It’s been a hell of a couple of years for The Hot Damn! ever since they exploded into the consciousness of the unsigned rock scene. And like all the best bands on the scene right now, they’re doing it a little bit different from everyone else. Mainly in the sense that no one else is playing their up-tempo power pop/pop rock. Imagine if a rainbow-spewing unicorn played rock music – this is what it would sound like. Now, after a couple of excellent support slots with Hayseed Dixie and Black Spiders this year along with numerous festival slots, this is their maiden headline shows with the very first taking place the night before in Frome. So any wobbles should be ironed out for a Saturday night in Brum.
With early doors and a Saturday night, it’s good to see there’s a healthy crowd by the time The Dead Amigos make their presence known. Making their UK debut on a number of shows (including these ones with The Hot Damn!), the Aussies show that they’re yet another excellent band to come from Down Under. And like all the best Australian bands, they’re from Melbourne. Albeit they’re not quite the in-your-face kick-the-doors-down hard rock that the area is known for and instead go for a blues-charged route with a hint of funk thrown in for good measure. One number channels Queens of the Stone Age and is attention-grabbing with its rich bass sound and chunky chords. Full of swaggering riffs and dirty grooves, it’s an entertaining set by a well-rounded band who know what they are and are damn good at it into the bargain.
Now, with a name like Voodoo Sioux, you’d expect the blues ante to be upped several gears and taken into a sludgy/swampy direction. Except, you couldn’t be further away from that if you tried. Instead, they’re a band that scream “Fun” with their upbeat party sound. Whilst it’s hard to pick out individual influences, think along the lines of Terrorvision, The Middlenight Men, and Royal Republic for bands that simply want the audience to have a good time and in that regard, are very much like tonight’s headliners. It’s an energetic performance, in particular, bassist Mario Ermoyenous hardly seems to stand still and has a grin plastered on his face for the duration. There is one song which does get a bit Oasis-y but given the amount of ridiculous fun they are to watch, I won’t hold that against them. Elsewhere, on another number, vocalist Professor Balthazar delivers his vocals whilst pinching his nose for a novel twist and way to really describe vocals as nasally. It’s no wonder there’s a good number of their shirts in the crowd and people bunching up to the front, they know how to entertain and as a live act, are incredibly solid and I’m looking forward to seeing them again.
Now, it’s time for some unadulterated, unhinged, unabridged colourful chaos in the shape of The Hot Damn!. Now for a full hour, they run through an exhilarating set and have the chance to show off the fruits of their labours of the last couple of years as a preview of what we can expect on their upcoming debut album. But in order to get us comfortable, they unleash debut single “Dance Around” early in proceedings before keeping their other pre-existing material for later in the night.
Indeed, it’s a set which is reflective of drummer Josie O’Toole’s kit; it’s bright, colourful and loud. Taking various cues from the likes of The Darkness, Queen, Blink-182, Blondie, and a whole lot more and it creates a unique sound. They don’t pause for breath other than for vocalist/guitarist Gill Montgomery to banter with the crowd and introduce the songs. What else becomes apparent that whilst presumably the majority of the album has been played tonight, they don’t ever slow it down or go into ballad territory – unless there’s a big soppy Bryan Adams-style song (you know the one) tucked away for us to discover when the album is released. However, it’s never wanting for a moment like that and the only real “slow” moment comes towards the end with the acapella “Merch Song”. Which, you know, encourages us to buy something from their extensive merch range (got to make a living somehow!).
It’s a raucous and rousing performance all at once which balances confidence with earnestness. They’ve always went with their best foot forward and are a band with each member having their own lineage to bring to the table which has always translated to an incredibly competent band who have gelled together so well they may actually be super-glued together. But for their headline show, they don’t rest on their laurels and play to the existing fans, they play as if they’re on another support or festival slot to show they’ve got what it takes to be a headliner. And they do – in spades. It’s an hour set which goes by in the blink of an eye and when the last song is introduced, there’s a sense from both them and the crowd that they were just getting settled in for the evening.
However, there’s a confidence found in the way they approach the songs. The quartet know these songs inside out and whilst the album has been recorded since before the Black Spiders tour, there’s a newfound panache and finesse to them. It’s not a set full of big, chugging riffs and instead they manage to bring hints of groove and boogie into the poppy dynamics of the songs such as “Jukebox on the Radio” with its rumbling bass line from Lzi Hayes and “Going Down” allows her and Josie to work symbiotically in the pocket together. Plus the seamless transition into their own version of “Hot Stuff” shows their competence and their sense of humour with the change in lyrics.
Meanwhile, opener “Fizz Buzz Crash” and new single “Damn!Damn!Damn!Damn!” (that’s four damn’s for four band members – although I don’t know which one is for whom) has the band at their edgiest with the latter giving Laurie Buchanan the opportunity to unleash her shredding talents yet keep it still firmly in the band’s domain. She trades licks with Gill Montogomery with ease and the pair of them seemingly work off the instinct of each other, much akin to the way Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood interact with each other in a live setting.
With these as some of their final live shows of the year, it very much is the exclamation mark on the year for The Hot Damn!. It whets the appetite for next year when they’re out on the road with Fozzy and builds the anticipation for the album. Songs which are exceptionally catchy and played proficiently as a unit is the dream not only for anyone in a band but for music lovers, too. While they take the art of performing seriously, the humour in the lyrics stop the show from becoming overbearing and po-faced, allowing you to relax and have a great time. Rock music doesn’t need to be all about high-octane guitars, bringing it down to poppier shade can work just as well, especially when it’s this good.