Make It Loud…
February 2, 2011

Some gigs turn out exactly how one expects, and are fantastic because of it, especially when it is someone who doesn’t swing by the local venues all that often.  Fans (at least, if there are any others like me) spend years listening to the artists’ albums, developing an imaginary setlist for when the tour finally makes it to their city.  The risk here is that if the real life show doesn’t conform to the high standards of the imagination, one might be let down.

And so it is with Andrew W.K.  I’d skipped his combination lecture/concert in 2007 at the Toff, since I’m not a fan of the whole spoken word show thing, and I’d heard rumours that he not only took to the stage alone to a back up tape, but that the tape didn’t even have the lyrics removed, karaoke style.  The rumours were reportedly true, though the reports of it nevertheless being a night to remember, with most of the audience winding up on stage by the end of the show, and leaving me wondering if I’d made the right decision.

And, of course, the image of the pretend concert in my mind is still all I had: The band would emerge on stage without ceremony, unclear whether they are just roadies tuning the instruments until their free-form sound starts to resemble something familiar… the dynamic build up that is Victory Strikes Again, with the audience chanting ‘This is why we are alive!’ until Andrew W.K. himself bounds onto the stage just in time to shout along with the audience, ‘This is why we love to live our lives!’

Andrew W.K.,
The HiFi Bar, Melbourne, January 29, 2011

Even if the show hadn’t opened exactly how I had fantasised, it was still a good night.  I arrived to an already packed floor, and contended with more of a throng waiting at the bar than any kind of queue, and was just able to collect a pair of bourbon mixers and a bottle of water before a modest applause from the crowd in the sunken dance floor indicated some action on stage.  The band were starting, and as I waded through the more conservative in the back, the earlier applause was topped by a roar as Cherie Lily, Andrew W.K.’s Party Hard girl wife appeared on stage, uniting the entire pit in a fist-pounding acompaniment to the instrumental opening.  I passed beneath the air-punching to the front of the stage just in time to see Andrew W.K. headbang across the short stage to the central piano.  He held out a hand to the audience, managing to settle the excited crowd only slightly, before inciting them into further intensity by launching loudly into It’s Time To Party.

Up close, those famous whites aren’t quite so white, but it answers a question I have had for a while – how would you keep a white uniform clean when partying professionally?  I know I couldn’t.  And I guess Andrew W.K. can’t keep them so pristine either.  But who cares?  And who cares that the show didn’t open according to my plan?  I was impressed anyway.  Things like Party Hard girls can go either way, but in this case, it worked.  Even some of the lesser known songs from the notoriously hard to come by Close Calls with Brick Walls were perfect material for bouncing along to, even if all we could shout along was nonsense, and the catch phrases this artist gave us.

‘Party hard!’ and ‘Get wet!’ could be heard hollered, chanted and shouted from every corner of the room to fill all of the fleeting moments of quiet on stage (although realistically those moments were really only ‘less loud.’)

The show maintained breakneck speed throughout, though nobody – at least, no one in the front rows – seemed to tire.  How could we, when we had Andrew W.K. literally on top of us?  The energy was high from the beginning of the show to the final pounding intonations of closer Party Hard, and was even ongoing as hoards of sweaty kids spilled into the surrounding convenience stores to rehydrate before the afterParty.  I know it is still early days, but this gig is going to provide some serious competition for show of the year.


Lily Allen and the Karaoke Machine…
January 30, 2010

Lily Allen,
Festival Hall, January 28, 2010

After her jaunt at this year’s Big Day Out, Lily Allen dropped by Festival Hall, sans the Australian flag she wore along with the usual suspects at the Showgrounds days earlier.

She was joined by a throng of middle-aged women, already teetering on the cusp of intoxication when they arrived via a fleet of double-decker buses, no doubt a ride coming at unreasonable expense and arranged by some entrepreneurial individual.  This is probably the same individual that gave these women the Lily Allen ‘V.I.P.’ lanyards which they wore around their necks, and led them to believe that these entitled bearers to some kind of special privilege.  Most were glad just to get inside, but a few argued that they had paid extra money for these passes, and seemed confused when I said that the ‘extra money’ they had paid had not gone to official channels.  Nevertheless, they were dispersed into the stadium easily, and most only returned to express their confusion when Miami Horror took to the stage, having never heard of the phenomena of a support band, and later to state how discriminatory the venue’s ‘No Smoking’ policy is.

