Thursday, February 24, 2011

Further developments...

So, the recording gear went out for its second outing last night. To, of all things, the mighty Iron Maiden. I didn't have high expectations for how it would turn out. Here's why:
1) I was in located in the back section of the floor - splitting the floor up into front and back is still in my opinion one of the stupidest and most pointless excuses for "crowd control" I have ever seen.
2) I still have these old microphones of which only one works most of the time.
3) And, it was an Iron Maiden concert. I was drunk, I was having a good time jumping around, singing, acting like a general idiot, and so were the majority of the people around me.

The result? A pretty terrible sounding recording. It sounds like the band are playing miles away, which given the view that we had most of the night, they might as well have been. Stadium gigs suck in general, but when you're in the back GA, they're even worse. Also, lo and behold, for the majority of the gig only one channel did work, surprise surprise. And even when things do seem to be going good, you can hear the sounds of people talking and singing badly. I should also point out that the mix on the night sounded pretty average, way below par for an Iron Maiden gig. In short, this probably isn't worth uploading. I might send it to Chris to see what he can do to get it cleaned up, as I know he's got a bit more experience with fiddling around with audio editors and such. But I think he can only do so much. It's a shame that it didn't work out, because, well, it's Maiden. I really should post a review of this, but I don't think I can honestly do it justice. Besides, every man and his dog has already a say on the interwebs, so it's kind of a moot point. Maybe I'll include them in my Soundwave review, well, I'll obviously be writing a Soundwave review, so if I see Maiden, they'll obviously get a mention. But, as we all know I love my setlists, so here's what they played (and from all accounts, will be playing until further notice):

Satellite 15 ... The Final Frontier (S-15 played over tape, band came on during TFF)
El Dorado
2 Minutes to Midnight

The Talisman
Coming Home
Dance of Death
The Trooper
The Wicker Man
Blood Brothers
When the Wild Wind Blows
The Evil That Men Do
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
The Number of the Beast
Hallowed be Thy Name
Running Free

Up the Irons. What a fantastical show.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"You're nothing to me... except everything" - Sydonia w/Jericco, East Brunswick Club, 19/02/11

It's official, this is the third gig review I've given Sydonia in this little blog, which means they are now my most reviewed band! And one might think that I might be getting a little sick of them, and would be perhaps reaching the point where I'd slow down on attending their gigs, but, hey, have you BEEN to a Sydonia gig lately? They're definitely one of this city's best live bands going around, never disappointing the punters when they step on to a stage! That combined with the fact that they were co-headlining with Jericco, and had Sydney's sleepmakeswaves in the support slot, meant that I was more than keen to head along to the East Brunswick Club on a Saturday night and get my local live music fix!

I was slightly worried about whether I'd enjoy this gig in the proper way, due to the fact that I'd attended a party the night before (in Bellfield of all places, yeah, I didn't know where it was either) and had absolutely minimal sleep as a result. I was feeling pretty drained and was hoping the bands would put on great sets to keep me awake. However, before I even got in the door, the night got off to a good start. As I stepped off the tram and walked across the road, some guy said to me, "Have you got your ticket yet?" When I replied in the negative, he said that his girlfriend had been unable to make it and I could have her ticket. So, in for free! Definitely something that pleased me, given my current financial situation! In the unlikely event you're reading this, THANK YOU to Bradley Dixon! If we run into each other again sometime, I owe you a beer! Anyway, through the door I went and right down the front for a highly anticipated set from the immensely talented post-rockers sleepmakeswaves, who were making the trek down all the way from Sydney for this night. With the room still half empty, they started their set a little early anyway, but the few that were in attendance were genuinely enjoying the sounds coming from the stage. I'd been looking forward to seeing them for quite a while; unfortunately they didn't play anything I recognised (only possessing the In Today Already Walks Tomorrow album) and I think the general consensus is that the entirety of the set was new material. I'm generally against the idea of a band playing too many "new" songs at a gig, for the obvious reason that it's much more enjoyable if you're hearing familiar melodies and riffs, and in the case of bands with vocals, you can sing along! However, if the songs are awesome enough, the rule can be broken and tonight sleepmakeswaves were that exception. Combining beautiful textures and soundscapes (including great use of e-bow, electronic programming and other handy guitar effects) with moments of genuine "heavy" intensity, sleepmakeswaves provided a nice "relaxed" start to the evening, something I definitely needed! The early start to their set was advantageous as their songs tend to be a little longer than usual, and they still played to their allocated finishing time. It was mentioned that the group hope to have a new album released mid-year, and I certainly can't wait for it!

