Monday, January 31, 2011

Explosions, stage invasions, fokken riddikolos South African hip hop, and Nick Cave! - Big Day Out 2011, Flemington Racecourse, 30/01/11

So, yet again, what I saw as an excellent lineup convinced me to break my promise to myself that I would be giving this year's Big Day Out a miss. Yes, the lineup may have been a little recycled, with two of the three mainstage headliners appearing at the festival only four and five years ago and not releasing any significant new material in that time (Tool and The Stooges respectively), and the Australian undercard was absolutely yawn-worthy (with a few exceptions). But I never really understood that "they've been here before!" argument for knocking a lineup - if the artist is a great live performer (as Tool and The Stooges UNQUESTIONABLY are), then why not go back and see them again? Anyway, despite the 40 degree heat doing its best to ruin it, another fantastic day was had at my SEVENTH consecutive Big Day Out.

A combination of misreading the train timetable and my own laziness saw me get through the gates a bit later than intended, then a friend arrived soon after I did so I met up with him. Unfortunately by then it was too late to go over and check out Super Wild Horses, who I'd heard good things about, and we instead made our way in the direction of the main stages so I could get my spot for Dead Letter Circus and he could go and see Little Red with some others. Within ten minutes however, said friend had joined me over on the Orange Stage side, finding Little Red boring, and indeed they were. One band that was not boring was Dead Letter Circus! Despite the sound guys doing a very average job - vocalist Kim Benzie was barely audible at the best of times, the guitars of Rob Maric and newish live member Tom Skerlj were completely overwhelmed by drums and the sampled beats and programming were almost non-existent - the band still threw themselves into their early afternoon timeslot with all the usual enthusiasm we see from them at live shows. As expected, the rapidly rising profile of the band saw plenty of keen punters arriving early to check Dead Letter Circus out, and the fans were more than happy to lend their voices to just about every lyric of every song! This time last year, DLC were a lot less well-known and were just starting to rise out of the "underground", yet the sudden success has clearly not gone to their heads. Benzie was genuinely thankful of everyone in attendance, preceeding One Step with a mention of their recent Hottest 100 success (the song made it in at #65), and later dedicating Lines to the fans who had been there from the beginning. Having always seen DLC at club shows with longer sets than the 50 minutes they were allocated today, I was expecting them to miss a few classics, but the setlist was actually quite satisfying, with a healthy selection of their amazing debut album This is the Warning, and three out of the six tracks from their debut self-titled EP making the cut. The set concluded in great style; as the introductory speech from This is the Warning played out over the PA, Benzie introduced Sean Bailey from Sydonia and Zane Rosanoski from Black Devil Yard Boss to the stage, to belt the floor toms in that middle section.
The Mile
This Long Hour
Disconnect and Apply
One Step
Here We Divide
The Space on the Wall
Next in Line
This is the Warning (with Sean Bailey (Sydonia) and Zane Rosanoski (Black Devil Yard Boss) on guest percussion)
(Dead Letter Circus's performance was worthy of a 10/10, but unfortunately due to abysmal sound the overall set was an 8/10 at best. Not the band's fault though, I'm sure. They didn't even seem to notice a problem.)

It was then time for a bit of a wander and take-it-easy time. In this time I found myself pondering the appeal of Washington, when we tried to meet up with a few friends near a jam-packed Essential Stage. I mean, her music sounds... nice and easygoing and all, I'd even say it's good, but FIVE sold-out nights at the Corner Hotel good? I don't get it. Anyway. After staying there for a bit and finding ourselves increasingly bored, we headed over to the Boiler Room to enjoy the fact that it had a roof, and also to secure an early spot for South Africa's Zef hip-hop trio Die Antwoord. What a show! I didn't get the chance to have a listen to the music of MCs Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, and DJ Hi-Tek before the day, but I was expecting some extremely over-the-top rave-rap, and that's exactly what I got! As Ninja and Yo-Landi belted out vicious rhymes over Hi-Tek's bass-heavy beats, they were accompanied by some excellent visuals, one of which proclaimed "DIE FOKKEN ANTWOORD", which really summed up the mood of the whole show. The crowd was huge for such an early slot, and we all enjoyed this totally over-the-top display of Zef culture at its finest.
(Die Antwoord score: 9/10)

Up next in the Boiler Room (well at least, after a short half-hour interlude from DJ Perplex) were typically bonkers Canadian glitch-electro duo (with a bit of help on drums for their live show) Crystal Castles. The big story of this tour has been that vocalist Alice Glass had done some serious damage to her ankle at a recent show in Japan. Naturally, someone from BDO thought it a good idea to get the crowd amped up even more by declaring that Glass had been advised by doctors to cancel the tour. Pause for boos and shouts. "But she didn't want to disappoint you, so here she is!" How cliche. With a crutch under one arm and holding her microphone in the other, Glass and producer Ethan Kath whipped the Boiler Room into a frenzy in what seemed like a very short but intense set. The massive sound system in the stage did the band a lot more favours than their 2009 appearance at Parklife, and the crowd lost their collective shit to a handful of favourites from their two self-titled albums. Predictably, it was numbers like Baptism and Alice Practice that elicited the biggest response, but really, all went down a treat for the sweaty punters.
SETLIST (something along the lines of this, anyway. Doesn't seem to be up on yet and I couldn't be bothered doing my usual setlist-in-phone on the day.)
Fainting Spells
Doe Deer
Air War
Alice Practice
Reckless / Through the Hosiery
Not In Love
Crystal Castles score 8.5/10)

It was time to head the Main Stage again, and while waiting it out in front of the Blue Stage, I got to witness most of what seemed like just another John Butler Trio gig. I don't mean that in a particularly negative way; I used to be a pretty big fan and I found myself singing along (albeit a little quietly!) and nodding my head to some of the songs that he played during his set. Unfortunately there was quite a lot of material from last years' April Uprising album, which I never bothered to check out. But he did make up for it with the usual classy rendition of Ocean, showing his impressive talents with fingerstyle and percussive guitar playing. Unfortunately for those anticipating the next act on the Blue Stage, he decided that his last song Funky Tonight would involve an extensive percussion jam that stretched the set over-time. Poor form Mr Butler, especially considering that rock royalty was being held up!
(JBT score 7.5/10)

