Review by Alison Stoddart
In the aptly named The Weary Traveller, a bar burrowed away at the base of the Harry Seidler mushroom building in Martin Place, was a performance of subversive improvisation by the intriguingly named Party Dozen. The bar is a pop up, and only open (as The Weary Traveller) for the duration of the Sydney Festival. It is the premises of the Commercial Travellers Association, one of Australia’s oldest clubs dating back to 1883 providing accommodation for travelling salesmen. The subterranean basement bar was easy to find and the entrance well sign posted. Sydney Festival’s introduction of live music in treasured old spaces is to be commended and the use of this space, presented in a retro vibe 1970’s bar complete with original red carpet and lush red booths, is a great place to sit in and groove the night away.
Armed with a well-priced beer on tap but nowhere to sit, the option of standing was obligatory due to only a few booths which were quickly occupied. This did not matter as the first band on the bill started promptly at 7.30pm. This support band, Savage Togas lived up to their name and launched into hard and fast, punk inspired rock. They blitzed a set of multiple 30 second torrents of noise in its purest punk form. These 30 second, 3 chord, 3-piece attack of the guitar, bass and drums was a celebration of the endurance of angry young men. They performed their set not in togas but wearing crazy devil masks, something which must have been suffocating at the very least on this humid Sydney night. They were high energy and lots of fun.
Following Savage Togas was the headline act, Party Dozen. I went to see this band as someone who is not their demographic or their core audience. And I enjoyed it, mainly because it was so different to anything I would ever be enticed to attend. But that’s what’s great about stepping out of your comfort zone.
The duo of Kirsty Tickle and Jonathon Boulet, saxophonist and percussionist par excellence, took the stage and promptly launched into a flurry of noise that assaulted the ears and explained the numerous earmuffs and earplugs donned by the audience. The acoustic tiled low ceiling did nothing to dampen the noise, which probably thrilled Kirsty as she sang into the bell of the saxophone in between playing amazing riffs on the instrument. Eventually her unbelievable talent broke through my middle-class discomfort with the noise level, and I understood why the crowd pressed in. Their music was heavy on the beat with an instant call out to move any and all parts of the body, particularly the head. With song intro’s that almost seemed to contain notes of Indian Hindu chant music, the pair ramped up the tempo with a sonic assault that reduced the crowd to a primitive mass of movement. Their fast paced and intense set was an alternate affair to most live acts, but Party Dozen is ultimately a rewarding experience.
And although escaping the basement bar into the cool quiet night of Martin Place with buzzing ears and a head that felt stuffed with cotton wool was disorientating, it’s great to know that the experimental party continues. Party Dozen are touring the US and Canada in March. Check them out whenever you can.