Archive for the ‘Venue Review’ Category

Bulldoze it!
July 26, 2018

‘Just bulldoze it now!’ shouted a woman in the queue outside Festival Hall, a commentary on recent reports that young Mr Wren feels like getting out of the entertainment venue business and selling up, and the mixed feelings amongst music fans surrounding it. Tonight, Festival Hall’s doors were due to open at 7pm, and passers-by already struggled to weave through the dense crowds waiting to enter on Dudley Street. The process was long, delayed by security staff checking the identification of even the most obviously overage patrons attempting to access licensed areas, and by the policy this evening of thoroughly searching all handbags, even those more accurately described as small purses. By 7.45, it was my turn, and I eagerly clutched my ticket, my drivers license ready. Before I could hand it over though, I was pointed away, ordered to the cloak room: jackets, along with bags, also needed to go to the cloak room.

With an icy wind cutting through Melbourne on the night of what weather forecasters had been calling an ‘Arctic blast,’ the line of patrons clutching the jackets and bags deemed contraband is even more extensive than that to the venue itself.  Even bags and jackets being left in the cloak room were being searched.  It would be 8.30pm before I made it to the front of the line and the cloak room window.

MGMT and Franz Ferdinand,
Festival Hall, Melbourne, July 24, 2018…

The Splendour-sideshow double-headliner seemed an odd pairing when it was announced, though not an unwelcome one, with the only obvious link between MGMT and Franz Ferdinand being that both sing songs about someone named Michael. MGMT were first up, though with their scheduled start time of 8 o’clock, I had to settle for listening to Little Dark Age through the wall, my ear pressed to the cold Festy bricks.

Entering part way through an obviously crowd-pleasing Time To Pretend, the similarities between this band and the Flaming Lips dawned on me for the first time. Of course, it could have been an illusion created by the MS Paintbrush animated backdrop the band were playing against, or by the inflatable Little Dark Age mascot looming at stage right.

Inflatable MGMT mascot at Melbourne's Festival Hall concert 2018

For the remainder of the set, it was those Oracular Spectacular songs which drove the full house crowd wild, though they were the songs played stiffly and with the least enthusiasm by the band. By contrast, new songs Me and Michael and TSLAMP saw the key duo adding creative guitar and synth flourishes, and even the touring guitarist, who had been hiding at the back of the stage dressed in a red jumpsuit, seemed to burst to life. A cloaked figure who had been lurking ominously beneath the balloon creature, suddenly brandished a guitar, as if plucking it from mid air. On the other hand, singing one of the new album’s highlights, She Works Out Too Much, on an exercise bike seemed like a confusing in-joke which only distracted from the rest of the quality performance of newer material.

An extended rendition of Kids had the alcohol-drenched floors threatening to break under the force of the audience bouncing, and was complimented by a ravey interlude, and Congratulations served as a closing cool-down, though was sadly missed by many as the floor emptied of those who had apparently only wanted to hear charting singles.

During the intermission, the queues from outside were reformed for both bathrooms and bars, ensuring I partook in neither whilst the elaborate props were removed from the stage and replaced with a classic rock set up for Franz Ferdinand.

Franz Ferdinand at Festival Hall Melbourne 2018

Introducing the band with his iconic, signature drumming style, Paul Thompson opened The Dark of the Matinée, as the rest of the band sauntered before a backdrop of solid colours, a stark contrast to the elaborate staging of MGMT, appearing in silhouette like the old iPod commercials. Meanwhile, the nature of the audience had shifted in one song. I didn’t see anyone who had surrounded me at the front of the stage for MGMT, though some clearly remained, cutting shapes awkwardly as creative renditions of new songs like Always Ascending were teased and remixed live for us.

It was a set that drew heavily from both the early stages of Franz Ferdinand and the current record, with new live twists given to both sides of the spectrum. After Finally took on a disco flavour, we were treated to a slowed down, late-night version of Walk Away.  Alex Kapranos has grown into a formidable frontman, band uniforms a thing of the past, alternating between stalking the stage like Jarvis Cocker and enthusiastically slinging on a guitar from one song to the next. His energy rolled onto the audience, helping even those staying only to ensure value for money after paying for MGMT would join in for sing-alongs to singles like Do You Want To and Take Me Out.

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After a powerful and extended closer of This Fire, the double headline nature of the show started to feel like a curse: the short sets had left so many more songs unplayed from each band. Franz Ferdinand had put on one of the live sets of the year, and MGMT had had their moments, but Festival Hall, at close to capacity, seemed unworthy of the performances. As much as it is a shame to see venues closing around town, maybe it is the right time for Festival Hall, since I was left wondering how the show might have been had it been at Margaret Court Arena instead.

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Canal Road…
January 12, 2018

Platform One was previously known for having long queues out the front shivering in the early hours and dressed in revealing clothing. I haven’t seen it like that in several years though.

AM//PM’s Pre-Unify Emo Night,
Platform One, Melbourne, January 11, 2018…

Billed as an old-fashioned punk club night featuring multiple rooms, Platform One seemed like an interesting venue for a rock show. I imagined impassioned scenes within the bunker-like brick walls as a band incited good natured chaos on the floor below a stage raised only a couple of feet.

Black and white balloons printed with 'Glad to be sad.'Entering shortly before midnight, the first passage was notably almost deserted, with a DJ playing club staples like My Chemical Romance and The Used in earnest to a handful of girls dancing and raising their glasses in appreciation. It is immediately apparent that, whilst it is a picturesque and central venue, Platform One is less than suited to a rock night: the music of Earth Caller is bleeding through the stone wall and overwhelming the DJ set to the point that one needs to strain their ears in order to catch the words of Misery Business. But it does mean that ordering a drink from the bar – decorated tonight with black and white balloons reading ‘Glad to be sad’ – is a simple process.

