The day was long, hot and dry, a Sunday with the stress on the first syllable, a heavy slab of summer in its more drowsy mode. Snooze button, sheen of sweat, inertia. The sky gradually darkens and the bird-songs change: it’s very much time to either write-off the day entirely or get out of the house. I’m thirsty, so the latter wins out.
I follow my nose, which follows the moon, which is looking fine tonight, a faintly lit orb (like a dying light bulb) with a vibrant crescent down its left side. It leads me down gently busy city streets and towards a Café that shares its name, its façade lit by a string of lively lightbulbs, its innards always glowing a brooding deep red. A Whisky Sour sounds good at this point. But my ears are thirsty too.
DJ JACK QUIRK (of Perth/Apricot Rail infamy) is on the laptop-decks, stirring up some tender cuts, from wild free jazz to local excellence (Mink Mussel Creek classic “Doesn’t the Moon Look Good Tonight” gets a topical airing). Quirk’s selections are superb, but halfway through my whisky sour, as I begin to contemplate eating the maraschino cherry, I’m hankering for some live-action action.
DOCTOPUS come rushing to the rescue. Well no, that’s a lie, they’re definitely not rushing. I don’t feel like Stephen, Jeremy and John have ever rushed in their lives. They are far too chilled out. They are probably the most chilled out band in the world. You could release a wild panther into their presence and Jeremy would probably keep noodling on the guitar and Stephen would try to teach it a cool handshake and John would share the rest of his pizza with it and then all four of them would play Frisbee. In apt reflection of this relaxed collective demeanour, Doctopus offer a laid-back set tonight, performing their usual tunes but in a toned down and pared back format. This doesn’t stop Stephen Bellair from occasionally screeching about “money”, “the future” and “bullshit,” because it wouldn’t be Doctopus without a little bite. But from the smooth, jaunty licks to the understated, sparse drum hits and the lilting basslines – amongst excited banter about forthcoming Parma and/or Pasta – this set is more a fine mist than a water-jet, slowly and gently coating you instead of squirting you sharply in the belly. Doctopus play four songs, then a surprise fifth, then make a move towards their meals, which is probably the closest thing you’ll see to them rushing.
As Doctopus chow down a group called ZEALOUS CHANG rise in their place. What is a “Chang”? I know it is a beer; apparently it is also a kind of Persian harp, a rollercoaster, a Klingon General and a few other things, namely a name. I’m not sure exactly which one this band are trying to evoke but my bet is on the Klingon General, Klingon Generals seem like pretty zealous guys. These musicians seem like zealous guys insofar as they have clearly practised hard in order to make their instruments make sounds they like; no settling for “close enough.” The result is a set of dense, mellow and meticulous music, tending towards grooves and live electronica, wrought with mostly traditional rock instruments. Among the guitars, drums and bass seep thick, tasteful synths and occasional noise disintegrations. Any genre tag would be too lazy to describe these guys, but perhaps interband comparison helps establish a ballpark: fans of Holy Fuck, The Octopus Project, Margins and other pleasantly driving instrumental acts should get a kick out of Zealous Chang. What’s more, they serve it all up with zero pretention and a nice bit of humour: they openly pay homage to likely influence Radiohead by covering “Everything In Its Right Place” as a faintly jazzy instrumental, and pay homage to the silly season by committing to a rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock.” Kudos, jokes like that rarely make it past the hypothetical stage, and they make it sound pretty damn good.
DOCTOPUS have an album, aptly titled “Buddies,” on its way through Future Past Records. ZEALOUS CHANG have a bunch of tunes up on Bandcamp and hopefully more on the way. These are two bands who are yet to really grow into what feels like their full potential, but are nevertheless already great, and who show real super promise of the sort that genuinely gets me excited. I’d recommend keeping eyes and ears peeled; tonight they conquer the Moon; tomorrow, who knows.