Review: Campbell Hunter Photos: Trevor Ball Photography
“When you own your own car you can play whatever you want!”
I will try to be honest as best I can. This is a story about three bands and one night out with… my Father. That’s right; I decided to invite my dad along to a rock and roll show at a nightclub. This was a first. My father is a conservative Christian whose principle driven lifestyle seems such a contrast to his musical taste. I was the kid in the backseat of the family car being driven around by my father, the ideal Christian role model, blasting Hells Bells and singing along to “You Shook Me All Night Long”. Slightly confusing! So I decided to invite him along to see what he thought. Is this music for our generation or is it just great music?
It's show night and I’m in a rush trying to get myself sorted for what is sure to be one hell of a time with a very diverse roster of talent. A wizard arrives precisely when he means to; however, I am no wizard so I have no excuse for being late. I arrive in the nick of time just as Painted Fruit are taking the stage - the lead singer, his shirt fully buttoned to his chin, his head adorned with a shower cap, the guitarist setting up next to him in a mesh shirt and black lipstick- they have my full attention before they’ve played a single note.
Buzz …buzz… “Hey I am here!” reads the text message from my father. I walk out to see my dad being asked for identification by the bouncers, much to his delight. “They think I’m packing!” he jokes. We head inside together, pops grabs himself a beer and I introduce him to some friends, we take our place in the crowd.
Painted Fruit’s music has a nostalgic surf rock sound with a slightly punk rock attitude that instantly seems to resonate with my father as he turns to me and asks, “What year is it again?” The bandmates share vocal duty, each one managing to perfect a tone of malaise so like the other that the changeups are seamless, they are one voice. By the third song people are moving and yelling along with the band. My dad is grinning from ear to ear, bobbing his head along with the other spectators.
Johnny de Courcey is next up. The room has filled and there is a positive static in the air as he set himself up. Johnny has an otherworldly quality to him. He is focused and quiet as he moves about the stage; dressed in his iconic fur hat, black overcoat, and striped pants. Ready, he folds himself into a seated position front and center stage to begin his tale. It’s intimate and exciting. He starts out calm, his voice almost a whisper, as if he is about to tell us a dirty secret. The song picks up speed, as do the theatrics. He’s risen now and is in full force. Cherry Lane kicks in and there he is, no holds barred. I look to my father now, still smiling amongst the crowd, sipping on his Phillip’s beer as Johnny screams “Give me my fucking drugs!”
“Fuck! Hold the mic closer!” Johnny says to a girl in the crowd who’s willingly agreed to hold the mic up to him as he leans over the edge of the stage to sing into it, fingers flying across his guitar. My dad now whispers in my ear, “I love Bowie and this guy reminds me of him, he’s really, really great!” At this point Johnny rips off his shirt singing, “I am a master manipulator, an old fashioned sinner”. Perfect.
After Johnny is Dada Plan. Their sound immediately brings back memories of my dad playing old Emerson Lake and Palmer albums. They start off slow and steady, with a pulse that grows and grows as they add bongos, saxophone, keys, and bass. I picture myself relaxing on a beach somewhere with a beer and a lady friend as the bongos and psychedelic sounds take me away. Dada plan are the perfect finish to the evening and by the end of their set the positive energy in the room is palpable.
My father seems visibly pleased with the night and as I walk him out he admits he should get out more to see these great, younger artists that are not about to die or retire. I have my answer then, this is just great music, it transcends generations. Dad approves. I laugh and wave goodbye as he walks away, passing through a cloud of cigarette smoke, a disapproving look on his face. It seems rock is not dead in this city after all, you heard it from my dad.