Friday 15 April 2016
The Beards are a novelty rock act from Adelaide who sing about facial hair. They are both funny and musically interesting, making them comparable to other bands like Tenacious D and Flight of the Conchords. One difference though, is that The Beards only have one joke, and that joke is that every song is about beards. Only beards. Beards, beards, beards. Somehow they’ve managed to stretch that joke across four albums and 11 years of playing together as a band.
You’ll think that they’re either idiots or geniuses, depending upon your stance on beards. They sure are dedicated to their theme, but the joke could get tired quickly if you’re not into it. I think they do brilliantly to keep the same joke fresh and varied, and there is no denying that they play well and put on an entertaining show.
For their first set they treated us to a “classy” semi-acoustic performance, dressed in formal wear and perched on stools at the front of the stage. It wasn’t full throttle, but this didn’t stop the crowd singing along at full volume. The highlight of this set was “The Beard Accessory Store”, partly because of its rousing nature, and partly because the lyrics were so repetitive that anyone who wasn’t familiar with the band was able to join in the singalong after a few lines. Another treat was a cover of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man”, because obviously if The Beards were to cover any other band, it’d have to be ZZ Top – the band with the two best beards in rock, and to top that: a drummer named Frank Beard.
The second set was more energetic, with the full rock band set up. They may be a comedy act, but the members of the band can still play well. There were vocal harmonies and guitar solos aplenty. Some less conventional instruments like keytar and kazoo made appearances, and even saxophone got added to the mix fairly often.
I saw The Beards play at Bodega last time they played in Wellington, and had wondered if it was just going to be a repeat of last time. Thankfully, the banter between sets seemed spontaneous, unlike last time, which was funny, but clearly rehearsed. They introduced a new segment called “Beard Facts”, complete with a jingle that the band had composed during sound check that day. The band immersed themselves in their onstage personas, using the pseudonyms Johann Beardraven, John Beardman Jr, Nathaniel Beard, Facey McStubblington. They encouraged the audience to stroke their beards, and even invited especially hairy member onstage to be presented with a prize of signed posters of the band (in various stage of undress).
Most of the crowd were in on the joke. I guess anyone who didn’t get it would have left fairly quickly. There were many burly men with fine facial foliage, and some of the girls in attendance had crafted fake beards out of wool, so kudos to them for effort. One man with long dreadlocks had tied them across his face to feign a beard, and a few guys sported some costume style fake beards.
Disappointingly, both the merch guy and the stage hand were clean-shaven. But the band explained themselves: “We couldn’t have bearded men serving us! That wouldn’t be right! But it’s fine to have someone who shaves doing the manual labour!” Members of the crowd kept buying rounds of tequila for the band. When that got to much for them, they gave a shot to their roadie, before promptly “firing” him for drinking on the job.
The Beards are a polarising band. You’ll either think that they are incredibly lame, or incredibly good. I side with the latter opinion. Rousing rock songs, sensational solos, brilliant banter and a funny material all combine to make one hell of an entertaining night. It’s amazing that the band managed to last 11 years when so few people took them serious, and I applaud them for ending on such a high.
Throw away your razor and make sure to go and see The Beards play on their final tour if you get a chance.