The Peep Tempel + Batpiss – The Forum Theatre, Melbourne (03/11/17)

There was something quite surreal about the entire event. Hanging over the celebratory nature of the show was the sad knowledge held by all that this was a farewell to a much-loved band. A group that had toiled at their craft for the better part of a decade, eventually breaking through to a mainstream audience three years ago thanks to a woman called Carol and a miscreant named Trevor.

Looking around the room there were ample examples of those who had followed them before Tales – the slightly older rock fans clad in black, guys who looked like Thomy Sloane, who was at the time of arrival delivering a punishing set with his band Batpiss.

The three-piece delivered a typically furious performance over their own sparse arrangements, with Sloane’s sound managing to approximate the necessary amount of sludge and top end to communicate weight, attitude and power. He shared vocal duties with guitarist Paul Portal, whose own contributions were precise and effective. However, there was something particularly odd about the sight of Batpiss, the epitome of the Tote-style, dirty rock’n’roll scene in Melbourne, plying their trade framed by the opulent guilded stage of the Forum Theatre.

From the moment The Peep Tempel donned their instruments there was an almost uneasy electric energy in the air. No one was more aware than the three men onstage how significant every moment from now until the last song would be. They looked nervous, but more than that they were clearly determined; and as soon as they launched into Kalgoorlie, it showed. Not a perceptible beat was misplaced, the band leaned into their set with energy and concentration, faithfully serving up cuts from their celebrated and most recent album Joy, with Totality and Rayguns following in quick succession. The latter was the first example of frontman Blake Scott’s knack for creating choruses that are both hooky and somewhat resemble a football chant, which the crowd took to with aplomb.

Bassist Stew Rayner added some punk rock purity to the mix with his driving lines and snarled backing vocals, which unfortunately – particularly during Don’t Race – were lost in the mix.

By the time the band delved deeper into their catalogue with the Lester Moore trilogy of songs, a character that has been with them since their debut album in 2012, the majority of the almost entirely male audience seemed pretty boozed. Scott stopped everything briefly to tell off people for fighting, threatening that if it happened again he would end the show. The floor was a sticky mess and thick with empty cans as fans threw themselves against each other, feeding off the energy onstage, but at the same time ignoring a lot of what was happening.

However, that didn’t take away from the emotions that were rising to the top as The Peep Tempel entered the final portion of their set. Scott rested his head against Rayner’s during the final throes of 2014’s Big Fish, following a Batpiss stage invasion involving a giant inflatable fish.

Once crowd favourite Carol was given one last triumphant fist-pumping outing, the band got nostalgic with an encore that included 2012’s high energy Down at The Peep Tempel and ended with Thank You Machiavelli.

“You’ve been absolutely amazing to us, thank you so much,” said a clearly emotional Scott. Calling long time manager/label owner Adam Gorton to the stage, the band gathered for a long group hug and bade us a teary goodbye. At least for now, The Peep Tempel have left the theatre.

Originally published in Beat Magazine.

Photograph by David Harris.

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