Bakelite Dance Band Review – Castle Lounge, Penrith. Saturday 20 Nov 2010



Caption: Exactly Like You. Guffaws and groove aside, this reviewer asks, if this is swing, where are the dancing girls?

PS: – The CD Greg is taking about in the video clip that will make a lovely coaster for your coffee table is the band’s Phantom Dancer CD: 14 songs from 1926 – 1939. Only 5 are left at CD Baby for only $US 12.97 + Postage. Get yours now while they’re still available

Band Review by Tony Deff, Jazz Critic, Penrith Bugle

“When the Bugle’s editor-in-chief told me to cover the action at Greg Poppleton & his Bakelite Dance Band’s show in the Castle Lounge last Saturday afternoon, he added, “And use a lot of superlatives. These boys need a break. The bass player has played for Tony Bennett. For crying out loud, that’s a suit outlet!”

Well I thought at the time that superlatives meant extra strong laxatives. Turns out I didn’t need them…

On entering the Castle Lounge I was instantly struck by the show’s stage designer, the flamboyant Coco de Lamé

“Sorry,” she apologised afterwards. “From behind you look just like that bitch of an agent, Noah. He hasn’t paid me in months.”

Lamo, as she is affectionately known, went on to explain her stage concept to me for the band.

“It’s all about irony, darling.,” she purred. “The curtains along the back wall suggest inevitability. The plain wall down one side, domesticity. The toilet door in the background refers to the music.” (See video below)

At that I hastily excused myself

The bandleader gave the downbeat, 1,2,3,4,5 and the dance floor filled with dancers

As a learned music critic, I make the following notes about the band…

1. Grahame Conlon, guitar. The guitar Grahame plays has 6 strings. Each string makes a different sound. Played in combination, Grahame is able to create a palette of sounds that follow the melody. Sometimes in the middle of a tune he makes up his own melody. This is called improvisalisation

2. Darcy Wright, double bass. I don’t know how he does it. Playing the guitar must be hard enough. Granted, the bass has two fewer strings. But on the bass the strings go up and down instead of side by side. A totally new direction in jazz. Crazy, man.

3. Bob Gillespie, drums. Bob had a lot of drums in his kit. I noted that the bigger the drum, the deeper the boom. The cymbals (pronounced symbols, I’m reliably told) make a metallic ting. The only suggestion this set of ears has is that there should be a square drum placed slightly to the right of the drummer and up a bit. The square drum would fill the round hole I sensed percussionistically.

4. Greg Poppleton, singer. Do singers have to sing? This jazz critic for one says a big fat NO. What’s wrong with skiddily-diddily bed-ee bop? Now that’s jazz. As for presentation, his dress wasn’t short enough. In fact he was wearing a suit!

Band manager and agent Noah Problemo, whose roster of real stars include the Koala Suit Stompers, Hot Harmonica Hepcats and Vegemite on Toast – The Musical, (where I occasionally cameo as ‘Ol’ Crusty’), was surprisingly upbeat about the band, “Some laughs, some songs, (I winced). But too many people on the dance floor – not enough bums on seats.”

“Do you mean like in a soup kitchen,” this jazz reviewer parried wittily.

Noah stopped a passing drunk. “Go tell the band to stop that noise for a minute. I’m trying to talk to the man from the Bugle!”

“So how would you put Greg Poppleton & his Bakelite Dance Band in a nutshell?” I grilled the legendary agent.

“I don’t like putting bands in nutshells,” Noah huffed. “Jazz critics are always asking me to put bands in nutshells. It’s impossible!” His eyes brightened. “Unless, of course, I get the set designer to build me a big nutshell on stage to put the band in for the 8 January show. But how do I get Lamo to do all that for nothing?” Noah laughed as the obvious came to him. “I’ll tell her it’ll be great for her portfolio.”

At that, the band stumbled back on stage for their seventh set and I had to race back to the toilets – to write this review, of course

So what do I think of the band? Well, in a nutshell, this inky-fingered hack gives Greg Poppleton and his Bakelite Dance Band two fingers”

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