7 Aug 2009

The Lost Valentinos @ Barsoma, Brisbane

Photo taken from band's Facebook page.
Ever been to one of those great venues to see a fantastic band, and the punters and DJ try to ruin the experience for you? Just had one of those nights.

Went to see Sydney band, The Lost Valentinos, at Barsoma in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, as part of their 'Conquistadisco' tour. Great venue, with loads of potential. Swanky tapas menu (although half of it wasn't available). An actual wine list (although the pinot tasted like goon). For some reason -- and it could be the Ekka -- the entire place smelled of cows, dung and hay.

I arrived as the first band, Moonjog, was finishing up, so sadly didn't get to experience their set. The second band, Ghostwood, was surprisingly good, especially if like me you appreciate that Californian '60s garage band sound: post-Mod, pre-psychedelic. Lots of mop-top haircuts, floral shirts...you get the drift. Music conjured thoughts of an illicit union between The Chocolate Watchband, The Velvet Underground, and The Beach Boys. Throw in a little Ginsberg and Kerouac and you get the picture. Mellow and very, very cool.

Then someone told the DJ he could destroy the entire atmosphere. Tonight I experienced the worst 'music' (for it can only be loosely described as such) to come from a DJ's computer / turntable. Horrific. Gave me a headache in about two minutes, the bass mix was turned up so high. Obliterated the vibe the previous band had created, so I headed outside for a breather while The Lost Valentinos set up their instruments. Didn't help; the windows outside were shaking from the bass. I'm probably just getting old, but it ruined the venue for me.

Correction: the DJ and the crowd at Barsoma jointly ruined the night for me. I've never seen a crowd of punters so vain and self-absorbed as this one. People out to be seen, to take photos of themselves and each other, to do anything with their evening except listen to the band. Mid Lost Valentinos' performance, I thought the random flashes going off every two seconds would surely set off some poor epileptic in the crowd. It was almost impossible to watch them play because so many people were using professional flashes...on professional cameras...to take random photos of punters' heads.

I love venues that don't allow flash photography; forces photographers to actually have some skill in adjusting light and speed to take a worthwhile shot. These fools were taking photos of the venue walls, the floor, the backs of people's heads; just random bullshit. Combined with the punters taking photos of each other while the band was playing, punters talking non-stop about irrelevant crap while the band was playing...you get the drift. But enough about the lacklustre crowd in their horrid '80s clothes like something from the "Working Girl" costume rack; I've never seen so many girls dressed like tarty secretaries in my life. Hope never to experience it again. An aesthetic nightmare.

But on to The Lost Valentinos. Oh my, what an amazing band. Since I saw them perform at Parklife in 2006, I've been a fan, and their recent sojourn overseas has paid off; they've never been tighter. Nik Yiannikas is a dynamic vocalist, and when the crowd was wallowing in its passivity, his wild dancing eventually resulted in them acting less like zombies. They began to move, shock horror! Nik's voice is much stronger these days and his delivery tonight was impressive. He's the perfect front man -- talented, charismatic, and yes, handsome (aren't they all!) -- but it's the way he moves as one with the rest of the band, as a collective, that makes them so unique. There is really no standout member. They're like elements of a human body, all the parts functioning together in perfect union.

Guitarist Andrew Santamaria -- he with the guitar collection I would love to raid -- looked orgasmic throughout the band's performance, literally undulating with the music. Bassist Patrick Santamaria and drummer Simon Parker have an almost telepathic connection; the rhythm section tonight was a driving, unstoppable force. Jono Ma mastered percussion, guitar and electronic elements, a crazy man with flailing arms, sweat running from his face, in the moment.

The band has recently released its new album, "Cities in Gold", and it wasn't until the single "Serio" started up a few songs into the set that the audience decided to collectively wake up. What an inspiring gig. It's difficult for me to compartmentalise bands whose music I genuinely enjoy; I find it easier to box bands I'm less familiar with into genres. I've seen The Lost Valentinos described as disco, punk...but that doesn't come close to describing their music.

The element that strikes me each time I hear them is a tribal quality; extremely danceable but with an almost sexual urgency. They're all good musicians -- a quality lacking in some bands lately, I've discovered -- so their performances are always of a high calibre. There are elements of funk in the bass lines, pop in the accessibility of the music, and some throwbacks to early '80s swamp music. Their music has the same effect on me as really great flamenco; if you've ever watched a flamenco guitarist, singer and dancer perform, you'll know what I mean. Literally, your derriere can't stop moving. It's that exotic aspect of their music which drives me wild and refuses to be slotted into a particular genre. This is a good thing!

It's a truly great band which can encourage me to have a good time when the atmosphere otherwise is lacklustre. Tonight, The Lost Valentinos did just that. They added a little brooding intensity, a touch of whacka whacka bang bang to my existence; the sensation of dancing around a campfire naked in the moonlight. That's just how they roll.

Be sure to catch them on this tour because they are one of our country's musical treasures; I can't rave enough about them. And not only that, buy their new album...and their back catalogue. I love love love them. And so should you!

Follow them on Twitter, MySpace, or Facebook.

This review was written for The Dwarf.

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