LIVE REVIEW: Mother and Son album launch @ 5 Crown Lane

Driving to the venue, I was explaining to a friend the story of Music Farmers’ closure after noise complaints from nearby residents. On this, the first ‘loud’ music gig since 5 Crown Lane’s re-opening as a venue, I expected the volume of the bands to be at a bare whisper to avoid similar neighbourly complaints.

“It’ll be really quiet tonight,” I predicted with the confidence of a TV psychic.
“They won’t want to upset the people in the apartments next door.”

So it was with some surprise that, when I stepped out of my car, the steady throb of a down-tuned bass, the staccato thudding of drums and piercing, yelled vocals were instantly audible.

Take into account the fact that I parked three streets and over five hundred metres away from the venue; that should give you some idea of what I mean.

Mother and Son, one of Wollongong’s most talented and least-publicised acts, launched their debut album on Friday night with a proper rock’n’roll show, the likes of which had not been seen since the halcyon days of the Oxford Tavern. With a mix of bands from Sydney and Melbourne rounding out the bill, and a palpable buzz in the room (whether it was due to the re-opening of the warehouse-style 5 Crown Lane, or due to the BYO alcohol policy, it wasn’t clear), the gig brought back memories of Wollongong’s once-prolific live music culture.

Arriving too late to catch The Gooch Palms from Sydney, the explosive sound heard on the walk to the venue was Melbourne’s Midnight Woolf. Boasting members of iconic grunge-rock group Magic Dirt, Midnight Woolf play a loose, punk-tinged rock’n’roll bringing The Cramps or The Ramones to mind. Not a particularly ground-breaking sound; but the passion that the four-piece injected into their set made it easy to forgive them for treading a well-worn path, and made it hard to take your eyes off them.In a set filled with band members venturing into the crowd to sing or dance, then jumping on or over the drumkit, it was a member of the crowd that provided the highlight. During the final song, as the guitarist threw his instrument to the floor and bent over to play it with his knees (yes, his knees), a female patron casually sauntered over, placed her beer on the floor and jumped onto his shoulders. He then stood up and started walking around the room with the girl on his shoulders, all the while smashing out the dirtiest rock riff you’ve ever heard.
It was pretty rock’n’roll.

Another Melbourne act, The Yard Apes, began their set to a largely empty room, with most patrons still outside enjoying their BYO alcohol. Playing a very 50s-inspired rock sound, the group wore their influences on their sleeve; or their chest as it were, with the three-piece’s frontman proudly flaunting an Elvis Presley shirt. A more classic blues-style band, they had far less energy than Midnight Woolf, but made up for it with a musical consistency and rhythm that hinted of a well-rehearsed, solid band. A mix of blues and surf rock, it was the kind of music you could imagine as the soundtrack for an early Malibu surf film. The slowed tempo and constant rhythm made for some proper 50s-style dancing, with a large group at the front partaking in dances that came into and went out of style years before they – or, in some cases, even their parents – were born; the Twist and some proper go-go dancing gave the night a classic, authentic rock’n’roll feel.

As Mother and Son came on to set up and tune up, the outside crowd quickly filed in. Frontman Bodie Jarman had been manning the sound desk all night, started into a riff that everyone assumed to be a soundcheck; it was not until drummer Mat joined in – a good two minutes later – that the crowd realised that the show had begun. For only having two members, and thus two instruments, produce a sound that is both impressively rich and musically diverse. A deep, solid sound that wanders between garage-rock, blues, rock’n’roll and surf rock, it offers something for almost everyone. Frontman Bodie staggered around the room, bent double as he plucked out intricate melodies, while drummer Mat relentlessly pounded out his fills. Bodie seemed genuinely surprised at the size of the crowd, and took full advantage of the intimate venue, regularly getting into the crowd and getting up in the faces of audience members as he belted out his gravely, raspy lyrics. The two-piece generated huge energy and a great reception from an enthusiastic (and, admittedly, largely tipsy) crowd. A frenetic, blistering and energetic set came to a close with an epic extended jam that clocked in around ten-minutes (or, at least, that’s what it felt like). Bodie ended up being chaired around the venue on the shoulders of friends, with almost all in attendance jumping out of their skins.

All in all, a surprisingly awesome gig. A relaxed and laidback atmosphere, BYO alcohol, great live bands, a sold-out crowd, and the knowledge that you were supporting the local live music scene – the perfect combination. The only sour note is that 5 Crown Lane will likely not be able to host these types of gigs very often; a shame, because venues and shows like this are EXACTLY what Wollongong is desperately crying out for.

For more info, check out Radar’s interview with Mother and Son.

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