Seeing the mighty Iggy Pop fronting his band The Stooges in a reasonably far-off country like Australia could be considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, five years on from their EPIC performance at the 2006 Big Day Out, lightning struck twice and The Stooges would perform on Australian stages yet again. Since their last outing, they have tragically lost founding axeman Ron Asheton, and so as a mark of respect for their fallen bandmate are now continuing under the Iggy and the Stooges moniker, featuring the return of guitarist James Williamson, who played on the group's third album Raw Power. As one might expect, the material from this set was drawn mostly from this aptly-titled album, still performed with an intensity that most other performers at this festival struggled to match, despite the fact that the five members of the band probably have a collective age of greater than the rest of the festival put together! The backdrop behind the band was a simple PLAIN WHITE SHEET, perfectly epitomising their no-nonsense rock and roll attitude, in stark contrast to the two acts that would take to the stage after them. And at the front of it all was James Newell Osterberg Jr, better known as motherfucking Iggy Pop - running around on stage like a madman, knocking over those microphone stands foolish enough to stand in his way, screeching out those lyrics with all the fury he could muster, and even punching out a camera who got a little too close! Where does this 63-year-old man get so much energy?! Arguably the highlight of the 2006 BDO was the massive stage invasions that Iggy brought on during the anthem Real Cool Time, and of course history repeated itself this time around - the band didn't play that particular song, but four songs in, as Iggy introduced Shake Appeal, the chaos began and punters began spilling themselves over the barrier and onto the stage - I managed to get over the barrier pretty quickly, but the chaos of people scrambling to the stage made the next part quite a challenge, and security very quickly prevented any more people from climbing up! We remained on that side of the barrier for the whole song, until security eventually had to kick us out! The rest of the set was highly enjoyable, featuring a few more ditties from Raw Power, as well as the Fun House double of Fun House and 1970 (oddly played in that order) and a handful of tracks from the Iggy/Williamson collaboration Kill City. The set conclude with No Fun and the immortal I Wanna Be Your Dog as taken from their self-titled debut album, but after vanishing offstage for a bit, being the rock gods that they are, they were allowed to bend the BDO rules slightly and get an encore, which would be Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell. Iggy and the Stooges really showed up just about everybody else on this bill with a high-class performance despite their increasing age.
(Iggy and the Stooges score 9.5/10.)
Raw Power
Search and Destroy
Gimme Danger
Shake Appeal (
with stage invasion!)
Kill City
Fun House
Night Theme
Beyond the Law
No Fun
I Wanna Be Your Dog
Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell

Towards the end of The Stooges, I'd shuffled over to the other side of the D-barrier to the Orange Stage, where I was greeted by the side of a roof-to-floor black curtain, obscuring the stage set-up of German industrial metal legends Rammstein. It was a hotly (pun intended) anticipated performance for quite a lot of people on the day; after all, it's their first Australian tour in ten years, and in that time they've released FOUR albums. I think the method of covering the set-up time is a good tension builder, after all, you've got no idea what's going to happen until BAM, it actually does happen. And as The Stooges wrapped up, lights could be seen flickering behind the black curtain, and the familiar synthesiser opening of Rammlied, from the band's 2009 album Liebe ist für alle da, drifted out across the grounds. Still behind the curtain, the operatic voice of Till Lindemann began the song in fine style, before the opening chord blasts and chant of "RAMM! STEIN!" began the song proper. The black curtain fell to the floor to reveal a SECOND curtain, this time a massive German flag, before that too dropped, the first of MANY loud explosions went off, and the six German rockers became visible for the first time! After ten years away from this country, it's fair to say the fans were waiting a long time for this, and the band weren't disappointing at all. Now, it would be impossible to review this show without saying that THE STAGE SHOW WAS INCREDIBLE. After all, this was the only band on the bill today (and probably in BDO history) that boasted a licensed pyrotechnician for a frontman, and they put his skills to excellent use. Fireballs going off in every direction (including from above the band), flamethrowers wielded by band members, and even the occasional dazzling fireworks display, the band was so over-the-top you couldn't help but be amazed at their show. My personal favourite stunt occurred during Du hast, when the purpose of the wires running from the stage to the mixing tent became immediately clear; Lindemann fired a crossbow in their general direction, setting of a dazzling chain of explosions along the wires. There were some comical theatrical moments as well, such as during Ich tu dir weh, when Lindemann picked up keyboardist Christian "Flake" Lorenz and put him in a bathtub, before ascending high above him on a hydraulic platform and pouring fireworks down into the bathtub. After returning to the stage, Lindemann inspected the bath and pronounced Flake "dead", however as he returned to his microphone, Flake re-emerged, now in a sparkling suit and returned to the keys, continuing the rest of the set most amusingly on a treadmill! Then there was the "fan" being set on fire during Benzin! Stage-show, schmage-show, some of you might say. WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC? Well, as some other bands have proven over the years (umm, Empire of the Sun?), blowing your budget on the visual side of things is pointless without a decent collection of songs to back it up with; thankfully, there were no such complaint's of Rammstein's material on the day. The band played a decent set of tunes, consisting as expected mostly of LIFAD tracks, but interspersed with a couple of favourites from across their career, even dating back to debut album Herzeleid, with Du riechst so gut delighting the hardcore fans in the audience. Elsewhere, third album Mutter got the next highest representaion, and one song from everything else was played, including, of course, Du hast, which certainly got the biggest reaction on the day. The explosions finally died down enough to allow the band to farewell the crowd with Pussy, but there was one final stunt to come and that involved Till Lindemann mounting a suspiciously-penis-shaped cannon on the stage and blasting foam out into a delighted audience. The only complaints about Rammstein's set that I think everyone had, were, 1) It wasn't properly dark yet, meaning the amazing stage show was slightly less intense than it should have been, and 2) THEY JUST WEREN'T ON FOR LONG ENOUGH. This was undoubtedly one of THE BEST performances in Big Day Out history; definitely my personal favourite since Rage Against the Machine's comeback in 2008, and over the seven years I've been, probably only second to that performance as well. Usually I don't like to include festival performances in my end of year top 10 gigs, but bearing in mind that they didn't do a sideshow, there is no way that this cannot make it at the end of the year. RAMMSTEIN SCORE 10/10!
Waidmann's Heil
Keine Lust
Feuer frei!
Weiner Blut
Ich tu dir weh
Du riechst so gut
Links 2-3-4
Du hast
Ich Will

