Category Archives: Live Music Reviews

Live review: Queensland Music Awards – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 13/8/13

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There are two headlines you will already have read concerning the 2013 Queensland Music Awards: the first is that the night ‘belonged’ to Best Female award winner Emma Louise, and the second that Ball Park Music are still pretty damn good. Both these things are at least partly true, but a large percentage of the following also happened.

My own evening starts with an exasperatingly winding taxi tour of the Valley, as a ludicrously dated so-called community festival is taking place at the RNA Showgrounds and there are road closures all over the joint. Upon arrival at the Tivoli, it seems that most of the rest of the guests must also be having confused taxi-driver syndrome, as only around a third of the seats are taken. Ah well – on with the show.

First up is Zimbabwean-Australian Blaq Carrie; the young rapper performing her debut single ‘Let There Be Hope’. It’s a pretty good start, but not as good as Thelma Plum; who looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth with her sweetly shuffling introduction and cute ankle socks, and while a few rounds of “fuck-yous” in her song ‘Dollar’ may be amusing or mildly shocking to some, it’s really no big fucking deal.

It’s around this point that it becomes apparent that there’s a fairly large amount of people who have arrived at the Tivoli this evening with the aim of standing at the back in their probably-expensive-yet-tacky-looking frocks/suits and chattering amongst themselves like a bunch of schoolchildren who need delivered instantly back to an era where corporal punishment was de rigeuer – these clowns simply need several wheel braces to the spinal column. What the fuck is the point in coming to an awards ceremony and ignoring the vast majority of the evening’s proceedings, while rudely and loudly babbling shit to each other during all the important parts? If you’ve paid big money and a band is putting in a dismal performance and turning you off, I get it – vent your dissatisfaction with all the bland self-important fury your tranquillised-to-the-eyeballs hedge fund manager parents bequeathed you, but for fuck’s sake shut your useless traps when Mick Hadley’s widow is presenting a video tribute to him and accepting his Lifetime Achievement award on his behalf. Makes sense when you think about it, wouldn’t you say? Dickheads.

Meanwhile, Pigeon put in a typically fantastic performance that has host Sarah Howells marvelling at their ability to get stupidly sweaty in the space of a couple of songs (they are surely one of Brisbane’s best live acts right now), and Seja Vogel follows with another sweet burst of tuneage from her seriously synth-heavy new album All Our Wires.

Now, there’s another sticking point right here. Let me start by saying The Trouble With Templeton are a fine band and their debut record Rookie is an excellent and worthy piece of work; I highly recommend adding it to your collection and songwriter Thomas Calder and his band deserve awards and recognition in spades. However, when Q Music give them the Rock award, then allow Violent Soho to put in the best rock live performance of the evening by far (and I include The Trouble With Templeton in that), we have a rather disconcerting, head-scratching moment. But, what the hell; most of the audience aren’t paying attention anyway. Did I mention those fuckheads up the back?

Violent Soho
Violent Soho

Country Award winner Harmony James then puts in an entertaining short performance, showcasing that fine country vocal twang she’s got going on, and then another highlight flits in and out of tonight’s proceedings: a trio of new songs from The Jungle Giants, with Cesira Aitken putting in the axe-wielding performance of the evening with a series of quick-fingered, Fender-based riffs – beautiful.

The Jungle Giants
The Jungle Giants

After an epic giant-slaying of David and Goliath proportions that sees Jeremy Neale gloriously beat Bernard Fanning to the coveted crown of Best Male, it’s time for The Trouble With Templeton to show why they are considered to be such a strong new force on the Brisbane music scene. Their song ‘You Are New’ is particularly great addition to the evening’s entertainment, and after another win for Emma Louise and a by-now fairly hammered Ball Park Music, it’s time for Brisbane’s only (?) Afro-Cuban salsa group Chukale to play to a by-now practically empty Tivoli.

All in all, it was a great evening and very important part of the Queensland musical calendar; one in which the bands and artists we witnessed showed what a high standard of music is being made in the Sunshine State. All the winners were worthy and live performances were across-the-board outstanding. Now, I’m off to find a wheel brace…

The Trouble With Templeton
The Trouble With Templeton

Live review: Major Leagues + Babaganouj + RINSE – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane – 9/8/13

Lately, I’ve been going to gigs and finding myself more impressed and entertained by the support acts than the headliners themselves; Big Scary, Pigeon, and Jagwar Ma have all put in live performances more memorable than the groups above them in the bill. Is there an argument that support bands have more to prove, so tend to put in more effort? Possibly, although doesn’t every band with enough balls to get up on a stage have something to prove, night in, night out? I’m putting it down to coincidence.

I mention this, as tonight’s support acts at Brisbane’s Black Bear Lodge are both outstanding, as well as being closely related, musically and personnel-wise. First up is local lads RINSE, featuring members of Babaganouj and Jeremy Neale’s band, amongst others. Playing a tight set of heavy shoegaze and dream-pop, the band leave quite an impression, and climax with ‘Coin’; a Buzzcocks-esque number with added keys.

Babaganouj
Babaganouj

Next is Babaganouj, lead by Charles Sale and featuring members of Go Violets (the Brisbane music family tree is a complex and extensive one), each band member comes on-stage one song at a time, until the quartet is complete. Their sound is heavy with mid-’70s radio rock influences, with a touch of The Replacements circa 1984 in there for good measure, and their entertaining set culminates with perhaps their most pop-y track, ‘My Favourite Colour Is You’. Sale is an engaging frontman with a strong voice, and is equally adept at getting the audience out of their seats and dealing with a mid-song tuning issue.

