Thursday, 11 October 2012

Death to all Butt Metal - an encounter with Steel Panther.

I am getting a little tired of irony. But more of that later. Festival Hall security sucks. A body frisk for a Steel Panther show - seriously? What were they looking for - Bon Jovi bootlegs? And the OCdish, obsessional behaviour continued all night with comments such as 'don't touch the barrier mate'. How about you not touch my dick and I won't touch the barrier? How does that sound? Were they scared some middle aged guy in an Ozzy T shirt would suddenly go crazy and trash the place? Dickheads......

I couldn't decide if the support band sucked more than the sound quality. As with any gig at Festival Hall it was boomy and lacked clarity. The support band had plenty of cliches and a drummer who was kind of like Conan, but I couldn't recall a single hook.

Then the break and a barrage of 80's 'hair metal'. Autograph, Def Leppard, Ozzy, Cindarella....the ageing metalhead behind me was loving it. And I have to say i have never seen so many different T shirts at a metal gig.....every sub genre seemed to be represented. But hearing the classics from back in the day I was struck by something. In the 80's music was quite tribalistic. Those who grew their hair long and listened to metal incurred the ridicule of those with spiky hair and synthesisers. It was a complete lifestyle and those who bought into it lived it 24/7. Looking at all the guys in wigs and spandex, I was struck by how we now accept that you can buy into a lifestyle at whim, experiencing the external signifiers for a night, but not having any long term involvement. It's all very ironic, and it is irony that now allows us to have an escape clause for just about anything. Rather than risk looking foolish we can just say the magic word 'irony'. Is everything all about external signifiers and short term experience these days?

Steel Panther are Poison with a much better vocalist and guitarist, and a sense of humour. In fact about 30% of stage time turns out to be surprisingly amusing banter. 'If our singer was any more stupid we'd have two bass players....' says the guitarist. The playing is great and it's clear they really love 80's metal. But they couch it all in humour and irony, and thus avoid being an anachronism. Songs like 'death to all but metal' really do rock, and the guitarist's solo was genuinely entertaining, especially when he combined his playing with a bit of rhythm work on the drum kit, delivering a barrage of familiar rock riffs. And of course they get girls out of the audience and convince them to show off their breasts, and dance around whilst being subjected to a barrage of ironic objectification cliches.....incredibly it really is funny. There's a look of momentary horror on a girl's face when she hears this banter.
'Do you want to see her titties?'
'Do you want to see her pussy?'
'Do you want to see her have a poo and eat it?'
By this point the girl is starting to panic, but it's all part of an ongoing joke centring around the supposedly incredibly dumb and self obsessed bass player who spends every spare moment checking his makeup and hair, which is fair enough since he probably paid quite a bit for it. His few contributions to the banter centre around an anal fixation and a distaste for playing any music by 'ugly' bands like ZZ Top.

'We've got some great news.....our album has just gone triple Guam.....that's three hundred sales!' The silliness is unrelenting. 'I've got heavy metal Tourettes.....', says the singer after one particularly demented outburst. Good to see that at '62 years of age and after two hip replacements and 17 liposuction operations...', he is still rocking. And so it goes on. Catchy rocking songs that are actually rather good, and lots of silly banter. It all ends with lots of girls on stage, followed by the encore we were always going to have.

Then the lights come on, the security staff encourage us to get the fuck out, and a sea of metalheads with T shirts ranging from Kiss to Metallica to Mayhem to KMFDM, and of course Steel Fucking Panther, pour out onto the cold streets of Melbourne with big smiles on their faces.

Maybe a bit of irony isn't such a bad thing afterall.

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