Having already met three members of Mighty Duke & The Lords on Friday, I was eager to check out their AWME set at the Sunday closing night party (presented by Transmitter Records). The Hi-Fi Bar was fuller than usual, with many people in early for headline act Melbourne Ska Orchestra’s midnight set.
The first thing I noticed before the band came on was the stage. Smothered in plastic leaf chains and Gelato-coloured Hawaiian wreaths, the stage looked like a tropical getaway, with band-branded suitcases stuffed between instruments and microphones. Then the stylish Melbourne five-piece entered.
Sporting distinctive white-on-white suits and hipster beards, the mismatched members of the Suitcase Royale, Mojo Juju, The Lucksmiths and the Melbourne Ska Orchestra looked every inch the trendy cruise-ship hosts they claim to be. Singers Mighty and Duke took their positions up front, flanked by their three instrumentalist Lords (Lord Ladybuoy on drums, Lord Fjord on bass and Lord E Lord on the saxophone), all wearing dark aviators, band tees, sailor hats and shorts.
They opened with ‘Trouble’, a cheeky parody about a troublesome, trickster-fond lover, with sharp-witted lyrics a la Weird Al Yankovic. Launching their 7” vinyl single at the merchandise stall, the band played ‘Werewolf Calypso’ – the A-side track. That’s when the party really started.
The crowd spilled into the Hi-Fi mosh pit, throwing beach balls and wreaths handed out by the band. The addictive track is a nod to the supernatural film genre (think Twilight), and tells the tale of a new courtship that quickly turns into a supernatural pub-crawl.
The song starts with a spaghetti Western-tinged intro – you can almost hear the saloon doors swinging – before erupting into an infectious saxophone-trombone combination. Layered over a catchy drumbeat, ‘Werewolf Calypso’ embodies the junk percussion of its old Afro-Caribbean origins. With Duke (Wally) huskily demanding “shake your tail, and show me your claws!”, Little Red Riding hood references and a cyclic chorus howl, it was no surprise when the Hi-Fi became a dance floor.
The B-side was ‘Beyoncé’, a tongue-in-cheek ode to the all-American diva. Singing of the former Destiny’s Child member’s “spacious boot” and “Super Bowl video”, singer Mighty (Glen) trilled and crooned exaggeratedly between flamingo guitar hooks, even squeezing in time between sax solos to badly mimic the infamous ‘Single Ladies’ dance moves.
Singing timeless tales of rum-soaked tomfoolery, jaded lovers and hermaphrodite weddings, the band clearly thrives in a pub environment. The call-and-answer arrangement of ‘The Cannibal Song’ upped the animalistic energy of the audience, encouraging the wonderfully rowdy Hi-Fi crowd to shout aggressively about sensationalised parrot boiling tribes and traditions.
Mighty Duke & The Lords are not just fun, they are also extremely clever and established musicians. Alternating back-and-forth between hearty singing and trombone playing isn’t easy, but Duke makes it look so, and Mighty is equally multitasked in his stage persona. The dapper duo are even more impressive singing Spanish with gusto on their swinging track ‘Fire’.
Between the five of them, the sound is crisp and loud, with intricate wind instrument harmonies weaved between rhythmic, multifaceted verses. They danced, jumped, sung and shouted their way through their zesty 45-minute set, enrapturing the audience with their originality and creativity. The boys looked like they were having so much fun on stage, and it was contagious!
*photos courtesy of David Harris