William John Jr. @ the Small Ballroom, May 6th
The Small Ballroom is usually a venue of slippery floors, vomit on the walls and stage, and sometimes, maybe, somebody’s smoking a cigarette defiantly among the sweaty punters. Once again I embrace the inevitability of dance drenched shirt, hair reeking of stale beer, even a faint hint of tobacco like the 80s, probably. But when it’s Newcastle’s favorites, Voodoo Youth and William John Jr, I’m always willing to get amongst it.
Hunter Powell, the lead singer and guitarist in Voodoo Youth centers the stage, informing us of the great honor that tonight he performs with Wavevom‘s drummer, Jack Clark. The fuse is lit and we step back. Powell and Clark instantly fill the room with atomic energy and psychedelic punk as Powell adopts the moves of Elvis Costello and tailors Velvet Underground’s Waiting for My Man as his first song. He creates his own unique style of vocals that would make Lou grab a hold of his face and sock him; a fortunate compliment from the notoriously cranky front man.
A strong influence of Ty Segall and the Growlers are beautifully implanted into the songs California Kid and Yeah. The differing tones Powell produces illuminates his aptitude to create his own style, one that one day may be mimicked but never replicated.
The band’s running out of time for their set, so before the crowd gets too dejected, Powell and Clark summon the energy and light that one last firework. Powell uncovers the riff of House of the Rising Sun and booms it into our hearts and souls. It’s three minutes in and Powell’s cuticles are crimson, he plays as if nothing’s wrong. He’s upon one knee and leaning back immersed when the bottom E string absconds its home and bounces back into his face. He bids farewell in a fuck-it but eternally grateful attitude.
My attention returns to the stage as William John Jr. and the Love Dinosaurs are sound checking. Lochie Huntington kicking on the drums and working the cymbals, Luke Hay on the bass warming up those fingers and James Hodgett adjusting his body for the keyboard sprinkles. The crowd flocks in as soon as William John releases a high pitch screech into the microphone, resurrecting the late Jim Morrison from his Parisian grave. And just like that, John leaps into the air, guitar tucked against him in absolute syncretisation, his feet hit the floor and the mind-altering orchestra instantly bind together creating a mystical bluesy acid rock phenomenon.
The second song High Road morphs into a sort of two part with an intricate instrumental gradually fusing into an unwavering fast pace, resembling an eleven minute Doors song. Hodgett welds his synthesizer emphasising an intrinsic distillation of psych rock. Huntington perpetuates a comical attitude while naturally upholding the rhythm for the band. But I’d watch him because he could hit a cymbal and be ready to tear your head off.
This entire set is jam full of energy, but the final song is as if they have picked up all the negative energy in the universe and destroyed it. Come on (And Be My Baby) implants the flowers of the Rolling Stones through the blues slide guitar, reminiscent of Keith Richards. John takes the risk in exploring his vocals and in response, explosive sounds bellow which could make flowers bloom in winter.
William John Jr. is a band that summons the devilish urge within to take acid, grow long hair and take a moonlight drive with strange people.