Major Leagues
Major Leagues

The house music cuts out and Major Leagues kick into their first song so inconspicuously that some people in the small venue take a short while to notice that the head-liners have begun their set. The four-piece’s vocals are a little lost amongst the sound of their own instruments at first, inciting the desire to walk over to the sound desk and turn up the relevant dials, but the band’s strong point is their knack with a surf-rock/pop melody, and this makes them pretty special. Major Leagues have the melody gene dripping out of every pore, while drummer Jacob Knauth keeps things from ever getting too light. The single they are here to launch, ‘Endless Drain’, is a typically cheerfully melodic, summer-y pop number with a sneering lyric and plenty of vocal harmonies. While ‘Teen Mums’ is still their best track, this band have a bright future if they keep producing tunes of this calibre.

Live review: 4 Walls Festival – QUT, Brisbane – 3/8/13

Billed as being for young people by young people, Youth Music Industries’ fourth annual all-ages 4 Walls Festival at QUT boasted quite a line-up this year.

Before a hoard of baby-faced and expensively attired onlookers, local alt-rock quartet Twin Haus provide an early highlight on the rooftop stage with a tidy racket of a set, before English-Australian four-piece Tourism unleash a new batch of Arctic Monkeys-esque tunes with some heavy moments on the main stage in the darkness of QUT’s lecture theatre. During a previous Brisbane gig guitarist Adrian Brown puked on his guitar mid-song, but everyone is clearly under instruction to be on their best behaviour today, which is helped by the lack of bar at the venue.

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The biggest draw of the day so far is Brisbane’s Go Violets, who almost send a swelling crowd into spasms with their cheeky brand of all-girl indie, with more than a hint of the ‘1-2-3-4’ aesthetic of J-Pop and near-perfect depiction of adolescent angst. With lines like “I really like you, I like your hair”, they could be any teenager here today, and after eliciting proposals of marriage from male members of the crowd, they finish with the Powerpuff Girls theme song. Once they master stagecraft, this band could be huge.

Meanwhile, SURFER CATS are making a boneheaded yet strangely charming mess of noise on the rooftop stage with a set of songs about – yes, you guessed it – surfing and cats, including tunes with names like ‘Vampire Cat’, ‘Catch A Wave With Me’, and ‘Schizophrenic Cat’.

Baseball cap-sporting Jeremy Neale takes to the main stage to thunderous applause, and proceeds to provide the throat-shredding vocal performance of the day, with ‘Winter Was The Time’, ‘Merry Go Round’, and ‘Darlin’ featuring, before being joined by Go Violets and members of Major Leagues to finish with a raucous ensemble version of ‘In Stranger Times’.

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Having just driven from Newcastle to make the gig, Pigeon proceed to up the quality tenfold and steal the show with a high-energy blast of electronica, including a ten-minute Daft Punk medley which fuses ‘One More Time’, ‘Around The World’, ‘Robot Rock’, and ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ into a single pulsating jam.

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Late additions to the bill Cub Scouts headline the main stage with their usual collection of well-crafted indie-pop tunes and send the kids of Brisbane home tired but happy, while the rest of us retire to the nearest bar for a well overdue drink.

Live review: Paul Kelly + Urthboy – QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane – 1/8/13

One of the great things about seeing a concert at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre is that you know the acts will take to the stage exactly on schedule, and if you take too long finishing your drinks or get caught on the toilet and miss the warning buzzer, it’s tough luck, Jack. This almost happens to me, as I find myself with two untouched beers as the ‘please take your seats’ announcement permeates my relaxed mood and sends me into a mild panic consisting of desperate chugging and worried glances towards the general direction of door 8. Of course I could have left the brews behind, but music and drinks go so well together, don’t you agree? Consider those beers slammed.

Urthboy
Urthboy

It’s great to see the majority of tonight’s audience have also found their way to their seats early enough for support act Urthboy. The Blue Mountains singer is joined on-stage by fellow The Herd member Jane Tyrrell, and they run through an outstanding high-energy set of hip-hop songs with a thread of socially-conscious messages running through the middle. An early highlight is ‘Letters From Jamshed’; a touching and inspiring song based upon the letters received from an Afghani refugee friend, who eventually found his happy ending as he was accepted as an Australian citizen, even though afterwards he “went on to study accounting”. Urthboy’s music is motivational and reflective in equal amounts, as he tells the audience “You have won just as many Tour de Frances as Lance Armstrong – remember that,” before introducing his song ‘The Big Sleep’ as being about Natalie Wood; the pensioner whose body lay undiscovered in her Surry Hills home for eight years.

Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly

After a short interval (lesson learned, bar avoided) Paul Kelly steps onto the stage with his young band, looking dapper in a light grey suit and reflecting the spotlights off his shiny head, as the audience show their enthusiastic appreciation. Firstly, he announces he will be playing his new album Spring and Fall straight through, which will “only take about forty minutes, don’t worry”. It’s a cracker of an album, in the form of a ‘song cycle,’ as Kelly informs us, with each song depicting an event that happens in relation to all the other songs and events. A definite highlight is fourth track ‘Gonna Be Good’, which sees drummer Bree van Reyk (who is bloody exceptional all night) at one point playing tambourine, drums, and singing at the same time. Dan Kelly is similarly impressive on guitar and vocals throughout the show.

After Spring and Fall, Kelly is free to play the hits, starting with ‘Bradman’, ‘When I First Met Your Ma’, and ‘Forty Miles to Saturday Night’, with plenty of banter and story-telling in between. There’s a definite feeling of being in the presence of an Australian legend at this point, and a pretty special atmosphere is apparent in the concert hall, as hundreds of eyes and ears and totally transfixed by what’s happening in front of them. ‘Our Sunshine’ – Kelly’s Ned Kelly tribute – follows, and van Reyk breaks out the spoons on a couple of tracks after ‘The Foggy Fields of France’. The final song is the beautiful ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ and a mass sing-along breaks out for the chorus. It’s almost enough to bring a lump to the throat of this hardened gig-goer.

