TEX PERKINS & THE APE, British India, Adalita, Harts, The Cherry Dolls. The Prince Bandroom, Melbourne. 26-01-2015.


Words Jackyboy.
Photos Michelle Bateman – Shellbound Photography.

I don’t frequent St Kilda. I’m not keen on travelling far from my inner northern self-proclaimed utopia, but all hipster hyperbole aside, when I do go to St Kilda, I go for the great gigs. Amongst the back packers, junkies and prostitutes, St Kilda has some of the best venues Melbourne has to offer, and that mild Australia Day afternoon The Prince Bandroom beckoned my commute, featuring household names of local rock‘n’roll new and old.

A few minutes before doors and there’s a small crew waiting to get in. They look barely out of high school, but then neither do the opening act. The Cherry Dolls take the stage shortly after everyone is let in and a drunken posse from the balcony spill out into the room. Two girls explode from the pack and dance with unbridled enthusiasm. The Cherry Dolls play loud but look self conscious, they all have long hair and have taken meticulous efforts to look the part yet they don’t seem all that convinced themselves. The lead singer spends more time fidgeting with his outfit and cracking private jokes with his band mates than he does addressing his audience. Towards the end of their set they get it together, their sound goes from Stones to Sabbath and they rock out hard. The Cherry Dolls show real potential when they engaged, and after starting last year have headlined Ding Dong Lounge and made a foothold for some exciting gigs coming up this year.

Next up on stage was Harts. Watching Harts sound check was like foreplay. Dressed all in black juxtaposed by a psychedelic rainbow Fender, Harts tests his guitar line with Hendrix-esque licks. The musicianship of this one man band, turned two piece for live performances, is nothing short of jaw dropping. Harts starts cooking a song with a synth melody, the loop machine sends it back around and the drummer jumps in the stew. While this sonic ensemble blasts the audience Harts throws down rhythm and blues lyrics and glassy slick guitar leads. Their sound reminds me of Prince, a blend of catchy electro and jamming guitar rock. The audience stand there baffled while Harts leeps around the stage like a meerkat on amphetamines, so natural and stoked to be there he could be playing a pub room with ten people in it or a stadium of thousands, a virtuosic riff machine built to play, born to party.

After a quick spell in the sun on The Prince Bandroom balcony I assume the position to watch Adalita. A huge change of pace from the bands that followed, Adalita’s solo performance is delicate and engrossing. The lack of a backing band removes all distraction from her seamless guitar playing and bold vocal talents. The years in Magic Dirt show, through several guitar changes and gear manipulations Adalita shows no nerves, an animal in its natural habitat. The floor fills with more and more punters, pushing up the front with admiration in their eyes. No one dances; this is not dance music, it’s mournful and real, gentle and poetic.

Back on the balcony I take a moment to decompress. There’s a stir at The Prince, inside and out, the numbers in the crowd thicken. The sun sets over St Kilda beach and the Australia Day drinks have buttered up the punters considerably. A squawk of distorted guitar makes its way out of the balcony door and everyone’s on the move. It’s time for British India and punters are fucking wetting themselves. British India’s performance is mean and clean, visually chaotic and sonically strong. Front man Declan Melia introduces each song with fables and farce, bouncing jokes off the front row in a fine act of smart-arsery. Each song brings more and more people into the band room. Bootys are shook and lyrical hooks are yelled in an intoxicated chorus. Jamming since 2004, there’s no surprise British India have become a household name of Australian rock; their act is tight and energetic, their sound sits on the fence between the fringe and the mainstream.

British India wraps it up and some of the younger crowd pulls up stumps and heads out to the next Australia Day piss up. Others stick around and even more show up for the main event: Tex Perkins & The Ape. The guitars of Perkins and Raul Sanchez (Magic Dirt, River of Snakes) blast, big and proud. The songs are chunky and progressive, harsh and primitive. For a 50 year old muso and occasional politician this old horse can still pull. After over two decades of playing in bands such as The Beasts of Bourbon, The Cruel Sea and Tex Perkins and the Dark Horses to name a few, he still remains humble, jovial, a likable ape-man sweating and grinning. Every number closed is met with a wave of applause, several members of the audience in attendance for this band and this band only. Tex Perkins & The Ape ends the show baiting the audience for an encore, taking the piss and riling up the crowd.