Live Review: Gooch Palms in Sydney
The Newcastle aficionados of punk and punk stage antics – Gooch Palms – have been making memorable impressions on unsuspecting audiences for a few years now. With a live set which is known for its full frontal nudity and human/instrument sexual pairings, the NOVO’s album launch at Sydney’s Hotel Street was definitely one to put in the datebook.
My first encounter with the duo occurred some years ago, sneaking into 18+ shows as a delinquent youth. “Gooch Palms” became a dirty innuendo for secret sexy things my friends and I couldn’t vocalise within the walls of our all-girls catholic school. My second brush with the Novocastrians came when my sweetheart at the time asked me what bands to see outside the Sydney Bubble. I told him to catch Gooch Palms – internally smirking about all the exposed genitalia he would see. He called me anxiously the next day, apologising for having been raucously smooched by both band members.
Armed with this peripheral history, I was looking forward to the show – mostly to see if their debut album translated as well live and if they still pulled it off (and out) on stage. Kicking off the night were Atom Bombs, Sydney’s answer to a Quentin Tarrentino soundtrack. They performed a predominantly instrumental set – the only vocals being infrequent climatic shouts. Atom Bombs sound like retro surf going to hell via Mexico. And considering they managed to fill the venue before nine o’clock, clearly they’re onto something good with their demonic luau soundscape. Set highlight was ‘The Tale of Dale’, fast and punchy with a heavy 60‘s vibe and killer build. This was topped only by their matching Hawaiian shirts.
Next up was the one and only Donny Benét (pictured right). Having prior knowledge of his schtick was both a necessity and a hinderance. His 80’s synth backing tracks, 80’s outfit and 80’s sleaze factor were a fantastic novelty interlude. The audience were torn between wild enthusiasm and abject confusion. Intermittent spoken word and peeling keys solos wrought warm from the crowd, enough so that a few were called upon to provide backup dance moves on stage. Donny Benet was best surmised by my comrade “I really like it but I don’t understand why or what I’m feeling right now.”
The lineup of Gooch Palms is kept to bare bones essential – Leroy Macqueen slashing with violent gusto at the guitar while Kat Friend bangs two standing drums. Both yelling with euphoric brutality. The crowd was so completely packed by their opening song that it was necessary for me to stand on a table (or the rum made me think so). I was glad I did; not wanting to miss a minute of their haphazard bubble-gum punk. ‘Hunter Street Mall’ was the first song to really crank up the vibe; optimistic pop sensibilities mixed with a clever chord progression and simple vocal melody. The table under me almost collapsed from too much jumping. Sorry Hotel Street (not the first or last time I’ve said that). Macqueen’s statement of “ahh the hits just keep rolling” was nothing if not true as Gooch Palms blistered through their set. The charismatic axe-man at one point drew from the Sydney crowd a rousing, unpatriotic war-cry of “NEW-CAST-LE. NEW-CAST-LE.” Novocastrians through and through.
Despite the show honouring the launch of their debut NOVO’s – a few older hits snuck into the setlist. A feverish rendition of ‘Houston We Have A Problem’ from last year’s EP initiated an acapella rendition of the bridge from all audience members. Audience participation seemed to the be order of the day, and Gooch Palms seemed genuinely thrilled by their raucous reception. I’ll tout a dark horse as one of my year’s favourite songs; ‘You’ combines brash falsetto and doo-wop spirit into a fucking killer track. The live performance was somehow better – Macqueen hitting notes I never could, even if I had testicles and those testicles were in a vice.
Crowd surfers, intense moshing and stage invaders made me feel like I was at a bigger show than one housed by a relatively small venue. And there were even costume changes; when – true to form – Gooch Palms returned to encore with a jock-strapped Leroy. A jock-strap which was quickly discarded during set closer ‘La Cucaracha’, as he sailed upon his fans’ arms, violently masturbating, all the way to the bar where, standing kingly and glorious, he was sprayed down by the bartender. Despite Kat Friend popping a gargantuan party cracker as an exit, I don’t think much could have topped that finale.
I was happy that Gooch Palm’s violent elation carried throughout the entirety of their set, even happier that they didn’t need to be nude and crude to do so. I’ve felt in the past that the gimmick distracts from the quality of their music. And it would take someone being naked to distract from the quality, because theirs is abundant. A little bit of classic Gooch at the end kept the old fans happy, and the new ones appropriately and concurrently turned off and turned on.
Five stars. Two thumbs up. Whatever other fucking rating system you want to use. One of the best shows I’ve seen in ages.
(Some photos in the below gallery are wangtastic and therefore decidedly nsfw. You have been warned)
See the full photo gallery over at Facebook.