Live At The Mansion Five - blog post image

Live At The Mansion Five

Through five unique acts beckoning a congregation of artists, musicians, dancers, writers and freewheeling lively spirits, Katoomba’s love for its underground rock and punk scene was exemplified in all its glory at a secret residential location on Saturday, November 3rd.

In this beloved ‘venue’ known as The Mansion, an overgrown vine of local subculture connects youthful creatives of any age, as they cut loose on their Saturday night out of the all-too familiar throng of the Katoomba CBD. The colourfully decorated surroundings honour past gigs in the town with a collection of recent concert posters complementing psychedelic paintings, collectable art postcards, an upright piano, couches and vivid lighting, guaranteeing there’s always something to look at. Leading straight out from the ‘stage’ and floor, a lofty balcony oversees acres of paddocks and bush up a dense hill line. As the house withstands another deafening night, this relative isolation proves ideal. Though the room is confined, the energy is always nearly uncontainable as floorboards shudder and eardrums throb to the sounds of Call To Florin, Splatterpoo, Madam Fatale and Tshitaki, with a considerably quieter warm-up performance from a 12-stringed Wolf Van Der Made (ex-Feast Of Fools). 

Currently retiring from a frenzied and technical art-rock past, Wolf performed unaccompanied with his resonant 12 string guitar as a polite group of listeners reclined to absorb the melody. In an intricately played and soulfully performed set, his original pieces defied classification with their apparent melding of classical agility against poppy vocals with folky delivery. The addition of Ewan MacColl via The Pogues’ ‘Dirty Old Town’ and a Creedence Clearwater singalong with ‘Proud Mary’ were crowd-pullers, as cushions were scattered on the dance floor for cross-legged fans. Katoomba’s longhaired sons of grunge, Call To Florin then took to the stage after canned intermission tracks from NOFX and Soundgarden to further cement their reputation as one of the town’s freshest musical prospects. Embodying the soul of Angus Young through a chestnut-brown SG, lead vocalist Reyhn Marvin led the synchronised head banging from the first song, displaying animalistic screams that Cobain would have enjoyed vocalising. Debut drumming gig for Paperhill’s Frankie Jesus, C.T.F went down a treat with their abrasive riffs and weighty grooves, resounding well with the predominantly young crowd through Marvin’s natural frontman abilities. At times, half-paced chord progressions emulated the backwater crawl of Batpiss and hard-strutting guitar lines matched the stadium punch of The White Stripes or Spiderbait. Ultimately, they broke righteous volume into the room and looked ecstatic doing so.

In another chapter for the unique ‘Poo Rock’ venture of hard rockers Splatterpoo, the band were breaking their new lead guitarist/keyboardist Chet Miller (Feast Of Fools, Isopod) into a live setting for the first time. Although currently finishing debut release Number 2, it had been a while between shows, (having played an instrumental set at a ‘bush doof’ some months earlier),but they still tore into their set with particular rhythmic abandon, often pushing tempos up while pulling the youth in. A tight, vibrant 10-song set ensued, ranging from the downtrodden doom of ‘Sauce In Your Eyes’ and moderate 80s hardcore of ‘Gotta Get A Woman’ to the novelty country punk of ‘Fry My Brain’, somehow reminiscent of the Dead Kennedys’ ‘Police Truck’. Respected for taking their music seriously but not their song topics or themselves, Splatterpoo maintained this reputation, encapsulated in a generation-spanning lineup from ages 21 to 66. A crammed standing audience that amassed one third through the set exemplified the visceral energy of Blue Mountains youth, red, blue, and purple lights pulsing through the fog of a smoke machine and cigarettes. 90’s punk revivalists Madam Fatale kept their status as firm fan favourites, blending the Green Day covers in with such strident originals as ‘Bad Mistake’, ‘Mary Jane’, ‘Church Street’, and the full-crowd singalong of ‘I Want My Mummy Back’, as performed with Brian Nichol of The Radiators earlier this year. With half the males in the crowd going shirtless under the wisecracking crowd control of rowdy bassist Josh Carr, the humidity grew as free VB and XXXX urged punters and fellow band members from the night to be as cathartic as possible. Outside on the balcony, the heat difference could be felt if one passed their hand inside through the door.

The crowd having considerably thinned at this point, either through exhaustion or in the pursuit of other joys, a handful of diehard music lovers and latecomers stayed to witness Manly surf punk trio Tshitaki fully obliterate the house with a Marshall stack and maniacal drummer. Exemplifying their own brand of ‘Turbo Rock’, Tshitaki’s psychedelically tinged, full bore stomp draped a fierce cacophony over the remnants of the crowd, as those with enough remaining energy threw down, or simply smoked, drank and soaked up the sonic force. A highlight of their set was the final song 'Dream Away', most ideally representing this surf punk ideology through ethereal sustain and pounding climactic noise. Smatterings of the tired but wired then remained till whenever for free jams, a cultural staple often found in bohemian Katoomba parties. Regardless of age and oblivious to crowd size, reaction or judgement, all groups had placed faith in themselves to feed vitality into Katoomba’s musical underground. The cultural movement extends deeper with each show.



Words by Corin Shearston

 Photos by Aidan JG Photography

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