Category Archives: Live Music Reviews

Live review: The Art of Sleeping + Tourism + Palindromes – Oh Hello!, Brisbane – June 2012

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Queuing in the rain is never the best start to any gig experience, but that is what several hundred pumped-up students and I do before being welcomed into the garish, retina-burning interior of Oh Hello! nightclub. Pumping beats, two-metre tall He-Man cartoons on the walls, and multicoloured lamps suspended from the ceiling just about describes our surroundings for the evening. This is a student event, so free and/or cheap stuff is a must; the freebies coming in the form of popcorn and fairy floss, and the cheap stuff involving drinks promotions, helping us to forget the weather and anticipate a great night of music.

First on the bill is Sydney pop duo Palindromes, except… nothing happens. There is some movement of people on stage that looks to be them setting up, but not a note is played, and we left to contend with the DJ’s seemingly-endless supply of indie remixes. Time drifts by without a hint of the opening band, unless I was so absorbed in the adventures of our camp hero from Castle Grayskull and watching Arnie pump iron on the big screens that I missed them – in which case I’d appreciate anyone letting me know if they are any good, or indeed what the f… happened.

Over an hour after Palindromes are meant to start, Tourism take the stage and lift the energy level in the room immediately with their engaging blend of indie guitar pop and cheeky north-of-England attitude. Lead singer Joe sings in his distinctively-charming Derbyshire accent and his four-piece band play tight, quirky guitar tunes in the style of early Arctic Monkeys, with a hint of the melodies of cult Liverpool band The Las. “We don’t have to go to school tomorrow!” Joe announces to the guys and girls at the front, much to their appreciation, before guitarist Adrian vomits on his guitar without losing his massive grin. Tourism obviously weren’t thinking of Google when choosing their band name, but they are worth checking out if you can find their website among all the holiday promotions and flight offers.

It’s also at this point that one skinny tie-wearing hipster and I have the following exchange:

Hipster: Is this Art Of Sleeping?
Me: No, it’s Tourism.
Hipster: Who?
Me: They’re called Tourism, The Art Of Sleeping’s support band!
Hipster: Does the support band come before or after Art Of Sleeping?
Me: *palm face*

Thankfully The Art Of Sleeping step up and inject some class into proceedings and effortlessly provide the highlight of the night. The Brisbane five-piece’s dreamy, measured, folk-rock sound instantly demands attention, and they have the melodies, instrumentation, and great choruses to keep you enthralled until they decide they are done.

They fire off two up-tempo numbers to get the energy of the audience up, with second song ‘Voodoo’ sounding particularly fantastic before ‘Like A Thief’ slows things down and allows us to fully appreciate Caleb Hodges’ voice, before he thanks the home crowd for coming and tells us how great it is to be back in Brisbane.

Hodges then introduces the next song – a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Cowgirl In The Sand’ – by saying “this song normally has a twenty-minute guitar solo, but we cut it to eighteen”. They do the song justice, and guitarist Patrick Silver peels off a nice-sounding solo.

Penultimate song ‘Above the Water’ – The Art Of Sleeping’s most recent single – soars in all kinds of epic ways, before closer and Triple J favourite ‘Empty Hands’ ups the quality even more and provides the perfect finish. The grateful band show their appreciation and invite fans to speak to them after the show, before leaving the small Oh Hello! stage, and the DJ starts up again.

The Art Of Sleeping undoubtedly have the quality to make it, and deserve to be playing in bigger and better venues. Personally, I would love to see them headline somewhere like the Zoo or the Tivoli, with their own appreciative audience in tow. At their present rate of ascent we shouldn’t have to wait too long.

P.S. – Fellow AAA reviewer Kirsten was at the same venue last week, and mentioned the smell as being a strange mix of good and bad. The burnt sugar odour from one side of the room meets the acidic vomit stench from the toilets at the other, and joins with the normal beer-and-squashed-lemon-slice bar scent to form quite an eye-watering mix. This is probably more information than you need to know.

