Camouflage Nights presented by Santa Cruz at Lee's Palace, August 13. Tickets: $7. Attendance: 300. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Stepping into Lee's Palace at 10:30 pm on this Friday the 13th is like being one of the first seven people to show up at loft party where you don't know anyone - cold, quiet, awkward and not a little depressing. But when I return an hour later, things are hopping. My Santa Cruz number is pinned to my shirt, letting my admirers know which of the 400 envelopes hanging on the wall will get their sly note to my greedy eyes. People are already at it, stuffing saucy bon mots into digited pouches. The mood is chatty, flirtatious and painted in so many layers of irony it's almost impossible to take it seriously.
When a pair of MCs (Adam & Dave ) appear onstage dressed in gear plucked from an identikit for freaks and geeks (knee pads, sports jackets and mullets, for christ's sake - beautiful!), the room's thrum chills respectfully. With practised awkwardness, the deliberately nerdsome duo launch into a rant about the evening's events. Everyone's amused. I'm amused.
Small delay, then the main musical event (the main spectacle is still at the bulletin boards). Camouflage Nights stalk onto the stage. Former Thrush Hermit Rob Benvie sets a match to the head of a sizable axe (yeah, I said axe, as in woodchopping, head-lopping, axe - how very Jason Voorhees) that he brandishes with campy menace while the band start into their opening gestures. The music kicks off with a jagged groove, and the vocals slice back with a hack-and-slash scat style that raises the spectre of Soul Coughing's unique funk-electro tightrope walk.
Between songs, the band members trade instruments and performance tasks, more to amuse themselves than for any particular aural effect. But the joyfulness of their mood is infectious, and the effect of Camouflage Night's five-voice choruses is acute - they've definitely got something.
If the Camouflagers want to make a place for themselves as an acid-urban version of a jam band, they're well on their way. The sound certainly won't find many competitors these days (which has its advantages) and, except for some looser bits at set's end, they ply it with appreciable energy, charm and playfulness. Best of all, they look like they're having fun.
When Camouflage Nights leave the stage, having put their inaugural show to bed, they leave the crowd suitably amped and more than happily primed for a DJ set intent on reviving the floor-shakers of 80s semi-formals. Can I put my hands on your ass while we slow dance?