Up next was a set from proggy Melbourne five-piece Branch Arterial, who play in the same vein as your typical Butterfly Effect/Karnivool type of sound. I caught the tail-end of their set last year supporting Jericco's Evelyn Hotel show, and I remember them being enjoyable, so I was looking to the full set this time around. The set opened with the tried-and-true method of the instrumentalists taking to the stage first and delivering a cool intro song, before vocalist Nigel Jackson joined them onstage to play the set proper. Like sleepmakeswaves' set, the material they were playing was all stuff I hadn't heard before - although that's probably because I've NEVER listened to Branch Arterial unlike sleepmakeswaves. However, unlike sleepmakeswaves, their sound didn't immediately appeal to me, and I found it hard to enjoy their set compared to the other bands on offer. Their musicianship was certainly tight and creative, with some cool riffs and progressive ideas, but I didn't particularly like the vocals. Jackson certainly has a good voice, it just seemed a little... I don't know! "Artificial" is perhaps the word I'm looking for? The band were a good fit to the lineup in general, but on the flipside, there are WAY WAY too many of these Australian heavy-prog-ish-rock bands going around at the moment, especially in Melbourne, and Branch Arterial really don't have that extra "zing" or anything that sets them apart from some of the better acts in the scene at the moment. But they're a pretty new band and their sound is off to a good start so far, so give them a few years and they might be doing some pretty good things. After all, I can't write off a band after one set!

One of those aforementioned better acts is Jericco, who have rapidly become one of my favourite bands ever since I saw them on a rather drunken evening at the Espy front bar about two years ago now. This set was always going to be a big one, especially seeing as it's been a while between shows, and when they came onstage and opened with a brand new song, the tone was set for an absolute belter. It was a fantastic song too! Following that, the immensely talented five-piece dived headfirst into a crowd-pleasing set of favourites from their two EPs, with nearly every song they've recorded getting an airing. The typical Jericco energy was in full display, with man-mountain bassist Roy Amar and keyboard wizard Fetah Sabawi hopping around onstage enthusiastically as usual; now that I think about it I wasn't even really looking at guitarist Jordan Nagle much on the night, but I'm sure he was getting into it too! And at the front of it all was the ever awesome Brent McCormick, staring down punters and singing directly to them (while they sang right back), and of course utilizing a megaphone to deliver some of his lyrics. In between all that, the band managed to fit in another new song; the crowd was so fired up that it made little difference that nobody had heard the song before, the response was just the same! The set concluded with an awesome trio of Sun, B-Song (where McCormick led the crowd in a singalong of "sloooooowww, doowwwn") and traditional closer Rujm (Pile of Stones), with the eager crowd left wanting more! They did finish a little bit early, but looked absolutely drained and decided that they were done.
(New song)
Nice to See You
No Solution No Problem
Promises Made of Glass
Safe to Say (new)
Cause and Effect
Rujm (Pile of Stones)
(I've had to stretch the old memory here, I planned to take a setlist from the stage seeing I was in the front row, but Brent picked them up too quickly. I think the order's pretty close to being correct.)

