LIVE REVIEW – Country Classics featuring Robert Ellis & friends + special guests Sean McMahon and The MoonMen By Nick Argyriou

Friday 28 October, Spotted Mallard

Sean McMahon reunites with former Downhills Home cohort Mick Hubbard, tight Josh Duiker drums and woozy pedal steel to get old lovers waltzing along on the dance floor from the get-go/first tune on this grand eve. Tapping a Wilco-friendly country-pop vibe, The MoonMen are smooth operators like always. Robert Ellis, again dressed in his signature Union Western space suit number launches headlong into a vast array of country classics, as promised. Of his touring band The Perfect Strangers, it’s only bassist Geoffrey Muller and drummer Michael “Tank” Lisenbe who sit in for the session as they turn their attention to the best of Cash, Kristofferson, Gram, Willie, George Jones, Roger Miller and more. From Willie’s ‘I Gotta Get Drunk’, ‘(Don’t Take Her) She’s All I Got’ by George Jones, Roger Miller’s ‘Chug-A-Lug’, Hank Williams’ ‘Mind Your Own Business’ complete with lyrics mash: ‘If I want to honky tonk around Brunswick Street ’til two or three/Now, brother that’s my headache, don’t you worry ’bout me’, the night is a hoot. Smashing down Melbourne Bitters and tearing through the killer country set, Ellis and co are the wedding band you wish you’d booked instead. Splashy drums meld with noodling ditties as the already proudly inebriated trio nail lo-fi barroom and sped-up chugs as the whisky neat and southern fried chicken wings is devoured around the Mallard. “I wish I could give you originals tonight, but we’re supposed to be a fun party band, but that’s okay,” beams Ellis before bringing up to the stage a local guitarist he caught on Instagram would you believe and ripping into Willie Nelson’s ‘Bloody Mary Morning’. Then Ballarat’s Appalachian queen Freya Josephine Hollick pulls out her best Dolly with the band, dabbles in trademark yodelling and showcases some tracks from her latest record The Unceremonious Junking of Me due out in November – then it’s just Bob solo for a bit with ‘Unchained Melody’ the highlight. Ellis does a shout-out for fan requests with a call for Dave Matthews weirdly ringing loud and the Houston hero answers the call with a wildly teasing riff, then adds “If anyone has any drugs or painkillers or weed, I’d like to talk to you”. He’s not kidding. This was one crazy old night to end a super tour by a bonafide star.

By Nick Argyriou