The King Khan & BBQ Show @ St Peters Warehouse, Sydney (13/6/2013)
Garage rock may go in and out of fashion, but it’s harder to kill than Solomon Grundy). Commerical standard-bearers The Black Keys have left lo-fi behind, and Jack White seems to think he’s accidentally time-travelled from the turn of the 20th-Century, but as long as bashing a guitar and a drum kit still sounds great, there’ll be someone to keep the bare-bones ethos alive.
You can’t fault the idea of Converse’s Get Loud series: great bands booked to play in non-traditional venues is the sort of move that should be applauded – even if it came out of a shoe brand’s advertising budget. The execution, however, wasn’t quite so smooth.
The gig’s “secret location” – a storeroom in St Peters in Sydney’s inner-west – felt more like a location for a photo shoot than an illicit venue. Openers Palms gave it a solid try, but their bubblegum pop-punk didn’t have the presence to overcome the initially stiff atmosphere. Even the frankly excellent mix of 7-inches played by DJ King OPP (Owen Penglis from Sydney’s Straight Arrows), pulling together everything from Modern Lovers to Johnnie Taylor, couldn’t really get things going.
But an unlikely saviour appeared in a window above the crowd: a 30-something Indian-Canadian man, shirtless and pot-bellied, and dressed in a sequined headpiece and cape. With him, a paler, more modestly dressed man. Named Mark Sultan at birth, tonight he is BBQ, and his topless friend is the irrepressible, unbelievable King Khan.
With nothing but two guitars and a kick-drum between them, The King Khan & BBQ Show laid waste to that smoky, awkward warehouse. King Khan’s wild eyes sent the crowd into a frenzy; their roiling bodies in service to the primal electricity of garage rock. There were snatches of ‘Invisible Girl’ and ‘Spin the Bottle’ among a mass of other songs, but if you could tell one from another, no one stopped long enough to care. An hour (or was it an hour-and-half?) passed by in a breathless moment, and, suddenly, all that remained was the ringing in my ears and the crowd roaring for more. And that is why garage rock lives on.
(Photos by Dexter Cornelius)