Monday, December 6, 2010

"There are others, others just like me - it has come to this" - My Disco, Hi Fi Bar and Ballroom, 03/12/2010 - "Little Joy" album launch

I first encountered this wonderful Melbourne trio last year, when they supported Texan powerhouse ...Trail of Dead at their two sold-out shows at the Corner Hotel. At the time I had mixed feelings about them - while their songs were very catchy at times and showed undeniable talent, I just couldn't get over how damn repetitive they were. I believe I said to a friend, describing the song "An Even Sun", something along the lines of "That isn't a song, that's one riff being played for 8 minutes". And a very boring 8 minutes it was! However, I revisted those shows through the Fan Made Recordings blog and found the band growing on me a lot. I picked up a copy of their third album a few weeks ago, and that was definitely all I needed to attend this. On a very warm Friday evening, My Disco took to the stage at the Hi Fi Bar and Ballroom, a venue which I was surprised they booked; I didn't think they had that large a fanbase. But obviously they do these days; there was quite a respectable crowd who enjoyed watching them play their new album from start to finish. I'm one of those people who believes a strong support bill is a vital part of any gig, and with Robin Fox, KES Band and Marco Fusinato warming the stage before My Disco, that criteria was certainly fulfilled tonight!

I arrived at the venue a bit late, due to having to meet my friend Chris at Etihad Stadium, where a much bigger concert was taking place! This was to pick up his old recording gear (see previous post). By the time I descended the stairs to the Hi Fi basement, it was already about 8:50; I'd been under the impression that Marco Fusinato would start at 8:30 so I assumed I'd missed him. Then after a few minutes I realised that what looked like Fusinato's typical setup was remaining intact at the front of the stage, and sure enough he soon headed out to assault our eardrums, in the nicest possible way, with his typical glitch guitar barrage. I said in a review of the last time I saw him that I don't particularly care for his style of noise music and unfortunately, he did nothing to change that opinion on this occasion. It's not that I don't like noise, in fact I find some of it very enjoyable, but in my opinion it's very hard to get much enjoyment out of a guy sitting down, manipulating muted notes and some feedback with a table full of pedals, in a random abstract fashion. It's not terrible to watch and listen to, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see him if he played his own show. Oh well, it takes all kinds I guess.

Up next were a very recent discovery of mine, Karl E Scullin's KES Band. I first saw this group only two nights prior to this at the Corner Hotel, and enjoyed them immensely. On this occasion they were playing in "big band" mode, which essentially amounted to them having an extra guitarist and a harmonicist who occasionally played a percussion block thing. Like I said, I'd really enjoyed them at the Corner Hotel and tonight was no exception, as they delighted the room with a set of slow-burning post-rock-based tunes. There is one criticism I do have of this band, and that is that they don't do endings very well - quite a few of their songs, especially the instrumental pieces which appeared sporadically throughout the set, just seemed to be getting going before abruptly being cut off. I'm not saying that bands should stick to a verse-chorus-verse formula, quite the opposite, but some of the songs just ended at a seemingly arbitrary point in the song, which I found quite frustrating. That being said, I WILL go out of my way to see them again, as they're a talented lot, and maybe this won't bother me after a few viewings.

The familiar hiss of a smoke machine soon could be heard, and a large bearded fellow made his way to a laptop on the side of the stage, and then the whole room went silent as a bright green laser beam illuminated the room. Of course, it was time for Robin Fox. I stated in a review a few months ago that a Fox live performance is a truly amazing spectacle and he certainly delivered another beauty tonight, as glitchy pops, clicks and noisy static were accompanied in perfect synchronicity by the movements of his laser. Something I did notice about halfway through the set, which disappointed me a little, is that some of the "musical" ideas that cropped up during the set were pieces that I had definitely heard before at his previous outings, with laser movements to match. This leads me to wonder exactly how much of his set is actually played "live" and how much was a playback of pre-recorded bits and pieces. I know it's unavoidable for some acts, but I personally find it a little disappointing when a band or musician is obviously not "playing" what is coming out of the speakers. But I don't know anything about how Fox's music works, so I won't go jumping to such conclusions as he really is a joy to watch and listen to (but mainly watch haha). It was pretty frustrating during his set that some sections of the crowd continued to carry on lively conversation, which could quite clearly be heard during the more quieter moments, and at one point I think I may have heard someone have the balls to yell out "Hurry up!" As Bill Hicks once said, "See, the fact that you don't get it or like it is fine. The fact that you want to ruin it for everybody else, that's why you're a cocksucker!"It's perfectly understandable for someone not to like someone making such abstract music as Fox, but if you insist on being in the room during his performance, and quite close to the front of the venue at that, just shut up and let him do his thing, and let those people who are enjoying it do so in the proper fashion. This kind of disrespect really annoys me at gigs, and I if I were ever in a band, I don't mind admitting I'd probably do a Roger Waters and yell at them to STFU. Anyway.

Liam Andrews, Ben Andrews and Rohan Rebeiro made their way onstage at a little after 11, to much applause from the now-sizeable crowd. Ben began the set with a few gentle strums on his Travis Bean guitar, suggesting that maybe the set would open with Sun Bear. However, this proved to be just a little warmup, as he soon picked up the pace for the predictable opener Closer. I'd suspected that tonight the band would play the new album from start to finish, as they did an intimate Melbourne gig earlier in the year (albeit with a slightly different order), and as the set wore on, it became clear that this was exactly what they were going to do. I'd been wondering whether I'd perhaps find myself a little bored during their gig like I did last year because of the whole repetition thing. However, there was absolutely no danger of that happening on this occasion - I think it's because I'm now used to what they sound like, and of course with the set consisting entirely of their new album, it was material I was very familiar with. Also, the band were putting a whole lot of energy into their set, especially Ben who was constantly thrashing his head up and down. Rohan Rebeiro was also incredible on the drumkit, delivering some truly dazzling fill work during the midsections of many songs. A real highlight of the set came during Sunray - the lights went completely out and of course, Robin Fox made his way back to the stage to deliver more perfectly accompanied laser brilliance. The band were really in top form tonight, just delivering a solid no-nonsense set, Little Joy translating brilliantly to the live format. It shows the talent of these musicians when you realise that most of their songs are based on very few riffs, yet through subtle clever variations and expansion, they can really deliver a great performance. This was particularly evident during an epic version of Rivers; while I wasn't timing I am pretty sure that this performance may have stretched out to about 15 minutes! With the final groove of A Turreted Berg, the band finally wound down, with Liam saying a simple "Thank you", which incidentally were the ONLY words he spoke all night. Applause and cheers for the band to do an encore went on long after the band departed the stage, even over the house music, but it was clear that the night had come to its end. What a talented bunch this band is.

SETLIST: (Little Joy from start to finish)
Sun Bear
(with Robin Fox laser show)
Lil' Joy
With Age
Rivers (extended)
A Turreted Berg

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fan Made Recordings...

Hey all, I'm not really sure how many people actually read this thing on a regular basis, I suspect that most of you only just click on whenever I alert you to a post via Facebook, but anyway. Just a short note to say that I've just joined the Fan Made Recordings team, a great little blog put together by a small bunch of people that record the gigs they go to and share them online for public enjoyment. I've been following the blog for quite some time now, first finding out about it through the Mammal forum, where Chris (seancemascara) was a mod - at the time, he was the only contributor to FMR. Anyway, I see Chris out and about at quite a few shows, and he knows that I've been very keen to start recording shows for myself! Well, a few months ago he told me he was buying new gear to record with and that he would give his old stuff to me - I cannot stress how grateful I am for this, this is extremely generous of him as he knows how keen I am to get involved with this. Hopefully I'll have the gear in a few days, in time to record My Disco's album launch on Friday night which I'm very excited for. So in the meantime, check out, there's a great little collection of shows there already, and in a few days you'll get to see me posting! Once again, thank you SO MUCH to Chris, this is very very exciting for me!

NOW PLAYING: The Butterfly Effect - Final Conversation of Kings. I thought I might add this little section to the end of my blogs, after all, this is all about music so why not share with you what I'm listening to hey?

Monday, November 1, 2010

A great night of local rock 'n' roll... with added costume craziness - Creepshow Festival, Esplanade Hotel, 30-10-10

St Kilda's iconic Esplanade Hotel has three separate stages capable of holding bands, and recently some clever promoters have taken on board the idea of using the multi-stage setup to hold small festivals in the venue. Following on from the success of their Rock the Bay event earlier this year, the Saltar Hype crew decided to hold a somewhat smaller but no less exciting mini-rock-fest on the last weekend of October. Falling on the night before Halloween, the event was appropriately dubbed Creepshow, with punters and players alike dressing up in all sorts of weird and wonderful costumes for the evening. Even the venue was given a suitably "creepy" makeover!

