An afternoon with Ukulele Death Squad

On a humble Sunday afternoon, Adelaide was treated to Ukulele Death Squad hosting an epic event at Elder Hall. They were accompanied on stage by artists from far and wide, and all with plenty of stories to tell, such as LA Stripped from our sleepy town of Adelaide, and Ukulele Russ, from the even-sleepier town of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Opening the night of music, and the first of three acts for the afternoon was LA Stripped, a solo ukulele player who warmed up the crowd for the artists that followed. He played ‘Summer of 69’ as the closing song, which was a sure-fire hit with the crowd. He was a clearly older bloke but dressed up in a wig to appear more youthful, I’m sure his performance would have been perceived perhaps just as good even if he ditched the silly costume, the man had great talent, but the get up was all a part of his charm.

Ukulele Russ came on next, kicking off the show with intense ukulele solos, played to precision at an incredibly high speed. All notes blended perfectly together and combined with great storytelling moments about his life back home in Alaska, which kept the audience thoroughly entertained. He played a mix of covers and humorous original songs, about things like single ply toilet paper and bears. He performed a hilarious rendition of Cher’s ‘Believe’, which was another highlight of the man-from-afar’s performance, in which Russ made an example of just how cool auto tune on voice can be. A great one-man-band, he comfortably switched between instruments and gadgets, such as his loop pedal, a vocal processor, an electric bass ukulele, and many more whacky devices. His final song for the set was a bit risqué and on the sexier side of things. It was barely PG, but acceptable, and was followed by a great applause and the entire crowd surely feeling satisfied in more ways than one.

Finally, after a short intermission, Ukulele Death Squad hit the stage with vigour and enthusiasm. They played a wide array of songs throughout their set, such as ‘Rue Royale’ – a fun sing along that got the whole crowd involved, and later a Nick Cave song, featuring the wonderfully talented Ashlee Randell of The Coconut Kids, who also joined them for another song thereafter although playing on the trombone in addition to her lovely voice. The band left the stage briefly while only the bassist remained before the crowd and treated the audience to a mournful and touching rendition of a traditional Irish folk song, demonstrating his immense and broad vocal talent handed down to him from generations past. The band then came back to the stage and performed their new hit single ‘Not Afraid’, which blew the crowd away, and left me wondering what following bangers will emerge from these lads in the future.

Their final song was a little risqué, but very entertaining, with a group of burlesque dancers who shimmied and teased the audience, all the while wearing cheeky smiles. Although the dancers were a little shocking at times to some of the older members of the audience, with cheeky panty flashes and butt wiggles, even the most uptight members of the audience seemed to be having a giggle, or at least smiling subtly.

An encore shortly followed of two songs, after the crowd eagerly tapped their feet in growing anticipation for more bang for their buck... shoes cladded against the solid wooden floors in strong demand for just a bit more. Ukulele Death Squad did not disappoint. They closed off the true final song with a slow and passionate lock of the lips of members Ben Roberts and Julian Ferguson, which aroused a huge round of applause and laughter from the audience.

Overall, the whole show made for a lovely Sunday afternoon, full of laughter and great music. The venue was neat and tidy, and the staff were all very friendly and helpful. The merch table was very well stocked, with all sorts of goodies, ranging from t-shirts to Ukuleles, and all at a reasonable price. All of the artists performed exceptionally well, and I, as well as many other members of the audience, highly anticipate their return.

I’d give this performance 4.5/5 Ukuleles – A very entertaining afternoon.

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