Def FX, Insurge, Graveyard Rockstars @ The Factory Theatre, Sydney (01/06/2012)

Close your eyes and imagine a world where filmmaker Val Lewton (I Walked With a Zombie, Cat People) decided to make rock and roll in LA in the eighties rather than horror movies in LA in the forties. Now open your eyes and watch the Graveyard Rockstars. Is this what he would have created? The ghoulish imagery and rockstar poses are the creation of some of Sydney’s more virulent musicians on a path to good times and damnation. This is my first exposure to the Rockstars and I find them more consistent than Alice Cooper, not as buff as The Misfits, and funnier than Marilyn Manson. Rock and roll is undead.

Insurge’s industrial rock driving their socio-political message condensed what I like about music of nineties into one band. Their infrequent reunions are something to savour and tonight is no exception. Singer/guitarist/agitator Chris Dubrow is a fervent as ever, and he has a lot to rally against. The injustices of the nineties have not disappeared. The only difference between the band then and now is Dubrow has more humour in his banter with the crowd and band.

Insurge start with a slower song, Soul for Sale, allowing the band to fit into a groove and the sound guy time to adjust the mix. The sound is spot on, with the band sounding forceful and rhythmic. They boom across The Factory by the band and the audience is so big and so enthusiastic I wonder if Def FX will be able to compete. Most of the classic songs are played and a cover of The Slab by Hunters and Collectors is added to the set. They finish with Speculator and all five members of the band on percussion. A truly great performance, as good as they have ever been. Insurge have not dated and may even be better than before.

Def FX, who may contain some original members, headline tonight as part of their reunion. They started life as an electronic surfadelic pop rock band and moved more into electrogrunge, while enjoying some success along the way, before dissolving into the ether. Def FX still have fans and they are here tonight; some in their original Def FX shirts.

The three male members of the band come to the stage as a teaser, leaving the crowd waiting for Fiona Horne. She may be backstage casting a spell, because I feel like I have been transported back to the nineties when she finally appears, because no one dresses like this now. Her heart emblazoned hot pants sparkle, her silver bikini top struggles to stay up, and is that her hair or has someone draped a dead Yeti over her head? They launch into the first song that brought them to the public’s attention, Surfers of the Mind. Everything about Def FX, and the nineties, is in this song. Fiona dances as badly as ever, making Ian Curtis look like Rudolph Nureyev, the keyboardist does a Vanilla Ice style rap, and everybody poses like they wish they were in Pop Will Eat Itself. The wardrobe malfunction early in the song was an added bonus. The bikini top was fighting a losing battle.

I had thought that the Insurge crowd may be the biggest and loudest of the night, but the Def FX fans multiply like tribbles and scream like banshees. The crowd, maybe reliving their university years when Def FX were big and novel, hold back nothing in their appreciation. The band do their best to live up to the reception, rolling out the hits and feeding off the energy.

Fiona brought out Metal Ted, apparently still under the delusion that Def FX have a metal element. The crowd, enraptured by the performance and musings of the white haired, white witch, were seemingly oblivious to the awful sound. I think the sound guy had two rules for mixing – 1) Make the vocals louder than everything else, much louder; and 2) Add reverb. I asked some friends what they thought of the sound. One agreed it was appalling and the other said this is what Def FX always sound like. They were both right.