A late withdrawal from one band saw the event's starting time pushed back an hour, but it was worth the wait, because at 7:30 it was one of Melbourne's most promising young bands in Anna Salen, who took to the Front Bar stage - which had been renamed "Field of the Living Dead" for the evening. This would be the first of many inspired costume choices from the bands on the night, as Daiv Morgan (guitar/keys), Shaun Scott (drums) and Paul Risso (bass/keys) took to the stage dressed as Nintendo heroes Mario, Wario and Luigi respectively. However, the theme didn't stop at the costumes - the stage was also decorated with some homemade replicas of the iconic "question mark" boxes from the game, and the band's prog/math-rock numbers were augmented by plenty of triggered sound effects from the game. Punters couldn't help but smile whenever the very familiar coin or pipe sound effects popped up in the middle of the band's groovy instrumental rock riffs. The familiar music from the game was also replicated very faithfully by the band in between their own songs. The front bar was actually quite packed for such an early timeslot, and the crowd was very receptive to the band's sound, seemingly not fazed by the lack of vocals in the songs. "WHAT'S IN THE BOX!?" shouted out one eager punter at one point, to which Daiv responded, "You'll find out later!" And indeed, toward the end of the set, Daiv picked up one of the boxes and began throwing its contents into the audience - which turned out to be, appropriately, chocolate coins! Packing plenty of awesome riffs and clever musical ideas into their short set, it was another good performance from a band that just keeps getting better with every show. Keep an eye out for these guys :)

Up next on the Field stage was a typically hilarious performance from I Am Duckeye; for the uninitiated, they are a side project of sorts for Sam Haycroft and Sean Bailey, the guitarist and drummer of Sydonia (incidentally the evening's headliners). Haycroft takes the frontman duties in the band which also includes his brother Matt on guitar, and Julian Medor on bass guitar. One might think from Medor's pirate attire and Sam's goggles that they too were getting into the spirit of dressing up, but of course, fans of the band knew that this was the usual performance get-up for the group. Their set featured humourous groovy riff-driven numbers such as Time Worms and Ride the Clutch, interspersed with typically hilarious banter between songs, and also featuring some amusing choreography! Do these guys have an album? If so, I want it!

I then wandered down into the basement - or The Furnace - to catch a little of Nine of Swords, who had also done quite well in the costume department - Sesame Street was their theme, with Trav, Al, Oz and Nubs dressed as Oscar, the Count, Elmo and Cookie Monster. Not having heard them before this I wasn't sure what to expect; the band ended up delivering a pretty good set of heavy rock that fit in well with the rest of the line-up. I'll give these guys a proper review next time; I can never really think what to say of a band I'm seeing for the first time when I haven't heard their stuff before.

A little while later, it was time for Engine Three Seven to take to the Field stage, and there was definitely a lot of anticipation in the room for their set. They launched their quality second EP Atmosphere in the venue's Gershwin Room last month, and really put on a good show then, so there was a high expectation of them this time around. The band - who had also got into the Halloween spirit with some face and body paint - did not disappoint, opening their set with a fantastic rendition of Hysterical Hysteria, which saw vocalist Casey Dean get the majority of the front bar to sit down on the floor during a slow part in the song, before jumping up and pogoing their way to the conclusion. Perhaps it's not a very original move these days, but it was still enjoyed by the crowd! The set certainly lived up to expectations, as the band ripped through a slew of tracks from Atmosphere and a handful of favourites from their self-titled debut EP. The crowd was only too happy to lend their voices to the band's great rock anthems, especially the older favourites. As the set closed with a rousing rendition of Easy Graceful Descent, I found myself wondering, "Why the hell aren't these guys more well known?" They really deserve something more with the amazing talents they keep showing at shows like this.
Hysterical Hysteria
Have it All
Adults Only
Automatic Everything
Win 4 Me
Easy Graceful Descent

Up next was the increasingly-popular Twelve Foot Ninja, using the night as a platform to launch their fantastic new EP Smoke Bomb which hit the stores a few weeks prior. The Melbourne quartet came from nowhere in late 2008 with the release of the New Dawn EP, impressing many with their daring fusion of metal, reggae, dub and hints of electronica. Touring relentlessly throughout the past two years has really paid off, as they now appear extremely comfortable onstage, and have a pretty impressive lot of tunes under their belt. Not surprisingly, Smoke Bomb got a good airing on the night, in fact, they played every track off it, as well as a handful of New Dawn favourites and even some other new tunes that vocalist Kin declared would appear on the band's forthcoming debut album, planned for release next year. The band's usual ninja attire was of course present, but for the occasion they'd gone a bit extra, with some convincing looking wounds! All in all, it was another fantastic performance from these local favourites, and the enthusiastic crowd really showed their appreciation of the group - the mosh pit got VERY intense! A guest vocalist joined in for a few songs, as did the group's friend Monty to play the saxophone parts during Manufacture of Consent. The set concluded with the storming Clarion, which saw the crowd absolutely losing their sense of self-control!
SETLIST (quite possibly inaccurate, this is a bit of a stretch of the memory):
Beneath the Smiles
Molotov Brother
Manufacture of Consent

Finally, at the very late time of 1:20, which had luckily resulted in the crowd calming down, Melbourne experimental metal quartet Sydonia took to the stage. I've genuinely developed a major obsession with this band just in the past few months and despite the late timeslot, I was more than awake for another great performance from this band. The costumes came out again, with bass player Adam Murray looking particularly snappy dressed as Vince Noir from The Mighty Boosh. The band did as much as they could in their hour set, mixing up old favourites from Given to Destroyers such as Adornment and No Woman's Land with some of their brilliant newer tunes such as Ocean of Storms and Sinner, all of which the crowd sang with great enthusiasm. And even if you've seen them live numerous times before (as I have), there's still something awesome about those incredible percussion jams, where guitarist Sam Haycroft and bassist Murray put down their instruments and bang away at the various custom percussion pieces laid out around the stage. The all-drumming spectacular Bateria saw them joined by yet another stick-wielder; this evening it was Murray's brother Zack. But the highlight of the set came toward the very end, when the band introduced a masked special guest onto the stage - and when the mask came off, there was gasps and cheers of appreciation as it became apparent that it was none other than Randy Blythe of American modern metal heroes Lamb of God! Somewhat surprisingly for Sydonia, the song they chose to do together was none other than a cover of the Sex Pistols' classic Pretty Vacant. And after that, the crowd was more than happy to oblige Haycroft's request that they help introduce the thrashing madness of Incoming, always a favourite to conclude the Sydonia set. Blythe helped out on this too, and then finally, at 2:20am, it was all over! Saltar Hype had really delivered the goods on this, an extremely fun evening of local rock talent.
SETLIST (again, questionable accuracy):
3 Tongues
Ocean of Storms
No Woman's Land
Drag You Out
Bateria (with Zack Murray)
Pretty Vacant (Sex Pistols cover, with Randy Blythe of Lamb of God)
Incoming (with Randy Blythe)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"We made plans to..." actually no, that title's too obvious :) - Birds of Tokyo w/Silversun Pickups, Festival Hall, 01/10/10

There's something somewhat rewarding about watching a band you've liked for ages suddenly achieving some serious recognition, and recently it's been Birds of Tokyo that have risen out of the underground to make a major dent in the mainstream. Their recent self-titled third album has been going great guns in the ARIA charts, and Plans has become a very successful tune for the band. And to think, three years ago when the band's first album Day One was released, a lot of people knew them as "Ian Kenny from Karnivool's other band". So on a very pleasant spring Friday night in Melbourne, they took to the stage at Festival Hall - a major achievement in itself - with support from noisy LA rockers Silversun Pickups and fellow WA rockers The Chemist. The near-sold out crowd enjoyed immensely!

The Chemist were up first, but as usual, hardly anyone had bothered to turn up yet, and those that had were a little bit indifferent to the fact that there was a band up on the stage - quite a talented band though if I do say so myself. ...To be honest, it's now been four days since I saw them and I had never heard them previously, so I now can't remember exactly what they sounded like, but I did enjoy them :) I will be seeing them again in a few weeks when they warm the stage for Boy & Bear (and how I am looking forward to that!), so they might get a more detailed review then...

Following that, we had our international visitors Silversun Pickups, who I'd seen just three days earlier but was nevertheless looking forward to catching again. I was aware however that their set would only be half of the 90 minute+ marathon that they did at the Corner (see previous blog), something a lot of people in other states (who didn't get SSPU headline shows) complained about bitterly. Nevertheless, they had more than a few vocal fans inside Festival Hall this evening, and delivered the best set they could in 45 minutes - although they were somewhat shortchanged by the sound guy. Again, frontman Brian Aubert was full of love for Melbourne, noting that it was the only city in Australia where they've played three times before. The set was pretty much the more well-known half of their full set, but still played extremely well by a very energetic band. Again, a class act!
Growing Old is Getting Old
Well Thought Out Twinkles
There's No Secrets This Year
The Royal We
Future Foe Scenarios
Panic Switch
Lazy Eye

