Years go by but still you haven’t changed…
November 18, 2018

Last time Smash Mouth visited Australia, their tour was postponed, but when they finally made it back to the HiFi in 2013, it was one of the best shows of the year, though painfully under-attended. In all, there must have been less than fifteen people, most of them rockabilly types dancing stylishly whilst I jumped around like a lunatic. So it was a relief tonight to find the Croxton Bandroom respectably full.

Smash Mouth, with Area-7,
The Croxton, November 17, 2018…

Area-7, apparently now comprised of eight members (a fact which frontman Stevo may have explained at some points) were just taking the stage, and whilst the audience was surprisingly appreciative of a support act, it wasn’t until the band played Second Class Citizen that the front row started to really dance. It was clear that there were some Area-7 fans who had come out early: a guy who was praised by the band for wearing a Specials t-shirt – which I later referred to as a Madness t-shirt, and was actually merchandise from The Beat – told me he and his partner had come just to see Area-7.

On stage, Area-7 were as lively as ever. The horn section, as usual, bore their brass like true rockstars, and Stevo tore around the stage and into the audience. Songs like No Logic were played to pitch-perfection by a band who are clearly still enjoying their occasional live jaunts.

Area-7 at the Croxton Bandroom, November 17 2018

A cover of The Angels’ Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again managed to get everyone singing, with even the security guard at the side of stage caught dancing, though was probably only brought out as a part of a support set and highlighted the absense of some of the band’s own songs not played, like Himbo or Dodgy Mate. I couldn’t help but compare it to Mach Pelican’s cover of the song. An extended rendition of Start Making Sense was the set highlight before Bitter Words saw the band leave the stage, with mentions of upcoming appearances at the Hotter Than Hell nostalgia festivals sounding very tempting.

As the lights dimmed, Smash Mouth’s members took up positions behind their instruments to the riotous applause they deserved but missed during their 2013 visit. Electronic fuzz was piped into the venue, and the players struck different notes, hinting at what was to come, and sounding very Astro Lounge, hinting at an opener of Who’s There. As they seemingly tuned their instruments, frontman Steve Harwell joined them to even greater applause, taking the time to visit each band member at their post before taking his position behind the microphone to open with Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby. His trademark sunglasses in place, he didn’t leave that spot much for the rest of the set, in stark contrast to Area-7’s own Steve, who spent their set energetically bounding around the stage.

Smash Mouth at the Croxton, November 17 2018

Perhaps to compensate for his own lack of dance moves, Steve wasted no time in extending an invitation to any interested women to join him on stage to dance. It was immediately accepted by a throng of enthusiastic dancers, whose enthusiasm seemed to wane when they noticed they were not being shown off the stage, and who didn’t seem to know too many of the songs (despite arriving on the stage right in time for one of the set highlights in The Foz.) They seemed pleased to be able to sing along to the War cover Why Can’t We Be Friends? from the group’s first album, a song which, along with Road Man demonstrated how well Smash Mouth can play their reggae-influenced songs life.

The highlight of the set was another old song, Stoned, in a set entirely made up of old songs – I don’t own the group’s 2012 Magic album but would have liked a sample. An unexpected cover of the Kinks’ You Really Got Me was played well and closed out the main set.

An extended drum and organ battle opened the encore, and could have lead to anything – it kept hinting at 105 or Radio – before evolving into the distinctive key strikes of the group’s cover of I’m A Believer. Closing predictably, but not disappointingly with All Star the group left the audience satisfied, and to the applause and reception they deserved during their previous tour.


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.

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.

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.

December 6, 2011

Considering the proliferation of Misfits t-shirts that exist in outfits no matter where one is, it was a surprise to find tickets still available for sale at the door of the HiFi Bar only hours before the band were due on stage.

The HiFi Bar, Melbourne, December 3, 2011

Apparently the night’s support bands had been chosen via an online poll, and set times listed Bellusira, Hatchet Dawn and a group called Electrik Dynamite, playing in that order.  I hadn’t heard of Electrik Dynamite, but the set times seemed a little confused, given the strong following Hatchet Dawn have in Melbourne, and that they seem a perfect match for the headliner.  That said, Electrik Dynamite quickly won my affection immediately by unashamedly wearing their own merchandise and by having a dedicated keyboard axe player.  They played a catchy 80s-style hard rock that would fit perfectly on the soundtrack to a horror movie house party, and jumped around the stage with an enviable energy.

Electrik Dynamite’s set seemed like it was over before it had really had a chance to get started, and as soon as they left the stage the dance floor started filling with a varied crowd vying for prime viewing position.  It was a longer than usual stretch waiting for the stage to be set for the Misfits, with much talk of the double-bass drum set up.  It was the first time I have been in an audience who have felt compelled to cheer for a roadie simply because he picked up an instrument.  It was not undeserved, though, with the roadie playing a few chords on Jerry Only’s customised bass guitar, complete with a cyclops skull on the headstock, and he received another round of applause as he finished the test and lowered the guitar respectfully to its podium.

The audience reaction wasn’t matched until the Misfits themselves emerged on stage, coated in their trademark make-up, Jerry clad in a spiked vest, Dez Cadena wearing a full length leather jacket that I decided I wanted when I saw the skeleton motif printed on the back.  They launched into a string of unfamiliar songs from their current album, which sounded great – and allayed the fear I always have seeing old bands that they might suck – but it wasn’t until they dove into classics like Bullet and Static Age that the audience really went wild.