Live review: Tame Impala + The Growl – The Tivoli, Brisbane – December 2012

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Tame Impala are riding high right now; of that there can be no argument. Receiving heaped praise, awards, and inclusions in many album-of-2012 lists, the Western Australia band are enjoying a particularly purple patch since the release of second album Lonerism. Live shows, on the other hand, are a completely different basket of bananas, with mainman Kevin Parker recently describing his new live band as a “small, five-man orchestra;” as he felt the need to add a new touring member in order to incorporate the new layers of sound found on Lonerism. A sold out Tivoli, legions of fans queueing down the street, and a hot Brisbane Wednesday night awaits the psych-rock quintet as we look forward to hearing some new sounds. Tame Impala, our minds are yours for the evening.

Openers The Growl are under way as I arrive into the already bulging Tivoli; the Fremantle junkyard rockers are mashing together a depraved digest of noises from a stage bathed in a deep blue glow. At first I take them for a manic avant-garde outfit, but they quickly win me over with their irreverent racket, complete with frontman Cameron Avery’s brilliantly-bluesy voice and hand-on-hip mannerisms that remind of a scruffy Pelle Almqvist. The band’s two drummers hit the skins hard enough to raise the dead on the excellent ‘Cleaver Lever’, and before they sign off, Avery requests that “Everybody gets home safe. Don’t drink and drive!” while seeming genuinely pleased and grateful to be playing on the Tivoli stage. Upon completion of their set, I have no real idea what I just saw and heard, but I know my ringing ears liked it – check them out.

The Tivoli is now filling to bursting point, and I get the impression there are many people here who don’t regularly go to gigs; the type who treat the experience as a chance to get catastrophically wasted and shamble around the place like lobotomised chimps. But not to worry, Tame Impala take to a stage now awash with amber and red lighting, smoke, and effects, as ‘Be Above It’ – conveniently the first song off the new album – starts up, before the music quickly melts into ‘Solitude is Bliss’, which sounds pretty damn fantastic, and simultaneously thunderous.

The next few songs flip between those from Lonerism and Innerspeaker, and for me, the earlier songs are superior, or at least they sound so played live. ‘It is Not Meant to Be’ sounds much fatter compared to ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, although the majority of the Tivoli audience lose their shit during the new songs, most notably on ‘Elephant’, which sees a mini mosh-pit break out several metres from the stage. My own desire to pogo withheld, I particularly enjoy the one-two of ‘Lucidity’ and ‘Alter Ego;’ the latter being probably the best thing the band has done in this writer’s opinion.

A fine finishing trio of ‘Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?,’ ‘Desire Be, Desire Go,’ and ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ round out a deafening set, before the band come back on for one last epic jam, complete with The Growl’s Cameron on maracas, to finish up the night and send their fans home happy.

Tame Impala are a great band and deserve the plaudits they have been getting recently; Parker’s new songs are original and flaunt a range not present on the debut album. Stage presence and audience interaction may not be their greatest strengths, but the quality of the music is more than enough to make their show one worth catching.

Live review: Stonefield + The Delta Riggs – The Zoo, Brisbane – April 2012

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It’s refreshing that in a week where the ‘biggest’ musical event to happen in Brisbane was One Fucking Direction selling out the Convention Centre and forcing a collective creaming of jeans amongst their adolescent marketing victims (sorry, fans), people who like proper music played by proper musicians could cruise along to the Zoo in the Valley and hear some of the best young rock bands in Australia right now. Thank Christ for Stonefield.

Before this review turns into a rant against boy bands and all things manufactured, let me just say I have nothing against them; it’s their fans that need beaten with several pieces of heavy farming equipment. Twenty dollars would maybe get you two hotdogs and a coke at the Convention Centre while you listen to five prancing teens sing about their manginas, or nearly five hours of committed, pure-as-the-driven-snow rock ‘n’ roll at the Zoo; music played by the people who wrote it, and with enough conviction and attitude to scare One Direction’s balls into dropping.