After that, there wasn't a lot that Tool could do to impress me; going to a set of arty prog-rock after that, and staying in the jam-packed D, just didn't seem like the right option, especially seeing I was going to Tool's sideshow. So a good mate and I decided we'd head over to the Green Stage to see Warren Ellis, Martyn P Casey, Jim Sclavunos, and NICK CAVE in action, as wired garage-rock revivalists Grinderman. I'd seen the band perform at the ATP Festival a few years ago, but didn't really know their material at the time, so I was pretty keen to see them this time around. Naturally, the "other" three members came onstage first, then Cave himself entered to an extremely enthusiastic response. Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man, from the band's Grinderman 2 album, was a good choice for opening the set, as Cave chanted "We sucked her, we sucked her, we sucked her dry!" and howled out at the crowd. The band really were throwing everything into this performance, with Cave thrashing around the stage in a manner not dissimilar to Iggy Pop's earlier performance, taking out a few microphone stands with him. He seemed to have some sort of extension of the stage set up (I was a little far back in the crowd so I couldn't tell exactly), and utilised it frequently to get even closer to the adoring crowd, especially during Kitchenette where he screeched "I JUST WANNA RELAX!" repeatedly. The sexually-charged performance featured numerous cuts from both Grinderman and Grinderman 2, with highlights including a typically violent Get it On and No Pussy Blues. There were however the occasional moments of contrasting tranquility; Nick Cave introducing Palaces of Montezuma with: "Now, this next one's a love song, so if you're with someone you love... or even someone you hate, take a hold of them and let the sweet..." *long pause* *Sclavunos shouts something* "Yes, the sweet sentiments, thank you Jim, wash over you". After Bellringer Blues, Cave made to leave the stage, but stopped, saying "Apparently we've got one more," and so it was that the set concluded with a beautiful extended version of the eponymous Grinderman. (Grinderman score 10/10.)
Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man
Worm Tamer
Get it On
Heathen Child
Palaces of Montezuma
Honey Bee (Let's Fly to Mars)
No Pussy Blues
Bellringer Blues

Naturally, the Boiler Room was still kicking until the very end, with M.I.A. taking the headline slot, but the group I was with decided it was time to go, and after the excellent day I'd had already, I decided that I wouldn't be missing much to call it a night at that point. I was getting a little bit fed-up of the whole Big Day Out experience this time last year, but this time around I really did enjoy myself a whole lot, probably because of the excellent performance by those crazy Germans. So, I won't write this festival off just yet; if the lineup has enough goodness in it next time around, I may just return for an eight visit!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Triple J's Hottest 100 2010

Well, hopefully by now you've all recovered from your Australia Day hangovers. Over the years, it's become one of our most-loved traditions to gather around the radio with a beverage or two and listen in excitement as Triple J counts down their annual listener-voted Hottest 100 poll - the one hundred best songs from the year that's just been. I've always enjoyed the celebrations since, I think, 1997, when The Offspring's Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) took out the honours. Since then, the tradition has usually been kept, except for the previous two when I was attending the Big Day Out. Now, with this and many other "best of" lists, everyone loves to have an opinion on what should and shouldn't have made it, so I though that, well, because this is a music blog, I'd weigh in with my two cents.

I suppose I'll start at the beginning, which was the moment when I logged on to the Triple J website and casted my vote for ten songs that particularly floated my boat so to speak in the year twenty-ten. As I went through the endless list of musical oddities and made a few selections, I found myself wondering, "Hang on...what ARE half of these songs?!" Over the last few years I've really not been listening to Triple J very often; I guess I have my ridiculously oversized CD collection to blame for that. I still wanted to vote though, for a few reasons. The first, and I guess it's pretty obvious, IS THAT PRIZE - Triple J awards a randomly chosen voter a "Golden Ticket", which gains the winner (and a friend) free entry to ALL TRIPLE J SUPPORTED GIGS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR. Now, as we all know, I attend way too many concerts, can you imagine how awesome this would be for me?! Think of the money I'd save! Anyway, the second reason I voted was because of course, I find it interesting to think about what songs I've enjoyed in the year previous and I wanted to see what I'd come up with when I narrowed it down to ten. What were the songs I picked, I hear you ask? Here they are, with positions achieved in the actual countdown, and a "DNP" standing for "Did Not Place" (which six out of my ten votes did not!).
Birds of Tokyo - Plans - #4
Boy and Bear - Rabbit Song - #45
Dead Letter Circus - One Step #65
Delphic - Doubt - DNP
Foals - Total Life Forever - DNP
Gotye - Eyes Wide Open - #25
My Disco - Turn - DNP
PVT - Window - DNP
The Chemical Brothers - Swoon - DNP
Vampire Weekend - White Sky - DNP

Well then. I guess where those particular songs landed (or didn't land) on the countdown didn't really surprise me all that much in general - I knew Plans was going to do extremely well and I was very happy to hear it come in at number 4, and I expected a strong showing from Gotye and Boy & Bear. Dead Letter Circus making the cut was a bit of a turn-up, especially seeing as I thought that Triple J listeners would be more inclined to vote for Big, which was was heard much earlier in the day at #99. As for those that didn't make the grade, well, I didn't hold a great deal of hope for My Disco, PVT and the Chems, such was the slightly "odd" quality of those songs that didn't really seem to fit with the general Triple J mindset. However, I was a little surprised at the lack of Delphic (no songs at all from their excellent Acolyte made it) in the countdown; as I said, I didn't turn the radio on much throughout the year, but when I did, I definitely heard those guys a lot and I thought they were pretty popular. Foals is another that surprised me; Total Life Forever (the album) has been generally very well-received across the music community and yet they only reared their head once in the Hottest 100, at #98 with Spanish Sahara. Definitely a surprise for me. Ditto Vampire Weekend - perhaps it was the very early release of Contra (January 11) that hurt them in this regard, and also the fact that the two big hits were released in 2009 (Cousins and Horchata placed in that year's countdown at #22 and #52 respectively). Nevertheless, they still put in a respectable showing this year, with Giving Up the Gun getting the #55 honours, and Holiday taking out position #67. Evidently, I just voted for the wrong song.

