World's End Press have started their "Second Day Uptown" National Tour and they kicked things off in their hometown of Melbourne on Friday 29 June. I went along to catch the show.
The Corner Hotel is an interesting beast on a Friday night. We get there a bit early, so make our way to the front bar. The footy is on the tv, later that night the bar will be filled with the footy crowd. Right now, the usual creatures are slouching at the bar and slinking around the pool table. Looking around, we decide we're glad we drove. Fighting for a taxi at 1am with this lot could get interesting.
Predictably, The Cure are on the front bar's sound system, but pretty soon, the bass driven beats from the main room tell us it's time to check out the opening act.
Romy has started awkwardly. I'm not sure what she's trying to do, but it's not quite clicking with the room. There's a few people in here, but only one girl - possibly Romy's bestie - is jiggling around excitedly. The rest of us are not. The Coopers Greens are lining up and slowly I'm starting to feel it. The beats take a turn for the better. Chicago House starts to sneak in. Her voice is starting to suggest some talent. But then, tragedy! It all turned off. Even her vocals. I guess her computer crashed. Quick, Ctrl - Alt - Del! But no. She apologises meekly and the red curtain closes almost embarrassingly.
Time to check out the DJ. This is the stuff I often find the most interesting at a gig. So let's listen to what DJ Roman Wafers from Bamboo Musik has to offer. Sadly, not much. I don't know about you, but surely it's a rule somewhere that if you are DJing before a headline band, you don't play their new single. Even a remix of it. But not this guy. He trainwrecks from this into a pretty standard 90s set, and some "Erotic City", which, quite frankly, was probably pulled out of the record box of every DJ in Melbourne that night. So, nothing new from this guy. He'll be back after the next band, with mixing so appalling that people are actually covering their ears. This guy's a mess, so we'll forget about him and move onto the surprise package of the night.
Ben Browning is here. And he's got a few ideas that we all like. Now, this is a surprise. Gus Franklin from Architecture in Helsinki is there on the drums, right down the front. Shags Chamberlain from Lost Animal is up the back on keyboards. Ben Browning is out the front on guitar and vocals, and some guy from a Calvin Klein photo shoot from 1992 is on bass. So, in the week when The Smallgoods announced their break-up, here's three of them on the stage together. Are we going to hear one last Smallgood song from these guys? Is this a 'farewell show' in hiding?
The set starts promisingly. The songs are great, and reveal Ben to be sadly underused in his bit-role for The Smallgoods. Here, he's given the chance to show us what he likes, and it's good. The disco crowd, which is filling up the room very nicely, is lapping it up. Steady beats, strong lyrics, keyboards that remind us all of why we love dance music. The photographers down the front have realised this, and have finally turned their attention away from the charismatic Gus and onto the main attraction -- Ben. He throws in an Eddie Grant cover for good measure. The only misstep is when Ben attempts a song that sounds dated and old and stale and I realise it's one that he probably wrote while in The Smallgoods and it just doesn't seem right. Lachie and Ben Mason could have sung it, maybe 7 years ago. Tonight, there's no need for it. Stick to what you, and we, love, Ben. We're so impressed, we buy his EP at the end of the night.
DJ Roman Wafers is back, so I head out to the front bar and it's filled with the footy crowd. Eugh! Back to the main room in time to see the band. The World's End Press are in the house and the crowd are pumped and ready for some disco love. We won't be disappointed. Last time I saw these guys, they took control of Golden Plains, saving a night that was ruined by Hawkwind, owning the biggest stage of their career and smashing the hill senseless until 3am. Their warehouse shows are legendary, but tonight, we're treated to a more intimate show. And the boys know this. Things are turned down, the energy is there but not over the top. This is what I imagine the Prince after-parties at Bennett's Lane would be like if I was cool enough to go. The small room feel of this show is very infectious and mid way through the intro of their first song, we are ready to party.
The band reference the late 80s and early 90s as they build and craft this first song into a peak. It's Warehouse Music and we're sorted! The songs are new but they're not lost on this crowd. We've been waiting for this album to drop for a while now, so the chance to hear these tunes live is greedily received. There's a flat moment with the fourth song, but every set needs a breakdown, and this is it. They give us the big tune; the single "Second Day Uptown". It's a blinding moment; hands in the air and lasers shooting stars in our eyes. Sashi has become Sasha, the bongos going ballistic, bandy legs flying akimbo. It's 11:30pm but it could be "3am - do you know where your children are?" or "3am Eternal". These tunes are building, the crowd is jumping. Suddenly, everyone looks beautiful, my palms are sweaty and I'm feeling huggy. No "West End Girls" tonight. Probably a good decision. The song could very quickly become their albatross. But a strong Progressive House finish and a clever encore. We leave during this last song. Always leave on a good song was the rule back in the day. That way, you'll be humming it all the way home.
The show rolls out across the major cities this week. Catch them in Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney. All details are here.
Buy the single here