Geelong has an interesting culture when it comes to rock music. Having spent quite a good percentage of my life in and around the Bellarine Peninsula, I discovered pretty early in my live music options that if something was worth seeing it was going to be on at the Barwon Club. There has been a long tradition where touring bands from here and abroad play the big smoke, Melbourne and then add an extra date to span the gap between there and the next major destination. This unassuming little pub opposite Kardinia Park, home of the Geelong Football Club has a back bar and band room that hasn’t changed since the first time I was there in about 1990 and it was the perfect venue to see the reformed Scientists on an otherwise quiet Sunday night.
Originating in Perth and founded by Guitarist/vocalist Kim Salmon in the late ’70s and being cited as having a major influence on bands such as Mudhoney and Sonic Youth, The Scientists could arguably be considered the original pioneers of what was to become the genre known as grunge. They have had a few different incarnations through the years with Salmon being the constant factor. The lineup and the bulk of the material presented on this run of shows was the mid-late ’80s Sydney era Scientists made up of Salmon, Tony Thewlis on guitar, Leanne Chock on drums and bass player Boris Sujdovic. I could tell that the majority of the crowd were expecting the swampy, psych-rock that was delivered and eagerly devoured all the dishes that were served up on the sonic menu.
Salmon was in good spirits and clearly having fun joking around with his band mates and the crowd as the ripped through classics such as the opening ‘Rev Head’ from the Blood Red River album and a spirited ‘Fire Escape’ from 1985’s ‘Heading For A Trauma’. At times he made fun of himself stating that if he was an actor, his between song banter would be classed as a more sophisticated term. Sujdovic named dropped local band Bored! – innocently asking the crowd if they were from Geelong, to which Salmon cajoled that he bet he knew that and was just trying to suck up to the locals. Good spirited teasing aside, it was the primal and hypnotic drumming from Chock, the guitar soundscapes and melodic intricacies therein from Thewlis that spoke volumes musically, weaving around the melodies and lyrics and rhythmic bass that brought these Scientists songs to the forefront and reminded us all of what a great band they were and continue to be.
With an impressive array of modified and well worn guitars between them, the way the band played off and around each other was intuitive and almost instinctive in that the songs mapped out the journey and these four players were the vehicles to take us on the ride. ‘Set it on Fire’, ‘Perpetual Motion’ and despite the initial false start, the cover of the James Bond theme ‘You Only Live Twice’ were highlights for me as well as encore inclusions the iconic ‘Swampland’ and ‘Murderess in a Purple Dress’. They came, they played, they conquered. Certainly one of the best Sunday nights I’ve ever spent in Geelong and I’m betting that the audience and band would agree.