Pic of The Darkness' Justin Hawkins and Frankie Poullain by Pete Gardner
Join our guest contributor, Southern River Band vocalist/guitarist, Callum Kramer, as he trips the light fantastic at The Darkness' recent show at Metro City.
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW, THIS IS A RECOLLECTION. MY EXPERIENCES ARE MY OWN AND DO NOT REFLECT THE VIEWS OF ANYONE, INCLUDING MYSELF.
2003. A Thornlie Senior High School canteen quadrangle set ablaze by the release of the eagerly anticipated So Fresh: The Hits of Summer 2003, featuring all the soon to be, and I use this term very, very loosely, ‘classics’ for an entire generation of, well music lovers isn't really the right term, so we'll leave it at people with ears.
Some of those ‘classics’ - Hot In Her - Nelly, Papa Don't Preach - Kelly Osborne, The Ketchup Song - Las Ketchup (Chicken or egg, song name or band name?) and finally, Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous - Good Charlotte. Now we're ending on Good Charlotte here, because, if you look through the rest of the songs on this early noughties compilation of masterpiece-after-masterpiece, you'll notice that it is in fact one of the only songs played by, again, very, very loosely, a ’rock band’.
As a child that grew up on unhealthy doses of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, AC/DC, Guns n' Roses, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden and that whole ilk of Guitar Hero (not the fucking game) driven audible bliss, 12 year-old me was both confused and frustrated, and much like when a night out ends two days later with a bunch of people you've never met before telling you their deepest darkest secrets, the age old question arises – ‘How the fuck did we end up here? 'Hope...? Hope...? Has anybody got any hope?' And then, out of nowhere, in a still slightly pre-internet-dominated-world, a burst of light, or dark, I should say.
Standing triumphantly in front of a never-ending wall of Marshalls much like their forefathers before them, The Darkness. When I first heard Permission To Land, well, the best way to put it is, I nearly had a fucking heart attack, cried, and pissed and shit my pants all in one overwhelming wave of rock'n'roll ecstasy (the feeling, not the... ah... yeah). The year that passed was spent wearing away at that CD until it had played its last, incomparably out-of-this world window-splitting falsetto howl, in the hope that one day, this little old boy from Thornlie would get to one day see his saviours in the flesh.
Big Day Out (my condolences) 2004, still far too young to understand why mum and dad weren't willing to brave an entire festival so their only son could partake in a 21st century rock'n'roll band in their prime. Settling for the live broadcast on Channel V, I watched, then waited for the replay, over and over and over again. All the while reminding myself, ‘one day mate, one day’.
That day - May 12, 2017, 14 years on from first contact. An afternoon spent smackin' a few drinks and darts with my mates prepping for an evening of outrageous proportions. Arriving at Metro City at about 8.30pm, gazing over the queue I noticed one thing immediately, teenagers through to pensioners lined the once-velvet rope, all sharing in the buzz that we were about to witness something special. After spending 10 or so minutes conversing with fellow pre-show durry-punchers (where a lot of the action is to be found, might I add) and telling everybody within earshot 'If they don't open with Black Shuck, I'll walk east', we made our way inside to an already chockers room. Those with the prime real estate were not giving it up without a fight, so we stopped at the middle bar for a coupla shooters before deciding where to perch ourselves for the rest of the night.
'There's a gap!', someone exclaimed, so we made our way through to the right of stage, which was conveniently situated in front of another bar. ‘Two more Sambuccas, thanks’. There's something to be said about the feeling you get when you're at a show that you're already peakingly excited for and the house lights go down. HERE WE FUCKING GO! is kinda close, but it's more than that, because everyone else there feels it too, and for the next two hours, we're all in this together.
A quick hello from singer Justin Hawkins in his Lowestoft lingo and here we fucking go indeed. KA-BOOM, guitarist Dan Hawkins launches into Black Shuck and the place goes mental. I personally sent the drinks I had in each hand cascading over anybody within range, but no one cared, as it wasn't my fault, a man can't be subject to hearing Black Shuck live for the first time and be held accountable for his actions. Growing On Me comes in at number #2 and the place is alive with both nostalgia and awe. All The Pretty Girls followed before my personal favourite, Givin' Up - a song that sits right in the forefront of the memory from the BDO 2004 replays and train rides to Leederville TAFE it was so often the soundtrack to.
With Justin Hawkins declaring 'We're gonna play some old songs, some new songs, and some old, old songs', the crowd got what they came for. The new tunes stand right up alongside the hits, despite the uninformed and quite frankly - stupid people that try to label these guys a ‘gimmick’ or ‘joke’ band (thanks a fucking lot Steel Panther… coincidentally, also a great band) and prove that The Darkness are The Darkness and nothing in the world (i.e. - crippling heroin and cocaine addiction) can keep them down.
Arm-in-arm with my mate Jase and strangers we'll never see again, belting out tunes like One Way Ticket, Love Is Only a Feeling, Friday Night, Get Your Hands Off My Woman (MOTHERFUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKEEEERRRRR!!!) and Stuck In A Rut - as you can see, a Permission To Land tragic’s wet dream. As they tore into their biggest hit, I Believe In A Thing Called Love, the Chartchasers, as I call them, appeared almost out of thin air to let everyone else know they are, in fact, here and do, in fact, know one of the songs (Chartchaser - someone that pretends to like a band but only ever knows their biggest hit).
We decided to duck out for a dart expecting this to be the last song before the encore, and so the Chartchasers could have the space they need to take their selfie for Instagram and sing the wrong words in peace. After conversing with more durry-punchers ('How fucking good is this!?' and 'Just need Inglewood to beat Athena tomorrow and we're home and hosed' being the most frequently banded about terms) we moved inward to catch the encore and finish the night off in the fashion we started it, before being told by the ever so kind Metro City security, that despite it being 11.45pm and an actual ticketed concert with re-entry allowed, it was approaching their ‘lockout’ and we had to move on.
We stayed to hear Love On The Rocks With No Ice through the opening and closing of the main doors, but we didn't let that put a dampener on the night preceding it! A state-of-the-art rock'n'roll show put on by guys that live and breathe what they do. Class is permanent, and these guys are some of the best in the world at what they do. There is no bullshit, just four dogs that do in fact give a fuck about what they do.
The next time, fine reader, that you get the chance to see The Darkness, do it, just fucking do it, you'll be elated for weeks to come. You know what, for that matter, the next time you get a chance to see a live band, especially The Southern River Band, I implore you to do it, I guarantee it'll change your life.
Until next time readers, take care of yourself and those around you, and remember, Love Is Only A Feeling (… DRIFITNG A-WAY).