AAA BACKSTAGE LIVE REVIEW- Toff in Town

Reviewed by Yolanda Schefe

“I should've shaved a bald patch,” my friend said, as we agreed that young isn't always best and tonight the old guys were killing it.

We were at The Toff in Town, in Melbourne, for the launch of a new covers band, Sun Rising, who pay tribute to Memphis Rock'n'Roll, and more specifically, to songs created in conjunction with Sun Records.

Opening the show was the gutsy, drawling, and downright mean-sounding Chris Russell's Chicken Walk. Authentically Rock'n'Roll, right down to the dead-eyes of someone who has done time, these guys were bloody excellent.

For a two piece, these guys made a big sound and a big impression, managing to turn my techno-loving friend around and making the seated folk tap their Kumf-clad feet*.

An excellent moment in the set was the A Capella song, set only to the regular claps of Mr Russell and the awed silence of the crowd. Listening to Russell sing about some mean old woman who'd done him wrong, with his slicked-back hair and jet-black get-up, I really believed I could have been in 1950s America.

By the end of the Chris Russell's set, the floor of The Toff had started to fill up and more groovy older people began to crowd in and reassure me that ageing mightn't be so bad*. Hell, they were even swiveling their hips with more gusto than me!

I didn't really know what to expect from the Sun Rising band, but I got more than I'd hoped for, that's for sure.

During the intermission between Chris Russell's Chicken Walk and the headliners, the stage had been decked out in framed portraits of the artists who made the Memphis sound big and a large, inflatable “SUN” was hoisted up in front of the ceiling. I really enjoyed the fanfare that was made of the event. All too often bands are, or are trying to be, too cool and the excitement and ceremony of the performance is lost.

Not on Thursday night, though. The mood was jovial in the face of such a refreshing performance.

The five-piece band was energetic, funny, pitch-perfect and undeniably dedicated to this particular era in Rock'n'Roll.

The vocal duties were shared by acoustic guitarist David Cosma, keys man and guitarist, Damon Smith, and the ever-eager and baby-faced guitarist, Danny Stain.

Though all three were great singers and little fault could be found with their performances, I would have liked to hear Smith sing most of the songs.

Before his first tune he joked that he'd swallowed razorblades especially for the performance and I don't doubt it. He sang as though his voice had been dragged through gravel and crooned like Howlin' Wolf himself. His skills on the keys were also incredible and he bashed away at the piano like some sort of deranged marionette. And that is written with the utmost admiration. If you're going to play keys on stage, you may as well go crazy.

The band rolled through the eras of Sun Records and touched on some of the greatest names from the time, like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. But in between the incredibly fun and true songs, Cosma took the audience on a tour through history with snippets of information about the upcoming song, or about the artist.

This is a band that doesn't just like the songs of Sun Records and Memphis; this is a band that lives and breathes it. It made me wonder if the members ever feel disconnected from contemporary music, living so much in the past, as they seem to do.

However, they all seemed overjoyed to be bringing the “music that made Memphis” to an appreciative audience and I suppose that's all that matters.

*I jest about the old people. They weren't really that old and I actually saw more pumps than Kumfs.

-Yolanda Schefe


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