Hens Party Hard…

November 5, 2013 - Leave a Response

The room was filled with women in their late-twenties and early-thirties, over-dressed for the venue and showing the early signs of the influence of preparatory drinks on one’s balance in high-heels.  They giggle like they’re much younger as, in small packs, they approach members of the male minority.  Melbourne’s Palace, formerly the Metro, has seen a lot of different crowds pass through it, but tonight it looked like the scene of the world’s largest hens party.

Palace Theatre, Melbourne, November 4, 2013

‘Nice shirt,’ said a member of one of the aforementioned packs whilst I was ordering at the bar.  Behind her, a clan of onlookers were whispering ‘Omigod, omigod! She’s doing it!’ and giggling, and I remembered that I’d worn an Andrew WK t-shirt (the one with the blood.)  ‘Do you like Five?’

I told her that I do, and she cast an eye back to her laughing cronies before proclaiming, ‘They’re, like, my favourite band ever!  Are they your favourite band ever too?’

I conceded that whilst I like Five, I couldn’t claim them as my favourite band ever, though did respond with a rant on the virtues of Invincible.

‘Yeah…’ the girl said.  ‘Who is Invincible?’

That was my first introduction to the weird, weird audience of the evening.  Many of the members alleged to have been queuing outside since the early afternoon and were complaining that, had they been notified earlier of the venue’s apparently overly-sticky floors, would have planned their footwear for the evening accordingly.  My next was hearing their unfavourable reviews of opener Frank Dixon, whom I had missed, but think is the guy who played that Toorak Girl song that was being linked around on MySpace a few months ago.  Peculiarly, the DJs playing before and after him had also received billing, and they had a warm response from the crowd.  So warm, in fact, that camera-phones were whipped out to capture the DJ spinning favourite pop-hits of the late 90s and early 2000s.  In the lull between the applause remaining after Mambo No. 5 and the next song, I overheard the comment, ‘I love that song.  It was so sad when he died last week.’  It took me a moment to figure out that the commentator was confusing Lou Bega with Lou Reed.

The applause eventually died down as the last of DJ’s equipment was moved away, leaving a spartan stage in the lead-up to the headliners’ arrival.  It was an ominous sign.  These backing-track pop shows don’t usually fare well in my reviews – Eiffel 65 and N-Trance was the last show like this I saw, and ended up being ranked 2012’s worst show.  My concerns seem to be unique, however, as the audience proclaimed their excitement as Five emerged onto the stage.  The remaining four members of the band, now somewhat inappropriately named, except when compared with the likes of Ben Folds Five, look to be pleased with the turn-out:  this was the second of two sold-out Melbourne shows, a feat that it could be argued the band might have struggled to achieve during the height of their fame in 1998 and -9 when the group were constantly charting, albeit behind peers like N*Sync and Backstreet Boys.FiveMetro
Along with the applause was the return of the sea of camera-phone screens, which isn’t too unusual.  What was unusual, however, was that a majority of these screens remained firmly in position for the remainder of the show as many fans of this genre appear satisfied to watch through a 4-inch screen.

The lack of instrumentation turned out to be no problem, with the band sufficiently filling in the vocal-blanks left by the absent J, and ensuring constant on-stage action by relishing in recreating the synchronised dance moves from their video clips.  It was the dance tunes that proved to be the evening’s highlights, with Everybody Get Up, When The Lights Go Out and stalker-pop anthem Don’t Wanna Let You Go being stand-outs.  Sneaking in their cover of We Will Rock You early set a clap-along in motion which momentarily dislodged some of the camera screens, but only briefly.  Whilst the customary ballads were there to ensure all the singles were covered, they drew a lull in interest from the audience, aside from when the theatrical hints of homoeroticism between band members produced the odd squeal through the audience.  Connessuirs of Five’s catalogue might have been hoping for an encore of the signature hidden ‘Track 55′ songs, like the band’s ode to Inspector Gadget, but (despite my screamed requests and the glares of disapproval from those surrounding me,) they were not forthcoming.

For a smaller-than-usual group of guys alone on stage without instruments, the remainder of Five put on a good show to an unusual audience, many of whom left commenting on a fine pop show and the venue’s lack of cigarettes for sale.  The band proved that they are still, true to their albums’ sentiments, an authority on being back, getting down, and not going away.


