The Babe Rainbow

The Babe Rainbow photo by Peter Rea


Trips to this small converted terraced house in the heart of Studentsville are becoming quite a regular occurrence for me. They continue to host a production line of talented and fresh new bands, a lot of whom are locally based. It’s a cold and dark foggy night, like one you’d see in old adaptations of Sherlock Holmes novels. Australian psychedelic 60’s surf hippies The Babe Rainbow may well be wishing they were back on the picturesque gold coast of Byron Bay right now – hopefully they can temporarily transport us there with their sound.

Locals Fruit Tones support; this 3-piece rattle through a happy-go-lucky garage rock set not dissimilar to The Black Lips, and impress with their individual musical skills. The left handed bassist very competently plays a right-handed bass, while the guitarist – when not singing like a happy Bob Dylan bathed in heavy reverb – effortlessly glides through a series of exhilarating solos. As when I saw them at Manchester Psych Fest II almost a year ago, I’m just shy of really liking this band. I don’t know what it is, but something is missing. I’m sure they have what it takes to eventually take it to the next level. A song that may contain the lyrics “streaks in my hair”, and another that ends with a lot of “Ahhhh ahhhh”ing stood out, for me (if that helps).

This 60 capacity venue is now full, and the drummer/singer is on form. A lengthy soundcheck brings out his dry antipodean wit – ‘if you’ve never heard of us before, we’re going to play some old and some new songs… and if you have heard of us before, we’re still going to play some old and some new songs…’. Eventually, they resort to just playing for a while and no one is sure if they’ve started for real or not. The gig continues like this. Angus Dowling, Kool Breeze and Dr. Elliot Love-Wisdom are incredibly laid-back, describing Manchester as “cool as” between tunes that ebb and flow from chilled bluesy grooves to danceable wah-wah disco riffs.

Their ‘first song’ is apparently a new one, and contains the lyrics “sing a song…”. I think maybe he’s making it up as he goes? The bassist and guitarist keep playing. Song twos lyrics are “bla bla bla bla bla bla…” (repeat to fade). I get the feeling this whole thing is being drunkenly improvised. The crowd don’t mind, most of us are dancing along and enjoying it anyway.

‘Planet Junior’ is recognisable and proves to be a highlight. “Here’s another blues one” – backing vocals of “quack quack” and “give it up” accompany a tune that grinds almost to a halt in the middle, but finishes strongly. My notes are becoming just as incoherent as this gig is. I’ve written ‘boogie’ and ‘wobbly guitar’, as well as ‘swing swing’, ‘surf-ish’ and ‘trance’.

They somewhat cover Lipps-Incs ‘Funky Town’, without the annoying synth part, and replace the words with “the drummer’s just so cool” and some mutterings about someone called Johnny. Eventually, the joke starts to wear thin and the set peters out after personal favourite ‘Secret Enchanted Broccoli Forest’. “We’re The Beach Boys, thanks for coming.”

If you read interviews with the band, they are indeed weird. I believe there will be an album out next year and I like them enough to buy it, but this gig has left me perplexed. I didn’t really know what was going on. For most part, the guitars and drums sounded great. The rest of it…. ?

 The Babe Rainbow  Official | Facebook | Bandcamp

Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.