MANGELWURZEL 'MY HOUSE' SINGLE/CLIP LAUNCH & PETER BIBBY ALBUM LAUNCH, FRIDAY JAN 16 - SATURDAY JAN 17
“Me and Pete do a lot of things in parallel,” muses Cosi as we loiter by the monument in the Evelyn’s unofficial smoking area, “Like, we were born in the same year. 88, like that sign over there.” She points at an aluminium street address number over the road. This is synchronicity on a synchronicity: earlier today, at a repurposed bank in Preston, Pete and I sat drinking spiced rum among a gaggle of chickens and he happened to mention his birth year, too. The year of the dragon. So Cosi and Pete are two dragons, with the acts they respectively head up – Mangelwurzel, and Peter Bibby and his Bottles of Confidence – launching records on two consecutive nights. It feels cosmically correct.
Retracing my steps to the previous evening. The moon is high-fiving the sun as I ride south, winding along the leafy bike trail and finally setting down opposite the blood-orange corner tavern. Through the front room, where gangs of friends and well-dressed couples delve into pints and pub meals, I enter the band room, a large scantily-lit hangar with a mezzanine and scattered booths. I hug some buddies, drink two glasses of water, and settle into the crowd to absorb the sights and sounds of SPERMAIDS. These guys are an outrageous, heavy, duo who blew my brain to smithereens at Camp Doogs a few months ago: they are relentlessly visceral, but also puzzling to the mind, which means it’s impossible to get bored. Spermaids channel the rhythmic, melodic and textural ingenuity of prog and math-rock, bringing into down to earth (and into the mud) with the devil-may-care grit and nonchalance of punk. There in the swampy mix you may also detect the monolithic groan of stoner-doom or the syncopated chug of metalcore, but the more genre references you try to throw at this band, the less they stick. Ultimately they’re two young freaks throwing all expectations to the wind, infusing their hefty guitar, drum and vocal attack in warped effects, spinning it through a strange but captivating internal logic. What a ride.
HIDEOUS SUN DEMON are over from Perth – what a special treat – and they have a sweet little Perth entourage in tow. I see a whole bunch of long-familiar faces swimming through the room and at intervals forget I’m on the eastern seaboard. Just as Camp Doogs brought Melbourne heroes like Mangewurzel and Spermaids to the West, this is a faintly surreal stitching together of worlds, a beautiful sweaty marriage. The Hideous boys launch unfalteringly into their lipsmacking guitar-storm intensity, their whopping garage riffs and fuzz-laden screech sounding more polished, but also more effortless and natural, than ever before. Frontman Vin’s banter reveals some jitters, or pseudo-jitters (“We’ve never been to Melbourne…What do you say to Melbourne people?” and variations on that theme), but you wouldn’t know it from his expert howling and hyperactive poise. The set goes down as if it were a festival performance to a long-devoted crowd: dozens of bodies sway and pump to the every groove and riff, adapting their movements perfectly as the band’s sometimes-mazelike song structures surge and switch. It’s beautiful, an unambiguously warm welcome for the Fremantle quartet. Good on everybody.
And one Melbourne Bitter later, Hideous Sun Demon have animorphed into MANGELWURZEL who are commencing their musical performance. Now I’ve written about Mangelwurzel a number of times in the last year and if you’re reading this there’s a chance you already know I how I feel about them: they are ridiculous, fantastic, brimming with refreshingly incongruous reference points, impossible to pigeon hole – I’ll spare you any further exposition. The great thing about tonight’s set is that the band seem especially relaxed and simultaneously energised: they’ve got this. They have the audience in the palm of their collective glowing many-fingered hand. They are nailing the tunes, and going the extra mile. Cosi’s banter, renowned for its hilarity and volatility, is on point: casual tales of exploded goon bags and other assorted debauchery. Their labyrinthine riffs and throbbing rhythms are delivered with crisp accuracy and carefree abandon – big ups to Loretta Wilde and Johnny Baird on this front – and we even get a theatrical trumpet solo on top of the foldback monitors courtesy the agile, pink-haired Charlie Woods. Everything culminates in the fierce single “My House,” which is being launched tonight along with its glitch-vortex video. It’s almost certainly the best Mangelwurzel set I’ve seen to date, a fresh band gracefully riding the wave of their burgeoning powers. The room roars for an encore, a lesson in be-careful-what you-wish-for: in typically absurdist fashion, the band deliver an encore by sending a man named Angus on stage in his boxers, where he stammers and asks quaveringly for a tiny horse for five minutes, before someone finally draws one on a paper scrap for him. He then struts about the stage bellowing “I’m gonna give you a tiny horse! A tiny horse!” to a melodic refrain, before bringing out another man in boxers, before pulling me onstage and attempting to tear my clothes off as well, ultimately pinning me to the ground where the “tiny horse” ends up in my mouth. As I lie there, looking up into Angus’ crazed eyes with my pants partway down, I realise what a peculiar turn the night has taken. Such are the strange, unchartable waters of Mangelwurzel.
So it gets to be Saturday night, and Cosi tells me about 1988, and Darwin boys GORSHA rip-snort through a set of no-nonsense rock tunes. Theirs are satisfyingly simple compositions shot through with an unpretentious, spirited delivery, plus quality lyrics about everything from suburban boredom to modern-day cowboys to the dispossession of the Tiwi Islander people. Gorsha aren’t the sort of band I normally seek out, which makes me feel all the luckier that I get to hear them – singer/guitarist Finn has also made the amazing poster and matching t-shirts for the night, phwoar talk about “multi-talent.” HIDEOUS SUN DEMON follow, with a set not dissimilar from the previous night’s but even more assured and hard-hitting; and then PETER BIBBY does his set of songs, which I can’t review ‘cause I was playing fiddle in it, but I will say it was a damn pleasurable time, with plenty of goodly hooligans in the room.
A couple of hours before dawn I get home and collapse, head and blood still buzzing from the music and merriment. What a weekend for dragons.