Now for the rest of the list, and my thoughts on it.
1. Angus & Julia Stone - Big Jet Plane
2. Little Red - Rock It
3. Ou Est Le Swimming Pool - Dance The Way I Feel
4. Birds Of Tokyo - Plans
5. Boy & Bear - Fall At Your Feet
6. Adrian Lux - Teenage Crime
7. Cee Lo Green - Fuck You!
8. The Wombats - Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)
9. Art Vs. Science - Magic Fountain
10. Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. - Somebody To Love Me {Ft. Boy George & Andrew Wyatt}
11. Pendulum - ABC News Theme {Remix}
12. Drapht - Rapunzel
13. Sia - Clap Your Hands
14. Kanye West - Runaway {Ft. Pusha T}
15. Duck Sauce - Barbara Streisand
16. The Jezabels - Mace Spray
17. Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. - Bang Bang Bang {Ft. MNDR & Q-Tip}
18. Cloud Control - There's Nothing In The Water We Can't Fight
19. Flight Facilities - Crave You {Ft. Giselle}
20. Washington - Sunday Best
21. Two Door Cinema Club - Undercover Martyn
22. Children Collide - Jellylegs
23. Bliss N Eso - Addicted
24. Sparkadia - Talking Like I'm Falling Down Stairs
25. Gotye - Eyes Wide Open
26. Crystal Castles - Not In Love {Ft. Robert Smith}
27. Florence & The Machine/Dizzee Rascal - You've Got The Dirtee Love {Live}
28. Darwin Deez - Radar Detector
29. Illy - It Can Wait {Ft. Owl Eyes}
30. Yeasayer - O.N.E
31. The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio
32. Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks
33. Tame Impala - Solitude Is Bliss
34. The Naked And Famous - Punching In A Dream
35. Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. - The Bike Song {Ft. Kyle Falconer & Spank Rock}
36. Chiddy Bang - Opposite Of Adults
37. Gorillaz - Doncamatic {Ft. Daley}
38. The Naked And Famous - Young Blood
39. John Butler Trio - Revolution
40. Gyroscope - Baby, I'm Getting Better
41. Bliss N Eso - Down By The River
42. Gorillaz - On Melancholy Hill
43. Yolanda Be Cool/DCUP - We No Speak Americano
44. Crystal Castles - Baptism
45. Boy & Bear - Rabbit Song
46. Bag Raiders - Way Back Home
47. Birds Of Tokyo - Wild At Heart
48. Pendulum - Witchcraft
49. The Jezabels - Easy To Love
50. Hot Chip - One Life Stand
51. Yeasayer - Ambling Alp
52. The John Steel Singers - Overpass
53. Bliss N Eso - Reflections
54. Miami Horror - Holidays {Ft. Alan Palomo}
55. Vampire Weekend - Giving Up The Gun
56. Sia - Bring Night
57. Example - Kickstarts
58. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
59. Washington - Rich Kids
60. Children Collide - My Eagle
61. Ou Est Le Swimming Pool - Jackson's Last Stand
62. Angus And Julia Stone - Hold On
63. Arcade Fire - Ready To Start
64. Gypsy & The Cat - Jona Vark
65. Dead Letter Circus - One Step
66. Cold War Kids - Audience
67. Vampire Weekend - Holiday
68. Andy Bull - Dog {Ft. Lisa Mitchell}
69. Pendulum - Watercolour
70. Groove Armada - Paper Romance
71. Gypsy & The Cat - Piper's Song
72. Two Door Cinema Club - I Can Talk
73. Gypsy & The Cat - Time To Wander
74. Tame Impala - Lucidity
75. Hungry Kids Of Hungary - Coming Around
76. Kings Of Leon - Radioactive
77. Big Boi - Shutterbugg {Ft. Cutty}
78. Gorillaz - Stylo {Ft. Bobby Womack and Mos Def}
79. Little Red - Slow Motion
80. The Black Keys - Howlin' For You
81. Klaxons - Echoes
82. The Black Keys - Tighten Up
83. Arcade Fire - Modern Man
84. Washington - The Hardest Part
85. Hot Chip - I Feel Better
86. Evil Eddie - Queensland
87. Birds Of Tokyo - The Saddest Thing I Know
88. Kanye West - Monster {Ft. JAY-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver}
89. Interpol - Barricade
90. Art Vs. Science - Finally See Our Way
91. The Bedroom Philosopher - Northcote (So Hungover)
92. LCD Soundsystem - I Can Change
93. The National - Anyone's Ghost
94. Xavier Rudd - Time To Smile
95. Broken Bells - The High Road
96. Jonsi - Go Do
97. Parkway Drive - Sleepwalker
98. Foals - Spanish Sahara
99. Dead Letter Circus - Big
100. Muse - Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)

Well. Overall I guess I can't honestly say I was surprised or even not surprised by what came in the countdown; after all, I barely touched the radio this year so I had little idea what was popular (or "hot" if you will). My tip to win was Cee-Lo Green's Fuck You!, and I have to admit I was surprised it didn't. It seemed like it had all the right ingredients to go all the way - catchy hooks, commercial crossover appeal, and of course, those lyrics that we all love to sing! Seeing it come in at only #7 was quite a shock! Congratulations must go to Angus and Julia Stone for taking out the #1 spot with Big Jet Plane. I can't say I'm a massive fan of that particular song, but they are definitely a talented bunch and it's a far better choice for a winner to have a homegrown folk duo, as opposed to some overhyped commercial overseas act stealing the spot because all the Nova listeners jumped on board and had a vote too. It was a far better song than some of the alternatives. Like, for instance, Duck Sauce's abominable Barbra Streisand (an UNFORGIVEABLE #15!). Now, I can be a harsh critic of commercial dance/electronic music at the best of times, but as this song assaulted my ears for the first time, I was just at a loss for words - what, exactly, is the appeal of this song? Yes, the "tune" (in the LOOSEST sense of the word) cooked up in the studio by the seemingly-awesome-on-paper duo of Armand van Helden and A-Trak is, in an irritatingly painful way, quite catchy. You know the kind. It's repetitive, it's simple, it probably took about five minutes to think of, but it gets stuck in your head from the first repeat out of the million that occur in the song, and if you were drunk you'd probably dance your nether regions off to it, so in that respect, it's not without its merits. But... then that voice comes in and utters the name of a not-really-relevant female actor/singer/general celebrity, and that's when the "song" loses all its credibility. I mean, why? Aaaaanway. Other than that, I really have no complaints or compliments to give to the Hottest 100 of 2010 - after all, I had pretty much no idea what songs were going to land where (with a few exceptions), so I can't say I was surprised or even not surprised. I did however really enjoy the day, at a friend's house with a few people and a few (yes, JUST a few, unlike some previous years!) cold ones!

When I arrived home, I was interested to read the amount of bitching on Facebook about the results. Not that I thought the results were particularly "good" or anything, and definitely not suggesting everyone shouldn't share their opinion, but the tone of some people's statuses seemed to suggest that the countdown perhaps should have gone a certain way and they felt surprised and let-down that it didn't. Huh? This is a countdown of the best songs of the year as voted by Triple J listeners, and as I was listening to the countdown, the thing that stuck out most in my mind was, "Well, this isn't exactly what I'd listen to regularly, but it IS what Triple J listeners listen to!" Like just about EVERY other radio station, Triple J has a certain demographic of listeners, and a certain style of music it plays. And I think, when the Hottest 100 rolls around each year, it's usually an accurate encapsulation of what the station played and enjoyed that year. So I don't think there's any point in saying, "Blah, this list sucks!" - do you even listen to Triple J on any other day of the year? If you DID, then there's no way that the Hottest 100 could have caused any major shock to your system, and if you were complaining about it, then one would question why you listen to Triple J in the first place. There are plenty of other choices for radio stations, and if you don't like them, just chuck on your CD collection! Can't really complain about anything in that can you?

Anyway. Congrats once again, not only to Angus and Julia, but to ALL the entrants in the Hottest 100 - OK, so I didn't personally like a large percentage of you, and hadn't even HEARD of quite a lot of you, but obviously quite a few people out there do enjoy your stuff, and placing in this countdown is something I think any band would be happy to put on their resume. It was an interesting ride, once again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Drumroll please! The best physical releases (now including EPs/singles/live albums) of 2010!