They Might Be Giants at the Corner…

May 5, 2013 - One Response

If not for They Might Be Giants, I wouldn’t have been as successful as I was on television’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in the United States.  It was in a glass-floored studio in California in 2001 when the gameshow’s host let a smug smile slip across her face when she asked ‘Who was the eleventh president of the United States?’ and seemed a little taken aback when some Australian up-start answered correctly, before even being presented with a series of multiple choice answers.

Coincidentally, on the same day that I was fulfilling that particular ambition, I was missing the chance to realise another at home: to see They Might Be Giants live, as their Hi-Fi shows took place while I was out of town.

They Might Be Giants,
Corner Hotel, Melbourne, May 2, 2013…

With this being the first of the shows of the tour to go on sale, and consequently the first to sell out, the Corner was set up in ‘Big mode’ tonight, with the second stage set up for the support act – complete with a theremin front and centre –  and the band room filling quickly after the doors opened.  It was close to a full house when support act Pluto Jonze and his band took to the stage, backed by a vintage television sitting precariously atop stacked crates and displaying various clips and lyrics in synch with his tunes.

It was an impressive support slot which inspired me to look further into the band.  Pluto Jonze seems like a talented multi-instrumentalist, though the aforementioned theramin did seem to be used only for novelty purposes.  Everyone is familiar with their radio single with the Fitter Happier-style Paranoid Android verses, but the rest of the setlist consisted of immediately catchy tunes which sounded a lot like how Hot Chip might if they decided to go for a rockier sound.

The main stage was pleasantly filled with instruments – keyboard, bass clarinet… – as the house lights dimmed to a subdued blue and the five members of They Might Be Giants took the stage, with the infamous Johns doing so to enormous applause.  Opening with something new, it was when the band launched into We’re The Replacements that the crowd were really brought on board, and that excitement remained, particularly when John L strapped himself into the clarinet or his ‘Main Squeeze’ accordian for songs like Meet James Ensor and Dr Worm.

The first of many accomplished guitar solos by Dan Miller – generously celebrated this evening – teased towards any of several song possibilities.  It temptingly drifted in the direction of a rocked-out version of Robot Parade or Istanbul (Not Constantinople), but was actually a distraction whilst the Johns disappeared from the main stage, replaced on the support stage by The Avatars Of They, a puppet band who offered underhanded thanks to the ‘grandpas’ playing as their opening act, before ranting about local politics and performing a Tom Waits-style tune.

After the set by the Avatars, the Johns returned to the stage for favourites like S.E.X.X.Y., Ana Ng and a new song about Dr Tesla (nicely balancing out the group’s apparent pro-Edison slant) before another energetic solo for the real Istanbul which was so powerful it saw Dan break several guitar strings.  The group were called back for two encores, culminating in a sing-along She’s An Angel.

For a band with thirty years of experience and sixteen albums, there was always going to be a whole clump of songs from my wishlist that were missed out live.  On the other hand, this was a show that featured not only some of my favourite songs, but a whole bunch of other things I like, like puppets, robots, and an accordian.

Manual Jackhammer…

April 24, 2013 - Leave a Response

Just as Freddy Krueger is said to be the son of a hundred maniacs, Circa Survive seemed like a band incepted from roots in various different other bands.  I’d only ever heard of the band before their support slot at the Metro on Sunday, though I had heard a certain faction of the audience describing tonight’s’ proceedings as a ‘double headliner.’

Coheed and Cambria, with Circa Survive,
Palace Theatre, Melbourne, April 21, 2013…

I detected shades of Placebo, The Eagles, Smashing Pumpkins, Iron Maiden and Kaiser Cheifs, amongst other apparent auditory influences.  It was a combination that seemed to work well together, and it certainly seemed to be keeping the ‘double headliner’ crowd immediately in front of the stage happy, with significant trickles of satisfaction seeping back through the rest of the crowd.  The lead singer flounced enthusiastically around the stage through their handful of sprawling songs, leaving me wanting to find out more.

It was clear as the lights dimmed that, despite the thoughts of the Circa Survive die-hards, Coheed and Cambria were the real headliners of the night.  It had not been a sell out, although the Metro looked crowded as everyone vied for prime position (luckily an easy prospect at such a fine venue.)  Still, there was a lot staked on the bands’ performance.  Coheed is a band that have in the past given us cancellations, shows tarnished by bad audiences, but also albums rich with production featuring dynamic effects and broad instrumentation.  How well would that translate to the stage?  Would it need to be toned down?  It was a little concerning to see, just prior to the band’s emergence, a stage populated by the rock basics – guitars and drum kits – but no sign of the sing section or piano that makes their albums complete.

