31 August 2019 / Common Room, Hastings / By Michael Hawksworth
It was supposed to be four punk(-ish) bands in one night at Common Room, but Sydney outfit The Cants, in an act of uncompromising artistic integrity, couldn’t. Never mind, the three remaining bands were more than up to the job of filling the night with sometimes exhilarating rackets.
First up, Double Ya D and the Cosmic Shadows. This is a band we might be seeing a bit more of in Hawke’s Bay from now on if we’re lucky (they’ve moved here I heard). They’re a four-piece effortlessly cranking out a junky surf rock augmented by the kind of loopy irony you’d associate with Devo or The Cramps. Double Ya D himself is a magnetic stage presence sporting shades with a novelty witch’s nose attached, which made drinking his rider a little tricky. He yelps passionately through songs about, for instance, veggie balls – “I keep eating those veggie balls”. His guitar work and soloing are quite shambolically perfect. Rhythmically though, it’s often the Cosmic Shadows prominent keyboards that pull the weight – an arpeggiating, riffing, octaviating (is that the right word? It is now) motor keeping the grooves running. Drummer and bassist drive home that Sixties beat vibe. Perhaps they’re sometimes a little sloppy tonight – this is the kind of stuff that needs tight discipline to really push it over the top.
There’s a group of possibly underage kids drinking in a corner of the bar who turn out to be a. Silver Surfer, and b. of legal drinking age. These boys explode into action with a brand of pop punk not dissimilar to early Green Day. The playing is sharp and fiery, just as it should be, and the three-piece are partial to the kind of shifts of time signature and tempo you might hear in more funky kinds of 90s US punk. Even though Silver Surfer might really be hoping to distance themselves from this sound with their loud chant of “white boy funk sux!” the impressively mobile basslines suggest otherwise. They’re also fond of the (very) obvious punk gesture. “Silver Surfer sucks! You should be booing us!” insists the lead guitarist. The bassist wears an insultingly defaced Australian Rugby shirt. Arf.
A punter yells, “You guys suck!”
“Thank you, that means a lot.”
Last group of the night, Tauranga’s Threat.Meet.Protocol open their set to a now decent-sized dancefloor with a creepy intro of haunted-house organ. “Let’s not fuck around,” barks group leader/bassist Austin “Scowling Wolf” Cunningham, and they promptly wade into a loud punk/prog-rock fusion whose passages of grinding heavy-osity render the organist’s face completely invisible within a whipping tornado of hair. There’s no guitar in this line up, and, thanks to the band’s command of dynamics, arrangement and theatrical/vocal abandonment, it’s not missed. In their more conventional moments, they put you in mind of Head Like A Hole. But it’s when they’re on the edge, indulging their experimental tendencies that they’re at their best, a kind of physical mutant art-rock that chops unpredictably from sludge rock to horror waltz to thrash to comical slow-mo reprise. Their final coup-de-gras is the feverish disassembling of their equipment while the final song is somehow still playing. Marvellous. (Picture above).
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