"The resulting recipe was one that saw the band themselves, as well as the punters, genuinely having a hell of a lot of fun."
Brisbane Hotel was packed and both band rooms were brimming with charged punters by the time A Swayze & The Ghosts took to the front bar for their set as part of Edge Radio's mental health awareness initiative Creatively Mental.
With the opening riffs of their single ICU, a swarm of bodies swiftly appeared at the stage and an impromptu skanking circle began in anticipation of Swayze's cracked and glorious vocals. Of course, Swayze took this opportunity to warm up his magnificent dance moves, the style of which falls somewhere between an Elvis hip jig and a geriatric dinosaur dancing in high heels. While he jiggled into the first track, a mosh pit made up of almost exclusively of women materialised, with one crowd surfing from one end of the stage to the other before the song was done. Duelling guitars from Swayze and Hendrick Wipprecht gave us some deliciously textured discord before Swayze's crazy eyes took over and he segued the riff straight into Translucent.
It's hard to deny the raw chemistry and power of these Hobart boys. Even at this gig, which they weren't headlining, they stole the show with their chaotic brand of surreal punk while still managing to explode the cliched tough guy routine, acknowledging their own and everyone else's vulnerability. Swayze spoke up and encouraged punters to "Please talk about your mental health with friends when things are hard 'cause we all have times that are fucking hard in life. Talking is one of the only things that helps."
There was no doubt their first single Reciprocation was the audience favourite, and easily the most powerful track of the set. The room seemed tuned perfectly to that plunging bass line, pinning us all like an anchor, while Swayze manhandled the microphone passing it from hand to hand like a magician about to pull tricks from his sleeve. At this point, in a literal demonstration of reciprocation, one of the punters took it upon himself to pick up one of the PA speakers and walk around the front row of punters kissing it, before placing it gently back on the stage for Swayze as he squealed out a perfectly timed 'give it back!'.
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They followed with News and Shar Pei, the dirty guitar riffs of which found guitarist Wipprecht and drummer Zac Blain in each other's pocket in a delightful mix-up of the typical bass plus drums equals best friends scenario. Wipprecht took over vocals on this track and he delivered a particularly scary venom that made you quite certain of how pissed off he was when he penned the song. Maybe that also had something to do with the sound engineer, who was intently focused on draining his pint during the set and always seemed to be returning from the bar? In any event, A Swayze & The Ghosts overcame minor sound hurdles coming from a dodgy mic lead at one point and a lack of low-end balance.
They finished with a cover of Rick James' Mary Jane and their latest single Smooth Sailing; a tight and thrashy little ditty that sounds like it nods to The Ramones and The Stooges with equal reverence. But perhaps the reason A Swayze & The Ghosts are generating so much genuine excitement right now is that they still somehow manage to sound entirely unique. It was liberating to watch their freaky machine operate and one of the most exciting things about this gig was the fact that they were pure vessels of expression. The night was devoid of posing, they didn't miss a chance to pay themselves out. The resulting recipe was one that saw the band themselves, as well as the punters, genuinely having a hell of a lot of fun.