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What we saw from the cheap seats…
August 2, 2015

There was a photo that one of the music majors took for their cover story on Mark Ronson.  I guess it was after the hype and play of the Version days, around when Record Collection was due for release.  In it, Mark was putting on a scowl, but it was obvious that he was trying to hide the laughter lurking behind it.  He was holding a trumpet which he’d broken, presumably across his knee, with the headline printed along with his name a quote on how he doesn’t want to work with trumpets again.  It is ironic, because during this tour, Ronson was at his best when flanked by his horn section.

Mark Ronson,
Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, July 29, 2015…

This was my first visit to Margaret Court Arena (as I hadn’t been able to attend the Wombat’s Splendour Sideshow the previous night due to an engagement next door) and it is certainly a venue with pros and cons.  As a smaller concert venue than its older brother Rod Laver, it brings a surprising warmth and illusion of intimacy to the arena setting.  Upon arrival, staff recommended that patrons use the facilities outside the arena in the Melbourne Park precinct to avoid prophesied queues inside, with vague signage seeing me exit the restrooms onto a tennis court.  Sadly, we are not in the midst of the Australian Open, so hilarity did not ensue this time.  Inside the arena, I was greeted immediately by a long queue that did indeed snake its way around the outskirts of the venue that surely, I thought, could not be for the bathrooms?  I followed the queue in the direction of my door to find it ended in what appeared to be the only bar for the evening.  Hopefully this was the result of venue management misjudging the audience’s thirst on this occasion and choosing to open only one bar, and that there are actually other dedicated beverage facilities hidden away somewhere, otherwise this would constitute an unforgivable design flaw.

On the other hand, the hungry were well-catered to, with an assortment of food options to rival even those of the Araneta Coliseum. Event staff paced the expansive bar queue, deceptively recommending patrons order drinks from one of the dining venues. (Deceptive, as many did not serve liquor, and those which did seemed to only stock the house beer.)  Once I’d foolishly conquered the bar queue, I found my way to what could be Melbourne’s best wheelchair concert viewing area.

Pond played as main support, and played it well, producing catchy electro-rock sounds not dissimilar to those of Midnight Juggernauts.  It was an exciting set, which enforced the intimate feeling of the arena, and put the group on my list of bands to see again.

During the intermission after Pond, and elaborate band-stand style prop was revealed on a stage distressingly otherwise bare of instrumentation, and the staff at the main bar advised patrons that the beer had sold out.  The show opened in strange and underwhelming fashion.  The house lights were dimmed, but instead of any action on stage, the PA was turned up to play a Tamsin West’s closing theme to Round The Twist to a darkened venue.  After a moment of awkward silence the fake band-stand lit up with bright white, while a pair of rappers I couldn’t identify bounded onto stage to rap over a video of Mystikal singing Feel Right.  The emergence of Mark Ronson himself, atop the centre pillar of the illuminated band-stand, was peculiarly overshadowed by the bold karaoke lyrics projected behind the animated dancing of Mystikal on screen.

MarkRonsonIt was when feature singers started emerging to the stage that the show really kicked off, with The Bamboos’ Ella Thompson impressing on vocal duties for Bang Bang Bang, the early sing-along remaining the night’s highlight, though closely followed by The View’s Kyle Falconer shyly reprising his Bike Song vocals.  Business Intl songs stole the show from the current album selection.  The show came to life when Mark took to the stage from behind the props to take up his guitar, and Mark himself looked to be particularly enjoying jamming with Kirin J. Callinan.  It was a shame – though not a surprise, and understandable – to have Valerie played with an empty stage and Amy Winehouse’s piped vocals instead of utilising one of the many guest singers (Daniel Merriweather was, after all, featured only briefly and might have changed up another of the Version covers.)

These DJ shows are always a tricky thing to enliven, but Mark Ronson ended up doing well after a shaky start, though shouldn’t be afraid to feature more live instrumentation, because those moments were when this trip to Melbourne really shone.  After pronouncing his excitement at playing his first arena show tonight, it would seem he can pull it off, though I’ve no doubt he won’t have any problem returning to clubs either.