Anyone who thought it would end there is gravely mistaken, as Kelly’s skills are demanded for three – yes three – well-deserved encores, which includes an a-cappella vocal track with his four band members, and an appearance from Urthboy and Jane Tyrrell once more. Several bows, waves, thank-yous later and it’s all over, two and half hours after it began.

He’s been called one of the best song-writers around, a master storyteller, and a national treasure, and Paul Kelly deserves all of these titles. What a performance we just witnessed.

Live review: Ben Salter + Seja + Machine Age – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane – 19/7/13

Are there many better places to be in Brisbane on a Friday night than Black Bear Lodge? Probably not. The snug venue is quite perfect for a cold and rainy evening, and tonight’s bill of all-Queensland talent looks set to keep things toasty.

Seja
Seja

First up is Cairns native Adrian Mauro, otherwise known as Machine Age. The virtually unknown Mauro begins with just a folk-y, Fender-y sound and his rich voice, before breaking out the synths and turning his solo act into a whirlwind of electronic drums, heavy bass, and ramped-up guitar noise. After singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to someone in the audience (don’t you have to pay royalties to somebody to sing that song?) his final tune is a colossal, Communist-era chuggernaut of a jam; the sound building to such a cacophonous, blaring drone that it felt like a derailed train would crash through the walls at any second. This guy is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Next up is Brisbane’s own Seja, who takes to the stage with an appeal to the audience. “Sorry for my nasal voice, I woke up this morning feeling like a pig shat in my head,” she says, earning top marks for choice of film reference to make her point. With second album All Our Wires having just been released (featuring collaborations with Gotye and members of Cut Copy and Regurgitator, among others), her set is heavy on new material; a highlight being the folk-y ‘Die Wolken’, on which Robert Forster sings on the album.

Ben Salter has been in and around the venue all night, so he is well aware that a large percentage of the audience has been loudly chatting up to this point, foolishly oblivious to the artists on stage in front of them. “Can we have a bit of shush?” he demands, changing the atmosphere immediately for the better, before beginning with ‘Not Today’ from his newly-released European Vacation EP. It’s a great start, and immediately shows what an outstanding vocal talent Salter is. The title track from previous album The Cat follows, and then perhaps the most Brisbane song ever written, ‘West End Girls’. “West End girls run wild and free, take the 199 to the Valley”: fantastic.

Immediately after this tune the charismatic Salter announces “You can take your Dick Diver and all those other bands and get rid of ’em… The Young Liberals albums are all free online,” (and so they are, so go get ’em), before telling a story about him and Seja making plans to play each others songs, before changing their minds at the eleventh hour. Salter continues to be entertaining in more ways than one, throughout an excellent set of songs.

Having secured a deal with ABC Music to release the travel-inspired European Vacation, Salter’s stock is pretty high right now, and tonight’s confident showing by one of Brisbane’s best singer-songwriters is surely confirmation of that.

Live review: Bernard Fanning + Big Scary + Vance Joy – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 18/7/13

There’s something about a sold-out show that will partly make you happy that artists can still sell out venues on a cold Thursday night in Brisbane in these uncertain times for live music, and partly apprehensive about the fact you’ll be spending the next three hours crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with a plethora of potential idiots after enduring a two-day wait to get to the bar. I guess some of us are never happy.

Big Scary
Big Scary

Young Melburnian folkie Vance Joy is first to step into the rich blue lightning of The Tivoli’s stage; and his amiable and charming patter entertains a quickly swelling crowd, between songs from his new EP God Loves You When You’re Dancing, including ‘From Afar’ and the excellent ‘Riptide’. A cover of ‘Dancing In The Dark’ fits in nicely mid-set after Joy explains he saw The Boss recently and didn’t expect such a lengthy set.

Next up is Melbourne duo (or in live form, a trio) Big Scary who also have a new album out in Not Art. Beginning with the slow and ominous new song ‘Phil Collins’, the band are instantly engaging and almost hypnotic, as all eyes turn to drummer Joanna Syme for the second track – the outstandingly grand ‘Belgian Blues’ – as she displays her enviable skills all over the kit, before asking the audience to engage in a joint “drool over Vance Joy”. The edgy ‘Twin Rivers’, ‘Luck Now’, and older track ‘Falling Away’ see singer Tom Iansek switch between guitar and keys with ease, and the only way this set could have been any better would be with the inclusion of ‘Mix Tape’. Like I said: some of us are never happy.

*** Allow me to now take a moment to congratulate whoever decides on what music plays between bands at The Tivoli; it’s never anything but top-notch tuneage. The boring lull waiting for gear to be set up is transformed into a collective musical erection with the likes of The Faces’ ‘You’re So Rude’ and Ike & Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep – Mountain High’. Keep up the good work, you fine, faceless people. ***

And now: Bernard Fanning. Where I grew up Powderfinger were never big, so tonight’s show isn’t fuelled by nostalgia or a sense of musical loyalty for me, as it seems to be for a lot of the audience in front of The Tivoli’s stage. Fanning and his five band members take to the stage to massive cheers and begin to rip through songs from new album Departures, as he announces his first gig in Brisbane since 2007 by saying “this is already markedly different to Toowoomba,” to the sound of even more resounding cheers.

Bernard Fanning
Bernard Fanning

‘Tell Me How It Ends’ is up first, followed by the big rock number ‘Inside Track’, and ‘Limbo Stick’, which all get great responses considering the record has been out barely six weeks. Introducing songs from his 2005 Tea & Sympathy album, including ‘Believe’, and then giving a shout out to his sister, mother, wife, and mother-in-law in the audience (“four firey ladies – don’t fuck with them”), Fanning seems entirely at ease throughout his hometown show, and appears to be enjoying the fervent adulation reverberating around the venue, which peaks during the best of his new songs, ‘Battleships’.

