By: Andrea Renney, Arts Editor
Babe Rainbow is from Byron Bay, Australia, and they certainly sound like it. Their brand of psychedelic rock evokes feelings of summertime, surfing, and sunshine. This aesthetic might be more commonly associated with Southern California in the ‘70s, but I suppose the sunny climate in Australia lends itself to the same kind of music. Regardless of where they come from, Babe Rainbow makes music that’s perfectly nostalgic. It’s psych rock, but it’s also disco, surf, funk, and soul. Music to do acid to, if you will. Alternatively, music to see live at the Fox Cabaret on a chilly November night.
The Fox is one of several intimate, funky venues in Mount Pleasant. It’s been on Main Street since 1983, and it has a colourful history: until 2013, it was actually an adult film theatre known as the Fox Cinema. The Fox reopened (this time as the Fox Cabaret) in 2014 after major renovations, transforming it into a performance venue known for showcasing live music, comedy, and weekly dance parties. Despite the venue’s change of clientele, the decor is still reminiscent of the seventies, with a black and red color scheme and questionable shag carpet on the walls.
I arrived at the Fox shortly after the opening act, Fever Feel, finished up. It was unclear to me if this was Babe Rainbow’s first time in Vancouver, but the sold-out crowd suggested it wasn’t. That, or we Vancouverites just crave music that takes us away to somewhere warmer.
Numerous people in the tightly-packed crowd were already wearing the band’s t-shirts sold at the merch table: pale blue or orange, with “Babe Rainbow” printed in small black velvet lettering. Simple, but effective. Others had clearly dressed up for the occasion: floral, paisley, and corduroy peppered the scene as we waited for the band to go on.
Around 10:30 p.m., Babe Rainbow took the stage. The band’s overall appearance fit in perfectly with the Fox’s vintage vibes: the lead singer was decked out in enviable red bell-bottom pants, the drummer donned a fashionable headscarf, and the guitarist had the most luscious long blond curls I have ever seen.
Right from the get go, they had the crowd dancing throughout the venue. The vocals sounded a bit muffled, but the band’s groovy melodies more than made up for it. Standout songs from the night included “Peace Blossom Boogy” and “Johny Says Stay Cool,” both from 2017’s The Babe Rainbow. The extended instrumental breaks in a lot of their songs gave us even more of a chance to really get down.
What sets Babe Rainbow apart from similar psych/surf rock bands is the clear disco influence in some of their songs, such as the aptly-named “Monky Disco.” It’s a unique sound to hear today, but it’s a refreshing take on the trend of ‘60s and ‘70s-inspired music. A song like “Morning Song,” on the other hand, sounds like it could’ve been sung by The Grateful Dead at Woodstock. Apparently, rock and roll and disco can exist in harmony.
The band played for about an hour; just long enough to transport us to a sunny locale and a different era. Here’s hoping these feelings of peace and love last until spring.