Sunday afternoon, cheap pints, bowls, and good people who variously have and haven’t made a lot of noise in town lately. It’s a no brainer really. I float down to the green.
THIS IS SERIOUS PAM is very serious. Serious guitar and voice music for the discerning bowls club patron. But who is this masked man? Face shrouded in a balaclava, dressed in his finest frock, floral jacket and thongs combo, it is a mystery. In any case he spits and spanks his way through a rolodex of red-hot top 40 bangas including “LET’S CLUB IT TO DEATH,” “GREG?” and feel good singalong “DEFECATE ON MY FACE.”
Next on the bill is the usually masked and mysterious Chief Richards, aka the most bona fide neuron-melting loop-rock ape in the West. But it seems the Chief has pulled a sicky or some such because the bloke on stage looks a great deal like PETER BIBBY and, in any case, is singing Peter Bibby’s songs. Luckily Peter Bibby’s songs are very good songs (a fact to which the townsfolk of Cape Town, South Africa can now attest) and they rain down on us with a welcome familiarity. Bibs sneers, smiles, bellows and tongue-twists his way through his now-iconic suburban narratives as delightfully and unpredictably as ever, the main difference being that he’s now got a heftier beard and a bigger hat. The room is filling up now and the sun pours all over everything like Christmas custard.
At a leisurely pace, the Peter Bibby looking feller packs up his shiny silver guitar and the chameleon Stephen Bellair glides into view, armed with a mic and a laptop. Today’s performance – a solo rap set – is delivered under the moniker of AMBEYONCÉ KNOWLES, which apart from being a straight-up amazing name is also remarkably accurate. Most tunes feature a drifting, ambient synth type backdrop while Bellair freestyles over the top with a deep self-assured swagger that inevitably recalls Queen Bey herself (or maybe Sasha Fierce to be more precise). The lyrics here are strange and meandering, incorporating trap clichés (“swag”) and local references (an entire song is dedicated to Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui, which is particularly poetic since former Eagles star David Wirrapanda is watching with his kids in the crowd). There are some less-than-obvious pop culture references; in one tune Bellair claims to only associate with girls “who bump Kate Bush hell loudly,” while another (absolute ripper of a tropical party number) features the repeated claim “I’m Tony Soprano.” After the latter, Ambeyoncé claims “that’s the last real song” and winds up playing with the tempo of a pitched-down Beyoncé excerpt. The whole thing is beautifully chaotic but going by “Tony Soprano” one suspects that a full record/set of workshopped Ambeyoncé Knowles tracks would be a glory to behold.
NICK ALLBROOK soon skates up in his Christmassy cardigan, brandishing an elaborate web of effects pedals and dance moves to put Drizzy to shame. His sometimes gentle, sometimes explosively unhinged minimal rock explorations are uncanny in a bowls club context. Otherworldly sounds billowing through a mellow, quotidian environment. To his absolute credit, Nick doesn’t hold anything back; he belt and wails, often deviating into freewheeling feedbacky UFO shred-storms and wiggling til he’s practically bouncing off the ceiling. Underneath it all are Nick’s deceptively simple beats and basslines, which are impeccably wrought – deep drum machine pinball and seductive post-Andre 3000 layerings.
Having Nick Allbrook playing guitar to my left and Wirra playing pool to my right pretty much means my life is complete, but there’s even a set of steak knives, which come in the form of Albany’s finest, SHIT NARNIA. These boys are the sort of band that will pull you up by your bootstraps if you’re having a shit time, and consolidate your feelings about everything you love if you’re having a good one. Their tunes explore life’s everyday dilemmas and social peculiarities, right down to sex on golf courses, jocks glassing themselves at The Claremont. All of this shot through with a surprisingly eclectic mix of pop-punk, mathy business, emotive melodic rock; all stuff which may or may not appeal in another context but is delivered with such gusto, sincerity and cleverness that it’s just undeniable. Hugh swings and struts through the room like a loping dinosaur, and I’m reminded of the first time I met him, when he was dancing around and ad-libbing poetry in a loungeroom at a denim-themed house party. He’s got an unpretentious way of commanding your attention, sucking you into his singular articulations, sharing his intensity.
The beers and cheers continue to flow long after the music dies down. The bright sun turns to a dim glow and recedes into night. I wander on, satisfied that there’s nowhere I’d have rather been for this little pocket of time. Top job.