At primary school I suffered with recurring nightmares about being naked in public places.
The most common situation is where I would be waiting for the school bus in the nuddy while all other students wore their uniforms. In another I would be at the inter-school swimming carnival and be buff on the blocks. Occasionally I would be doing the 3.5 mile cemo run around Karrakatta cemetery and find myself in the lead but completely free of clothes. I would have to throw the race and cower behind a gravestone until the sports masters found me. I sought therapy from my parents who inspired me to face my fears and nude up at every opportunity (it felt a bit weird when we all did it together and I soon started going solo) stripping down at parties and skidding across a soaped up floor has been a highlight, although nude surfing just outside the flags was good wholesome fun (until getting chased off the beach by angry clubbies). Nude dancing at night clubs was a risky game.
Imagine then my sense of anticipation at seeing a band that dared to get naked with their Rickenbecker guitars and incite their fans to do the same. Day two of Splendour in the Grass 2019 billed The Nude Party (Nudes) early in the G W McLennan tent. The Nudes started their formative years playing house parties while at the Appalachian State University in Boone North Carolina. As front man Patton Magee recalls “we used to require a lot of alcohol to reach a level of disinhibition that allowed us to put on a wild show. The nudity played a part in that. That stuff had its drawbacks, though, particularly as we would often f**k songs up monstrously.”
The Nudes move onto stage 20 minutes early honing their instruments with immaculate precision. As the start time approaches they look a little nervously towards the crowd of only four or five people. “We are the Nude Party and we have travelled a long way to get here!” implores Shaun Couture willing people into the tent. They start with Stampede and fittingly the punters stampede towards the jangling guitars of this spaghetti western of a song. Western twang is the style of the first part of the set with atmospheric guitars and a very tight rhythm section with often underscored vocals. By Astral Man the sextet are hitting their straps and moving imperceptibly into psychedelic surf rock. Feels Alright is one of the highlights of their first LP and live they take it further with everyone pushing their stage performance to a chaotic level.
The twin harmonies of Coulure and Castillo on guitar/bass house-left and then Merrill and Brose on organ/congas house-right gives the stage the shambolic appearance from their earlier naked house party days. But don’t be deceived. This is a band playing complex rhythms developed over many years of jamming together. They are an unshakable brotherhood of rhythm. Feel is essentially infectious southern swamp rock but Magee’s lyrics give it a spooky edge, referencing nuclear disaster which his generation will inherit from previous generations. Water On Mars is another blinder of a song with guitars and percussion showcasing the Nudes fully integrated sound, “My mind’s a spigot and I’m starting to dig it.” They close with Chevrolet Van a rollicking bluesy honky tonk of a song dedicated to flicking the bird at anyone who cares to get in the way of their musical ambitions. And flick it they did with some of the best musical swagger seen at Splendour . As it’s no longer possible to get naked with The Nude Party, I’m going out and buying a Chevy and driving naked down the freeway with FEELS ALRIGHT blasting from my car stereo.