There are two important things to remember about a Fringe festival. First, context is very important. Second, risky choices can have a bigger reward. Both of these lessons returned with a vengeance upon attending tuckshop. (full stop included). To quote the Fringe guide “the ladies from this all-new Melbourne band will be dishing up some delectable tunes at the Backwoods Gallery.”
My guest and I strolled from our previous Northside Fringe show to check out this unfamiliar space and its facilities around 20 minutes early. When we arrived it seemed that the band were in sound check. Belting volume pushed us towards another room to consider some impressionistic portraiture offerings. We wondered if the gig might actually be so loud as to be uncomfortable. We resolved to wait and see, listening to a supplied soundtrack of cheesy recorded disco, such as Bony M.
The appointed hour (at least according to the Fringe guide) of 8pm came and went. 8:15pm, hmm, was that sound check actually the show? No, because the crowd is gaining strength just now. Oh well, let’s just get a drink from the bar and see what happens.
The bar was unstaffed, but a friendly punter offered us a warmish glass of Australian sparkling wine. The crowd swelled further. The band mingled, recognisable by their glasses with pink, heart-shaped lenses, and pastel pink outfits employing fur or satin.
At around 8:35pm, our lead singer, displaying a massive cone of sprayed and kinked hair, called everyone in. Lighting plunged, and the tunes were launched into the room. A spontaneous epidemic of dancing broke out.
With electric bass, guitar, percussion, and keyboard, tuckshop. lived up to what they promised in the fringe guide. We were treated to a selection of high-energy jazz and funk tunes. I enjoyed the jazzy keys, cowbells and dirty bass.
Whilst I couldn’t generally tell what the songs were because of the volume, it hardly mattered. Everyone was dancing. Fun was in the air. Some guests brought their own drinks, and those of us less clued up to the gig’s nature (maybe just my guest and I) found self-serve beers and pretty respectable ALDI wine at the bar, as well as a box of Fruity Lexia. (We left that alone, no need to completely return to our early 20’s.) Friends of the band cheerfully pumped the smoke machine controls if the air got too clear.
Promising ”a boogie and a bite”, bowls of chips, mixed lollies, and fairy bread on offer, coupled with the free-wheeling vibe, made this feel like a kids’ party for grown-ups. Earth, Wind & Fire’s September was an appropriately grooving final track (“Do you remember the 21st night of September?” I will now!) immediately becoming the encore.
Unlike the Fringe guide, the Fringe website doesn’t list a price or duration for tuckshop. The show started 35 minutes late and ran for about half the advertised time. Recalling a long fringe history, this should have been a frustrating disaster. Instead, it was a top gig and an unexpected Fringe highlight.
The combination of luck and context played a big part here. We didn’t have to abandon the show due to having another one scheduled, we had something to do while we waited for the music to start, and we met a guest who gave us outsiders a non-verbal cue into how this gathering was going to play out. You often need some luck in finding a good Fringe experience from amongst the masses of possibilities, but having the mindset to embrace this is just as important.
We could say that with their casual approach to the audience, the ladies of tuckshop. already think of themselves as stars. As a new band, they’re not yet. But, if they gig around like this in a scene that doesn’t expect Fringe practicalities such as punctuality, surely they soon will be.
Backwoods Gallery, 5/25 Easey Street, Collingwood
Performance: Thursday 21 September 2017 – 8.00pm
Review: Jason Whyte