Hanging on a sound pioneered by slackers and underachievers is limiting in the same way …
CLOWNS w/ Ecca Vandal, Private Function and Würst Nürse
Saturday, 22nd June, 2019
Max Watts, Melbourne
Winding down the stairs into Max Watts, we enter into an already buzzing room where patrons have gathered for the home turf show of Melbourne hardcore/psych/punk outfit CLOWNS, who are in the final stages of their Nature/Nurture album tour. We are met with a diverse crowd from young to old in a cocktail of styles that parallel the line-up ahead; cropped indie band tees for Würst Nürse, leather jackets for Private Function, clash prints and platforms for Ecca Vandal and a sea of CLOWNS merch for the anticipated headliner.
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Würst Nürse kick off our evenings endeavours by paying tribute to the indigenous tribe of the land before luring early punters in close with their opening track, Nightmare On The Nightshift. The ladies segway into the noticeably heavier Dialysis, followed by Hot Brown Rain and their cruisey bubble gum punk track, Hot Surgeon. Vocalist, Steph questions, “any nurses in here?” before a female guest appears on stage dressed in nurses scrubs and donning a stethoscope, to then play lead guitar for Debbie Fell In Love With The Orthopaedic Surgeon. The barely audible introduction causes a lull in the crowd’s attention but that doesn’t stop the five-piece charging through and bringing it back with a shout out to hardworking, underpaid nurses and the driving riff into Dedication Doesn’t Pay The Rent. Würst Nürse cap off their high-energy set with a confident rendition of popular track, Hot Doctor.
Hastily getting a drink, we duck back into position as not to miss notorious local favourites Private Function. They waste no time kicking the night into next gear with an infectious energy that spreads through us before even playing a note. Guitarist PJ, armed with his strong American accent, opens the set by getting us all to recite the pledge of allegiance–that is the “pledge of allegiance to Private Function … and the United States of Australia.” They play the first few bars of the Star-Spangled Banner before ripping into Duct Tape. They’re hardly a song in but their Aussie rock style and punk spirit have the crowd immediately moshing and fist pumping. Frontman, Chris Penny scissor kicks and bounds around the stage with arms flailing; he straddles a very fun line between dorky dad and a punk Mick Jagger in a sports coat.
Private Function treat us to two new unreleased tracks starting with White Lady Funerals, a fast tongue-in-cheek ode to, you guessed it White Lady Funerals and their ‘woman’s understanding’ take on funeral arrangements. They follow with newbie, Shut Up and Give The Man Your Bank Details, which has us chanting along despite only hearing it now for the first time. The band continues to power through with Talking To Myself and Spontaneous Combustion before Penny grabs a Magic Eye book from side stage (remember those weird illusion books from the nineties?) “You’ve got good ears but do you have good eyes?” he teases, jumping into the crowd and selecting a keen punter to solve the image. After this lengthy dedication to the Magic Eye book gag, the boy’s kick off into anticipated favourite; I Wish Australia Had Its Guns Again. Private Function is a band for the people if ever we saw one. This powerhouse song, both in popularity and its shit-stirring punk nature, is met with rasping yells and a medley of beers and fists punching the air. They cover King Of The Mountain by Midnight Oil, and then have the confidence to instigate a call and response before they even begin playing No Hat No Play. The Private Function lads loose zero steam and neither do their fans. They tear through Dial Before You Dig, before ending a killer set with Marco Chan. Penny bids us as a casual “see ya later” as he gives a cheeky little wave to the crowd and as the band leaves the stage, in a small very sweet moment nearly everyone in the venue waves back at them like we’re saying goodbye to an old friend.
We duck out into the cold night air for a quick debrief from the hot energy and antics of Private Function, to return just in time to watch Ecca Vandal begin her set with Your Way. Ecca Vandal brings it with an active stage presence, strong vocals and a tight band behind her; Ecca really is a testament to badass frontwomen everywhere. She rips through older tracks, Battle Royal and Divided, kicking it up a level with White Flag (Black Steel/Get Your Freak On) with that lil Missy Elliot sample getting us moving. “We’ll keep this dance floor going, yeah?” she yells. The set proves the power of live music, feeling more infused with heavy metal than the digital versions, but to the best effect. Even tracks like Cassettes, Lies and Videotapes and Running At People Exiting that already have a heavier element to them, get an almost Rage Against the Machine inspired rework.