Opening in anthemic style with No World For Tomorrow, the enthusiastic delivery and receptive audience went a long way towards making up for the elements not present from recordings.  The rest was made up by a DJ delivering suitably science-fiction interludes and introductions to the remaining songs.  It’s an impressive set, though focused on more recent material, and also, perhaps oddly for a band with a varied collection of slow and more progressive tunes, focused entirely on heavier material.  A cool down sway with wedding favourite (presumably) Wake Up would not have felt out of place.

Nevertheless, the show didn’t disappoint, and a Coheed and Cambria headline show more than made up for the hit and miss affair of Coheed and Cambria in festival-mode, and their associated audience.

Not Drowning, Soundwaving…

March 5, 2013 - Leave a Response

Cinnamon Lip,
You’re headed for a breakdown.
Cinnamon Lip – Pollyanna

Before almost every festival I’ve been to, I’ve heard on the news that PAD sniffer dogs will be ‘out in force,’ and I’ve usually been disappointed when I get to the festival and don’t see any.

So I was understandably excited when I disembarked from the Soundwave Special to see the station lined with police officers with blonde, brunette and black police labradors.  I headed towards them for a closer look, and delighted in their wagging tails – it is good to see them enjoying their work.  I’d smiled as I passed several dogs before I became entangled in the leash of a small black dog which seemed to be enthusiastically trying to get past me.  I stepped back with a mind to getting out of the dog’s way and letting it continue its duty unobstructed, and fell into the awaiting arms of a policeman.  He turned me to face a further two officers wearing white, and asked if I’d mind stepping towards them.

‘The reason you’ve been sent to us,’ started the male officer, who I noticed was wearing blue rubber gloves in conjunction with his white police polo shirt, matching the attire of his female colleague. ‘Is because the dog has indicated that you may be carring an illegal substance on your person.’

I was obviously surprised, and couldn’t think of anything I might have ever carried that could be classed as an illegal substance, let alone on that particular morning after I’d performed a meticulous stocktake on my usual array of pocket and wallet contents in order to make my traversion from one stage to the next as efficient as possible.  This at least made unpacking all of my possesions at the officers’ request quick and easy, though I found it difficult to answer their questions without saying something which might get the dog into trouble.  Questions like ‘Are you carrying anything you shouldn’t be?’ were easy enough to answer without thought, but others involving descriptions of how highly trained the dog is, and how it is rarely wrong were more difficult to respond to without making what sounded like accusations.  I acknowledged that the dogs were all undoubtedly good at their jobs, and pointed out that few people admire dogs in the workforce more than I do, but suggested that, in this case, this particular dog must have been mistaken.

Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, March 1, 2013

By the time I was released from police custody (without incident, obviously,) Billy Talent were concluding their set on one of the middle-sized stages, which were notably surrounded this year by the kind of barrier that normally prove little more than a nuisance at the major stages.  Luckily the barriers didn’t get in the way too much, and I was able to make it to the adjoining stage to hear a fun-filled set by Flogging Molly, which had the audience dancing, though my comment that I prefer the music of the Mountains Goats seemed to fall on deaf, confused ears.  Flogging Molly were the first of the old guard playing on the minor stages who would be the festival’s saving grace.

After a previous Soundwave cancellation, Sum 41 made it to the stage immediately after Flogging Molly for a set which was on par with the band’s usual standards.  Whilst that is a high standard, they didn’t bring a lot that was new for those who have seen the band play before, and continued with their usual insistance that they were ‘bringing the metal’ to the stage.  Oddly, the audience became very fashion conscious, even bitchy, when fans were invited on stage with the band.  ‘Oh my God!‘ cried one girl. ‘He’s just gone on stage… wearing a Blink 182 t-shirt!’

