Friday, December 30, 2011

Another year comes to an end...

Well then, it's certainly been a while between drinks/blog posts, so I thought I'd just post a little something here to try and sum up exactly what's been going on in my musical world in the past month or so? Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. It's been a busy month! Too busy, apparently, to post regularly... so as I did around this time last year, here's a quick summation of the final gigs of 2011!

So, since Harvest there's been almost two solid months of gigs. The first really notable one was a typically thrilling performance from Sydonia (19/11), and if you follow this blog regularly, then you must know that I. FUCKING. LOVE. THIS. BAND. Especially this year. But this performance was certainly one that stood out from the rest, and you know why? The band decided to treat their loyal fans to a start-to-finish rendition of their debut (and thus far, only) album Given to Destroyers, giving every track a healthy full-blown live rendition! The full-album-in-order-live format has been used with increasing frequency by many bands over the past few years and for good reason - it works an absolute treat, especially if the album is as good as this one is! It was definitely nice to hear all of these songs together, as a lot of them aren't really staples in the Sydonia set anymore due to them working in new material from their LONG-AWAITED second album! Anyway, a cracker of a show!

More than a few eyebrows were raised earlier this year when it was announced that Fucked Up were joining some rock band called Foo Fighters on their sold-out megastadium tour of Australia. But it was no mistake - Dave Grohl's apparently a bit of a fan of the Canadian hardcore troupe, like we all (read, anyone with a half-decent taste in music) are really; the band's third studio album David Comes to Life has been getting almost unanimous praise from critics and fans across the board, and though quite a few of the less knowledgeable Foos fans were scratching their head as to who and why that fat guy on the stage was yelling things, the more openminded were more than happy to see the Canadians return to our shores for the second time in the calendar year (they'd been a part of the Soundwave juggernaut in early March). The band also got the chance to squeeze in their very own intimate performance at the East Brunswick Club (30/11), and what a show it was. The band didn't waste the chance, obviously performing a lot more songs than they would at the Foos shows, and knowing that they were performing them to an audience who were actually Fucked Up fans! A few days later (03/12), of course, Foo Fighters, Tenacious D and Fucked Up (as well as local duo DZ Deathrays) rolled into AAMI Park for a mammoth stadium rock extravaganza, and entertained the capacity crowd immensely. You can say what you like about some of their recent material (although Wasting Light is arguably a cracking return to form), but the fact is Messrs Grohl, Shiflett, Smear, Mendel and Hawkins are pretty damn comfortable on a live stage, and this performance was a true stand-out for the year, as they ripped their way through a healthy TWENTY-SIX song set, covering just about every single facet of their extremely lengthy and productive career.

Meredith, Meredith, Meredith. Just saying those words makes me miss the place. So the second weekend (9-11th) of December rolled around once again, and once again the trip was made to the Supernatural Amphitheatre. Where to begin? Grinderman were pretty much the name on everyone's lips in the lead-up to the festival and naturally, Jim Sclavunos, Martyn Casey, Warren Ellis, and Nick fucking Cave did not disappoint at all - however, they played an extremely unexpected card at the very end of the set, with Cave annoucing that the band was "over", and that they'd "see (us) in ten years, when (they'd) be even older and uglier". Who saw that coming, hey? Other than that though, there were plenty of musical highlights scattered throughout the two nights and three days - Icehouse played to everyone's undeniable love of nostalgia, Future of the Left brought their raucous filthy noise, Explosions in the Sky chilled things out quite nicely with their sublime brand of post-rock, Barbariön allegedly spent most of their budget on literal explosions and had the entire amphitheatre fist pumping and shouting along to their hilarious take on the excessive side of heavy metal, hardcore supergroup Off! played a ridiculous amount of songs in a very short time, and well, that's about it really isn't it? Well done Aunty. Happy 21st!