And here they are!
10. The Ox and the Fury - Guitars Die in Hot Cars
As I opened my Excel spreadsheet containing my list of albums and searched for all those released in 2010, this one took me by surprise when it came up, as it was released quite early in the year. And then I thought to myself, "Wow, this really is a good album isn't it?", and realised it was more than deserving of a place in the top 10. "The Ox" in this band is actually Melbourne musician extraordinaire Ezekiel Ox, who's certainly been involved with quite a few musical ventures in the past decade or so. In fact, by hearing his name, you're now probably thinking of arguably his most successful venture, the politically-charged funk rock quartet Mammal, who absolutely dominated the Melbourne live scene in the three years they were together, before abruptly cutting their career short in 2009 due to personal differences. Or maybe you thought of Full Scale, who rose to prominence in the wake of the late 90s/early 2000s "nu metal" explosion with a barrage of hard-hitting anthems lead by Ox's vicious diatribes about the state of the world as he saw it. However, I'd bet you didn't think of Ezekiel Ox as the frontman of a... country/folk band? As far as I'm aware (bio details on this lot are pretty scant), Ox got this project going around 2008, and after various musicians drifted in and out of the lineup over the n
ext year or so, the lineup finally stabilised in 2009 with Ox on vocals and acoustic (YES, ACOUSTIC) guitar, Dom Italiano on lead guitar, Ox's old friend Ben Brennan on bass, and Lucius Borich (of the mighty Cog) on drums. And yes, it is country-tinged folk music! While it may be puzzling to imagine how such musicians came up with this style of music based on their other work, these talented blokes pull it off with remarkable ease. Indeed, the great thing about this album is you get to see a very personal side to Ox; rather than his usual politically influenced lyrics, he's actually singing about his own life and the relationships he has with the people in it. In the wake of Over-reactor, and perhaps with Borich having to commit some time to Cog and his new project Floating Me, The Ox and the Fury have kind of slipped off the map over the last few months, which is a great shame as this album shows just how great Ox is as a songwriter and they could definitely have taken this further in the future. Hopefully they'll revisit it soon.
9. Tame Impala - Innerspeaker In which I join the legions of music fans and critics the world over who are falling over themselves to lavish praise on the debut album from Perth psychedelic musician Kevin Parker (who created the majority of this album himself) and his cohorts in trippiness Dominic Simper and Jay Watson. Psychedelic rock is a genre that needs to be approached with caution when one chooses to play it; the danger being that it's very easy to fall into the trap of making bland generic music. Any idiot on acid and who owns a flanger and delay pedal can make psychedelic rock, the trick is to make it not sound like a poor man's Beatles. And while there's undoubtedly a bit of Beatles influence in Parker's work here, there's also plenty of nods to other early jam-heavy rock bands such as Cream and Hendrix, and even some Kyuss thrown into the mix (that's what my ears are finding anyway). Rather than being just a blatant rip-off designed for long-haired bong connoiseurs still living in their parents' basement, Parker has quite faithfully recreated the sound of his influences and made it his own. With the dreamy vocals, fuzzed-out guitars and hypnotic rhythms, Innerspeaker is the sound of an artistic vision coming to life in truly great form, and I think we'll see a lot more of these guys in the future.
THE STAND-OUT: Jeremy's Storm
OTHER STAND-OUTS: Solitude is Bliss, The Bold Arrow of Time

8. Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
This was certainly one of the most unexpected comebacks of the year - at the beginning of the year, Michael Gira, the enigmatic frontman of the disbanded Swans, updated their Myspace page to read "SWANS ARE NOT DEAD", in reference to their final live release Swans are Dead, which was released to coincide with their breakup in 1998. Of course, this clever pun was Gira's way of announcing to the world that he was indeed reactivating the beloved Swans name, and after self-releasing a demo to fund this album (featuring a few tracks that would later be released on the album), My Father... was finally released in September of 2010, the first Swans studio album in FOURTEEN years. And what an album it is; unfortunately
I cannot compare it to the rest of Swans' legacy due to the fact that it's the first Swans I've ever listened to, but if this sounds anything like the rest of their material, then I'll be diving headfirst into their back catalogue at my earliest convenience! Gira and his band show an impressive dynamic range here, ranging from gentle acoustic-based ballads (see Reeling the Liars In) to noisy discordant intensity (see You Fucking People Make Me Sick or the opening intensity of No Words / No Thoughts). The question that's always asked when great bands like this "come back" or "reunite" after a long period of inactivity is, "Was it worth it? Is (new album title here) really good enough to stand up with the likes of (classic albums title/s here)?" I can only imagine in this case, the answer is a resounding yes.
THE STAND-OUT: You Fucking People Make Me Sick
OTHER STAND-OUTS: No Words / No Thoughts, My Birth

7. My Disco - Little Joy I purchased this album on a little bit of an impulse a couple of months back, despite some initial misgivings over this band when I saw them live about halfway through 2009 - yes, they ARE REPETITIVE! Let's not deny it! But once you get past the fact that each song on this album contains a very small amount of riffs - sometimes only variations on a single main theme - it starts to become increasingly easy to listen to and even fun at times. The Melbourne trio have stated that minimalism in general was a big influence on the making of this album; I don't know much about the genre, but I can definitely hear it on some of these tracks. And yet, there's still a wealth of ideas on show here - from uptempo grooves such as Closer and epic single Young, to slow burners like Sunray and the almost-title track Lil Joy. I will now probably go out and buy this band's other two releases, even though they've evolved quite considerably on this album.

6. PVT - Church With No MagicAustralian electronic experimentalists Pivot faced a bit of a defining moment in their career early in 2010, when an American band also called Pivot decided to launch a legal challenge for the name. Unfortunately, although Aussie Pivot are far better known to the music world, American Pivot had established themselves first, and so it was that Aussie Pivot had to change their name. Sneakily, they simply took out the vowels and became PVT, which the band state is still acceptable to pronounce Pivot! But it wasn’t only the name that changed, for when they started to release tracks from their third album, everyone was a little surprised at the new direction the band had taken. The most notable change of course, THERE WAS VOCALS. Not unusual in itself, but definitely unusual for these guys. Nevertheless, the new direction works quite well; “Church With No Magic” is a very fun, easily digestible collection of synth-driven tunes, still showing an experimental edge to them, but also finding a new dimension of accessibility. Not always a bad thing!
THE STAND-OUT: Light Up Bright Fires
OTHER STAND-OUTS: Window, Timeless
5. Iron Maiden - The Final FrontierA Facebook status of mine when I first purchased this album read something along the lines of "Is this an Iron Maiden album? Yes. Do Iron Maiden make good albums? Yes." OK, so with the possible exception of the opening section of opening salvo Satellite 15... The Final Frontier, there aren't a WHOLE lot of new ideas on Iron Maiden's FIFTEENTH (that number is enough reason to pay them respect automatically), but really, if you were in one of the biggest heavy metal bands of all time, would you bother toying with your sound and risk alienating your fanbase just for a few experimental ideas? If it ain't broke, don't fix it! And yet, despite being very familiar sounding, on this release the legendary British six-piece are creating songs that show that the band are still firing on all cylinders and haven't lost the mojo that lead them to create such great albums as Powerslave and The Number of the Beast. Bruce Dickinson still has a set of lungs on him, Messrs Smith and Murray (and probably Gers somewhere, but who really knows when that guy's actually doing anything :P ) are still shredding away as ever, and that rhythm section will always keep your head rocking. Tis not long to go til songs from this album get their first airing in Australia, and I think that's going to be an excellent evening for all concerned!
THE STAND-OUT: The Alchemist
OTHER-STAND-OUTS: Mother of Mercy, When the Wild Wind Blows

