It’s Thursday night at the Oxford Arts Factory in Darlinghurst. Playing tonight are F**k Buttons, who are rapidly becoming legendary for their unique dance/drone sets. In the middle are Dead Meadow and starting up front are the wonderfully crazy Afrirampo girls from Osaka. The place is packed with revellers, despite the competition for attention that occurs this time of year. Just down the road, The Beck’ Bar is hosting the Popfrenzy party with the indie pop cult sensation Metronomy as headliners and the influential Michael Gira is lulling his fans to the Basement. The “All Tomorrow’ Parties’ festival will showcase all these acts and more twice over the weekend and yet, there’ still no room to move at this gig. It’s a good sign.
I think to myselfâ€¦a) Either Sydney kids just can’ get enough of the good times in summer (which of course, is a well-known fact) and/or b) The crowd has made the effort to show up because the bands are worth it.
And then it begins. Afrirampo are a torrent of red energy on stage, sporting matching red velour short-shorts outfits and red war-paint across their faces. There is an amazing wall of sound produced by this grrrl duo with Oni on guitar and lead vocals and Pikachu on drums and backup. There is head banging, lots of it, and riffs to match the most prized cock rock band. But there is sweetness too. Like when Pikachu takes the microphone, her soaring vocals reverberating around the room for a moment of angelic calm and then the whole thing kicks off again, a theatrical frenzy. A girl beside me in the crowd is so excited she turns and cries, wild-eyed over the din, â€œThat was insane! Who are they? I’m really stoned, it’s freakin’ me out!â€
Next comes the improvised “Kangaroo, Koala’ song. Pikachu jumps into the crowd, pretending to be the loveable furry koala, using audience folk as her tree. Oni scratches around on stage, bowed into the shape of a kangaroo. They chant, â€œKangaroo!â€, â€œKoalaâ€ over and over again until the crowd is exploding with laughter. Then they climb onto the drum kit and bang with a fevered ferocity. It’s nuts. I love it. I don’ think I am alone.
During interval I’m wondering what Dead Meadow will be like. Will they be able to maintain the energy? They enter the stage, all rock star swagger, sculling whisky from a bottle that is being passed around. The drummer takes a seat. He’ got a Class-A Hairy Trucker Handlebar Moustache and, I dunno, you gotta laugh at that. Well, that was the only thing funny about the performance. I’d read that these guys are all new wave psychedelic rock, but tonight was just straight up hard rock. Posed, predictable and dull. The crowd seemed to go for it but I set my will against falling asleep, at least, not until I’d seen F**K Buttons.
It was around about this time that the performance “artists’ arrived to slowly undress and dress themselves in a gothic-themed glass atrium that’s situated between the two main bars. Things just got worse.
â€œExhibitionism: the act or practice of deliberately behaving so as to attract attentionâ€, versus â€œPerformance: the execution or accomplishment of work, acts, feats, etc.â€
There is a difference, right?
Finally, just when my patience had well and truly run out, F**k Buttons take over. They bring their synths in an old suitcase and a laser that beams out to the crowd. The set is pretty much a carbon copy of the album but executed with precision. Motifs begin to emerge from the haze of noise – tribal drumming, incantations, and distorted vocals run through a toy microphone. The drone with the beat becomes melodic as it progresses over time and it’s beautiful. Well worth the wait.