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.

coheedhifibright
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.

coheedhifimax
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.

Misfits…
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.

Misfits,
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.

Regurgitator,
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.

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.

Regurgitator’s New Stuff…
September 1, 2010

The sounds of explosions shake the seats and walls of the Sydney Opera House. The roar of racing motorcycles echos through the iconic venue for the first time in its history.  Over 1,400 people watch on as scenes of gang warfare are fought out before them.  And dwarfed beneath this action, a set of musicians.

‘That was the Akira project,’ says Quan Yeomans of eclectic local favourites Regurgitator.  The project, a part of the first Graphic Festival – a series of events exploring the medium of comic books and graphic novels – saw the band reworking and performing live the score to the classic Japanese anime film, Akira.  ‘The film was a masterpiece.  They spent ten years creating the damn thing, so you can imagine how long must have been spent on the soundtrack – the to-ing and fro-ing, and changing arrangements to get things exactly right.  It’s amazing.  And we thought, “What the hell are we going to do?”

Although Quan typically speaks in a chilled out monotone, it is easy to detect the enthusiasm for the project seeping through when he talks about Akira.

‘It was an arduous task.  Sitting down to work on it was daunting.  It worked out really well though.  We started with trying to do something completely different.  We watched the film, and every time we heard something, we tried the opposite of what we’d heard.  We spent two months sitting in front of ProTools and watching the film over and over again.  It was so tiring, even though the finished work seemed quite simple when we played it all the way through.  We’d love to play it again, though.’

With both anime and Australian music fans left reeling from the spectacle of Regurgitator’s Akira remix (‘They don’t even get that many people in there for opera!’ noted Quan,) the founding creative forces behind the band have found themself living in the same city for the first time in years, and free to develop new music.

‘Ben [Ely] and I are living in the same city for the first time in several years,’ Quan explains the parallel moves to Melbourne, and returning to recording music after producing the live score.  He says that the plan now is ‘to focus on the band as a music producing band.  It’ll take a little while to get back into the swing of things.’

In the meantime, Regurgitator have released Distractions online, a collection of the songs that have been produced since the return to Melbourne.  The songs’ styles range from pitch-shifted electro-vocals, punk-rock ditties about web-trends, and bubbly romance fantasies.

The songs are now available online, and Regurgitator fans will be quick to notice that there is no discernable style or connection running through the four songs.  Quan says that this is the result of having ‘shed some of the old habits of a “band,”‘ one of the benefits of now being signed to an independent label.

‘We’re trying to focus a little bit more on what we want to get out of what we do, and what the best artistic approach is.  We’re not going to focus on albums anymore.  We’re on an independent label, so why the hell should we have to adhere to this creative paradigm that’s been around for 80 or 90 years and just doesn’t seem appropriate these days.  I know that I haven’t bought and album, or even listened to one from start to finish in years.  It is just not the way that 90 percent of the young listeners are listening to or acquiring music.’

It is a trend which will suit the ‘Gurge, and allow them to return to their musical roots.

‘In a sense, it is more like when we first started out,’ Quan reflects. ‘The band started because we made a demo tape at a School of Audio Engineering course that I was doing.  Four-tracks is what I used to use all the time to create.  For those last four songs that we did, we went into a studio for the first time in years and felt completely uncomfortable.  Listening to it, it sounds cool.  It sounds like a band playing.  But I don’t think it’s sonically superior to anything we could have done by ourselves.  We both have decent spaces here and ways of recording, so we can use that.  That’s kind of in keeping with the spirit of the band.  Essentially, if you look at us, we are kind of like a punk band who got into pop music then became stupidly popular.’

Looking forward, the band plan on releasing more music via their soon-to-be-updated website, with songs uploaded as they are completed.  Compilations of favourites may then be released on CD and vinyl to tie in with tours.  This new style of releasing music will be a load off Quan’s shoulders.  ‘We won’t have to sit around figuring out how to try to list them.  It was always one of the pains of being in this band.  The music has always been a bit all over the place.’

Coinciding with the website update and release of the Distractions recordings, Regurgitator will be touring nationally, avoiding the consistency of sound which Quan identifies with touring for the last album, Love and Paranoia.

‘I think we’re going to avoid that, and go back to a more eclectic kind of thing.  We’re really interested in bringing some visual elements, particularly after doing the Akira thing.  Also I explored quite a bit of that with my solo shows, just because I felt completely naked on stage on my own.  I needed something happening behind me to make it a bit more entertaining.’

Beyond the tour, Regurgitator hope to delve more into other artistic projects, as they did with Akira.  Since their last album the group have collaborated on a dance performance called Rock Show in Brisbane, and other projects they’ve worked on independently.  Quan notes that he and Ben ‘tend to do a lot of different things now.  Ben is a really good painter… I like to do my animation and theatre work.’

Of course, the most prominent performance art piece would be 2004’s Band in a Bubble, which saw Regurgitator locked in a glass dome in Federation Square to record their album Mish Mash!  Quan says that it was ‘the ultimate version of making ourselves uncomfortable,’ and ‘a bizarre experience.’

In the end, though, he decides that ‘the band is this lumbering, creative beast that does whatever it turns its focus to.’

For the time being, that will be the September tour, with supports from Rat vs. Possum and Japan’s DJ Krush, and the release of new songs via http://www.regurgitator.net.

Upcoming Kisschasy gigs…
August 16, 2009

A year ago, Kisschasy were looking forward to playing in a whole bunch of new venues prior to the release of theirToo B or Not Too B collection.

After an extensive tour, the group skipped town to play some American dates. ‘So we’re going to give everyone a break here,’ said guitarist Joel Vanderuit, ‘and go and piss off some Americans, and tour as much as we possibly can over there.’ (Read the full interview…)

Now Kisschasy are home and playing local dates. Cheap tickets are still available for shows in Melbourne and Sydney by clicking the appropriate links.