If the '90s and early '00s were the era of young folk aping the look of punk junkies (see Buffy the Vampire Slayer), the Twenteens will be remembered as the era of OI! BEARDFACE! YOU! FACE THE FUCKING AUDIENCE! You are PERFORMING! YOUR BACK DOES NOT PERFORM! YOU FUCKING TWAT!

The Metro, Adelaide
24 April 2014

Well, perhaps not for most of you. I mean, young people nowadays. They just won’t be told.

Stinky Lines I forgive because it looks very much like their first gig, and they’re all turned in toward each other. It’s rather intimate. It also looks like the only people in the room they’re prepared to trust is themselves. Stinky Lines are a rock’n’roll gang. They were rather good, rather raw, more or less made one song up on the spot with excellent results and ended with an ugly cover of Iggy Pop’s Dog Food (apparently a Stooges song which I’ve never heard). Yes, I enjoyed Stinky Lines, in spite of myself too which is always a good sign.

Avant Gardeners have about eight members and, like several Adelaide bands (Systems Go were a particularly socialist collective), there is much swapping of instruments to no discernible purpose other than, one assumes, that’s how they rehearsed it. And, because there’s eight people, some of the buggers are in the audience and again, there is a surfeit of beards (not the women) and backs. But I forgive them, because they can barely hear themselves. There’s nine channels to the desk I think, so getting a proper mix is impossible (remember, vox mikes and drum mikes). They still sound good, though: Karl-from-3dRadio’s bass has a nice solid sound and it is he (given they had three or so different drummers) who really keeps the whole shebang grounded. The four guitarists have the right idea - two, the women, I’ve seen live before and been impressed with - so I can tell you now, on the right stage with the right desk, this band would smack your bits up. Pretty good lyrics, too. All I can say is: get into a studio, folks, and push it out. Avant Gardeners are another rock’n’roll gang. Like criminals, they stick together because it’s what they know best.

So, to Harry Howard and the NDE. As he’s not joking about the severity of the Near Death Experience, we’re rather lucky to have him alive, never mind drive down to a dump like Adelaide in a van with the likes of Clare Moore and Dave Graney … Oh, to have had a camera secreted in the roof: ‘What’s this town called?’ ‘Kaniva.’ ‘Ed, kaniva pie?’ (cue sound of something hard hitting something soft) ‘Ow!’.

So why the hell so many people like their little victory of sneaking in without paying I cannot imagine. This band aren’t rock stars. I can understand lurking outside a stadium when the Police or the Stones play, armed with a pair of binoculars. I can even understand sneaking in by saying you’re ‘on the door’ on the strength of knowing a well-known band member who barely remembers you but doesn’t know anyone else in the city so… but I can’t understand why you’d do it to a band who would very much like to be playing music for a living. It’s hard enough, god knows, to sell a cd these days, much less get a crowd to get out of their jimmy-jams and out into the cold (for Adelaide, in actual fact it’s merely cool) night to see a band. The excuses we heard were ‘oh, I just want to go and see my friend’; ‘I’ve been here for ages anyway’, ‘no-one asked me to pay’, ‘yes, I’ve paid’.

Whenever I used to go to see bands, I paid, and if I couldn’t afford more than one drink, tough. I got to see the band. Look, the band aren’t just four gits onstage plunking away and keeping you occupied while you get pissed. Surely the music is the priority, not the booze? One culprit who I will not name (TONY YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) came, paid, saw the first two bands and LEFT EARLY so he could get up to catch the train to Gawler so he could go on ‘a sacred Anzac Day pub crawl’ … Fuck that. Just have less sleep, mate. Music is more important than booze. Makes Harry’s ANZAC-related comment ‘the nation’s defining moment - it’s only a biscuit, for heaven’s sake’ rather pale… Ah, I’m going to get a phone call denying everything… I’ve been on three pub crawls and each ended up with endless evil-smelling streams of stuff coming out of various parts of me and the world around me shrinking to a small tin can with a herd of rogue elephants doing their best to get in. Not my idea of fun, but that’s me.

Harry Howard’s band are bloody brilliant, a prime example of joi de vivre, love between couples, and there’s a unique intimacy about them so strong that it almost doesn’t matter that they’re playing music. Their personalities spark in such a way that that’s almost a show in itself.

And you pricks didn’t want to pay.

You’d be annoyed if you weren’t paid on time. So don’t deny an artist.

Ah, yes. Back to the review. Well, tonight showed ‘the outfit’ (Harry Howard runs a r’n’r gang) at that interesting stage where they’re developing past their second album (from which most of the set is taken). No new songs yet, but there’s a slightly different, more expansive approach; not least intriguing is Harry’s new pedal. But pedals are not everything, in fact just watching Harry sweeping and biffing his poor guitar is rather fun, beguiling to behold as he strikes and whacks the wooden lump like it’s been a very naughty child.

Speaking of naughty children, once they’ve loosened up they tell tales about each other. Dave (the thwarted comedian, tonight resplendent in neat’n’tidy blue bags and shirt, topped with a bizarre blue leather jacket, and looking a bit like a 7ts Vespa salesman. There is, apparently, no end to the mysterious inner world of Dave) tells on Harry. Harry tells on Ed. Ed squeals, protests, Dave tells, Harry tells and this is all onstage between songs banter. Clare looks on with good tempered amusement and rightly keeps mum.

But, as I may have mentioned before, one major strength of this outfit is the love, trust and respect each has for the other. Also somewhat wonderful is the playfulness - not always apparent - between the two couples. For example, Dave’s stuck in the middle, concentrating on his bass (sorry, Karll-from-3dRadio, but Dave’s was the tuffest bass tonight), strong, liquid and as elegant as a pencil-thin moustache; and he’s posing off. Nothing too extreme. Just that every now and then he turns round, catches Clare’s eye and teases her with it. Of course, he can’t put the chief mechanic in the engine room off her stride that easily, but it is rather sweet to see her giggling at his absurdity. It’s a touching, beautiful little glimpse into their world.

Ed and Harry bounce off each other magnificently, of course, which is an endless source of fascination. They are each other’s strength and power, each protective of the other. For all those piss-stains who wear the tshirt with a stylised image of a couple marrying with ‘= Game Over’ (you’ve seen them), that’s a bit like wearing a neon sign above their heads saying ‘I don’t know nuffink, hit me’.

Melburnians who stay at home when Harry’s gang play should quite simply, destroy their music collections, because they have no business pretending to like music when they’re not squashed into a steamy room when Harry’s band are playing. Howard’s outfit is a joy to behold, to dance to; and they called Adelaide ‘special’ - which unfortunately lead me to recall a Far Side cartoon depicting a Special School building, with a door at the front marked ‘Pull’, and the denizen of said Special School pushing at the door as hard as he could.

Which is probably about right, really.

We went out into the slightly cool air, smelling of smoke, booze, fun and life and I’m glad I don’t have a beard. I like the night’s kiss.