Theatre of Gnomes

Don’t get me started about Tumbleweed. Theatre of Gnomes, their first major release, was a five track EP. Enough said. Ask anyone who’s from Wollongong if they’ve heard of Tumbleweed. Then ask them if they’ve heard Theatre of Gnomes. If the answer’s yes, you’ve just discovered a true ‘Weed fan. And of course it was great big dumb Ramones-style stoner rock but hey, Tumbleweed did it well. Stand-out track for me on this release would have to be the epic closer “Shakedown”, whose final few blasted minutes of instrumental chaos and tension represent the zenith of Wollongong music. A friend of mine once told me that a journalist had described the Gong as “the Athens of the South” – ie, a musical scene similar in size to that of Athens, Goergia. And who comes from Athens? That’s right, REM. And the B52s. And bugger all else. Wollongong’s a bit like that too. There’s Tumbleweed and that’s it. They were an incredible live act. I got kicked in the head at their 1993 Big Day Out performance at the Hordern Pavilion, and spent a not altogether unpleasant day wandering around slightly concussed. Apparently they’re all suffering the effects of industrial deafness now. Wollongong’s like that too. For all my cynicism though, the music scene in Wollongong did become, in the mid 1990s at least, quite healthy, thanks largely to the members of Tumbleweed themselves, particularly – help me here, the Curly brothers? were they both in the band? One of them started recording bands down at the Youth Centre anyway, and the number of visiting international bands increased dramatically around that time too. I saw Bikini Kill down there, in what used to be the Art Gallery. It was quite ferocious. Anyway, I still remember the day me and my sister were driving down Burelli Street and “Shakedown” came on the radio. It was her favourite track too. Unfortunately, just when the instrumental part began (ie just when it was getting to the good bit), the DJ faded it out. And thus did Tumbleweed fade also, from my memory, as well as Wollongong’s.

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