What can I say? The Gaelic Club is small, ugly, and it has a fucking pole down the middle of the room that's almost in front of the stage. There's a balcony area, but you can't get up there unless you're the band, or friends of the band, at least on this night, so that means you can't avoid it. It's ridiculous, really: the pole sits right slap in the middle of the front there and that kind of annoys me. But maybe I'm being unreasonable--D says he quite likes the place, pole down the middle and all.
The Drones are out touring for their new album, Gala Mill, which I like, but I've said doesn't have the rawness of the previous, Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By. The live show, a mix of the two albums, basically, was pretty chunky and raw and wild, and the new songs held up really well in the venue and when placed against the old. Maybe the album's fault, then, is in the mixing, who knows? All I can say is live the new stuff sounded tops.
I was really pleased to see them perform 'Sixteen Straws', which is my favourite track from Gala Mill (picture at the top is from that), and which is also the Drones stripped back to a guitar and a harmonica with those fantastic lyrics. That was performed at the start of the encore, which then turned into a set that included the Darling Downs, who had opened second for the band. The Downs have been around for a while now, a country influenced mix of Johnny Cash's dark side and Nick Cave and the Badseeds, I guess, and if you dig that kind of thing, they do it well. The two songs performed with the Drones were a really fine way to end the gig off, I thought.
Frontman for the Drones, Gareth Liddiard, has that whole lean, rough as guts, Australian stockhand look going for him in terms of looks, and he has that laid back, easy charm in front of the audience. He had this way of speaking that I just loved, and my favourite moment of the night came after the drummer, Michael Noga, lost his drink, and Liddiard turned to the crowd and said, "It's all gone to shit now: we've lost a scotch."
Hey, what can I say? I like my dialogue.
A special mention for the night must got to this guy, who I think is called Jack Lantern. Or maybe Jack O'Lantern.
I couldn't really tell, since he mumbled a bit, but he was the guy who opened the whole night. He was playing when D and I arrived, and when I say playing, I mean, talking to the audience. He was being heckled, I think, but in a playful way, since I think he had friends in the audience. He was doing alright with that, but the best part of it was that, when he actually managed to play (which was after a couple of minutes or so between each song), he'd stop playing if something wasn't right. If the audience were talking too loud. If the phone in the bar rang. He'd place his hands against his temple and say, "This is not meant to be part of the song," and wait until it changed. Considering that he moved and looked somewhat like a puppet from the Thunderbirds, as one guy said to me, it had its own humour.
Was he any good?
Well, no, not really. Like most of the acts that front a band and have only a guitar and a harmonica, he had a long way to go, but that's how it is, sometimes.
Anyhow: The Drones, played loud, played well, put on a fucking cool live set. Touring round Australia, touring in the UK, Europe, and the States through October and November. Check 'em.