Hens Party Hard…
November 5, 2013

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.

Five,
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.

Manual Jackhammer…
April 24, 2013

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.

MetroSka…
December 8, 2012

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.

I Predict A Riot…
August 22, 2011

Whilst constant renovations have left its exterior a shadow of its former self, the Metro is looking better than ever inside.  Ample viewing from all angles remain, and bars conveniently located right on the main floor ensure fans retain both hyration and prime viewing position, and I’m sure the bar-takings don’t suffer either.  Every child player wins a prize!

Kaiser Chiefs,
Metro Theatre, Melbourne, August 5, 2011

Tonight’s support acts have become well known in their own right.  Stonefield are the obvious choice for the ‘Best Up-And-Comer’ award, and have been widely reported in the music press as leading the charge for awards of the type.  Most stories highlight their youth, beauty, femininity and on-stage uniforms.  I also enjoyed their music.  Yes, it could be described as derivitive, but I’ve never had a problem with artists wearing their influences on their sleeves.  It would have been nice to have heard Stonefield play an up-beat Jimi Hendrix cover, but maybe they thought that it would have been too obvious, and played Whole Lotta Love instead, which seemed to please the surprisingly visible pub-rock sector of the audience.

Next up was Papa Vs Pretty, which was nice because I have been wanting to hear more from this band.  I hope they have a long and illustrious career, because I enjoy their songs.  Again, the band’s influences are apparent, but I love the fact that they jump from one style to another so suddenly.  One moment I am detecting shades of Augie March, then it’s a Queen-esque guitar solo, before switching to Radiohead mode for a while.  It’s a bit like a mix-tape I’d make, but with the novelty of being originals.  Even though they seem quite stylistically distinct from the headliner, they seemed like a good choice for support.

Kaiser Chiefs are an interesting band, but I am never sure whether or not I will like them live.  I resigned from my longest standing job a few years ago in order to watch the band, only to find that a string of miscommunication lead me to miss out anyway.  I think my concern lies with the fact that they are a boring-looking bunch of guys.  Typically pictured clad in shades of brown, their appearance doesn’t exactly scream ‘rockstar,’ and it is rare to hear stories of back-stage antics or outrageous rider demands from them.  Nevertheless, Employment and Off With Their Heads are two of my favourite albums, so I was pleased when the band launched straight into Everyday I Love You Less And Less and barely stopped for a breath from that point on.  My fears of boredom had been allayed by Ricky Wilson’s literally bouncy entrance and constant energy.  Without an instrument to pose with, he swung the microphone stand precariously around the stage, and performed all kinds of mime acts.

The audience right beneath the stage around me had been pretty tame and pleasant to begin with, aside from a few girls who had been chanting the same line of The Angry Mob since they’d arrived hours ago, but that all changed when the chorus to Never Miss A Beat started, and all of a sudden some giants appeared from nowhere and attempted to push everyone at the front of the stage out of their way.  Fists were pounding everwhere, and then the chorus was over and they died down, till the next chorus.  After the song, I heard one of the girls screaming at the giants ‘What are you even doing here if you don’t like the band!?’  The giant guys returned briefly later on, attempting to push their way to the front of the audience and claiming to be friends of the band and desperate to say hello.  When they made little progress, they went away, only to re-appear for the chorus of Ruby.  Behind me I could hear more jeering and saw unexpected slam dancing.  Maybe I was naïve, but I hadn’t expected the Kaiser Chiefs’ brand of sing-along pop to attract this bogan element.

After a false finish midway through I Predict A Riot, Ricky returned from the stage to crowd surf around the perimeter of the venue.  Whilst it tended to make the song drag on for a little too long, it was forgivable given the quality of the set and allowed for suitable build up to a big closing of the song, before a quick break between the main set and an encore that ended with a satisfyingly extended Oh My God that thankfully reunited the audience into a fluidly moving, perfectly timed, bouncing wave, perfect to close the show.

Having come directly from a work function, I’d used the cloak room, oddly, and thought that some of the hostility voice towards the attendents was a little unfounded, particularly considering – like everywhere else at the Metro – the queue snaked right by another bar, so I enjoyed a Southern Comfort cocktail whilst I waited the not too long time to retrieve my coat and school bag.

