Wednesday, March 6, 2013

And so ends yet another year!

Well, it certainly has been a while since I posted last, and it seems the frequency of blog posts decreased severely in 2012! But anyway, might as well get the 2013 ball rolling with my usual end of year post that comes out around this time. It's been absolute aeons since I last posted a live review, so I won't mention every gig that's happened since then, but I will say a few words about the gigs of November and December just to wrap things up. In terms of great music, it was a great year, and the concluding moments were no exception!

The first major event on my calendar in November was the amusingly titled Cup My Balls, an afternoon/evening mini-festival held, not surprisingly, on Melbourne Cup Day, at that iconic Collingwood venue on the corner of Johnston and Wellington Streets. Yes, the Tote. Acting as a great alternative for the Melbourne music faithful, most of whom probably don't give a fuck about horse racing, a swag of great local acts and their fans crammed into the venue for a fucking AWESOME barbeque, a healthy serving of alcohol, and of course, some rock 'n' fucking roll! Bands on the day included the likes of Harmony, Sun God Replica, Sheriff and Batpiss, among others, and though my memory of the day is understandably a little hazy, it's fair to say the tunes couldn't have been more solid!

A few days later, it was off to a venue just up the road, the Evelyn Hotel, as a relatively fresh act on the Melbourne scene, Sub Atari Knives, took to the stage to deliver another absolute belter - they've only been playing shows together for about a year, but the three musicians involved are no strangers to the stage at all. Vocalist Hugo Tremayne once fronted the experimental drum-and-bass outfit K-Oscillate, while funktastic bassist Nick Adams was part of the much-loved and much-missed Melbourne rockers Mammal, and drummer/electronics wizard Ben Ellingworth was arguably one of the driving forces of Sydney industrial/metal hybrid MM9. This particular gig was to launch the band's much-anticipated debut EP, which surprisingly manages to capture the band's intense live sound very well. And for the launch, another intense live show it was indeed! Making great use once again of a nifty split-screen light/visual effect, and cranking the sound desk to its maximum, those in attendance were certainly not hesitating to obey Tremayne's demands to "MOVE AND SWAY!", as he so viciously demands in the band's eponymous anthem Sub Atari Knives.

On the second weekend of November, it was time to make the trek in a south direction once again, to the absolutely gorgeous setting of Werribee Park, for the second edition of Harvest Festival. The festival launched itself onto the scene with great fanfare last year, and despite a few teething problems, it was agreed upon more or less unanimously by the punters - it was just a fucking great festival. The return of the festival was looking to be another cracker, with an exciting lineup bursting at the seams with an interesting, slightly left-field and very diverse collection of acts. With interest in the festival increasing significantly since its triumphant debut, the initial Melbourne date on Sunday sold out and it was decided that there would be a great enough demand for the event to be staged twice - the lineup simply repeated itself on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was the much-less crowded day, as punters very comfortably soaked up the sun and tunes. The lineup certainly had it all, and yours truly had an excellent day, seeing the following bands, in order of their appearance:
Los Campesinos!, The Dandy Warhols, Silversun Pickups, Mike Patton's Mondo Cane, CAKE, Ben Folds Five, Beck, Fuck Buttons, Sigur Rós. WHEW! It's hard to pick a highlight, really. Fuck Buttons took the cake for my favourite set of the day - after all, I had an absolute blast watching them play their first Australian shows as part of the ATP Festival in 2009 and the subsequent sideshow. They went on to release my favourite album of that year, Tarot Sport, but hadn't made a return visit down under until this festival, so I was pretty fucking psyched to see them, and they lived up to all expectations! As for the rest, Sigur Rós were always going to be amazing, Ben Folds Five were unbelievably fun (how can you go past a Song for the Dumped singalong?), CAKE were vibraslap-tastic, Silversun Pickups were incredible as always, and Mike Patton is fucking Mike Patton. That's about it really! More or less every act I saw was at the very least excellent!

Nobody could deny that November was a fucking GREAT month for live music, for only six days after Harvest, it was time to head to the Palace Theatre (via Mrs Parmas!) for a date with incendiary Swedish hardcore legends, Refused. After they announced to the world that they were "NOT FUCKING DEAD" earlier in the year, the always-resourceful AJ Maddah and Soundwave Touring quickly locked them in for an Australian tour - lucky too, as they would soon go on to say that the reunion was only to be a temporary one, so they could play some shows and leave things on a positive note. Quite simply, they absolutely SMASHED the Palace. Reunion tours can often be difficult things to pull off successfully, and sometimes things just don't quite seem to work out onstage - but not this time! The band played with unreserved passion and conviction, showing that they had not lost any of their fire. Unbelievable.

