the grates with the go! team at the Phoenix, October 30. Tickets: $18.50. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Forty-five seconds into the Grates' show at the Phoenix , I vowed to quit smoking. That's cuz I was awestruck by Patience Hodgson 's amazing set of lungs. I'm not just referring to her vocals, though when the impossibly adorable frontwoman for Aussie garage pop crew the Grates downgrades her bubbly yelp to a shakily sweet coo, she's pretty good.
Nope, the inhuman power of Hodgson's respiratory system was demonstrated as the wee shouter, clad in her finest party frock, spent the better part of the Grates' Sunday-night set leaping and twitching her way through a particularly energetic round of calisthenics. When she wasn't hopping like a bright-eyed kangaroo, Hodgson was jogging in place or darting across the stage, singling out the happiest fan dancers or scissoring her body into daring leaps best left to the Dallas Cowboy cheerleading squad.
While I'd been warned that their unself-conscious stage moves are one of the greatest joys of a Grates show, Hodgson's sheer stamina - and respiratory power - as she heartily chanted naive lyrics about jumping and throwing herself at people's feet was incredible.
You did get the sense that a good chunk of her manic persona comes from musical insecurity. Poor lamb - it's true that her own bandmate's been known to slag her in print (guitarist John Patterson once cringed while remembering Hodgson's karaoke debacles), but the Grates are most engaging when they give themselves over to a raw, raucous garage pop throwdown, silly jumps or no silly jumps.
Their rawer bits were definitely the best moments of Sunday's show, like a tear through Trampoline that found wide-eyed drummer Alana Skyring pounding guilelessly at her cymbals and Patterson cranking up grungy distortion while a bounding Hodgson yowled like the missing (cleaned-up) link between PJ Harvey and Courtney Love. Even slower, sweeter songs like Sukkafish flourished with a fine sheen of grit.
Let's just hope Brian Deck (Modest Mouse), who's producing the Brisbane buzz kids' full-length debut, keeps that in mind. Too many of the newer songs they previewed at the Phoenix veered uncomfortably toward overly shiny saccharine pop.
That aside, it was lovely to see that despite the current industry interest in the Grates, the trio still seems charmingly bewildered to be performing for such a massive crowd. And best of all, possibly cuz the all-ages audience lacked the cynicism or weariness of typical rock show crowds, the floor was packed with manic dancers long before the Go! Team rolled onstage.