Eskimo Joe…
June 26, 2009

‘Yaaaah!  Eeeyaaah!’ shrieks Kav Temperley suddenly over the edge of his back porch, breaking the peace of a warm morning in Fremantle.  He was demonstrating how the chorus of ‘Losing Friends Over Love,’ one of his band Eskimo Joe’s new songs, developed from his impersonation of a soul choir.    ‘I brought out this fantastic bottle of tequila from America.  I’d just had a shot, and did my best black woman’s choir impression.  That vocal, from one of those takes, is the actual vocal used.’

Even before its release, the band’s new album, Inshalla, from which the song is taken, was generating buzz for its bold new style.  Lead single ‘Foreign Land,’ featuring a sample lifted from a traditional Turkish folk song, had been discussed as a particular departure for the band.  Kav thinks otherwise, though.  ‘That song, more than any other song on the record, sounds like Eskimo Joe as we have already been.  It just sounds like a bigger, rockier version of Eskimo Joe.’

Kav points out the songs that feel most different to him are those that ‘lend themselves to being real pop songs.’  Songs such as the aforementioned ‘Losing Friends Over Love’ and ‘The Sound Of Your Heart’ may come as a pleasant surprise to fans of the band.  The real difference on Inshalla, though, which may not be immediately obvious to listeners, was in the song-writing and demo process.

‘Our first three records felt like a bit of a trilogy, in the way we put them together,’ Kav elaborates.  ‘We’d sort of use certain chords and go “This chord is for the chorus, this one’s for the bridge…” and so on.  When we started doing that on this record, it was just really boring.  We did kind of go through that process [for Inshalla], and then we’d mute the piano and guitar – what we’ve traditionally based our songs on – and we’d start from the rhythm track onwards.  We’d do drum loops or some bass.  It has made it a groovy kind of thing.  It sounds cool and different.’

Eskimo Joe enjoyed the freedom of self-producing their last album, Black Fingernails, Red Wine, but for the complex sounds of Inshalla have brought in a producer to ‘throw a spanner in the works and learn some new tricks.’  The band approached Gil Norton, since they were fans of albums he had produced for the Pixies and Foo Fighters, though his work with engineering sounds for more exotic arrangements with Gomez seems more identifiable on Inshalla.  Kav says that Norton was particularly influential in that early development of the songs.

‘Each producer seems to come with their own slant on producing.  It’s always a different kind of flavour each time.  Gil came on in pre-production, and worked a lot on the rhythm section – on the drums, and the bass, and the dynamics of the songs.  You can hear that.  He was partially responsible for that quiet/loud dynamic that the Pixies were famous for inventing.  He really brought in amazing dynamics and a really interesting way to start the production of a record, which was to sit down and look at the actual dynamics of it.  You can hear that on this record.  Black Fingernails, Red Wine almost sounds like a band on cruise-control – everything just kind of cruises through.  This record has a bit more light and shade to it.’

With the new album completed and released, the band are able to think about touring, and have already booked national tour dates, with regional and festival shows set to follow.  Both before and after their appearance at the Sydney leg of the Sound Relief charity concert, Eskimo Joe were touring overseas and especially in Europe, prior to devoting themselves to the Australian release of the new album.

Before travelling overseas, Kav was concerned that their international audiences might be made up primarily of Australian tourists and ex-pats.  ‘Obviously we’re happy to play to anybody who wants to see us play,’ Kav says.  ‘But if you’re making the effort to go over there you want to spread your wings a little bit.  We were really lucky that it was filled with locals.  Because the shows are much smaller – two or three hundred capacity shows – we could go out into the audience and sign merch and talk to the people and find out how they got into the band.  That was really cool, because we haven’t been able to do that in a while.’

Germany and the United Kingdom, in particular, stood out during the international tour.  ‘Germany was fantastic!’ Kav exclaims.  ‘Everywhere we went we just played to Germans, which is always nice.  People actually wanted to put some energy behind it.  Then we finally made the effort to go to the UK and do some touring there and they were awesome!  All the shows were sold out!’

With four successful albums under their belt, Eskimo Joe should expect no problems filling large venues when they start their Australian tour.  But when asked whether early, pre-album hits – like ‘Sweater’ and ‘Turn Up Your Stereo’ – ever make an appearance on live set lists, Kav shudders.