On my first trek to the main stages, I discovered one of this year’s Soundwave Festival’s main flaws: the discrete change of venue from the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds to Flemington Racecourse prime, best remembered as the venue that Big Day Out sucked at from 2009 onwards, was laid out in such a way that the two main stages, traditionally interconnected, were this year spread far apart, with a different, limited access barrier for each.  With drawcard acts like Blink 182 and Metallica set to play these stages, the barriers were sure to fill quickly, with no access to view (or even hear) one stage from the other, and viewing limited without the advantage of the remains of the grandstand at the Showgrounds.  I arrived for Blink 182 to a disorganised throng of dense crowd, however my years of festival experience allowed me to slip towards the front of the stage without too much obstruction, despite security contractors’ advice that the barrier section was full.  This was true – much like last year’s Soundwave, it did feel a little over-crowded in front of the stage, begging the question of the value of these BDO-style barriers at all.  If nothing else, the layout prevented me from enjoying any of the tail end of A Perfect Circle‘s set from the other main stage.

My brother famously said that the only good thing about Blink 182 is their drummer.  Whilst his comment is at the extreme end of the scale, he isn’t alone amongst Blink fans and their admiration for the drumming styles of Travis Barker.  In the moments before the band’s afternoon set, the murmur through the crowd was doubtful of how the stand-in, Brooks from Bad Religion, would perform.  For most, these doubts were quashed as soon as the frantic solo introduction to Feeling This was played to perfection.  For the others, who stoicly persisted that ‘It just isn’t the same without Travis,’ I am sure it was merely a matter of principal.  It was a set heavy in material from the most recent albums Neighborhoods and the self titled record, which was surprising but not a disappointment, with those albums featuring, in my opinion, the band’s best material.  Of course, the set also covered all of the hits and favourites from earlier albums too, and whilst the songs driven by Tom sounded great, Mark seemed to be struggling in the vocal department, perhaps driving some of their song choices (or, more importantly, the choice of songs to be omitted.)

Once again, I caught the end of a band’s set on my way to seeing another.  This time it was Cypress Hill, who I was disappointed not to have been able to have seen more of, due to their clash with Blink 182.  It sounded like I’d missed a good set, ending well, if predictably, on a rendition of Rock Superstar which would have been better without the pauses in the song to allow for audience participation.

The end of their set left me perfectly positioned to enjoy Garbage, who put on the best performance of the day.  Shirley Manson stormed onto the stage, clad all in black, broken only by a different colour of polish on each fingernail, and, as well as performing to the audience, seemed to be putting on a show for her band-mates too, climbing on Butch Vig’s drum kit to pose for his photos at one point.  Shirley embodies her songs in the same way that Nick Cave does, taking on the persona of each to keep even the most casual of fan engaged for the whole show, stalking around the stage, snarling songs like Why Don’t You Love Me? as though to the unseen lover to which the song is dedicated.  The whole set had the audience singing and swaying along, and was a nice change when compared to some of the past crush-along audiences of Soundwaves past.

Festival headliners Metallica had, by this time, commenced their fairly unprecedented two-and-a-half hour festival set, so I took a look through the vast mass of spectators during my dinner break.  They sounded okay, but that was about it.  There wasn’t anything particularly engaging, but perhaps that was because I was so far away.  Later, during the end of Paramore‘s set, I realised that despite the band’s popularity and alleged commercial radio appeal, I don’t really know any of their songs.

Paramore’s crowd cleared quickly once The Offspring took to the stage, backed by a simple, yet impressive lighting set up:  The Offspring skull logo hung behind the group, with dancing lights projected onto it in different colours, to create the impression of the band being backed sometimes by flames, sometimes waves in water, and sometimes weirdly coloured slime.  It was surprising to see a strong audience reaction to a lot of the more recent songs, but, as expected, the real highlight is always seeing the middle-aged band rocking through songs about how tough it is being a kid, Noodles with a cigarette hanging from his lips even as he shredded through solos. As always, Want You Bad was a set highlight. Despite appearing this year on a smaller stage than at their last Soundwave appearance in 2008 when they’d headlined the show, the Offspring still put on an enjoyable show.

Leaving the venue, in impressively efficient fashion, Metallica could still be heard droning beyond the advertised 10pm noise cut-off time, with announcements at the train station repeatedly talking over them to request that the implausibly named ‘Delta White, please meet your friends at the city-end of the platform.’  Whilst the usual string of cancellations and last-minute changes have come to be a staple of the Soundwave festival, this year was also hindered by the ugliness of the venue, unlikely stage layout and poor sound for the headliners.  With the high price tag, I am again left to say that it would need to be a good line-up for me to consider Soundwave again, but good line-ups are something that Soundwave are known for.

