Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I've found religion in Melbourne’s holy land; Saint Jude live at The Tote!

I have a wide and varied taste in music but to be honest when I hear bands being described as Alt or Garage Country it kind of creeps me out a little. It just makes me want to steer clear of them and not even try to give them a listen. I don't know why. Though I'm not overly a country music fan, or really a fan at all, I know that these genre's aren't the typical thigh slapping sheep sheering redneck kind of hay bale country but still, something in me shivers and I run away. So that said...

I had only heard a few songs online from Saint Jude but was hooked. Such a great vibe and for that to come through over the internet means that there is going to be something really special happening when you see the live machine in action.

I was psyched to go see Saint Jude's LP launch and thought I might check out a bit of the main support online too before heading off... I read on Rich Davies and the Devil's Union Facebook page that they describe themselves genre-wise as "Alt Country, Folk, Indie & Old Style Rocknroll"! Crap, what am I getting myself in for? I listened to 'Heavy Red' and changed my mind. Great song! This is going to be a pretty interesting night!

I wandered in to the Tote band room, I'd missed Eaten By Dogs but from those around heard they were pretty damn good. Saint Jude were there to launch their debut LP and it was sitting on the merch desk in all it's glory. Heavy matte card gatefold, three limited edition coloured vinyls of 300 including swirl.... it was like foreplay; standing there and holding her in my hands... come on, buy me you bastard and take me home!

The White Stripes were on to keep us entertained as Rich Davies and the Devil's Union set up... keyboard, fiddle, drums, guitar, bass, pedal steel... the stage was filling up and it was like watching her get dressed before seeing her strip right in front of my eyes.

They started with a violin pluck and some beautiful finger picking. For a moment I thought I was in Young Guns and hearing Blaze Of Glory done by the band that Jon Bon Jovi ripped his idea from. Now Mr Lawyer & Sons, I'm not saying that Jon Bon stole his idea, but clearly the Devil's Union were the real deal and you don't wanna be no card shark amongst this lot or they'll drag ya yella ass out into the alley and cut ya from ear to ear.

"Well ladies and fuckin gentlemen..." Rich Davies greets the room after the first. He's a man that looks like he's been to the bar a few too many times but he controls that guitar like a Madame keeps tight reign of her wenches... caresses her, let's her know he's proud and then slaps her across the face and makes her go back into the room for more!

Such a great band with such an amazing vibe. You could take any of them away from the rest of the band and listen to them alone and be impressed, when all together your brain just goes what the fuck is this and how do they write it? Superbly crafted songs dragged up from the depths of the soul and spewed forth upon the audience. There's a hint of twang, some dirty rock'n'roll, some sweet arse fiddle playing and loads of emotion.

As Rich seems to expel some personal demons and lead us down the righteous path of truth... "I don't believe in any Jesus, I don’t believe in kings...", like an arrow taking a shot at those not paying enough attention out flies a fiddle bow and lands on the floor*. The room was taken by the song but seemingly the Devil's Union didn't think quite enough and as if to heckle us at the end of the song out came a glass! Fuck, the Devil wants to take us down right now!!

Moments of thunder and fire bled through our veins as well as moments of only hearing the speakers hum.... the band stalled and the vocals tore the rooms collective soul from it's feet. The subtleties of pain could be heard echoing throughout the nearby streets as Rich sang alone, the instruments stopped and he bled out until dead...

"This happens to be a ballad but it's one of the greatest songs ever written so I feel so inclined..." introduced us to a cover of Chris Isaak's 'Wicked Game'. It's hard enough to cover anyone else's songs when they're well known but especially a song so unique and loved. It was like Rich Davies and the Devil's Union originally penned this song too. It was breathtaking and left everyone frozen and tingling with emotion. The Tote echoed the's room heart break when it seemed the PA blew!

I had to leave for a moment and when I got back in there's Rich shirtless, sweaty and spent, staggering through the crowd up to the merch table at the back whilst still singing, grabbing some CD's and heading back through the packed crowd presumably handing out his release. Once back up on the stage he's down on his knees and leaning across the foldback speakers, his shirt hanging off the end of the fallen mic stand... vocally bleeding into the front row, writhing and living, heartbroken and loving... the band providing the soundtrack to tonight. What a fuckin awesome set!

The house music kicks back in and it just isn't happening for The Tote this evening... there seems to be sound issues constantly and this time the speakers are crackling like a bastard and the vinyl is skipping more than a playground in a school  yard.

Keeping with tonight's theme of trying to fit as many musicians in as tiny a space as possible, Saint Jude start filling the stage... Korg and another keyboard, drums, bass, cigar box-like guitar, and the sexiest Italia Modulo electric... guitar porn at its best!

This is who I really came for tonight, it was the night of their very soon to be illustrious launch, but how the hell do you top the last set? With style...

With a gospel style country like opener I was already finding it difficult thinking how I would describe their sound other than fuckin awesome! Keys like they've come from a southern hallelujah style church, some steady and slow bass and with some smooth as dirty guitar and vocals that Jack White could only dream of writing for himself in hell when seeking retribution.

It was getting harder to see in the room, though there was no smoke machine... it was from the dusty roads of back water Mississippi and you could feel the heat rising from Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil! It's the Tote Delta Blues!

Though it has to also be said that Saint Jude have a style all unto their own; sound, clothing, vibe. I'd only previously heard a few songs of theirs online, but they have this way of getting deep deep inside you, filling you with the emotion they're playing with and making the room move as one. Dancing united, punters had smiles from wall to wall and glasses were being downed as all cheered and loved and sang and even cried when it was in order. Sung with so much emotion from the bowels of the heart and amplified from the depth of the earth, I found myself staring in amazement at times at how truly stunning this was!

You also can't help but truly love a band where one of it's member's, singer / guitarist Brooke, has 'Deadwood' written the length of his guitar strap. I should've asked the story behind it but didn't. I like to think he's great great granddaddy used to be the fiddle player at Al Swearengen's Gem Theater; playing the soundtrack to the drinking, gambling and debauchery that happened in one of the wildest saloons in the territory!

Hang on... I sometimes get lost in my own thoughts and that's exactly where Saint Jude take you, off into another world. One second you feel the rhythms of almost tribal like drum beats vibrating up through the floorboards and the next taken to the First Church Of Springfeld with Reverend Lovejoy looking on disapprovingly as it sounds like Bart is sitting up behind the keys and about to break out into In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida!

The moons were certainly aligned for the night; great venue, full house, few drinks and some of Melbourne's finest blessing us and creating that perfect gig.

Rich Davies and the Devil's Union debut is out now through Gretson Records.

Saint Jude's debut LP is out now through Cobra Snake Necktie Records. Remember it's limited to 300 copies in 3 colours including a beautiful swirl.... so get in quick!

* No punters were harmed by fiddle bows during the process of this set.

Saint Jude: Site // Facebook
Rich Davies and the Devil's Union: Site // Facebook

Cobra Snake Necktie Records: Site // Facebook
Gretson Records: Site // Facebook

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