Can’t Stop Partying…
February 1, 2013

Weezer,
Sidney Myer Music Bowl, January 16, 2013

A lot of Weezer fans look like Hurley.  That was the first thing I noticed as enjoyed the stroll through the Botanical Gardens towards the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.  It was Weezer’s first night in town since 1996, and there were a lot of guys who looked like the photo from the cover of the band’s last album, along with people wearing Hurley surf and skate brand t-shirts.  Sadly though, I didn’t see anyone wearing the ‘Weeze’ t-shirt from the Perfect Situation video.  Had those been available at the merchandise stand, I would have left even happier than I did.


I’m not traditionally a fan of the Music Bowl, but tonight I was given a special treat, in the form of surprise, last minute tickets in the stalls, and it made me see the venue in a whole new light.  Rather than spending the time before the headliner squeezing through the crowd in general admission to find an unobstructed line of sight to the stage to set the focus on my binoculars, I was able to relax in a comfortable chair with a drink whilst Cloud Control let their single Gold Canary intermingle with a rendition of the Butthole Surfers’ Pepper which came as a pleasant surprise and set the 1990s nostalgia scene in preparation for a rendition of Weezer’s self titled blue album.  I felt like one of those people who vow to never fly ecconomy again after using their Frequent Flier points to upgrade to business class.

As soon as they’d finished, members of Weezer appeared without ceremony on stage to help Cloud Control move their gear away, and to set up their own instruments.  It looked like a simple setup, the only obvious tech being in the form of the webcams attached to all of the instruments.  The work done, there was time for Rivers Cuomo to kick a ball around on stage with Steve Horvat from Dust Devil Music.

As the sun went down and day turned to night above those poor souls with general admission lawn tickets, Weezer’s ‘W’ logo illuminated above the stage, and Rivers mounted a kit box to address the audience, and introduce us to the musical time machine that would be the first half of the evening, a greatest hits set running in reverse chronological order opened with Hurley‘s Memories.  It was at the second song of the evening that the crowd started to really react, a surprise perhaps, as I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else who really liked Raditude, the album from which I Want You To was drawn.


Ensuring everyone on the lawn of a close up of the action, Rivers leaped from the stage during Troublemaker to run a lap of the entire venue, with the energy of arena divas like Pink or Gwen Stefani.  Other highlights came as the time machine passed through the territory of the Make Believe and green self-titled albums, with Beverly Hills and Island In The Sun.  It seemed a shame that it was a featured album show, because a longer hits set could have included songs sadly omited this evening, like Keep Fishin’ and I’m Your Daddy.  Never the less, the hits set gave way to an interlude filled with a slide show of the bands career, with live narration including anecdotes from the long touring history.

In the past 18 months, I’ve seen Good Charlotte, Wheatus, Saves The Day and Dashboard Confessional all cover Weezer’s debut album to some degree, but as soon as the simultaneous jolt of beat, riff and vocal kicked off My Name Is Jonas, I could tell that original would be best.  What followed was a flawless – if at times too stringent – rendition of a classic album.  It was when the band deviated from the format of the album tracks that they were at their finest: an even more powerful arena-rock styled Say It Ain’t So, a key-laced Buddy Holly were highlights.

Hearing the first album, along with a sample of previous albums, live for the first time left the audience wanting more, and trying to calculate how many years it might be before Weezer are back in town to play their green album.

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Give me the people who know all the lyrics…
September 20, 2012

As one of the few people I know to still not only purchase albums, but also buy them on CDs, it may come as a surprise for people to learn that I was actually an early adopter of MP3 players, being the proud owner of one of the early models – a stylishly shaped, no-name number – which connected to the computer via the printer port.  I also downloaded a lot of MP3 songs in those days too.  Most of them were the follow-up singles to radio tracks from bands I’d just heard of and kind of wanted to buy the CD, but couldn’t justify on the strength of one song.  This lead me to some great albums… Liam Lynch’s Fake Songs, The New Radicals’ Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too, and the self-titled debut album by Wheatus, long with its follow-up Hand Over Your Loved Ones.

When I bring up these well-rounded, perfectly varied albums in conversation, it always ends with someone coming to the eventual realisation ‘Oh, you mean that band with that one song, right?’  It also means that it is unlikely I’ll be able to find someone to take to the show when the artists tour.

