chickenstones beah clubWhen you realise we came up to Sydney from Adelaide solely to see The Chickenstones you may deduce from this that I am a tad biased towards the band. However, if I were able, I would simply be at every gig they do, because, to my mind, they really are that good. 

However, one of the reasons I can't dash all over the country is the inevitable lack of money (donations are welcome), and another is that I work in a family-operated business, so I fit myself around what everyone else is doing. Mostly this means that there are things on interstate which I would love to see, but can't. 

Opening band Dias - pronounced Dee-az - have good songs and the young folk love them. I think they may also be currently in a bit of transition, as some of the songs showed a similarity of purpose, while some of their others seemed to be coming from some other place.

Guitar and vox, bass and drums; it's amazing how varied people can make such a traditional set-up. While comparisons are effectively fairly useless, my photographer was reminded of The Whitlams, a musician in the audience was thinking about The Strokes, and I was reminded a little of early Go-Betweens. Truth is, I'd characterise them as a richly shiny, slow-burning surf waltz.

They went down well with the very mixed crowd (old unionist surfers and their wives, and folks who may as well be their university-aged grandkids ... hell of a mixture). I don't know if I'd liked Dias if they'd still had their other guitarist - what interested me was that, as I say, I think they're still trying things out - which is always an excellent reason to see a band.

chickenstones frontline

The Chickenstones
+ Dias 
The Beach Club, Collaroy, NSW
Saturday, January 19, 2018
Photos by Mandy Tzaras

Now, to the Chickenstones.

I'm biased, as you know. Not that that matters a poo-bum-wee-tit.

Were they good?

Fuck yeah!

Were they worth the trip from Adelaide? The hardship (see below)? The stupidity? The lumpy pillows and the snoring?

I'd do it again. Hell, yes.

So, sod the set list for now. The Chickenstones have released several CDs (and an actual record) and they should all be in your collection, not just a download, you cheap fuck, but a made physical device, to be inserted into your slot and cracked up loud. 

Put it another way. If you and I went through your CD and LP collection, we'd find an awful lot of “meh” and “I just got it to complete the set” and so forth in there, now wouldn't we?

Say you love rock'n'roll? If the C-stones aren't in there, you're a faker. I know people who make excuses for Richard Hell. And Lou Reed. And David Bowie. But these giants were never consistently good. Each of these Giants Of Rock made records which would do better as frisbees. 

Every single C-stones CD is a cracker. 

Get your collection sorted out.

The bulk of The Chickenstones set was from their last release, “Johnny Streetlight”, with a handful from earlier records. There was a brilliantly-pulled off new song (with a “tricky ending”). There was a stripped-down jalopyesque rendition of a Velvets' song. The banter between the band was amusing, smart and real. 

But, however well they played (ludicrously tight, and with only one rehearsal since their gig a month prior), it's the actual beholding of these critters in their natural environment which is the real thrill.

I mean, it's one thing to see a stuffed thylacine, right? And another to see the weirdly loping thing in that black and white footage of the last one alive. 

But we all know that it would be a sublimely special experience to be ambling down a bush track and spot the lopsided, badly-drawn dog thing half-trotting out of the scrub, glance at you disinterestedly, yawn with those bone-crushing jaws, and sidle into the bush and gone.

Don't get me wrong. Chickenstones are better to behold than the thylacine, they're drawn rather well for a start. Just looking at them is a bit like seeing what real pirates looked like. You expect the bass player to have a wooden leg, the drummer to have a hook, and Doc to have a fucking bright green parrot. 

The real bone-crushing comes from the bass and drums; these boys know they're there to provide the backdrop and base from which Preacher Van Ruin and Doc Temple can, in a low-down sort've way, explode. Unlike many rhythm sections, this duo are linked together, and are well and truly integral to both the songs and the show itself.

Which is where we come in. The Chickenstones put on a show. And their show is about intimacy and engagement. About them as part of us. It's magnificent. Sure, it might not be Alice Cooper. Or the Rolling Stones (and frankly, even though my photographer will hit me for saying this, thank god for that). I mean, come on. Sure, Keith's guitar is very good. Sure. But how many other guitarists in the same role are just as good if not better? Let's be real here. Doc and the Preacher might not be 'great' guitarists, but fucking hell, they'll do very nicely indeed until someone else comes along - if anyone ever does.

But even so, it's not the guitar playing in itself, but the C-stones' trademark dialed-back savagery. I'm not even sure if they're aware of this so look - if you're new to the band, it's the difference between a nailbiting finish to a grand final with your team teetering on disaster or triumph, and you watching a game you don't understand and don't care that much for, despite hordes of fans soiling their trousers, skirts and seats. See, it's the suspense, the fore-knowledge, but still the delicious will-they won't they aspect of where each song might go next. Even though we know the songs backwards, more or less.

