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Hoodoo Gurus

Vivid Festival Live @ The Powerhouse Museum, 23rd May 2015

This nostalgic gesture first configured on stage in November 2014 at Scarborough Beach, W.A. It was aptly anointed Be My Guru: The Evolution Revolution Concert. Those fortunate in attendance would’ve applauded both members of the current line-up:

Dave Faulkner (songwriter, lead singer, guitarist and keyboards) Brad Shepherd (guitar, vocals, harmonica) Richard Grossman (bass, backing vocals) Mark Kingsmill (drums).

As well as past members:

James Baker (drums)

Roddy Radalj (guitar, backing vocals)

Kimble Rendall (bass guitar, backing vocals)

Clive Bramley (bass guitar, backing vocals).

On Saturday 23rd May 2015, it was our good fortune in Sydney that the feat was being presented one final time as part of this years’ Vivid Festival.

Today, Hoodoo Gurus need no introduction. Although, upwards of some thirty odd years ago, Hoodoo Gurus were best known as a cult inner city band – expanding their profile through sheer determination and unprecedented effort. Further recognition was established as the band enjoyed well-deserved airplay on (my all time most revered and one and only radio station) Triple J – known as Double J back in the day. On this particular celebratory night, they solidified their still ever-present, undeniable cult status.

Hoodoo Gurus – tirelessly energetic, unpredictable, non-conformist, unique and inventive. Forever delivering a quality blend of rock/college rock/new wave pop melodies intertwined with a perfect psychedelic punk guitar edge.

On this commemorative evening, as always, I again praised those signature harmonies, melodies and hooks. Not to mention those banging guitars! – beyond heavenly. When it comes down to the guitars, Hoodoo Gurus can do no wrong. Ever. Seriously, the most underrated band of their generation - such a tragic miscarriage of justice.

Their catchy tunes have stood the test of time. Moreover, the very capacity for such impressive emotional lyrical depth throughout their treasured material, speaks volumes to their credibility. Enough said. No matter how you wish to categorize Hoodoo Gurus, I’m here to tell you they belong to a category all their own, almost indefinable in any simplistic one-dimensional manner. Something upon which we can all agree however – Hoodoo Gurus indeed have earned and truly deserve a national treasure status. It’s only fair. Seriously, with whom should I consult on the issue?

Now, once upon a time did pictures of original Hoodoo Gurus drummer James Baker adorn my otherwise dreary HSC folder? Well, yes, they most certainly did. And once upon a time, did I also happen to deliver a both brave and ambitious (albeit less than sterling) rendition of ‘ Like, Wow – Wipeout!’ on stage at my final Year 12 Farewell Assembly? That would be a yes too. And again, once upon a time did Sir Dave Faulkner himself (as I like to refer to him), present me with a pink electric guitar signed by the band at a radio sponsored backyard gig a few years ago? You guessed it, another solid resounding yes to that as well. Today this precious, personally autographed instrument assumes a position of pride, beautifully mounted on my living room wall. I did kiss it for good luck on my way out the door, racing to this most poignant of gigs - literally propelled by an adrenalin fuelled pumping pace that pretty much defied comprehension. You had to be there. One word. Subhuman.

Upon entering Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, one couldn’t help absorb the definite buzz in the air. How enchanting that so many likeminded fans were anticipating the very same phenomena about to take place.

In the interim, we were all treated to a bit of exclusivity; in the way of expertly exhibited Hoodoo Gurus memorabilia derived from their own private collection. I do recall chills and having felt somewhat faint upon witnessing handwritten Faulkner lyrics. This reaction had very little to do with the crisp Autumn night air, and even less to do with the insanely inclined instep of my conspicuously elevated Gene Simmons-esque boots, reserved only as part of my staple rock concert ware, for health reasons. (Laugh harder Vlad). Rather, my physical response had much to do with the fact that I felt overwhelmingly fortunate. In my humble opinion, I believe Mr Faulkner has not been credited nearly enough in the industry as the exceptional songwriter that he more than clearly personifies – one of the most worthy and gifted in fact. I’ve long appreciated that he has steadfastly refrained from compromising his artistic integrity for the greater good, rather than succumbing to only inadvertently assist the tainted flow of the commercial chocolate fountain. Such resolve. Honestly, he remains both one of the nicest and decent fellows to grace the Australian musical landscape – and so terribly humble to boot. What an outright legend.

