The Medicine Dolls On Tour

The Medicine Dolls’ frontman Greg Allan is the most rock ‘n’ roll person I’ve ever met. Black Labels in hand, we propped up the bar for a bit before the first show of the debut tour, chatting about betrayal, drugs, selling EPs to eat and the price of beer in Cape Town. Greg looks like a lost member of The Cure and, ever fashion-conscious, his look is incomplete without a teased black halo of hair and a lacy white garter wrapped around his black-leather-clad thigh.

Since The Anti-Retro Vinyls split up, he’s moved to the Mother City and refashioned The Nasty Narcotics as The Medicine Dolls. They’ll be touring SA until 4 December and I suggest you see them, because they’re very good, and because the money they make at the door pays for their accommodation.

Their Loose Change EP was promising with its throwbacks to 70s British punk and hard rock, but the show itself met and exceeded expectations with ripping feedback and post-punk grunge. The little teenage-punk inside me was over the moon. The show was a little like what I imagine it must have been like in those first 100 Club gigs in 1976: raw, sweaty and joyful. The crowd danced and sang, clutching each other and also occasionally Greg, jumping on an off stage. There was even a three-man mosh. Abidingly clear is that Greg Allan’s raw talent in both music and performance shapes and directs the show and their sound.

The Medicine Dolls have what every garage band wish they had: a charismatic frontman, drummer Anro Femurs is a human metronome with a wicked sense of humour and the bassist is a beautiful woman. Much like The Clash’s origin story, Bex Nicholas couldn’t play bass when she joined. Greg made sure she could keep time and taught her, like Mick Jones teaching Paul Simonon. Or so Greg says. Every story of his has a hint of fantasy.

The set was a mix of new tracks off the Loose Change EP and other odds and ends, including a cover of The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand“. “Girls and Poison” was met with particular appreciation from the crowd, though I was looking forward to more of Bex’s vocal work. One of the best things about punk is that it marries industrial soundscapes with occasional tenderness, and Greg and Bex pull that off effortlessly.

The Medicine Dolls don’t sound like anyone else on the SA music scene right now and that’s not an accident. They recall influences like The Sex Pistols, The Clash and New York Dolls when the current styles are preppy and up-beat. “Everyone is doing the Two Door Cinema club thing but what we do goes way back,” Greg explains. “Scenes change, the bubble pops.” Post-punk is not dead.

You can catch them in Durban on 26 November, Pietermaritzburg on 29 November, Vryheid on 30 November, Joburg on 2 December, Pretoria on 3 December and they’re finishing off the tour in Edenvale on 4 December.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *