Show Review: The Babe Rainbow & Claude Fontaine (The Casbah, 11/15/19)

The impossibly blond Babe Rainbow from Byron Bay, NSW once again brought the happiest dance party in town to a sold-out Casbah last Friday night. Hot on the heels of their surprise Beach Goth appearance and touring in support of their latest album Today out on Flightless Records, The Babe Rainbow laid down their unique brand of surf-tinged psychedelic pop with disco running through its veins. Despite no tickets available at the door, numerous hopefuls crowded around outside in hopes of scoring a coveted extra ticket from other concertgoers. When the full complement of ticket-holders failed to show up, however, the Casbah rather generously ensured the room was at full capacity once The Babe Rainbow was underway.

With a voice equally suited for reggae (think of the deep roots, rocksteady reggae of Trojan Records, of the deepest dubs born straight from the bass) and bossa nova (in the ol’ Tom Jobim’s “new wave” style, over the classical guitar work of João Gilberto), Claude Fontaine presented an unsuspecting audience with the sounds they had forgotten they loved.

Classic melodica and trumpet accompanied Ronnie McQueen’s resurrected roots bass lines, once synonymous with San Diego (nights at Bar Dynamite, days at Trade Roots) which some recognized, while others required some explanation. Mesmerized by the pulsing dub, the crowd swayed, enraptured, erupting in cheers when the beat wound down. Claude Fontaine pivoted with the guitarist’s seven-string to música popular brasileira, an altogether softer sound. As happens all too often, a few too many took it as an opportunity to converse, adding crowd drone to the mix. Thankfully, the enthusiasm of the front & center fans stayed with the band in the musical moment and their performance wavered not one bit.

As soon as it was time for the main event, The Babe Rainbow came out swinging, expanding to a quintet with the help of a non-blond on percussion and rainbow bells. Launching straight into crowd-pleasing favorites from their first self-titled album, the dance party quickly shifted into high gear, led by the undulations of Angus Dowling, the thoroughly adored front man.

At moments when Jack “Kool Breeze” Crowther’s guitar solos took over, Angus would retreat to the far corner of the stage, there to engage in libations and theatrics. Coupled with “Dr.” Elliot “Love Wisdom” O’Reilly’s boogie-licous basslines and the effortless timekeeping of fresh-faced youngster drummer, The Babe Rainbow kept their sold-out Casbah crowd movin’ and a-groovin’ to their retro sound. Songs from Double Rainbow and Today (their 2nd and 3rd albums), which ventured further into the folksy-er, hippie-er aspect of the band sound got a boost of adrenaline when played live! A few new songs appeared on the set list as well, prompting later questioning where it was revealed that a 4th album is already in the works, hot on the heels of Today. If the new tunes are any kind of metric, they represent a return to the hippie dance sound of their first album, which will keep bringing the crowds to the shows for sure!

Stay up to date with Claude Fontaine through the following social links and streaming services:
Facebook || Instagram || Bandcamp || Spotify || Soundcloud || Apple Music
Stay up to date with The Babe Rainbow through the following social links and streaming services:
Facebook || Instagram || Twitter || Youtube ||Bandcamp || Spotify ||Soundcloud || Apple Music || Flightless Records.

PHOTOS BY NARDA CROSSLEY

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