Now, this was the sixth time I'd seen Birds of Tokyo, so one might expect I'd be a little less enthusiastic for them this time around. However, it had been close to a year since I'd last seen them perform; that particular event being the Broken Strings tour which saw them reinvent their back catalogue in acoustic-and-strings format. As awesome as that tour was, I was looking forward to them returning to the standard big ol rock 'n' roll format, and with an EXCELLENT new album to boot with songs I'd never seen live before! And they burst into life just after 9pm, with a great rendition of grandiose new track The Unspeakable Scene - however, that particular choice of song to open left a few people a bit stunned and the crowd didn't really get into it until the next song dropped, which was everyone's favourite Black Sheets. As usual, frontman Ian Kenny was particularly animated, several times declaring the night to be a "party", and thanking us all for being in attendance. And when he wasn't endearing himself to the fans with banter, he was doing that amazing space cadet dance we all know and love, all around the spacious Festival Hall stage. I've seen Birds' stage production increase steadily with each tour, and tonight they'd really gone all-out, with a giant visual screen up the back complementing the likes of Circles and Silhouettic very nicely. And as for the setlist? You couldn't ask for a better mix of old and new - in amongst the likes of The Saddest Thing I Know and Murmurs, there were plenty of crowd singalongs to the likes of White Witch, Off Kilter and even VERY old song Believer, from the Birds of Tokyo EP. Such was the crowd's enthusiasm that at one point Kenny noted that he'd like to bring us all on tour next time to be Birds of Tokyo's official choir. The show just went from strength to strength, until finally, with that familiar gentle drum intro, it was time for Plans, which was when the voices really got going! But what to follow it with? Silhouettic of course, and the ENTIRE crowd joined in during the first rendition of that last chorus after the jam! After disappearing for a quick breather, the demands for an encore would see them return to close the show with The Gap and the ever-popular Broken Bones. Some people might grumble about the pop-friendly direction the band took with the new album, but on this night, Kenny, Spark, Jackson, Weston and Sarangapany really took flight with an amazing show that left everyone satisfied.
The Unspeakable Scene
Black Sheets
Wild Eyed Boy
White Witch
The Saddest Thing I Know
Wild At Heart
Off Kilter
In the Veins of Death Valley
Get Out
The Bakers Son
The Gap
Broken Bones

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"I've been waiting... I've been waiting for this moment, all my life" - Silversun Pickups, Corner Hotel, 28/09/10

It was the show that wasn't really supposed to happen, but thank FUCK it did. Los Angeles' highly acclaimed dreamy noisemakers Silversun Pickups were announced as part of the bill for the Coaster Festival in Gosford, NSW, but I think there was a very large amount of people who couldn't really make it there who were PRAYING they'd be putting in a few capital city appearances. However, in a miscalculated move to say the least, the promoter decided that the ideal way to tour them across this country would be to have them warming up the stage before a headlining performance from Birds of Tokyo. Now, with no disrespect to Birds intended because I'm sure it wasn't their fault (I'm actually a massive fan), but seriously, it's a bit of an insult to a TOURING BAND FROM AMERICA, who have only been here once and on that tour only played TINY venues, to have them playing a pathetic eight-song set before some band from Perth that everyone's probably seen before come onstage and play for almost two hours. There's just some logic missing there. To say nothing of the fact that musically, the two bands are worlds apart. Thankfully, Frontier Touring did a bit of damage control, at least for the Melbournians, and booked Silversun Pickups into the Corner Hotel, for an amazing headline set that sold out in, I believe, about 20 minutes. Papa vs Pretty opened the night; because I got there a bit late and only caught about 3-4 of their songs I'm not going to give them their own paragraph, but they were very good and I'd like to check them out again.

Maybe it was because it was a very un-rock and roll Tuesday night, maybe it was because they wanted to make up for lost time, but whatever the reason was, we only had to wait until 9:30 before the curtain pulled back and Brian Aubert (vocals/guitar), Nikki Monninger (bass/vocals), Joe Lester (keys/effects) and Christopher Guanlao (drums) kicked into a beautiful rendition of Growing Old is Getting Old from last year's brilliant Swoon album. Even from this opening song it was clear that we were going to be in for a good night - and when that "heavy" section in the middle kicked in, the crowd responded accordingly! After that song was done, Monninger hit a very familiar few bars, introducing my personal favourite SSPU song Well Thought Out Twinkles. This favourite from their first album Carnavas had the effect of really getting the crowd going, not that they needed encouragement. Everyone was really excited for this very special opportunity that the other states were not getting. I was surprised at how energetic the band are onstage too - not that their songs are dull, but they aren't exactly ultra-high intensity either. Still, that didn't stop Monninger from bouncing around the stage with a huge grin on her face, while Aubert made the most of the non-singing bits in the songs by leaning out over the barrier and thrashing the hell out of his guitar. Up the back of the stage, Guanlao was absolutely belting that kit; he even had a cymbal towering way above the rest of the kit, John Stanier-style.

After about five songs, the band finally took a break to allow Aubert to speak. He was pretty quiet earlier on in the set, but gradually got more and more chatty as the night wore on. Punters weren't afraid to voice their disapproval of the tour's mismanagement either, with one yelling out, "Where's your headline shows, what's wrong with your promoter?" Aubert grinned and replied, "This is the headline show motherfucker. The tour starts and ends tonight!" Later on, someone chimed in with "Fuck Birds of Tokyo!" to which Aubert responded "If you want me to, it's your town!" Birds-bashing aside, the crowd and band alike showed their appreciation of the other being present. Not letting it go to his head, Aubert showed his genuine modesty when recalling that on their last tour, the band played in the relatively tiny Ding Dong Lounge. He said that when they had been asked to play the Corner this time around, upon hearing that the venue had a capacity of 800, he'd replied "Good luck selling that shit out!" Aubert also played up the typical city-to-city interstate rivalry card, but had to backpedal when he realised that some hardcore fans had made their way from other cities to witness this special show.

And what a show it was. Despite assurances actually coming from Adam Spark himself (see the Fasterlouder thread), as openers for Birds, the SSPU set was criminally trimmed down to 45 minutes - tonight, despite the Corner website advertising that the show was to finish at 10:45, it stretched past 11pm! The crowd enjoyed all that the band had to give, but were particularly responsive to Carnavas tracks getting an airing - Little Lover's So Polite and Future Foe Scenarios were particular highlights, and for the diehards in the room there was even Kissing Families from the band's pre-Carnavas EP Pikul. It wouldn't be right of me not to extend my highest compliments to the sound guy on the night - as we know from listening to their albums, Silversun Pickups do enjoy their feedback-drenched pedal-driven noisefests, but this comes across so much better in their live show, although I was extremely thankful I'd brought earplugs! This was particularly evident during an epic version of Lazy Eye which closed the main set. After it, an encore seemed a bit redundant, but the curtain remained opened and those roadies onstage just seemed to be tuning instruments, so we knew there was something more coming. It was two slightly more chilled-out numbers, Substitution from Swoon and from Three Seed from Carnavas - before Christopher Guanlao amazed once more with an extended version of that intense beat that begins Common Reactor. As the song drew to a close, Monninger and Guanlao made their way offstage, leaving Aubert and Lester to conclude by deafening us all with blasts of feedback and effects, until finally it was over. Melbourne's Silversun Pickups fans knew they were extremely lucky to get this show, and the band rewarded us many times over.

Growing Old is Getting Old
Well Thought Out Twinkles
Sort Of
There's No Secrets This Year
The Royal We
Little Lover's So Polite
It's Nice to Know You Work Alone
Future Foe Scenarios
Kissing Families
Catch and Release
Panic Switch
Three Seed
Common Reactor

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It has come to my attention...

...That all bar two of these posts is a live music review - and one of those two is simply my top ten gigs of 2009. When I started this blog, I initially aimed to write about lots of musical-related topics, but it seems to have been dominated by that thing I love so much - going to gigs. I aim to address this in the next week or so, probably with a short review of an album I've been particularly enjoying in recent (or maybe not-so-recent) times. It could be one of the following which I've been listening to quite a lot lately...
Sydonia - Given to Destroyers (listening to it right now). Came out in 2006, but I only got my hands on it after the DLC album launch gig in May this year. I've seen these guys numerous times live and they're absolutely brilliant. Melbourne music represent.
Birds of Tokyo - Birds of Tokyo. I think it says something about this album that these Perth rockers decided to self-title it - it really is a perfect summation of their career so far, definitely their most cohesive. They've really put a lot of effort into this and it shows. It may even be my album of the year...
Dead Letter Circus - This is the Warning. ...But then again, so might this...
PVT - Church With No Magic. ...Or this. Shame their gig was a little dull.

Anyway. Expect a review of one of these very soon. Or maybe something else altogether :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The sun sets on a brilliant career - Powderfinger, Rod Laver Arena, 11-09-2010 - Sunsets Farewell Tour

On April 9 of this year came the announcement that one of Australia's most loved bands of the past 20 years, Brisbane's Powderfinger, would be calling it quits after one final tour around the country - aptly named after their beloved Sunsets track. The tour will visit all the major cities and even stop off in quite a few regional centres, making sure that nobody misses their chance to say goodbye. Pick You Up, The Day You Come, Passenger, My Happiness, On My Mind... need I go on? On a reasonable spring Saturday night, Melbournians turned out in droves to bid farewell to these true Australian music legends.

I didn't quite get there in time to see The Vasco Era, so by the time I made my way into Rod Laver Arena, it was time for a set from Jet. Oh, what can I say? Even ignoring the fact that I haven't really cared for their music in quite some time, I just don't think these guys are engaging as a live band - they just lack energy and enthusiasm for what they're doing. But I guess it's a two-way street - several times they did try and get the crowd going with the usual handclaps and singalongs, but there were plenty of people standing around indifferently. As for the songs, I guess they performed a good mixed bag of tunes from their three studio albums, including the favourites such as Cold Hard Bitch and of course, Are You Gonna Be My Girl. Still, exactly why they're still around escapes me - you can't make a career out of one album that was really only successful because it was released at the right time for that sort of music, when the whole garage rock revival thing was going on. Sorry for the negativity, I just don't like this band much. As me and my mate headed out at the end of their set to grab a beer, I mused out loud that I wasn't sure why I was feeling tired all of a sudden. Mate replied, "You've just seen Jet".

