The Tote Hotel. Is there no place you’d rather be to see a band in Melbourne? Whilst that statement will open a can of worms amongst many gig goers, it can’t be denied that it certainly was the place to be last Friday night, where the team at Wing and Gill put together a killer line up that didn’t shy in showing off the staggering amount of talent pouring out of the Melbourne scene at the moment.
Both the upstairs and main room were being used tonight, so it was up the flight of stairs to catch the first act of the night, all girl punk trio Wet Lips. Grace K led the band through a stomping half hour set of garage punk goodness that drew more and more people in as the show went on. Grace’s vocals balanced between a low monotone growl and trademark screech that brings to mind the work of seminal punk artist Kathleen Hanna, with the rhythm section killing it song after song. The scrappiness of the instruments almost seemed to derail entire songs, but found themselves kicking back in unison before unleashing another pearler. The set left many with a giant grin on their faces as the band clearly have a blast playing with each other, and as cries of “One more!” sound out around the room, it was straight downstairs to catch the next band of the night.
Going Swimming are in the midst of a mid song wig out by the time I step into the main room. Front man Nicholas Leggatt looks deranged, slamming into his bandmates and shrieking off mic. The band are playing one of the tracks off the fantastic EP Shark Attack, and Leggatt’s half Lux Interior, half Nick Cave vocals are getting a real workout to a criminally sparse audience. The banter between the songs is hilarious, and the bands enthusiasm is infectious and gets a few people down and dancing wild to match the raucous tunes. One of the highlight’s of the set is the new single She Hates Sports which has deservedly been getting quite a bit of airplay on local radio. Whilst unhinged on the record, it is even more so live and last minute stragglers to the performance are left scratching their heads wondering why they weren’t here earlier.
Without much time to catch your breath back, resident bubblegum pop stars The Pink Tiles hit the stage in the main room. The announcement halfway through their set that they have only been together for one year comes as a bit of a shock, considering how tight the band is throughout their set. With the recent departure of French guitarist Arnou, it has been up to Paul Maybury to be promoted (or demoted?) from the mini Casio electric keyboard to lead guitar. The interplay between duel female lead vocalists Mara Williams and Victoria Defruita is mesmerizing, their sweet vocals perfectly suiting the pop guitar sound of the band, yet also carrying a certain punch that gives the sound a well needed edge. Two minute gems equally reminiscent of 60s girl groups and The Kinks are punched out with ease, with highlights including Don’t Be Shy, Nicholson Street and new song Gold (the title unashamedly inspired by the groups favourite Spandou Ballet song). The set is one of the highlights of the night, and has me already looking forward to the next chance they get to grace the stage. Having only released a limited cassingle, lets hope news on the next release isn’t too far off. Remember, pop is not a dirty word.
The Clits have just released their way too long overdue debut 7” “Excuse Me” via Anti-Fade records, and are a favourite of many gig goers in Melbourne. The trio consistently put on great ramshackle performances filled with charm and impressive instrumental skill. Upstairs, front man Lucas Heenan urges everyone to “step over thesthreshold” and get as close to the band as they run through favourites such as Hot Box and 22 Past 5. The mix, however is slightly muddy, and Lucas’ vocals are barely audible from those further than one metre away from the stage. However, this doesn’t take much away from the performance, the bands enthusiasm shining through, taking requests and making sure everyone was having a rollicking time.
By the time I get downstairs, the Tote is packed and Milk Teddy are in the middle of their swirling jangly guitar pop, with a wall of sound that washes over the entire audience. Playing selections from last year’s excellent LP Zingers, as well as treating the audience to a smattering of new tunes, Milk Teddy prove they are at the top of jangle pop game. The live renditions of the songs prove to shine brighter and have more punch than the recorded versions, and if the new songs are anything to go by, the follow up to Zingers is going to be just as special.
Full Ugly waste no time in setting up, and the Tote is nearly filled to capacity. After all, it is Full Ugly’s special night, and they are celebrating the launch of their fantastic debut 7” “Drove Down“. Nathan Burgess’ country tinged vocals take prime position amongst the bright guitar pop driven sound of the band. Burgess has an awkward endearing charm, highlighted in his in between banter in songs and introducing a cover song that is a bit of a guilty pleasure for all in the band. The group launch into The Eagles’ 1972 hit Take It Easy, which induces a sing a long in the crowd with those who are ashamed in their love of 70s soft rock. The highlight of the set comes with Drove Down, the single being launched that night and the shimmery guitar and Burgess’ vocals combine to deliver a memorable performance. Full Ugly are often compared to other excellent local bands such as Dick Diver and Lower Plenty, yet they are by no means carbon copies, exuding their own take on lyrics and melody that only they seem capable of. Burgess lets everyone know that the songs they are playing form part of their upcoming LP, produced by the prolific Jack Farley.
When it boils down to it, the night was a celebration of rock and roll and it’s various incarnations.
By Tom Marinelli