Something for Kate

Starring Paul Dempsey's Tantrum

The guitar was in flight. It sailed across the stage, making an angry turn in the air, before a hand reached out and miraculously caught it. The crowd fell momentarily silent. If you’d entered The Metro at that very moment, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Something for Kate’s frontman, Paul Dempsey, had just pulled off a well-planned stunt. But, if you’d been there moments earlier and had seen SFK fire into ‘Survival Expert’, and then seen Dempsey unplug his poorly tuned guitar mid-song and then hurl it offstage in anger, you’d know that it wasn’t a stunt but, instead, the tantrum of a frustrated musician, who was lucky to have a roadie with great hand-eye co-ordination by his side.

When Dempsey’s outburst was done, he launched his bandmates into “Anarchitect”. The tension and, undoubtedly, the humiliation of what he'd just done, saw Dempsey attack the song with such velocity that it felt almost brutal. It did nothing to calm the awkward tension in the room.

Some fans continued to cheer the band along. Others, however, fell into shocked silence, or laughed in embarrassment, or booed Dempsey intermittently throughout the remainder of the gig.

Perhaps Dempsey should've taken a note from support act Courtney Barnett's book. With her laid back slacker-rhythm-pop, Barnett was her always charming and disarmingly honest self. More importantly, she (and her brilliant band) remained calm and in good-humour when they, too, encountered technical problems. Dempsey has a couple of decades of industry experience on Ms Barnett, but all that time seems to have dampened and soured the frontman.

There is no denying that SFK are an institution in the Australian rock scene. Musically, their set that night proved that their work stands the test of time. Dempsey’s vocals were as good as they’ve ever been: heartache and genuine desperation seared through ‘Private Rain’.

It should've been a night to remember. SFK have been absent from the touring circuit for over five years, and it should've been their glorious re-entry into hearts and minds of their Sydney fans. For loyal types, perhaps it was exactly that. But for others, it will go down as a gig scarred by tantrum.

That's precisely the power, and the danger, of live music. It can sway or dissuade your audience from being fans. Live performance puts a face to the music, and unfortunately for Something for Kate that night, the face wasn't too pretty.
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