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LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID

The Naval Store
The Naval Store

SOUTHERN RIVER BAND
THE NAVAL STORE
14 AUGUST
Photos by Sheldon Ang

The Southern River Band brought their own brand of magical realism to The Naval Store on Saturday night with their biggest show yet since Mark McGowan told us all to stay home earlier this year.

It felt so naughty we half expected to be greeted by the riot police outside the venue after the show.

Given the circumstances, this was never going to be an ordinary night of rock and roll, and from the moment the opening notes of Van Halen’s ‘Hot For Teacher’ tripped out over the PA, the feeling in the room instantly shifted from relaxed to high alert, as backs straightened, heads turned and the crowd of 400 boogie-hungry punters tightened up around the stage.  It wasn’t so much that we forgot about social distancing, it was just that we’d found something more important to immerse ourselves in, at least for a while. Southern River Band were back, baby!  And, wowsers, were we excited!

Turns out the band were, too, because what came next was 90 minutes of classic Southern River Band live entertainment.  With this mob, it’s more than just a live music show, it’s something more akin to a three ringed circus, with front man, Callum Kramer, taking on the role of ringmaster and the band as a whole giving us everything from the tragi-comedy of the clowns to the ferocity of the wild animals, prowling the stage daring us to put our heads in their mouths.

Tonight, Kramer was everything from charming — “Do you miss me when I’m gone? Well, do ya?” — to pugnacious — “I won’t fight any cunt, I’ll fight every cunt.”  And you never quite know whether to believe his between-song banter, until he says things like, “Every now and then I like a little self-restraint,” at which point you know he’s got his tongue so firmly planted in his cheek he probably has a medico backstage to help him unstick it after each show.  Kramer is the most off the hook, unrestrained front man going around at the moment, certainly in Perth, probably in Australia, most likely, fuck it, we’ll say it, anywhere in the world.

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With his luxurious hairdo (“It’s not a mullet, it’s a mane!”) and wearing his Elvis-inspired, tassel-sleeved top and skintight bell bottoms with ‘SRB’ emblazoned over his pert backside, Kramer is a mix of Shakespearian sprite, Aussie bogan and prolix politician.  Coincidentally, he just happens to also be a shit hot guitar player who can sing so tenderly that he could charm woodland creatures from the forest and so raucously that he could start a riot.

The rest of the band aren’t bad either.  In fact they’re the tightest, loosest unit you’ll experience pretty much anywhere and could easily match it with any of the 70s (eg, Zeppelin, Skynyrd, The Sweet) or 80s (eg, Van Halen, Cold Chisel) acts that inspire them.  It’s not an overstatement to say that, if you like rock and roll, your life will not be complete unless you see Southern River Band on a stage somewhere at least once.  Don’t die without doing it.

Do you think the roast will be ready by the time we finish this gig?

Knowing this, you won’t be surprised to learn that the crowd of 400 that were allowed into makeshift venue, The Naval Store, on Saturday night had a ripping time and went home deliciously weary from all the dancing and romancing that Southern River Band led us through. 

Initially booked for Mojo’s, the event was moved to The Naval Store once it became evident that the COVID restrictions were going to rain on the band and their audience’s party; and didn’t Kramer let the world know it!

Suggesting in a pre-show Instagram video and during his between-song banter that Premier McGowan must be sleeping with someone at the AFL to allow 30,000 people to attend football matches in WA while still restricting live music venues to crowds in the hundreds (telling it on the night, Kramer used lots of swear words that made us blush, so we can’t repeat them here), Kramer punched a hole through the politician’s stellar approval rating.  For the 90 minutes Southern River Band were on stage we became the 11 per cent-ers, raging against the machine and giving a collective ‘fuck you’ to COVID and all that it’s done to restrict life as we know it.

And that was part of what made tonight so special.  The crowd at The Naval Store was a diverse as we’d seen at a Southern River Band gig.  There was everyone in the room from Kim Gordon look-alikes, to people in suits, older folk and, of course, plenty of those young types who slink into venues on a regular basis to see rock and roll music played live and loud.  The Thornlie contingent, Southern River Band’s hard-core followers, were well outnumbered.  Tonight’s was the band’s most diverse audience and they were as one with Kramer and his colleagues as we collectively grasped the tail of the SRB tiger.

Tonight, Southern River Band gave us everything from the country licks of crowd favourite, ‘Chasing After Love’, to the dirty blues of ‘Let It Ride’ — complete with a guitar and vocal call and response Page and Plant would have been proud of — to the taut bogan metal of single ‘Vice City’ and standout track from their second album, Rumour & Innuendo, ‘Chimney’. This was maximum R&B the way only Southern River Band can do it, swimming in a pertie dish of 70s rock, but somehow sounding like the future.

And, was it ever good to be out! It felt so naughty we half expected to be greeted by the riot police outside the venue after the show.  Instead, we trudged home in the rain happy, headaches already starting to caress our furrowed brows as we wondered when we might be able to experience something like this again.

As Kramer said at the end of Southern River Band’s closer, ‘One Of These Nights (I’ll Be Gone)’, “Who knows when the next one’s going to be?”  That made the mass sing along of I won’t be around / I won’t be around much longer, all the more poignant.

You’ve got to live life while it’s there for the living.

Set List
Full Piss/Busted Up
Second Best
Do You Miss Me?
Vice City I
Vice City II
Let It Ride
Cigarettes
Chasin’ After Love
Two Times The Fool
Chimney
—–
Falls Apart
One Of These Nights (I’ll Be Gone)

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