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.