The title track from Departures is one that Fanning introduces as being about where he grew up, and gives a shout out to “anyone from Toowong”, before a massive sing-along erupts during encore highlight ‘Wish You Well’, and a happy audience pours onto Costin Street and makes for home.

Bernard Fanning has put together another fine album in Departures, and has a kick-ass touring band, and while we just enjoyed a solid set of quality Aussie rock, it’s Big Scary who fill my thoughts as I head for home; reinforcing the argument that gig-goers should NEVER avoid the support act, lest they miss their new favourite band.

Live review: Blondie – Waterfront Hall, Belfast – 26th June 2013

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It’s a deliciously warm summer evening in my hometown; the kind that makes it seem that the sun won’t ever go down. In Belfast for the first time in about five years; I’m arguing with a taxi driver as we do about seventy miles per hour along the carriageway. He foolishly but stubbornly reckons Blondie were the first band to release a rap record, while I’m certain ‘Rapper’s Delight’ at least came before, even if it wasn’t the first. And weren’t Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five knocking around before either of them? I’m not sure on that one, so decide to keep it in my back pocket in the event of this debate heating up.

A dismissive “nah,” is all he’s got when I repeatedly make my argument that 1979 demonstrably came before 1981, and that elements of rap have been seen throughout reggae, jazz, and other forms of music well before front-woman Debbie Harry was even thought of, and also who-fucking-cares-anyway-can’t-we-all-just-enjoy-the-fucking-tunes. So, it’s with this sense of infuriation that I arrive at the Waterfront Hall to catch the classic new-wave band, now in their thirty-ninth year. Cheers, cabbie.

Thankfully, Blondie are way too much of a class act to let a smartass taxi driver spoil the vibe. The 2500-seater venue is full to capacity, and although the age-range of the audience is generally in the ballpark of those old enough to have enjoyed the band in their heyday, the energy level and atmosphere are high and buzzing, in that order. With an act that is obviously honed to perfection, the sextet take to the stage exactly on time, with Harry stealing the limelight with her trademark platinum blonde hair and an interesting red catsuit type number. It’s only about halfway through opener ‘One Way Or Another’ that surely every member of this – by now bouncing – crowd is reminded of what an original, and classic band this is.

Harry, from the off, is immeasurably infectious, and at 68 has lost none of the sex appeal that was such a trademark of the band in the late ’70s and early ’80s. She is a front-woman who is never boring, always visually engaging, and still has the pipes to fill out a venue of this size. Maybe it was her years spent working as a Playboy bunny, or simply a naturally engaging personality that taught her the need to not simply stand, but to always have a stance. Look up the ‘Heart of Glass’ video for example, and she’s not just standing behind the mic, but she’s there, hand on hip, one knee pushed forward, gently swaying her hips in an almost hypnotic motion. She also knows when to take a back seat and let guitarist Chris Stein or drummer Clem Burke’s sounds come to the fore. Did I mention that word class, already? Or the fact she influenced just about every white female vocalist who came after her?

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Newer songs mix with old dependables, with ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, ‘A Rose By Any Name’, and ‘The Tide Is High’ following in quick succession, with the Waterfront audience now looking like unwilling participants in a mass epileptic fit in a retirement village, before Harry announces “there’s something here that’s big, wet, and wild: Mr. Chris Stein on the guitar!” Oh Debbie, you’re a tease and you know it.

A couple of unannounced new tracks are fired off to a relatively muted response, as token youngster Tommy Kessler engages in some impressive axe shredding, with the predictable result of several hundred middle-aged women now hanging on his every move, and the scene being set nicely for the biggest cheer of the night, which comes during the first few notes of ‘Atomic’.

Closer ‘Heart of Glass’ is perhaps Blondie’s best-known song, and at the time of writing was considered to be nothing more than another album track by the band, hence its position tucked three-quarters of the way down the track-list of Parallel Lines. Clem Burke proves himself to still be a hard-hitting drum machine during the final tracks, as the Belfast crowd loses its collective marbles, and Harry and co. strut off-stage for a towel down and a cold drink.

An energetic encore featuring new song ‘Take Me In The Night’, ‘Call Me’, a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’, and finale ‘Dreaming’ brings a fine night of entertainment to a close, and the band leave the stage for the last time to the sounds of near-deafening appreciation.

For those seeing the band for the first time, it’s a glorious moment, and for those seeing them for a second or maybe third time, it’s probably even more so. While the hits get the biggest response, this is a band with plenty of mileage remaining, and with new songs being written constantly, they aren’t happy to rely on their past. While songs like ‘Atomic’ probably won’t ever be bettered, it’s exciting to think that Blondie are going to give it a damn good try.

Live review: The Mercy Beat + The Strums + The Grand Scheme + Snakes and Daggers – The Tempo, Brisbane – 14th June 2013

Our Band Could Be Your Life #3: The Rock Edition is part of a regular showcase put on by Brisbane music warlords Footstomp Music, in order to get local bands on a stage. Tonight, we will be treated to four of the finest and most hard-working rock bands from Brisbane: Snakes and Daggers, The Grand Scheme, The Strums, and headliners The Mercy Beat, who are here to launch their new single ‘Fishbowl’ in the spacious, beer-y environment of Fortitude Valley’s The Tempo Hotel.

A small but dedicated has gathered in front of the stage as openers Snakes and Daggers get the show on the road with some quality hard rock. Named Guns ‘N’ Roses-style after singer Dick Dagger and guitarist James Snake, the band run through a short but sweet set of high-octane rock riffage, with Snake putting out the most energy as he gets amongst the audience for his solo.