One bunch of guys who have absolutely no problem locating their balls is support act The Delta Riggs; the Melbourne five-piece packing enough gloriously groovy Southern-rock cool into their set to make you think every piece of music since 1974 never happened. Decked out in cowboy hats, retro ‘70s shirts, and hair galore, they incorporate epic guitar, organ, and even some bluesy harmonica into a fantastic set. Taunting the “silly bunch of cunts up the back” for being too-cool-for-school and not joining in the fun, front man Elliott Hammond oozes Jagger-esque attitude and even manages to include “lend me some sugar, I am your neighbour!” from Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ into the middle of a song. The highlight of their set however, was Hammond brilliantly dedicating their song ‘Mary’ to Levon Helm, The Band’s legendary singing drummer, who died this week.

Speaking of singing drummers, Stonefield’s Amy Findlay has one hell of a set of pipes, and her band has more balls than One Direction’s entire fan base and the Delta Riggs put together. I have to admit, I was surprised and impressed by the power of the four hard-rocking sisters from rural Victoria, as they pounded, slapped, and strummed the living shit out of their instruments in an amazing seventy-five minute set.

As they are a young band yet to release their debut long player, you can pretty much be certain of which songs will feature in a Stonefield set. ‘Move Out Of My Shadow,’ ‘Drowning,’ and ‘Addicted Love’ are all blasted into the audience with one hundred percent commitment, with guitarist Hannah effortlessly peeling off the riffs like she has been doing it for decades, while baby-of-the-family and bassist Holly lifts her tiny frame onto the monitors, twirls her waist-length hair and gives it everything. It’s frightening to think that at fourteen years old she has already played the Glastonbury festival in England and toured all over Australia and the world.

It’s when Hannah switches her Gibson SP for a Les Paul and the crushing opening riff of ‘Black Water Rising’ thunders from the stage that the second half of the set cranks the proceedings up a notch. With the energy level not letting up, and Amy putting so much into her vocals that you think her vocal cords can’t possibly hold out, they launch into new single ‘Bad Reality;’ another blast of blistering, pounding rock riffage that should be a set staple for years to come.

Steppenwolf classic ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ gets a run-out – a song that perfectly encapsulates Stonefield’s spirit and allows keyboardist Sarah to flaunt her skills – before the support drummer comes on and Hannah takes the stage front and centre for ‘Drowning.’ Closer and Triple J favourite ‘Through The Clover’ gets an epic airing before the girls leave the stage to massive cheers and whistles from the Zoo audience.

Two minutes later, after much foot-stomping and calls for more, they are back, launching into Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ with almost as much swagger and energy as Page and co. did in their heyday. Amy’s voice seems tailor-made for the song, and she doesn’t let up with the vocal acrobatics until the dying seconds, when she and her sisters leave the stage for good, to the sounds of ringing appreciation from all sections of the audience.

All in all, it was an epic night of old-school rock ‘n’ roll, by young bands having the time of their lives, doing what they love, and playing music in a style that belies their tender years. It’s all too easy to rant about manufactured pop and the shit state of the music industry, but after seeing these guys in action I take heart. The next half-century of Australian rock is in good hands.

Live review: BIGSOUND Live – Fortitude Valley, Brisbane – September 2012

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Those who fear commitment must love BIGSOUND Live; it’s the music festival equivalent of speed-dating. There’s barely enough time to get comfy with a band or venue before being whisked off to another to be overcome with a brand new feeling of admiration or excitement all over again. It’s also a festival that provides endless opportunities for good times. Got your schedule, wristband, and beer money? Then let the games begin…

Wednesday 12th September

The BIGSOUND timetable causes strange things to happen in the Valley’s entertainment precinct. Like unnatural tidal phenomena, waves of people wash in and out of the twelve venues every twenty minutes like clockwork, beaching themselves in a rush to get to the action before heading off to check in somewhere else. Doorways are crowded, stairwells filled, and alleyways transformed into heaving masses of humanity, eager to suck in the atmosphere before it dissipates for another year.

Ric’s bar is filled to bursting as Jeremy Neale kicks off proceedings, with punters scrambling for vantage points or watching from outside. Despite announcing to the audience that he has lost his voice, his vocals and indeed the entire band sound tight and focussed, as they bob their heads to the side in unison and knock out some bangin’ ’60s-flavoured pop, with plenty of wide grins from the man himself. Fifth track ‘Darlin’’ proves to the be the highlight of a jaunty and jumpin’ party-starting set.