"They're opening with Life in a Cup!" exclaimed some excited punters in the front row, as the members of Sydonia made their way onstage and began set-up, which included some setlists being placed on the stage (written on the back of beer slab cardboard, of course). It was indeed an event worthy of creating such excitement, as it's been quite a while since this particular song has been featured at a Sydonia show. The rest of the setlist was looking particularly interesting too. However, as we were all enjoying watching the band drag out Sean Bailey's massive drum kit, and of course the extra custom percussion on the stage, someone decided to close the friggin curtain! Eventually the curtain opened again, and yes, it was the very mellow Life in a Cup that opened the set - before it finished and the band stepped up the pace a hundredfold with the thrashing madness of 3 Tongues getting everyone suitably revved up! As I've said, I've seen Sydonia quite a lot lately, I think this was the fourth time in the past 12 months (and 3rd in only 4 months), but really, their live shows are always something exciting and tonight was no exception. They're pretty good at mixing up the setlist too, and tonight was a good example, with Shame and Elbow making a return for the first time in ages, and the almost-debut of yet another song, Nobodies. Vocalist-guitarist Dana Roskvist explained that they'd only played it once, in Perth. If you've been to a Sydonia show before, you know that the interaction between the band (especially guitarist Sam Haycroft) and the crowd is always particularly hilarious, and tonight was no exception. "Go work in a Mercedes dealership!" someone yelled out to bassist Adam Murray. "Please don't bring work here!" he replied. As always, there were a few friends on hand to help out with the percussion jam Bateria; tonight it was Murray's brother Zack (who's been at the last few shows), along with Darren Hurford from Branch Arterial, and someone else I didn't quite catch. Zack Murray also helped out with the brilliant newie Here. As the set drew to a close, it became clear that they had a bit of extra time. The crowd favourite Incoming was on the setlist as an encore, yet the band didn't even bother to leave the stage, as Haycroft asked the crowd to help out on that evergreen opening shout of "INCOMING!" Certain excited punters had already been doing so pretty much since the beginning of the set! The mosh pit reached absolute fever pitch during what's undoubtedly one of the heaviest numbers in Sydonia's bag of tunes. With the extra time they had, the band took a quick breather on the side of the stage before being coaxed back on to play one more, which delightedly was Rubber Bullet, featuring more percussive madness from Haycroft and Murray. As the band wrapped up yet another brilliant set, punters in the front row leaned forward to grab the setlists and various drum sticks that scattered the stage (as you might imagine, there were quite a few!) It was another great evening for one of Melbourne's hidden talents; hopefully that new album is coming soon, it's well overdue!
SETLIST (what was played!):
Life in a Cup
3 Tongues
No Woman's Land
(with Zack Murray)
Bateria (with Zack Murray, Darren Hurford and ?)
Ocean of Storms
Rubber Bullet

ACTUAL SETLIST (written by Sam, who else?)

By the way, if you read this blog regularly you might recall in December that I said I was going to start recording shows around Melbourne, thanks to a very generous gift from a friend of mine. And yet, it doesn't seem to have happened yet. Well, to cut a long story short, there's been some technical difficulties. First of all, I took the gear on the understanding that the mics were a little screwed up and one of them probably wouldn't work. Which, when I took them out for the first time to My Disco's gig, I learnt firsthand. Second, while trying to recover the recordings the next day, the iRiver froze and then ran out of battery, and I had nothing to charge it with. Well, I gave it back to Chris recently and he managed to get it fixed, now I have it back. I REALLY wanted to take it for a spin for this particular gig, but during the afternoon I thought I'd test it out, and again the microphones were playing up, so I thought I wouldn't bother. Considering the intensity of that moshpit, and me being up the front, it was probably for the best! Chris has ordered some new microphones and it was cheaper for him to order two pairs, so I get one. Hopefully, after the false start to my "career" as a bootlegger, I can get this show on the road soon. There's some killer shows coming up!