Can’t Stop Partying…

February 1, 2013 - Leave a Response

Sidney Myer Music Bowl, January 16, 2013

A lot of Weezer fans look like Hurley.  That was the first thing I noticed as enjoyed the stroll through the Botanical Gardens towards the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.  It was Weezer’s first night in town since 1996, and there were a lot of guys who looked like the photo from the cover of the band’s last album, along with people wearing Hurley surf and skate brand t-shirts.  Sadly though, I didn’t see anyone wearing the ‘Weeze’ t-shirt from the Perfect Situation video.  Had those been available at the merchandise stand, I would have left even happier than I did.

I’m not traditionally a fan of the Music Bowl, but tonight I was given a special treat, in the form of surprise, last minute tickets in the stalls, and it made me see the venue in a whole new light.  Rather than spending the time before the headliner squeezing through the crowd in general admission to find an unobstructed line of sight to the stage to set the focus on my binoculars, I was able to relax in a comfortable chair with a drink whilst Cloud Control let their single Gold Canary intermingle with a rendition of the Butthole Surfers’ Pepper which came as a pleasant surprise and set the 1990s nostalgia scene in preparation for a rendition of Weezer’s self titled blue album.  I felt like one of those people who vow to never fly ecconomy again after using their Frequent Flier points to upgrade to business class.

As soon as they’d finished, members of Weezer appeared without ceremony on stage to help Cloud Control move their gear away, and to set up their own instruments.  It looked like a simple setup, the only obvious tech being in the form of the webcams attached to all of the instruments.  The work done, there was time for Rivers Cuomo to kick a ball around on stage with Steve Horvat from Dust Devil Music.

As the sun went down and day turned to night above those poor souls with general admission lawn tickets, Weezer’s ‘W’ logo illuminated above the stage, and Rivers mounted a kit box to address the audience, and introduce us to the musical time machine that would be the first half of the evening, a greatest hits set running in reverse chronological order opened with Hurley‘s Memories.  It was at the second song of the evening that the crowd started to really react, a surprise perhaps, as I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else who really liked Raditude, the album from which I Want You To was drawn.

Ensuring everyone on the lawn of a close up of the action, Rivers leaped from the stage during Troublemaker to run a lap of the entire venue, with the energy of arena divas like Pink or Gwen Stefani.  Other highlights came as the time machine passed through the territory of the Make Believe and green self-titled albums, with Beverly Hills and Island In The Sun.  It seemed a shame that it was a featured album show, because a longer hits set could have included songs sadly omited this evening, like Keep Fishin’ and I’m Your Daddy.  Never the less, the hits set gave way to an interlude filled with a slide show of the bands career, with live narration including anecdotes from the long touring history.

In the past 18 months, I’ve seen Good Charlotte, Wheatus, Saves The Day and Dashboard Confessional all cover Weezer’s debut album to some degree, but as soon as the simultaneous jolt of beat, riff and vocal kicked off My Name Is Jonas, I could tell that original would be best.  What followed was a flawless – if at times too stringent – rendition of a classic album.  It was when the band deviated from the format of the album tracks that they were at their finest: an even more powerful arena-rock styled Say It Ain’t So, a key-laced Buddy Holly were highlights.

Hearing the first album, along with a sample of previous albums, live for the first time left the audience wanting more, and trying to calculate how many years it might be before Weezer are back in town to play their green album.


December 8, 2012 - Leave a Response

The tone of the evening was adequately set by Zebrahead, a band who had come recommended by MC Lars, coincidentally or otherwise, on the evening of the day tickets went on sale.  Rather than having the contents of their rider set beside instruments in anticipation, a full bar, complete with formally-suited bartender, sat at the side of the stage, preparing cocktails for consumption between songs.

Zebrahead, Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish,
The Metro, Melbourne, December 2, 2012

It was a high energy set from Zebrahead, which saw the audience constantly moving, even though it was not a large component of the audience out for this band in what could have been billed as a triple-headline show.  Even those who weren’t too involved in the opener were able to join in for a girl-anthem medley of Avril’s Girlfriend, Britney’s Oops…, and a Limp Bizkit-esque take on Spice Girls’ Wannabe.

