THE CHATS + CHUBBY AND THE GANG + DENNIS COMETTI – CHALK, BRIGHTON 29.3.22
Self-proclaimed “shed rock” trio The Chats formed as teenagers in 2016, on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia. Their horizons expanded considerably the following year when a no-budget music video for ‘Smoko’, from their second EP, went viral. To date it has clocked an impressive fifteen million views. The band’s simple and sparse punky sound and wittily acerbic lyrics resonated with audiences around the world, garnering support from rock luminaries such as Dave Grohl and Iggy Pop. Having signed a global publishing deal they founded their own label, Bargain Bin Records, and released their debut album ‘High Risk Behaviour’ in March 2020.
Tonight’s show to promote the album was originally booked at Brighton Dome for 26th October 2020, but the global pandemic obviously put a stop to international touring. Having been further rescheduled from 27th April 2021, this gig is finally taking place at Chalk, a full two years after the album release. Needless to say, tonight is fully sold out, and there’s a palpable buzz of anticipation as I arrive at the venue on a drizzly and murky Tuesday evening.
First up tonight we have Dennis Cometti, which is actually a three-piece band whose eponymous debut album was released on The Chats’ Bargain Bin label. Named after a veteran Aussie Rules footballer and commentator, apparently with his blessing, the band formed in Fremantle, Western Australia in 2014. They were originally a side project, with members playing in other acts including the amusingly named Aborted Tortoise. The footy theme is continued as the band takes the stage dressed in the blue and white kit of their local team, East Fremantle Sharks.
Even if you met the band in normal street clothes, you’d probably guess they were Aussies. House left, bassist John sports a fine mullet and beard combo, whilst Alex on lead vocals and guitar favours the bowl cut and ‘tash. Musically, they are very similar to The Chats, with that classic new wave sound and witty lyrics about the everyday frustrations of life down under. The two acts seem to have evolved in parallel on different sides of the Australian continent. I can’t say I would ever imagine The Chats playing sports though.
The songs are great, and I love this band straight away. ‘Sunnie Tan’ (not something we worry about much in the UK) has a heavy growling riff. ‘(I H8 the) CBD’ spits vitriol about the soulless Central Business District you find in any town or city centre, with “sh*t shops selling stuff nobody needs”. It has an insistently thrashed guitar riff, and a few vocal “oohs” for good measure.
“Thanks for coming out early. You guys rule,” effuses Alex, who seems genuinely pleased with the reception the band is getting. ‘Goon And Juice’ has a great riff, and the self-explanatory ‘Footy With The Boys’ is propelled along by some thunderous floor tom into a wailing guitar solo. John is getting busy on the bass too, with plenty of runs up the neck.
‘Death Rattle’ is the current single, about the daunting prospect of a long road trip in an unserviceable vehicle with insufficient fuel. It’s another winner, and I made a mental note to grab one of the 7” singles I saw on sale when I came in. ‘Pint Police’ expresses the beer drinker’s frequent complaint about short measures and further dissatisfaction with schooners and mids, undersized beer glasses used in pubs down under. “I work hard, I pay off my bills. I deserve 570 mils.” Quite right.
They save the best till last with ‘WAXIT’, a spoof on Brexit based on the notion of Western Australia succeeding from the rest of the Aussie states and going it alone. Once again, the lyrics are pin sharp, and very funny: “We’ve got the beaches. We’ve got the mines. We live our life three hours behind.”
A quick glance at the setlist confirms that the band have managed to fit a fourteen song set into their allotted half-hour slot (just over two minutes each). No worries. If you like The Chats, you’ll almost certainly like Dennis Cometti too. Check them out.
Alex Patching – vocals, guitar
John Peers – bass, vocals
Mitch Cross – drums
Dennis Cometti setlist:
‘Gong In The Gong’, ‘Sunnie Tan’, ‘Spoked’,‘(I H8 The) CBD’, ‘Goon And Juice’, ‘Moocher’, ‘Suburban Condition’, ‘Footy With The Boys’, ‘King Of The Pack’, ‘Death Rattle’, ‘Limiter’, ‘Pint Police’, ‘On The Sauce’, ‘WAXIT’
Second act tonight are Chubby And The Gang, a five-piece formed in West London in 2019, although some of the band are from Brighton. They’re on a roll right now, with a lot of very positive press, (especially from the Brighton & Hove News Music Team – reviews HERE and HERE) and getting this tour support will only further their cause.