I’m not a huge Lily Allen fan, but I thought her album of last year, It’s Not Me, It’s You was a pop gem. I’d expected an entertaining show, but the performance Lily gave went beyond my expectations. True, it was a short set, but she played all the hits, and a few unexpected covers. She looked diminutive on stage, even while bringing back the Baby Spice-style platform sports shoes, and her two costume changes were brief and didn’t interrupt the show too much. A weird, rap interlude during Smile by someone Lily introduced as her best friend, on the other hand, just seemed to confuse everyone.

From my vantage point to the rear of the stage, I’d noticed a small screen at the foot of the stage, and at first didn’t pay too much attention to it.  As the show progressed, I noticed that this screen was busy with text, and when I stepped closer, noticed that it was displaying the lyrics to all of the songs, scrolling on the screen, karaoke-style.  I smiled to myself, surprised, but not disappointed.  It was something I hadn’t seen before, and it was clearly present just in case of a lyrical emergency.  I didn’t notice Lily look at the screen during the course of the performance.  I did, however, make the mistake of pointing it out to another staff member, who instantly dismissed Lily Allen as ‘pathetic.’

‘But,’ he pointed out, when Lily broke into a cover of Britney’s Womanizer.  ‘At least she really sings.’

June 26, 2009

Patrons are already jostling to the front of the crowded club to find prime viewing position now that the support act has left the stage.  Weaving through the crowd to get to the bar proves a time consuming exercise, but once the sounds of synthesizer and chants of ‘We’re here to save the world’ wash over the building, attention turns instantly to the stage, from where Johnny Galvatron leers seductively at the bouncing fans below.  Throughout the snappy set, fists pound the air from the back of the room right up to the front of the stage.  The audience shout the lyrics in unison, and the evening reaches a climax when girls in the front row are overcome with exhilaration and throw themselves onto the stage to dance suggestively.  Though visibly impressed, the band never misses a beat.

All this excitement for a band who can still count the months since their first rehearsal and are counting down the days until the unveiling of their debut album.  24 hours earlier, the Galvatrons discussed a fledgling career that already boasts the kind of highlights usually reserved for the autobiographies of retiring rock royalty.  It wasn’t long after their formation that the band was snapped up by a major record label.

‘It was really bizarre,’ recalls keyboardist Gamma.  ‘I was the last to join, and then the fourth gig I played with the band was a showcase to Warner.  It was pretty sudden.’

Prior to being signed to Warner Music, the band members were each forging paths in their music career to varying degrees of success.

‘Johnny wrote a bunch of songs and had the idea for the band,’ bassist Condor explains the formation of the Galvatrons.  ‘He knew Manny – our old drummer – through a Battle Of The Bands, or some high school thing.  He called up Manny and said “I need a drummer for this band, do you know anyone?”  Manny was like “I’ll play drums in your band.”  Then Manny found me.  I was working at Safeway and playing with my old band at the Evelyn, and I was hanging out with a mate there whose band was playing.  Gamma was playing bass in that band.’

Manny stepped aside before long, Condor’s brother Bozza took up position behind the drums and the Galvatrons were created.  ‘Yeah,’ Condor sighs, shaking his head.  ‘I never want to step into Safeway again.’

The next step the band did take was onto a tour bus – the first major stop being at the Meredith Music Festival.

‘Now that was weird,’ says Gamma, his eyes widening with the memory, as Condor nods and laughs in agreement.  ‘It was our twentieth show ever.  We played on the Friday, so when we were checking out the front before we played, it looked like it was just a few pockets of people sort of sitting around everywhere.  We thought that was pretty sweet.  Well, we went back stage, and then went onto the stage just to set up and everything.  By that stage it had just filled up…’ Gamma shakes his head.   ‘It had just got like… wow!’

Condor agrees, saying that he had expected their first Meredith crowd to be little more than ‘just a bunch of my mates down the front,’ but personally felt more victorious taking to the stage at the Big Day Out.

‘It was cool.  I’ve always wanted to play a Big Day Out.  We did a sweet show that day, and then had to fly to London that night.  It was an awesome thing.’

An invitation to appear at London’s Hyde Park Calling festival not only meant live international exposure for the band, but a chance to meet some high profile idols.