Powderfinger made their way onstage to little fanfare just after 9, and opened their set with a stirring rendition of Love Your Way. As the fans cheered right before that massive chorus kicked in for the first time, the band paused briefly and the curtain opened - and then the lighting guy went nuts! Following that, another curtain fell to reveal a very stylish semi-circular screen and lighting rig at the back of the stage, as the Brisvegas boys kicked into Lost and Running. Even from the early stages of their performance, it was clear that Powderfinger were bringing their A game to the stage tonight, after all, it is their farewell tour, and they preferred to go out with a bang, rather than just sticking to the same old monotonous performance. The setlist on the night would prove to be a great mixed bag, something that must’ve been a challenge considering the band has seven studio albums to choose from and a set falling just short of two hours. But fans were not left disappointed, with the band busting out all the classics such as On My Mind, Passenger and My Happiness, and even treating us to a few numbers that we perhaps hadn’t heard in a while – Capoicity, JC and Rockin’ Rocks were particularly unexpected. Unfortunately, tonight we wouldn’t get to witness anything from the band’s debut “Parables for Wooden Ears” – I suspect they may be saving a few of those for the series of “FINAL” shows taking place in October. As always, Bernard Fanning was particularly engaging with the crowd, talking about the AFL finals, and touching on the band’s long history of playing gigs in Melbourne. “I remember one night at the Pelly Bar in Frankston...” he began, and the crowd laughed, anticipating what might be coming. “We saw some pretty crazy fights that night... and some pretty decent ones involving guys as well”. Another typically witty moment occurred after a solo performance of Nobody Sees, when he commented that “...Because the lights are still off, as the guys come back on, I get a nice little pat on the arse”. As I’ve already touched on, production-wise the show was excellent – they went all-out on the lighting and visual front, even throwing in some beautiful laser displays to “Thrilloilogy” and “These Days”. A real highlight of the show came right after The Metre – the band disappeared offstage, but at only about 9:40, it seemed even too early for an encore. The video screen played some old historical footage, and then slowly the crowd started turning around – it quickly became apparent that the band had made their way to the back of the crowd, to play a small “intimate” set on a B stage – lucky people sitting in the front row at that point! From this stage, they busted out storming renditions of Like a Dog and Rockin’ Rocks, before drummer Cogsy and bassist JC performed an awesome impromptu jam, allowing Fanning to get back to the main stage for Nobody Sees. But the surprises didn’t stop there – Fanning informing the crowd that the next song, JC, would be sung entirely by Darren Middleton, and he left the stage completely. Of course, he would return soon enough, to complete a particularly epic conclusion of the main set – My Happiness and Passenger. Demands for the encore were satisfied quickly, with the band opting for “Internationalist” oddity Capoicity, then bringing it home with more sure-fire crowd favourites in Pick You Up and On My Mind. But there was one more card to play, and finally, the five members returned to the stage one last time and the night ended with a beautiful rendition of These Days – recently voted as Brisbane’s favourite Powderfinger song. Something quite a lot of people in the country would agree with no doubt, and it was a fitting way to end the night – for many, the very last time they’d see these guys on a live stage.

Love Your Way
Lost and Running
Burn Your Name
Sail the Widest Stretch
Thrilloilogy (always nice to see this one, particularly awesome jams from Darren Middleton and Ian Haug)
Already Gone
The Metre
----Video plays while band makes their way to B-stage at back of stadium----
Like a Dog
Rockin' Rocks
Cogsy and JC solo
----Return to main stage----
Nobody Sees (Bernard Fanning solo)
JC (with Darren Middleton on lead vox)
My Happiness
Encore 1----
Pick You Up
(Baby I've Got You) On My Mind
Encore 2----
These Days

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pianos, pedals, lasers, laptops and much more - Everybody Talks About the Weather II, Corner Hotel, 26/08/10

About this time last year, four of Melbourne's most respected musicians from the experimental/avant-garde scene joined forces to hold a cheap and fun evening at Richmond's illustrious Corner Hotel, dubbing the night "Everybody Talks About the Weather". Oren Ambarchi, Robin Fox, Anthony Pateras and Marco Fusinato were the four musicians in question, and they brought their unique approach to sound and music to the usual small but very appreciative and devoted bunch of regulars who turned out to watch them. Evidently, the night was deemed a success, so the team decided to have another in the same vein this year. The lineup was almost identical - save for one addition - and this ensured that those who enjoyed the event last year made their way back for another serve.

Up first was glitchy guitar guru Marco Fusinato. To be perfectly honest, his set didn't really do a lot for me; I'm not all that into the random click-pop-pedal-noise guitar playing style and I don't think I ever will be. That's not to say I don't appreciate what he does, just that it isn't really my thing, and it gets a bit boring especially when it's dragged out for a half-hour set. But as the set progressed it did get steadily more interesting - sharp bursts of static and harsh noise, rapidly panning from left to right, all the while building up through some clever layering and pedal trickery, until Fusinato decided that the set had come to its end. So what did he do? Fade out gradually? Nope - he reached over and yanked a lead out of one of his pedals, and that was it, the sound just died. And the room applauded.

Up next was the aforementioned slight alteration to the lineup for this year - Anthony Pateras was joined onstaged by Agents of Abhorrence drummer Max Kohane, to perform as PIVIXKI. I really had no idea what this set would involve as Pateras is known as a bit of a multi-talented performer, plus I didn't really see how a grindcore drummer would fit into the evening's proceedings. However, it soon became clear that this would be certainly be one of the stand-out performances of the evening - pretty much a bizarre mixture of classical shred piano (Pateras on keyboard) and err, grindcore drumming (Kohane). The two styles mixed together effortlessly, and it was a nice change of pace for the evening to see two musicians playing their instruments a bit more conventionally, and being AMAZING at it! Pateras' fingers danced effortlessly across the keys, an absolute genius at his instrument, while the rapid-fire blasts from Kohane were precise and well-executed, although you'd expect nothing less from the Agents of Abhorrence drummer. A few songs into the set (yes, it's worth mentioning that this was the only act that played "songs"), I heard someone behind me remark "This is quite extraordinary", which really summed up the mood. It was almost comical at some points too, such as when Anthony's glasses fell off during a particular intense passage. I was really impressed by these guys, and I'd definitely see them again.

Up next was something a lot more slower and chilled, but no less sonically intense - Oren Ambarchi. His performances are always something to watch, and tonight was no exception. He sat down as usual with his guitar in hand and a table crammed with pedals and processors and proceeded to deliver his usual 30 minute, slow-building effect-driven drone. He used his pedals to drop in glitchy bursts and other effects to his performance, as it slowly built and peaked over the duration of his set. Typically, towards the end things started to get extremely loud and heavy, until finally he slowly brought things down, before the final drones faded out and again, the crowd burst into applause. Always a winner, this bloke.

Almost as soon as he left the stage, the smoke machine on the Corner stage hissed into life, which of course meant that soon, Robin Fox would be taking to the stage. For those who have never seen him perform before, I can only offer my HIGHEST recommendation that you do so immediately. After a few minutes, Fox wandered onto the stage, sat down at his computer and of course, a bright green laser fired out across the room. For the next 30 or so minutes, the audience stood transfixed as Fox played around with glitchy pops, clicks and beats, which were accompanied in perfect synchronicity by his dazzling laser. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but the movement of the laser is connected to the music, so it mirrors the sounds that Fox makes. Nobody wanted the set to end, and even when Fox went silent, nobody dared applaud until after a few seconds, when the laser was switched off. You could tell everyone was a little disappointed! As the small but very satisfied crowd left the venue, it became apparent it was raining. Oh, looks like I finished this by talking about the weather...

Friday, July 30, 2010

"One foot in sea, one on shore" - Mumford & Sons, Palace Theatre, 28/07/2010

Marcus Mumford and his three friends that make up the collective awesomeness that is Mumford & Sons were last in the country only in February, only playing the Laneway Festival and one sideshow in Sydney. But since then, their popularity has skyrocketed, with the delightfully obscene Little Lion Man topping Triple J's Hottest 100 poll for the year 2009, and follow-up singles The Cave and Winter Winds also doing quite well for the band. So it was really no surprise and there were certainly no complaints that the folk quartet made their way back Down Under so soon, this time fitting in many (sold-out) sideshows to cater for the massive demand, as well as an appearance at the mammoth Splendour in the Grass. With support from New York bluesy-rock quintet Alberta Cross and folky young Sydney upstarts Boy & Bear, it was looking to be a great night.