I did express as much to him in conversation a few years back when I had the pleasure of meeting him in person. However, I might have failed at the time to mention that as a very young girl, I dreamt of naming a future daughter Leilani. I might also have failed to mention that in my dream, he was the daddy. Well one’s life has a way of EVOLVING and people tend to yield to the constant roller coaster ride, until one day they momentarily hop off, only to discover their true calling as a soccer mum to two sons. But despite the super stable marriage and happy families – Mr Faulkner still remains my secret ‘back up’! But Shhhh…

let’s perhaps keep that on the down low. I’m fairly respected in the community, so nobody holler to my boys. Including my husband. It’ll be our little secret. Maybe I’ll delicately weave it into my next friendly chat with the mainstay Guru himself, should I be so privileged.

Suffice to say, if I had but one request, it was for Leilani, naturally, to magically materialize on the night’s set list! I would have to exercise some patience I thought to myself, as I awaited anxiously by the stage, leaning up against a speaker box for a bit of support…

Finally, The Be My Guru party got started with the band’s original (sans bass guitar) flavoured line-up from 1981-1982, presenting themselves on stage. So we welcomed James Baker on drums, and Rodney Radalj and Kimble Rendall on guitar. Mr Faulkner makes the introductions with much pride and calls to mind a time long ago when the birth of Le Hoodoo Gurus took place. Mr Radalj and Mr Faulkner had written together all those years ago, and to observe these men convene as one entity again is altogether inspiring and quite momentous for this one lucky fan.

Not long into the set when an unexpected rarity was realized, as Mr Radalj introduced a never before recorded track called Snake Shake. So everybody in the audience found themselves in the very same position, hearing a Hoodoo Gurus tune for the very first time at the very same time. A solid start – it was plain to see the band were having fun with this and it didn’t take very long at all before we the crowd began chanting the chorus right back at our heroes. At some point, Mr Brad Shepherd was invited up to the stage to undertake harmonica duties on a couple of tracks, and the crowd could not have been more delighted. So endearing.

At approximately half a dozen songs in, Mr Radalj and Mr Rendall exited the stage to make way for Mr Clive Bramley and again Mr Brad Shepherd, and just like that, essentially metamorphosing into the traditional Stoneage Romeos circa 1983/84. During this next mini set I noticed the fans identified a great deal more with the material performed, and it did please me, it pleased me much. A couple of stellar catches here would’ve been ‘My Girl’ and ‘Tojo’. As so many others I was mesmerized by the impact created by a cast of past original members gracing the stage. The both ingenious and poetic design in practice delivered such a depth to each and every segment of the (evolutionary) cycle, and was duly translated through the history of their music with extraordinary effect and eloquence. The extended element of psychedelic lighting, which served as a constant feature, did nothing but enhance the entire experience visually – Again, quite impactful.

So the clever cycle continued, and next we found ourselves revisiting the Mars Needs Guitars/Blow Your Cool era of 1985-88. As Mr James Baker laid his sticks down, longtime drummer Mr Mark Kingsmill picked up his. Especially moving as this would happen to commemorate his final official performance with Hoodoo Gurus, following his retirement announcement – so bittersweet. Half a dozen real gems rolled on including one of my all time favourites, ‘Poison Pen’. A couple more crowd pleasers followed in tunes such as ‘What’s My Scene?’, which commanded an instant counter in the way of a mass of people basically bringing the house down in record time. However, when Mr Kingsmill broke out his signature drum beat introducing, ‘Like, Wow – Wipeout!’ you just felt the immediate wave of approval rise through the audience, so intense. Such a deep affection mirrored by a massive sing-a-long combined with high energy dancing throughout. A pretty blissful scene from where I was standing - a real party atmosphere, capturing a wide fan base demographic, the young and very young at heart.