Mainstream Freak…
October 8, 2012

‘Oh, God,’ sighed Pinky Beecroft, releasing my hand that he’d been shaking.  ‘Are you a journalist?’

His debut spoken-word show had ended only moments ago, and I’d clearly interrupted the determined bee-line he was making through the Northcote Town Hall’s bar to debrief with friends, but it seemed very important to introduce him to my friend Kip.  She is probably Machine Gun Fellatio’s biggest fan, so I’d pounced on the band’s singer the moment he drew near.

When I replied to his question with ‘Kind of…’ Pinky repeated ‘Oh, God!‘ this time with more enthusiasm.  ‘You’re not a blogger, are you?’

With his unashamed disdain for my implied career, Pinky gained several admiration points.  Despite the theatrical outburst, he humoured us in his down-time following the show as Kip reverted to teenage-fandom and could find little more than a giggle to respond to Pinky’s observations.  We chatted a while over the house cider, and it seemed wholly appropriate that we had to raise our voices to be heard over the moans coming from within the nearby erotic finger-puppet theatre.

Pinky Beecroft’s Mainstream Freak,
North Melbourne Town Hall, October 6, 2012

I used to be really down on the whole spoken-word tour thing that rock stars started doing.  I guess – after reading so many of Henry Rollins’ political opinion pieces – I kind of assumed they would all take a similar view.  Or maybe it is just a sign that I’m getting older.  Either way, I’ve started to enjoy hearing tales of touring from admired musicians.  Pinky started his show in the intimate space in the town hall by admitting his own feelings towards such shows.  He acknowledged the new walking stick that he’d taken to the stage with and brushed over the fact that he’s suffered an illness that has kept him from the concert circuit where he might be expected to be found.  Nevertheless, he felt like being on stage, one way or another.

‘I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing here,’ he laughed, and we all joined him.  As though to combat this uncertainty, Pinky unveiled a school-fete-tacky Wheel Of Fortune, with prizes replaced with various titles, including some Machine Gun Fellatio song names.  A more than whiling lovely assistant was plucked from the audience, and gave the wheel a spin, returning between impromptu segments as Pinky fluctuated between touring anecdotes – including a highlight about an out of place limo hired for a Rockhampton show – readings of different written pieces, and a few songs (one of which was shamelessly rigged by the aforementioned assistant, to no one’s dissatisfaction.)

After the last (less than random) spin, and a song to close the evening, we were left satisfied with the topics that had been spun up and the tales and tunes that resulted, but equally as tempted to return for another night with Pinky by the ones that had not come up: Would the ‘Horny Blonde Forty’ topic have resulted in a song, or maybe the twisted story of the tune’s background?

Secret Bogan Juice…
September 10, 2011

Which leads me to my next point.  As much as I love Triple J, and can find no other radio station that plays my favourite music, it is an unfortunate fact that it is also popular with a bogan element within the population.  Whilst this in itself has never been particularly concerning to me – Rosie Beaton has a gift for humouring the drunken masses for just long enough to get a song request out of them before they become too tiresome – it has become apparent that catering to this particular portion of the listenership has become a driving force in the music selection, and has led to a situation of high repetition.

Steph from Monash shows off her tattoo
A lot of people were critical of the results of Triple J’s recent listener poll of ‘The Hottest 100 Australian Albums of All Time,’ and some even more so after Richard Kingsmill released the top 101 – 200 album losers list.  Some felt that there were glaring omissions from the results, particularly when compared with the critics’ predictions, but this was always going to be the case in an opinion poll of a particular sect of the population.  A poll of the general population would probably have yielded some of the critically expected albums.  Whilst it doesn’t make it into my personal top ten, I think that Savage Garden’s self-titled debut should rank highly on such a list, if not at number one.  It has variety and creativity (to the point where some songs were modified to be more conducive for commercial radio play) and was undeniably popular and successful.  I can certainly not think of another Australian album to have generated as many successful singles as this one, and struggle to think of too many from anywhere else to have generated many more.