Next up is The Grand Scheme, who should have played in this venue a few months ago, but were kicked off bonehead Bam Margera’s bill in contentious circumstances. Opening with ‘Kings of Youth’, the quartet play a tight set of hard rock with plenty of scream-y vocals and dual guitars. ‘Kink Kink’ is introduced as “the first song we ever wrote” and another is described as “going out to all the sexy beasts.”

The Grand Scheme
The Grand Scheme

Following The Grand Scheme is The Strums, who have been slogging away on pub and support circuits around Brisbane for some time now, and they provide the best set of the night so far. With a shout of “How ya doin’, alright?” and the words “love is rad” painted on his guitar, frontman Jai Sparks leads the widely-grinning quartet through a set of upbeat rock and punk tunes, including the catchy ‘Passive Smoke’ and call and response of ‘Fuck Yeah’.

The Strums
The Strums

And so, to our headliners for this evening: The Mercy Beat. The Brisbane rock trio are here to launch their single ‘Fishbowl’, and it appears in second slot in the set after opener ‘The Mercy Blues’, and gives The Tempo audience probably the best riffs of the night. Without pausing to introduce their songs or address the audience, the band rock through an hour-long set of top-notch rock ‘n’ roll and punk tracks, including ‘No Crown’, ‘Eagle Throws Goat Off Cliff’, and ‘Born Yesterday’ from their How To Shampoo A Yak album in a thunderous climax to the evening.

The Mercy Beat
The Mercy Beat

All in all, Footstomp have put together a damn good show tonight, and getting four kick-ass rock bands for $10 entry is a pretty good deal. While each of these bands deserved a bigger crowd this evening, it’s great to see people out supporting local acts and for them to be promoted in this way. Here’s hoping for many more nights like this.

Event review: Opal Vapour – Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse – 5th June 2013

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No, it’s not an upstart new-world band you haven’t heard of. Opal Vapour is a contemporary dance work with roots in Indonesian ancestral dance, and is brought to the stage with an Australian twist. Drawing on themes such as cleansing, purification, and belonging to a place of birth, and taking elements from Javanese shadow puppetry, the show is a stunning, haunting, and ultimately very impressive piece of work.

The Powerhouse’s Visy Theatre is a suitably dark and snug venue for a performance of this kind, and a perfectly-sized space for the three-person show. Consisting of the powerful physical moves of dancer Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal, the soaring voice and musicianship of Ria Soemardjo, and the lightning of Paula van Beek, the fifty-minute show is captivating from start to finish.

As the audience files into the theatre and takes to their seats, each and every person present slowly realises that the object on the stage, an oblong-shaped box perhaps six feet in length, has upon it a drape-covered shape that looks suspiciously like a person. It is only around ten minutes later when the show starts, that this is confirmed. Ria Soemardjo slowly circles the stage, chanting in a haunting fashion and ringing hand-held bells, before slowly removing the layers of drapes from what soon is revealed to be Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal’s body, and the show begins. The stamina to stay so still under hot spotlights and several layers of drapes is only the start of Tunggal’s physical exertion for this evening.

For the next forty minutes or so, the trio hold the audience in the palm of their hands, with a series of moves, postures, shades, and sounds that evoke strong images of trance, reawakening, and court dance. Visuals from an overhead camera are projected onto a screen behind the dancer to add a dual effect, and the box on which the performer spends the entire performance is lit from below and covered in a thick layer of sand; all of which ends up on the Visy floor by the end of the performance. Something else that happened at the end of the performance is the audience being so impressed that the performers were called back onto the stage four times for rounds of bows to the sound of thunderous applause; all richly deserved.

After being fairly spellbound for the duration of the performance, it’s a harsh reality that awaits the audience as they come blinking back into the light of the Powerhouse’s foyer, and while a dance performance needs to be seen to be fully appreciated, take it from me: this one was pretty damn great.

Live review: Local Natives + New Gods + Texture Like Sun – The Zoo, Brisbane – 19th May 2013

Local Natives have been wowing fans up and down the country of late, and hot on the heels of their second album Hummingbird, they’re in town with the aim of doing the same to Brisbane. Drawing favourable comparisons to Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear, the quartet are well-known for their multiple harmonies and classy song-writing. The Zoo’s stage awaits their talents.

First up for tonight’s gig is Melbourne indie-folk duo Texture Like Sun, who provide an understated but increasingly attention-grabbing performance with a series of ominously-haunting piano melodies and soaring vocals. Their song ‘One Great Prize’ is a good starting point for checking these guys out, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Texture Like Sun
Texture Like Sun

The second support for tonight is Melbourne indie-rock quintet New Gods, who will possibly forever be described as featuring former members of Little Red; that once omnipotent but ultimately substance-free band of pop-lite not-quite-pretty boys who released a couple of chart-bothering tunes a couple of years ago. I immediately have flashbacks of a tragic night at The Hi-Fi in Brisbane, watching baying hordes of over-privileged teenage girls try to levitate their virginities in the general direction of any or all of the relatively unskilled band members, as the objects of their affections alternate between blushing under the swell of pheromone-fuelled adulation and jostling each other for a slice of the limelight and pick of the skirts.

Thankfully, New Gods aren’t like any of that – for the most part – and as I write a quick note by which to remember their set, a satisfying rhythm falls across the paper: “The little boys from Little Red… have become men and learned to shred.” While elements of dreamy pop inevitably slip into their set from time to time, they are at their best when guitarists Adrian Beltrame and Dominic Byrne let rip with the riffs, which they do really well; although writing a song about Bill Hicks and throwing your guitar gently and politely to the ground with an “I’ll-fix-it-later” look on your face doth not a rock star make. Next time, I want to be picking shards of your fretboard out of my eyeballs (with bleeding fingers) for a month, if you please.