Radiohead. What more could you say about this band? It had been a long, long, eight years since the band last appeared on our shores, and when the news that they were returning broke, shit was lost, and tickets disappeared in an instant - and appeared on eBay pretty damn quickly. It certainly reignited the old scalping debate, but in November, all that was forgotten, as Messrs Yorke, Greenwood, Greenwood, O'Brien and Selway finally arrived on our shores - they also brought along a friend with them, with Portishead's touring drummer Clive Deamer coming along for the ride to provide extra percussive and drumming awesomeness. The band had some pretty goddamn high expectations riding on them, but it was fair to say they absolutely delivered on all counts - it was a marathon setlist (Brisbane got THREE encores!) filled with old favourites, exciting new tunes and some unexpected surprises here and there, accompanied by a visual extravaganza involving moving mini-TVs, trippy videos and lighting that could simultaneously induce, and cure blindness! 

The following week was Melbourne Music Week, and as always, the team involved did a pretty fucking outstanding job of making sure there was plenty of interesting gigs happening around this great city. The centrepiece of this year's festival was the much-talked about Where?House venue, an old building in the city in a state of disrepair/construction work. Giving the venue a bit of a makeover with the addition of a bar, a stage and various other little bits and pieces, it was observed by a friend of mine that "Melbourne's sort of got a little piece of Berlin now" as we enjoyed the electronic sounds of Vadislav Delay, Harmonic 313 and Tantrums on a Wednesday night. Unfortunately, the use of the venue was only temporary, but I can truly say it's probably the most interesting gig location I've ever experienced, and I can only feel sorry for those who didn't.

Cherry Bar, Cherry Bar, Cherry Bar. That little bar down AC/DC Lane hasn't been around as long as some venues, but it's quickly become synonymous with rock 'n' roll music in Melbourne, and not without reason. In recent years the bar has begun hosting the Cherry Rock festival, utilising the laneway space with a complementary stage in addition to the one in the venue itself. This year a second festival rolled along later in the year, simply entitled Cherryfest. With the help of Rob Macmanus's much-loved Heathen Skulls Touring brand, the festival scored two massive OS headliners in the form of New Orleans sludge metal demons Eyehategod, and the latest incarnation of the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group, a new band by the name of Bosnian Rainbows. But it wasn't all about the internationals - the day also featured a very healthy selection of local favourites such as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, King Parrot, Tumbleweed and even a most improbable reunion for cult stoner rockers Dern Rutlidge! It was certainly a fun day and night, with plenty of booze and good rocking tunes. Surprisingly the laneway didn't get too cramped either! And Eyehategod fucking SLAYED.

If there's been one band who have soundtracked my 2012, it's been Sheriff. I lost count ages ago of the amount of evenings I've spent enjoying these dudes with their southernpsychedelichorrorbluesrock sounds - and to be quite honest, they're pretty fucking fun dudes off the stage too. On the very last day of November, they got themselves the honour of supporting the ridiculously awesome, over-the-top heavy metal warriors Barbariön, as they plundered and pillaged the relatively new Footscray venue, the Reverence Hotel for a single launch. With the rowdy Vice Grip Pussies also in the support saddle, the night was, it's fair to say, a whole lot of fun, especially considering it was my first visit to the Reverence. I'd certainly been looking forward to it for some time, given that it's the new venue operated by the old team from the beloved and much-missed Arthouse, and the general opinion among those who've been there is the same - this little bar in the west is quite an awesome spot!

December's gigs kicked off in a big way two days later, as a small but passionate collective of those "in the know" made their way to a relatively unusual location for a gig - a park in Melbourne's north-west, for the long-awaited return of that mysterious event known simply as The Generator Party. It had been a while between drinks for this event - there was a much lower-key version held in 2011, but the last of the "original" run of parties had been held way back at the end of 2010. Anticipation was high for this Sunday afternoon, and it seemed that by the end of the day, everyone agreed that Generator Five had lived up to all expectations. First up, the location - TICK. It sounds so obvious to say it, but a good park location with lots of grass and trees does make for pleasant surroundings for a gig; furthermore it was just a stone's throw away from the location of the inaugural three, which was a good way to keep with the tradition set by the original. The second, and arguably the most important aspect of the day, was of course THE BANDS. And with the likes of Tantrums, The Hawaiian Islands, Them Bruins and A Gazillion Angry Mexicans (among others) taking to the stage patch of grass, there were certainly no complaints on that front! A nice day outside in the sunshine with rock and roll, beers and a barbeque - what else does one need to kick off summer?!

