RED ENGINE CAVES
3 DECEMBER 2021
Photos by Damien Crocker
It’s a week later and my ears have only just stopped ringing.
The Sunday after the gig the lovely sound operator at the Rosemount asked if I wanted some earplugs. I told him it was already too late, with a rueful smile on my face. I’m going to die a deaf old biddy, but fuck I’ve had fun getting there!
Red Engine Caves finished their set in a blaze of strobe lights and fireworks.
As we left the venue we bumped into a couple of members of a local band called Mange, Minge, maybe Mage, something like that. We compared notes on our leopard skin print tops and then I turned to my companion and told her to mush up the ramp some kind Fremantle councillor had built for the hard of walking. My companion told me to watch myself and then proceeded to race me up the hill legs and wheels moving at a furious pace, her nifty mobility device glowing in the dark.
Having played a set that included crowd favourites as well as three new songs, Red Engine Caves had just given a masterclass in rock and roll. Tonight, they showed us why they’re such esoteric legends. It wasn’t the musicianship and the showmanship. It wasn’t the sackful of tunes that would blow just about any other band in the world from any era off the stage. It wasn’t the lights and pyrotechnics. It was the intangibles. Mandozzi’s karate kicks. Kramer’s shirtless drumming. Sunbird’s…well, everything! Oh, he is so sexy! (Did I just write that? Why aren’t I deleting it?) It was the magic that only rarely appears when everything just clicks. That’s what Red Engine Caves do, they click.
Red Engine Caves finished their set in a blaze of strobe lights and fireworks. At this point it was difficult to tell who the front man was. Kramer had been standing up behind his drumkit for the last half of the set, unable to stop his mouth and body from doing what they always do, run at a million miles an hour. Sunbird’s bass was lucky it had survived the rigours of the last 60 minutes. Like its owner this four-stringed instrument is tuned to live fast and play loud. Whether it’s destined to die young remains to be seen. Sunbird has tried every imaginable method of leaving the planet, including virulent diseases and violent car crashes. Thankfully both instrument and player still survive and did so until the lights went down. Whether they’re still alive a week later it yet to be confirmed. Mandozzi strangled the last few decibels of sound from his guitar and left it lying on the stage like a sacrifice to the gods of noise. It was a triumphant end to another legendary Red Engine Caves outing. Yeeeeeeow! This was a good, nay, great, show.
In the final stanza of Red Engine Caves’ set the on-stage histrionics kicked up a notch with great plumes of dry ice being sprayed into the air at front of stage, the special FX operator doing a nifty job of keeping the spurts in time with Kramer’s primal beats, Mandozzi’s treble-heavy guitar and Sunbird’s slick bass lines. Maybe the dry ice plumes were intended as a display of male potency a la the sort of 1970s rock that Red Engine Caves channel and play so well? You know, the they’re not the messiah, they’re just naughty boys shtick that rock stars of that era tended to go for, a bit of a nod to the excesses so beautifully skewered in This Is Spinal Tap? Who knows? And, frankly, who cares? Red Engine Caves could get away with pretty much anything, because they’re just so fucking good at what they do.
Just like The Beatles, Red Engine Caves consider their manager, local music impresario, venue owner and he of the impressive locks, Alex Miller, to be their fourth member. (Yes, I know, it’s the fifth Beatle, leave me alone, I’m trying to do something here.) So, they called him up on stage to take the applause from what was, by this stage in a set around two thirds of the way through, a completely enraptured audience. We gave Mr Miller a rousing burst of applause and then, moment over, the band kicked back into life, the relative quiet banished for ever by their sublime noise.
Sunbird had been singing off mic all night. It was the first time I’d noticed him doing this and, around mid-set he stepped up to explain that he doesn’t want to overshadow Mandozzi, but tonight he’s going to do it anyway. While he was flapping his gums, Kramer came down from the drum riser and took up a spot next to Sunbird and then Mandozzi played his guitar and wailed while Sunbird and Kramer proper sang some beautiful harmonies. Mandozzi invited a friend on stage part way through the number and the four of them turned the air in the venue into electricity. Fuck, it was beautiful! Song sung, Sunbird quipped that he’s never going to do that again. I’m going to call him out as a big fibber right now.
Red Engine Caves snuck onto stage in the dark. They love the element of surprise and, when the lights went up and guitarist, vocalist and mad professor, Ricky Mandozzi, strangled the opening notes of new single, ‘Leadfoot’ from his guitar, the audience rushed the front of the venue. I though my companion might get engulfed for a moment, but the laser light beaming from her spaceship kept them at bay. Hurrah for the International Day of People with Disability. The crowd were digging it almost as much as they were digging Red Engine Caves. They may have been gone from our lives for two whole years, but time had not slowed them down or mellowed their mayhem one bit. From the opening note, it was evident that tonight was going to be a good, good night.
While Moana packed up their gear we snuck up to the front of stage. I sat in the cockpit of my companion’s spaceship while she showed me how the lasers worked and Fearns mouthed the words of ‘Foxy Lady’ to us as the DJ played the Hendrix classic over the PA. It was a sublime moment that confirmed what we’d known since we’d waved my companion’s blow up Santa goodbye some hours earlier — we were the belles of the ball.
Moana make noise, beautiful, spine tingling, hair standing on end, chaotic noise. I love what they do, have done since I first saw them play live and listened to their music. They’d make a great feature interview for ATS one day.
Tonight was no exception.
A lot of what Moana do is in the interplay between Moana Mayatrix’s vocals and performative delivery and Willow Fearns’ absolute rock goddess guitar work. I’ve seen them all from Siouxie and the Banshees to Sonic Youth and Moana have what it takes to top them any night of the week.
Tonight was no exception.
All hail the noise makers.
After Satisfaction Guaranteed had finished their set I stuck a straw up my companion’s nose. Turns out that’s not how you drink wine, even if you do have cerebral palsy. I committed to do better next time. Please don’t vilify me on social media.
I consulted with my companion and we agreed that Satisfaction Guaranteed could be something one day. Possibly. Definitely maybe. When they stop trying to be the New Yardbirds. If I’ve learned one thing in this life it is that you just need to be yourself. Everything else flows from that one act of self love.
The venue was a little quiet as we entered, but the buzz was already there, the room was ready and the crowd was the sort of trickle that portends a flood.
After parking the car, my companion and I got ready for the perilous downhill trek to the Naval Store. I put together her walker and she showed me how to turn on the lasers. We flew down that hill like we were two kids riding in an alien spaceship.
We drove off and then realised we’d forgotten her walking frame, an essential item of equipment when you’ve got cerebral palsy. We went back and then reversed out of her driveway for take two. I considered for a moment running over the blow-up Santa guarding my companion’s front door. I’m a nasty bitch, people tell me so all the time.
As I drove down my companion’s street every house was festooned with Christmas, even hers. She told me her neighbours had decorated for her. I can’t remember whether it was meant to be an act of community love for a woman who is a triumph of living it large or an act of vengeance and torture. My neighbours decorate for Christmas, but they don’t give my house a makeover. Mind you, I’m not half the woman my companion is.