New Gods
New Gods

And so: California’s Local Natives. When Hummingbird came out earlier in the year, I was quick to hassle people in relation to its greatness, claiming it to be one of the albums of 2013 already; and I stand by that. Top-notch tuneage seeps from every pore of that record – it’s a exquisitely crafted piece of work that will still sound great when we’re all just a bump in the graveyard grass. Alas, this is a review of a live show, not an album.

I was recently chatting to a friend about seeing Wild Beasts at Laneway Festival in 2010, and how totally disappointed we were with their show, especially considering they had just released such a top album in Two Dancers. It was tame in almost every sense of the word; all the right songs were there, played to perfection, but where was the performance? Every ‘T’ was crossed and ‘I’ dotted in terms of how the songs sounded, but where was the heart? Where was the soul? The audience engagement? It was as fun as being in your bedroom with their record playing in the background, and a couple of hundred random people along for the ride. The same could be said for tonight’s show.

Local Natives
Local Natives

“Hello, how are you? This is our last night in Australia, and we have a lot of songs for you tonight,” offers Kelsey Acer to a half-filled Zoo, before the band kick into ‘You & I’, with plenty of exaggerated arm-swinging on the down strum, and a range of well-practised facial expressions to show just how serious this band takes itself. As with Wild Beasts, the songs are all there; and are replicated in a note-perfect manner, including ‘Ceilings’, ‘Mt. Washington’, ‘Airplanes’, ‘Colombia’, and the sublime ‘Heavy Feet’, but despite unquestionably great musicianship and a fine range of facial hair, there’s something missing from this show that leaves me feeling – dare I say it – bored.

A mid-set cover of Talking Heads’ ‘Warning Sign’ provides some relief from the earnestness, and when it’s time for an encore The Zoo’s audience doesn’t exactly put up a fight to get the band back on-stage. Watching them pick up their instruments and strike up another couple of indifferent chords is enough for me, and I’m down the stairs to freedom in a matter of seconds. Disappointing.

Live review: The Bronx + DZ Deathrays + Spitfireliar – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – 7th May 2013

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It’s Tuesday night in West End and The Hi-Fi is heaving. Not long after the doors are opened, it’s nigh-on impossible to get near the bar, the area in front of the stage is rapidly becoming an elbow-room-free zone, and the steps linking the two are filled with lines of people who always seem to be fighting the current. It’s time for this Brisbane audience to drain their beers and ready their eardrums – The Bronx don’t do things softly.

After a quick and heavy set by local lads Spitfireliar, including their song ‘I Want To Eat Natalie Portman’s Poo’, Brisbane thrash duo made-good DZ Deathrays take to the stage. It is immediately clear that Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley have become one hell of a musically tight pairing; made possible by the almost constant touring across North America, Europe, and Australia of late. What’s also clear as their set progresses is how much of a monster shredder Parsons now is; those local music fans who still consider DZ an offshoot of Velociraptor must realise that there was no way an indie-pop band was ever going to contain this guy’s riffs. ‘Cops Capacity’, ‘No Sleep’, ‘The Mess Up’, and a finale of ‘Dollar Chills’ sound great, and a couple of new (unnamed) songs are trialled with plenty of screamo gusto.

It’s almost eleven o’clock by the time Los Angeles quintet The Bronx take to the stage to the boom of a spaghetti western track that sounds like it could be a tune by their alter egos Mariachi El Bronx. If you were choosing a traditional frontman’s look, it wouldn’t be that of singer Matt Caughthran, but the day he realised he has a voice powerful enough to topple regimes must have been a momentously life-changing occasion. As ‘White Tar’ sends the audience into a frenzy, Caughthran announces “Brisbane is the favourite town of the motherfuckin’ Bronx; the first place we ever touched down in Australia,” before scolding the audience for not selling out the venue, climbing along the railing, crowd-surfing back to the stage, catching a random hurled garment with his forehead, before finally announcing “We have come home to Brisbane, make some noise motherfuckers!”

‘Too Many Devils’ is introduced as being “for all the chicas,” before Caughthran kindly informs the by-now sweaty and elated crowd that “after tonight you will be born again, and everything else will pale in comparison to seeing The Bronx.” ‘Six Days A Week’ and a massive ‘Youth Wasted’ sound fantastic, as the energy level doesn’t let up despite the obvious expenditure on stage.

Unlike many hardcore and punk bands, The Bronx have a backbone of solid musicianship, talent, and top tunes; they come across as the type of band who could be just as successful as a calypso/bluegrass/sea-shanty/whatever group if they set their minds to it. For now, their rock show will do just nicely. What a great night.

Live review: Matt & Kim + Citizen Kay + Tiger Beams – The Zoo, Brisbane – 9th May 2013

Matt & Kim
Matt & Kim

Tonight’s show at The Zoo would be one of duos, with no less than three of them performing for the listening and viewing pleasure of Brisbane’s music-loving public. Call it a Groovin’ The Moo sideshow or whatever you like; one thing that can be guaranteed when seeing Matt & Kim is rock-solid, class A entertainment; and tonight would be no different.

First up is well-known Brisbane duo Tiger Beams, consisting of local soul brother Jeremy Neale on guitar/vocals and his Velociraptor partner-in-crime Jesse Hawkins on vocals/drums, seemingly taking part in a how-many-bands-can-you-be-in-at-once competition (and undoubtedly winning). Their set is messy and charming in equal amounts, and culminates with Hawkins announcing “we’ve never played this last song live before and we’re quite drunk – a good combination,” before taking to the stage front and centre for a ridiculous (and in many ways, brilliant) electronic number featuring robot dancing and intergalactic synth loops.

