Live Review: Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds, Loose Fit @ Oxford Art Factory

26 April 2024 | 10:40 am | Shaun Colnan

An eager crowd imbibed all they could of eclectic legend Kid Congo and his latest outfit, The Pink Monkey Birds (with special guest Mick Harvey on bass).

Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds

Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds (Source: Supplied)

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They closed the curtain on a third of the Oxford Art Factory on an Anzac Day evening in 2024. Kid Congo had come to town. A meagre yet eager crowd imbibed all they could of eclectic legend Kid Congo Powers and his latest outfit, The Pink Monkey Birds (with special guest Mick Harvey on bass).

But first – Anna, Richard, Kaylene and Max (better known as Sydney/Gadigal neo-New Wavers, Loose Fit) took the stage by storm with a bouncy, raucous performance recalling bands like X-Ray Spex and Band Of Four but with lyrics reflective of our current zeitgeist.

Tracks like Cool Change melded an infectious driving bass line, grating guitar flourishes and even a smartphone playing a musical sample. Rapidfire clinking and clanking drum rhythms converged with the repeated titular lyric hook to elicit an uptempo groove.

If you haven’t already, have a listen to this local band’s 2022 LP available on Bandcamp, Social Graces – it brings the ferocity of the live show into the studio, reminiscent of another era while being fully conscious of the world in which we live now. 

The DIY spirit of their recording process was on full display on stage with incredibly catchy tracks which radiate the rebellious spirit of post-punk influences like Public Image Ltd, Maximum Joy and A Certain Ratio while band leader, singer and saxophonist Anna Langdon’s voice conjures up such acts as The Slits and The B52s.

Enter Kid Congo and the band. The 65-year-old rock star is adorned in a cream suit and outlandish pink flamingo cape, a wide-brimmed hat, and dark-rimmed glasses. The band opens with Silver For My Sister from their 2024 LP release, That Delicious Vice. The track is something akin to his former band, psychobilly pioneers The Cramps: a driving crash of drums meeting soaring guitars, all converging on the chorus.

Next, Congo paid tribute to friend and founding member of D Generation bassist Howie Pyro, who died in 2022. The aptly named The Boy Had It All deals mainly in “imagery” (as Congo previously told BackseatMafia). His monotone yet direct delivery meshes with more driving drums and simple guitar flourishes, moving into playful licks as the song builds.

Then came some more audience engagement with a call to the crowd: “Now, how many of you can tell me what’s gonna happen in the next five minutes? One person put their hand up. She knows…come with us coz we’re gonna start something called a Psychic Future.” This track from 2016’s LP La Araña Es La Vida has a cool thumping bass line with a howl of guitar and that characteristic Congo grumble. 

Congo acknowledged the openers, giving kudos to Loose Fit before launching into a wacky stream of consciousness: “Lord have mercy…who here is seeking? Who here is a Sikh? I love you both…Someone said to me one time, ‘Kid Congo, you’re real young now, but when you grow up, you should write a book called Some New Kind Of Kick’.” While referring to this memoir masterpiece about a young queer Chicano finding his way in West LA’s Punk scene, he dove into The Cramps’ 1984 song, New Kind Of Kick, to the glory of many old boppers who nodded and jived along.

“Wasn’t it good?” Congo asked, eliciting a cheer. “Point proven.”

Congo is all flamboyant wit and psychedelic mayhem on Sean DeLear, a track released on the eponymous 2021 EP, Swing From The Sean DeLear, another homage – this time to Queer Punk icon Sean DeLear, showcasing Congo’s life-to-the-fullest mentality with poignant remembrances meshing with rough and ready style that’s quintessentially punk.

The Smoke Is The Ghost and He Walked In both provide melancholic meditations on the uncanny nature of life, weaving intricate, intimate, and oneiric tales with splashing hi-hats, Latin rhythms, wandering dreamy guitar, and spoken word.

Also, Congo looked into the crowd, flipped his head, and leaned his hand on his hip, flicking back his cape. He said, “This is my school teacher pose…and this is my school teacher voice…” before mocking in a warble: “Whomp whomp whomp.”

“So we have a new album called That Delicious Vice, and the chorus for the title track is in Spanish. So I want you to sing the chorus: ‘Ese vicio es delicioso para mi.’ And if you don’t want to sing along in Spanish, you can dance along in any language you like.” While the chorus only echoed a smattering of Spanglish, many took Congo up on the second part of his ultimatum, and so the night moved on, and we embraced our freedom as a latent mirth unfurled into the chilly night.