Goldfinger were allegedly to follow, though it didn’t quite look like the traditional Goldfinger who came on stage: I’d been surprised earlier to spot Mike Herrera lurking around the side of stage, and he took up his bass, whilst Aaron Burnett made a pre-Reel Big Fish appearance on guitar.  One of the bartenders fell into position behind the drum kit.  Luckily, John Feldmann was front and centre, clad in his trademark suit and hat, and energetic as always.  Songs like Mabel turned into massive sing-alongs, whilst Superman provided plenty of opportunity for crowdsurfing, including from John himself.

We were even treated to an encore, including a cover of 99 Luft Balloons, with both English and German lyrics.  Plus it was good to hear MxPx’s Mike backed by a horn section.

When Aaron re-emerged on stage, he was wearing his Reel Big Fish uniform, the Hawaiian shirt and shorts combination we’re more accustomed to him in.  Whilst some of the banter between songs seemed to drag a little, it was made up for with songs like Don’t Stop Skanking getting the entire house moving.

The show ended, suitably, with a medly of alcohol-themed songs – Tequilla!Red Red Wine, culminating in Beer, but sadly devoid of Drunk Again, whose gradual build would have made a fittingly grand (and logical) closer.

Mainstream Freak…

October 8, 2012 - Leave a Response

‘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?

Give me the people who know all the lyrics…

September 20, 2012 - 2 Responses

As one of the few people I know to still not only purchase albums, but also buy them on CDs, it may come as a surprise for people to learn that I was actually an early adopter of MP3 players, being the proud owner of one of the early models – a stylishly shaped, no-name number – which connected to the computer via the printer port.  I also downloaded a lot of MP3 songs in those days too.  Most of them were the follow-up singles to radio tracks from bands I’d just heard of and kind of wanted to buy the CD, but couldn’t justify on the strength of one song.  This lead me to some great albums… Liam Lynch’s Fake Songs, The New Radicals’ Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too, and the self-titled debut album by Wheatus, long with its follow-up Hand Over Your Loved Ones.

When I bring up these well-rounded, perfectly varied albums in conversation, it always ends with someone coming to the eventual realisation ‘Oh, you mean that band with that one song, right?’  It also means that it is unlikely I’ll be able to find someone to take to the show when the artists tour.

Nevertheless, when Wheatus announced a tour, I rushed to the Corner box office the moment the tickets went on sale.

Corner Hotel, September 19, 2012

I was surprised to see a queue around the block to get in.  Despite this, once the doors had opened, no one was exactly bustling to get to the front of the stage for local support Masketta Fall.  They played a good pop-punk style set, and seemed quite well-known and liked amongst the audience.  A cover of the Killers’ Mr. Brightside was interesting, but didn’t have the dramatic highs and lows it seemed destined to.  Their original tracks, particularly those based on a reggae-style beat, would have been enough to make it a good set without the cover, and show the band to be someone worth looking further into.

Touring support Nova & The Experience were also a pleasant surprise.  I hadn’t heard of them before, but they sounded a little like Angus and Julia might if they ever team up with bis.  The group took to the stage backed by a series of video clips aligned with their performance, but they already had my attention when I saw the stage set up with several guitars, multi-coloured effects pedals, and a piano.  The band may well have overtaken High Side Driver in the running for the Support Act Of The Year award, particularly when they played a song called Mr 95 which could be commissioned as the theme song to the television version of my life, should such a production ever be created.

When Wheatus took to the stage, it was complete with keyboards, back-up chanteuses, and something aptly described by front-man Brendan B. Brown as ‘the bass instrument.’  He wore an MC Lars t-shirt – though the man himself was sadly absent as support on the Australian tour – and reignited the slowly mellowing applause by teasing with a couple of strains from Teenage Dirtbag, before announcing a request-based set that started with Truffles and filled the first half of the show with songs from the band’s self-titled debut record.  It was reassuring to hear a variety of songs being called out other than the band’s hit, but there were some people – even at the front of the stage – asking how anyone knew all the words to the other songs.

Whilst it was great to have heard so many non-album favourites played live, it was clear that BBB knows that his band is remembered by most as a one-hit-wonder. A skilful cover of My Name Is Jonas was perhaps a play on the fact that anyone who brags to their commercial-radio loving friends about their Weezer ticket purchase is inevitably asked ‘You mean that band who played Teenage Dirtbag, right?’  Or maybe I’m reading too much into it, and they just played it because it is a great song.

