On paper it was a win-win: Tropical Fuck Storm, an experimental band with a cult following, performing a live soundtrack to the Coen brothers’ award-winning 2007 neo-Western film No Country For Old Men in the University of Adelaide’s Bonython Hall.
The film, adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel, boasts a minimalistic soundtrack, bar 16 minutes of mostly singing Buddhist bowls.
That raised the question of how the band might punctuate the dialogue of the film’s star-studded cast – including Tommy Lee Jones as the sheriff and cowboy Josh Brolin – or enhance the spine-tingling chases in the Texan dessert and scenes of violence in various motels.
Ultimately, the four-piece performed so little, or arguably so well, we often forgot they were there.
The film was bookended with the band’s most noteworthy moments. As it began, the quartet built a track of mostly jangly guitars and drumming, and as the final credits rolled, audiences were grateful when guitarist Gareth Liddiard turned his electric guitar towards the ceiling and dragged his fingers wildly up and down the neck.
In the two hours in between, pockets of the film’s humour were punctuated by synthesisers, purposefully cracked beer cans, and loud smacks on the toms by drummer Lauren Hammel which reminded us we were still watching a live band (albeit on incredibly uncomfortable wooden seats).
Liddiard says on the website of Hear My Eyes, which helped produce the live show, that he was grateful Tropical Fuck Storm could drag out some of their “horde of crazy musical instruments and audio equipment” for the performance.
This reviewer was left wondering why we couldn’t hear those instruments, or maybe the band did use them and we didn’t notice. Perhaps the point of this RCC experience is to forget you’re watching a band in the vainglorious sense, and just to enjoy the experience.
We only wished we saw and heard more.
No Country For Old Men + Tropical Fuck Storm was presented at Bonython Hall for two nights only, on Friday and Saturday.
See more 2020 Adelaide Fringe and Adelaide Festival stories and reviews here.