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10 Things I learned while at a TISM Concert.

TISM (This Is Serious Mum) is an iconic Oz rock band with real attitude. They have been confronting audiences for 22ish years and I have been a fan for ages. When a friend told me they were touring, I decided it was time to see them again.

the proof of the pudding

I had last seen TISM in Festival Hall (may she rest in peace) with The Fauves and Regurgitator. My ears bled for 2 days after that gig.

Anyway, a mate and I trotted off to The Arena in the lovely Fortitude Valley strip-club district to partake of a TISM pilgrimage. We shared a sacred space with Ron Hitler-Barassi, Humphrey B Flaubert, Les Miserables, Jock Cheese (a 7 piece band with no drummer!) and others. As a long-time TISM Victim (fans call themselves this) , I took time to reflect on the gig:

  1. Youth culture is not owned exclusively by the young.
    I am unsure if this is common but it surprised me to see such a range of ages at this gig and that is terrific to see. A few past-students spotted me, those who knew me well enuff were not surprised to see me there, others were beside themselves. I must admit to a little trepidation going, merely because I had not been to The Arena before, nor that part of the Valley on a Saturday night, but it was all good. I like my music loud and angry at times and it amuses me when people assume a musical taste based on a person of my age.

  2. Research on the Internet reveals surprising results.
    In trying to find out when to turn up for the gig, I researched the 2 support bands ('Monster Zonk' and 'Blowhard'). Innocently Googling on 'Blowhard' produced some startling results, few of the 10 million or so pages had much to do with music though. 'Blowhard' are a ska/punk fusion band with a really tight brass section and they rocked (even though the overweight, mohawked, chemically enhanced lead singer was wearing nothing but a paper napkin and half a caterers-brand roll of cling-film). We caught most of their set, but passed on 'Monster Zonk' as the first act, doing cake and coffee first (yeah, I know, we shoulda done the cocaine, hooker and a kebab, but ...).

  3. Dancing like a dickhead is legitimate and stage-diving and crowd-surfing will not be tolerated unless....
    Yee gods, this band must be a roadies nightmare - high maintenance is not even close. They punish themselves on stage with such levels of energy and, after whipping the crowd into an angsty furor with songs like "I'll Have ya!" and "Sid Viscous" willingly chuck themselves off stage onto an adoring crowd who literally tear them to shreds. Thrusting, leaping and the equivalent of synchronised swimming on land comes close to describing their dance style, with elements of "mashed potato", "twist" and year 10 gym class thrown in, one is exhausted just watching them. It looks like they have enormous fun and that is reflected in their music. ...see 5.

  4. Australians can cope with clever satire, but love the idiot chorus.
    For those of you who are lyrically challenged, TISM are known for a witty libretto or two - they are clever linguists who mock everyone and poke fun at everything including themselves. Die-hard fans know every word but everyone joins in choruses designed to be sung whilst chemically 'enhanced' - "Death, Death, Death, Amway, Amway, Amway" and "I drive a truck" along with "I'm on the drug that killed River phoenix". Something to offend everyone is their charter but the mix is fresh and interesting - even if the riffs are cliche r&r. "T-I-S-M-A-R-E tism are shit, tism are shit..." is still ringing in my ears (or is that tinitus?).

  5. Balaclavas do suit social situations and nudity on a cold night can be fun.
    One TISM trademark is the anonymity that is afforded by the balaclava - all members have remained publically anonymous. This gig they were decked out in white lurex top to tail - sporting stickey-uppey-sign-blazoned balaclavas with "John", "Paul", "John", "George", "John","Ringo" and "John" that must have been really uncomfortable. They suffer for their art. A TISM gig involves audience participation and the quest to claim a balaclava is legendary - each stage dive resulted in different bits of their costumes being torn from them with Les Miserables (I think it was him, they all look alike to me) ending up completely nude. A considerate roadie jammed a fresh balaclava on when he was fished out of the seething audience but self-consciousness was lost in the moment. It was clearly a cold night but a good time was had by all. There is a special leap of faith involved with chucking yourself into a crowd, one would imagine this is doubly so when nude - anonymity is powerful.

  6. Poetry is Power.
    Where else but a TISM gig would a poem receive fevered applause? Biting satirical poetry has always featured strongly in the social commentary that is a TISM albun - some of the most amazing ranting and outrageous rhymes are wrapped up in political statements, blatant opinion and wild inaccuracy and it is truly compelling. Add a good dose of swearing and yobs, wankers and the rest of us cannot get enough. Why cannot English Teachers learn that poetry can be a living hugely enjoyable thing (Rappers know this also)?

  7. Passive smoking is hard work.
    Pubs and Clubs are the last bastion of the smoker. As a fervent non-smoker, atmosphere so thick with smoke of various types that you could cut it with a knife is not fun. Add a hazer (smoke machine used on-stage so you can see the 'shafts' of light emanating from the lighting rig) and you have an unbreathable mixture. I am still coughing up fur-balls.

  8. Intimate live venues are a commodity to be cherished.
    Local bands need places to play - they cannot fill places like the Entertainment Centre (nor, i would guess, could they afford to hire it). Flea pits like The Arena and The Zoo are some of the last 'intimate' venues left that are cheap enough to play at yet large enough to actually contain an audience. When will the council wake up and see that there is a need to provide these sort of venues, and that you should not have to risk life and limb to journey to them, nor dodge the pools of vomit and used syringes to get in. Accessibility is a real issue in these venues where there is standing-room only which means that wheelies and others take their life into their own hands even considering attending - this is double-plus uncool and needs to be addressed.

  9. Proof of ID is a requirement - thinking is outside my job specification!
    One has to laugh. I mentioned earlier that oldies like myself were at the gig - the bouncer at the door had a clear brief - stop underage kiddies by insisting on Photo ID. One poor punter (olde enuff to be my dad) was pulled up in front of us because he had not brought his drivers license ... sheesh! I thought it a rare treat to be asked for ID before i was allowed in - and amused by the monosyllabalic justification from a guy who was hired because he looked frightening enough to be effective in that job... you get that I suppose.

  10. We are all little kids at heart.
    TISM were great fun for a whole bunch of reasons IWHO. Bottom line, who doesn't like grown-ups engaging in gratuitous swearing, being rude and nude and seeming to thoroughly enjoying themselves on stage. These guys are no longer younguns - even basic temporal maths suggest they have been recording for over 20 years so must be in their 40s. Their ability to make fun of everything, including themselves, is refreshing. That they still know how to play to an audience, and that audience represents a wide range of types is to be celebrated, and that they return for an encore only when their adoring audience start up the chant "TISM are wankers, clap clap, clap clap clap" means this little black duck takes off his hat and dons his balaclava to the band.

What do you think?

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I'm another old TISM victim. Worse still, I am female. Even though I 
have a husband and two kids I still want to root them all! (Joking.) 
Every year I resolve to get over them, but after fifteen years its 
almost getting worse. Anyway, I emailed them on Saturday morning and 
suggested that put on a matinee for all the mum-fans because staying up 

till midnight would almost kill me. No response obviously.
I enjoyed you page. I love finding sites hosted by young TISM tragics.

<wonko>email address witheld naturally, chuffed to be called young</wonko>

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