When word arrives on Saturday night that Tumbleweed are supporting The Meanies at The Annandale under the pseudonym “Stumblin’ Jesus Mosquito”, I ditch previous plans and march through the rain to the pub. The boisterous roughheads barging around The ‘Dale, fists full of schooners, look exactly how I remember Meanies fans looked back in the day. They weren’t pretty then either.
There’s a buzz in the leery, beery air. Word’s travelling fast that Stumblin’ Jesus Mosquito aren’t who they say they are. Several familiar faces from “The Gong” and some Tumbleweed T-shirts at the merch table confirm rumours. “Yeah, it’s them,” says the woman on the door. “But, sssshhhhh!”
Tumbleweed members start lugging their gear on stage as the room begins to fill up. A surge of people arrive, presumably tipped off by text messages. The last time Tumbleweed’s original line-up – the line-up that’s back together indefinitely now – played at The Annandale was around 1992. It’s likely there are people in this crowd, feet pinned to the same filthy flypaper carpet, that weren’t born last time Tumbleweed played here. But, incredibly, when they kick off with ‘Stoned’ it sounds exactly like it always did. Dense, heavy, anthemic and overpoweringly feelgood.
Tumbleweed do an energetic set of hits and favourites: ‘Sundial’, ‘Gyroscope’, ‘Carousel’, Shakedown’, Blue Cheer cover ‘Come & Get it’ and ‘Daddy Long Legs’. They seem to be having a great time onstage – there’s heaps of cross-stage grins and long slugs of beer. Wearing a black fake beard which soon falls off, Richie free-ranges the stage handing out hugs to band members, writhing on the ground, twirling the mic cord around his arms, and displaying none of the hands-free awkwardness singers sans instruments often do.
I was at Tumbleweed’s first sold-out comeback show in Wollongong last year. I was also at the main stage of the Homebake gig in December that closed with an eruption of chanting, “WollonGONG!” Each has had its special pleasures. Of course, I’m first to admit I can’t see the wood for the trees. From the first chord, every time, I’m flung into a time warp back to my teens. Lenny might have short hair now and Richie’s skims his shoulders but Paul, Steve and Jay have kept their trademark long locks. I know it’s just hair but it’s a powerful visual stimulus. Watching them on stage through a foreground of bobbing heads, hearing that vintage Tumbleweed sound, stewing in The ‘Dale’s evergreen skankiness – it’s enough to rev up the time machine for a real ride backwards, all senses firing. I’m not quite sure where I am, or when, but there’s no place else I’d rather be.
Mess+Noise version here.