4. The Chemical Brothers - FurtherEd Simons and Tom Rowlands will always hold a place in my musical heart; I have very fond memories of being a little seven-year-old and getting up nice and early on a Saturday morning to make sure I caught the Rage Top Fifty that week (the charts actually weren’t too bad in those days). And in that year, I remember frequently staring with wide-eyed wonder, and with delighted ears, at a little song entitled Setting Sun. Fast forward to my teenage years when I actually had the money to purchase such classics (yes, they really are) as Exit Planet Dust and Dig Your Own Hole and I realised that my love for The Chemical Brothers did not die at all... except, maybe it did, in 2007, when they released We Are the Night. What was it about that album? Well, I know what it was – THE SALMON DANCE. And in general, the overall direction of that particular album was one that alienated quite a few of the purist Chemical heads. Thankfully, the British duo took note of the (mostly negative) response to that album, and re-evaluated their approach to music when it came time to write and record this, their seventh album. Their first rule, and it certainly has made a difference, is that this album would contain ABSOLUTELY NO guest vocalists – no Noel Gallagher, no Beth Orton, no Q-Tip, no Tim Burgess, no Ali Love, and THANK FUCK, no Fatlip! The only vocals on this album come from a couple of well-placed samples, as well as, would you believe it or not, Tom Rowlands himself! In addition, early in the piece the duo stated that this album would be something along the lines of a whole album in the experimental spirit of their famed Electronic Battle Weapon series. Well, all in all, this album really lived up to expectations, as this return to their roots has produced a beauty. I am anticipating their live show in a few months with EXTREME anticipation.THE STAND-OUT: Swoon
OTHER STAND-OUTS: Escape Velocity, Horse Power

3. Pantha du Prince - Black NoiseHere's an album I found myself pleasantly surprised with; I first decided to check this album out on a recommendation from a friend of mine, bearing in mind he was playing at the Meredith Festival that I would attend later in the year. And I knew right from the first listen that this was going to grow on me quite a bit over the next few months. Pantha du Prince is the primary alias used by Hendrik Weber - he's from Germany, which is why it shouldn't surprise you that the music he makes is of the electronic variety. Black Noise is his third album, and even though it falls under the wide umbrella of "techno", this is not your average dumbed-down doof-fest that you hear blaring out of cars driving along Chapel St on a weekend. Rather, Weber places an emphasis on the importance of atmosphere; from the gentle chiming melodies in tracks like Lay in a Shimmer and Bohemian Forest, to the deep dark bass-heavy rumbles in Behind the Stars. And there's even some familiar vocals in there, with Animal Collective mainman Panda Bear lending his distinctive pipes to the very catchy Stick to My Side. Prior to his aforementioned Meredith performance, and in the wake of it, I have been listening to this album with increasing frequency, and it's noticeably jumped up to the pointy end of the top 10, and deservedly so.
THE STAND-OUT: Behind the Stars
OTHER STAND-OUTS: Bohemian Forest, Satellite Snyper

2. Birds of Tokyo - Birds of TokyoEven before it was released I was definitely expecting to give this a high ranking, as this Perth quartet have certainly released some impressive output in the past, especially 2008's stellar Universes disc. Ian Kenny, Adam Spark, Anthonny Jackson and Adam Weston decided that this album would be best self-titled, and really, that decision makes perfect sense when you look at the kind of record they've made here - it really is an album that just sums them up perfectly. This album admittedly does see them taking the foot off the pedal so to speak - I don't want to say they've gone "pop" or whatever, but then again, if an album sounds this good, then who wants to get pedantic with genre labels? There's catchy hooks, riffs that stick out without being challenging, hell, maybe this is a pop album! But who cares? With that voice coming out of the speakers, you can't not love this!
THE STAND-OUT: The Dark Side of Love
OTHER STAND-OUTS: Plans, Murmurs, Circles

1. Dead Letter Circus - This is the WarningIt certainly was a hotly anticipated debut album from this Brisbane quartet, who have been slowly but steadily building up a very loyal fanbase over the past 4 years, through a much-loved EP, a decent follow-up single and some very energetic live shows. Finally, the wait was over, and the fans responded in earnest, sending the album straight to NUMBER TWO on the ARIA charts! This is the Warning lived up to all expectations – the band took their time with this one, and it certainly shows, as all the tracks are of a very high quality. The traditional DLC sound that the fans know and love is epitomised brilliantly on this album, although there’s definitely some wonderful new ideas to keep things interesting; namely the flirtations with electronica and industrial music on tracks like “This Long Hour” and of course, the rave-tastic “Cage”. The one criticism I do have to make with this album is their decision to include “Reaction” and “Next in Line” – these songs are so bloody old now! But anyway. 2010 was a very good year for this band; in addition to the success of the album, the band embarked on several tours throughout the year, with many of the shows boasting “sold out” signs! In December they also had the honour of supporting Muse and Linkin Park! I'm quite happy to be giving these guys the number one position; its quality speaks for itself and I think people finally started to take proper notice of them this year!THE STAND-OUT: Cage
OTHER STAND-OUTS: One Step, Here We Divide, The Drum

So there we have it! It really was a stellar year for music, but then again I say that every year! ALSO, as I was going through my top 10, I noticed something that gave me great delight, and that is that an impressive SIX out of ten of these entries are Australian! Which speaks volumes for the quality of the acts in our own backyard, and is a timely reminder I think that we should ALWAYS support these bands by going to their gigs and by BUYING and not downloading their great music! Because if we don't do this, then what would be the point of their existence? (On a side note, the other countries represented in this countdown were the UK (two entries; The Chemical Brothers and Iron Maiden), the USA (Swans), and interestingly enough, Germany (Pantha du Prince).)

