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THE ROSEMARY BEADS

The Rosemary Beads - Photo by Alfred Gorman
The Rosemary Beads – Photo by Alfred Gorman

Sugarchild

Astor Lounge

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Rosemary Beads are a legendary Perth band, formed in the thriving early ’90s alternative music scene, they released three EPs before breaking up in 1995 amidst the tragic death of drummer Cam Munachen from an overdose.

20 years on from their final release, I’ll Come When I’m Good And Ready, the Beads reformed for a special gig to honour the memory of Munachen and celebrate their legacy and the music they made.

Original members Gretta Little and Tim Underwood were joined by Warren Hall on drums to take us on a little trip down memory lane. After all this time away, it was good to see a solid crowd pack out the Astor Lounge, with lots of familiar old faces.

A band that followed in the footsteps of The Rosemary Beads in the ’90s, Sugarchild were in support tonight. While they’ve never really broken up, they have evolved over the years, from their indie-pop origins, through electronic experimentation, before maturing into more of an acoustic alt-country outfit. And now the band are going back to their rock roots, bolstered by new drummer Tim (of Humbug fame) who also played trumpet on a beautiful acoustic track.

The revitalised and rocked up band, led by Katie Atwell’s dramatic and passionate vocal performance, ran through a selection of old songs, including their biggest track The Problem, Watch The Walls and some seriously epic, shoegazey jams. Atwell paid her respects to The Beads, recalling a pivotal gig at the Fremantle Passenger Terminal and how influential they were as a band for her, and announcing they were working on new material.

But everyone was here to see their old indie heroes; The Rosemary Beads strolled on stage and strapped on their guitars, looking across at each other onstage, with a wry smile, for the first time in 20 years.

They kicked in with the fuzzy, reverb-soaked guitar of Poem Of God and followed it up with their infamous tune Worried About Fucking. It became immediately apparent they were going to keep the sound level cranked. There’s a lot to be said for a tight, three piece rock band that just turn up loud, rock out hard, and not just sound like noise – reaching a certain sonic resonance – something that is lost on a lot of today’s more twee indie bands.

Underwood was unleashing some rockin’ guitar riffs, while Little kept it locked down tight with her rolling bass and distinct wailing, melancholic vocals. Hall was doing smashing work on the drums, the spirit of Munachen living on through his songs, which were faithfully recreated.

The band was selling a compilation CD on the door of the 10 best tracks from their three EPs, a definite highlight was Wedding Song – the song builds and builds on a driving bassline and soaring vocals to an epic climax.

After a great version of their classic, Breath, from their very first EP, they left the stage to much applause. The shouts went out for more and eventually Little re-emerged, taking the stage solo for a great cover of The Pixies’ Gigantic. She always was like our own Perth version of Kim Deal.

Underwood came back to join her for one last little bluesy number. “That’s all we’ve got!” proclaimed Little, and they were gone. There were warm smiles and applause all round from folks reliving their youth with one of the seminal bands of the era. The songs still hold up and it was a solid, enjoyable set. A fitting reunion, though it would be great if there were more shows, so more people should catch a glimpse of a Beads’ concert – perhaps a spot at In The Pines?

ALFRED GORMAN