Review Tropical Fuck Storm - with Photos - Castlemaine - Sun 24th March 2019

Tropical Fuck Storm

Review and Photography by By Stephen Boxshall

It’s 6:37pm Sunday night and I’ve received a call from our scheduled reviewer of tonight’s TROPICAL FUCK STORM show in Castlemaine “really sorry, so sick I can’t make it” (she did sound terrible).

Do I still go? It’s a long drive by oneself, and an even longer one back late at night.

After a long hard fortnight; at this point I’m running on the fumes of 3hrs sleep from the night before, had enough coffee to keep most people awake for a couple of days anymore isn’t going to help at this point.

6:51pm and the bottle shop across the road closes at 7pm; decision made; across the road I go, a bottle of Red and I’m in for the night; I’ve seen Tropical Fuck Storm something like 9 times over the past year and a bit, missing this one won’t kill me.  Back home, I’m about to open the bottle, looking across the room at my gear bag packed and ready to go… “fuck it…I’ll just sit here all night and wonder if I missed the gig of the year”.  

7:18pm I’m in the car with the sound track to “Baby Driver” on my way. GPS tells me 1hr 21min up the Calder Freeway and I’ll be there; Castlemaine and The Theatre Royal here I come.

Open road, no traffic and good music doesn’t get better…until about 30mins out from Castlemaine; now im seeing bolts of lightning flashing across the darkened sky, minutes later, driving into a nasty storm; visibility has dropped to a few feet in front of the car…It all seems a little foreboding, it is a Tropical Fuck Storm I’m on my way to see after-all…maybe I should have stayed at home with the cats and that bottle of wine? 

The rain clears just before the Castlemaine turnoff, all is good but extremely quiet as I enter the town proper. Not a car or a person to be seen and I don’t see any lights on in the houses I pass. As I come around the last bend the theatre is in front of me and finally I see what could be almost every person in town, hanging around, drinking, smoking and talking underneath the marquise. 

Listening to snippets of conversations, I make my way through the crowd, pick-up my pass and entering the room speak to a few people that I’ve met at other shows. I get to the stage and make claim to a small piece of real-estate right in front. There is about 20-30 people in the room, and I start to wonder if the show has sold well. Within minutes of the 9pm start time, people pour into the room, the balcony starts to fill, the chatter of people having a good time gets louder as the room gets warmer.

An air of expectation now begins to fill the room as the lights go down and the support act NEW WAR take the stage. 

As Melissa Locks bass lines start to reverberate through the room, Steve Masterson’s drums kick into overdrive, Jesse Shepherd’s ‘noir drenched keys’ add to the tempo driven by the rhythm section,  Chris Pugmire starts prowling the stage like some sort of primal animal looking to escape an unseen cage, occasionally stopping to kneel down at the front of stage manipulating his vocals through the effects board set up in front of him.  

I’m finding it hard to describe New War’s sound; a little punk / new wave, a little rock with a lot of menace. I do know that I’ve loved hearing and seeing them since I first laid eyes and ears on them in 2013 at the first day of the All Tomorrows Parties “I’ll Be Your Mirror” held at The Westgate Entertainment Centre and Grand Star Receptions in Altona; funnily enough curated by The Drones on the second day (I own both their Lp’s and I think the First 12” which get played regularly) it’s definitely a treat to catch them live two nights running. A little over 30-minute set leaves the now full room wanting more and most suitably warmed up for the main act of the night Tropical Fuck Storm.  

A 20-minute turn around off around sees Tropical Fuck Storm set up; Gareth Liddiard setting his up his pedals and effects board while tuning his guitars & connecting with people in the front. Fiona Kitschin also setting up her Bass pedals…all the while worrying that a fan placed side of stage will blow her dress up while playing, Gareth makes a funny observation and gets a whack across the shoulder for his troubles. Lauren Hammel sets her kit up. Erica Dunn finishes setting up her Keys and Guitar; all four leave the stage temporary laughing once again at something Gareth has said.

It’s not long before the lights go down, the loud chatter turns to applause as all four move into their position on the stage.  

Lauren counts the bands in, her drum sticks together above her head, Erica hits the Keys, Gareth slides his hand up the frets of his Fender and Fiona lets loose with thumping bass lines heralding the start of Chameleon Paint  the first single released from their debut album A Laughing Death In Meat Space released last year to universal rave reviews. With his characteristic way of stepping up to and under the microphone, with a sneering kind of snarl for the first lines, Gareth lets loose … 

“These are only my impressions

All of which are false

The day you’ve got nothing to say’s

The day I check your pulse” 

The room is heaving, fists are pumping, people of all ages bouncing up and down, singing and shouting the lyrics back towards the stage. The band are throwing themselves and their instruments into a seemingly un-choreographed dance of sight and sound, never missing a beat or a chord. 

 Hardly a breath is taken as the band launches into Antimatter Animals and once again the crowd helps deliver the chorus of Your politics ain’t nothing but a fond fuck you. In this hall its sounds much louder, guttural and more menacing than I’ve ever heard before.

A slight reprise as weapons (sorry I mean instruments) are re-tuned and the unmistakable fuzzy intro to Soft Power starts; by this time the band, the crowd, myself included have worked up a decent sweat as the temperature in the room steadily rises.

