The Bamboos look back on ten of their all-time greatest gigs

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The Bamboos look back on ten of their all-time greatest gigs

Words by Lance Ferguson

Lead guitarist Lance Ferguson recounts some of his fondest memories on the road with the Melbourne funk outfit.

Considered by many within the local scene as a national treasure, you’d be drawing at straws to find a more hard-working band than The Bamboos.

For two decades, the Melbourne-based funk/soul outfit have brought their irresistible, tight-knit grooves to all corners of the globe, squeezing all ten members onstage together to deliver their inimitable live show to adoring audiences.

Despite the significant lack of touring that went down over the span of 2020, The Bamboos still kept a busy schedule, working remotely to put the finishing touches on their latest full-length release Hard Up. Released last week, the album stands out as yet another mammoth effort from the groove veterans, with performances being bolstered by a rock-solid rhythm section and classy brass flourishes.

In light of the album’s release, we linked up with The Bamboos’ lead guitarist and ensemble leader Lance Ferguson to hear about his most memorable gigs with the band from all around the world.

Splore Festival 2014 – New Zealand

The great thing about this festival is that the stage is set up right next to an idyllic, picturesque beach, so there is always a large contingent of the audience that are actually watching from in the water and on their boats.

Highlight: Dancing to DJ Shadow’s set and accidentally leaving our drummer asleep in the hotel shuttle bus for several roundtrips.

The Farmhouse – Belgium 2010

Our show was cancelled, but the passionate fan/promoter offered up their beautiful Belgian Farmhouse for us to hang out in and perform. We ate wonderful food, drank wine and played a private set for these good and generous folks!

Highlight: The super-cool 10-year old guitarist kid whose Psych band played support and blew us off the stage!

Wellington – New Zealand 2004

This was our first tour with Tru Thoughts label-mates Quantic and Alice Russell. We took the role of ‘The Quantic Soul Orchestra’ and played a few of our own songs in the set as well.

Highlight: A raucous on-the-move jam session in the post-gig “Party Bus” transportation, which was a converted school bus that resembled a vehicle from a Cheech & Chong film.

Womadelaide – Adelaide 2013

Womad is always a fun gig under any circumstances, but this one was high-charged as it was the final date in our “Rock ‘n Soul Medicine Show” tour run with Tim Rogers. We played the big stage and the crowd and vibe were totally amazing.

Highlight: Tim Rogers being Tim Rogers.

The Jazz Cafe – London 2006

It really felt like a big deal to us when played the Jazz Cafe in London for the first time back in 2006. There we were in our suits and ties, direct from The Night Cat, playing a non-stop live mix-style instrumental set that pulled no punches, in a venue that had hosted some of the greatest Jazz/Soul/Funk artists of all-time.

Highlight: The crowd didn’t applaud once during the set, and we were certain that we had completely bombed. When we finished they went crazy and the relief was beyond palpable!

Ku De Tah – Bali 2016

Sometimes random gigs happen where a person or venue is happy to fly ten people to another country to play a one-off show. This was a case in point, at the beachside venue/restaurant Ku De Tah in Bali.

Highlight: Spending eight hours non-stop in a cocktail bar pool.

Week-end au bord de l’eau – Switzerland 2010

After a several weeks grinding through Europe/U.K in a tiny tour van playing one-nighters, we were more than happy to roll up to this beautiful, sunny lake-side setting in Sierre, Switzerland. We immediately fell asleep on the lush green grass.

Highlight: The whole band dancing to Benji B’s DJ set.

Pisa – Italy 2007

We played a festival where the stage was set up within some ancient coliseum-like ruins. Our set started as the sun was going down and an eerie, magical pink/orange glow descended on the whole area.

Highlight: Pre-show dinner: eating arguably the best pizza ever, of all-time, forever.

Tokyo – Japan 2014

We were part of “The Australian Music Experience”, playing alongside The Shaolin Afronauts, Jones Jnr, Oscar Key Sung and DJ’s Chris Gill and Jumps. There was a really nice camaraderie amongst the artists, and we all felt like we were putting the Australian scene out there in a positive way.

Highlight: Late night sessions at the Rare Groove bar and Shibuya district record shopping.

Hamer Hall – Melbourne 2021

A show in your home town can’t really be considered “touring”, but after 2020 and a whole year of being off stage these first shows back were so cathartic that I’m gonna call it. Performing our music with the 50-strong Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in the hallowed Hamer Hall was something we’ll never forget.

Highlight: Kylie Auldist’s performance bringing the audience to tears after all the challenges of 2020.

Hard Up, the latest full-length effort from The Bamboos, is out now.