Nevertheless, when Wheatus announced a tour, I rushed to the Corner box office the moment the tickets went on sale.

Wheatus,
Corner Hotel, September 19, 2012

I was surprised to see a queue around the block to get in.  Despite this, once the doors had opened, no one was exactly bustling to get to the front of the stage for local support Masketta Fall.  They played a good pop-punk style set, and seemed quite well-known and liked amongst the audience.  A cover of the Killers’ Mr. Brightside was interesting, but didn’t have the dramatic highs and lows it seemed destined to.  Their original tracks, particularly those based on a reggae-style beat, would have been enough to make it a good set without the cover, and show the band to be someone worth looking further into.

Touring support Nova & The Experience were also a pleasant surprise.  I hadn’t heard of them before, but they sounded a little like Angus and Julia might if they ever team up with bis.  The group took to the stage backed by a series of video clips aligned with their performance, but they already had my attention when I saw the stage set up with several guitars, multi-coloured effects pedals, and a piano.  The band may well have overtaken High Side Driver in the running for the Support Act Of The Year award, particularly when they played a song called Mr 95 which could be commissioned as the theme song to the television version of my life, should such a production ever be created.


When Wheatus took to the stage, it was complete with keyboards, back-up chanteuses, and something aptly described by front-man Brendan B. Brown as ‘the bass instrument.’  He wore an MC Lars t-shirt – though the man himself was sadly absent as support on the Australian tour – and reignited the slowly mellowing applause by teasing with a couple of strains from Teenage Dirtbag, before announcing a request-based set that started with Truffles and filled the first half of the show with songs from the band’s self-titled debut record.  It was reassuring to hear a variety of songs being called out other than the band’s hit, but there were some people – even at the front of the stage – asking how anyone knew all the words to the other songs.

Whilst it was great to have heard so many non-album favourites played live, it was clear that BBB knows that his band is remembered by most as a one-hit-wonder. A skilful cover of My Name Is Jonas was perhaps a play on the fact that anyone who brags to their commercial-radio loving friends about their Weezer ticket purchase is inevitably asked ‘You mean that band who played Teenage Dirtbag, right?’  Or maybe I’m reading too much into it, and they just played it because it is a great song.


A request for Punk Ass Bitch was sadly turned down on the grounds that ‘our bass player who we fired wrote that,’ and I wondered if that was perhaps the reason other classics like American In Amsterdam and The Song That I wrote When You Dissed Me were also absent.  Nevertheless, pitch-perfect renditions of London Sun and Wannabe Gangster more than made up for it, and Fair Weather Friend gave the backup singers a chance to show off their own enviable talents.  Even the uninitiated couldn’t resist but to jump around for BMX Bandits.

But it was clear that there was one song that everyone in the room wanted to hear, and it didn’t take long once Teenage Dirtbag started for most of the crowd to jump up on stage and re-enact the scenes from so many decades-old video clips and bounce around unhindered with the band.  That experience in itself may have been well worth the cost of admission, let alone the bonus of shouting along to songs I didn’t think I’d get to hear live again without buying a ticket to New York City.

Originally published in Buzz Magazine.

Winter Soundwave…
October 2, 2011

‘Goodnight, Springton.  There will be no encore…’
– Spinal Tap – The Simpsons

It would perhaps be to risk committing slander to refer to the organisers of Soundwave Revolution as irresponsible, however, the fact remains that as late as the Monday before the show, statements were still being submitted to the press referring to the replacement Counter Revolution show for Melbourne as taking place at ‘Festival Hall and surrounds.’

Counter Revolution,
Festival Hall, Melbourne, September 30, 2011

I’d been kind of relieved when the originally announced Soundwave Revolution had been cancelled.  Whilst the line up had promised some appealing elements, I was concerned by the casual negligence of the event ads to mention the name of the venue.  When a racetrack in Melton was finally announced, I quickly discovered that Melton appears to have only one motel which was already booked out.  As September dawned, this was downgraded to the Counter Revolution ‘mini-festival’ at Sidney Myer Music Bowl and later to Festival Hall and its alleged surrounds, and was boasting ‘No clashes!’ which should have alerted everyone to the fact that this was no longer a festival at all.

Meanwhile, speculation with friends was rife regarding what these surrounds might be.  There were suggestions of the Carron or Spencer Hotels, and even North Melbourne Station, but I had less optimism.  I suggested that there would be no surrounds included at all.  If the owners of the terrace houses in neighbouring blocks complain to police when noise and activity are confined to within Festival Hall, imagine the outrage if it were to spill into their streets.

