A little Friday night TLC with Winston Surfshirt
Prior to the night I’d heard many things about Jack Rabbit Slim’s — with one of them being an enthused, slurred plea sounding a lot like either ‘Your abs go right down to your toe!’ or as per a more sensible interpretation, ’You absolutely must go!’
This appeared to be nothing new to me. After all, what attracts nightlife boils down to two primordial elements: booze and conventional bass-ridden music. Yet for the curious case of Jack Rabbit Slim’s, I could not have been more pleasant surprised. The foyer of the premises features a ‘50s style diner reminiscent of the cult classic Pulp Fiction — and its interior, quite simply put, boasts some kick-ass vibes.
To be honest, we all need something to save us from the daily routine humdrum. For most, this emerges in the form of a chaotic Friday night out, where the ultimate goal is to scramble for a good time. Luckily for me, and everyone else who had secured tickets to the show, this was effortless as we were treated to hours upon hours of easy listening.
Opening jazz fusion acts were Creatures of Habit, who entranced crowds with serene lullabies — followed by Greivous Bodily Calm, who certainly didn't compromise with their sublime instrumentation.
With their roots in Sydney, it almost seemed as if the members of Winston Surfshirt hadn’t strayed too far from home. The boys are no strangers to playing intimate shows, warehouse gigs and even block parties — and despite admitting they had only released a couple of songs, they were highly attuned to the stage even amidst unfamiliar territory. (Envision modern-day Jesus wrapped up in a whole lot of funk, ready to impart some TLC.)
As the boys played to their own cultivated and perfectly eclectic sound, the nuances of soul, hip hop and jazz remained prominent throughout. No one could shy away from those sultry vocals, not even if they tried. Lovers of the band, of course, expressed their acclamation with outbreaks of dancing — particularly during their signature track 'Be About You'.
Quite frankly, I was expecting the band’s hip hop undertones to shine through, but approach of ‘less hip hop, more jazz, more blues’ was a tasteful choice indeed. The surefire highlight of the Surfshirts' set was the presence of the trombone; the mighty instrument didn’t act so much as an accompaniment, but rather its own wondrous entity amongst a sea of vocals, samples, guitar and bass. This, however, did not sound disorderly. The workings of Winston Surfshirt were as smooth-running as a well oiled machine. Despite missing their keyboard player, the evening also had the boys fearlessly tackle a few covers.
Just as the hype had begun to die down, Winston shook up the pace with some original rap before unexpectedly launching into a cover of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Humble’ — which proved to be a very welcome surprise. Moments such as these were well-received, and the boys even dove into their own rendition of ‘The Imperial March’ (which would've made even Vader pause in his footsteps).
From humble beginnings to a hefty, sold-out national tour, Winston Surfshirt has certainly transcended the mediocrities of the urban music scene and reminded us all what a little funk and R&B can do for the soul.