dave thomas crisps

Dave and Hoody: The Crisps. Shona Ross photo

The Crisps
+ PocketWatch
+ The Hot Ness
Marrickville Bowling Club, Sydney
Friday, 7 April 2023

Photos: Shona Ross

Seventeen years after they last stood together on a Sydney stage, The Crisps are hitting the road up and down the Australian East Coast, partly to promote the release of an EP and partly for fun. Tonight’s show is number-two of the run and happening on the Friday of an Easter weekend.

The Crisps were called a super group when labels like that weren’t cringeworthy, and comprised members of the New Christs, The Johnnys, Orange County and Doomfoxx. They played all the usual underground holes-in-the-wall back in the day, but fell apart when other projects came up. Their sole recorded legacy was a set of demos which have now been substantially tarted up and issued on vinyl.

The Crisps began as a vehicle for the songs of Stuart Wilson (New Christs, Lime Spiders, Chris Masuak & the Sydney Harbour Wave Riders and Soul Movers, and more recently Leadfinger) on drums and vocals. Dave Thomas (not that Bored! one) and Chris Nacard added guitar crunch and bassist Graham Hood brought the thudding bottom end.

In their day, The Crisps were an under-appreciated earful of artful melody and iron-clad riffs and one of the best bands bouncing around a still healthy if beleaguered Sydney scene. Memories of their shows were enough to draw a respectable crowd to the Bowlo tonight.

It wouldn’t be a Bowlo show without some sort of drama. Tonight, it’s a serious accident involving an aged car driver and his spouse who is somehow pinned between two vehicles as she’s directing hubby out of a parking spot. Half the headliners, a support band and club staff are giving witness statements to the cops when the doors officially open.

edie hot nessEdie of The Hot Ness.

meg hot nessMeg of The Hot Ness.

Adding their own aural drama is opening act The Hot Ness, a trio of a drummer, bass and guitar playing primal Pandoras-style, Rrriot Girl garage grunge. John Fenton (Crow) nails the beat to the floor while Edie Harkin (bass and vocals) and Meg Bernard (guitar) provide ragged punk sounds.

Things started uncertainly but eased into a groove mid-set. The Hot Ness songs are simple and noisy and the sole cover, a spiky take on Mudhoney’s “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More” gets the point across.  The band has been recording and you can get your own taste here.

jesusPhoto credit: God.

There’s no mistaking that we have been blessed with the presence of Jesus Christ in the crowd, dancing up a storm as The Hot Ness cut loose. Who said The Crisps were the only people capable of an Easter weekend comeback? 

Teenagers Pocketwatch might be the stylistic antithesis of Dad Rock but there’s no mistaking the fatherly hand of Celebrity Roadie Peter Ross keeping things on track. Pocketwatch is developing faster than one of his comedy monlogues and is fast becoming a must-see on the Sydney live scene.

Tonight’s set is a 14-song no-nonsense slam-fest, with newer numbers like “Wanted To” coming to the fore.

How they stay on song while throwing themselves around the stage is one of life’s mysteries. It’s really impossible to notice the odd bum note, about which the band members are infinitely more conscious than the crowd. Jamie’s bass lines are becoming even more closely wrapped around Sam’s rhythmic feels and his drumming is taking on more authority.

sam pocketwatchSam in the pocket with Pocketwatch.

jamie angus bowloJamie and Angus.

"Teen band" is an accurate descriptor when the members are 16, 16 and 19 but there's no novelty factor at play here. The kids are more than alright. They're seriously good. 

Like The Hot Ness, Pocketwatch has been recording - coincidentally at the same place, Richard Ball’s Sugarplum Studios in Sydney. The fruits of their session have been mastered by the masterful Don Bartley and release is imminent.  

It’s hard to match their energy levels but The Crisps do admirably well for old codgers. Dave and Chris lock into some searing guitar passages, and the whole set sounds remarkably fresh and tight.

stu the crisps

“Those Days Are Over” is the stand-out in a set of minor gems but its title is a misnomer of sorts, as we’re thrown back to a time when we were struggling for sight-lines at sticky carpet venues like The Hoey or The Ex. Each band member gets a chance to do their own thing and reference their history tonight, but the bulk of the songs are Crisps originals.

With The Johnnys on a hiatus until later in the year, Hoody leads a singalong “Injun Joe” while the encore of the Stooges'  “Dog” is the surprise packet that’s delivered in, uh, crisp fashion. Woof.   

Speaking of covers, "The Way (You Touch My Hand)" by The Nomads? What a choice.

The set’s a joy from go to whoa and you’d be a mug to miss them on the balance of their tour.

The Crisps
9 – Sydney, Manly Boatshed 
+ Sonic Garage + 4 Barrel Hemi
13 – Canberra, Smiths Alternative + Pilots of Baalbek + Undermines
14 – Bendigo
15 – Workman’s Club, Brunswick (arvo)
         Melbourne, The Tote (upstairs) +  The Dallas Terrors + Three Broads and a Gun