wearing … perhaps they’re pants … ok tight pants then. They strike me as deeply wrong these pants/tights/whatever. If they were all leather? Yeah. All black tights? Yeah … but the combo? Mmm … not really. His acoustic guitar, slung a little high causing his tackle to catch the stagelights in a fashion unflattering … let’s just say the pants distracted me and not in a wholly good way which is a shame because I enjoyed the music. Speaking of costume, the drummer was wearing a plush nylon tiger suit. I’ve done my time as a drummer and I reckon the plush nylon and percussion combo to be a recipe for steroid creams. At least they made an effort. The songs were well-crafted and well-executed. The band swap instruments and are equally fluent in each. I enjoy Buck’s turns on the keyboard (perhaps because he sitting down again) and more than once I find myself thinking ‘did he really just say that?’, the outbursts polite company would ignore but onstage became this seemingly high-maintenance Morrissey. I had problems balancing Buck’s desire to shock with his desire to be taken seriously.

The Main Guy & the Other Guys, down from Newcastle, take the stage. There is an air of professionalism about the Guys. Matching grey/blue collared shirts, black trousers and pointy boots. They set the tone perfectly, opening with a three-part harmony leading down a twisted corridor into a tight room of dark, Cavey ballad. I’m reminded how much I like a band that opens well and this lot are no exception. Fronted by ‘The Duke’ this crunchy four-piece take us on a musical journey to pretty much everywhere. The lyrics are clever without being smart and the performances tight and delivered with energy and craft. The room is filling and the space before the stage disappears. As The Duke fires up a KORG Microstation and a beautifully rounded square wave oscillates it’s way across a boppy disco power shuffle with added jangly guitar, the dancers appear! They can’t help themselves! The guy in the paisley shirt and his curvy red companion rip up the dance floor and set the groove. It’s a frenzy … well ok not quite a frenzy … but there are dancers and some them are slinky. Have I ever mentioned I like slinky? It’s followed by their new single ‘Partyhard’ and it deserves to go big places … catchy with a melody, speedy pulse and chorus that stick like a sweet glue. 80’s inspired Casio boppiness maintains the dancer’s momentum. A stripped back multi-vocal track over lush guitar appears that is easily the best mixed track of the night.

At times the Guys’ set leans toward the unpleasantly loud and my companion, who is knowledgeable in these things, yells into my ear reckoning the on-stage bass rig is set too high, dragging everything else up with it. That’s likely a minor quibble though and the gig is solidly mixed and lit by house mixer Dave Howe … in fact when I take a pew up near the sound desk it sounds rather nice.

Too soon the gig’s all over. My companion and I pool our remaining coins and go sort of halves in a copy of the Guys’ EP … he’s suddenly gone all shy so I ask The Duke to sign it for him. It’s very good and as I listen to it on repeat on Saturday morning (I got to take the EP home you see) … the songs still sound as good as they did the night before. It’s Just A Roll Of Toilet Paper (feat Kira Puru) is another stand out track but they’re all very good and faithfully produced.

I glad I came out tonight … it’s always worth the effort.

Some other notes …

Ania the barmaid is the lead singer in a Polish Punk outfit called Bad Pharmer … my companion and I make notes … she’s suddenly become even cooler.

‘Zhiv-eee-yetz!’ Fuck I’ve done it! I even write the phonetics in my notebook … next time I’m going to learn a different beer 😉

Thanks to all the bands, Nigel and the CMC for the opportunity to write this review for you.

The Orange Party – A Review

Neo with Andrea Kirwin – The Polish Club 5th July 2013
Words and pics by Geoff Dunn

I arrived early for this gig review(!) and by early I don’t mean early for me (though it was that too). I mean early full stop. I think there may have been six other people in the hall when I entered. I thought the gig started at eight … oh well, plenty of time to get a beer in the bar next door. The stage was set and the music playing pre-gig was superb … I enquired and found it was by a Brisbane outfit called Kooii … I made a mental note to check them out.

Neo took the stage first and in what I thought was a nice piece of gig-craft played their first set. By creating a Neo sandwich they effectively supported themselves. With a gentle warm up they launched into some sultry bluesy reggae. Sliding in like warmed honey, a harmonica made a welcome appearance over a pendulously pumping groove. The next track saw a low-slung groove accompanied by tasteful slow wah guitar and a dash of calypso flute before an effortless transition to SKA beat with bass recalling pointing fingers.