In terms of the music, it’s basically glam-tinged pub rock played at breakneck speed, with plenty of big hooks. The ‘Marmite’ factor is the vocals, which are delivered in the indiscernibly shouty style usually found in hardcore punk. With two well-received albums released through Partisan Records though, they are obviously doing something right.
This is the first time I’ve seen the band live, and it all makes sense in this context. The energy and physicality of the performance is astonishing. Frontman Charlie is an absolute force of nature. With his tattoos, V-shaped torso, and predilection for deep squats and lunges, he reminds me of a younger Henry Rollins in his long-haired days. There’s a hint of 1970s street hooligan too, with a cheekily provocative stance as though offering all 800 of the audience out for a fight. There are no takers. He frequently draws his finger across his throat, in what I imagine is a taunting “go to Hell” gesture. Either that, or he’s run out of Vocalzone pastilles.
I’m very taken with the twin-guitar attack. Ethan, house right, has a suitably retro 1970s look going on, whilst Tom is house left, flailing his long hair about and wailing on a Strat. There’s a superb combination of riffing and screeching lead in ‘The Mutts Nutts’ that puts me in mind of vintage Slaughter And The Dogs. Drummer Joe and bassist Maegan provide a fast and solid rhythmic foundation, and fit in plenty of stops, brisk fills and nice runs up the fretboard.
‘Coming Up Tough’ is the standout number for me, a proper glam racket with a delicious rhythm guitar figure that might be a distant relative of Pulp’s ‘Disco 2000’.
Live is very much the setting in which to appreciate the raw power of Chubby And The Gang. I have a feeling that there will be plenty of opportunities to see them in the near future, doubtless on progressively larger stages.
Chubby And The Gang:
Charlie ‘Chubby Charles’ Manning-Walker – vocals
Ethan Stahl – guitar
Tom ‘Razor’ Hardwick – guitar
Maegan Brooks Mills – bass
Joe McMahon -drums
Chubby And The Gang setlist:
‘Chubby And The Gang Rule OK?’, ‘The Mutts Nutts’, ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’, ‘Pizza Hut’, ‘Coming Up Tough’, ‘Blue Ain’t My Colour’, ‘Lightning Don’t Strike Twice’, ‘On The Meter’, ‘Pressure’, ‘Moscow’, ‘Pariah Radio’, ‘All Along The Uxbridge Road’
The venue has been steadily filling up, and as preparations are made for the arrival of the headliners it’s getting cosy to the point of being cramped down at the front. The general consensus is that it’s going to be a lively one. For a band that started off in a mate’s shed they’re doing alright, with a large backdrop and classic rock backline of Marshall and Ampeg stacks. The crew are busy putting out little towels and bottles of water, and a few tinnies.
The Chats take the stage to a huge cheer and a surge of humanity. House left, Eamon is sporting a relatively conventional haircut and slinging a blue and white Precision. There’s been a line-up change since the last UK tour (Brighton & Hove News Music Team review of that one HERE) and house right on guitar we have Josh Hardy, replacing former incumbent Pricey. Drummer Matt takes his place behind the colourfully striped C & C kit. All are dressed casually, in white T-shirts and jeans.
Introducing the first song, Eamon tells us it’s good to be back in Brighton. There’s a brief slow build before launching the high-speed riff of ‘Nambored’, and the crowd goes absolutely crazy. It’s not really moshing, as we’re so packed in, but the weight of numbers seems to be moving in multiple directions all at once. There’s crowd surfing right from the start, and plenty of beer being flung, thankfully in plastic glasses. It’s clear that it will not be convenient to take notes, so we’ll have to rely on my addled memory from here on.
There’s a flurry of fast and familiar album tracks, starting with ‘Billy Backwash’s Day’, about the sort of person you might meet in a place like Nambour. Eamon informs us that much as he loves being in Brighton, he didn’t enjoy being covered in seagull guano earlier, even if it is supposed to be lucky. Welcome to the seaside.
‘Bus Money’ is a personal favourite of mine, a hilarious list of purchases that were preferred to saving enough bus fare to get home. ‘The Kids Need Guns’ is an absolute explosion of rapid-fire energy. Security are keeping busy trying to intercept any crowd surfers who get close to the front. It’s probably just as well, as the drop into the pit between the crash barrier and stage doesn’t look too inviting.
There’s a brief hiatus as a stage tech tries to sort out a problem with Eamon’s in-ear monitor. Everyone grabs a quick breather and the singer recounts a very long joke with a punchline that’s so poor it’s actually quite funny. Maybe an alternative career in stand-up beckons.