A girl to the left of me scream’s “Here comes the umpa lumpa with the nukes” in perfect sync to Liddiard’s vocals so close to my ear its a few minutes before I can hear anything to the left of me again. I’m trying to take photos while wiping sweat from my brow, but in all reality enjoying the show far too much to care.  

Another pause, this time instigated by Lauren behind the kit needing to fix or tighten something that’s come loose.

In a hand movement that I can only interpret as “talk to the crowd” Gareth does just that.

A sly “How you doing Castle (drawing out the) Maine?” ….“Is that how you pronounce it?”...“No?” … “Well I live in a Castle… An Ivory One!”

As my father would have said “He’s a funny bugger, isn’t he?” and yeah, he is. 

Lauren still adjusting her kit tells him to “Tell the joke you told us the other day” He does “What do you call a room full of Wizards?” … But I’m not going to ruin it, he might want to tell it again this coming weekend (he shouldn’t but he might).

Lauren signals all is good, and the band launch themselves into a blistering version of You let my tyres down. Taking photos is pretty much beyond me now all I can do is enjoy this amazing set like everyone else in the room.

Tyres finishes; Gareth steps to the side and asks, “what’s next?” Fiona laughs and points to the Setlist hand written on a piece of cardboard (now residing in my collection) about the size of a small note book, “I can’t read that” he exclaims! everyone laughs. He murmurs something about a break. 

 

Fiona now takes the microphone for a cover of The Divinyls Back to the wall, her bass lines spread out through the room. I’ve always loved this song and this cover by Tropical Fuck Storm which appears as the B Side on their second single release You let my tyres down.   

“We are living in desperate times

These are desperate times my dear

There’s no way out of here

There’s no way out my dear

I’ve been holding back all my tears

Just so the pressure don’t show

Like a time bomb ticking away

I might blow up some day”  

A song which is probably as poignant today as the day it was written by Chrissie Amphlett and Richard G Feldman

 A slight reprise as the band regather, re-tune and Gareth announces the new song The planet of straw men the first single of their upcoming second album due later this year.

The single can be pre-purchased on vinyl from Joyful Noise the bands US record label or their newly signed to Australian label Flightless Records (the limited edition is already sold out). A great song I’ve now heard twice live but many times on Community Radio and streaming services. 

No time to waste as the band throw themselves (and instruments) into Rubber Bullies again for no reason I can discern in this hall the song sounds rawer and more urgent than before, especially Erica and Fiona’s harmonies.

It’s a favourite the crowd are working themselves into a suitable frenzy as wave after wave of people crash into us; the last line of defence at the front of stage.  

Again no reprise as the band throw themselves into the next song, the first notes of “Two Afternoons” rings out, they know the crowd is building to some type of crescendo that they have little control over, Liddiard is trying to throw his guitar from his body while at the same time trying to keep it attached to himself, a man possessed, sweat flying, spittle spraying his foot indiscriminately kicking out. The strings of his Fender Strat bowing under an ungodly pressure. Again, I turn around to see a sea of people bouncing up and down, the audience is having the time of their lives. Sunday night regional town Victoria; it doesn’t get much better than this. 

The last notes of Two Afternoons finish and straight away we are thrown into a cover of The Drones Baby Squared, a fan favourite and a fitting song to end the night.

As the crowd heaves and bounces, Liddiard slips to the floor in front of his pedal and effects board, twisting, thumping, and stretching every guitar note. Fiona and Erica lay down their instruments and exit stage right, followed not long after by Gareth leaving Lauren alone on stage still bashing away at the electronic drums until her sticks break and fly off in different splintered directions, throwing the drum aside, she also moves to the stage exit as the room and the lights slowly come up …  

The night ends as it started, I move through a crowd of people excitedly chattering about what they have just seen and heard; some are lined up at the merch desk to purchase a T-Shirt, CD or Vinyl. 

I start the long drive back to Melbourne, and as habit directs I drive in silence thinking about what I have just seen and heard.

A favourite band once again putting on one hell of a show for sure, but there was something a little different, something a little special, maybe it was the surroundings, maybe it was the people in attendance, maybe I was just so fucken tired I heard and saw things differently to the way I have before?

Who knows and who cares? the people there, I’m certain had a ripper of a night and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.  

About 30mins out from Castlemaine on the Calder Freeway I turned on Spotify and started listening to the next episode of Stay Free: The Story Of The Clash Chuck D’s voice booming over the stereo talking about a band who in there time were doing something different, a band that had something special to say, they cared about what they did and how they did it. I can’t equate a newish band to one of the greatest bands that ever played and recorded but in the same way I think Tropical Fuck Storm care about what they say and how they say it.   

Not long after, I entered another storm, I slowed the car to a crawl once again I couldn’t see ten feet in front of me; it was then another thought entered my head

“it’s the same storm, and it feels like she’s been waiting around for my return all this time” 

 

Tropical Fuck Storm play  

Marrickville Bowls Club - Sydney on the 29th March 2019 

Uni Bar  - Wollongong on the 30th March 2019  

Get yourself a ticket you won’t be disappointed 

FULL TROPICAL FUCK STORM GALLERY BY STEPHEN BOXSHALL

FULL NEW WAR GALLERY BY STEPHEN BOXSHALL