Friday, February 11, 2011

"I know a place, where I can go, when I'm low down" - Foals, Palace Theatre, 10/02/11

There certainly seems to be this pattern of current indie flavours-of-the-month-type bands touring the country, leaving, and then... coming back in a relatively short space of time, doesn't there? Last in the country around July last year for the massive Splendour in the Grass festival, English math-y dance-punk quintet Foals made an appearance on this year's Laneway Festival bill, and naturally were given the opportunity to play sideshows, given the very quick sell-out of their last tour. I'd missed those particular shows due to how quick they sold out - well, I didn't miss them entirely, thanks to a certain social networking site's "Secret Show" series, I got along to Carlton's Trades Hall early one evening to catch a short, but FREE show from the band. However, that venue had quite a low stage, resulting in terrible visibility of the band, and the sound was also pretty average to say the least. I had expectations that I would enjoy this show a lot more, and I had those expectations met!

Brisvegas four-piece Last Dinosaurs had the honours of warming the stage in front of a rapidly-filling Palace Theatre crowd (although as far as I'm aware, the show failed to reach "sold out" status). Frontman Sean Caskey noted on a few separate occasions how genuinely excited his band were to be playing such a huge gig, opening for such an established act as Foals, unfortunately, they didn't quite make much of an impact on the crowd, save for when he announced the song Saturn, which is apparently one of their more well-known tunes. It wasn't as if they didn't have a sound suited to the gig; their bouncy uptempo indie numbers were definitely a close match for the headliners. And it wasn't as if the songs themselves didn't have their merits. It was just that they didn't really seem to have enough variety to set them apart from this current indie sound, and the songs just didn't have that extra energy needed to sway the largely indifferent crowd. The band themselves didn't help matters either, pretty much standing still at their respective positions on the stage, occasionally nodding their heads but seeminly not getting "into it" very much at all. In fact, oddly enough Caskey was the one doing most of the moment, strutting around the stage at every opportunity he had when he wasn't required to be in front of his microphone. I'd like to give these guys another chance, as they certainly weren't the worst opening act I've seen, but they just seemed to be a little too "samey" and one-dimensional to be playing at this particular event. A commendable effort nonetheless.

Note to whoever was responsible for running times for this particular event: it is NOT good practice to keep a crowd waiting FORTY-FIVE minutes between bands for the headlining act to take to the stage. Nevertheless, when Foals finally did appear, a little earlier than they were supposed, the crowd was suitably revved up and as Blue Blood predictably got the set going, everyone came alive. Even with just a 75 minute set, the Oxford group packed plenty of songs from their two albums into the set, with last year's Total Life Forever getting the most airings, but complemented nicely by a selection of Antidotes favourites. I've said to a lot of people that I still think Antidotes is a much better album; it just has a much more energetic and "fun" vibe to it. In comparison, a lot of the slower and more reflective pieces on TLF sound almost "serious" in comparison. The response in the crowd tonight reflected this - one only needed to compare the relentless dancing and singing during an early rendition of Cassius, to the quiet reverential appreciation of newer material such as What Remains. The band themselves looked to be having a great time, bouncing around onstage enthusiastically; singer Yannis Philippakis was also genuinely thankful of the crowd on numerous occasions. As the set progressed, Philippakis gradually got more enthusiastic, especially during main set closer Electric Bloom, which saw him belting a floor tom relentlessly, before finally launching himself off the stage and into the adoring crowd! The band returned for the obligatory encore, which kicked off in great style with The French Open, the crowd energy reaching fever pitch as they pogoed and even crowd-surfed to one of the more high-energy numbers in Foals' discography. There was a brief pause after the song, where the band had a quick conversation, before Philippakis announced they were going to play something they hadn't played in a while due to them being so satisfied with the crowd response, and so it was that we got pre-Antidotes rarity Hummer, which apparently wasn't on the planned setlist! Two Steps, Twice was a fitting end to the night, with the band extending the pre-chorus section to allow Philippakis to sprint up to the second floor balcony, before climbing down near the left PA speaker and dropping to the stage! The band looked exhausted at the end of it, but seemed quite happy with the response they got, and the crowd agreed! A great set from a very talented band.

Blue Blood
Olympic Airways
Total Life Forever
What Remains
After Glow
2 Trees
Spanish Sahara
Red Socks Pugie
Electric Bloom
The French Open
Two Steps, Twice