Melbourne public transport be damned! I arrived at the venue at about 7:55pm, and rushed down to the floor JUST in time to see Boy & Bear playing the opening chords of Blood to Gold from their With Emperor Antarctica EP. I saw this EP when I was just browsing the racks at my local CD shop about a month ago, and, remembering the name as the band that would be playing this very gig, I thought I might as well give it a go! And I must say, I've been really enjoying it and I was looking forward to their set at this gig. They didn't fail to deliver, playing four songs out of the five from that EP, as well as three awesome newies. Rabbit Song and Mexican Mavis are two songs that I think have been getting the most airplay, so they were quite well received by the crowd. These guys are definitely worth keeping an eye on in the future.
Blood to Gold
The Rain
Rabbit Song
Where the River Meets the Sea (new)
Mexican Mavis

Alberta Cross were also a band that I'd just discovered in recent times because of this gig, and I definitely have been enjoying their Broken Side of Time as of late. For some reason they didn't quite live up to my expectations live - the mixing was a little bit off and they sounded a bit too noisy in the spacious surrounds of the Palace. Still, it wasn't a bad set; most of the songs played were off the aforementioned album, and they did finish with my favourite song, ATX. I kind of wish I had've seen them at their own show at the Corner, but I didn't really have the cash. Still, I'm glad to have discovered this band and indeed, seen them live.
Song Three Blues
The Thief and the Heartbreaker
Ghost of City Life
Leave Us and Forgive Us
Taking Control
Rise From the Shadows

The main event couldn't come quick enough, and when the lights went down and the band made their way onstage, the crowd responded with immense enthusiasm. And this enthusiasm lasted the entire show - crowd singalongs and of course, ho-downs, became almost mandatory very quickly. The beauty of seeing a band live who's only released one album is that generally, they'll find time to play all of that album, and indeed this was the case. Also played were two new songs, which the crowd still enjoyed despite not being able to lend their voices to it! Of course, tracks like Little Lion Man and the finale The Cave were the best received, and the band were obviously enjoying playing them. Marcus Mumford seemed quite humbled by the crowd response, as evident in his between-song banter, thanking us all quite genuinely. All in all, it was a fantastic show from an extremely talented group of musicians.
Sigh No More
Awake My Soul
Winter Winds
Roll Away Your Stone
Nothing is Written (new)
I Gave You All
Little Lion Man
Lover of the Light (new)
Thistle & Weeds
White Blank Page
Dust Bowl Dance
After the Storm
The Cave
(this setlist is actually taken from the Adelaide show but it looks very similar, possibly the same, as the one they played in Melbourne)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Do you feel warm in your cage?" - Dead Letter Circus, Hi Fi Bar and Ballroom, 28-05-2010 - "This is the Warning" album launch

When Brisbane progressive heavy rockers Dead Letter Circus released their debut album This is the Warning a few weeks ago, it became apparent that this band was suddenly a very big deal. Shows on the album launch tour began to sell out quickly, and when the official ARIA charts for the week were released, This is the Warning debuted at NUMBER TWO. An astonishing achievement for a band that has remained a relatively underground force over the past four years, steadily amassing a loyal legion of fans through word of mouth and a pair of quality EPs. The album launch tour kicked off with a bang in Melbourne, to a sold out crowd at the Hi Fi Bar and Ballroom, and backed by two Melbourne scene favourites, Sydonia and Bellusira.

Bellusira had the unfortunate situation of opening the night at 8:30, meaning that most punters were content to just stand up the back at the bar - and that's only the ones who had even bothered to turn up yet. It was a shame for the band, because I know they had really been looking forward to playing the show and were hoping to get people turning up early to see them play. And they do deserve a good crowd, because they're really something to watch. The band name appropriately means "beautiful anger", which is a good way to describe their combination of aggressive riff-driven rock and strong female vocals courtesy of the ever-wonderful Crystal Ignite. Over the last month or so I've seen the band do a few rare acoustic sets in support of good friends The Ox and the Fury, so tonight it was good to see them doing what they do best - rocking the hell out! Despite the almost-empty floor in front of them, there were a few of the band's regular passionate fans up the front, many sporting Bellusira t-shirts, and the band still put all their trademark energy and fire into their short half-hour set. I have noticed their stage presence improve greatly since the first time I saw them early last year. They only had time for seven songs, but they made them brilliant, especially when Ezekiel Ox joined them onstage for a rendition of Change from their recent Enigmatic EP. After this show, they will be playing a farewell of sorts at Trash Nightclub Hawthorn in a few weeks, before they knuckle down to record what I'm sure is a long-awaited debut album for many.
One Second
Rolling Tide
Change (with Ezekiel Ox)
Wide Awake

Up next was something a little more intense, Melbourne's favourite percussion-heavy rockers Sydonia. The first time I saw this band was in this very room, supporting Mammal's sold-out single launch in 2008, but I really wasn't sure whether I liked them or not back then. But after a few more shows since and becoming a bit more familiar with their material, my doubts are gone, and tonight I was really looking forward to seeing them play. They opened with one of their more mellow numbers, No Woman's Land, but quickly got right into gear, following it up with the crushing 3 Tongues sending the metalheads in the room into a frenzy! The set certainly had its moments, but I found some of the newer songs to be a bit boring. The highlight of course was the ever amazing percussion jam Bateria, in which guitarist Sam Haycroft and bassist Adam Murray put down their instruments to bang some drums, while they were also joined by Dead Letter Circus's Luke Williams and Stewart Hill, as well as their merch guy (I think) making a hell of a racket, while frontman Dana Roskvist and Black Devil Yard Boss (and ex-Mammal) guitarist Pete Williamson made some feedback out the front! After that, the rest of the set seemed a bit dull in comparison, but of course the new track Sinner sounded amazing as ever, and Incoming at the end ensured that nobody left the venue without their neck hurting! (Geddit Sydonia fans?) A fundraiser gig for the band's second album is apparently in the works, and I will most certainly be there!
No Woman's Land
3 Tongues
Drag You Out (new)
Ocean of Storms (new)
Bateria (drums: Sean Bailey (Sydonia); percussion: Sam Haycroft, Adam Murray (Sydonia), Luke Williams, Stewart Hill (Dead Letter Circus), and "merch guy?"; guitars: Dana Roskvist (Sydonia) and Pete Williamson (Black Devil Yard Boss)
Enemy (new (this one was particularly fucking awesome!))
Serve the Dead (new)
Sinner (new)

At around 10:45, the restless fans finally had their moment, when the Brisbane four-piece made their way onstage to a heroes' welcome, and interestingly enough, their set opened with The Drum. As one of the more experimental pieces on This is the Warning, it was always going to be interesting to see how this and some of the other songs translated to the live stage, but they pulled it off remarkably. Then again, it wasn't really hard to satisfy the crowd tonight; all DLC really needed to do was turn up, the atmosphere was that intense! There weren't many holes in the setlist either - every song off TitW bar one was played, interspersed with favourites from the still-amazing Dead Letter Circus EP, which the crowd absolutely loved. I've heard a lot of criticism for vocalist Kim Benzie's live abilities, but there was no faulting his performance on the night. As noted already, the more experimental/electronic moments for the band worked out very well in the live scenario - This Long Hour and especially Cage sounded absolutely fantastic. The fans' enthusiasm for the band was incredible - singing along to EVERY SINGLE LINE, even from the album that had only been out a couple of weeks prior, and on the floor, this riotous devotion lead to a moshpit so intense that I decided to seek some refuge on the step during the brief reprieve of The Design! The main set concluded with the title track from This is the Warning, and naturally, Sam and Adam from Sydonia made their way onstage to lend their percussive talents to the song. Heeding some very enthusiastic requests for an encore, the band made their way back out soon enough but unfortunately it wasn't Alien that was played, but rather the old favourite Lines. Still, nobody was really complaining, as the band had delivered all of what was expected of them, and left a very satisfied crowd at the end of the night. Truly deserving of the recent success that has finally found them, Dead Letter Circus can only go up from here! Best Australian gig of the year.
The Drum
This Long Hour
The Mile
Are We Closer?
One Step
Here We Divide
The Design
Disconnect and Apply
Next in Line
The Space on the Wall
This is the Warning (
with Sam Haycroft and Adam Murray (Sydonia))

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nice to See You? It certainly was! - Jericco, Evelyn Hotel, 14-05-2010

It was about a year ago that I saw Jericco play probably their best show yet in this exact location, to a packed-out and enthusiastic crowd. Suffice to say, I had high hopes for this one, as they launched their new single "Nice to See You", and was not let down by one of Melbourne's finest examples of this Australian hard rock scene that's been developing so rapidly over the past few years.

I arrived a bit later on in the evening and only caught the last few songs of Branch Arterial, who seemed like a good choice for support. But it was the next act Geamala who I was very keen to see. I'd heard many good things about them and I was a little disappointed I missed them at the aforementioned Jericco gig last year, so it was good to see them tonight. Their sound is quite unique and not one that's easy to describe, but in amongst their melting pot of influences were world music, progressive rock, and even a very cool take on the Sepultura classic Territory at the end of the set. Their lineup includes an acoustic guitarist, a drummer, a guy who switches between shaku hachi (Japanese flute), computer samples and vocals, and a female vocalist who also doubles as a belly dancer. As you can see, this lineup obviously yields a very unique sound. I'd love to see these guys play live again.