Citizen Kay
Citizen Kay

Next up is Citizen Kay from Canberra; a young artist whose music has been described as hip-hop, but in reality consists of so much more. The singer runs through a highly energetic set of fantastic rap/dance/pop tunes with a socially-conscious heart, including the excellent ‘When I Was Up’ and ‘Free Doom’ (or was that ‘Freedom’?), including lines about Malcolm X and JFK: nice. ‘Villain’ is a groovy rap track that allows the drummer to flaunt his considerable skills, but it’s Kay’s stage presence, charisma, and endless grin that holds the audience in the palm of his hand for the length of the set. Well played, young sir.

And so, it’s time for Matt & Kim, who bounce onto the stage in a a flurry of flashing lights, bubbles, and screams, have a quick dance on the bass drum and various parts of the stage, then exclaim “we’ve been hanging out over by the Kangaroo Point cliffs, and we’ve learned that there are no rules in Brisbane; you can do whatever the fuck you want!” Cue colossal screams and the audience is theirs. The punchy ‘Overexposed’ follows before Matt introduces Kim as “my partner-in-crime and my partner in sex,” with Kim responding with “You are gonna fuck tonight Matt – our foreplay is me telling you I’m gonna fuck the shit out of you tonight!” as the audience eats up every word.

‘Silver Tiles’ is next, and is introduced as “pretty much the first song we ever wrote”, followed by ‘Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare’ as the crowd bounces in unison, before the slower ‘Turn This Boat Around’ follows Kim standing on the drums slapping her ass in the general direction of the audience.

At this point handfuls of balloons and cock rings are flung into the audience to add to the manic party vibe, before ‘Now’ and a cover of ’90s Dutch Euro-pop anthem ‘Better Off Alone’ by Alice Deejay sees an outbreak of bare-breasted crowd-surfing by one girl and a lightning-quick grab for iPhone cameras by the entire rest of the audience (I was too slow, damn it). Matt confesses to having “missed a couple of notes when that bra came off”, before Kim delights us by confessing “every night I juice myself up here playing the drums.”

By now everybody is exhausted but exhilarated, so an encore of ‘Lessons Learned’ fits perfectly, with Kim suggesting “If you sing along with me on this song, you will get laid tonight.” While the truth to this claim can’t possibly be confirmed, one thing is certain: Matt & Kim are one of the best live acts around right now, and every member of the audience left The Zoo feeling better than when they arrived.

Live review: The Hoodoo Gurus + Blue Oyster Cult + The Flamin’ Groovies – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 18th April 2013

Despite only having three bands appearing at the Brisbane leg of the festival, The Hoodoo Gurus’ Dig It Up Festival at Brisbane’s The Tivoli promised to be a fascinating night of classic rock music. A crowd with a healthy amount of grey hair filled the venue, quaffed beer like it’s 1982, and threw caution to the wind during the hard-rocking three hours of music.

First up for tonight would be The Flamin’ Groovies, and the four-piece take us right back to San Francisco circa 1969 with their mix of psychedelia, pub rock, and jangle pop. The excellent ‘I Can’t Hide’ sounds like everything Lee Mavers of The Las has ever tried to be, and ‘Between The Now’ from the Now album is turned into an epic rock jam, with frontman Cyril Jordan putting in more energy than many performers half his age. The band sign off with “Fuck Kim Jong Un and God help us in this world! It’s been real and it’s been nice, and it’s been real nice.” Well played, sirs.

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Next up is New York’s Blue Oyster Cult playing their first ever gig in Australia, and unquestionably the quintet steal the show. “We’re very glad to be here, where have you been for the last forty years?” asks guitarist Eric Bloom as the band come flying out of the traps with ‘It’s Alright’; a hillbilly, rockabilly, super-silly blast of classic rock riffage that immediately proves these guys are some seriously top-drawer musicians. Bassist Kasim Sulton (previously of Utopia, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, and Meatloaf) proves himself to be an effortlessly cool and talented customer on the right side of the stage throughout the entire show. Next comes ‘Golden Age of Leather’ with it’s brilliant chant of “raise your can of beer up high” making The Tivoli audience do just that.

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‘Burning For You’ from the Fire Of Unknown Origin album is next, before ‘Then Came The Last Days of May’ from their 1972 debut, featuring long, shredding solos from firstly Richie Castellano, followed by Donald Roeser. ‘Godzilla’ is a track that shows the band don’t take themselves too seriously amongst some of the prog influences, before the vital closer, ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’. It was at this point I saw several gentlemen of advanced years crying and clapping their hands together like little kids who just got their first trampoline – beautiful.

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And so, it falls to our hosts for the evening to finish things off. The Hoodoo Gurus come onto the stage in a maelstrom of noise and flashing lights, launching into ‘Bittersweet’ from 1985, then ‘Poison Pen’. “Thanks for coming back again!” says frontman Dave Faulkner, before introducing ‘In the Wild’, explaining that the song began life being called ‘In the Dry’. At this point, it becomes clear that the highlight of the night would be Blue Oyster Cult (their virtuosity, showmanship, and great tunes are just unable to be bettered), and the Gurus’ ‘Hayride to Hell’, ‘The Other Side of Paradise’, and ‘Tojo’ weren’t going to change that fact. In saying that, it was a pleasure to see three ‘older’ bands show exactly how much they still have to offer, and indeed be able to rock our socks off more ferociously than most of the newer bands around today. What a great night.

Live review: The Delta Riggs + Stillwater Giants + The Strums – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane – April 11th 2013

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When The Delta Riggs last played Black Bear Lodge at BIGSOUND 2012, snake-hipped frontman Elliott Hammond led the audience in an impromptu sing-a-long of “holy guacamole, we got chips!” before introducing their best-known song as one for “all the cunts out there.” That particular gig had a perfectly loose party atmosphere; all raucous abandon and who-fucking-cares gestures. Tonight’s show – while being just as boisterous and unrestrained – also involves the important business of an album launch; the Melbourne quintet’s debut Hex.Lover.Killer, and Brisbane is the first stop on the tour. Aren’t we a lucky bunch of people?

