It was set up to be an evening of contradictions. We started off by going to see Encounters at the end of the world, a simply stunning documentary about people who work and live in Antarctica. The film maker, Werner Herzog, had the most wonderful sense of humour and eye for eccentricity as he considered who would work in Antarctica and why, did penguins ever go insane and what happened if the Frosty Boy ran out? Also many dream-like photography sequences, the underwater ones were particularly memorable.
After the film we headed to Hi Fi Bar for The Wombats. Upon arrival I thought i was at an 'all ages gig' then I realised, no, I'm just old. The Hi Fi is a two story venue with a central 'pit' where punters typically sit and get in the way of anyone standing. It’s the kind of venue that is played by many touring UK indie acts, many of whom recieve almost no airplay here to the extent that tickets are given away before the event. But not the case for The Wombats. Their gigs sold out within two minutes of tickets going on sale.
First up was Kitchen Knife Wife, an indie Melbourne four piece who reminded me of Little Red, retro flavoured pop rock with a big nod to The Animals and The Kinks. Great opportunities for young scenesters, but their sound could be replicated in any front bar of any surburban pub by balding 40 somethings stuck in their halcyon days and be considered decidedly middle of the road. But cute looks can take you a long way.
There was the obligatory long wait whilst people applauded middle aged men setting up equipment and water bottles. I considered braving trippable stairs for a watered down gin and tonic (mostly ice and $8 for the privilege) , but ended up standing on the precipice of the central Pit in the hope of being able to actually see the band, without falling off in the process. The heating was desert like, the groups of young men with blonde tips gathered in packs.
The Wombats appeared. Almost immediately the audience started chanting and clapping, fists in the air. The band started with a rather fey acapella tune and then got straight into it to the accompaniment of much exuberant front row spitting and hyperactivity. They've toured Australia before ( I was overseas at the time) and their album is well known to Melbourne audiences. All songs were sung along to lustily by an adoring crowd and I can honestly say it’s the first time I've seen crowd surfing at a rock gig for a really long time. Seasick and Moving to New York were definitely highlights, but a lot of the songs sounded a bit too similar to really hold my attention. I think I'll stick to listening to them on internet radio.