A quick dash up the Black Bear Lodge stairs later and I am greeted with the ever-good voice of James Walsh, playing his band Starsailor’s ‘Good Souls’. “Welcome to BIGSOUND everyone!” he offers the growing audience in his deep Wigan brogue, before playing ‘Barcelona’; a new song in the talented vocalist’s arsenal. Starsailor classic ‘Silence Is Easy’ still sounds fantastic, before a charming cover of Springsteen’s ‘Hungry Heart’ provides a pleasant surprise.

Over at the Zoo in Ann Street, Sons of Rico are setting up to a sparse audience, before a sudden influx of wrist-banded people semi-fills the venue. As the band launch into the rocking ‘Miss Adventure’ and benefit from the quality of the venue’s sound system, sporadic dancing breaks out in front of the stage, and there are definite hints of head-nodding across the rest of the audience. Threatening to break into an all-out heavy-psych jam at one point, the quintet round off an impressive set with radio-staple ‘This Madness’, leaving me thinking that their album doesn’t do the band’s abilities justice.

Barely an hour has passed and it’s time for band number four: slacker-rockers Bearhug, who are tackling the awkward layout of the Press Club. It’s not the best venue for live music, given that a massive fan/propeller blocks out the stage, but the five Sydneysiders don’t seem worried, immediately kicking off a slow, groovy jam as the venue absorbs punters from the street. Fourth track, the West-Coast-flavoured ‘Angeline’, ups the pace and gives the dual guitars and military-precision drumming a chance to shine. Jesse Bayley can fire off a solo with the best of them, and he does so on ‘Over The Hill’, before the final tune, the Pavement-esque ‘Cinema West’ is introduced as being a “song that a 55 year-old woman told us was shit.” Shit it definitely isn’t, as the set finishes to ringing applause from all around.

Back at the Zoo, Sydney’s post-rock folkies Winter People are making a politely-ethereal noise. The girls’ dual violins add a touch of country to the band’s sound, and frontman Dylan Baskind is as humble a musician as you will find. “BIGSOUND is like being at a gourmet food buffet,” he announces. “So many options, and you chose us: minced cabbage.” If you haven’t caught them live yet, do so, and get your filthy paws on their Gallons EP while you’re at it – these guys are something special.

Déjà vu is setting in as Black Bear lodge beckons once again, this time for Melbourne’s bastards of blues-rock, The Delta Riggs. The energy reverberating around the small venue multiplies many-fold as the cocksure five-piece take the stage and roll out one of the rawk-iest performances of the evening. Frontman Elliott Hammond is all hair, hips, and swagger, as he leads his band in a one-two attack of high-tempo rockers, before breaking it back down for the disgustingly-groovy ‘Mary’. Introducing ‘Money’ as a “song for all you cunts out there”, Hammond proceeds to improvise the lyrics in an extended jam, coaxing the pumped audience into a giant sing-a-long of “holy guacamole, we got chips!” before announcing that everybody present is “now in the band”.

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The luxury of staying in the same venue is a welcome relief as next up at Black Bear is Sydney quintet The Preatures. They again draw a large, energetic crowd, and it quickly becomes clear why. As the band take the stage and kick their blend of gothic rock ’n’ roll into gear, any semblance of journalistic professionalism I have floats out the door, as I’m too mesmerized by the performance of singers Isabella Manfredi and Gideon Bensen to take notes or even really care why I’m here; the performance is that damn good. Manfredi has an impressive range and works the crowd like a dream; flicking her hair and making eye contact with the front rows, before Bensen opens his mouth and lets out a sound that you would expect to hear from an old delta bluesman, not a 20-something bloke from New South Wales. I come back to my senses in time to realise ‘Take A Card’ is a fantastic track, and hear Bensen announce their last song ‘Hero’; a newly-written tune. The Preatures are my undisputed live highlight of day one; simply fantastic.