Any doubts about whether summer/December had truly arrived yet were quickly erased the following weekend, as Eskys were filled with Melbourne Bitter cans, and tents, sleeping bags and a whole lot of questionable food were crammed into cars. Said cars then set off on a journey toward a place that has become something of a second home for music lovers in and around the Melbourne area, and somewhere around lunchtime on Friday the 7th of December, the glorious realisation settled in - we were BACK AT THE MEREDITH SUPERNATURAL AMPHITHEATRE. 2011 had arguably been the biggest year yet for Meredith Music Festival; it wasn't really surprising that all the stops were pulled out, given that it was celebrating its twenty-first birthday. However, just because the party had reached dizzying heights the year before, that certainly didn't mean Aunty was about to do things half-arsed this time around, and Meredith 2012 was just as enjoyable as those that had preceded it. It's one of those festivals where just about every act can get mentioned as being enjoyable for at least some people, and certainly at the end of the weekend, if the question "Who was your highlight?" was asked, any number of responses could have followed. "Headlining" honours this time around went to Scottish psych rock stalwarts Primal Scream; they certainly lived up to all expectations, with the crowd giving them plenty of love for a Saturday night set that spanned music of approximately twenty years - three new unreleased tunes were given an airing, but it was the old favourites that truly delighted the punters. Why wouldn't you play five songs (in a thirteen-song set) from such a classic album as Screamadelica, after all?! Other than Bobby Gillespie and his friends, there was plenty of music to love across the typically massive three days. Local soul/funk juggernaut Saskwatch were responsible for creating one of the biggest boogies on the Sunday afternoon of Golden Plains 2012, and were rewarded with a prime-time Saturday evening slot for their return to the Supernatural Amphitheatre - and the audience absolutely loved them again. Mario Rubalcaba certainly put in a lot of effort over the weekend, making appearances behind the drum kit with not one, but TWO great acts - on Friday night, it was with the psychedelic jamtastic trio Earthless, while on Saturday, he appeared halfway through a ripping set by punk stalwarts Hot Snakes. Psychedelia was a variety of music certainly not in short supply over the weekend, with Pond opening the festival with a bang on Friday, with a few of their members taking to the stage again later that night with their "big brother" counterpart, Tame Impala. British legends of all things spacey and trippy, Spiritualized were certainly well-received too, as their cosmic anthems of love, loss and despair seemed to be just made to be played in the Sup'. Saturday night just had a lineup where all signs pointed squarely to good times - in between the aforementioned Primal Scream and Saskwatch, Australian heroes Regurgitator busted out a brilliant set which had everyone dancing and singing along (despite the fact they've just done a tour playing those albums in their ENTIRETY, there were LOTS of songs from Unit and Tu-Plang of course), and Norwegian deathpunk rockers Turbonegro turned up the volume and riffs considerably! After an excellent return of the Meredith Sky Show (it doesn't happen every year), the party rolled on to great effect, with the music taking a hard left turn into "dance" territory. A clever VJ mash-up set by DJ Flagrant was well-received for its inventiveness and nostalgic value; then cult Australian rave duo Itch-E & Scratch-E took to the stage. Dressed as their namesake cartoon characters, Paul Mac and Andy Rantzen belted out a technotastic selection of tunes from their small but impressive discography, and all those punters who were still awake (quite a few!) got their boogie on! Boredoms mainman Yamantaka Eye then took the reins, but by then most people, including yours truly, were well on their way to bed!

And a couple of weeks later, surprise surprise, it was back to Cherry, for MORE. FUCKING. SHERIFF! This evening was quite a momentous occasion, as they stepped up to the plate to support good mates My Left Boot, who were launching their cracking album Summer Songs. Along for the ride also were Melbourne's best two-piece-that-sound-bigger-than-a-two-piece, King of the North - so the night was looking to be quite the party to say the least! It's fair to say it absolutely was - Sheriff got the ball rolling with their usual stomping, swaggering rock and roll tunes, before KotN amped up the riff factor, and then the mighty My Left Boot brought the house down with their somewhat psychedelic flavoured but no less intense rock numbers - and how about that freakin falsetto?! Cherry Bar has a reputation for, well, getting a little bit loose, and it has to be said that quite a big night was had by yours truly and a few friends. It is the sign of a good night when you're helping your friend stick his amp in the back of a cab at 4:30am!

What gig then, to finish the year off, you ask? Well, it could really be no other band - no, it wasn't Sheriff, but another Melbourne group whom I've become somewhat obsessed with in the last couple of years; their name is of course Sydonia. Taking to the stage of Fitzroy's iconic Evelyn Hotel, on the last Saturday for the year the experimental hard-rocking four-piece decided to play a special set focused on their heaviest numbers - due in part to the fact that the bill featured a healthy selection of rather intense acts! Certainly a good gig to wrap things up for a year that certainly had its fair share of awesome live music!