Joining Earth Caller mid-way through their set, pools of slam dancing have opened sporadically but politely across the full floor of the band room. As a community mosh-pit should be, it is easy to move to the stage to see the frontman howling passionate verses before breaking into shout-along choruses, and swaying in time with the audience for stylishly played jams. The band are at their best when singing in harmony, particularly with the addition of a female vocalist (apparently a special guest, though I didn’t recognise her – perhaps someone from the Unify festival bill.)

Between You And Me at Platform One, MelbourneAfter only a short break, Between You And Me play a melodic, sing-along rock. With all five members getting behind microphones, the band make a sound that has the audience moving, even though it seems few are familiar with the songs. The front man in particular bounds around the stage energetically, suitable for the lead in to a band like Hellions.

Dre FaivreMy previous Hellions live experience was elaborate, exhibiting the impressive Opera Oblivia backed by samples to add layers to the sound, taking their audience through all the dramatic peaks and troughs the band has to offer. Tonight was a much freer show, a straight rock show from the moment the band took the stage. Lead singer Dre Faivre gestured madly to the audience, who were pounding rhythmically in response. The energy doesn’t die down as the band power through a set mainly from Opera Oblivia and introducing new a brand new song or two. The view from beneath the stage mid-set is one of a tunnel packed with appreciative movement, and by the time the band close, the night could be considered a success.

For a rock show, Platform One was a hit – sort of creepy but comfortable, easy to move but not too big as to feel empty.  My initial prediction had come true in terms of the live space.  However, as a club night, it seemed less successful. As well as the aforementioned sound in other rooms, the crowd seemed to disperse once the bands had finished. Of course, many may have had a long drive ahead in the morning to Unify Festival, so maybe the launch party achieved its goal.

That band with the comic books…
May 8, 2016

Coheed and Cambria’s gigs have always proven interesting.  On the one hand, the band have historically always sounded amazing.  On the other, their audiences have sometimes proven to be their undoing, insisting on inappropriately out-hardcoring each other as they slam out of time to the music.  How would tonight’s show at an apparently revamped HiFi Bar compare?

Coheed and Cambria, with Closure In Moscow,
Max Watt’s, Melbourne, May 6, 2016…

After a weird twelve months, including a seemingly-sudden change of ownership, weird name change, and flooding, it was my first look at an apparently renovated HiFi Bar.  First impressions were not promising, with a queue snaking along Swanston Street, surely for the first time since Prince’s first in, best dressed appearance.  Once inside, the alleged renovations were also not apparent, but that was unimportant – it appeared that Max Watt’s was keeping things business as usual for the HiFi Bar.  Familiar faces kept matters moving efficiently behind the bar so, despite the inexplicable entry queue, there was time for drinks before the opener took to the stage.

It was strange to think that I’ve never seen Closure In Moscow play before.  I am certain they have appeared on plenty of bills that I have been to, but never actually witnessed their performance.  They sounded like a cross between The Darkness and The Mars Volta, and the flamboyant frontman drew attention from the back of the room to the front immediately.  Vocally, he reminded me of Robert Harvey from the music, and visually he kept attention as he made use of the stage dressed in costume jewellery and a Grandma Yetta-style jacket. The group moved flawlessly between sprawling funk epics, hard rock and even spoken word interludes. After witnessing a bubbly closing number blending gospel, country and psych-rock tones that Rocket Science would be proud of, it seems more than worthwhile to see Closure In Moscow could do in one of their headline shows.

Rather than being introduced by a DJ, or opening boldly like they have in previous outings, Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever entered the stage without ceremony, carrying acoustic guitars with them to the microphones front and centre to pose as their own support act with a demure rendition of Ghost.  It shifted the tone from the party-rock of Closure In Moscow’s set, but it was to only be temporary, as the ending strains lead into the opening of In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3.  The rest of Coheed and Cambria appeared behind the singer and guitarist in time for the anticipatory build that would set the scene for the rest of the show.

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The aforementioned super-mosh crew tried to slam their way to infamy at this early stage, but quickly fell out of the crowd as the majority kept up with the rhapsodic shifts fans can follow well.  (Surprisingly, it was the newest songs from the band’s current, poppy release Colour Before The Sun that brought them back to try their luck at inappropriately frantic moshing a couple of times later, rather than the heavy songs.)  The rest of us were left to join in for backing vocals in the dramatic return from the song’s false ending, and revel in swaying, jumping, and thrashing in perfect sync for the rest of the set.

The current release is a brilliant, yet different venture for the band, but more straight-forward highlights from Colour Before The Sun like Island, Eraser and especially Here To Mars fit perfectly within the progressive staples like No World For Tomorrow and Sentry The Defiant.  Throughout the set, it seemed like the band were enjoying themselves immensely on stage, not afraid to dance along and behave in other decidedly non-metal ways.  Likewise, the sold out crowd showed their appreciate for the duration, with no lulls in the movement and singing from the moment the group took to the stage to the end.

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Once the applause died down at the end of the main set, the usual Australian audience chant of ‘One more song!’ was pleasantly absent, replaced tonight by a spontaneous rendition of the choral refrain from In Keeping Secrets…  When Claudio lead his band back to the stage for an encore, he seemed thrilled with the show of support, and after replying with his cry, requested the audience share the experience via social media to make it a trend.

‘What?’ he asked the pockets of laughter in the audience at the request.  ‘Should I be worried about being too corny?  We’re already that band with the comic books.’

As though to prove his statement, Claudio took up a double-necked guitar to pluck the opening chords of Welcome Home, before striking every rock cliché pose through the course of the powerful closer.  It was the Coheed and Cambria gig we’ve been waiting for.