American Idiot…
March 9, 2018

In the lobby, I suggested some upcoming productions that could go onto our list for future evenings in the theatre. I recommended Red Stitch’s Colder or Melancholia at the Malthouse. One of my companions commented that she does not like to feel depressed when she goes to the theatre.

American Idiot,
Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, March 8, 2018…

All over the darkened set, televisions flicker to life, displaying images of the reign of President Trump: this production will clearly have a new focus of rage from that beneath Green Day’s original American Idiot album, though throughout the show the production uses projections directly onto the set to carry the album’s message of televised political propaganda.

American Idiot cast, photo by Ken LeanforeThe stage adaptation of the story apparently beneath the American Idiot album expands upon the kind of bleak imagery of the Boulevard Of Broken Dreams video clip, but unlike the stylised video, plays it straight. There aren’t a lot of laughs in this show. Rebellious outcasts head from their ‘Make America Great Again’-cap wearing community with dreams of a new life in the city, only to be thwarted by drug addiction, unplanned pregnancy and the seduction of government propaganda.

Nevertheless, the cast and musicians perform the soundtrack well within a simple but effective set, and seeing the songs performed in this way feels a lot like a new, live take on the long form music video. It feels more devoted to its source than other jukebox musical tributes, like We Will Rock You, which can seem like commercial afterthoughts (though I’ve seen quality productions.) Green Day fans should appreciate the experience.

For others, the plot could prove too heavy to enjoy. The three main characters are hard to empathise with, whilst we are left to wonder about the exploits of their female counterparts in the meantime. It is a shame, because some of the talent in those roles shine – Phoebe Panaretos as ‘Whatsername’ in particular brought an unexpected take to Green Day’s music with her vocals reminiscent of Anastacia. Kaylah Attard was also impressive in the unfortunately fleeting role of the nurse, ‘Extraordinary Girl.’

Themes like those explored on stage in American Idiot aren’t new to musical theatre any more (the set and story are kind of reminiscent of Rent – there is even a scene where characters are filmed on stage and projected,) Green Day fans will enjoy being able to sing along and Sarah McLeod in the rotating role of ‘St Jimmy’ this evening elicited well-deserved cheers from the moment she appeared and stalked the stage menacingly. Those unfamiliar with the source material looking for a new musical to enjoy might leave feeling overwhelmed by the grim tone, though some of the big cast numbers like Jesus Of Suburbia are enjoyable, despite the tone.  Hopefully the next Green Day musical can draw inspiration from Warning and capture the punk rebellion with a brighter tone to capture both audiences.  Or maybe that is just wishful thinking…

Green Day’s American Idiot runs in Melbourne until March 11, then moves to QPAC Playhouse in Brisbane from April 13 to 21, and Darwin’s Entertainment Centre from May 4 to 6.


The Pixies – featuring surround sound and alternate angles…
April 2, 2010

Despite short notice, on my behalf, everything had fallen into place exactly as I had hoped.  I’d agreed to, and been invited to, work for the first three nights of the Pixies’ Melbourne performances, leaving myself free to attend as a spectator on night four, for which tickets were still widely available.

The Pixies,
Festival Hall, March 20, 2010

Most of the audience missed support act The Art – who sounded at times like Magic Dirt and at times like Hole – and arrived moments before the house lights dimmed.  I’d been posted in the unlicensed seated section, which meant that I had fielded the usual questions about where one could buy a drink and why one couldn’t go to the floor until this point, but luckily the night had seen the return of Travisty, a former Festy regular who did not explain his prolonged absence when I asked, and was working as my supervisor for the evening.  I approved of this, particularly when a pair of new ushers who had been directed to seat patrons in the area asked Travisty what they were supposed to do.

‘You must be new,’ Travisty answered, shooting me a knowing smile as I made my way to look at the merchandise stand before the doors opened.  ‘We don’t do anything.’

A bunch of patrons were standing around when an elaborate video introduction started, and I asked them to take their seats.  Most of them obliged, but one woman demanded to know why she should return to her seat.  Before I could answer, she pointed out the absurdity of being asked to sit at a rock concert, and asked how she could dance.  Again, she cut me off before I could answer, and called me sick.

‘Are you getting off on this?  Is that it?’ she damanded, spitting frantically. ‘You get off on the authority of telling people what to do?’

‘No,’ I assured her.  ‘But you are in my spot. I want you to move before they come onto the stage, and certainly before they start Debaser.’

With that she returned to her seat, and I settled in to watch the show.  The video was actually out-of-order shots from Un Chien Andalou, the film by Salvadore Dali, and I realised for the first time the possibility of a connection between it and the Pixies’ song Debaser – despite the film’s title appearing in the song several times.

