Saturday night was 50s rockabilly night at Richmond venue The Central Club Hotel. Featuring Melbourne's longest running rockabilly band the Straight 8s, Newcastle's Pat Capocci, Ezra Lee, Danny & The Cosmic Tremors and Echuca's Scott Baker, the night was a rockin', swinging high energy power-house of great songs, booze and dancing. Opening set was Scott Baker, a talented song-writer and performer with a rich voice in a sharp grey suit and pink shirt. He cut a fine silhouette on stage with his Elvis pose and Johnny Cash style singing. I kept thinking he would look totally at home on an old black & white TV. At times the music and strutting came off a bit stiff but the great songs made up for it. Melbourne band the Straight 8s (Victor O'Neil, vocals and rhythm; Dave Cantrell, guitar; Ray Tully, drums; and Atillo Snappy, double bass) were stunning: great musicians and entertainers, obviously old-hands at the genre and still infused with plenty of spunk. These guys perform regularly throughout Victoria as well as interstate and have been playing since the early 80s. Pat Capocci was wonderful, a whooping, shouting kind of singing style, innovative/modern guitar lines (bit of distortion) and super energy. Perhaps at times it felt like the light shuffling beats and syncopated rhythms the Straight 8s did with such panache were missing in this frenzy. The young rockabilly cats, in their 50's greased-back quiffs, folded jeans, check shirts and eye-makeup, loved them though; the dancing was frenetic. It was highly entertaining to see so many people (crowd of perhaps 150 all up) decked out in old-school rock 'n' roll outfits -- the women beautiful in tight tops and full skirts, peep-toes, fur jackets and heavy make-up, the men in suits or leather jackets and polished alligator-skin shoes. What a crowd!
Ezra Lee, more boogie woogie blues and R&B than rockabilly, was impressive and a welcome respite from the supercharged rockabilly (long sets, five bands and loud rockabilly records between) He has a killer voice (Jerry Lee Lewis style -- ladies watch out!) rolling piano lines, sexy songs, and a cool onstage presence. (See earlier post - Ezra Lee on sidebar - for the interview we did before the show.) There were times when the subtler grooves and feel inherent in blues and R&B felt hijacked by the amped-up style of the rockabilly band and the songs felt, frustratingly, like a speeding train at the end of its tracks. There were great solos from Pat Capocci however and the shotgun slap bass (Cal Robinson) and punchy drums (Ricky el Cabron) were impressive. I (unfortunately) didn't catch much of Danny and The Cosmic Tremors (1am by the time we heard them) as I had been hijacked myself for an impromptu lesson in swing dancing by an enthusiastic drunk. From what I did hear though, they were dynamic and fun and the songs were great.
Please see footage below (audio distorts -- apologies) for a taste of the bands at the Big D Jamboree gig and follow embedded links in post for access to band websites and upcoming shows. Then get decked out in your hoop skirts, rolled shirt sleeves and vests for the next Melbourne shows in June/July. Though I'd suggest you get some dancing lessons beforehand -- rockabilly audiences are pros at this stuff!
For fans of 50s rock 'n' roll visit the Australian Rock 'n' Roll Appreciation Society.
They have been around since 1974, produce the quarterly magazine Big Beat of the 50s, and have a radio show: 'shake rattle and roll' - Saturdays 8 - 9.30pm - on Melbourne's 3CR 855AM