The Gig: Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side
Where: The Tote, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
When: 17 July 2010
In One Word: Killer
There’s never been a great shortage of punters and press alike seeking to heap praise upon Brisbane’s supposedly “vibrant” music scene…but there has been a relative shortage of bands/artists in said city who honestly deserve such attention. In truth, it’s probably like any other modern, “westernised” city I suspect: A few truly exceptional acts, and a whole heapa shitty ones that serve little purpose other than to make the good ones look ever better.
Ask anyone who’s had an interest in the Brisbane scene for the last decade or so if they’ve heard of a band called SixFtHick, and chances are you’ll get some kinda reaction…either a positive one (“Best fuckin’ band in Brisbane, mate”), or a not-so-positive one (“Ah, them buncha fuckin’ clowns…”). Surely only a truly great band could arouse such divisive opinions? Love ’em or loathe ’em, The Hick – as they’re affectionately known – have undeniably made an impact upon the “local” scene there, even if they’ve never quite catapulted into the mainstream like The Veronicas (heh), The Grates (moan) or Powderfinger (Lord, preserve us)!
What’s all this got to do with the review at hand, you’re asking? Well, y’see, SixFtHick has a certain “sister” band who, while perhaps not quite as ubiquitous in the scene (especially in recent years), have also honed out a comfy little niche all to themselves. Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side is the “side-project” of one-half of The Hick’s dual-frontman team – the brothers Corbett – and what’s this? They’ve also nicked long-time Hick bassist/guitarist Dan Baebler since the last time I saw ’em live.
Now, I could go on about how the rather intense (and perhaps slightly ironically-monikered) “Gentle” Ben Corbett is pretty much hands-down the best frontman that Brisbane has to offer…his brother Geoff probably coming a close second. But in truth, the Sensitive Side is – and always has been – a band full of underrated superstars. There’s the aforementioned Mr Baebler, who effortlessly returns to his “former occupation” of bass player, after being “promoted” to guitar-playing duties in SixFtHick some years back. There’s Dylan McCormack, brother of former Custard frontman Dave McCormack – celebrity brothers being very big in the Brisbane music scene – who plays guitar in a way which seemingly owes as much to the pioneering days of rock ‘n’ roll as it does to more modern virtuosos like Joey Santiago of Pixies fame. Then there’s Nick Naughton who, apart from officially being one of the Sexiest Men Alive, is both a shameless showman and tastefully dynamic drummer…the “heartbeat”, if you like, of the Sensitive Side’s gleefully schizophrenic soul, as songs that start innocently enough somehow build to bloodthirsty crescendos of flying teeth and pain-wracked howls.
Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side is music for the kinda folk who secretly wish that Elvis had lived long enough to make a “punk-rock” record…without selling out an inch of his credibility in the process. It’s country-laced, blues-based music for the lunatic slow-boiling inside every one of us, as fronted by the bastard offspring of Johnny Cash, Chris Isaak, Lux Interior and Jarvis Cocker. They’re in top form tonight even by their own ludicrously high standards, and among the expected fair share of offerings from their first two albums are sprinkled a few “newies” from the imminent third album…and while I myself chose these moments to get myself another drink, it’s a pretty fucking good sign of things to come when even us shameless bar-opportunists find ourselves bopping along to what will no doubt be familiar tunes mere months from now. The only let-down of the evening is that I arrived too late to catch a support act featuring former Beast Of Bourbon Kim Salmon, but hey…there’s always next time, and for what it’s worth my arse has a pretty sizeable bruise from where I myself kicked it (that’ll learn ya, boy)!
Fuck Brisbane: Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side are a national treasure. Now where’s some Powderfinger albums I can burn…and I don’t mean in the modern “cd duplication” sense of the word.
© Michael Bowser, Music Vice
Pictures of Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side at the Tote, Melbourne: