Max Chillen + the Kerbside Collective @ Black Bear Lodge, 20th Jan

Photo: Kathryn Farmer, Society of Sound

When the fuck did men start carrying hand bags? Sorry, it’s not a hand bag, it’s a tote bag, but that’s beside the point. My pockets carry the necessities for a night out. What else could we need when we are out and about? Especially at Black Bear Lodge. Especially at a gig.

I’m at Black Bear Lodge in the Valley. It’s a hot night and I’ve situated myself in the crossroads of the aircon and the fan. I’ve got a Gold tinnie in my hand not because of its rise of internet stardom, but because it’s the cheapest option at the bar. I’m here to see Max Chillen and the Kerbside Collective. They are a good band by my standards that encompass all that is and was good with new wave and post punk. And they are here to finish off their first east coast tour.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

First Beige appear on stage shortly after I finish my beer. Filling the already small stage, they pick up their instruments in a careful waltz so they don’t hit each other. The electro waves of synth fill the air against a flurry of intricate drum beats like a poor man’s Tame Impala. And I say that as a compliment, it’s no small feat to reproduce a similar sound to the psych-gods. First Beige are at their best in their instrumentation. They move from melodic riffs to synth heavy breakdowns and charming bass lines groove in the background. The band have a rich sound, because their instruments cost more than my car.

I’m brushed by another fucking tote bag. I wonder if I’ll ever understand this trend. Or the trend where you grab your dad’s extra-large white tee and tuck it into your jeans. And the flappy tongue of the belt that hangs down near your unmentionables. But that’s neither here nor there. It’s what I’m noticing in the crowd. I’m nit-picking.

I have another tinnie in my hand. I now wait for FeelsClub to make the stage. The crowd has grown significantly, some repping FeelsClub merch; a testament to the band. More goddamn tote bags brush past me. FeelsClub make the stage and I hear many girls cheer. The stage is once again packed as the band begin their lollipop flavoured electro-pop. It’s groovy stuff, no doubt, and an early appearance of crowd favourite Come On has everyone dancing. It’s catchy, like an 80s fever dream. Even though it’s not my thing, I’m grooving to the deep synth melody and simple drum beat. I wish I knew the set list because there’s a sweet little instrumental number that I’d love to listen to. The later set songs begin to shift tonally. They’re still the electro-pop the crowd loves, but lack the dreaminess that makes Come On such a banger. Vocalist, St Jonnie (probably not the name his mum gave him) certainly knows how to woo the crowd. He beckons them forward with his energetic performance, a talent that most other bands lack. He bellows into the mic with a croon that’s almost 90s rock against the flurry of 80s synth wave. FeelsClub bring the heat and I can’t imagine what it would be like away from this aircon vent.

I notice more eccentric quirks weave through the growing crowd between sets. I notice half a foot cut off the hems of many a passerby’s jeans to showcase their crisp white socks. Where does the extra fabric end up? I see crowd members holding white flowers larger than my fist. I see a denim patch about half a foot in size sewn onto another tote bag. I grab another beer.

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

White flowers litter the stage as Max Chillen and the Kerbside Collective strut on the stage. I now know why so many petals have fallen across the floor. Chillen himself has black eye makeup smeared across his face. He claims to have laryngitis but that doesn’t stop him. The band begin and Mr. Chillen thunders into the mic with a voice so deep it could rival James Earl Jones. Well, maybe not that deep. He croons tracks off their latest EP against a very solid sound coming from the band. Drummer Gabe Bautista lays down tight drum beats. Chillen struts about and a glittery post punk sound thrusts my ear holes. Tracks Backseat and Nothing Important are clear standouts, the latter defined by its thick bass riff and sneaky cowbell. It’s not hard to pick MCKC’s influences. Chillen takes a clear influence from Bowie with black war paint smeared over his eyes, and their music rides the fine line between Joy Division and New Order days. The band finish with their first single Treat Me Rough, welcomed by many crowd members who make the stage, including one eager cowbell abuser. It’s a fucking catchy tune, many thanks to Robert Hill’s guitar licks. And I dance. I can’t help it.

I’m reminded of a line from Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl as I reflect back on the gig.

“Angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.”

The crowd were a mix of all walks of life: the social outcast, the weird kid in class, the artsy one carrying a tote bag, the unpopular kids, the popular kids who now carry tote bags, the jocks, the bully, the bullied, the rich kids; the angelheaded hipsters who burn for something. Whatever they burn for, they found it in at least one of the three bands tonight. Was this the time Ginsberg spoke of? The tote-bagged, cuff cut beatniks. The makeup smeared goth boys. The flower power psych lovers. It’s food for thought. It’s something special.

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz

Reference: Howl by Allen Ginsberg

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