Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Cheap Fakes - the real deal!

picture: Cheap Fakes 
So I was way overdue for a pub gig.

I've been going to loads of live events recently, but most of them have been in big venues, fixed seating, book in advance, etc...

Certainly all worth it. But it occurred to me that it had been some time since I last just showed up at a bar to see a local band perform in the back room (or rather, upstairs, in the case of Bar Open in Fitzroy).

So the Cheap Fakes aren't Melbourne local, but they're Queensland local and that's close enough for me.

Furthermore, this was their first gig in Melbourne, so the night had the sort of vibe about it that comes when a new band is on the rise and are celebrating an album launch with those in the know.

That is, until "those in the know" suddenly became a small army that stormed the tiny dance floor.

It wasn't until later in the night that it finally registered that I was surrounded by Queenslanders. See, most people down here don't know about the Cheap Fakes, but up north they're kind of a big deal.

And, quite frankly, the sooner that spreads to the southern states, the better.

photo credit: Cheap Fakes
These guys are a 5 piece band bringing old-school 70s funk (and fashion) into 2012, along with reggae, ska, latin and any other genres that take their fancy along the way.

The gig started with the instrumental Stoink (she writes, with the sort of mock confidence that comes from an inventive memory), and suddenly I had flashbacks to seeing Hypnotic Brass Ensemble live last year.

The first track off Hand Me Downs, the album they were launching that night, Stoink is brassy and funky, with a spattering of Sun Ra style cosmic sounds and a hip-hop attitude in the beat.

Songs melded into each other to keep the music coming, with guitarist and frontman - and all round impressive performer - Hayden Andrews soon taking to the mic, performing tracks from both their older album and the one that's just hatched.

"Stones and Sticks" is the title track from their 2010 album and it's been on high rotation in my car since the gig. Very cool track which went off live.

Other highlights for me were Fonk, Grand Ol' (or is that just because I can't stop playing it at home?), Cramped and All I Know.

As for that last one, I knew I'd heard it somewhere before. It was the same place I'd first heard about the Cheap Fakes - the Peach and Black Podcast.

This podcast is a terrific blend of intelligent, witty, musically informative and, at times, downright silly discussions, predominantly about Prince's music, but more recently expanding to associated artists and beyond. One of the guys who features on these podcasts is also in the band, and "All I Know" was the outro to one of their recent shows.

One of the tracks (I think it was Amp Crackle) had a beautiful Spanish vibe weaved strongly into yet another genre blend, that went beyond latin into almost a story-telling mode, that seemed to be about something taking place in the context of a bullfighting ring. Of course, that might have been because it was past my bedtime and I have a notoriously wild imagination, but I have a lot of time for any music that can create such rich scenes, even independent of the lyrics (that might be telling an entirely different story).

Bassist James Watson, along with Josh Appleby and Scott Bignell, kept the vibe true to that of a 60s or 70s style cop show in tracks like Goon Va Doon and Fonk. Josh was fantastic on tenor sax and Scott looked after trumpet and keys simultaneously - I still don't quite know how that works, but I don't care. It was awesome.

Damien Campbell clearly came with his own cheer squad from the regular cries of "drum solo!" from the audience, but fair enough too, because apart from a brilliant effort all night, when he did deliver on the solo, it was well worth the fuss.

Another favourite of mine, both live and now on their new album, "Sand on the Beach" is a really fun track that reminds me at times of The Cat Empire.

The boys have dates booked right through the year and are currently back up in Brisbane I believe, having just played a gig with Charles Bradley at Brisbane Powerhouse.  Word is that they'll be back in Melbourne in June, this time to play at The Corner, but with any luck they'll have cause to come down here between now and then as well.

So a fantastic night was no doubt had by all, upstairs at Bar Open last Friday night. My only regret is that I couldn't make it a bit earlier to see Ultravibralux play their set. I did catch their last song and they were clearly a great complement to the Cheap Fakes. I'll be keeping my eye out for their next gig, so hopefully will get to write more about them soon.

Ahh, the local scene. Sticky floors, drunk patrons, fun and friendly bands and fabulous live music.

Need to do more of it.