The first time I saw Eddy Current Suppression Ring was with about 600 sweaty rock fans crammed into Melbourne's AC/DC Lane
(yes, we named a street after AC/DC. Yes, it's both a little bit lame and a little bit awesome). I paid about $50, was stuck behind a fetid dumpster and could barely see. It was great.
On Tuesday night, I paid $8 to see the same band with about 100 sweaty rock fans crammed into the tiny basement at the East End
. It was better.
Back in Melbourne, ECSR headline huge festivals, win big awards
and is one of those rare acts loved by both mainstream and indie crowds alike.
When I walked into the dark recesses of the band room last night, the four lads were sitting behind a makeshift merch table offering albums, t-shirts and the usual swag, while locals walked past without giving them a second look on their way to the bar. “Got nothing better to do,” shrugged bass player Rob Solid when I noted the disparity.
It may sound humble, but it's also just pure pragmatism. In small countries like Australia (that are small in population, if not geography), you can be selling out shows, flooding the airwaves and topping the charts, but you'll probably still struggle to earn a living wage. In order to truly “make it,” almost every Australian band still has to crack the brutal U.S. or U.K. markets
. And unless you've got some big backers helping you (and even then), that means swallowing your pride and starting from scratch.
The little-known Aussie upstarts were preceded by a cracking set from Cheap Flight—a supergroup of rock and punk veterans, including Mudhoney's Steve Turner the Drags' CJ Stritzel and Monoshock's Scott Derr.
The band got the crowd fired up, but sure threw down the gauntlet.
ECSR did look a bit nervous. But it's that skittish, electric energy on which the band has always built its live shows, and with pounding drums and raw rock riffs ripping behind him, lead singer Brendan Suppression started to pace the stage in his trademark motorcycle gloves, quickly working himself into a frenzy.
When you've come half-way across the world to make or break your musical career with one night in each city, you don't have time to wait for crowds to warm to you. You put on your best rock star act whether you're playing to two people or 200, and work the crowd whether they're cheering or jeering.
Some of the skinny boys in cut-off jean shorts and precious girls in fedoras and artfully-ripped fishnets looked a bit scared as he grabbed them and stared wildly into their eyes, yelling and ranting in his broad Australian drawl.
Should they laugh? Stare back? Would their indie cred be killed by screaming “whoooooo!” like the bogan
Aussie expats up the back?
But after looking lost for a few songs, they did what Portland hipsters do best: they stared at the ground and danced badly.
Soon the entire room was pulsing, and Brendan Suppression had them in his leather-clad grip. He worked his way through the crowd, climbed up on the bar and unleashed a snarling vocal assault.
The band finished up with its latest single, “Rush to Relax,” and walked off stage with a quick wave. The crowd begged for an encore, but there was one final rock star act to complete: leave ‘em wanting more.
The band members packed up their gear, and walked back to the merchandise table and back to reality. They're not rock stars in this country. Not yet. Just one of thousands of relatively unknown overseas acts to pass through this town every year, trying to flog a few albums and win over the U.S., one crowd at a time.
One down, a few thousand more to go.
Eddie Current Suppression RingSpace