Finally, the video, accompanied by a sweeping superimposed symphony, ended and the band came onto the stage, even fatter and older than they were in the first place, and broke into a brief set of hectic songs I didn’t know.  Then, to tremendous applause, the title ‘Doolittle’ flickered onto the screen behind the band, and they broke into Debaser.  When the Doolittle tour had been announced last year, with promise of the album being performed in full from beginning to end, I wondered whether some of the usual excitement associated with seeing a band live might be missing.  After all, we would all know which song would be up next!  But I quickly found that this didn’t matter, and eagerly anticipated the bubbly opening of Here Comes Your Man all through I Bleed.  I usually restrain myself to a point when attending shows in a professional (and non-journalistic) capacity, but tonight decided to let my appreciation of the music come to the surface, and shout along the lyrics as much as I felt like, bouncing along all the while.

We’d been promised two encores in the briefing prior to the show, one featuring two songs and the audience covered in smoke for the song ‘White.’  Heads had turned towards me when I cheered at the mention of what I knew to be Into The White.  After this, the band were to play between two and six songs, depending on how they felt.

I was especially pleased with the second encore, which took place with the house lights switched back on, to the confusion of a couple of patrons and security staff.  It was actually seven songs, if I counted right, opening with Bone Machine and U-Mass., with Nimrod’s Son and an extended version of Vamos in which the guitar was passed into the audience bleeding into Where Is My Mind?  They closed with Gigantic, and once the audience was satisfied that there were no additional encores to come, I was left with the task of getting CD recordings of the entire concert, made that evening, to the patrons who had ordered it from the merchandise stand earlier.  It is an idea I have thought was long overdue for some time, and I am glad to have witnessed it first at a concert at which I was working, since I now know that it is preferable to purchase the CD online, at a cheaper rate and without the queue.

I was so impressed with the performance that I was inspired to invest in a tour t-shirt.  I decided to wait to see if anyone was selling bootleg shirts on the corner, and was pleased when a man with very few teeth was offering shirts of similar quality to those with which I am familiar.  I asked if he would be there each night, and he said that he hoped to be, but that ‘venue security’ had come down on him pretty hard, making subsequent visits semi-doubtful.  He was asking $10, but accepted $7.

The Pixies,
Festival Hall, March 21, 2010

A colleague from my day job was the surprise guest this evening, arriving at my door during the support act with his hand outstretched.  I shook it as he explained himself.

‘I saw you working here last night,’ he said brightly.  ‘So I figured if I came back tonight, you’d be able to help me out.’

‘Help you out how?’ I replied.  I was going to make him spell it out.

‘Oh…’ he stammered, unprepared for this turn of events.  ‘Well, you know, we had tickets last night, but tonight we don’t so I thought if I spoke to you, you’d be able to help me out, you know?’

‘No,’ I said, flatly.  ‘I don’t know.  You’ll have to make it more clear.’

‘Well, I thought you could let me in here… It’s just me and my girlfriend, so… no big deal, right?’

Since the girlfriend was nowhere to be seen, and he said he was going to be meeting her at the station and coming back, I told him that I might be able to ‘help him out’ if he could find me once the band had started.  Of course, by that time, my door had closed and I was safely locked inside.

Tonight’s view was from the rear of the floor, and it became quickly apparent that we would be in for the same string of jokes between songs as the night before, all from the mouth of Kim Deal.

‘Some of these songs are so obscure, we had to learn them ourselves.’

‘So we’re playing our whole album… That means we should only be here for another 17 minutes, right?’

‘Now you’d need to turn the record over to side two.’

The show ran as per the previous night, with the Doolittle album played with little deviation from how it sounds on record.  This night’s encore, however, featured personal favourites Caribou and Velouria, the song which inspired me to learn the theremin (although it was presented without theremin this evening, even I had hoped that one might be hidden beneath the vast blackness of the wide cloth covering the band’s equipment on stage that I’d looked at on my way across the floor prior to the doors opening.)

On my way home, a different pair of t-shirt vendors were positioned further away from the venue than they had been on Saturday.

The Pixies,
Festival Hall, March 22, 2010

The dinner-and-a-show crowd were once more already enjoying their parma-and-pint specials at nearby pubs as I made my way to Festy for the last of the Pixies shows that I’d be attending on a professional basis.  I’d been pleased on the first night when it was announced in the pre-show briefing to staff that someone would be distributing fliers offering half-price tickets to the fourth show, since that was the one I’d intended to go to.  I’d snapped up one of the tickets, which stipulated that the cheaper tickets were only available to ticket holders from previous nights.  It was with this in mind that I’d scoured the floor for discarded tickets in case I needed them.  As it turned out, anyone was entitled to these tickets, so there was no need for me to go looking for left over tickets on Monday night.

