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It was quiet for a Saturday night in Newtown, aside from the occasional inebriated Kings Cross dropout, bringing his lifeless irritation elsewhere due to recent legislative force. Upon entering Newtown Social Club, the scene was similar but with an air of possibility and anticipation for the events to take place.
The fabled, self-confessed weirdos Mangelwurzel were to ply lucky attendees with a booze-soaked barrage of genre defying magic and expose us to the workings of Gary, their debut release for which they were touring.
Transcendent connection was forged between Mangelwurzel and the crowd as they spilled buckets of weird and groovy tunes with pitch perfect precision at their Sydney gig.
Bathed in blue light, the thin crowd of early birds witnessed opener Kirkis, a man of many talents, due to play bass for the headliners later in the evening. Treating the lucky few with a rare solo set, Kirkis seemed at home on the floor with his laboratory of guitar effects and devices and bellowing inaudible poetry into his mic, adjusted to floor level for maximum ergonomic facilitation.
The sounds that emanated were consistent and jarring, the audience were engulfed and bewildered by Kirkis’ experimentations. It was a window into his soul, laid bare and whilst uncomfortable, even confronting at times, it was nevertheless fascinating.
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As the crowd sheepishly started to fill out, it was Making who were to take the stage next. This time, the lighting burnt shades of red into the evening and seemed symbolic of the sonic bloodbath about to take place. Making were visceral and unforgiving, yet calculated to a tee. The Sydney band hammered their organised chaos and did their darndest to build on the atmosphere that, by no fault of the performers, needed a lift.
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When it was time for the headliners to take the stage, the crowd had built and each of us were thirsty for a taste of Mangelwurzel’s bizarre beauty. The band took to the stage triumphantly to the soundtrack of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn, it looked as though the 90’s smash intro was a little tongue in cheek yet, vocalist Cosmia Jaala passionately mouthed every word.
As the first few notes trickled from the band’s instruments, they warmed up with a 30 second improvised song to the tune of Yankee Doodle, the tone of unpredictable strangeness was set. However, just as the crowd were settling into the sarcastic disarray, the band struck up into their first tune and effortlessly so.
Jaala’s cutsie drawl floated and stung over the precision of the band, she swung on curtains and traversed the stage like a drunken pixie, occasionally letting out a violent squeal which only served to pump up the crowd harder. Dance moves were flying around left, right and centre and soon the room was a beehive, built to a frenzy thanks to Mangelwurzel’s unstoppable groove and Cosmia Jaala’s hypnotic control.
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Tracks like Everybody’s Friend hit hard. With the horn section slamming out note-perfect lines in ever-changing metres whilst bounding around the stage like wacky, waving, inflatable, arm flailing tube women it was incredible their lungs didn’t collapse.
Improvised songs were interspersed with real meaty jams ripped from their LP, Gary like Hawaii and My House which allowed for crowd interaction, our cheeky ring leader Jaala, covered in permanent marker dicks and fishing for her improvised song ideas in the ecstatic crowd with her “chalice of truth” the microphone.
It’s impossible to label anything about Mangelwurzel, their music is a thoughtful as it is bizarre and their live performance was as frenzied as is was precise. The six-piece exploded like a candy shotgun, blasting fluorescent sweetness into the atmosphere.
The night ended too soon and as the last notes faded from the air, it was as if we were removed from a trance, an ethereal connection between band and audience which can only happen in the most special of circumstances. It was beautiful, it was bizarre, it was unexplainable perfection.
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