Up next were another Melbourne favourite, Twelve Foot Ninja. This was probably about the 8th or 9th time I'd seen the boys in action, but their live shows are always high on energy and their songs don't ever get boring no matter how many times you've heard them. The old songs from their New Dawn EP got the biggest crowd response on the night because the crowd knew them the best, but some of the newer songs in the set have been played quite a lot recently and they're starting to become familiar to a few of the regulars. All in all, a solid support slot from a very talented young band. I had a brief chat to the band's vocalist after the set, and he informed me that the band are soon taking some time off from the live shows to record their debut album. I know I'm not the only one that awaits said album with extreme anticipation.

Jericco put together a slightly unorthodox setlist, opening with Promises Made of Glass, one of the newer tracks we've seen over the past few years. It was a bit unusual not to have the traditional opener that's been in every prior Jericco gig before this - and in fact the first three songs played were newer songs - but the crowd soon got over this and the moshing began! I was actually very disappointed in the behaviour of a few select crowd members - don't get me wrong, I love a good circle pit just as much as the next person, but imo it's not really appropriate to do it at a Jericco gig. Especially not when some genuine fans are actually standing up the front trying to watch and enjoy the band and suddenly find themselves being knocked into the foldbacks at the front of the stage! Even vocalist Brent McCormick had to tell the crowd to settle down at one point. With that slight downer on the evening pushed aside, it was an otherwise fantastic performance from the boys. About halfway through the set, keyboardist Fetah Sabawi announced, somewhat unsurprisingly, that the gig had been declared a sell-out, understandably looking quite happy as he did so! As it was for Twelve Foot Ninja, the crowd delighted in the tracks from the band's self-titled EP, and the newer ones also went down very well, including a solid rendition of the single being launched, Nice to See You. The band concluded with Rujm (Pile of Stones), always a crowd favourite, and you only had to look at the faces of the crowd as they made their way out of the venue, to know that it had been a very high quality gig. I don't expect this band to remain in the underground scene for much longer, they're just too damn talented.

Promises Made of Glass
No Solution, No Problem
Cause and Effect
Home (Where Did We Go Wrong)
--Intermission-- Dahab played over PA
Jericco (instrumental)
B Song
Nice to See You
Rujm (Pile of Stones)

Monday, May 3, 2010

"I see a mansard roof through the trees" - Groovin' the Moo 2010, Bendigo Showgrounds, 01/05/10

So, there was an epic line - for some people it apparently took up to four hours to get in! Took about half an hour for me - and it was rather overcrowded, but pushing those small details aside, Groovin' the Moo 2010 was a pretty good festival with a solid lineup, including three quality internationals.

Aforementioned line meant that I missed the first couple of acts on the lineup, and for the start of the day some friends and I just spend a bit of time in the bar, watching some reasonable sets from Muph & Plutonic and Kisschasy while we were there. The first real act of the day was Lisa Mitchell. I'm not entirely familiar with this singer's work, but there were a couple of familiar tunes in her set, and I think I walked away a new fan. Surprisingly she didn't play Coin Laundry, although as my friend later explained, this was probably due to the fact that people have taken it upon themselves to throw coins at her when she plays this song! (Lisa Mitchell scores 8/10)

I then decided to check out Space Invadas in the Showgrounds' more dance-oriented arena, The Moolin Rouge. My interest for this new four-piece soul/funk group lies in the fact that their DJ is the extremely talented Ashley Anderson, better known as Katalyst. So I enjoyed their set quite a bit, despite the fact that I didn't know any of the songs and also Katalyst wasn't really ripping it up on the turntables like he's renowned for doing. I guess that's not really the point of this project though. It's worth mentioning that the costumes were cool - Stormtrooper masks, and Darth Vader for the frontman, whoever he was... (Space Invadas score 7/10)

After that I had a bit of a wander to attempt to find some friends, which I finally did just before a typically blistering performance by Adelaide hip-hop champions Funkoars - lucky too, as one of said friends is a massive fan. I'm not a huge fan of Australian hip-hop in general, but I have become something of an 'Oars convert when I caught them a few months back supporting Ash Grunwald. That gig was in celebration of the collaborative track between the artists Little Did I Know, which was a stand-out track played on the day - unfortunately Ash didn't actually appear live, but the boys gave him a big shout-out, which was cool. Can't knock their ability to get a crowd going really, as the likes of Black Sally and What's Your Malfunction got some very enthusiastic call-and-responses going. Like I said, I'm a convert. (Funkoars score 8.5/10)

Ahh, the Bag Raiders. A shining example of a band (or more accurately, production/DJ team?) that suddenly gets thrust into the spotlight because of one big tune. The rest of their set was certainly entertaining enough, but when they dropped Shooting Stars, the crowd went ballistic, and those outside the tent actually ran inside to catch that great song in action. We'd almost left early to go watch Empire of the Sun, but we certainly didn't regret staying for that moment. (Bag Raiders score 8/10)

Empire of the Sun are one of those bands (to be fair, these days it's really just the Luke Steele and co. show) you either get/like or you don't - and unfortunately for Steele, most are in the latter category. But I'm in the former. I do quite like most of - actually, scratch that, ALL of the songs on the then-duo's debut album, and I think they are an amazing live act. Of course, that's what Steele is going for - rather than just stand up there and play the songs like they should be played, he puts a real effort into the actual experience of the live show. Crazy costumes, over-the-top choreographed dance routines, superb lighting and projections, Empire of the Sun's live show is a sight to behold - hell, even those that appeared not to like the band itself still looked a little stunned at everything that was going on. Steele and co. played just about everything from their debut album, and a couple of other bits which could have been genuine new songs or just outright bizarre jams, it's rather hard to tell. Smash hit Walking on a Dream concluded the set, which reminded the doubters that even if Steele's ridiculous live show is a little bit wanky, he can still write a damn fine tune. I'm just going to admit it - I think these guys are a class act, and I'll be interested to hear another album. (Empire of the Sun score 9/10)

As the house lights on the adjacent stage went down, some classic hip-hop track was blasted over the main arena PA, then a huge Contra backdrop became visible, and the crowd very enthusiastically welcomed the night's international headliner Vampire Weekend to the stage. With little fanfare, it was White Sky they chose to open the night, and the crowd fell in love instantly. It's clear the band have had an extremely rapid rise to popularity over the years since their self-titled debut album was released, and most people watching them on the night were clearly devoted fans - not those that had maybe heard Cousins a couple of times on commercial radio! It was also a nice contrast to see how refreshingly minimal their stage set-up was after the previous assault to the senses - a few chandeliers added a classy touch to the evening, while those that were looking closely at the Contra backdrop were surprised when the girl's innocent-looking eyes occasionally lit up brightly, making her look quite sinister at times! As for the songs, the band mostly focused on the more up-tempo numbers that were sure to get the crowd dancing - M79, A-Punk and even Cousins came quite early in the set, to the delight of all. Ezra Koenig seemed a little surprised by the rapturous response his band was getting in a town he'd most likely previously never heard of, but he welcomed the attention, teaching the crowd his band's many singalong moments - not that they needed it really, you only needed to listen to the massive hollering during One (Blake's Got a New Face) to realise that they were among fans! Walcott was of course the closer to a brilliant performance. Been looking forward to seeing these guys for so long that I might have been a little biased, but hell, so were the other thousand odd people there. (Vampire Weekend score 10/10!)

On reflection, it seems that I might have been too quick to judge what was on the night a performance I didn't think very much of at all - from a very divisive band indeed, Australian gods Silverchair. Hmm... what to say, really? I'm going to say I was tired after a long day and wasn't really in the mood for Daniel Johns' antics - which included getting the crowd to scream "eight and a half times", and oh yes, let's not forget, "Now scream HO!" (crowd responds accordingly.) "MO!" (crowd enthusiasm dies considerably.) "WOAH!" To their credit, at least they're still performing some classics, such as Israel's Son and The Door, but even those numbers were marred by, among other things, long pauses while Mr Johns waited for a suitable crowd response, or theatrical off-key pedal noise jams and solos. I don't get it, I enjoyed them very much at Across the Great Divide when they were doing similar things, but... this time something seemed a bit different. Like I said, maybe I was tired. They were OK... really. I'm going to try and restrain myself from commenting on the two new songs, purely because I was in a bad enough mood as it was when they being played, and also because part of me thinks that honestly, they might have simply been pulling what seems in their mind at least to be a rather amusing joke. The songs were entitled "16" and "Machina Colada". If there's Youtube footage around, look it up and be prepared to be shocked/amused. (Silverchair score a very confused 6/10)

Groovin' the Moo wasn't a bad little festival, but I think bearing in mind they were catering to three international acts (especially one as popular as Vampire Weekend), they could've done a lot better on the organisation front. I for one thought that queue was bad, but I was clearly one of the lucky ones! Also, no toilets in the licensed area was a MEGA FAIL. It'll probably take a very strong lineup to see me attend this one next year, as the only thing that saved the day were as always, the great bands; have I mentioned how awesome Vampire Weekend were?! But yeah, the organisation was a little poor and I'm generally getting a bit over festivals with the crowds and the stage-hopping and the dickheads and whatnot. /endrant.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Top 10 gigs of 2009...

I had this all done out with small reviews and shit, but this blog thing is being a prick and won't let me post them haha, something to do with HTML coding, if only I understood... so, basically, here they are in pure list form.

