Cash Savage and the Last Drinks @ The Tote
Cash Savage and The Last Drinks are somewhat of a Melbourne institution these days. With her album from 2010, Wolf, garnering rave reviews, and her brand of rollicking, bourbon infused tales of heartbreak and vitriolic venom, to see Savage and band in a live setting is to be guaranteed a good time.
Adding a crack support line up to the bill, with Linda and Danny ‘Bean’ Johnston (from The Dacio’s) new country-folk act, Bulls, and The Death Rattles only solidifies this.
And so, off to The Tote on a cold wintry Saturday night it was that The Vulture trundled. The Tote is somewhat of a fave haunt of Ms. Savage, with at least one of her songs having been written in the beer garden, and it is with an obvious joy that they take the stage for a mid-tour homecoming of sorts.
But, more about them later. First up from the night were Bulls. Fresh from a successful, sold-out launch of their new album, Dancing on Sinking Sands, at the Northcote Social Club last week, Linda and Danny stepped up on stage in stripped back mode. Danny strummed away on acoustic guitar, while Linda provided the vocals and slapped away on tambourine for percussive effect.
Pint-sized, but with a set of pipes to rival any seasoned, whiskey-soaked, gravelly-voiced crooner, Linda J channels Patti Smith with aplomb. The new album, recorded in full band mode, is a revelation, and the two-piece presentation of songs such as ‘Finger’ and ‘Lucille’ translates easily. The small crowd that showed up early were given a treat indeed.
Five-piece country-noir blues band, The Death Rattles, took to the famed Tote stage next. Murder ballads, highway blues and unrequited love are stock-in-trade material for bands of this ilk, and Melbourne seems to be spoilt for choice with bands of this genre lately. However, this act more than adequately adds to this, with double bass and banjo complementing the standard guitar, bass and drums line-up.
Front man Tyron Bremner is as emotive and theatrical as it gets, throwing himself into the songs with sheer abandon, veins popping out his neck as he emotes the sheer desperation of his songs, and by the end of the set his tambourine has been obliterated, such is the force that he bangs away at it. The Vulture is later told that this is not the first time this has happened.
Looking quite dapper in button-up polka dot shirt and black jacket, and rockabilly quiff, Josh Curtis provided the main guitar lines, while hiding away in the background, the sole female member Andy Burns slapped away on double bass, keeping up the rhythms with Stu Nish on drums.
New double 7” single, ‘Born Wolf/In The Morning’ has Tim Neilson front and centre on banjo. Look out for the official launch in September.
Savage finally strutted on stage with her trademark swagger and Elvis style snarl and opened up with ‘Honky Tonk’, thus setting the mood of the evening. Her backing band can vary in size from 6 to 10 members, depending on the occasion and availability. This night saw five – guitar, drums, double bass, trumpet, banjo, and six if you include the late arrival of the hardest working fiddle player in Melbourne, Kat Mear, coming straight from playing another gig down the road in Northcote.
It is a captive audience she had this night, the band room 3/4’s full with a pure adulating crowd. Her confidence, stage presence and humorous banter, and well renowned love for the drink are well received. The several stacks of empty pint glasses perched on the edge of the stage are testament to the fact that so does her audience.
When Kat showed up late and Cash gave her a welcome whiskey, she remarked, “Shit, I’ve just given you the last of my booze”. It was literally two minutes before someone had supplied her with a top-up from the bar.
Savage and band are in the middle of an East-Coast tour. In typical, self-deprecating humour, she says, “We are touring in winter because we are idiots”. Having a pit-stop in Melbourne mid-tour is a great idea, another chance for her to grace The Tote stage and belt out old rag-time favourite, ‘Black Star’, the heart-wrenching tales ‘Dancing on Graves’ (with a jaw-droppingly immense trumpet intro from Ed Farrar) and ‘I’m Doing So Well’, and also for the ever-loving crowd to watch a rare talent in full swing.