It’s been a long, sun-washed, weightless kind of day. Long, even though I slept all through the morning, before finally rolling into the city, where I ran into about 900 blood-covered zombies at the base of the Horseshoe. I hoofed it up to Peter’s Cellars, where the man (was it Peter?) took my money and gave me six cans of VB. I hung out at Madison’s backyard, where loads of wonderful people performed: Mercia Wise, Ermine Coat, Fabian Rojas, Laurel Fixation, Shit Narnia, Mining Tax, a bunch of spontaneous poets with Alex Griffin slapping the drums behind them in support. The date palms swayed, rays warmed our cheeks, the cask wine flowed or stayed cool in the ice-filled Coles trolley.
Soon it was Hyde Park, where performances were forgone in favour of delicious salads, hi-jinks, brews and dub music over the speakers. The light was getting grey-blue and people were dispersing. We moved on to Northbridge, where my journey began, nourishing ourselves with burgers at the base of the horseshoe.
This was my road, but one of many which lead to THE BIRD that night. Once there, I blasted out some cobwebs with a shot of the bar’s good coffee, then set about enjoying ELEVENTEEN ESTON. The enigmatic man with the legionnaire’s cap feeds perfectly-constructed throwback beats and basslines through his Marshall stack, before taking to his guitar with nimble fingers and wailing like a monster. It’s a controlled monster though, a well-dressed monster, with very clean jeans and dark shades. Eleventeen Eston has a synaesthetic quality, bringing with the tunes visual associations so vivid they seem to sit in your retinas: LAPD cop cars cruising past palm trees. Australian rock bands clanging reverby drums and steely guitars in a haze of multicoloured lens flares. Eston’s is a flawless and no-doubt loving pastiche, the sort you can grin about, and dance to, without having to worry about anything at all.
From there it’s on to RABBIT ISLAND; the trio of Amber, Jake and Sam were a highlight last weekend at Camp Doogs, and they bring a dose of that performance’s rarified, coruscating aura along with them. Some of Amber’s “classic” compositions are notably absent, but there’s nothing lacking. They start with the lovely, ghostly ‘Waterfalls’ by Carbuncle, and move like scarves in the wind towards spellbinding originals and borrowed tunes reimagined. They begin covering Peter Bibby’s “Medicine,” though they cut it off halfway through.
Halfway through, it’s worth mentioning what this whole evening is all about. And that is, in a word, MEDICINE. The Bibby song is the latest to be selected for the ‘Human Xerox’ project, an ambitious and ingenious vision bubbling up from the Technicolor mind of one Matthew Aitken (Gulls, Gilbert Fawn, Eggs Press, Magnolia’s et al). Basically, Matt chooses a song, puts out the call for anyone and everyone to cover it if they want, and then the myriad versions end up on a pretty-looking CD of Matt’s creation. This edition features two Rabbit Island versions, Eleventeen Eston, and about fifteen other bands/individuals. While you might think that listening to the same song reworked 18 times in a row would be tiresome, believe me: it’s a ripper.
One band that’s not on the CD, but whose poppier, more eclectic brother band (The Tigers) provided the song for Human Xerox No. 1 is THE SABRETOOTH TIGERS. They plonk themselves onto the Bird’s stage and very quickly accelerate into a set of smart dumb rock songs. There are massive drum fills courtesy Chris Cobilis (never realized how good a drummer Chris actually is) and barked refrains of things like “ROCK AND ROLL FOREVER” amid derisive lyrics that underscore the group’s bloke-riff facade. We nod our heads vigorously and absorb sweat-steam. I wish these guys played more often, it’s wild fun.
And then it’s the man himself, Peter Bibby, and the trio that fleshes out ‘Medicine’ in a group setting: FUCKING TEETH. Here’s a band I haven’t seen for ages, with the exception of last weekend, which only half-counts since they were beset by bum leads and issues of that ilk. Anyway, tonight solidifies the idea in my mind that Fucking Teeth are much more than a loosey-goosey good time punk band: they are, as it happens, a super accomplished and versatile rock band, one with both a sense of purpose and a sense of humour. I’m probably late to the party with that realization but there ya go! There are ridiculous songs (the X-Ray Spex-ish “Come Through My Jungle,” the howling punk freakout “Spastic Dog Dick”), the silly-but-clever (“I Wish You Were Dead”) and the earnest and beautiful, albeit slightly oddball (“Chair,” which ranks among the best Perth songs of recent years and bears a classic quality, much like the titular piece of 1950s fine-crafted furniture). Whatever the mood, there’s a sense of the whole room being totally involved, engaged, invigorated. People thrash about and lose their footing. People join in the howls and choruses. It’s and outrageous goodvibe, but what stands out to me this evening is the quality of the playing and songwriting that makes it all happen: the band has gotten tighter, smarter, more convincing, without losing any of its freewheeling charm.
And if that’s the spirit of Fucking Teeth – all-in, anything goes, unbridled fun, genuine creative excellence – then it’s only fitting that ‘MEDICINE’ forms the focal point for the new ‘Human Xerox’ – a project born of a sense of play, of sharing… of having a crack, and enjoying the craic.