There’s a bloody line out the door when we rock up outside Melbourne’s most underused venue, the John Curtin Bandroom. It’s surprising that a not-often-seen-in-Melbourne Sydney band, Royal Headache, can pull such a crowd for their belated album launch, yet we’re informed that the room is near sell-out despite the doors having just opened. And this has happened regardless of the fact that Useless Children – you’d expect for many, an enormous drawcard – have (apparently due to a health emergency) vanished from the bill.
With the reshuffle, Woollen Kits start a little late and move us through a crash course in pretty straight-up garage rock. Their stuff is toe-tapping good, catchy as all hell and they hold a large majority of the room in their hands despite a shitty mix. We jostle for a decent spot and explore each sonic corner of the room and find that front of stage is the only area that sounds any good. With a rapidly filling space, this does not bode well for the headliner.
Royal Headache burst onto the stage and thrash out songs – one, two, three, four – without even breaking a sweat. Their live tunes feel faster and the instrumentation is gloriously sloppy. Said mix is as poor as the opening act so we again flank the crowd and power for front centre. There’s a decent contingent of moshers in close and we’re forced to play along.
Vocalist Shogun pleases the audience on removal of shirt revealing the physique of a whippet and too-high pants. Such is the nature of Royal Headache; there is purity of spirit, truthfulness to (collective) self that transcends the hip-ness of their soul/garage appeal. They plough through most the album and further – Really In Love, Eloise etc; though sadly no Honey Joy – oblivious that a large proportion of the audience are experiencing their sound through a kind of muffled vacuum afforded by the room. There was a risk of sameness creeping in to this bill once the dynamic Useless Children were removed, but Royal Headache stand and deliver proof that they’re worthy of any hype that’s preceding them.