Not so very long after this impressive display, we were all witness to the hugely anticipated, most up to date and time honoured version of the band (1988-current). Mr Richard Grossman replaced Mr Bramley and the image was complete. Thus far, we’d been entertained with a striking collection of cuts from the Gurus’ majestic bottomless musical vault. Of those which made the cut, even a couple of borderline ‘heritage’ tunes, hailing from the earliest incarnation of their evolution cycle, which had been in fact somewhat quietly resting for close to three decades! Until this night that is. On this night, they actually raised the roof - far from quiet. Just the way I like it.

Yet another winning set, and the inclusion of ‘Miss Free Love' here seemed most befitting, given the psychedelic vibe created on a whole. The crowd’s level of enthusiasm at this moment appeared just as honest as it had from the very beginning, wholeheartedly engaged and positive. And how utterly refreshing it was to hear my own personal choice off the Purity Of Essence album, ‘Crackin’ Up’ being played. I was a very happy, little, vertically challenged lady. I almost kicked those dangerous boots off I danced so hard… Good thing I didn’t. Those things could’ve taken someone out.

Hoodoo gurus showcased an abundance of stage presence finesse, which can be measured in direct relation to their extensive experience as a collective. Together, they exemplified a certain intimate synchronicity as performers, which was just a pleasure to behold.

By this interval, we’d celebrated the four separate embodiments, which combined, undeniably defined the very soul of this much-loved band. Just as one thought one couldn’t be any more indulged, one beheld a historical climatic finale of epic proportions take form on stage. Having shot a glance at the Guru loving audience, I definitely knew we’d all bonded in that very breath, as none of us would soon forget how affecting a juncture in time had been shared. Try to visualize the following: current and past members of the band on stage at the one time, thus having created, by Mr Faulkner’s very own definition: Super Hoodoo Gurus!

Now allow me to further elaborate. Picture eight members/musicians playing two drum kits, two bass guitars, and four ‘regular’ electric guitars all jamming away, arriving at a magnificent musical backdrop to the charge of euphoria from the ecstatic crowd below, voicing their support as loud as they could muster.

Now close your eyes and imagine listening to a positively almighty rendition, almost primal like in nature, of the band’s VERY FIRST EVER SINGLE, you know it! ‘Leilani’! I was now complete, two words - full circle. Time stood still for me. I surrendered to the powerful act of reminiscing, as the lure deemed itself purely inescapable and all intoxicating. For I had fell madly and instantly in love with this song so very long ago, when I can assure you NOBODY knew what on earth I was talking about. Well, as I stood transfixed for fear of missing a single solitary beat, I had no shred of doubt in my mind that EVERYBODY in that room would’ve known exactly what I was talking about now. As expected, this spine tingling offering represented the outstanding highlight of the evening for me - so symbolic, so inconceivably symbolic.

Well a couple of encores down, and we were sadly forced to bid Hoodoo Gurus a good night. We’d saluted a true blue (original) Aussie band that officially formed over thirty years ago (forever in your debt), and relished in revisiting the past along with them, and then all the way back again.

Do I have any Guru regrets? Just one - That I wasn’t in the audience alongside Jimmy Page and Lou Reed (RIP) during the April 1986 Hoodoo Gurus Mars Needs Guitars concert at The Ritz in NYC. Would’ve been phenomenal. Although, as it just so happens, Mr Page himself can’t claim to have seen Hoodoo Gurus at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum on Saturday 23rd May 2015. But I can...

Be My Guru: The Evolution Revolution Concert – what a tremendous concept, a simply exhilarating fusion of sensational music, and refined visual effects as additional accompaniment.

Well, this little Guru lover has but one message; congratulations to you gentlemen. After all this time, you still got it! The longevity you’ve secured is no happy accident. Be proud, I am. Thank you for the memories. Till we meet again.

Pssst… Hey guys… Does Mrs Mary Faulkner really sound that crazy? Anyone?

Mary Di Matteo

see more photos here

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