‘We got to meet the Stranglers,’ Condor mentions with the calm of someone discussing the latest news of an old friend.  ‘They were these big-as dudes – just how they look in the pictures – and really nice.  They introduced themselves to us and stuff…’

‘And we got to meet the Bangles, too!’ Gamma interrupts excitedly, perhaps suggesting the diversity of the group’s musical influences.  ‘The lead singer must be, what?  50 now?  She still looks excellent!’

Perhaps suggesting a similar diversity in their fan base, the Galvatrons received positive reviews for their performance at the Download Festival – normally the reserve of heavy metal and more traditional rock bands.  Condor says that it is difficult to put Galvatrons fans into a particular category.  ‘The people going to our gigs are really cool!  They’re not necessarily always the most trendy, but they just like to go out for a good time.  Sometimes we meet the big footy jock dudes, the kind who used to beat me up in high school, and they’re like “I love you, it was awesome!  It was awesome!”’

It was at Download where the Galvatrons caught up with fellow Australians Airborne, and were invited to fill the support slot for some of their latest European tour.

‘They’ve sold out heaps of European shows last year,’ Condor says.  ‘They’re bloody huge, overseas.  We played a few gigs with them over there.  Two in Ireland and one in Germany, and they were just packed to the rafters.  It was mayhem.’

‘There was this one place, Molotov, in Hamburg,’ Gamma continues.  ‘It was way oversold, so you literally couldn’t move.  It was probably a 200 capacity room, but there were at least three or four hundred in the room.  It was a sweat den.  It was awesome.’

And, perhaps, the inspiration for album track ‘Molotov Cocktail,’ a typically synth-laden celebration in which Johnny recalls cars parked all the way up the street and that ‘these kids know how to have a good time.’

Another of the Galvatrons’ tales of European adventure regards being ejected from festival grounds.

‘Sarah, our manager, said that they were kicking us out,’ Gamma remembers.  ‘Everyone had to go.’

‘They said something like “The man next door complained,”’ Condor adds.

The man next door turned out to be playing the same festival with the Police.

‘There was a band area where everyone had little cabins,’ Condor sets the scene, and Gamma adds that ‘Sting had his own section of cabins.’

‘Our cabin was right next to his section…’ Condor says in summary of the noise complaint.

The brushes with rock fame haven’t ended now that The Galvatrons are back on Australian shores.  The group were selected as support for the entirety of Def Leppard and Cheap Trick’s tour of Australia and New Zealand.  While the Galvatrons were able to get along with their hosts, images of the legends still partying all night, rock ‘n’ roll style, were brought back to earth.

‘They were cool,’ Condor agrees.  ‘They gave us their beers and every night, because they didn’t want to drink much. It was the end of their three-month tour, so they’d flown all their families over for a big holiday in Australia.’

The Galvatrons are in the midst of their own headlining national tour, taking in capitals and regional shows, and prove they can adapt to the stages of clubs as well as they have larger festival and even arena shows, before the release of their album Laser Graffiti next month, and have no plans to break from the touring cycle soon.  Although the band is confident with touring, Gamma admits to being a little nervous at first.

‘It was a bit odd for me because these guys had already formed that bond when I came along,’ He puts on a shy voice to re-enact the first days of touring with the band.  ‘I felt like “Yeah, well this is good, you’re all talking and I feel weird…” But you spend enough time in the van on tour and you get to know all there is to know’

The new album has a retro-future sound familiar to fans of the band’s live shows and first singles ‘When We Were Kids,’ ‘Robots Are Cool,’ and ‘Cassandra.’  Johnny aptly describes the sound as ‘like the disco scene from a grand space opera.’  The album deals with science fiction themes, computer game victories, and high school romance – themes which seem set to stay, at least for the time being, ‘until Johnny works through all of his old heart breaks.’

‘Johnny likes to write about that stuff,’ Condor laughs.  ‘It’s his therapy.  I don’t know what he’ll write about when he works through it all.’

The Galvatrons’ album Laser Graffiti is released on July 3.  The ‘Cassandra’ single tour finishes early this month, and they will then be touring with Something With Numbers, stopping at the Hi-Fi Bar on July 10, the Ferntree Gully Hotel on July 11, and Pelly Bar in Frankston on July 12.  Tour details are available at

From Buzz Magazine, June 2009.