It was a sweaty, sweaty Friday night when The Snowdroppers walked out on stage. “It’s been a sweltering couple of days hasn’t it” calls out Johnny Wishbone, pulling at his shirt as it sticks to the wife beater beneath – his signature thread. The crowd was leaning forward as one, staring at the three microphones and drum kit in an almost rabid, fire-stroked silence. Red lights panned back and forth across rising stage smoke. Like a gun shot, sudden that first drum beat, sudden their shoes across the floor.
Wishbone, all swagger and bourbon, like Johnny Cash after selling his soul to the devil, turned his back to the crowd and worked us, removing his jacket teasingly, arm by arm, while cohorts Cougar Jones and Pauly K took up their instruments and led straight into the cat-paw creeping, jungle-beat of Good Drugs Bad Women – soon, we had forgotten about the perspiration at the backs of our necks and were raising our glasses, hips swaying unbidden. As I watched the stage, watched their chemistry parade, I suddenly felt as though I had stumbled upon some kind of neo-blues rock preacher. All three of them throwing their devil’s music our way, and we ate their wicked verse eagerly.
If you’ve never caught The Snowdroppers live you’re missing out on something ephemeral and unforgettable. Here’s what went down at the Sydney leg of their Gluttons For Punishment tour.
I always look forward to a Snowdroppers show, but this was probably one of their best and there was an emotion in the crowd, of it being all of their best fans gathered. The show ranged from slow ship-swaying indie to straight up blues from hell via Sydney, to crowd surfing and old dive bar, fevered Southern shout out. Do The Stomp, as always, had everyone in the throes, reaching near religious climax as that cheeky reverend stirred the frenzy with his skillful playing of the harmonica. There is an old bluesman somewhere in that white boy. I’m sure of it.
Love Letters, Business, Ignorance and an unexpected segue into Tusk by Fleetwood Mac (which was brilliantly executed!) really highlight the tenets of the Snowdroppers Bible. What they are known for, what they do best. It’s something to marvel at, when a band can successfully tread a few genres over the course of their albums and do so indeed very well. Even the crowd-sing-along Lock Out Laws which sounded like something crafted in a garage over a few Jim Beams one lazy Sunday.
Johnny’s own way of protesting the Grandma State we seem to be in for was so very them and instantly had that cool factor. Somehow they get away with anything, and make it not only their own, but something that works. And, coming from a band moving into their tenth year together, who have somehow survived the fickle tides of the music business, that particular song was loaned a presence and was more than just a drunk chant. It’s a very real problem that bands are facing as the live scene shrinks and becomes more cut throat. I thought it was charming as much as it was necessary for the band to work that statement into the show.
Between yelling at everyone to ‘stay hydrated’ around another sip of bourbon throughout the night and aiming various tracks at various demographics – parents, jilted boyfriends, one night standers or commitment-phobes, everyone, well, almost everyone, was included in the performance as Johnny worked with his fans – always insouciant and funny. There’s nothing that is hard work about this act. They are very easy to love, whether you’re there for their entertaining back and forth, Johnny’s Pelvis thrusts, because indie-blues is your jam and these musician’s are nailing it, their effort is collaborative, with the group dynamics clear and powerful on stage in the flesh. The shuddering, sensual bass lines, the heart-attack drum kicks and of course, the Edwyn Collins-esque delivery of words Wishbone moves his mouth around.
Listening to their songs on the radio is one thing, and quite another on the stage. If you have the opportunity to see them, then you must. Judging by the happy faces of the crowd, however sweaty, what they set out to achieve last Friday, they did so exceedingly.
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