Back in 2016, a little R&B band called Vintage Trouble played to a few hundred fans on day three of Bluesfest. Word of their stunning set quickly spread, and when their second show of the weekend rolled around on day five that bundle of fans, aka "Troublemakers," had ballooned into a tent packed newcomers, eager to see the wildly energetic band they'd heard so much about. Boy did they deliver, so much so that Bluesfest brought them back for round two one year later, with a Sydney sideshow thrown in the day before.
Watching Vintage Trouble in a venue that caps at around 400 people is something special. Sure they can blow the festival audiences away, but these guys are true, old school performers that don't depend on the glitz and glamour of blown-out production budgets. No screens, no fancy lights, no pyro, dancers or pre-recorded samples, just five debonair gentlemen (including one touring member on keys) draped in stylish 50s suits picking up the blues, soul and rock 'n' roll from where it left off over five decades ago.
Places like Oxford Art Factory, where the walls sweat and the stage is so low you can reach out and touch the musicians as they teeter on the edge of the crowd, are made for bands like Vintage Trouble and, come to think of it, Vintage Trouble are probably perfect for them too. It's the best kind of mutual understanding - give us a small stage and we'll make your place feel like a goddamn arena for 90 minutes, cool?
Standing before Sydney on Oxford Art's industrial-chic stage, the buzz among the Troublemakers was pure electricity, as everyone leaned in waiting to hear that first riff. When it hit, and frontman Ty Taylor's vocal chords screamed across the room, the buzz blew up into a wild party. See, Vintage Trouble know the secret to a great high- energy performance; once you start, don't stop. Don't let silence take hold for even a second, whether your busting out riffs, waxing lyrical between songs or, in Taylor's case, dancing, spinning and using the mic stand to horizontally leap while "Blues Hand Me Down" is blaring away, it's important to keep on going. Because when you're some lowly punter who wants to get away from it all for a couple of hours on a Wednesday, a Vintage Trouble show is so enthusiastic, you can't help but be inspired to put down your drink, grab the nearest person and dance the night away.
Taylor's awe-inspiring moves harked back a time when musicians had nothing to rely on but themselves, and even though Oxford Art was a little smaller than they're often used to, his toes touched every inch of the venue. The enthusiasm was infectious, every song raised the roof from the stomping, romping "Knock Me Out," to the delightfully laid back "Nobody Told Me." which has the most beautiful guitar tone of any Vintage Trouble tune. People jumped, people danced, people waved their arms back and forward under the guiding hand of Taylor, who's clean, pressed suit shifted to a shade of sweaty brown by the middle of the show.
He's a man born to entertain, a man that understands how to push peoples buttons. A man who stares down the room and smiles before throwing himself into a frenzy on stage, albeit an incredibly stylish frenzy that leaves everyone feeling envious. If Taylor doesn't inspire you to throw caution to the wind and just go nuts, then you're a soulless husk of a human (sorry, it sounds harsh, but it's true).
But while these guys may be bringing the retro style back to the mainstage, they aren't stuck in the past. Taylor's performance style takes more than a few nods from modern rock bands. Within two songs, he was collapsing into the audience, later on, he climbed onto the speakers. Then, as Nalle Colt's slide guitar signalled the start of "Run Like The River," he lead the crowd in claps and singalongs on stage and off, before clambering onto the sound desk for a mighty leap and crowd surf while everyone in the room screamed the chorus chant "run baby run!" Don't stop moving, not even for a second.
Every other track was interspersed with words of wisdom from Taylor, stories of love, family, friendship and mushroom trips in L.A. rolled off his tongue, while other somewhat serious topics alluded to racism and the sh**ty state of the modern world. "Troublemakers," he said, turning to address the crowd towards the end, "the world needs you to be rebels right now in a positive way!" Sydney seemed more than happy to oblige.
And they said yes because Vintage Trouble are one of those bands that exist to make people feel good. Their records and shows are there to break people out of whatever funk they've been stuck in for some time, and they're so damn good at it. For a couple of hours, a few hundred Sydneysiders forgot about the world outside Oxford Art Factory and threw themselves into the warm, enthusiastic embrace of Vintage Trouble, with concerns and just one goal in mind - to have fun. And when a full house finished the show by shamelessly thrusting towards the stage as Taylor held up his hand and sang "one, two, three push your pelvis with me," it was clear that Vintage Trouble had done their job.