‘Last time we played those was before they died a very slow death in 1999 or 2000…’ he seems to be thinking aloud.  ‘It was in Adelaide – all songs seem to go to Adelaide to die, unfortunately for Adelaide.  I guess Eskimo Joe have had like Mark 1 Eskimo Joe – which was the EPs – then from Girl onwards was almost like a new band, like Eskimo Joe Mark 2.  The funny thing is, when we did Black Fingernails, Red Wine it was really hard to play songs from Girl and even songs from A Song Is A City sounded really weird within the set.  The cool thing about the new album is that it feels like it’s kind of balanced it out a bit.  We’re actually talking about going out and playing a lot more of the songs from Girl and A Song Is A City when we go out and play live now.  It’s almost put a counter-balance in, so it all kind of sits in a good area with each other now.’

Eskimo Joe play the Palace Theatre (formerly the Metro) in Melbourne on August 7, City Hall in Hobart on September 2, and Albert Hall in Launceston on September 3.   Inshalla is out now. 

From Buzz Magazine, June 2009.

Kisschasy…
May 5, 2008

Local heroes Kisschasy will soon embark on what they promise to be their biggest national tour to date before taking their brand of energetic pop rock overseas to introduce to American audiences. Guitarist Joel Vanderuit had been making the most of the time before the group takes to the road on the golf course, but was happy to spend some time at the 19th hole talking to Buzz about the upcoming tour dates, plans ahead, and the fact that this may be the last chance Australian fans will have to see the boys for some time.

‘We’re nicking off for a little while,’ Joel explains the band’s plans for after the tour. ‘But people are still buying tickets, which amazes me, because we’ve been touring pretty much for five years non-stop. You struggle to go three months without us coming through your town. So we’re going to give everyone a break here, and go and piss off some Americans, and tour as much as we possibly can over there. I dare say, until a new record is out here, we probably won’t tour again.’

And a new album doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon. When pressed about recording plans, Joel said that the band had ‘nothing in concrete,’ but that the idea had come up. In the meantime, fans can look forward to a possible B-Sides and rarities compilation within the next few months, featuring songs from past EPs and outtakes from the ‘Hymns For The Nonbeliever’ album. ‘We’re going to chuck some of that stuff on there and give some people some new stuff, without actually having to write anything…’ Joel ponders this thought for a moment, before adding with a laugh, ‘It’s just a lazy way out.’

Of course, fans also have the upcoming ‘Bones & Skin’ tour to look forward to, with support from the Getaway Plan and The Donnas. I figured it must feel special to be drawing support from overseas, but Joel took it in his stride.

‘We needed another support, and we wanted the main support to be an international of some description. We didn’t really know who, but we wanted to bring out someone that people might not get to see every other week. So, [The Donnas] were super-keen, now they’re coming out! We’re all fans of theirs’, and they seem like cool chicks from all reports, so it looks like it should be a fun tour. With the Getaway Plan boys too, who are really cool dudes, and a really exciting band, so it should be good.’

Looking over the tour poster as we spoke, I pointed out that as well as good talent, the gigs also boasted some good venues.

‘It’s really cool venues,’ Joel agrees. ‘And that was a conscious decision, to step it up again. Every tour we do, we want to make it a little bigger, the same as every album you write you want that to sell a few extra copies.’

Of particular interest will be the redeveloped Palace Theatre, formerly the Metro in Melbourne, where the band cut its teeth playing in the band room for Goo on a Thursday night on the balcony overlooking the main stage they are now set to take.

‘Yeah, we played when it was Goo,’ Joel reminisced. ‘We played there a couple of times. That was when we made friends with a lot of metal bands, like the Parkway [Drive] guys and the [I Killed The] Prom Queen guys, who we are all still really good friends with. A lot of weird bills went on up there, but it was a really cool kind of show when you were starting out as a band.’

Since supporting Powderfinger and Silverchair in arena shows last year, Kisschasy spent a lot of time perfecting the set list for their own tour to cater to both new and old fans, as well as rehearsing old material for the show. And, in Joel’s case, perfecting his swing. ‘I’m going to go back and play golf now,’ he says, as we finish.

Kisschasy’s ‘Bones & Skin’ tour with The Donnas and The Getaway Plan starts in Melbourne at the Corner Hotel (Under 18 only) on May 28, Palace Theatre (formerly Metro) on May 29, and the Pier Hotel in Frankston on May 30.

From Buzz Magazine, May 2008.