Sure enough, as I left the Carron and headed down Rosslyn Street, there was little sign of life other than a guy spray painting promotional stencils onto the street for The Getaway Plan’s new single.

Inside Festival Hall, it was already quite crowded at eleven o’clock.  I was given a cushy job that allowed an unobstructed view of the precedings:  finally making use of my ill-begotten RSA licence and issuing ‘Proof Of Age’ wristbands upon presentation of ID to those who wanted to drink.

The venue seemed to have filled very early for a fourteen hour event – which had apparently caught the cloakroom girls off-guard – but it was still very sparsely populated inside, and peculiarly cold.  The stage had been divided down the middle by a row of Marshalls, so that a band could be performing on one side of the amps whilst the stage was being set up on the other side for the next band.  It meant that there were no breaks between bands which was novel, but also raised some kind of compatibility issue with the lighting set up.  The half-quantity of lights only seemed able to cast the bands in a dim, sporadic glow, so it felt a bit like watching a Nirvana or Prodigy video.  Alesana were the first band anyone seemed interested in watching, and I guess for the people who rushed to the front of the stage the lighting wouldn’t have been such a concern.

My wristbands were a surprisingly sought-after attraction, with the expected allocation being claimed by the end of Alesana’s set.  When the stylish red and white checked design wristbands had run out, somebody quickly replenished my stock with an alternative.  These ones were emblazoned with the advice ‘Drink responsibly’ and a drawing of a Martini.  The combination of elements in the design made me crave a drink, like those television commercials with the Olympian who I went to school with.  Drinking responsibly seemed like a fine idea, but I still had around twelve hours of work ahead of me.

Skull and crossBandsThe efficiency of the stage set up was evident as the vastly superior yet obviously less popular Go Radio started playing Living End-esque riffs immediately as Alesana stepped off stage.  A girl with a Butterfree tattoo stumbled up to me, acting drunker than she really was.  Wordlessly, she presented her wrist to me, and when I asked to see her ID, she laughed maniacally to the point that she fell on the floor, spilling twenty dollar bills everywhere and suddenly becoming more sober.  I collected a few and handed them to her as she stood up, and she laughed some more, and found her licence.  I checked the age and picture and wrapped a wristband on her, and she thanked me with a kiss and stumbled away just as she’d arrived.  Meanwhile, the band’s cover of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep didn’t seem to elicit the response the band had hoped for.

Hellogoodbye – who I had been looking forward to seeing – also didn’t attract the audience that they perhaps deserved.  Their intriguingly-produced bubble-rock translated very well to the live arena, although the signing tables proved a much greater attraction to the bulk of the patrons, despite the apparently not outrageousness of having to purchase an additional ticket to visit, and another for each band.  My viewing of Hellogoodbye’s impressive set was occasionally interrupted by girls crying after their meeting with The Damned Things at the signing table.  I was surprised to see that they were the first of the singing draw card bands, especially since their set which followed wasn’t anything special, though I guess many of those were probably fans of band members’ main projects like Anthrax, or perhaps more likely, Fall Out Boy.

As per usual, I didn’t really get the hype surrounding Funeral For A Friend.  Even though their opening strains had audience members running from the stands and bars to get to the floor, other than some appealing album covers, I just can’t manage to find much of interest in the band’s sound or live shows, even after seeing them play so many times in the past.  They were followed by Set Your Goals, a band I hadn’t heard before.  I quite enjoyed their dual vocal, Good Charlotte sound.  It was during their set that a whole bunch of people decided they needed wristbands and a queue started to form.  I noticed that lots of the wrists were adorned with cuts of various severity.  I had almost identical conversations with several patrons.

‘You’re asking me for ID?  I’m, like, the oldest person here!’

After a brief and uninteresting debate, they would present their ID, which invariably showed a birth-year of 1992 0r 1993, and be given a wristband.  A couple of people felt like arguing because they had not brought ID, and made various demands which I did not meet, since I didn’t consider them important.  As an all-ages show, they were already inside and welcome to stay.  As far as I was concerned their ability to drink was entirely unimportant.

