Review: Skyscraper Stan and the Commission Flats
Sophie Metcalfe heads to Cherry Bar in Melbourne and discovers why Skyscraper Stan and the Commission Flats are towering above the trend:
I now live in Melbourne and rarely go to the city, if I do it’s to be whisked around by other people who know what they’re doing. Spending most of my adult youth/defining years in Sydney I learnt to confidently navigate the night there, weaving in and out of sticky floored gigs between Oxford street, Good God Small Club (may it rest in peace) or even the clicky-clacky kings cross jungle. When it comes to Melbourne though, I’m at a loss. But even if Northcote or Brunswick’s dive venues are a myth to me, I still was hip enough to know what Cherry Bar was. Manned by friendly bikies halfway down the equally well-known AC/DC laneway, Cherry bar is usually home to some sort of dirty blues or rock. Understanding this, my friend Marika and I opted to settle inside the red velvet clad basement.
“Something bluesy, New-Orleansy” was the description that afore mentioned happy and heavily tattooed doorman gave us.
“Bluesy New-Orleansy” – yes, ok, great. We’re in good hands. We head to the bar and I was happy to see Young Henry’s Pale Ale from Newtown on tap “yes, good!” I felt very much at home.
Skyscraper Stan and the Commission Flats take to the stage with a relaxed yet ‘we’re not here to fuck spiders’ demeanour. It’s not hard to tell which of them is front man Stan Woodhouse, a towering and compelling figure with an allure that could rival Nick Cave. Stan’s band was all looking similarly sharp with guitarist Oskar Herbig sporting a Johnny-Cash-esque shirt and the hair…everyone had great hair. Stan’s back up singers are sisters Gemma and Lia Sharard, and both brought not only the necessary ‘hoo’s and ha’s’ but also some serious soul solos. Gemma providing a lot of the on stage banter would go from heckling at the crowd to whipping back into character and then catch you off guard by shredding the sassiest of vocals.
The troubadour rock and roll that filled those forty-five minutes made for one of the best spontaneously visited live music experiences I’ve had in a good while. So professional was not only their music but the stage presence was something to behold. 50’s blues solos and perfectly constructed melodies complimented Stan’s captivating lyrics and expressive limbs. All the while with them effortlessly having a rollicking good time onstage and joking that “This is about as Honky-Tonk as things are going to get”
Halfway through this increasingly energetic performance, Stan goes solo for a lonely blues number titled I Fell Over. I Fell Over’s lyrics inspired imagery of daily-grind drudgery; so much so that I became very close to having one of my yearly existential crises. This genuine melancholy was short lived as they followed with the most legitimate and tango inspired rendition of The Lion Kings ‘Be prepared’ I’ve never seen. If you could put the progression of songs down on paper it would go a little like “I’m going to make you fall in love with me, break your heart and then make you laugh about it”. And as to be expected there was a screaming, standing ovation, many beers were passed around and both band and punter were extremely pleased with the situation.
The effect that they had was clear as we sat afterwards in a feral boozer at 2am contemplating where our lives were going. Stan Woodhouse and the Commission Flats channel a timeless sound and are simply just exceptional performers. They reignited that little dangleberry of guilt in me (as I’m sure many creatives that have opted for the 9-5 gets)– telling me that I should be focusing on my art a bit more. Thanks guys, the benchmark has surely been set for future spontaneously visited music.
The gang just finished their east coast tour but if you’re in Melbourne be sure to watch for them around the traps. Keep up to date with them on Facebook.
Review by Sophie Metcalfe.