Of course, I wouldn’t expect it to make it into a Triple J poll.  It is usually fairly easy to pick the songs that will be popular with the station’s request line and ‘Hottest 100’ polls.  When placing my bets, I usually just go with the latest song to feature a chorus that encourages the shouting of swear words (although I did lose this year when Cee Lo’s Fuck You! came in lower than I’d expected.)

A request show should ideally ensure variety, and Triple J’s implementation of theme nights does, to an extent, help encourage this, but it is inevitable that pub rock fans will call in every night asking to hear the latest dance song to find cross-over appeal.  The same song will be played due to popular demand ad-nauseum, and such has been the case since Pnau tapped into a market that hadn’t heard dance music since Sonic Animation released the allegedly funny Theophilus Thistler.  I even heard someone call the SuperRequest show last week asking to hear ‘the song that goes like this,’ before mumbling a tune into the phone, ala Machine Gun Fellatio’s Isaac Or Fuzz.  Remarkably, Rosie and her producer translated the call into Joe Goddard and Valentina’s Gabriel to the caller’s satisfaction, and mine, kind of.

So, what exactly is my complaint here?  Unlike others, I have no qualms with Hottest 100 results or Australian content levels.  My complaint is with the level of repetition that seems to have evolved into the station’s playlist over the past decade, which looks eager to appease the aforementioned (and probably not minimal) section of the listener base.  I like variety, and for a while I haven’t been getting it, but don’t know where else to turn.  Or maybe I’m just afraid of admitting that I might fit into the bogan category too.

I Predict A Riot…
August 22, 2011

Whilst constant renovations have left its exterior a shadow of its former self, the Metro is looking better than ever inside.  Ample viewing from all angles remain, and bars conveniently located right on the main floor ensure fans retain both hyration and prime viewing position, and I’m sure the bar-takings don’t suffer either.  Every child player wins a prize!

Kaiser Chiefs,
Metro Theatre, Melbourne, August 5, 2011

Tonight’s support acts have become well known in their own right.  Stonefield are the obvious choice for the ‘Best Up-And-Comer’ award, and have been widely reported in the music press as leading the charge for awards of the type.  Most stories highlight their youth, beauty, femininity and on-stage uniforms.  I also enjoyed their music.  Yes, it could be described as derivitive, but I’ve never had a problem with artists wearing their influences on their sleeves.  It would have been nice to have heard Stonefield play an up-beat Jimi Hendrix cover, but maybe they thought that it would have been too obvious, and played Whole Lotta Love instead, which seemed to please the surprisingly visible pub-rock sector of the audience.

Next up was Papa Vs Pretty, which was nice because I have been wanting to hear more from this band.  I hope they have a long and illustrious career, because I enjoy their songs.  Again, the band’s influences are apparent, but I love the fact that they jump from one style to another so suddenly.  One moment I am detecting shades of Augie March, then it’s a Queen-esque guitar solo, before switching to Radiohead mode for a while.  It’s a bit like a mix-tape I’d make, but with the novelty of being originals.  Even though they seem quite stylistically distinct from the headliner, they seemed like a good choice for support.

Kaiser Chiefs are an interesting band, but I am never sure whether or not I will like them live.  I resigned from my longest standing job a few years ago in order to watch the band, only to find that a string of miscommunication lead me to miss out anyway.  I think my concern lies with the fact that they are a boring-looking bunch of guys.  Typically pictured clad in shades of brown, their appearance doesn’t exactly scream ‘rockstar,’ and it is rare to hear stories of back-stage antics or outrageous rider demands from them.  Nevertheless, Employment and Off With Their Heads are two of my favourite albums, so I was pleased when the band launched straight into Everyday I Love You Less And Less and barely stopped for a breath from that point on.  My fears of boredom had been allayed by Ricky Wilson’s literally bouncy entrance and constant energy.  Without an instrument to pose with, he swung the microphone stand precariously around the stage, and performed all kinds of mime acts.

