Who Will Save Rock and Roll? Re-constituted Dictators are The Next Big Thing

roth and bossKeith Roth, Albert Bouchard and Ross The Boss. 

The Dictators
Debonair Music Hall
Teaneck, NJ USA
November 2, 2022

By Geoff Ginsberg (with help from Frank "Geoff couldn't edit his way out of a wet paper bag" Friedman)

Dictators assemble! They're baaaack!!

And there was much rejoicing.

Andy Shernoff and Ross The Boss have reconstituted the band and they're doing gigs and recording again.

Before I get to the show itself, a bit of semi-recent history. I'm going to assume if you're bothering to read this, you already know the big picture history - punk forefathers, the NYC band between the Dolls and the Ramones, etc.

In 2006, CBGB was wrapping up their historic run on The Bowery. Many CB's legends came out of their apartments to perform on that stage one last time and give the venue the send-off it so richly deserved.

The penultimate night featured Walter Lure (RIP) and The Waldos, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, and the first performance by the Dictators in several years. They had done some gigs in 2003 as a four piece since Scott "Top Ten" Kempner had moved out west, but this was the full complement: Handsome Dick Manitoba, Ross, Top Ten, Andy and JP Thunderbolt Patterson.

Neptune Power Federation fly that freak flag high

screaming loz sutchScreaming Loz Sutch. Credit: Neptune Power Federation website

Neptune Power Federation
Frankie’s Pizza, Sydney  
October 9, 2022

It’s official! The Neptune Power Federation are my new favourite band.

Their last two LPs, “Memories Of a Rat Queen” and “Le Demon De L’amour” have been on high rotation at the home stereo system all year, but due to various life challenges I had never seen them live. So the gig at Frankie’s was a do or die mission to get there.

Heavy Rock is NPF’s bag..and heavy baggage they have in spades (Heavy Rock…not to be confused with its ugly bastard grandchild Heavy Metal). If you listen closely you can tell NPF (or The Feds as their fan club call them) have been sprinkled with the magic dust of the giants in that field. I’m talking first three albums of Queen, ditto for Blackmore’s Rainbow, Motorhead, AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Led Zeppelin and Buffalo (whose first guitarist John Baxter could even tell).

Ghosts are immortal

these immortal souls posterThese Immortal Souls
The Tote, Collingwood, VIC
Saturday, 12 November 2022

These Immortal Souls didn’t really have much of a physical presence in Australia, at least during the band’s creative peak. Rowland S Howard had first conceived the group in the immediate aftermath of The Birthday Party, though it took a false start with Barry Adamson, Chris Walsh and Jeff Wegener, and a brief tenure in the European incarnation of Crime and the City Solution, before

These Immortal Souls took permanent form with Howard, Genevieve McGuckin on keyboards, Howard’s brother Harry on bass and Kevin Godfrey (aka Epic Soundtracks) on drums.

For much of its time, These Immortal Souls lived a penurious, underground (literally and metaphorically) existence in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe. An Australia tour over the summer of 1988-89 would be the only time the band would grace these shores until the band’s repatriation in 1994.

By late 1998, These Immortal Souls had departed into the dustbin of history.

Night of power and pop recalls the best of times

mick salutes bowloMick Medew and the Mesmerisers
+ The On and Ons
+ Pocketwatch
Marrickville Bowling Club, Sydney
Saturday, 5 November 2022

Photos by Vic Zubakin of Look Sharp Photography

The 1980s was in many ways a dire period in music: if you look at the charts or are forced to endure a few re-runs of “Countdown”, you’ll agree. Mainstream music was based on synth and a chorus pedal, gated snare and re=recordings of “Funky Town”. And there was fucking Phil Collins and his drums.

The padded shoulders and “eat the poor” mentality that saw the rise of the trickle down economics of Reagan and Thatcher.  Whenever I see any sentimental recall of the ‘80s, I run the other way. The exceptions lie in pockets of underground music

Sydney particularly reacted against the culture of Ken Done tea towels and pastels and third rate sounds. We real street music with some of best bands in the world, many of whom you could see live for five bucks.

Just as then, we still have a Sydney underground music scene in 2022. We can still see shadows and glimpses of the past and talented young bands who have been handed the baton.

The Johnnys elicit a lotta love at The Tote, 40 years on

johnnys toteLiz Pommer photo

The Johnnys
The Tote
Friday 14 October 2022

There’s some audio of The Johnnys live at Le Tote sometime in 1983, couple of years after the Doherty family had decided to host bands in the band room of The Ivanhoe Hotel in an attempt to address the pub’s precarious financial future.

