The one guarantee of the night at a rockabilly gig is a good lookin’ crowd. Quiffs, perfectly pressed turned-up denim and endless trails of eyeliner shouldn’t lend themselves to a sweaty, heaving crowd but they do when the Polecats visit Dublin. For the first gig in the new room at the Mercantile it’s all going rather swimmingly. The venue is narrow but nicely laid out, “like a zip file of the Voodoo Lounge” as one person put it. A floor level stage area gives nose-to-nose access to the performers and the sound, controlled from a desk behind what looks like four wooden Georgian doors, is excellent for the most part, coping better with the Polecats than the two support acts.
The Hot Sprockets get a solid welcome, they’re liked by the crowd and do a decent job of getting a bop going. The second support, the Blame, are a New York punk/rock and roll band who posture and pose but just make a lot of unintentionally indecipherable noise. The between song banter mentions homeless people, growing up in New York and general talk of mean streets but a song named after the Big Apple itself sounds like a drunk child doing a Guns and Roses cover.
The back of the room hosts a bar and a seating area which clear as soon as Tim Polecat, a velvet clad reincarnation of Malcolm McLaren, approaches the microphone. People shove towards the front but it settles quickly as the band kick off with their cover of ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’. The Polecats have been around since the late 70s, albeit with a slightly different line up, but their ease and enjoyment of the songs and each other has never faded to contempt. Tim Worman, the lead singer, is bendy and vibrant on the small stage and draws the crowd in, pulling a girl in to him for a twirl and giving life to every song. Phil Bloomberg on double bass throws sly winks to the crowd and really impresses.
The songs are faultless and all crowd pleasers. ‘Black Widow’ and ‘Little Pig’ inspire word perfect singing from the audience and ‘All Night Long’ has everyone roaring “you can’t rock, you can’t roll, you’re too square, you’re too old” back in the faces of a fifty-something year old singer.
They finish the night with ‘Make A Circuit With Me’, their “biggest international hit” as it was picked up by Pixar for Wall-E promotions. That’s of no relevance to the fans in Dublin though, no-one’s here because they heard of the Polecats in a film trailer, there’s a long standing love affair with them and the band know how to keep re-kindling it with a popular set.
Photos by Ian Keegan.