Photos by Yours Truly
Friday nights in winter (yes, I know it’s still autumn, but indulge me) are tricky. There’s the footy, of course, and the should I stay or should I go vibe of the cold, dark nights. In the end, I decided on trouble instead of double, but my procrastination meant I missed tonight’s opening act, The Mackerels. My apologies, you were probably QFG or even RFG. Catch you next time around.
…Broken Gnomes are a band that take their songs to another dimension when they play them live.
For entertainment between sets there was Chris. Lyric’s Underground is a very civilised venue, all tables with the flicker of fake tealight candles and lots of space, especially as live music venues are still restricted capacity wise. Obviously, in the minds of governments and their minders, live music is a hotbed of orgiastic singing, dancing and, horrors!, enjoyment, whereas at sporting events, people just sit quietly in their allocated seats and nary a cough is let out. It’s just bonkers this discrimination against live music and it’s killing our industry. Let’s hope sense prevails again very soon.
Back to Chris. Here I am sitting quietly on a stool, minding my own business and Chris and his friend come barging through like entitled colonists and settle themselves into what was, just moments before, the space I was occupying. Chris watched me as I moved my stool out of the way of his superannuated backside and, once he was happy with his newly occupied territory, turned to me, stuck out his hand and said, “I’m Chris, sorry for taking up your space.” Hmmm. I declined to engage in his macho game of pretending to be pleasant to the native he’d just fucked over and said, “Are you?” He seemed quite surprised by my response and spent a good while with his back to me, pretending that I wasn’t there.
Anyway, on with the music.
Tanami have guitar and bass that sounds a bit like the early Cure, circa Three Imaginary Boys, when they were actually good instead of just popular. Lay over that some dreamy female vocals that sound like they came from a Death In Vegas album track and you should have something very interesting. The last three songs of Tanami’s set began to deliver on that promise, as they cut loose and started to perform instead of play their music. This band could be something, but right now they’re mostly unremarkable.
After Tanami’s set, Chris engaged me in further conversation, though I did everything short of telling him to fuck off to indicate that I didn’t want to participate. He was pissed, so nothing but himself mattered to Chris. At one point, after having asked me about Broken Gnomes and whether they were any good, to which I replied, “We’ll just have to wait and see,” Chris told me he didn’t know much about the music industry. Well, Chris, being white, male, cis, entitled and unable to curb your more antisocial tendencies when you’ve had a few probably qualifies you for an executive position in the industry. I hear there’s a high-level position going at WAM for which I think you’d be eminently qualified.
When I finally got up and walked away, while Chris was in mid flight, he looked bemused. Yup, that’s the problem, right there, lack of self-awareness.
Broken Gnomes opened their set with the slow burn of ‘Persian Love’, the song that gave them their name when they played their first gig at Nannup Music Festival. The audience was quietly appreciative, until front man, Cliff Kent, back announced the song, saying, “We finally made it!” a reference to yet another COVID delay in the Gnome’s steady march to the top. The applause this drew told the Gnomes they were playing to a home crowd and any hint of nerves dropped away as they segued into the final track of the EP they were here to launch tonight, ‘Keys To The Car’. This slice of sleaze rock filled the dance floor and it stayed full for the next hour while Broken Gnomes flexed their considerable musical muscle.
Interviewing Broken Gnomes before the launch, there was much talk among the band’s members about some of their more outlandish clothing choices. As drummer, Flick Dear, pointed out from behind her kit early in their set, tonight was no exception, with Bass player, Mitch Mitchell’s, yellow boots and guitar hero, Cissi Tsang’s, Bananas In Pyjamas top adding to the ever lengthening list of dodgy clothing choices. Mind you, who am I to talk? I was wearing my Christmas elf socks tonight in honour of these crazy kooks who, surely one day, will come on stage dressed in full gnomic splendour — whatever that is!
Clothes matter, but these five can wear whatever they like and get away with it, because they have the songs to back it up. A focal point of Broken Gnomes, on ample display tonight, is the interplay between the dual guitars of Kent and Tsang. Tsang struts their stuff on stage like a true guitar hero, throwing shapes and prowling like the best of them. Whereas, Kent, with his vocal duties to consider, is more restrained, but no less capable of pulling out a hot lick on his Gibson SG. If you need references, at any one time Broken Gnomes’ guitarists will give you George Harrison-like solos, Johnny Marr power tremelo, and plenty of fuzzed out swirling guitar bliss.
Held down by one of the best rhythm sections in the business, with Dear on drums and Mitchell on Bass, and augmented with the keyboard and synth melodic weirdness of Miles Hitchcock, Broken Gnomes are a band that take their songs to another dimension when they play them live. Beautifully restrained recordings become expansive soundscapes without ever losing their original shape. Get them warmed up and Broken Gnomes is a band that can mix it with the best of them. Tonight was no exception.
Playing a generous 14-song set (including encore), Broken Gnomes had their audience eating out of the palms of their gloriously talented hands tonight. I woke up this morning still singing the chorus to ‘In The Storm Again’ and looking forward to seeing where Broken Gnomes take things next. This is a band that feels like it’s only at the beginning of its musical journey. From here they could do anything. Including, just a suggestion, adding some brass to ‘No Star’ for the live rendition. Fuck, that would be good!