It should have been a fairy-tale match. The Perth Wildcats had moved into their new $550,000,000 home in the city, just as the billboards had promised. They had a crowd – 11,000 strong – on side. Despite two straight losses behind them, the big shiny home game ought to’ve put some wind in their sales. But the Wildcats couldn’t convert, and were conquered 69-65 by the remorseless Adelaide 36ers. Triumph for the ‘Cats was never guaranteed, but it sure would have been a nice end to the evening that marked Perth Arena’s sporting debut.
‘Cats fans were not about to “do a Romney,” making excuses and circulating bitter-sounding email newsletters. The 36ers had won fair and square. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing still to celebrate about the beloved western Wildcats. I dribble into Northbridge to see Stephen “The S.O.B.” Bellair rolling in, in a singlet, on a bicycle, and Matt “Maitken” Aitken similarly clad (but sporting a killer snapback) in a nearby alley. I know they are bound up the same stairwell, the stairwell to Sunday-night basketball heaven.
To get early birds in the mood the aforementioned Fresh Prince, Stephen Bellair, alley-oops with Ash ‘Aslan’ Keough on the Geisha-decks, sending hot jams bouncing around the dark and smoky court. The dramatically thematic drinks are splashing into glasses left right and centre – I grab me a ‘Tiny Pinder Donkey Punch’ (haha) – meanwhile the double-bonus dream team of Magnolia’s/Benchpress masterchefs Matt ‘Bakin’ Aitken and Danny ‘Daily Bread’ Bourke are firing up the sandwich press. Spaghetti with basil pesto, creamed corn with beetroot and chili pesto, apples poached in red wine and Gatorade. Ohhhh!
LEON OSBORNE wins the opening tip and wastes no time with it – straight into the frontcourt. We’re talking dense, funk-inflected beats, thick with pitch scoops and gooey syncopated bass. There are Fly-lo-esque jazzy condiments and svelte percussion (often you’ll encounter a sly finger click where others would place a brash snare). What’s particularly winsome about Obsborne’s beats is that they are MORE than “beats” – they’re fully fleshed out compositions, always with a sense of melody complementing the grooves, and dynamic shifts creating a captivating sonic narrative. This Freo kid shoots consistent three-pointers and never breaks a sweat.
Not one to hog the ball, Leon passes to Mount Lawley outlaw JAMES IRELAND. By now, you’ve heard what this guy is capable of; if you haven’t, you’re either deeply unlucky or a damn fool. Ireland is an impressive player, but not a showy one: he’s more about the jaw-dropping swish than the fist-pumping slam dunk. Tonight we get plenty of texture and atmospheric breeze, as well as heaps of Jimmy’s trademark one-finger-per-drum fully manual beat performance. I’ve not seen anyone work a kick so hard with their thumb before. This boy is pretty much The Human Torch, reliably and readily on fyah anytime he’s required to be.
More cats slink into to the smoke-and-mirrors chamber and miniature b-balls make arcs towards a small hoop setup on the DJ booth. That c l a s s i c baller anthem, the Space Jam theme, gets an airing thanks to the resident Tune Squad. And soon, a ball-spinning competition plays out, coming to a heated final between Sam Kuzich and Tim Baretto. Kuzza seems to have it in the bag but then the (wild)cat’s out of the bag and it’s made a dash for Baretto’s bag and dived in. The guy spins that amber orb on his digit for almost sixty seconds. Which is like a whole minute, innit, when means he gets to win it (“it” being a signed WC cap and a HAL cap; runner up gets one cap).
The hefty-bearded, wild-maned Sam Kuzich is enraged by his narrow loss, and seeks vengeance in the form of fat-bottomed funky jams. He teams up with buddy Cam Parkin, well-known as electronic producer Shazam (which rhymes with Kazaam, the movie where Shaq stars as a genie, coincidence?) to uncork flithy geysers of g-funk rapture, psychedelic layerings and electro-funk bass sensuality. These are Space Jams through-and-through. The smoke billows and the hips are sucked into the orbit of these two funky Mon-Stars as Parkin unleashes fierce jazz synth noodle after fierce jazz synth noodle. I’m not talking about stock licks with the odd blue note. These are all-out modal explorations enhanced by juicy warble and scalic froth. Their set – billed as a “Tribute to Ricky Grace” – would make any Wildcat proud. This is that slam dunk business.
As I dash to catch the last train of the night, I see a stumbling drunk man pick up a wayward miniature basketball and kick it. It soars into the air and, with muffled ‘thud,’ becomes trapped in the shade-roof that protrudes from the Art Gallery of Western Australia. “It’s stuck up there!” He howls with mirth, “It didn’t come down!”
He skips along, positively stoked about this turn of events. The ball is up there to stay, and forms a fitting symbol for Innerspace/Daisuki’s Wildcats tribute night. They say what comes up must come down, but the vibes this evening were ever on the up and up; by the time I hit the road, still ascending. The Perth Wildcats may not have triumphed over the 36ers this Friday. But I’ll bet there was no party to rival Daisuki’s on Sunday night in Adelaide.