Chocolate Starfish – where you always expect the unexpected

One of Australia’s most memorable live bands have a real soft spot for Newcastle – and they’ll be hitting the Cambridge on Saturday night. So we chatted to frontman Adam Thompson about what to expect.

Starfish gigs in Newy have a tendency to go down into folklore. One of the very first gigs the band played was at The Star Hotel back in the day. “It was so, so hot – and that back room used to have such a low roof,” Adam recalls. “Now it was a summer night and it must’ve been about 40 degrees on stage.”

Dressed to impress in leather trousers, things got hot.

“At the end of the gig we were sweltering, and there was a fishpond out the back so we thought ‘bugger it, let’s go in’ and we did,” Adam says with a laugh.

However, the band’s last gig at The Cambridge in the 90s was memorable for a different reason. “I was stage-diving, as it was all the rage at the time, and getting thrown around the crowd when I got dropped on my back onto broken glass,” (insert ‘holy shit’ reaction from interviewer here). “I cut my back open and my shoulder blade was sticking out. I nearly died.”

On the band’s recent Red Hot Summer Tour this guy came up to Adam. “He said, ‘Mate, I held your hand in Newcastle Hospital for two hours – I thought you were gonna die.’” Adam said. “He said ‘I jumped in the car because I thought you needed help. I just held your hand because you were bleeding everywhere. Oh mate, it’s so good to see you still alive!”

Adam plans a less dramatic, but still impressive gig this time around.

“There’ll be no stage-diving I can tell you that,” he says with a throaty laugh. “I’m still pretty wild with the things I do on stage though.”

And in good news for fans, this tour’s gonna feature a lot of classic songs. “A bunch of the tours I’ve done, like Live at the Foreshore, we’ve only played two or three songs, so for our true, hardcore Starfish fans they’ll get to see an hour and half/ two hours of classic songs, plus songs off the new album SPIDER.”

I love that for a band that came to national prominence with a cover “You’re so Vain”, they’ve maintained a strictly original songlist, until the recent Bat Out Of Hell release. I need to know how this came about.

“This song used to be a bit of a staple for me back in the 90s when the roadies would turn the sound off and I’d stay on stage to entertain,” Adam recalls. “I remember one time, when there were about 800 people out there and I jumped into the crowd and gathered them around me and started singing Bat Out Of Hell until a sound engineer regenerated the system.”

“So when we saw Meatloaf kind of not do it so well at the Grand Final the boys said ‘Why don’t we try to do something with this?’ So we did it as an album and it worked really well. We’ve got another one in the works, which I can’t announce just yet, but by the time The Cambridge gig comes around I can announce it to everybody.”

I beg for details, but Adam holds firm.

“We’ll be touring it nationally, and it’s a well-known Aussie band that we’ll be doing a classic album of. I’ll do one of the songs as an encore at the gig – as a sneak peek!”

There’s a whole new generation of Starfish fans coming up: kids whose parents lived the 90s are reliving their parents’ musical nirvana. “Daryl Braithwaite is getting it now with Horses and I’m seeing it too,” Adam says. “People are bringing their 17, 18 and 19 year old kids to gigs and they’re loving it. They’ve been playing our stuff to their kids and now they’re fans. They love the old stuff and as an indie band that’s fantastic. It means that both generations are enjoying it and hopefully that means there’ll be a future for us.

Adam’s not just all about performing though, he has a very lovely side project called Muso Magic. It started when Adam was trying to find out who Adam Thompson was “It was when Australian Idol just started, and I saw these kids, singing out of tune, in tears and the judges just saying “bah bow – no” and I thought ‘that’s not why I create’. I’m not into creativity to have that abject judgement from others.”

This program works with kids, community and even corporates to teach people about inclusion and experiencing things you probably thought you’d suck at. “It’s about experiencing the performer’s life: to sing, to dance, to record, to produce a video clip around a theme that matters to your group,” Adam explains. “My muso friends would say ‘Oh, you’re looking for these kids to be famous’ but I’m looking for the exact opposite of that. I’m looking for the Emo kid who’s not being accepted by the jocks and for them to develop an appreciation for each other. They might not be best friends, but they won’t go bashing each other up after this because they share a common platform.”

It’s a nice insight into the other side of Adam Thompson. That wild man on stage giving back through something he loves – music and performing.

So speaking of performing, what can we expect from the gig at The Cambridge? “As always, expect the unexpected,” Adam laughs. “You never know what will happen with us. Sometimes it will be moments of brilliance and the only way that you can remember it is if you were there. And I think that’s why so many Novocastrians come back and see Starfish – because they’ve been art of these unique moments at our gigs that’ve formed part of their musical DNA.”

Buy tickets here.

Written by Linda Drummond

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