Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Empress Hotel 25th Musical Anniversary

The Empress Hotel has spent the past four days celebrating 25 years of live music at the venue.  I have seen quite a few shows here, and even got up on stage to sing Crowded House karaoke with The Basics in 2008.  Mary and I had burgers in the dining room and then headed into the band room for the start of the final night of celebrations.

The first act for the evening was Melbourne duo D.D Dumbo, which consisted of a guitarist and drummer/percussionist.  The lead singer did guitar, drum and/or vocal samples at the start of each song and used those loops to build the songs around.  I thought they sounded great and even played an interesting cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying."  For a band that is just starting out they were very impressive.

The main reason for coming to this gig was the chance to see The Basics live again, although it was just Tim and Wally since Kris is in Kenya working with The Red Cross.  Others must have had the same idea because the boys drew the biggest crowd of any act on the bill tonight.  They started their set with "Second Best" and then humorously launched into "Three Cool Cats" of all songs with the audience clapping along to the rhythm.  "Rattle My Chain" reminded Wally that playing the drums takes a lot of energy (he doesn't play as much for Gotye shows), and Sandra from The Empress came up on stage to dance to their cover of The Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night."  "Call it Rhythm and Blues" had everyone dancing, and after a quick version of "Happy Birthday" for Tim's mum the whole crowd sang along to "Just Hold On."  The last song of the set was "Money (Gimme, Gimme)" and while there were calls for an encore that was it from the boys for the night.  While we did miss Kris, the "Silver Basics" were still fantastic and Wally and Tim had a good time on stage.

The Basics boys were originally billed as DJs for the night, which they also did between sets.  Mary and I were standing between the turn tables and the stage for the evening so we were able to chat with them and Mary talked me into finally getting a photo with Wally (he was being very generous with the numerous fans who were coming up to him after The Basics set).  I think my favorite memory of the night was when Tim and Wally had their arms around each other and were reaching out to me as they sang "We are your friends."

There was a mystery band added to the bill last minute under the moniker "Presidents and Shitkickers" who I correctly guessed was Melbourne's very own Big Scary. Tom and Jo played some old songs from their EPs and recent album Vacation as well as a few new ones.  Highlights included "Falling Away," "Purple," "Gladiator," "Mix Tape" and the last song of their set and one of my favorites, "Autumn."

The final act of the evening was The Bedroom Philosopher (aka Justin Heazlewood) and his Awkwardstra.  Justin is another comedian who I have been meaning to catch at the comedy festival but haven't, so I was excited to finally see him live.  He started his set by regurgitating a couple of small instruments and then launched into "The Bedroom Philosopher."  His songs had us laughing throughout and my favorites were "Cars 2," "Inanimate Electronic Helper," and a reworked version of his hit song "Northcote (So Hungover)" with YouTube comments on the video replacing the verses.  In the spirit of the night he wrote and performed a "Song for The Empress" and finished with "Corporate Punk" just in time for curfew.

This was a wonderful gig overall and a great celebration of a venue that continues to support and discover new talent.  I hope The Empress Hotel has many more years of live music to come as they are an important part of the Melbourne music scene.

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