Dig It Up! @ The Palace, Pony & Spleen
The fate of the Dardenelles campaign of 1915 was the product of blind optimism and breathtaking naivety. Hatched in the offices of Whitehall, the plan was a triumph of dysfunctional strategic planning. Neither the War Cabinet nor the commanding officers had ever experienced the imposing terrain of Gallipoli Peninsula; when the allied troops arrived, the poorly constructed military plan went to hell in a hand basket. And so, according to that strange nationalistic myth that’s churned out every year, a nation was born.
It was with the logistical failures of the Gallipoli campaign in mind that we arrived at the Palace – a place with its own perplexing terrain and associated idiosyncrasies – on Bourke Street on a wet and uninviting Anzac Day to attend the Dig It Up! festival. The early signs weren’t entirely promising: the perennially impressive Frowning Clouds had packed out the so-called Attic, and free passage and oxygen were in dangerously short supply. Downstairs on the main stage, The Fleshtones acted like a bunch of grown-up kids having the proverbial candy store moment, overcoming the sub-optimal acoustics with a mixture of sparkling boots, powerpop riffs and high-kicks that would leave most of us on the long-term injury list if we were ever stupid enough to try them.
Half-way through the set we returned to the Attic for what was arguably the days’ musical highlight, a blisteringly blissful sojourn through The Lovetones’ psychedelic paradise. After a mesmerising finale, we headed back downstairs for the 5,6,7,8s, who, it was generally agreed, were good without being necessarily great. Stretching our calves again, it was back to the Attic for Steve Wynn, and a trip down the paisley patterned underground memory lane. This was the largely unexpected moment to cherish, the atmosphere saturated with collective contentment.
Over to Pony Bar on Little Collins Street, and Spencer P. Jones was on Spencer Time, a couple of songs into a set that was notionally due to finish very shortly. We’ve seen it all before, and it’s always just as good the next time around. Kim Salmon was up next; three times we made an in-principle decision to check out Beaches and Redd Kross – both of whom, it was reported subsequently, were in fine form – and three times Salmon pulled out killer tracks – Fix Me Up, Last Night and Frantic Romantic – and we were unable to leave.
By now we were fighting our way through a self-induced cognitive haze, and our strategic planning was making Frederick Stopford look like a military genius. Died Pretty was in blistering form – a friend suggested Ron Peno was the Billy Hughes of Australian rock’n’roll, a comparison that led us into surreal territory. At the last strum of Brett Myers’ guitar, we scooted back to Pony for Kim and Spencer’s set. Words From A Woman To Her Man snuffed out any lingering regrets at having made the trip; Something To Lean On battered it into submission.
And now it was time for The Sonics. In some respects The Sonics were on a hiding to nothing – maybe the most significant of the original Pacific North-West garage bands (with due apologies to The Wailers), and the ultimate champions of the three-chord garage track. And when you’re offered up The Witch, Strychnine and Psycho, can you ever go wrong? Categorically, no. The Hoodoo Gurus’ set – largely Stoneage Romeos, with a few encore tracks thrown in – was notable for a few things: finally having the opportunity to hear rarely played tracks like Zanzibar, Death Ship and Let’s (All) Turn On; dancing our posteriors off to Television Addict; and the band’s enigmatic departure from the stage before completing its full compliment of encores. The next day it was revealed the Gurus thought the crowd wasn’t as enthusiastic as the band had hoped; on the floor, it was a different matter. Poor encore management, but we’ll all live.
By now we’d largely forgotten where we’d started, and our logistical mistakes during the day – a bit like the reluctance of commanding British officers to admit their culpability in constructing shoddy military plans. But we had the benefit of a near-perfect musical smorgasbord. A well overdue visit to Ulysses in Thornbury capped off events, and the evening came to an ideal end. You don’t get better days than this.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Photo Credit: Carbie Warbie
LOVED: Everything, but especially The Lovetones, The Sonics and Steve Wynn.
HATED: That no-one told the Hoodoo Gurus the crowd wanted more.
DRANK: The right amount of water at the right time to make sure the next day was a good day.