VALENTINE’S DAY HANGOVER FT ELECTRIC STATE, THIS IS SPUDGUN, INCOMPLETE AND FROM HERE ON IN
GRUMPY’S MUSIC BAR
Grumpy’s Music Bar is a place you could spend a lot of time in. They supply pretty much everything required for human survival: shelter, comfortable seating, food, drink and live music. Shame about the lights on stage, though. Red? We didn’t have our best photographer on the job last night (OK, it was me), but I reckon even Pennie Smith would have a hard time making bands look good under those lights.
Onto the music …
Proceedings on this post-Valentine’s night began with From Here On In, who thrashed out a pleasing brand of comedy-skate-punk. The songs came thick and fast and were delivered by a bunch of gentlemen who looked like they were old enough to know and old enough to know better. But, even if it did look like it’d been a loooooong time since any of From Here On In’s members had even seen a skateboard, they sounded bang on.
The existence of bands who are of an, ahem, older vintage, especially those who play thrashy punk music, begs the question as to whether rock and roll is just a young person’s game. triple j would have Australian punters believe it is, but the endurance of outfits like Green Day, The Offspring, Everclear, Gyroscope and Jebediah, all touring Aus this year, suggest otherwise. The relevance of bands like From Here On In should never be doubted. They cook, so age doesn’t matter a bit.
Which is good, because next up was Incomplete, who also don’t sit in the triple j age demographic, but who also like it hot.
That’s the thing about bands like Incomplete, they exist to discover their limits and then see how far they can push beyond them without it all blowing up in their faces.
Having been around for almost five years now, and currently deep into recording their second album, Incomplete have had a fair bit of time to work their craft. Tonight, this came through in the power, speed, drive and heart of their performance. It also shone through in their crafty arrangements, the Skids-like guitars and the deft pacing of their set. This is a band that plays their songs right on the red line, but knows just when to hold back, when to break it down and when to hit punters right between the eyes by bringing back the thrash.
Like the best punk outfits, Incomplete don’t have a single focal point, all four members take a starring role. But it’s hard to go past singer and guitarist, Jamie J Buchanan, who spits out vocals and slings his Tele like the bastard love child of Joe Strummer and Henry Rollins. Buchanan’s sheer physical presence is the portal through which punters get sucked into the world of Incomplete. Guitarist, Mark Rodrigues and bass player, Ryan Poppa feed off Buchanan’s energy and danger, bouncing around the stage like they’re hyped up on red cordial. To top it off, all three members of Incomplete’s front line display a level of musicianship that lets them invent and reinvent their chosen genre more than capably.
And don’t forget the drummer. Incomplete are held together by Peter-James Moulton, sticksman and vocalist, without whom everything about them would fall into a noisy, cacophonous heap. That’s the thing about bands like Incomplete, they exist to discover their limits and then see how far they can push beyond them without it all blowing up in their faces. That’s what people come to see, the danger of pushing it. Most bands never go far enough, many implode before they ever find the fireworks. Only a few can exist just beyond the line and hold it together long enough to write great songs and figure out how to perform them live without killing themselves in the process, either metaphorically or IRL. Incomplete are in the latter category. Go see them.
That brings us to This Is Spudgun. Coming into this evening, everyone I know who’s seen them told me how great they are. Hell, Jamie J Buchanan forward announced them at the end of Incomplete’s set by saying, “They will change your life.” Of the four bands on tonight’s lineup, This Is Spudgun were the one I most wanted to see.
It’s probably no surprise, given my levels of anticipation, that I was disappointed. What is surprising is just how disappointing I found This Is Spudgun to be. To me, they felt, looked and sounded like a cliché of a rock band, all hair and attitude, everything turned up to 11 all the time with no space for the music to breathe. Then, when they trotted out songs like ‘Bitch Next Door’ and one dedicated to “women over 40”, things turned sour for me. Personally, This Is Spudgun don’t bring the sort of danger I’m looking for in a live rock band. It was almost like they’d watched This Is Spinal Tap and believed it was a real documentary. This Is Spudgun were a hollow parody of a rock band reaching for past glories that we know in 2020 were more than inglorious.
Thankfully, Electric State brought it on home with a blistering set, complete with their own smoke machine and strobe lighting (are you still reading, Grumpy’s management?).
Cutting through when you’re innovating is just about the most difficult play in the rock and roll playbook, but based on last night’s performance, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Electric State pull it off.
Electric State’s vocalist, Rob Viney, is a powerhouse performer who mesmerises from the stage. His frequent forays into the audience were kind of cool and allowed for some pretty handy vocal participation from members of the audience, but they were mostly superfluous. Viney doesn’t need to wade into the mosh pit or stand on the bar and pour shots (yes, he did) to make himself heard. He’s got the vocals, presence and touch of madness required to do it all from behind the fourth wall.
Playing a power-packed set of 90s-inspired apocalyptic rock songs, Electric State put on quite the spectacle. Musically, they lean on the heavy end of the spectrum, more rock than metal, more punk than blues, more space than prog, but their music is all their own. It’s rare to see a band that has the freshness and creativity of Electric State and the live presence to make it stick with an audience. Cutting through when you’re innovating is just about the most difficult play in the rock and roll playbook, but based on last night’s performance, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Electric State pull it off.
Listen out for the Electric State bullhorn and sirens in a venue near you sometime in the very near future.