Then there's the engaging, terribly sweet byplay between Doc and the Preacher. We know that the term "brother" in rock, and in day-to-day bollocks, is usually a crock, a term, a way of a scrounger to get a free rollie off ya. The Ramones were marketed as the "bruddas" but the rift in the band couldn't have been more crippling. The Chickenstones are a bunch of brothers, but twins Doc and the Preacher (presumably rather roughly separated at birth) effortlessly command the stage, slip easily into their characters with understatement and bogus narcissism, and have the audience eating out of their hands within a minute of arriving. The Chickenstones are like a 32mm epic compared to the 8mm home movies of most other bands.

preacher and docThe Preacher and Doc.

When you were a little munchkin, who were the cool kids? The tall blokes, mucking about and shoving each other next to the kiosk in the dusk, always able to do what they wanted, never being dickheads, who spoke in a mannered argot which only they and their intimates understood, and you wanted so much to belong.

Sod that bloody woman who won the hundred mill on Powerball, if she had any bloody sense she'd be stuffing the C-Stones into her Louis Vuitton-skin suitcase and lugging them round Europe and the USA. Never mind Ed Garland's 'greatest pub rock band in Sydney' (sorry, Ed) the C-stones are a world-class band with the potential to cross over into the great stream of consciousness we call The Real World. 

Speaking of the Real World, I was going to begin this review with a short diversion ...

“The Modern Odysseus, or How I Became Victor Meldrew and Learned to Love the Bomb”

I'm sure you know the feeling. Every now and then, when things go a little agley, sometimes we feel like David Renwick, the writer for 'One Foot in the Grave', is peering over our shoulder, plucking our puppet strings, making us stumble and palpitate.

You may not know “One Foot in the Grave”. it starred Richard Wilson as Victor Meldrew, an over-reacting grump who is subjected to preposterous (if not tragic) everyday calamities in a never-ending stream which would cause most of us to projectile poo in each episode.

So. We were all ready for the trip to Sydney to see the real Stones, those of the chicken variety. Our alarms were set, cab booked... 

Good thing I put my phone by my bed; the vibration woke me at 3.24 am.

Our Jetstar flight had been cancelled. I was invited to have an “online chat’”to sort it out. 

I tumbled out and extracted the over-heating laptop. Jetstar, I pondered as the machine moaned into life, had pestered me three times to check in, and I'd finally done so last night. What a fucking time to tell me. I reflected that, had I not heard my phone's fart, I would have gotten up and we would have probably been close to leaving before we'd noticed the text. And by then, any chance of getting a suitable replacement flight would have been zero.

Vanessa eventually came “online” and I was offered a later flight - I had to do quite a bit of thinking at a time when I don't usually think, regarding flight to Syd, Domestic to Central, Central to Circular Quay, CQ to Manly, Manly to hotel, wash and change and off to Collaroy... 

Our original flight got us in at 1130am, allowing us a decent lunch at Domestic, leisurely travel time, enough time to wash and whatnot and get to the venue for a second leisurely feed.

We were now due to leave four hours later. Our relaxed lunch at Domestic was replaced by a toadburger and a dry chicken burger at Adelaide Snareport. I really don't like the choices available at Adelaide airport. You can't tell, I'm sure.

At 7am, I rebooked my cab for 1030am.

At 1031, I called the cab company - usually the cabs are about 10 minutes early here; presumably the Snore Down Under bicycle race diversions had clogged the streets all around the city. Negotiating the cab company's bloody auto menu was irritating, particularly as I was told the bloody cab was 6.6 kilometres away.
And, when the cab did finally arrive, over 15 minutes late, he knew we were off to the airport and we were now in a hurry, so he went the long way, caught the most lights, and is now a mighty $7 richer. 

At the terminal, I'd been told to go to the Qantas service desk. There were two, one labeled 'international', with a long line, and one for 'business and poncy types only' with a couple being served. So I went to the Jetstar desk, who told the me the Qantas boarding pass machine would work nicely. However, it didn't like my name, so I got in line for the 'business and poncy types only ' queue, as the couple were just finishing. 

I explained my problem, she was miffed I didn't have my cub scout member badge so I pointed out that this is not my fault, and their signs weren't especially clear. Photo ID later (my photographer miraculously producing hers apparently by accident), we had boarding passes and we scampering off to the anti-terrorist and anti-drunken dickhead line. 

Meanwhile, whilst negotiating the cab company's bloody auto menu somehow, it seems, I booked another three fucking cabs. So for the next hour and a half, from the time we were picked up to The Great Boarding Pass Scramble, to the Turdburgers'R Us sadness, to finally waiting to board, I received a number plaintive texts from the cab company along the lines of '(insert improbable name of cab driver here) is en route to your home and will be there shortly', followed by 'where are you?', then 'do you require a cab? Text YES or NO'. 

I might've said “I don't believe it” several times as I texted the buggers back, and ...


Lastly, I was delighted there wasn't a line of irate cabbies at my front door when we finally returned home.

However, for those familiar with the events in the life of the hapless Victor Meldrew, I now fully expect to be trapped in a car sunroof and sprayed with mayonnaise and lawn clippings, and finally sent a large-scale model of the common housefly. 

Seems fitting.