Ecca Vandal launches into Stiff Middle Finger, a new song that is for “any girl that has ever felt unsafe at a gig”. The mosh skyline is strewn with the silhouettes of middle fingers raised high as our alt-queen spits bars and sings with ease over a beefy guitar riff and a wicked drumming mix-up of kit and bongos. She dedicates rock fusion track, Price of Living to the asylum seekers and delivers Closing Ceremony with a contagious energy, peppered with satisfying screams and evident vocal prowess. Ending the set with rock anthem Broke Days, Party Nights, she jumps into the mosh to sing and dance amongst fans. We all get low with her until we’re crouching on the floor with her blonde/black bangs just visible in the center. She lets out a guttural scream and wild dancing kicks off in the mosh. She climbs back on stage and with a simple, “Thank you so much” it’s all over, that is until she emerges at the merch table later to chat with fans and sign anything from shirts to the abdomen of a clearly drunken young lady whose prospered herself up on the merch table in front of the photographers.
Left on a huge high after an eventful three hours of solid Melbourne music, CLOWNS don’t leave us waiting. They explode into the opening track from their tour album, Bland Is The New Black, a quality punk anthem in its own glorious right. Nature/Nurture has been very well received and tonight we see it clearly as fans sing along never missing a lyric. The general fervor allows vocalist, Stevie Williams to crowd surf during the first song. The band rips into the open bars and rolling drums of another new track, Nature. Back on stage now and spraying a rainbow of whiskey into the air, Williams throws the mic into the audience and punters scream into it as one of the bouncer’s fight to get it back. Williams looks amused but soon lures the mic lead back in as Freezing In The Sun begins. Over the rolling beat, the soft vocals of bass player, Hanny J, later in the song breeze over us and we feel whole and energised and calm all at once. We shout our appreciation for William Robinson’s crisp lead guitar solo, one reminiscent of the moment things start to turnaround for the lead in a nineties teen movie. CLOWNS charge through Pickle and Prick as we tap into our teenage selves and go a little rogue in the mosh.
The band slow it down, beginning I Wanna Feel Again as Williams hands a whisky bottle to the front row. “ Who’s going to cheers me?” he says, “We’ve been doing this for nine years. We’ve taken this band down some weird creative paths and I hope you’ll stick with us”. Before they reach the heavy break the bass guitar drops out and they stop the song. It takes a moment for us to realise what the technical difficulty is, distracted by the running sound tech through the crowd. Williams notes gingerly, “This is not how I envisioned this gig would go down” while Hanny J and the sound technician try to sort out the issue. The crowd gets a little antsy at this break in momentum but nothing remotely disrespectful. The rest of the band casually launch into AC/DC classic, Back in Black like nothing had happened but it works in picking up patron spirits during this unplanned interval. When Williams shouts, “We have bass!” the unrest seems to have worked to their advantage by providing and lifting an atmosphere of anticipation as they begin I Wanna Feel Again in full. They follow with Euthanise Me (with a shout out to the “Reptilian overlords”) and then Prey For Us before we are hit with the same technical issue as before. Private Function guitarist brings out a spare bass and the band continue with May I Be Exhumed?
The lull doesn’t last long and the audience remains as loyal as ever by making extra noise for the opening bars of Nurture, the closing track on the new album and fittingly, the show. The playful Williams has a connection with the audience that is unwavering and we adore the attention as he crouches down sing to us. The bass cuts through, more noticeable than before due to the previous delays, this with William’s vocals tightly parody that of early AFI track, The Great Disappointment. Extending those last warbling bars, the band lovingly thanks us, “their home supporters” before leaving stage. The night is not over yet though as the crowd instantly induces an encore. The band returns to stage, all with drinks in hand and looking more relaxed. They rip into Soul For Sale and we all cut loose one last time with Williams jumping into the middle of the mosh pit to join us.
With the lone arm of Stevie Williams outstretch, mic in hand, poking through the crowd of sweaty head bangers, so to do we end an eventful show and forever be unable to shake the image of the larger middle-aged man going hell for leather with beer spilling overhead as CLOWNS leave the stage.
Catch Clowns with special guests Private Function at the remaining dates:
FREMANTLE // Friday 28th June // Mojos Bar
BUNBURY // Saturday 29th June // Prince OF Wales Hotel