A request for Punk Ass Bitch was sadly turned down on the grounds that ‘our bass player who we fired wrote that,’ and I wondered if that was perhaps the reason other classics like American In Amsterdam and The Song That I wrote When You Dissed Me were also absent.  Nevertheless, pitch-perfect renditions of London Sun and Wannabe Gangster more than made up for it, and Fair Weather Friend gave the backup singers a chance to show off their own enviable talents.  Even the uninitiated couldn’t resist but to jump around for BMX Bandits.

But it was clear that there was one song that everyone in the room wanted to hear, and it didn’t take long once Teenage Dirtbag started for most of the crowd to jump up on stage and re-enact the scenes from so many decades-old video clips and bounce around unhindered with the band.  That experience in itself may have been well worth the cost of admission, let alone the bonus of shouting along to songs I didn’t think I’d get to hear live again without buying a ticket to New York City.

Originally published in Buzz Magazine.

Fantasy and Ecstasy…

June 7, 2012 - Leave a Response

Def FX,
Corner Hotel, June 2, 2012

‘Nice gloves,’ said the bouncer when I handed over my ID for him to check.

I thanked him, and realised he was wearing gloves in the same style: a black, fingerless affair, decorated with prints of skeletal knuckles.  A few paces later and I noticed that it must have been a sentiment the bouncer had to echo throughout the night:  Over half of the small crowd were wearing the same gloved, and so too were all but one member of the opening act, Attack Of The Mannequins.

Looking decidedly horrorPunk, Attack Of The Mannequins played an excitingly synth-heavy mix of pub-rock and glam that worked incredibly well.  Despite being the opener and playing onto to a sparse crowd, they achieved that most difficult of accomplishments in prompting patrons to dancing at the front of the stage.  It was also satisfying to see one of those keyboard axes on stage for the first time in a while.

The venue only filled a little more, but already a percentage of the audience were complaining about how late the headliners would be taking the stage, and asking loudly over the bar ‘Who are Insurge anyway?’  It was clear that many in the audience had come just to check out celebrity witch and late-night television personality Fiona Horne, and were being very vocal about it.  Luckily their complaints were drowned out once Insurge did take to the stage.

I was never a huge fan of Insurge.  I’m only really familiar with two of their singles, I Hate Stupid People and AK47, and remembered maybe seeing them at some all-ages thing years ago.  All the memories came flooding back though when I saw the stage being set up with guitars, drums, a laptop and MIDI keyboard, and an assortment of still objects representing the band’s trademark percussion section.  It was evident that many in the audience had come specifically to see Insurge, and their performance was strong enough to have justified this being a double-headline bill.

When Insurge finished, the Corner’s curtain was drawn around the stage, suggesting that something big was being planned underneath.  DJs – apparently members of Caligula – played the kind of music I used to stay up late to see on Rage, which seemed to entertain the still-thin crowd.  As well as Fiona’s fans, it seemed there was a lot of reminiscing going on about the Def FX regional shows of old.  I remembered reading about their wild shows at University O-Weeks while I was in high school, but had never seen the band live before, so I staked out a position at the front of the stage.

The curtains opened to a surprisingly sparse stage, even by Corner standards, but it was immediately enlivened by a mass of blonde braids bouncing on stage, from under which Fiona Horne could be seen, looking no different than I remembered her in the video clips.  Liquidy synth sounds oozed from the speakers before gradually forming into the familiar strains of each song, before being joined by guitar riffs and a polite blend of dancing – not moshing – from the slightly more mature audience.  I’ll Be Your Majick shook things up by making an early appearance, with Crystalise and Psychoactive Summer playing particularly well live.

Def FX introduced me to a style of music I hadn’t heard.  At the time I think we just called it rock with techno beats, but even now that such feats are commonplace, seeing Def FX live was a welcome surprise to the year’s live music radar.

One Man Party…

May 17, 2012 - One Response

We went to the front, with our names on the list.
Those who were strangers had turned into friends.
Lauren From Glebe – Muscles

It was one of the strangest and most interesting concert experiences I have ever had.  After the first song, Andrew W.K. announced ‘You know what?  This stage is just another dance floor, right?’

