Once upon a time in 1990’s Melbourne, the NGV was a bastion of high art for artists of renown. The doors usually closed at a very respectable hour and we all went up the road to Y & J’s for a G & T and then back to Flinders Street station to get a train before they stopped running for the evening.
In a genuine chicken and egg scenario we move forward to 2016 and wonder whether late evening and night events being played out over the city are the result of 24 hour public transport on weekends, or whether public transport runs all night because of the number of events finishing after the witching hour. Whatever the answer, we know that it is good. And so we find ourselves at the NGV way past traditional closing time, and we know that it’s exciting for we are present to see Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds.
Despite the impression that band name may give uninformed punters, the crowd was not a gaggle of persons dabbling in some hallucinogenic substances, but a well-behaved group of city and suburbanites. The NGV ‘s Friday evening soirees involve some of the more creative and exciting bands, a variety of wines and beers, nibbles and a late evening tour of the current exhibition, (Degas this winter).
The great hall does not immediately spring to mind as a likely contender to stage performances of this variety. It is much longer than it is wide, and the mistake could have been made of hiding the stage at one end and having the crowd dissipated around the large space, thus diminishing any modicum of atmosphere. Wisely the organisers had the stage set to play the width of the room, and as Kid Congo struck up the first chords we were nicely nestled around the playing space.
The Pink Monkey Birds (whose name is reputed to be influenced by David Bowie), and their leader Kid Congo are surprising as there’s no doubt that their music is best described as punk…or post-punk to those particular types, however the overwhelming vibe of the night was ‘fun’. Now, angst, anger, frustration and even hate are the more usual adjectives used when describing this genre, but somehow the band has managed to weave an air of whimsy through the performance that leaves punters smiling instead of violently moshing.
Brian Tristan – a.k.a. Kid Congo, threw in quite a few songs from his former band The Gun Cub. Kiki Solis (bass), Ron Miller (drums), and Mark Cisneros (guitar) ably backed Tristan with funky, punky beats that held the room in party mode. Spencer P. Jones guested for one song, which was brilliant except for acoustic challenges. Mick Harvey performed The Gun Club’s ‘Thunderhead’ and we speculated about who may pop out of the woodwork at Kid Congo’s other gigs.
Certainly after a decently long set and encore, it was very evident that Kid Congo’s philosophy that all aspects of the performance contribute to making a piece of art made good sense, particularly at this venue. The event was a feast for the eyes, belly and ears, and we headed into the night truly satiated.