Just two days later, it was off to the East Brunswick Club for a night of SHRED (followed by ANOTHER NIGHT) (13&14/12). And who better to deliver it than Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, a man who has released a shitload of albums and been the driving force of two of my (and everyone else's with a decent music taste) bands, The Mars Volta and At the Drive-In. On this occasion he would also play bass in Le Butcherettes, a wacky Mexican/American punk rock group fronted by the extremely unique Teri Gender Bender who played quite a different style of music to the headliner! Then once that was done, Omar, backed by his Mars Volta cohorts in Juan Alderete on bass and Deantoni Parks on drums, treated the audience to a mind-boggling display of his amazing axe abilities. With a set that consisted mostly of tracks from the forthcoming Vato Negro album, it's fair to say that most of the audience was unfamiliar with the material being aired, but when the talent onstage is that fucking good, who cares?!

At Meredith, I had woken up on the second day with absolutely no voice as a result of Future of the Left's massive Friday night belter; suffice to say, I was keen to attend them again, albeit with a little more sobriety and common sense on my side. After all, they are releasing an album this year entitled The Plot Against Common Sense. Anyway. Falco and his band of merry men (and woman) were given the opportunity to play their own gig at the Corner (16/12) and they delivered another absolute ripper, with tracks from across their career (including PLENTY from the new album), which was of course interspersed with the usual witty banter, which covered such topics as Australian made keyboards, cricket (numerous times), dead celebrities, and the Olympic Games. Not necessarily in that order. And concluded with an extended jam involving plenty of audience participation...

The final (well, major) gig for the year? One I had fucking high expectations for, given that in July, Sydney post-rocking godchildren sleepmakeswaves had delivered a magnificent set from the soon-to-be-non-operational stage at the East Brunswick Club. The announcement of another date in December later in the year saw me marking the date IMMEDIATELY on my mental calendar. Due to some other things happening earlier in the evening, Meniscus were the only other support band I managed to see, but my god were they impressive, resulting in me immediately purchasing their War of Currents album. And then we made our way to the front, took our seats on the floor (yes) and braced ourselves for... a setlist identical to the aforementioned East Brunswick show? Though it has to be said that the band did deliver a brilliant show again, the fact that they didn't go out of their way to mix it up even a little bit was slightly disappointing, and meant the show just wasn't as awesome as the previous. Nonetheless, this band DID release an album that I enjoyed the shit out of in 2011 (hell, I still am!) and it was a great show regardless. And hey, it was our first live introduction to the band's new drummer, Tim Adderley! So that was nice.

2011, 2011, 2011. It brought many highlights, musical and otherwise. Live music this year, oh we had a belter. Too many great acts doing amazing things to possibly mention here... and yet, in the coming weeks, I will have to mention them. That's right, my end of year top 10 gigs are beginning to take shape, mentally at least, and hopefully will be posted in completed form before the month's end. And what was I doing when I wasn't at a gig? Listening to music, of course! Though I must say I didn't really keep up with new music last year as much as I usually do, obviously my (not-so-) hard-earned cash was often spent on CDs, and quite often, some of those were new! So yes, there WILL be, as always, a top 10 countdown of 2011's best albums according to yours truly. It will probably be posted quite soon, as I've had quite a good think about it and I've got a clear idea of where most things are going to land (or not land, as the case may be).

OH! One thing I do want to mention about 2011 is my introduction to the wonderful world of bootleg recording. For those who aren't aware, in late 2010 year my friend Chris Jacques, the founder of the wonderful Fan Made Recordings blog invited me to join the team, GIVING me his old recording equipment after he purchased some new stuff. Though the microphones were a little bit dead, I got a few good uses out of them before a new pair arrived in about April, and then the real fun began! Though quite often my err, state of inebriation lead to obnoxious conversations and RIDICULOUS singing, rendering some (quite a lot, really!) of the recordings unpostable, there were plenty more gigs where I managed to keep myself under control and it lead to some truly amazing gigs being captured for my own personal enjoyment AS WELL as sharing them with the wider world. I really can't thank Chris enough!

Anyway. That's about it. Top 10s are coming soon!