I'd now like to throw in a few honourable mentions, because sometimes ten albums just isn't enough to mention all the albums you enjoyed this year! These discs are all excellent in their own right, but may have failed to make the top 10 for various reasons - lack of consistency, or just not being as memorable as the others, for example.
Armin van Buuren - MirageDelphic - Acolyte
Foals - Total Life Forever
Itch-E & Scratch-E - Hooray for Everything!!!
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez & John Frusciante - Omar Rodriguez-Lopez & John Frusciante
Over-reactor - Lose Your Delusion (both volumes)
Vampire Weekend - Contra

Top five EPS of 2010
5. Black Devil Yard Boss - Black Devil Yard Boss
4. Anna Salen - Anna Salen
3. Boy & Bear - With Emperor Antarctica
2. Twelve Foot Ninja - Smoke Bomb
1. Engine Three Seven - Atmosphere
(ALL AUSSIES! Well done!)

Top five songs of the year:
5. Boy & Bear - Rabbit Song
4. Gotye - Eyes Wide Open
3. PVT - Light Up Bright Fires
2. Birds of Tokyo - Plans
1. The Chemical Brothers - Swoon
(yes, you may note that some of these are inconsistent with what I said were the standout tracks on their respective albums, but I tried to stick to actual singles on this, and also just songs that had the ability to stick out by themselves rather than being part of the whole album)

Best live release:
Porcupine Tree - Anesthetize
Whew! If you read all that, well done!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Why my hearing is rapidly deteriorating, AKA the TOP TEN GIGS OF 2010!

As we all know, I attend a LOT of gigs. Some might say an abnormal amount. But whether it's an all-day summer festival in a dustbowl, a quiet free night at the local, an arena spectacular at Rod Laver or Etihad, or even an impromptu generator party held under Citylink (god those were/are? fun!), there's nothing I enjoy more than a good live music outing. And here are the ten gigs that I particularly enjoyed last year!

10. Coffins (Japan), at Hi Fi Bar and Ballroom, September 18. With a MAMMOTH support bill starring Gospel of the Horns, Cauldron Black Ram, The Day Everything Became Nothing, Clagg, Ignivomous and Whitehorse. WHEW!
What a night this turned out to be! I wasn't too familiar with the output of Japanese death/doomsters Coffins, but with a support bill like that I was inspired to just purchase a damn ticket anyway, and of course I would not be disappointed. Earplugs were MANDATORY as some of Australia's finest metal bands warmed the stage before a truly blistering performance from the Japanese visitors! And how could you go wrong with the encore - Scooter Williams from Clagg joined in for a cover of Eyehategod's classic Sister Fucker. BRILLIANCE.

9. Mumford & Sons (UK), at Palace Theatre, July 28. With support from Alberta Cross (USA) and Boy & Bear.
This really was a good night; Mumford & Sons were in the country only a few months prior to this show for the Laneway Festival, but with their profile expanding considerably since their Hottest 100 win, we were only too happy to welcome them back, especially considering they didn't play sideshows during the Laneway visit. What excellent supports too; this gig really kicked off my love of Boy & Bear!
Full review here

8. Silversun Pickups (USA), at Corner Hotel, September 28. With support from Papa vs Pretty.
Definitely very happy with this one, especially seeing no other state got a full headline slot from the band (they were merely curtain-jerkers for Birds of Tokyo). A great setlist from a very energetic and LOUD band.
Full review here

7. Porcupine Tree (UK) performs The Incident in its entirety, at Palace Theatre, February 7. With support (again!) from Sleep Parade.
Well, it's nice to see that after years of basically ignoring Australian fans, the British prog five-piece are making up for lost time, and hightailed it over here after their 2009 release The Incident, to play the whole damn thing from start-to-finish in the lovely surrounds of the Palace Theatre - and then delivering a quality second set filled with other favourites from their back catalogue. A very classy live act, these guys are indeed! Cannot wait to see what Wilson and co. have up their sleeves for their next album!

6. The Mars Volta (USA), at Festering Hole, January 25. NO SUPPORT.
Well, it's fair to say that last time Volta were out (2008, roughly June-July from memory) they were slightly disappointing - we all like it when they get into "the zone" and jam out for ages on certain songs, but when the whole two-and-a-half-hour gig consists of merely EIGHT songs, one of which went for FORTY MINUTES, you can't help but feeling they could've done better. This time around, they did exactly that - in spirit of the back-to-basics ethic that they adopted for 2009 album Octahedron, this gig featured them delivering a classy package of fourteen songs from across their brilliant career, including many old favourites we hadn't seen in a while, and just the right balance of jamming and playing SONGS. Indeed, some of us who didn't get the opportunity to go to Volta gigs in 2006 or 2004 got to hear some songs we'd NEVER heard before, which was most delightful. I knew I was going to see them at the Big Day Out the following day, but really, the promise of a full-length set was too good to resist! If all goes well, album number six from this wonderful band should land sometime this year, and I always look forward to seeing where they'll go next. So should you.

5. Faith No More (USA), at Festering Hole, February 24. With support from AFI (USA), Gallows (UK) and errr, Neil Hamburger (USA).
You have to laugh at the whingeing AFI fans who complained about Soundwave squeezing Faith No More onto this bill, due to the overwhelming demand for them to perform another sideshow. I mean, you're getting a FAITH NO MORE SHOW! With no disrespect to AFI band intended, this night belonged entirely to a show-stopping performance from Patton, Hudson, Gould, Bordin and Bottum, and how could it go any other way? Despite the group's absence from the scene for quite a long time, they came onstage and ripped through their amazing back catalogue that's become so well-loved and appreciated by many over the years, and they were no slouches on the live stage at all. This was well worth the impulse decision I made to attend.

4. Them Crooked Vultures (USA), at Festering Hole, January 22. With support from Sailors & Swine.
Ah yes. I remember being very excited in late 2009, when in a rather clever anticipation-building manoeuvre, Frontier Touring plastered the streets of Melbourne with a poster of "the" Vulture that we'd come to associate with this rock n roll supergroup, simply accompanied with the text "FOLLOW WHAT'S HEARD" and a website address. Said website simply featured a countdown, and when this countdown was up, as expected, touring dates for Them Crooked Vultures WERE ANNOUNCED! Now, it's funny that the tour dates (and indeed, a lot of other shows by this band) were announced before they actually released an album or indeed a full-length song, but then the album came in November and we didn't have to worry about the gig sucking any more! The lineup of the band is Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl (and also features Alain Johannes in the live format) - now, really, need I say more?! This gig truly lived up to expectations, with the thunderous bluesy riff-rock of their debut album translating very well to the live stage. Let's have more of them!