Andrew W.K.,
Pier Live, Frankston, May 2, 2012

It was an eerily quiet night in Funkytown as I walked from the car park to the old 21st Century nightclub.  At the corner, a man wearing a flannelette shirt asked me something I didn’t understand.  Perhaps it was because I’d been out of town so long, but what he was saying didn’t seem to make any sense.

‘What’s a round worth here?’ he asked, leaning deviously close to me.  I noticed that he was clutching the remnants of a pot of beer he’d likely been tossed out of his last drinking hole with.

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ I conceded.

‘A round!’ he cried.  ‘You know?’

I didn’t so I asked if he was talking about beer, because if that were the case, I wouldn’t be much help – I prefer spirits.  Then I realised he could have been saying around and needing help with directions.  I asked him to clarify if this was what he meant.  He cursed, finished the last of the beer and tossed the glass to shatter in the gutter.  It seemed I’d upset him, and as the lights changed, I quickened my pace.

‘Come on!’ he shouted now.  ‘It is Wednesday night!’  I realised he may have been right, but was no closer to understanding his weird dialect, as he returned to a line of questioning regarding the value, or location, of rounds.

It was a much emptier 21st Century than I have ever seen that I was allowed entry to, whilst the man following me had been kept outside by the bouncer.  I’ve never seen 21st Century looking so desolate, but on stage a group called Bad Karma were playing, and literally wearing their hearts on their sleeves.  It was as though the singer’s Sonic Youth t-shirt had seemed through the fabric and into his very being, and if one squinted just a little, Bad Karma could easily be mistaken for some pub rock side project that Thurston Moore has going on.  To keep the pub rock vibe going, Heartless Vendetta followed.  Pub rock isn’t usually my kind of scene, but Heartless Vendetta played it enthusiastically, turning what could have been a generic support slot into something enjoyable.

They were followed up by the advertised support, someone called Aleister X.  I’d never heard of him, but he bounded to the front of the stage to fist-bump me, and give me microphone props for my choice of Ramones t-shirt.  He put on an energetic performance of a kind of electro-freestyling which was mostly poorly received by the crowd.  I, on the other hand, found his initially bizarre-seeming foreboding raps kind of catchy.  Dragging chairs onto the stage as props and shaking his fist in rage, I got the impression this kind of music would work well with an audience more familiar with the tunes, so it was perhaps a pre-emptive strike when Aleister X stuck around to give me a copy of his album later on.

The stage had been cleared after the two support bands.  The chairs Aleister X had carried onto the stage had also been removed, leaving only a microphone and an electronic piano.  Before long, an introductory tune played which sounded like it had been written and performed by Aleister X too.  A look around the venue confirmed that it hadn’t filled up much more during the support bands, and, for better or worse, it looked like Andrew W.K. would be playing to an audience that couldn’t be larger than fifty people.  At the pinnacle of the introduction, Andrew W.K. ran onto the stage, disappointingly accompanied only by a backing track played by a disinterested looking roadie.  I’ll admit, even without a band, I found myself jumping along to opener It’s Time To Party.

By the end of the first song, Andrew W.K. had made the aforementioned invitation onto the stage, and that was all it took to get me up.  The rest of the audience followed suit, and the rest of the show was carried out as a giant sing-a-long, with Andrew pounding away on the piano, passing microphones around the audience whilst he posed for photographs and accepted drinks from fans, which he usually also passed along with the mics.

ImageThe description of the tour, One Man Party, sums up the evening fairly well.  With everyone crowded onto the stage shouting along to a tape, it would have been easy to confuse the scene with the lounge room of someone’s house party, and no more so than when I Love New York City quickly degenerated into a chant of ‘I love Frankston City!‘  Other songs tended to fade into obscurity, lost amongst the on-stage posturing and chanting.

It wasn’t a bad night, but it can’t really be rated amongst other shows.  It was more of an experience, and one that brought a room-full of strangers together and leaving with their arms around each other, talking about how to get in touch to exchange the choice photos from the maelstrom of the stage.  It is something I’m glad I experienced, but now that I’ve been to a One Man Party show, I don’t think I’d ever need to go again.  It had a lot to live up to, after Andrew W.K.’s show last year, which I ranked amongst my favourite gigs of the year, and it didn’t really manage to do that at all.  It only really made me leave hoping Andrew W.K. would be back soon, and remembers to bring his band along too.

Photo by Anwar Rizk. Gallery.