We’re getting treated to some new numbers. ‘Jet Lighter’, about the type of serious fire or bong lighting device that emits a blue flame, is pretty much what you’d expect from The Chats, burning with incendiary energy and featuring an insistent chantalong chorus. We rattle on through more brisk numbers from the second EP and the album, before another new song, ‘6 LTR GTR’, with a super-catchy chorus and the sort of speed and power that the car in the lyric might produce.
The pace is unrelenting, as we’re pounded with the intense ‘Ross River’ and current single ‘Struck By Lightning’. The kinetic energy of the crowd goes up a gear for the urgent ‘Identity Theft’, with frequent examples of high risk crowd surfing behaviour, much to the chagrin of the security personnel, who are having a very busy evening indeed.
A cover of a song by children’s TV favourites The Wiggles is bizarrely surreal, but works surprisingly well, and for me is one of the highlights of the set. If you want to really freak yourself out, there’s a clip on YouTube of The Wiggles reciprocating with a cover of ‘Pub Feed’. Next up is ‘Smoko’, the number that first put The Chats on the path to international touring. It’s performed at quite a lick, and needless to say there’s plenty of shouting along to the classic hook: “I’m on smoko, so leave me alone!”
Guitarist Josh looks like he’s really settled into the band now, and is playing a blinder, with a blistering solo on ‘AC/DC CD’. There’s plenty of showboating, with the guitar often up behind his head. ‘Paid Late’ is the third new number tonight, and sounds like another cracker.
Some of Chubby And The Gang have been watching the set from the back of the stage, and vocalist Charlie comes on to do a guest spot on an absolutely storming cover of the Sham 69 classic ‘Borstal Breakout’, which is the high point of the evening for me. I’m reminded of Jimmy Pursey coming on to sing with The Clash at another show, many decades ago.
By now the crowd energy has reached maelstrom level, and I’m getting a fairly intense upper arm workout trying to avoid being turned into spaghetti by being rammed through the holes in the crash barrier. The final number is the iconic ‘Pub Feed’, so things are hardly likely to calm down. I manage to free up an arm, because there’s some serious punching in the air to do amidst the mayhem.
I don’t imagine that we’ll get an encore, but the venue staff are along with power tools to tighten up the bolts on the crash barrier, just in case. It really is the end though, and the lights come up to reveal a lot of very tired and sweaty people with huge grins on their faces. It’s a nice early finish, which is helpful midweek, so there’s plenty of time to peruse the merch stall before heading for the train home. This gig was a long time coming, but it sure was worth the wait.
Eamon Sandwith – vocals, bass
Josh Hardy – guitar, vocals
Matt Boggis -drums – vocals
The Chats setlist:
‘Nambored’ (from ‘Get This In Ya!!’ EP, 2017)
‘Billy Backwash’s Day’ (from ‘High Risk Behaviour’ 2020)
‘Stinker’ (from ‘High Risk Behaviour’ 2020)
‘Drunk And Disorderly’ (from ‘High Risk Behaviour’ 2020)
‘Bus Money’ (from ‘Get This In Ya!!’ EP, 2017)
‘The Kids Need Guns’ (from ‘High Risk Behaviour’ 2020)
‘Mum Stole My Darts’ (from ‘The Chats’ EP, 2016)
‘Jet Lighter’ (new, unreleased)
‘CCTV’ (single B-side, 2019)
‘Casualty’ (from ‘Get This In Ya!!’ EP, 2017)
‘Nazi March’ (from ‘Get This In Ya!!’ EP, 2017)
‘Dine And Dash’ (from ‘High Risk Behaviour’ 2020)
‘4573’ (from ‘High Risk Behaviour’ 2020)
‘6 LTR GTR’ (new, unreleased)
‘Ross River’ (from ‘High Risk Behaviour’ 2020)
‘Struck By Lightning’ (single, 2022)
‘Identity Theft’ (from ‘High Risk Behaviour’ 2020)
‘Can You (Point Your Fingers And Do The Twist?)’ (The Wiggles cover)
‘Smoko’ (from ‘Get This In Ya!!’ EP, 2017)
‘AC/DC CD’ (single, 2020)
‘Temperature’ (from ‘Get This In Ya!!’ EP, 2017)
‘Better Than You’ (from ‘High Risk Behaviour’ 2020)
‘Paid Late’ (new, unreleased)
‘Borstal Breakout’ (Sham 69 cover) (with Charlie ‘Chubby Charles’ Manning-Walker)
‘Pub Feed’ (from ‘High Risk Behaviour’ 2020)