10. The Likes of You presents Hernan Cattaneo (Argentina) & Loco Dice (Germany), at Brown Alley, May 15th. With local support.
9. The Likes of You presents Sasha (UK), at Billboard the Venue, November 20th. With local support.
8. Fuck Buttons (UK) / Dead Meadow (USA) / Afrirampo (Japan), at Corner Hotel, January 14th.
7. The Bronx / Mariachi El Bronx (USA), at Billboard the Venue, September 13th. With support from Ouch My Face and Dr El Suavo.
6. What is Music? Festival presents 50/50, at ABC Iwaki Auditorium, December 19th.
5. Dream Theater, at Palais Theatre, December 7th and 8th. With support from Pain of Salvation (Sweden).
4. Static Age Festival with Lightning Bolt (USA), at Lithuanian Club, November 28th. With support from Grey Daturas, Embers Big Band, Ivens, Justice Yeldham, Dead Dog and others.
3. ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (USA), at Corner Hotel, May 30th and 31st. With support from My Disco (both nights), Pets with Pets (first night) and A Friend of Mine (second night).
2. Winter Sound System with Armin van Buuren (Netherlands), at Melbourne Park, June 7th.
1. Pearl Jam (USA), at Etihad Stadium, November 20th. With support from Ben Harper and Relentless7 (USA) and Liam Finn (NZ).

I really don't understand why my reviews are totally fucked... I may try and get them up later, but this is already way overdue anyway so I'm thinking I'll just leave it for now. By the way, festivals in general weren't eligible for this countdown, BUT, as Lightning Bolt and Armin van Buuren did play full headlining sets at their respective fests, I have allowed their performances to get in.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Soundwave Festival 2010, Melbourne Showgrounds, 26/02/10

The lineups for this rock/metal/punk festival have always impressed me. There's never really been much that floats my boat enough for me attend in the past, but I always though that Soundwave always managed to get a lot of great acts for the sort of festival that it was. Anyway, this year a lot of the acts really impressed, so I bought a ticket and was not disappointed by a great day of music.

The first band I heard on the day was Canada's The Creepshow, who opened proceedings on Stage 1 (there was a band before them on Stage 2, a last minute replacement for Closure in Moscow I guess, but nobody knew who they were). I didn't actually see The Creepshow, as I was standing on the Stage 2 side for a good spot for Sunny Day Real Estate, but of course because of the typical two-mainstage festival setup, I did hear all their set. They seemed pretty interesting, playing some catchy female-fronted psychobilly that seemed to get their fans on the other side of the arena dancing and singing along with great enthusiasm.

Legendary early 90s emo quartet Sunny Day Real Estate just reformed last year, with all four members from their original lineup - Jeremy Enigk (vocals/guitar), Dan Hoerner (guitar/backing vocals), Nate Mendel (bass, yes, the Foo Fighter) and William Goldsmith (drums, also ex-Foo Fighters). It's the band's second reunion, but the first time since 1994 that all original members have played together, and for the first time ever, they were playing in Australia - suffice to say, for the small but passionate crowd assembled in front of stage 2, this was a very special moment. The band walked onstage to a heroes' welcome, and when the song chosen to open the set was Seven, you could feel the happiness in the air. They were the first out of the three reunited bands performing at Soundwave today, and they set the bar high. Naturally, the set consisted mostly of songs from the cult classic Diary, along with a surprise inclusion of b-side 9, and J'Nuh from the Sunny Day Real Estate album. The band played their songs extremely well, with Enigk still singing very well after all these years away from the band. Goldsmith's performance was also particularly impressive; during the more intense musical moments he became a whirlwind of energy, absolutely pummeling his kit and working up a very noticeable sweat. The band closed with Sometimes, and the crowd were left wanting more due to the 40 minute limit on their set, but the band looked extremely happy to finally play in Australia and I wouldn't be surprised if we see them again, perhaps after they release their long-awaited new album. (Sunny Day Real Estate score 10/10.)
In Circles
Song About an Angel

Next up was the tail-end of US stoner sludge metallers Baroness, in the festival's more "metal" stage, which was unwisely located INSIDE on a 34 degree day. Anyone who went in there knows what I'm talking about - it was just HOT. And with only two doors the side and two at the back open, there was a serious lack of ventilation. Thankfully, I didn't have to stay in there too long, at least not for this band or the next (Isis) as I'd seen them both the night before at their sideshow.

So I made my way back to the mainstage for Eagles of Death Metal. We were informed by Taking Back Sunday (playing the preceding set on the adjacent stage) that they were "very handsome man" and that the ladies "will probably be pregnant by the end of it". As expected, Jesse "The Devil" Hughes did inject a hell of a lot of swagger and sex appeal into the band's set, mostly with his between-song banter, but unfortunately once the songs were being played, his voice seemed to falter a little bit. I'm going to assume perhaps it might have been something to do with partying too much the night before or something - he did admit that he had been at Cherry Bar the night before and was keen to return that night, so yeah. A good set though featuring most songs you'd expect such as Wannabe in L.A and I Only Want You. It was just the fact that his vocals were a bit poor meant I didn't quite enjoy it as much. Which was a shame because I'd really been looking forward to seeing them after I missed them last year. (EoDM score 7/10.)

Next up it was back to the ever-increasingly hot sauna that was Stage 4, for a bit of good ol fun-time stoner rock, and who better to deliver it than Clutch. I didn't know a lot of the songs they played, but I stayed for the whole set anyway, and how could you not? The band's songs were inspiring some serious crowd energy down the front, no small feat considering the band were playing in the Soundwave oven as it were. "I thought when I woke this morning, that I was excited when I heard we'd be playing indoors!" commented frontman Neil Fallon. Yet despite the heat, the band didn't let up for a second -the riffs were monstrous, Fallon's vocals were right on the money and the crowd - including I - loved it. (Clutch score 9/10.)

I checked out the first few songs of Anvil, finding them quite amusing in a good way. They wouldn't have anywhere near the audience they did had they not realeased that movie (which I really must get around to seeing), but those that were in attendance certainly did enjoy the chance to see these true purveyors of speed metal do their thing.

Next up was the headfucking metal madness of Swedish five-piece Meshuggah. I met a few friends of mine outside before heading back in, and one remarked, "That name sounds Yiddish" - of course, it actually is; it means "crazy". Which is really a very good name for these guys - their music is chaotic, unpredictable, and yet extremely precise. Despite the increasing temperature in Stage 4, the Swedes worked the crowd into a frenzy as they tore through their polyrhythmic math metal numbers with great abandon. Guitarists Martin Hagstrom and Fredrik Thordendal were an absolute pleasure to watch as they bashed out complicated riffs and intricate solos together, holding it all together. And frontman Jens Kidman has one of my personal favourite metal voices. Their set included plenty of well-known numbers from across their career, from newies such as Bleed and Combustion to older favourites like Rational Gaze and the closing Future Breed Machine. Brilliance. (Meshuggah score 10/10.)
Rational Gaze
Future Breed Machine

It was time for something considerably more low-key, but no less exciting, so I headed in the direction of Stage 1 for Jane's Addiction. As the second of today's reunited bands, many were wondering just how they'd cut it, especially considering the hard-living lifestyle they were all known for back in the day. Of course, they put on a great performance on the day, full of energy and enthusiasm for the songs they were playing. Perry Farrell's voice sounded great too; he faltered a few times but it was far better than Jesse Hughes' performance earlier that day. Dave Navarro delivered some typically ripping solos, and the rhythm section of Eric Avery and Stephen Perkins was spot-on. Farrell's banter tended to tread the fine line between amusing and ridiculous, but all in all, it was great to see these guys live at least once. I must say, I was disappointed by some of the songs being played in different keys - I know, a bit pedantic, but if you're used to a song sounding a certain way, it's a little weird to hear it otherwise for the first time. Anyway. The ending of the set was a nice touch - Navarro and Avery traded their electrics for acoustics, while Perkins played percussion at the front of the stage, in a lovely version of Jane Says. (Jane's Addiction score 9.5/10.)
Up the Beach
Mountain Song
Three Days
Been Caught Stealing
Ain't No Right
...Then She Did
Ocean Size
Summertime Rolls
Ted, Just Admit It...
Jane Says

After that I spent a bit of time wandering searching for some mates, finally meeting them over at Stage 3 just after Anti-Flag's set. We decided to have a few final beers and sit in the stands and catch up on the day's events - but unfortunately Escape the Fate were on. I do NOT understand what it is about this sort of music that attracts people. It seemed absolutely boring and generic and for some reason, the crowd in front of that stage loved it. Meh. Thumbs down to mates for suggesting this spot to meet :P

FINALLY, the night drew to its brilliant conclusion - Faith No More came from out of nowhere, with a performance that was typically epic and aggressive. From all accounts their gigs in this land of sunshine have showed that they are certainly not suffering a midlife crisis, and the thousands of fans' reaction showed that still indeed care a lot for this band. Their performance - with a helluva lot of classics, Mike Patton madness, and even some random webcam chat to some unsuspecting people all accounted for - showed that at the end of Soundwave 2010, Faith No More were kings... for more than a day. (Faith No More score 10/10.) (I'm sorry, I really couldn't help myself...)
Don't Dream It's Over (Crowded House cover)
From Out Of Nowhere

Land of Sunshine

Be Aggressive


The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

Chinese Arithmetic/Poker Face

Last Cup of Sorrow

Cuckoo for Caca

Easy (The Commodores cover)
Ashes to Ashes
Midlife Crisis
I Started a Joke
(Bee Gees cover)
Digging The Grave

King for a Day


Just a Man

This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us (Sparks cover)
We Care a Lot

So, Soundwave 2010 was the first time I've attended this festival, but if future lineups are equal to this, I'll be sure to return. It's better organised and less crowded than some of its bigger counterparts and offers a wider variety of acts. The whole day really was quite enjoyable!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The best (compact disc) sounds of the year 2009

So, some might see this as a little late in the piece, but then again, isn't posting your top 2009 CDs and gigs in say, November a little bit premature? What about all those great albums that get released in November, or all those awesome gigs you attend? So that's why I've always preferred to leave it a little late, and here it is. First up, the ten best albums of 2009, and they were, in my humble opinion!...