Misfits at the HiFi in MelbourneAnd it really was the dream crowd.  A sad truth is that an audience can make or break an otherwise admirable live show.  It only takes a little bit of consistent shoving or macho posturing to cast a shadow over a perfect performance.  Luckily, everyone had come out on this night to show the performance the respect it deserved, and ensured everyone felt truly a part of the experience.  The crowd surged and pulsed at just the right moments, never more evident than when Jerry teased into the microphone ‘I want your skulls…,’ to be answered in unison:  ‘I need your skulls!’

Other highlights included American Psycho and more crowd participation with Dig Up Her Bones, and after a brief break, the band returned to the stage for an encore that slowed down only enough to slide in a delicious rendition of Saturday Night.  It was a set and an encore sadly devoid of any of the covers from the Project 1950 album, but for a band with over thirty years of history, it was a good selection of songs (although I doubt anyone would have complained if I Turned Into A Martian had been slipped in somewhere.)

If anyone was waiting for a second encore, Jerry Only made clear that it was not forthcoming in the most exciting way short of smashing his guitar into pieces against the stage.  In a single, dynamic gesture, he ripped the strings from his guitar as the other members of the band tossed drum sticks and guitar picks into the audience on their way backstage.  As the ominous strains of horror music soundtracks rose over the PA, Jerry jumped off the stage, bypassing the screaming young vixens spilling tattooed cleavage over the barrier in front of the stage and stalked directly to the woman standing in front of me.

An older woman, perhaps in her mid-fifties, she had seemed a little out of place throughout the show – not due to her age, because she was far from alone in that bracket – but because she was wearing a sensible red blouse and conservative slacks, a plain handbag draped over one shoulder that was sure to contain anything she might need for an emergency.  Nowhere to be found were the extremes of make-up, spiked hair, and costumes that were de rigueur that evening.  Nevertheless, she’d been jumping and pounding her fists in the air throughout the night.  Jerry stopped in front of her, and flashed a rare smile, then gave the woman a hug and a kiss, to much deserved applause from even the girls who had been begging for cleavage signatures.

As the scary music continued, so did Jerry, prowling around the whole venue, posing for photos and shaking hands for as long as it took.  Meanwhile, his antics encouraged members of other bands to do the same, and, as I browsed the merchandise stand – surprisingly devoid of the iconic skull-motif t-shirts – an elaborate member of Hatchet Dawn handed me an autographed poster.  I was still reeling from an unexpectedly passionate kiss from Jerry Only and the gig itself, so may have thanked him more ferociously than was called for.

Regurgitator at the Hi-Fi…
September 11, 2011

A lot of people write comments praising the virtues and energy of being a part of the audience at a live show.

‘Nothing beats it,’ they often say.

Maybe so, but what about when the audience sucks?  It is undoubtedly exciting to drive into a show with the night’s headliner’s album blaring from the stereo wondering which songs they will play, how they’ll sound live, and imagining the hits performed on stage whilst in the midst of a room packed with the like-minded, all jumping, waving, and pulsing at just the right moments.  So often lately though, this isn’t what eventuates, and an audience of alleged fans suddenly devolves into a beast focused on little more than elbowing its way as high and forward as possible.

So it was refreshing to walk into a steadily-filling Hi-Fi Bar to see the floor starting to fill with people actually dancing to little more than the piped music filling the air between sets.

The Hi-Fi Bar, Melbourne, August 26, 2011

Boys Boys Boys! came out and were perfect for those already on the floor to keep going with.  It turns out they are a Perth group and they encouraged the dancing with their own choreographed moves.  The three front-women wore matching sequinned outfits whilst the boys in the band played a kind of pop-rock that reminded me a little of The Harpoons.

They were followed by a solo act calling himself Disasteradio, who seemed to keep much of the audience in hysterics, and I suppose I can understand it.  I mean, I get it, he’s fat.  I just didn’t think it was all that funny.  His kind of laptop electroclash is getting to be kind of run-of-the-mill lately, and there was little to set himself aside from anyone else, a fact highlighted by his vocals mixed beyond comprehension.  But I guess he provided an acceptable routine to while away the minutes before the headliner.

When Regurgitator emerged, they were clad in matching skeleton costumes – which is apparently still all the rage in the local performing industry – and backed, as promised, by animated footage.  The opened powerfully with their crude favourite I Will Lick Your Arsehole.  They continued on to power through a set focused mostly on the classics from their first three albums, which ensured everyone was happy.  I was glad to hear Blood And Spunk from the grossly underrated Love And Paranoia album, and the samples from the infamous new album were promising.  All Fake Everything covered a lot of ground and made me want to rush over to the merch stand to buy the much-hyped badge-format album (but it had sold out earlier) even though I couldn’t tell whether its introduction was paying tribute to, parodying, or just ripping off Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade Of Pale.

Despite Polyester Girl getting tiring when it featured on pretty much every seasonal compilation in 1998, the night’s hyper-speed punkBeat rendition breathed new life into the song.  After an extended encore featuring The Song Formerly Known As and a Kong Foo Sing/Pop Porn medley, few would have been left with any doubt that Regurgitator are most certainly still around and, even better, still going strong, amidst so many local groups of their era calling it quits.