This Providence arrived and threatened to steal the show.  With a faintly Japanese sound and a flamboyant front man, their live sound would probably best slot in somewhere between My Chemical Romance and Yves Klein Blue, but with soft songs that proved reminiscent of Coheed And Cambria.  Although I hadn’t heard This Providence’s music before, their powerful set has inspired me to ensure that I listen to more of it in future.  Although the audience seemed to enjoy their set, it was clear most of them were just filling the time until Story Of The Year came on.  Never have I seen as many t-shirts that read ‘Blitz Kids Never Die’ as I did during Story Of They Year’s set which was fine, but nothing really revolutionary or otherwise memorable.

A pleasant surprise, though not of particular interest to the majority of the audience, were Face To Face in what I guess is their first Australian tour since their reformation.  Their somehow more serious sounding punk rock, drawing close to ska sounds, were amongst the best musical moments of the whole day, though few in the audience seemed to notice, I guess due to a lack of on-stage gimmicks, and a solid looking guy approached me, bringing his wrist slowly up towards me, and peering at me from beneath the brim if his hat.

‘Have you got some ID to show me?’ I asked him, meeting his gaze sideways.

He continued to glare at me from beneath the hat and slowly shook his head, the edges of his lips turning up in a vicious looking scowl.

‘Then you can’t have a wristband.’

Still wordlessly, he finally looked away, as though trying to barely contain some incredible rage, and finally flipped a drivers licence to me.  His age checked out and I gave him a wristband and he left without a sound.

Yellowcard were next up, and effortlessly drew the largest audience of the day, despite my consideration of the group as little more than a support act.  I guess that’s just because my previous experience of the band has been at such.  From the moment the trademark violin appeared on stage, the screaming was constant, and I have to admit that the band seems to have improved with age.  A rendition of Five Becomes Four was particularly enjoyable, and I caught myself singing along before it was through.  The peculiarly highly billed Young Guns followed, but their performance was largely ignored with the intermittent view of Brendon Urie as movement at the signing table caused the surrounding curtains to part slightly proving too big an attraction to ignore for the many who had missed out on the tickets for Panic! At The Disco’s signing, which was sold out by the time I arrived.  A few people asked me where to buy tickets, but by that point, the promoters in charge of the signing had left.

Meanwhile another of the event organisers was appalled when I refused to give a wristband to a pair of guys allegedly involved in the show in some way.  After a brief argument he told me to fuck off, before himself leaving, allowing me free time to watch a set which proved to be overly expletive-laden by All Time Low.  I was certain that at one point the band referred to the audience as ‘Sydney,’ and after the song, Alex Gaskarth, his band-mates laughing behind him, apologised for calling the crowd ‘Brisbane.’  I wondered if this was some kind of joke.  When they were playing, the group sounded okay – particularly a song towards the end that opened with drum machine that caught me off guard, like when I’m Your Daddy comes on during the first listen to Weezer’s Raditude, and you wonder if the sound is a joke or parody, but then it gets bumped up a notch on Can’t Stop Partying and everyone knew it was serious, but I liked it – but they just spent too much time on banter and innuendo.  Late in the set the band seemed to be joking amongst themselves when they proclaimed ‘Craig from D.R.U.G.S. is backstage fellashying himself.’  Presumably he meant ‘fellating.’

Whatever he meant, it didn’t seem to be true, because D.R.U.G.S. themselves appeared impatiently waiting on the opposite side of the stage for All Time Low to finish what turned out to be the only set to run overtime in an otherwise impeccably maintained schedule.  D.R.U.G.S. brought a darker and more layered sound to the day, which was a nice change, and it was good to see keyboards on stage, and more were being set up on the opposite side in preparation for Panic! At The Disco.  When Panic! finally emerged after D.R.U.G.S., it was perhaps to a smaller than expected audience.  It seemed that around half of the audience of the peak of the day had already filtered out after Yellowcard finished, but they missed a fine set from Panic!, who played hit after hit and sounded pitch-perfect, deviating from the formula only for a Darkness cover.

My suspicions turned out to be wrong.  I’d thought that after the initially appealing Soundwave Revolution line up, the Counter Revolution bill read like a series of side-stages.  Even though the show could hardly be called a festival, it was still a good day of music, and ran surprisingly smoothly.  Were it not for the public scandal that came before, Counter Revolution could have existed as a stand-alone rock show.  As it is, I think it provided what it set out to, and can be proud of that.