Southern River Band’s northern night out

Edward ScownMidwest Times
Battle scars: Todd Pickett blew the bottom out of his snare drum early in the set
Camera IconBattle scars: Todd Pickett blew the bottom out of his snare drum early in the set Credit: Pictures: Edward Scown

Fresh from releasing a music video for “everyone’s mum’s favourite song” Do You Miss Me?, and successfully lobbying State Parliament to play on Brownlow Medal night, Southern River Band and their trusty sidekicks were the perfect way to end a great month of live music in Geraldton.

The main bar of the Wintersun Hotel was cleared out to make way for a full house, possibly spurred on by the cancellation of their tickets for The Chats, who were scheduled to play the same venue on Saturday.

The carpet was sticky, the tiles were slippery, and the acoustics weren’t great — although SRB’s travelling sound man did a great job compensating for it.

Despite its flaws, the audience experience at the Wintersun was fantastic. The layout of the room lets you get right up close and personal with the acts. Standing at the front, I was essentially listening to the show through the foldback speakers.

Showing love to the locals, SRB brought RATSALAD to open the night. Regular readers will already know that was a good idea, but for the uninitiated, the garage punk trio have just got home from a tour of South Australia, where government restrictions kept their audiences seated. That was definitely not the case on Friday.

People were up and about for the soundcheck, let alone the high-energy set that followed.

When the crowd are moshing to the opening band, you know you’re going to get your money’s worth.

As if RATSALAD weren’t enough to get the crowd going, Perth blues three-piece Huge Magnet — who are following SRB for their whole regional tour — attracted the metalheads and slow jammers alike.

Their classic blues rock originals were perfect for the venue, and the band they were supporting. Jason Bale’s low grungy vocals were backed up by Bret Hearn on guitar and Paul Sloan on the drum kit — two masters of their craft laying down tracks reminiscent of John Lee Hooker or ZZ Top.

The blues influence even carried over to their set finisher — a cover of Cypress Hill’s Hits From the Bong — which set the tone perfectly for what was to come.

Southern River Band strode on to the stage, lead singer Cal Kramer sporting a pair of homemade bell-bottom pants which left little to the imagination, and an almost empty bottle of whisky — as if to foreshadow the crazy night which was just getting started.

For those who’ve never heard SRB, their songs, mostly about “drinking and doing drugs, lots of drugs” would fit right in on your AC/DC and Led Zeppelin playlist.

They came out of the gates swinging — possibly a little too hard for drummer Todd Pickett, who blew the bottom out of his snare two songs into the night.

A quick swap for Sloan’s snare kept the show going, but with the band off to Exmouth the following morning, Pickett said it might be a permanent arrangement.

Kramer takes the role of frontman literally. His funny, flamboyant performance brought shades of grunge pioneer Andy Wood of Mother Love Bone. He’s a rock star, and he knows it.

Somehow the rest of the band aren’t overshadowed on stage, and I think that’s what makes SRB great. Everyone has to match the intensity of the frontman, including the crowd.

That feedback loop is what has my neck sore as I write this.

Can I get workers’ compo for headbanging?

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