After 30 years of producing hit record after hit record, what better way for the Hoodoo Gurus to mark the occasion than by asking their favourite performers to party on with them at the Dig It Up! - Invitational. For Melbourne punters, the gigs took place over three venues on a chilly Anzac Day afternoon. Eight hours of great rock n’ roll bands, comedy acts and DJ’s pumped out their best in celebration of the ‘Gurus’ phenomena.
Pony hosted The Murlocs, the Dylan’esque’ Spencer P. Jones and Kim Salmon, whilst The Spleen Bar hosted a number of comedy acts, including Dave O’Neil. Punters were given a wristband that acted as an all day pass-out, so they could move from venue to venue, but it wasn’t possible to catch all the fine acts on offer. Most ended-up staying at The Palace Theatre for the simple reason that it was easier to run up and down stairs between the two stages that were being utilised than it was to brave the cold and squeeze into the other crowded venues.
Keeping in mind that the Hoodoo Gurus curated this invitational, it wasn’t a tough call to understand why these bands were chosen to be part of the day. The distinctive guitar sound of 60’s rock n’ roll, and 60’s influenced 80’s sounds epitomised what made the Gurus so popular. Their influences were bands such as The Sonics, who formed in 1963 in the U.S. and were here in Melbourne belting out songs like “The Witch” with such vigour that no one could guess that the band has been in business for longer than most of us there had been alive.
The Fleshtones, another band from the U.S., were an even bigger influence on the Gurus, and from the style of their music most probably influenced the flower-pot men, Devo as well. It was great to see a number of Melbourne bands in the line-up, including The Frowning Clouds, whose sound could be compared to one of Dave Faulkner’s psychedelic paisley shirts. The Lovetones also played The Attic (Palace) stage and sent punters on a nostalgic journey. If we closed our eyes and didn’t look at the youngish band members, we could have been listening to The Stranglers.
The main Palace stage hosted the Hard Ons, who produce some of the greatest guitar sounds ever, and whose vocals sound like Blink 182 on steroids. The Hoodoo Gurus have some kind of fascination with Japan it seems, and the quirky all girl group from Tokyo The 5,6,7,8’s arrived to great applause and managed to infuse traditional beats with an edginess that made their music contemporary. Died Pretty brought us a touch of ‘emo’ with the song “Godbless”. They reformed for the Dig It Up! gig here, which must have made the Gurus feel quite honoured and acknowledged the respect they have within the industry. Redd Kross played a packed 45 minute set, and got the punters singing. “Jimmy’s Fantasy” and “Lady In The Front Row” received huge applause, and many in the crowd believed this band were a highlight.
After The Sonics had worn the crowd out, the Hoodoo gurus came onstage to perform Stoneage Romeos to a tired but appreciative room of fans. Faulkner and co. have lost none of their band prowess and the cohesive, professional and almost flawless performance had us singing to “Tojo”, which is about a Japanese general, and “I Was a Kamikaze Pilot”, which again has links to Japan and the war. “Mars Needs Guitars” is the song that contains the lyrics “I am a Stoneage Romeo” (which obviously was the inspiration for the album title). “Leilani” reminded us of glam rock stars such as Nick Gilder, and although “Dig It Up!” (the song not the invitational) is a bit plodding, the song title is certainly apt for an event such as this. “Bittersweet” received the biggest reaction, but my money was on “Arthur”. The song didn’t get as much airplay as it should have, which is a travesty for those of us who like their music different.
After one encore the Gurus disappeared, though the punters definitely wanted more and felt a little gypped when the band didn’t return. There is no way that anyone should have felt short-changed considering the day in its entirety though. It was truly something worth digging up, and certainly special considering that we may never see a similar line up of stellar acts again… though we are hoping the ‘invitational’ becomes a staple of the Australian music scene.