Instrumental Asylum At Pure Pop

Pure Pop is the classic indie record store on Barkly St in St Kilda, Melbourne. The shelves are crammed with an intriguing mix of CD and album sleeves. The walls covered in signed posters from bands who have played live gigs past. There’s even some you might have heard of. The floor scattered with a few orange vinyl kitchen chairs and what seem to be empty kegs with cushion covers fitted on top. All under dim industrial lighting, and some hazy coloured spots. The eye catches on oddities and curiosities on the walls – everything from iconic compilation Ripper ’76, to legendary vinyl from The Birthday Party, something that might be Serge Gainsbourg alongside Martha And The Muffins. On one shelf there’s a Dark Side Of The Moon coffee mug, next to one bearing Nirvana’s defunct smiley face. Amongst the CDs you might see Ice Ice Baby, as well as the Go-Betweens. The latest Beatles Re-Mastered Box Set, or a slightly gritty feeling cover of Tom Waits’ Swordfish Trombones. On the floor leaning on the wall are some dubious portraits in black and red of departed Oz rock legends Bon Scott and Lobby Loyde. Out the back there’s a plank bar with a few taps and an old graffitied fridge. The smokey darkness is given a wash of blue and green and red by a string of coloured light globes, and it kind of feels like a teenager’s garage club-house that’s gotten right out of hand, and what could be more rock n roll than that?

The front picture window forms the main stage, lit brightly from behind by the 7-11 opposite and the glare of passing traffic. The band playing is Ben Rogers’ Instrumental Asylum – a jazz influenced 60s surf guitar three piece, which seems a little incongruous given that the venue has a definite 80s punk into 90s grunge vibe, and the back bar seems mostly to be inhabited by young urbane hipsters with non-committal beards or $400 dreadlocks. However, the narrow few feet of corridor that forms the shop floor is crowded with a colourful mixture of old fans who keeping the 60s alive, and an odd few naive young people, bopping along.

The band is Ben Rogers on guitar, Nikki Scarlett on bass and Denis Close on drums. Classic surf guitar wails and twangs and has enough echo and distortion to keep the aural receptors cruising, while the insistent beat behind it makes moving the feet near imperative. There’s a very comfortable energy there, a lively nostalgia that had several velvet clad grey haired rockers hitting the floor, while passing young people, enticed by reverb, couldn’t help but enter the open door to join them for a bit of a twirl.

A new buzz on jazz classics from Duke Ellington and Django Reinhart had the more musically educated intrigued, while a surf’s up version of Strawberry Fields, that dropped into Penny Lane as a coda, had everyone smiling. Clever, and with a playful kitschiness. I half expected to hear Ghost Riders In The Sky, or the theme from Our Man Flint. Some tracks seemed pure surf, think The Shadows or Dick Dale, others had a definite echo of country, even of yodel. More subtle than something like Focus’s Hocus Pocus, or Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Hoedown, but unless all that reverb has me hearing things, definitely there. Has anyone ever hot-dogged on The Grand Coulee Dam or Lake Geneva? They have now.

Click to check out more about Ben Rogers’ Instrumental Asylum.

Buy their most recent album Instrumentally Disturbed on iTunes

Ben Rogers’ Instrumental Asylum are playing on

Saturday 26 April 2013  6.00 – 8.00pm
Pure Pop Records
,  221 Barkly St, St Kilda.