The audience right beneath the stage around me had been pretty tame and pleasant to begin with, aside from a few girls who had been chanting the same line of The Angry Mob since they’d arrived hours ago, but that all changed when the chorus to Never Miss A Beat started, and all of a sudden some giants appeared from nowhere and attempted to push everyone at the front of the stage out of their way.  Fists were pounding everwhere, and then the chorus was over and they died down, till the next chorus.  After the song, I heard one of the girls screaming at the giants ‘What are you even doing here if you don’t like the band!?’  The giant guys returned briefly later on, attempting to push their way to the front of the audience and claiming to be friends of the band and desperate to say hello.  When they made little progress, they went away, only to re-appear for the chorus of Ruby.  Behind me I could hear more jeering and saw unexpected slam dancing.  Maybe I was naïve, but I hadn’t expected the Kaiser Chiefs’ brand of sing-along pop to attract this bogan element.

After a false finish midway through I Predict A Riot, Ricky returned from the stage to crowd surf around the perimeter of the venue.  Whilst it tended to make the song drag on for a little too long, it was forgivable given the quality of the set and allowed for suitable build up to a big closing of the song, before a quick break between the main set and an encore that ended with a satisfyingly extended Oh My God that thankfully reunited the audience into a fluidly moving, perfectly timed, bouncing wave, perfect to close the show.

Having come directly from a work function, I’d used the cloak room, oddly, and thought that some of the hostility voice towards the attendents was a little unfounded, particularly considering – like everywhere else at the Metro – the queue snaked right by another bar, so I enjoyed a Southern Comfort cocktail whilst I waited the not too long time to retrieve my coat and school bag.

Dann vs The ‘Gurge…
June 28, 2011

It was almost one year ago that I became embroiled in heated debate with Quan from Regurgitator over the merits of the physical nature of recorded music as compared to the benefits presented by digital distribution.  I valiantly built a case for the compact disc – possibly out of an ingrained sentimentality, but also the realisation that the decline of the medium also spelled the death of the printed Buzz Magazine, the future of which depended on the advertising revenue generated by the promotion of physical album sales – but faced enthusiastic rebuttal from Quan, who wondered why I would ‘want to adhere to a creative paradigm that’s been around for 80 or 90 years and just doesn’t seem appropriate nowadays.’

 The debate became quite heated, and, for a while at least, threatened to descend into the territory of an argument, but was luckily averted by the natural progression of the discussion to the possibility that the theoretical demise of the album could see the resurrection of another dwindling medium – the mix tape – and Quan and I remained friends.

 That said, I have no problem claiming a belated victory, with the announcement this week of Regurgitator’s forthcoming album SUPERHAPPYFUNTIMEFRIENDS.  Far be it from me to gloat, but I will briefly quote from the band’s enticingly re-designed webpage‘…it seems the concept of the album was not without value still as it afforded the more focused structure and disciplined approach they seem to require.’

The entry on the site also mentions that Unit was voted number 13 in the industry voting of Triple J’s Hottest 100 Australian Album countdown, and, despite my victory today, I am happy to admit that Unit came number 10 in my own personal countdown – and that Love And Paranoia only just missed out too.

A sample of the new stuff is available here, along with the old new stuff.  In further good news, the band are touring, and tickets are going cheap for shows in Melbourne, AdelaideBrisbane, Townsville and Bunbury. Love the Unit…

December 16, 2010

New festivals have been on undeniably shaking ground lately.  It looks as though we have finally reached the point where the market has become so saturated that, even with a favourable line-up, it is difficult for a new festival to get started.

That said, the No Sleep Til… series of festivals are almost upon us, and rumours suggest that few more than 2000 tickets have been sold.  Whilst I don’t believe the statistic, it is true that good tickets are still available.  With an entire season of festivals still beginning, one has to budget carefully, and No Sleep Til… is a tricky one.  On the one hand, it would be great to see NOFX and the Descendents.  On the other, the tickets prices are high when compared to festivals with lineups as big as Soundwave and Big Day Out.

Then again, if one can get tickets with cheaper booking fee, it may well be worth it.

Cheese Rock…
December 12, 2010

Festival Hall, Melbourne, December 5, 2010

Of all the people to struggle finding the correct door at Festy, it had to be me.  The fact that the door my ticket had directed me to was shut tight when I arrived told me that the show must have attracted a low turn-out.  In the lead up, I’d been laughed at for suggesting that somewhere like the Metro might have been more appropriate for Korn, with colleagues suggesting that Rod Laver Arena would surely have been more suitable.

