Aleks and the Ramps, Mixylodian, Zeal @ Jade Monkey, Adelaide (09/07/09)

It is not often you see the headlining act supporting themselves, but Melbourne quintet Aleks and the Ramps are anything but typical. After traipsing around Canada last year on tour, they brought a MontríƒÆ’í‚©aler home with them to launch their new album Midnight Believer. Mike Wray, aka Mixylodian has become the honorary sixth member of the Ramps and the Ramps a part of Mixylodian’s originally solo project. So when Mixylodian hit the stage of the intimately informal Jade Monkey on Thursday as a support act it was with the disguised Ramps in throe. Caped and masked, they jumped around to electro indie tracks, hardly fitting on the stage as they did so. Mike himself thrashed the synth with a tonne of energy, while Denim Owl (the lady Ramp) lightly tapped her tambourine and danced away. The crowd of 30 or so was transfixed at this opener, as unorganised as it was endearing – with Denim Owl even admitting it “needed practice”.

The other supporting artist Zeal, aka Robert Jarvis, was not as much of a spectacle but was just as nervously apologetic. He took to the stage with a computer, an electric ukulele and, most intriguing of all, a Guitar Hero guitar. His music was a strange mix of soft vocals and harsh computerised beats, not to mention the mandolin button his GH guitar seemed to have. Zeal’s creativity was obvious and his last two songs were really in the spirit of Mixylodian and the Ramps, particularly the fun and fast Wasps.

Then Aleks and the Ramps took the stage for a second time, but for the first time appearing as themselves. And they made quite the sight in their op-shop glam outfits and face paint. Aleks donned a golden sequinned t-shirt, while Extreme Wheeze treated the audience to white, see-through lace tights. Bright blue fairy lights looked like fireflies wrapped around the microphone stands and across the room, which only added to the wonder of their performance.

The first “ooohs” of Midnight Believer began as Aleks (aka Brain Cobra ) strummed the opening chords of Destroying The World With Jazz Hands on his red-fairy-lit banjo. And so the album was launched, with recorder, clapping sticks and the most energetic hand-clapping that has ever been seen – Extreme Wheeze launched across the tiny stage as he clapped. The audience was exposed to the delightful mix of chaotic indie rock and what can only be called swamp music – banjo plucking with spookily beautiful harmonies – that is Aleks and the Ramps. It had it all, right down to a dance routine to Whiplash that could only work in a venue like the Jade Monkey. They cat-licked their paws, they bayed at the moon and they sat on audience members’ chairs.

All along Denim Owl had the straight-faced tambourine and dancing passion of the B-52s Cindy Wilson (the brunette), Mixylodian was going nuts on the synth and Aleks sang into his banjo. The album sounded even greater live than recorded, especially the strong harmonies and rock breakdowns. And it became obvious the Ramps play musical chairs with their instruments, swapping bass and vocals and xylophone amongst themselves. The encore Animals, from their first album, was a fitting end for this whimsically child-like band – a song full of “meows” and shrieking.

With the first single Antique Limb already getting played on Triple J and with their Australian tour almost wrapped up, the intimate following of Aleks and the Ramps looks set to expand. Perhaps they should start re-working their dance routine for bigger venues.