[9 November 2004]
The Von Bondies
If there’s one thing issuing from both bands on tonight’s bill it’s “hype.” The Cops and The Von Bondies have each had varying degrees of media attention heaped on them in recent days, a fact evidenced by a healthy turnout tonight in Sydney.
The local music press has hailed The Cops as the second (third, or possibly eighth) coming of the Sydney rock scene. Suffice it to say that I’ve been burnt before by the over-hyping of sub-standard homegrown acts. So you can imagine that I went into this whole experience with a healthy measure of skepticism.
The Cops, however, more than live up to their reputation, delivering blistering and, perhaps more importantly, innovative hard rock. Also, on songs like “Treat You Like A Dog,” lead singer Simon Carter manages a mean cowbell.
For “Rectify” he straps an ax and joins the three other guitarists for a four-pronged attack. The sound is big; it blows everyone back, even those at the far end of the club. The Cops obviously enjoy what they’re doing. They tear through each track with a distinct sense of humor that immediately transfers to the crowd.
If you are looking for some great Aussie rock that manages to wear the influence of the legends without sounding exactly like them (I didn’t mention Jet directly, so I can’t be sued, can I?), look no further. (Insert your own random witticism involving the word “arrest” here)
It wasn’t so long ago that the Von Bondies came to Australia, but the punters in the crowd are no less enthusiastic—the guy standing in front of me started some hardcore moshing while the band’s crew was still setting up the stage. This was not to be the last example of bad rock “dancing” to be seen. Another guy did a bizarre impression of Yosemite Sam at some of the night’s more intense moments.
When it comes to the Von Bondies, it’s hard to separate the media hype from the band as a musical entity, especially when frontman Jason Stollsteimer refers to the incident that brought instant notoriety to the band, labeling Jack White “one tough motherfucker” mid-set. Constantly reminding people that you got beat up by White might not seem like the best way to garner press, but Stollsteimer has got to work with what he’s got.
Any reservations I had about the hype-factor were quickly dispelled as the band began to play. It became apparent that the Von Bondies are a great deal more than the sum of their publicity budget. They served up extremely high voltage rock ‘n’ roll, and while their music isn’t particularly original or cerebral, to expect either is to miss the point. The Von Bondies’ music is about blues-fuelled riffs delivered at a punkish velocity, all done with the energy of a four-year-old on a Ritalin bender.
This tour gave Australian audiences a chance to meet new bassist Carrie Smith. Stollsteimer took full advantage of the situation and, by way of introduction, invited someone from the audience to take the stage and “towel her off.”
The Gaelic Club felt like a sauna, but even this didn’t put the band off their game. The Von Bondies remained extremely tight despite a new bassist and having to deal with the oppressive heat.
Predictably, the crowd went apeshit when the band wheeled out their major single “C’mon C’mon.” Even I, as cynical as I am, had to hand it to them. There’s not much that beats a good tune played with such gutsy attitude.
Most, if not all, of the material performed was taken from the band’s recent Pawn Shoppe Heart release, with the ladies in the band taking the lead on a run through “Not That Social” before resuming backup vocals on “The Fever” and a rendition of “Poison Ivy” dedicated to the song’s inspiration.
It seems that The Von Bondies, undoubtedly a highly attractive band, manage to avoid the usual negative impact that good looks tend to have on music. Although this was not the most challenging show I’ve seen, the Von Bondies was truly up for a good time, and the crowd was more than willing to join the party.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/von-bondies-041022/