I really wanted to call this review – Never Mind The Rollicks, Here’s Ukulele Death Squad.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the ukulele was like the penny farthing bike of musical instruments. technically you could still get around on one, but why would you? But a weird thing started to happen. The humble uke, started turning up the occasional record. Hipsters embraced it as a suitably unfashionable instrument to start ironically playing (easy to get on the back of the penny farthing that a harpsichord). Amanda Palmer did whole albums on her ukulele, Mumford & Sons exploded with the new folk wave with banjos and double basses and ukulele’s and a hey nonny nonny hey fiddly fiddle foe. Teenagers started working out they were relatively affordable and easy to learn how to play and then YouTube was awash with untold ukulele covers of pop songs, EDM thumpers, punk rock anthems. In the Ukulele renaissance is stronger than ever. That said the immediate thought when somebody starts getting excited about uke based music, is that it is going to be a bit, ye olde folk fare, not that there is anything wrong with that. But like AC/DC using the bagpipes, The Hooters using a Melodica or Mike Oldfield using Tubular Bells, there is evidence that even the most maligned and fringe dwelling instrument can be embraced beyond it’s traditional role.
Enter Ukulele Death Squad. Making their public debut in the same venue exactly one year ago, the UDS have plucked their way through sold out shows around the world over the last twelve months. They uke with incredible energy, ferocious gusto and masses of talent. The brainchild of Benjamin Roberts (The Timbers) and Julian Ferguson (The Coconut Kids), UDS live, is a hell of a ride. They use stomp boxes, a bass drum, three ukes and a saxophone and they sing great harmonies and use a lot of humour and a bit of cussing – (actually I hate the word ‘cussing’…fuck it they swear a bit).
Mostly I am not familiar with their original material, but it is now on my shopping list. They do a killer version of Dick Dales Miseralu, likewise Cab Callaway’s Minnie The Moocher, which gets faster and faster and faster. Throughout there are references and bits of other songs dropped into whatever they are playing. A bit of Hall of the Mountain King, or a sax solo from Careless Whisper.
The more traditional fare of Rattlin’ Bug is a big crowd favourite too. Great performers, confident, with a bit of sass, really talented and endless enjoyable. Finishing up with a rollicking, exhausting and hilarious mega mix of songs like Summertime, to Fever, Super Freak, Get Down, Pink’s Get The Party Started, a heap of 80s and 90s rap track and TaTu’s All The Things She Said. That was worth the price of admission just to see on it’s own. Apparently they put it together earlier in the – day fine job lads.
The support was Adelaide’s own The Nukes a 15 piece Uke band from the Northern suburbs, they are an older demographic and more what people might expect from this area of music. They do songs by The Searchers, Beatles, Everly Brothers, Joey Dee, it’s all very pleasant and enjoyable, but also served as a distinct contrast to what Ukulele Death Squad are doing. Cracking way to spend a Sunday afternoon. UDS are returning on April 22 to stage a family friendly day time Uke festival, Ukulele Death Fest. Taking place in Kuitpo (about 50 minutes out of Adelaide) and will feature acts from all round Australia and promises workshops, ukulele store and a Uke Book Shop!
Fringe Review by Ian Bell
NEWSFLASH : EXTRA UKULELE DEATH SQUAD SHOW ANNOUNCED.
Due to overwhelming demand, those romping, stomping, tiny four string instrument abusers, UKELELE DEATH SQUAD have added a second sneaky show at The Grace Emily on Sunday March 4th 7:30pm.
Be quick Mother Pluckers! TICKETS AVAILABLE FROM