I guess I showed them who was right.  Despite the low patronage (possibly a result of surprisingly ambitious ticket prices,) the queue for the bar as Shihad ended their set made me realise another of the reasons why people dislike Festival Hall.

By the time I’d waded through the sea of familiar faces in the audience, I was at the front of the stage just in time to catch the beginning of the set of some character who I figured was a joke, a-la Neil Hamburger.  With long, ultra-straight hair down past his elbows and covering his face, he looked like Cousin Itt wearing a velour tracksuit.  The banner in front of his turn-tables bore the names of several corporate sponsors, most prominently from the energy drink sector, and what I eventually guessed was probably his name – DJ Kid Knuckles.  He was certainly an enthusiastic and popular character, garnering wild applause from the audience each time he busted out his latest outlandish moves vaguely in time to the pop-metal hit choruses he was playing.

He did set the tone perfectly for the kind of show I imagined was to follow from the headliner – leaving the stage to a shriek of ‘Is everyone ready for Korn?!’  Whilst it would have been cinematic for him to bound off the stage slapping Jonathan Davis a high-five on his way in, there was actually a long enough wait between this pseudo-support for a pretty deadly-looking fight to break out on the balcony.  As well as inciting riots, the break gave the audience time to take in the impressive, Giger-esque microphone stand and matching, sprawling drum kit.  I could tell that drum-solo fans were going to be pleased.

When the band did finally emerge on stage, I was pleased to see them in trademark ADIDAS shirts and tracksuits.  It looked likeI was going to be in for just the tacky, clichéd show I was secretly hoping for, although opening with 4U tended to hint that I might not be quite correct.  There was not a word spoken between songs, which is just how I like it, with extended, industrial noise segues between songs which frontman Jonathan Davis used to suck up oxygen from a tank behind the keyboardist.

Other than the obvious highlight of Munky’s loose, slapping bass playing only meters away (as exciting in person as it sounds on record,) there was the Coming Undone / We Will Rock You / drum and bass solo medley, and of course the creepy piano solo which evolved into Falling Away From Me.

Even a costume-change (into their own merchandise, no less) didn’t feel tacky, though live the bagpipe introduction to Shoots And Ladders doesn’t have the same effect as the barely-there production of the album version.

An extended version of Got The Life closed the show satisfactorily, leaving the few younger members of the audience confused with the lingering loop of the last few bars, a staple of ‘90s arena rock, standing around confused allowing me a speedy getaway to the Carron.

December 30, 2009

Rowland S. Howard
1959 – 2009

Amy Meredith gigs…
August 30, 2009

Poor Amy Meredith.  They came all the way from Sydney to play a gig at my house.  I hope they realised that I appreciated it, as awkward as it was for all concerned.

When I noticed one of their roadies looking for coins to play pinball, I told him that he didn’t have to pay – I wasn’t running some kind of gold-coin racket.  It was months later when I was replacing a light bulb that I discovered a couple of coins that they’d obviously put in before I told them they only needed to press ‘Start.’

They are playing cheap gigs for Sydney-siders.  Tickets are available here.

Kat Spazzy on touring with Marilyn Manson…
August 26, 2009

Last time Marilyn Manson played at Festy, he was supported by the Spazzys.  Kat Spazzy remembers the show:

That was awesome!  That was crazy… All those little Goths in the crowd were so funny.  They hated us!  A lot of them really, really hated us, but hopefully a few of them liked us by the end.  We came out in capes and stuff like that.  Our guitar tech would draw little crosses on his nipples, like a sad face, and flash it at all the kids.  I thought they were going to raid the stage.  A bunch of ten year olds.  It was very, very funny.

 We did the whole tour with them and we hung out with Marilyn Manson.  He was wild.  He was crazy.  He never took off his sunglasses at any point at all.

Marilyn Manson returns to Festival Hall in October.  Get tickets here!  My full interview with The Spazzys will be in next month’s issue of Buzz Magazine.