Neo

You know what I wasn’t thinking just the other day? That synchronised whistling is really unrepresented on today’s stage and, after hearing some tuneful whistling harmonies by Neo on Friday, I’ve come to think that was rather remiss of me. The room’s slowly filling and the addition of horns (did I hear someone mention they were Party Gravy horns? … they certainly looked and sounded familiar) filled out the sound nicely with accent and stab. I did find myself contemplating the baritone sax player as he appeared barely taller than his instrument. Had I been blindfolded this wouldn’t have mattered at all. Hitting the blues again and I’m in the bayou thanks to a silty brown bass solo underpinned by a blue beat with real ‘tock’.

Quite suddenly I find myself transported. It’s early evening and I’m sitting in a little bar by a tropical ocean, sunkiss’d and salty tanged. There’s cold beer, fresh-caught fish and I imagine the warm and gentle sea breeze is Neo playing in a corner. It’s not at all an unpleasant little trip. I’m reminded that I like that kind of thing.

There’s a set break to bring me back from the sea and I wander next door to score a beer. I find that my well-meaning attempts at an acceptable pronunciation of Zywiec are falling miserably short. At least I didn’t need to resort to pointing this time. The bar’s not crowded. There’s a party going on in the function room and a young man standing at the urinal, head pressed against the wall, his eyes closed, not doing very much. I think he was alive … he wasn’t there when I went back later.

I wander back in, beer in hand and grab a seat up on the stage overlooking the room. It’s commanding up here and it’s then I notice the diminutive yet striking scarlet figure on stage. The stage looms large around her yet somehow she holds to herself. She’s dressed in a tailored scarlet coat over gold and in black boots. It’s a great look … a loose fro with a lock of white that falls as a swept fringe over clear dark eyes. I’m suddenly glad I brought my camera tonight. I look up rom scribbling my notes to see she’s lost her coat and is now all spangly … I’m a fan of spangle from way back. Andrea Kirwin is on stage. This solo introduction to her set is a mellow jazz-inspired groove and mild scat. It is eminently listenable. I move down onto the floor.

Andrea Kirwin

Andrea’s band takes the stage. The mark of an excellent backing band is that they serve to complement and enhance the stage created by the lead. Andrea’s band does this beautifully, creating spaces and moods that a single acoustic guitar simply cannot. Distinct yet togetherly coherent in enviable understatement, they make a lovely, lovely sound together. The openers with the band are gentle and coaxing affairs and by the time ‘Mary Go-Round’ appears the band is well into their stride. With a streetsmart sass and city strut … the track is a winner and, along with ‘Shadow Man’ that followed it demonstrated the understanding the musicians had with one another while allowing their virtuosity to shine. In short, they were everything a backing band should be and more.

Nic Combe and Sophie Chapman

The band were joined on stage by a baritone sax (Nic, a little taller than the earlier player) and trombone (Sophie). I do like the deep throat of a live bari and wish there was more of it about … along with the bone they together introduced some stabby goodness to the mix and helped pave the way for the promised funk of Neo’s second set. There’s a glorious moment in the jam of ‘Yellow Brick Road’ when Andrea puts down her guitar and grooves along with the band while the horns whip it up. You forget the power and presence of live horns until faced with them again. Loved that saxy sound.

Andrea Kirwin

Too soon it’s all over and Andrea and band depart the stage and I relocate to the bar to fumble with the names of Polish beers … I have this theory that drinking them helps with that kind of thing… Neo’s second set … the promised Orange Party of Pioneering Funk Research was a little disappointing for
this reviewer. There were a few slinky dancers and the two women dancing directly in front of me were very distracting. The bass took to the floor and grooved along with the crowd … dancing bass players do tend to need a fair bit of room and maybe this was why the crowd never really reached the front of the stage. Compared to the whooping frenzy of Zoopagoo & Party Gravy a couple of weeks ago … things seemed a little flat. There was a distinct move toward sweaty Australian Pub Rock. Now I loves me a good dose of crunchy Oz Pub Rock but I was expecting funk and as I pondered my flat state I realised I had been spoilt by Andrea Kirwin’s set. If it had ended after that it would have been perfect. I did like the Neo guitarist’s floral pants and made a point of complimenting him on them. Tonight: Andrea Kirwin – with guests the Neo … is how I saw it.

Sound and lighting were solid and nicely balanced thanks to Dave Howe on the desk. Thanks to Nigel and the CMC for the opportunity to pen this for you.