Local rock ‘n’ rollers The Strums are first up this evening, and the boys warm up the growing crowd’s ears with suitable volume and energy. Frontman Jai Sparks is the focal point as the band get sweaty with a half-hour set of punk-tinged rock, including a breakneck cover of ‘You Really Got Me’ by The Kinks.

Margaret River quartet Stillwater Giants are next onto the stage, and frontman Henry Clarke announces their goal of “getting you loose enough for The Delta Riggs”, as well as explaining “we’ve only been in Brisbane for an hour, and we’ve already nearly got into a fight over a car parking space”. Interstate issues aside, the band play a great set of guitar pop; all surf breaks and sunny melodies. ‘Give In To Me’ is a mid-set highlight, topped only by ‘Under The Radar’, and a fantastic cover of ‘One More Time’ by Daft Punk – a great song choice considering the French electronica giants’ Wee Waa announcement this week.

Elliott Hammond is the first of the ‘Riggs to take to the stage, and takes a seat at the keyboard for opener and new single ‘Better’. “Gonna take it from the start, escape from the city where we wound up again,” he sings before his four band-mates join in and get a show heavy with new songs under way; what a great fucking start. Next is ‘Perfume & Lace’ off Hex.Lover.Killer before ‘Counter Revolution’ from Talupo Mountain Music Vol. II gives the dual guitarists a chance to let rip.

Next comes the first two tracks from the album, ‘Stars’ and ‘America’; by which stage the crowd is getting loose (thanks for the elbow to the jaw, Red Bull girl) and Hammond announces “those of you who have the first EP – we are playing fucking nothing off that thing, I’m telling you now!”

Eighth song of the evening ‘I Was Profound Tomorrow’ brings the pace back down a bit before the three-track finale of “our big hit from the radio” ‘Rah Rah Radio’, ‘Money’, and the instrumental ‘Save It ’til The Morning’. The out-and-out ROCK of the first two is nicely matched with the psych jam riffs of the latter, and the band leave the stage to huge applause.

Of course the lads are hounded back to the stage for the obligatory encore which is overshadowed by Hammond and guitarist Tristan James relating a story about The Preatures drummer’s “total bitch” of an ex-girlfriend who took a communal microwave and locked it in her bedroom. Hammond’s response? Take the TV and put it in the garden. His punishment? Get pushed through a table. Rock and roll…

Hex.Lover.Killer is a top rock ‘n’ roll album and tonight’s launch more than does it justice. Do yourself a favour and go see ’em.

THE DELTA RIGGS ARE TOURING NOW! SEE http://www.thedeltariggs.com/ FOR DETAILS.

Live review: The XX + Jagwar Ma – Brisbane Convention Centre – 9th April 2013

Two million Facebook ‘likes’ – that’s how popular The XX are. Two million people the world over have been affected enough by their music to seek out a particular web page and give them their seal of approval with a single click. Until Tuesday, I was not one of those people. But only until Tuesday.

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I enter Brisbane’s Convention Centre and make the seemingly endless walk from the Melbourne Street entrance to where the action is, and am immediately presented with a dilemma – grab a drink from the bar and hoof it down me in the foyer (no drinks allowed in the auditorium!), or head straight in and catch the support. Thankfully I make the sensible choice and head in to see Jagwar Ma. From the very start, I like them; I’m a sucker for a band with the knack of mashing indie rock and dance beats together with such great results. ‘Come and Save Me’ is a top track, and the three-piece are full of energy throughout their set, even if the majority of this audience aren’t. The other track I recognise – ‘The Throw’ – is just as good, if not better, and I note more than a hint of The Happy Mondays and the production of Martin Hannett in the band. Bravo.

Brisbane Convention Centre is normally far from being the best venue to watch a band; the pristine carpets, middle-of-the-road alcohol policy, and office-like sterility don’t exactly lend character to an evening’s gig-going, but in some ways it’s the perfect place for The XX’s live show. The London trio’s music pulls fans of all ages to the gig, and the sparse stage lightning is perfectly suited for their dark and brooding tunes.

After a short wait the lights are dimmed and Oliver Sim, Romy Madley Croft, and Jamie Smith walk onto the stage, and ‘Try’ begins (anyone else think the beginning sounds like a car alarm?) Huge cheers reverberate around the Convention Centre and the track has all the ominous feel that’s on the record. Songs from their debut album and latest offering Coexist are blended seamlessly, including ‘Crystalised’, ‘Chained’, and ‘Reunion’ in quick succession before Oliver addresses the audience with “How’s it going Brisbane? This is the last day of the entire tour, so I not only want to thank you all, but I want to thank you as a country too.” Cue fervent, patriotic cheers.

‘Sunset’ is next, and it’s at this point I realise what a tight guitar player Romy is; she doesn’t miss a note all night and her riffs really stand out amongst the atmospheric haze emanating from the stage. ‘Missing’ follows, then ‘Reconsider’; a B-side off Coexist, then earlier track ‘VCR’.

A couple of songs later, and before the climax of a giant ‘X’ appearing on the stage amid a mess of white light and smoke, Oliver address the audience again. “Thank you so much Brisbane,” he says. “This has been our longest tour in Australia. We still don’t know what a bogan is, and we haven’t spent more than an hour on a beach, but we’ll be very sad to leave.”

I leave the Convention Centre and walk across the bridge towards the city with senses somehow more in tune with my surroundings. It’s a strange kind of bliss seeing The XX.