3. Muse (UK), at Rod Laver Arena, December 14. With support from Biffy Clyro (UK).
There was a little bit of disappointment in the air when Lees and West didn't give this British powerhouse a run of headline dates when they were here in January for the Big Day Out, but then again, their reasoning for doing so was acceptable - Muse were GUARANTEED to return later in the year, bringing their full (and quite over-the-top!) live production with them! So Muse fans said, "OK!", enjoyed them at the BDO nonetheless, and then bought tickets to this. And for doing so, we were rewarded with giant towers, an intense laser show, and a quality set jam-packed with plenty of songs from across their five-album career - and indeed, "jam-packed" it was, the band breaking into several classic riffs throughout the evening. A solid show this was!

2. Cynic (USA), at Billboard the Venue, January 3. Technically, this show was headlined by Edguy (Germany), but quite a lot of the crowd, including myself, left after this truly amazing performance!
I couldn't begin to describe the emotions I felt back in 2009 when the Just Say Rock team announced the lineup for their New Year's Eve and Day extravaganza in Sydney, which they dubbed "Screamfest". There were plenty of quality international acts on the bill, including Ensiferum, Dark Funeral and Rotting Christ, but above all, one name stood out for me and many others, and that name was CYNIC. In 2006, Paul Masvidal announced plans to revive his long-since disbanded progressive-fusion metal project, and with the band actually playing shows in 2007, and recording an album which was released in 2008, the dream of seeing this wonderful band live began to seem not so hopeless after all! After a fantastic show on New Year's Day at the aforementioned Screamfest, plenty of Melbournians couldn't help themselves and thus, we all got ourselves down to Billboard on a Sunday night for a second helping of Cynic. Of course, the setlist was a little different; delighting those that had been disappointed by the absence of said songs in Sydney, the band even ripped out Focus classics Veil of Maya and Textures. It was truly inspiring to see such talented musicians playing in Melbourne after all this time, and they looked genuinely happy and appreciative to be doing so. They even did us the honour of hanging around at the merch desk after the show, more than happy to speak to and take happy snaps with their grateful fans. I don't know why I'm bothering to write about this show; words cannot explain its magic.

But at the end of the year, there was one gig that clearly stood out above the rest, and what a show it was. That honour goes to...

1. Om (USA), at Hi Fi Bar and Ballroom, July 16. With support from Lichens (USA; he also played in Om), Blarke Bayer / Black Widow and Breathing Shrine.
Even though the legendary Sleep have reformed, owing to financial constraints I still rate my chances of actually seeing them slim-to-none, so when this gig was announced I jumped at the opportunity to be in the same room as the MIGHTY Al Cisneros. Om's performance on this night really showed that you don't need a massive stage/venue or a flashy lightshow to deliver the goods - sometimes, all you need is a bassist, guitarist and drummer to just play to a medium-capacity room and let the music do the talking. Which it certainly did - the bass-heavy drone-y stoner metal reverberating through the room and pleasing the ears of all in attendance. Just a simple yet powerful performance, delivered with a surprisingly great live mix. I really enjoyed this one.

Well then, that just about covers it! 2010 certainly did have some beauties didn't it? 2011, you've got a lot to live up to!

NOW PLAYING: The Mars Volta - Festival Hall bootleg. I thought it appropriate!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy new year...

Well then, we've come to the end of another year! Hard to believe really, and it's almost been a year since I started this blog, so yeah. Anyway, the last post I made was a day off a month ago, and in that time, as one might imagine, I've been to numerous gigs since! I did intend to at least post reviews of Meredith and Muse, but time got away from me and by the time I was ready to sit down and recount them, I realised it would be a little redundant and besides, some of the memories weren't so clear anymore! So I'll just quickly run through my final month of gigs right now!

So yes, on the weekend of the 10-12th December, me and some friends attended the absolutely wonderful 20th edition of the Meredith Music Festival - for the four of us that went, it was our first time, and I think I can speak for the other three when I say we'll all be returning this year! A great and very diverse lineup, a wonderful location and very friendly crowd all ticked the boxes in requirements of a good festival, something I think the mainstream festivals are really failing to deliver these days. Yes, I'm looking at you Big Day Out.

Anyway, after that wonderful weekend wrapped up, I had just two days to recover before Tuesday night, when a little British trio (plus backing assistance from a fourth) by the name of Muse dazzled a sold-out crowd at Rod Laver Arena with their bombastic brand of cosmic progressive rock. With a grandiose light-and-visual extravaganza centred on the three giant skyscrapers stretching from stage floor to roof, with each occupied by a band member, Muse tore their way through an epic two-hour setlist spanning their brilliant five album career. YES, they even played something from Showbiz, the piano-led Sunburn a real treat for all the loyal old-school fans in the crowd. Ahh, what a show. I think it's safe to say you might see a mention of it in a blog coming soon...

The last week of 2010 wrapped up in a big way; on Monday night it was a good ol free music night at the Espy, starring post-hardcore oddballs In Tongues, rock n roll youngsters and Unearthed High winners Stonefield and lovable Beatles/general 60s awesomeness-esque trio The Basics, who of course have a rather famous drummer (Wally DeBacker aka Gotye for those of you playing at home). Thursday night it was back to the Espy for a truly interesting blend of styles - stoner sludge from Swidgen (featuring Sammy Crawford from Clagg), fun-time garage-y rock from Freaks of the Deep, funky rock-rap from Adelaideians Poetikool Justice, and finally, some no nonsense punk and hip-hop from Over-reactor. THEN THERE WAS FRIDAY. What better way to bring in the New Year than by heading to Etihad Stadium with a sizeable bunch of mates to witness Armin Only - the latest live extravaganza from the world's reigning number 1 DJ (voted in yet again in 2010, his 4th year in a row at the top) Mr Armin van Buuren, celebrating his latest trance opus Mirage. As is the tradition with these shows, he played a massive NINE HOUR marathon set, complete with spectacular visuals and lighting and of course a sizeable entourage of live guests, including Rank 1, his guitarist brother Eller, and numerous vocal contributors, among them Christian Burns and Nadia Ali. From 9pm til 6am, the world's greatest had the happy punters bouncing on their feet, bringing in the New Year in great style. What a show.

So yeah, that was how the year ended. And I have to say, one of my resolutions this year will be to keep this thing a little bit more updated on a regular basis. I'd like to say at this point that at the very least, every major international artist gig that I go to will get a review, and I'd really like to bring back the band of the month blog - back in the day, I used to pick a band at random every month that I'd been particularly enjoying, and just give a brief run-down of their history and releases up until that point. It was fun. Now then, my next blog/s, which I aim to have up by the end of the week, will be my top 10 gigs and albums of 2010. I've already got a pretty good idea of what's going to be in it, so now I just have to write up a few nice words about each and we'll be away! Happy new year everyone, may 2011 bring us just as much musical awesomeness as the previous year!