10.Deströyer 666 – Defiance
It’s been a little while between drinks for this legendary Australian-via-Europe blackened thrash metal group, but on their first album in seven years, the mighty D666 show no signs of slowing down. They’ve always been an underground favourite in the metal scene – not just Down Under too – and with this album it’s easy to see why. Blistering riffage and leads, truly evil vocals and a thunderous rhythm section, D666 are back and more defiant than ever before! Their no nonsense approach to their music always pays off well.
THE STAND-OUT: I Am Not Deceived
OTHER STAND-OUTS: Weapons of Conquest, The Barricades are Breaking

9. Porcupine Tree – The Incident
Well then, it’s yet another release from that band that just keep going from strength to strength! Some might not approve of the direction the band has taken in recent years, and I suppose that’s a little understandable, but the fact is they have become a band that are rapidly increasing their fanbase while still retaining the key sonic elements that we all know and love. I mean, you could hardly call this album a “sell-out” – it contains two discs of material, the first of which is comprised of fourteen “pieces” that together make up the 55 minute song cycle that is The Incident itself. The different tracks – with influences from ranging from discordant noise ambience to all-out heavy metal riffage to calm and gentle progressive passages – do of course stand up by themselves, but are linked together in such a way that the best way to experience the album is to listen to the whole thing together in one sitting. And indeed, that’s how the band are playing it live. The second disc isn’t too bad either – a collection of four extra songs independent of The Incident. Another classy effort from Mr Steven Wilson and co.
OTHER STAND-OUTS: V. Drawing the Line, II. The Blind House, Bonnie the Cat

8. Sunn O))) – Monoliths & Dimensions
Sunn O)))’s “music” has been called many things in the past – many of them not complimentary – but one thing that has been noticeable in recent releases is their concerted effort to push the boundaries of their own sound, beyond the standard “LOUD SLOOOOOOWWWWW GUITARS” approach. The duo of Anderson and O’Malley do that very well here on this album, officially their seventh studio outing. Familiar guests Attila Csihar and Oren Ambarchi are once again present, as are newcomers such as experiment US violist Eyvind Kang. In just four epic tracks, Sunn O))) manage to deliver a record that is hypnotic, frightening at times, beautiful at others, and always crushingly loud and heavy. Brilliance.
THE STAND-OUT: Well... there’s just four tracks, so you know what? I’m going to give it to them all!

7. Mastodon – Crack the Skye
I make no secret of the fact that I think these guys are one of the most talented bands to emerge from the heavy metal scene in the past decade, and with their fifth studio album, they once again vindicate this opinion. Troy Sanders, Bill Kelliher, Brent Hinds and Brann Dailor have taken the foot off the pedal a bit since the all-out assault that was 2006’s Blood Mountain; on this album you can find a lot more clean singing, slower tempos and less in-your-face metal riffage. Not to say that it doesn’t sound like Mastodon, because of course it does. They’ve just adjusted their already amazing dynamic range a little bit, which should win them over a whole new audience without losing the loyal fans they’ve amassed over the years.
THE STAND-OUT: Divinations
OTHER STAND-OUTS: Quintessence, Oblivion, The Last Baron

6. Muse – The Resistance
I think this beloved trio of Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dom Howard will continue to, ahem, rise (no pun intended) with every release they bring out, and once again on this effort they have set their own creative bar way up there, in the upper reaches of the stratosphere which their bombastic sound so effortlessly reaches. Though the familiar Muse sound is present and accounted for on tracks like Uprising and Guiding Light, they have managed to keep things sounding fresh and inspired with some new ideas thrown into the mix. Frontman Bellamy’s voice continues to truly impress, such as on Resistance and the very Queen-esque United States of Eurasia, while his symphonic influences are also given a healthy workout on tracks like I Belong to You and of course, the epic closing suite Exogenesis Symphony. The stomping guitar riffs, the dazzling keyboard/piano wizardry, the rumbling bass, the steady drums – this, ladies and gentlemen, is a MUSE ALBUM. And if you don’t like that (which it seems a lot of you don’t), then you can quite frankly...
THE STAND-OUT: I Belong to You
OTHER STAND-OUTS: Exogenesis Symphony, United States of Eurasia, Undisclosed Desires

5. Portal – Swarth
Portal are truly one of the most unique bands out there in the ridiculously crowded, often same-old same-old scene of “death metal”. A band that is not focused on lightning-fast guitar solos, rapid-fire blastbeat-ery and those ridiculously guttural vocals, but puts more of an emphasis on atmosphere and dynamics. The sound of Portal is one that is NOT easy to listen to – hell, I’m still struggling – but it is one that will reward the persistent listener for its amazingly bleak journey into previously untapped sonic territory. (Sorry this review is a bit incoherent. If you know Portal, you’ll know it’s truly hard to describe what they sound like.)
OTHER STAND-OUTS: Illoomorpheme, Marityme

4. Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures
Way back in 2005, a certain David Grohl, in an interview with Mojo magazine, quipped, “The next project that I'm trying to initiate involves me on drums, Josh Homme on guitar, and John Paul Jones playing bass. That’s the next album. That wouldn’t suck.” In 2009, this wonderful project finally came to fruition, with a series of highly-praised gigs that sold out very quickly despite the trio not having released any recorded music yet! Eventually, in November, the debut self-titled release from the Vultures arrived, and what an album it is! The songs sound pretty much like you’d expect them to from a trio comprising of a guy from Queens of the Stone Age and Kyuss, a dude from Led Zeppelin, and that legend from Foo Fighters and Nirvana. Down and dirty blues-tinged riff-driven rock ‘n’ roll as it should sound. Yes.
THE STAND-OUT: Elephants
OTHER STAND-OUTS: Scumbag Blues, Reptiles, Mind Eraser, No Chaser, Gunman

3. Karnivool – Sound Awake
And in 2009, the wait was over. It’s been an agonising four years since the Perth fivesome dropped their awesome debut Themata, and everyone was getting a little bit antsy, but I think we can all say it was worth the wait! As the album begins with a little crackly ambience and then, of all things, a freakin’ vibraphone, you wonder exactly what Karnivool have in store this time... before an EXPLOSION of thundering bass and drums threatens to tear your head off – and then, THAT VOICE comes in and you know everything’s going to be just awesome. It’s certainly one of those rare albums that delivers precisely what it’s expected of it – but of course, with a few surprises to keep things interesting.
THE OTHER STAND-OUTS: Simple Boy, Umbra, New Day, most other tracks really!

2. ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – The Century of Self
The indie world fell in love with this experimental Texan group after the release of their monumental third album Source Tags & Codes, but then what? The band followed up with the still-awesome but somewhat disappointing Worlds Apart, and then really pissed off a hell of a lot of people with So Divided in 2006... enter 2009. Free of their record label and with a bit of a re-jigged line-up to boot, ...Trail of Dead have finally lived up to their own standard with this cracker of a compact disc.
THE STAND-OUT: Isis Unveiled
THE OTHER STAND-OUTS: Halcyon Days, Luna Park, Pictures of an Only Child, Bells of Creation

This album also gets the gong, deservedly, for best cover art of 2009! Look at that. And now just remember that lead singer Conrad Keely DREW IT ENTIRELY WITH BLUE BIRO.

But anyway, it's now time for the big one! According to yours truly, 2009 belonged sonically to ...

1. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
In 2008, a little duo from out of Bristol, England exploded onto the music scene with a little album entitled Street Horrrsing. With its melodic approach to noisy drone, Fuck Buttons’ debut release saw Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power become something of a household name in the hipster indie scene, as they toured the world with their explosive live show, very often playing on the bill of ATP events. Surprisingly, it took them just a year to record and release a follow-up, and they did so in the form of this little beauty. Tarot Sport marks a slightly different direction for the group, as they have all but eliminated those wonderful screamed-through-a-plastic-toy-microphone vocals that were their trademark on Street Horrrsing, and also taken things in a bit more of a beat-friendly direction. Nevertheless, the harsh synths and rhythmic percussive pulse will be familiar to those that loved their debut, and indeed, this release can only mean a joyous leap forward for the UK twosome.
THE STAND-OUT: Flight of the Feathered Serpent
OTHER STAND-OUTS: Surf Solar, Phantom Limb

OK, so that just about covers it! There were some other brilliant albums I picked up during the year, but alas there can only be ten entrants in a top ten, so some must miss out! Coming soon, the top 10 gigs of 2009!