The set is good ol’ sloppy cowpunk fun, replete with lyrical signposts to The Johnnys’ inebriated schitck and irreverent celebration of country music. “You know why we’re having fun?’, guitarist-singer Roddy Radalj calls out rhetorically. “Because we’re drunk!”

Lucky Country as the curtain comes down

Jonathan Armstrong Midnight Oil 01 
Midnight Oil
Hordern Pavilion
Monday 3 October 2022

Photos by Jonathan Armstrong of www.bigjphotography.com

The 1982 Capitol Theatre run of shows in Sydney was a crossroads for Midnight Oil. They were broke and had already notched 500 gigs since September 1977, which was the date that they decided to go full-time after a Bondi Lifesaver show.  

Midnight Oil was equally the largest drawcard on the Australian live circuit but it was not reflected in record sales. It had cost a lot to record their third album, “Place Without a Postcard’ overseas with legendary producer Glyn Johns (Rolling Stones and The Who). “Place” was a rocking, earthy and colloquial album. The production was warm - yet it was of the past and sounded like it had been recorded it in 1970.

Older Frowning Clouds still bring sunshine

frowning clouds modern

Frowning Clouds
+ Mug
+ Yep!
John Curtin Hotel, Carlton, VIC
Friday 23 September
2022 

I’m pretty sure the first time I saw Frowning Clouds was around 2007, upstairs at the Tote supporting The Dolly Rocker Movement.

The story was that the Frowning Clouds, at the time stumbling toward the end of their high school tenure, had been banned from the Tote for drinking in contravention of a venue management edict.

Apparently they’d been given a reprieve to play that night, on the promise no such unlawful activity occurred. But judging by the pint glasses in the band members’ hands and general unruly behaviour, they’d screwed the memo up and drop kicked it out of mind and sight.

At a subsequent gig, this time at the Birmingham on Smith Street, again supporting Dolly Rocker, the Frowning Clouds had accidentally brought Dolly Rocker’s psychedelastic set to an end when they managed to spill beer on the fold back monitors on the front of the stage.

Magnificent show signals that it's Oil over

oils hordern2

Midnight Oil
Hordern Pavillion
Monday, 3 October 2022
Shona Ross photos

Midnight Oil are Australian icons. People are often divided about where the split in their canon lives… that point where they stopped being a pub rock staple and moved into political activists. People of a particular political persuasion love them; they worship the ground they walk on, while their detractors feel equally aggrieved by their preaching. While tonight was one for the true believers, it also had something for everyone.

The Hordern has been the scene of Sydney’s greatest rock shows. This was one of them. It was the end of an era, probably where the last doors of an eight-tonne touring truck slammed closed on the glory days of Aussie pub rock. By the looks of the crowd of aged and gnarled surfers, elderly vets of rock days gone by, and the second and third generations of Oils fans, they couldn’t have kept up the pace of a five-night-a-week gigging schedule, anyway.

Wandering past the venue on our way to the Captain Cook Hotel pre-gig, the faithful were assembling en masse nearly three hours before kick-off. Hordes of worn T-shirts, black with the familiar yellow cover of their second album, “Head Injuries” adorned every second or third punter… as we neared the end of the Hordern and opened door gave us a glimpse of the Oils sound checking their 2020 staple “Gadigal Land” … and it sounded good. It augured well for the night ahead.

A rising star graces Marrickville with her presence

grace cummings great clubGrace Cummings
+ Lady Lyon
The Great Club, Marrickville, NSW
Thursday 29 September 2022

Sitting at my favourite breakfast haunt with the rain hitting its stride, the nearby beach appears to resemble a wild mosh-pit. The mobile phone rings. I decide to answer and then gulp the last of my coffee: it was my mate Vic.

"I saw Grace Cummings last night, and I know you’d like her; you don’t often see a support act get a standing ovation at the Recital Hall."

Vic rarely raves about too many artists, I slurped down my coffee and started to Google. As the rain pelted down, the sounds of Grace’s song "Heaven” blared from my phone.

That voice and what a song.

As the rain continued and I traversed the slippery pavement, finding spots of shelter on the way home. Grace’s voice resonated from the mobile phone in my coat pocket, sounding for all the world like music coming via a treasured transistor radio from years ago.

I-94 Bar