Live Review: Tom Ugly with The Rocketsmiths and Comic Sans @ The Troubadour, Brisbane

Review by: Bec

You can’t help but get excited about the youth music scene when you see bands like Comic Sans, The Rocketsmiths and Tom Ugly perform.

Hands down the best performance of the night was first support four-piece group, Comic Sans, who are in the throes of recording their first EP. This is a band to watch. Consistently brilliant and musically elusive, they wowed the small crowd at The Troubadour with a commanding display of musical dexterity and sophistication. They give a truly committed live performance that rivets your attention. Exciting; talented; you can’t ignore Comic Sans’ presence; they have the X factor.

They certainly have impressed fans, Shamus of Sherwood, and Karl of Ormeau, who hang out with the Comic Sans boys before they take the stage. Shamus and Karl look like 50-something roadie dudes who’ve been around the musical traps. They first heard Comic Sans from a back verandah at Tarragindi and have loved them ever since.

“They’re the most original thing I’ve seen in years. They have their own sound,” said Shamus.

They sure do. Lead singer, MC Tomfoolery, calls their brand of music, “psychotic”, and quite frankly, there’s no better description. As a style, psychotic is a musical watershed that has reinterpreted grunge and left it for dead. Comic Sans’ sound truly is a schizophrenic experience where psychedelia meets punk and heavy rock with 80s-inspired Romantic synthesizer sounds mixed in. Sounds crash into each other in structured calamity. Their music changes – in one song you can hear The Clash, but later (in the same song), it’s no longer there. Their base-line sounds a bit like early INXS, but to say they’re like INXS is wrong. They’re not. Their music is demanding; by the third song, drummer, Richie Ingwhole, has taken his t-shirt off because he’s a sweat mess. (This boy can play drums.) In their sixth song, he goes from battle speed to ramming speed. IN-credible. Comic Sans play like accomplished musicians.

In their last song, they loop a fantastic beat with synth sounds as MC Tomfoolery allows his guitar to swing aimlessly from his neck as he continues to play, concluding with “This is the life, this is the dream.” IMPRESSIVE. Even Uncle Darryl, whose nephew is the drummer in the next support group, Rocketsmiths, agrees Comic Sans is a talent, “They’re going to go far. I was blown away.”

The>Rocketsmiths are a five piece indie band with carnival rock feel (rock-punk sound with a bit of hillbilly and synthesizer). In the past, they’ve supported US band, “Presidents of The United States of America”. It’s not long after this band starts playing than a group of barely-twenty-somethings get up to dance. Rocketsmiths are a popular garage band. Their musical sensibility would be suited for writing soundtracks for 80s-inspired-cult-B-grade-teen-horror flicks, like “Porky’s zombies 3” or “Revenge of the Vampire Nerds – Hell’s library”.

On stage, Rocketsmiths have very funny banter. Usually, you want bands to continue playing music, but actually their chit-chat is very entertaining. Lead singer, Dominic Miller, jokes, “When did we become a novelty band?” They are like The Goons or as one punter was overhead saying, “the three fucking Stooges.” If they ever give up music, maybe creating their own radio plays could be The Rocketsmiths’ thing.

There are warning signs of mixer trouble to come while Tom Ugly are tuning up on stage. It seems to take forever to get their levels right. The mixer guy runs up onto the lounge to re-plug leads in front of the mixing table. He seems a bit frantic. Once they’re away, you can hear why Tom Ugly has been hailed as a find. Lead singer, Tom Ugly, who doesn’t look unlike a young Prince, has an amazing voice (at times he sounds like Brian Molko from Placebo; some songs resonate the melancholic beauty of Placebo), and he is very comfortable in front of crowd. Even though this one is small – maybe 60 with about half at the front dancing – he still grandstands, stepping up on the centre speaker later in the set, to throw his arms out like a crucified Jesus to whoop up support from the crowd. He’s a great show pony. By the way he moves on stage, maybe he’s channelling Michael Hutchence?

They open with Higher than Hell, an ascending synthesizer, and a great looping track. It’s a promising opener. Other songs, like “Fantasy”, and “Eyes like Water” have more pop-funk sounds and wonderful falsetto from Ugly, while “Roll Again” has a heavier echoey beat.

In their penultimate song, recent release, “All I wanna know”, the sound drops out of Ugly’s mic. They continue to play it. It sounds great, without the vocals you get to appreciate the deep funk groove of the song. At the end, he asks the crowd, “Do you feel a bit ripped off? Do you guys want to hear it again?” He teases the crowd, “I don’t want to play it again.” Ugly’s a pro. They play it again. Afterwards, he asks the crowd, “That’s better isn’t it? All I want to know, two times.”

There’s serious partying happening down the front and Ugly knows it. He’s whipped up the frenzy. For their last song, “Cult Romance”, he invites punters up on stage and about 15 people move in amongst the band, to dance. “This is a party, Brisbane!” he shouts.

Tom Ugly set list
Higher than Hell
Roll Again
Bad with Love
Eyes like Water
Oh my…
All I wanna know
All I wanna know (played again with vocals)
Cult Romance

Tom Ugly with Rocketsmiths and Comic Sans @ The Troubadour, Brisbane – 25 September 2009