Tumbleweed @ The Tote, Melbourne (25/05/2012)

Collingwood’s iconic Tote Hotel was not all that long ago the subject of much debate and teeth-gnashing, as the owners had been forced to close up shop due to the implementation of tougher liquor licensing laws. Victorian music lovers went into overdrive as they lobbied to right this injustice, and ensure that one of the most loved institutions on Australian music was to stay alive and well. Their fight was successful, and May 25th 2012 saw seminal stoner-rockers Tumbleweed start a weekend-long run of shows, bringing two Australian icons together once again.

The first of these 3-strong shows kicked off with the enviably named Sun God Replica, fronted by Ex-Meanies vocalist Link McLennan (nee Meanie). Whilst this new incarnation sounds nothing like his aforementioned group, the familiar ‘Linky-twist’ somehow manages to remain. Sporting a handlebar moustache these days, and sans most of the stage antics he’s notorious for, Sun God Replica are a bit more straight-out-rock rather than balls-to-the-wall punk – however their songs are equally well-constructed, and perhaps more mature. With former Meanies band-mate Wally in the audience in support, and joined on-stage for one track by an impressively capable female audience member (whose name I regrettably did not catch), Sun God Replica’s set was well worth turning up early for.

Next up on the bill were King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard. The 7-piece, probably most accurately labelled as “psyche-garage”, consists of a group of young cats who would have almost certainly been in diapers when tonight’s headliners were in their heyday. However if they were intimidated by this fact, they certainly did not let it show. Their energetic and dynamic performance was somewhat constricted by the size of the Tote’s stage – however, it was obvious that this eclectic band of misfits (who at times appeared to be channelling Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) take their music seriously. Their songs were crafted well beyond their young years, and their vigour was reminiscent of both the Meanies and Tumbleweed back when they were just forging their way to popularity. Keep an eye out for the name King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard (not that it’s a hard name to spot), this will definitely not be the last you hear of them.

When Wollongong legends and Oz icons Tumbleweed finally took to the stage, the near-capacity Tote band-room was a hive of energy. This band is much loved by all of this country’s alternative music followers, and rightly so. They undeniably influenced many Australian bands that came after them, as well as helping to shape the ‘stoner rock’ genre throughout the world (desert legends Kyuss cite them as an influence). Obviously someone in the tightly assembled audience agreed with that endorsement – the none-too-subtle smell of weed wafted above the crowd during their first number, Mushroom Cloud, in what was an obvious and fitting homage.

The Tote stage has barely enough space to accommodate a five piece and their equipment, but this did not bother vocalist Richie Lewis, as he performed with his trademark vigour. Sporting a beard and a longer mane, Lewis windmilled his arms and threw his body around recklessly – making the most of the minimal stage-space he had been allocated. To say Tumbleweed have always been a professional unit would be an understatement, however it is probable that they may have had a tipple in anticipation of the show – guitarist Paul Hausmeister lost his balance and took a tumble mid-song, almost in comical slow-motion, much to the delight of the small section of audience who witnessed it. To his credit he did not miss a note throughout, and the only noticeable after-affect was a very sheepish-grin.

Presumably Tumbleweed took up this weekend-long-residency at the Tote to garner interest in their new album, set to drop in 2012. Whilst it is fair to say the crowd were responsive and eager to hear the new tunes they did play tonight, their real interest and enthusiasm came from their more seasoned hits, such as Sundial, Acid Rain, and in particular Daddy Long Legs. The new album will not disappoint though; if the live renditions of these tunes are anything to go by, Tumbleweed have not abandoned the bluesy rock and stoner grooves that made them such crowd favourites; if anything, they have matured it.

It was to much anticipation that a few years ago The ‘Weed announced they were “back from the grave”. Their songs had long been the soundtrack to many now-not-so-young people’s teenage antics, and these punters were very quick to snap up any tickets available for the first few shows to relive these nostalgic moments. But it seems as though it wasn’t just a phase – Tumbleweed are back for good…and the musical landscape is so much better for it.