ScotDrakula, Keith! Party, Francolin @ The Evelyn – 30/04/2012
ScotDrakula, these vagabonds. These pop-punx. These punk-ass kids. Watch ‘em go, like bottlerockets, like rocket launchers made of PVC pipes and sparklers in your suburban backyard, like the Challenger shuttle. Maybe not like the Challenger shuttle, per se, like the opposite. Like Apollo 13; a yelping Saskatchewanian standing in for Tom Hanks, sling shotting us around the moon. I’m sorry Houston, I can’t hear you over the sound of my ear drums exploding. It was one small step up onto the stage for the finale, and one giant leap for shaky, drunken garage rock.
But not yet. The Evelyn at 9.30 is pretty quiet. Dinner ran overtime and I figure we’re getting there late, but the bands are running behind as well. There’s some sort of ska/calypso-y band up on stage, a surprise support act called Francolin. Their sax player looks like Bill Haverchuck in his early 20s toting a sax because playing an instrument really draws the chicks. The poor guy. They’re pleasant, they’re mellow, they draw comparisons to the Cat Empire from the folks behind us, who I assume have only heard one other band with a brass section. They finish, we take a smoke break.
There’s more people outside the Evelyn than in. Who do these people think they are? It’s free, goddamnit. FREE LIVE MUSIC, some of the best bands in Melbourne, and that’s not hyperbolic. For zero dollars you could do a hell of a lot worse. Pity these oblivious chumps because what they miss next should have them weeping for not being there. Keith! Party look like the cast of Play School on poppers and sound like Hunx & his Punx & Daphne & Celeste. Keith! Party are as camp as they are anarchic, apparently letting anyone from their extended circle of freaks participate in the stage show. 2SHEE, the one female MC, bears a striking resemblance to a shorter-haired Grimes with more glamour. Still kinda crusty but, y’know, she had a costume change mid-song. Keith! Party are the most compelling argument in favour of live music that I’ve seen since the Parking Lot Experiments last year, literally bouncing off the walls and the roof, rapping about potatoes and cheetahs and shakin’ yr ass. It’s entirely liberating when a band genuinely doesn’t give a fuck about anything except having the most uninhibited experience possible – even better when they look like their wardrobe was styled by Andrew WK and Fisher Price. I’m pretty sure we were all waiting for the moment when front-KP Talkshow Boy would get his dick out. (It never happens.)
The bands are still running drastically overtime and I’m nervous for ScotDrakula. Before they go on, drummer Evi Camille says they’ll just have to shut up and play the hits. Unfortunately they don’t have a weak song in their steadily expanding repertoire. The set kicks off and the pit fills up with the churning bodies of all the kids who’d been waiting outside. Half way through the set, disaster strikes: Neumann’s broken a string – again! This guy! – so he tells the crowd to turn to the person to their right and tell them a story while he re-strings. I turn to the tall, curly-haired fella next to me and tell him an anecdote about a very graphic, independent short film about clowns I’d recently watched in which a young woman stumbles into a very unusual game show, concluding with the Shyamalanian reveal that the grossly overweight clown who’d been, er, taking care of her, was actually her father. “That… was a fucking great story,” my new friend says approvingly. Then he tries to get me to drum in his band. To placate the kids, few of whom actually took to storytelling, Evi Camille and Dove Bailey lead the kids in a singalong of some song I didn’t know the words to and which seemed to go for a really long time. They also start throwing out Freddo Frogs from plastic bags. Isn’t that nice? When was the last time Dave Grohl threw Freddo Frogs out into the crowd? Hm?
They get to the final song of the night, which the hive mind takes as an invitation to storm the stage. Suddenly dozens of people are screaming and hugging and jumping and it feels like we might accidentally collapse through the floorboards. Rayon Moon’s singer Gene Ulmer clambers up on the drumkit waving a pair of crutches like a conductor’s batons over the heads of the crowd. ScotDrakula finish their set but the presence of all the worked up kids muscles them into an encore. “This is a song about heroin,” Neumann announces. They put a spin on The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” that walks the precarious edge of staying faithful to both the song and the band covering it all while dodging the ecstatic drunks doing backing vocals.
We’ve reached the point where I have to wax a little at the risk of being uncharitable, but at least honest: see, breathless proselytizing is rarely a good look for anyone, and it may seem a little superfluous to go on and on about ScotDrakula, a three-piece who play pulsing, atmospheric party jams, as if they were The Velvet Underground changing music forever. Even more reason to be skeptical is that music journalism has made excitable, over-the-top yammering its bread and butter since its inception. The cynical reason is because nobody pays as much attention to nuance and sensationalism works, like how there are folks still going ‘round saying The Strokes saved rock music, but the optimistic reason is that writers are (hopefully) trying to convey at least some of the viscerality of their reaction to the music via a medium as ill-equipped to do so as text. Not every band is either revolutionary or expendable, innovators or imitators, and I’ll bring this back to relevancy now by saying that for all the vague associations you can make for ScotDrakula, their particular formula – whatever it is, and I hope they stick around long enough for me to keep trying to figure it out – is worth watching in action at least three times. I can’t promise that their lyrics will lead to introspective revelation (though “Don’t Do Anything Stupid” is a bloody good song about depression) but I’ve never felt less burdened by the Sisyphusean task of existence as when I’m bouncing and shouting along to “Shake ya Bones!” (“Hopefully next time we see you we’ll have a new album,” sez Neumann on Facebook after the show.) They’re also really funny, if you’re into that. I believe in precious few things: racial and sexual equality; the promise of space travel; the therapeutic effect of a well-made cheese sandwich. Modest convictions, maybe, but I also believe in ScotDrakula. This is apparently the last time they’re playing for a while. You missed one hell of a good time.
by Jake Cleland