Words | Nicholas Kennedy
The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, 20/10/18
Donny Benét – or, ‘The Don’ – has a real tight-rope-walking shtick about him. He’s a kind of groovy sleazebag with a heart of gold, the uncle at the family gathering who rocks up in an old beater Dodge and gives you a cigarette, or something to that effect. His mid-thirties hairline and dad-bod physique transmit the idea of someone who middle manages by day, but performs Tom Jones covers by night – which is exactly how Benét spent his time before the release of his debut album in 2011.
With a background in Italian disco and the hammier side of the ’80s (unless, of course, nothing escapes that description), The Don achieves a zen of tongue-in-cheek disco stylings with a healthy dash of sexual sincerity. He’ll remind you of Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo if they were fronted by Duke Silver, and I mean that in the best possible way.
However, this is a gig review, so support act run-downs are in order. I Know The Chief are every jock dude that also played guitar that you ever knew. Their sound borrows heavily from stuff that Miami Horror were putting out back in 2010 (one of their songs is just called Miami): all sun-drenched bravado and fuzzy synthesizers, but with that same weakness in the style/substance ratio. It’s easy enough stuff to listen to, and they do a cover of Music Sounds Better with You which I’ll always abide, but they’re a bit too ‘Yeah, the boys’ for my taste. Comments like “Saturday is for the boys” and “Strap yourselves in” sent my eyes rolling out of my head, past security, and down the street.
Next up, Zoe Fox & The Rocket Clocks, who seem to have clued in to the selling power of a good costume.
The Bowie-esque star child chic is strong with these ones, in matching silver jumpsuits and spectacles. Zoe wears what I would only describe as a space power-suit, for the interplanetary corporate climber of the future. Ever heard that song Metanoia by MGMT? You should, it’s great – kinda threaded the needle between their first record and Siberian Breaks. But more to my point, Zoe Fox and her space whatsawhosits definitely have. Drawing on the same flower child roots of the ’60s and early ’70s, Fox and her cohort shimmied along to some admittedly low-key grooves, opting more for the aforementioned spaciness than any psych freak-outs.
Benét and band were revealed from a red stage curtain to the thump of Working Out, the opening track to Benét’s 2018 album The Don. Sax filled in on some key synthesizer parts, and the whole thing had the feel of the house band at an upscale venue letting their hair down. After jamming to the tune’s outro for a little, they switched straight into Love Online. I started to get the impression this set might be a front-to-back The Don affair, but it was followed by 2011’s Sophisticated Lover, gladly received by the crowd.
’80s ridiculousness is a well-worn road by this point – especially in 2018 where everything is borrowed – so if you’re familiar with any of Benét’s Sydney counterparts (Alex Cameron, Jack Ladder, or even Kirin J Callinan to a degree) you’re clued in to the wry, serious-but-is-it performance of a lot of these tracks. You’re Too Good was smooth and sensual, and Konichiwa, a crowd favourite, was received as such.
Donny Benét is a weird dude; he toes the same line of artists like the aforementioned Cameron but with a healthier dash of lovability, which makes him all the more welcoming. Also, it’s just kinda cool to see your dodgy uncle shred on the bass on a Saturday night.
Donny Benét still has three dates left on his Back Again tour; details below.
Thursday, 25th October
Mojo’s Bar, Fremantle
Friday, 26th October
Rosemount Hotel, Perth
Saturday, 27th October
Rocket Bar, Adelaide