This night I had my clearest view, from the balcony, which is usually the domain of the media.  Since very few passes seem to have been issued to members of the press for any of the shows, however, this space was mostly occupied by non-descript people with passes for an after show event with the band which never eventuated, which the patrons felt should work as an All Access pass.  It was explained to them that this wasn’t the case, as was the venue’s ‘No Smoking’ and ‘No Pass Out’ policies.  Tounges were clicked, and the majority of the pass holders left denouncing the venue for its inhospitability before the encore, the highlight of which was Broken Face.

Whilst rounding up stragglers at the end of the night, a man sitting in the front row confessed that he couldn’t leave.  I asked if he was waiting to buy the night’s CD, and he quietly said that he wasn’t.  I asked him if he was waiting for anything at all, and, if not, if he would leave.  Finally he admitted that he believed he was too drunk to walk.  This was proven to be somewhat inaccurate, since he was, with the aid of security staff, able to wobble bow-leggedly, downstairs and out the door.

As I was leaving, I noticed a plethora of people hanging around where one might expect to usually find the dodgy t-shirt merchants.  All of them were filming something with their camera phones.  It turned that the cause of all the excitement was a pair of the security contractors confiscating the now familiar bag of t-shirts from the vendors of previous nights.  So it was lucky I bought mine on night one. 

The Pixies,
Festival Hall, March 23, 2010

I’d planned on going to the show with a ticket this night, but instead I went to the premiere of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s new film Micmacs.  I figured I’d already seen the show from three different angles, and was satisfied with that.  I’d heard Where Is My Mind? played for the fifth time at this venue (the first two performances being by James Blunt and Placebo) and Wave Of Mutilation six times (because the Pixies played it twice each show – once in place during the Doolittle segment of their show, and next a nice, chilled out version to open their first encore.)

Whilst Micmacs was good, it is no Amelie, and certainly no City Of Lost Children.

Magic Dirt’s Adalita
September 11, 2008

Magic Dirt

In a local music scene where bands are often over before they really have a chance to begin, Magic Dirt are renowned for their long history, and respected for their genre-defying diversity and extended tours playing to fans from one end of the country to the other. With just such a tour currently underway on the back of latest album Girl, Magic Dirt’s Adalita spoke to Buzz during one of the few weeks off, noting that even during breaks in the tour schedule, ‘We’re busy little bees.’

‘There’s still a lot going on in the middle of organising a lot of things,’ Adalita says, noting the various projects Magic Dirt are involved in aside from playing regional shows, and the usual capitals. ‘As a part of this tour we’ve got about five or six workshops where we go into high schools, or we put on workshops for high school aged students plus any community members who are interested in coming along.’

The band have particularly enjoyed taking the workshops, which include discussions about their experience in the music industry and conclude with a performance, to schools in regional areas, where live music is not always easily accessible.

‘We just did one at the State High School in Bundaberg, and they were like “We never get anything like this,”’ Adalita says of a memorable workshop. ‘They were really excited and had lots of valid questions… They even helped carry the stuff to the car. And the teachers are equally as excited. The teacher at the Bundaberg school was a massive fan.’

With the broad age-range of fans reflected in the school visit, I wondered if concert audiences were also made up of a mix of new faces and those who might have gone through high school themselves listening to the band.

‘I don’t think we’d still be around unless we had the new faces. We’ve got young fans, old fans… the in-between fans. It’s sort of a constant stream of different people. I think the one thread that links most of our fans is that they’re very passionate and loyal and they’re very dedicated to Magic Dirt…’ Adalita speaks fondly of the fan-base, and reflects for a second. ‘Once they’re in, they’re in for the long haul.’

And that loyalty has paid off. After breaking away from major label backing and forming their own independent Emergency Music label, the first priority for the band was creating a limited and exclusive EP of covers and live recordings for distribution at their shows. ‘Now we’ve got a second instalment that we’re putting together,’ Adalita promises.

Support acts for their shows have been personally selected by Magic Dirt, after placing a call for submissions on the website. Adalita said that the result was ‘a constant waterfall of CDs,’ and adds ‘we’ve come across some really cool bands through the competition. It’s been good for us, because we’ve got a little database now of bands from regional areas, and the capitals too, that we can just ring up and say “Do you want a show? We’re coming to town.”’

With Girl covering a wide range of musical styles, from the pop rock of ‘Romy’ to sounds more consistent with the experimental styling of the Roky’s Room album, it is easy to wonder what a Magic Dirt show might sound like. Adalita promises that their shows will remain ‘big and ballsy and stompy and sweaty and raw. The live shows are always loud, because of the nature of the way we play, which is loud, fuzzy rock ‘n’ roll.’

Girl is out now. Magic Dirt are touring until December, with details available at

From Buzz Magazine, September 2008.