It’s been nearly five months since I’ve been to the Oxford Art Factory for a gig, and even then that was for Bad Dreems (ie not a “new” band). I’m back in the main room again tonight, which is also unusual for me. There was a period when I pretty much camped out in the Gallery bar, and would only rarely step into the main venue. Not coincidentally, this seems to have coincided with the OAF last year starting to charge for Gallery gigs (back in 2011 their ads would say ‘always free’). This is patently a result of lockout laws / depressed foot traffic on Oxford Street / declining gig revenue / people being stupid / any or all of the above, which is pretty bloody depressing. It’s such a great space and the fact that it needs to charge to get in, and that I go there less is rubbish. I love this venue. Still, tonight – as ever – is still one *hell* of a night out, so I’m glad to be back.
Wild Honey are a new one to me tonight, but after a day of preposterous Sydney heat, their easygoing riffs on Redd Kross and Big Star are like a cool breeze into the soul. Their best bits are when they just wig out and the whole thing just becomes a perfect wave of aaaaaand-relax. The only low point is when they get a little bit too close to playing in traffic on the freeway of (yuk, spit) funk, but hey, that’s basically just me. This is a tight set of loose music that you could happily sink beer to while the fire crackles and the sun sets over the best beach ever – no complaints here, that’s for sure.
See a full photo set of Wild Honey here
Los Tones and singer Bodie’s moustache come on tonight to a strong-sized crowd, and from the opening, crescendo-building riffs, establish the tightly-wound tempo for the rest of the set. While the explosion of Nuggets-inspired punky garage acts a few years ago seems to have abated, the good ‘uns have stuck around, and this crowd is clearly digging on their stomping, psyche-ish twist. The songs shake and hum, the band are solid as a rock, and there’s enough spring reverb on Bodie’s yelps to get the crowd yelping right back. I’ve still not seen them headline a show, but the times I’ve seen them in the support slot, the crowd’s not just warmed up, they’re as hot as today’s heatwave.
See a full photo set of Los Tones here
It’s easy to miss just how much hard work and skill goes into all the chaotic, wild-eyed joy of a Gooch Palms show. There might only be two of them, but the few elements they bring to the stage are impeccably done. Leroy’s got a surprisingly technical voice behind the Ramones-ish roar of the songs, and he clearly delights in it – his brief rendition of “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”, replacing ‘Backstreet’ with ‘Gooch Palms’, of course, is note-perfect for a casual between-song gag. The band branding details on the outfits, the stage backdrop, the stage-by-stage disrobing, even the pacing of the set… we’re only watching two people and it’s literally impossible to get bored. That, right there, the attention to detail and the work that goes into it, is the difference between being an artist and just being in a band.
I only mention this because I’m a big fan of craftsmanship. The rest of the crowd is cheerfully ignoring that and just going batshit bananas. Leroy’s clothes are shed, moshpits are drunkenly initiated and then promptly invaded by security, Leroy advises the security to leave them well alone since they’ve promised to behave, the crowdsurfing kicks off and Leroy very briefly flashes the crowd… if you’ve never been to a Gooch Palms show, you’re honestly just not working hard enough.
A stage show is one thing, but the songs themselves are near-on flawless little dirty gems of scuzz and soaring fun. Older favourites like “We Get By” and “Novo’s” inspire singalong mayhem, while ones off the upcoming album like the magnificent “Tiny Insights” and “GOBNO” (“it’s about sipping piss and listening to Kiss”, explains Kat, helpfully), are instantly embraced by the increasingly drunk and sweaty mass of meat that the crowd is turning into.
From start to finish, end-to-end, and side-to-side, The Gooch Palms are for me the most all-round perfectly-formed rock ‘n’ roll band in Australia right now. The fact that they’re going back to the US again for another extended absence is a little bit heart-breaking – come back soon, yeah?
See a full photo set of The Gooch Palms here