Maybe I’m still buzzing on a Preatures-induced high, but over at Winn Lane Velociraptor’s performance seems a little sub-par. That’s not to say they don’t still wipe the floor with most of the other acts on the bill, but maybe it’s frontman Jeremy Neale’s voice or the reduced crowd interaction from being on a raised stage, but the guys and girl aren’t as chaotically-brilliant as usual. Reduced to a ten-piece as the DZ guys are in the States, they nevertheless power through ‘Hey Suzanne’ and ‘Riot’, among others, and provide an interesting spectacle to look at, as always.

All that’s left for day one of BIGSOUND is to go through the airport levels of security into Oh Hello! and catch King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, who have no hesitation in cranking out an unholy racket from the get-go. The Melbourne eight-piece launch into a tangled, crunching mass of psychedelic punk with energy by the truckload, as songs like ‘Black Tooth’ and ‘Dead-Beat’ encourage the crowd-surfers and pogoing punks to bounce around like chimps on speed. Having just realised their debut album, the band are clearly riding high and full of confidence, as they provide an ear-drum-splitting finale to Wednesday night.

Thursday 13th September

The working day passed me by as if I was stuck in suspended animation between two zones of music festival awesomeness, punctuated only by a quick lunchtime blast of tunes at Jamie’s Espresso in James Street with Streamer Bendy, who put in a fine performance of shout-y pop-rock in the early-afternoon sun.

Eight o’clock comes around again, and I find myself at Magic City for the first time, to take in another band who have just released their debut record: Split Seconds. Looking lean and mean, the Perth boys put in a fine set filled with songs from You’ll Turn Into Me. The venue quickly fills up by the end of first track ‘Security Light’, despite the doors only being opened at 8pm on the dot (bad decision Magic City!) ‘Maiden Name’ follows, then the catchy-as-fuck ‘Top Floor’, followed by ‘She Makes Her Own Clothes’, which frontman Sean Pollard laughingly describes as being “about the joys of sewing”. The only way to finish is with the always-excellent ‘All You Gotta Do’; the band leaving the stage to well-deserved thunderous applause and satisfied smiles from the audience.

A quick duck into the Black Bear Lodge to hear the pop delights of former Go-Betweens members Adele & Glenn (Adele Pickvance and Glenn Thompson) is followed by a dash down to the Zoo to catch Hey Geronimo. A huge crowd is there to see the Brisbane indie-poppers, as they begin getting hips moving with the opening bass-line to The George Baker Selection’s ‘Little Green Bag’, before launching into their own ‘Carbon Affair’, followed quickly by ‘Dreamboat Jack’. At this point I’m considering chucking my beer away and jumping around like an idiot, the quirky ‘60s-flavoured pop tunes coming from the stage being so infectious, but I settle for tapping a foot and grinning from ear to ear. ‘Co-Op Bookshop’ follows next, as the boys put in one of the funnest and most upbeat performances of the night.

Next it’s into the depths of the sparsely filled Alhambra Lounge to catch a short burst of Sydney’s Underlights. As I arrive they are pumping out impressive waves of bluesy psychedelia, building the sound into a wall of noise that reverberates around the brick interior of the club. However, it’s at this point that my evening is temporarily derailed as my iPhone decides to fuck itself (thus losing my BIGSOUND schedule) and I have to go outside to make a call to fix it, and miss the rest of the set. Damn you, technology!

Back at the Bakery Lane stage, Dubmarine are making sure everybody is dancing frantically with a range of high-energy, pumping dub and dance tracks. Blasts of trombone and synths rain down on the energetic crowd as the energy levels remain high. The fact that they are late replacements for an unwell Owl Eyes has left a few confused people wondering what is going on. One guy sees me writing and we have the following exchange:

Guy: “Is this Owl Eyes, mate?
Me: “Umm… no.”
Guy: “Who is it?”
Me: “Dubmarine.”
Guy: “Who?”
Me: “DUBMARINE.”
Guy: “Oh, I was wondering why they didn’t look like Owl Eyes!”

I should probably try to be more friendly to strangers. Anyhow, a quick stretch of the legs back up Ann Street and Oh Hello! is the location, catching Courtney Barnett’s set the aim. But alas, the bouncer rules that my mate is too hammered and refuses him entry. We decide to take a punt on the Press Club – where the door staff are either much less diligent or much more accommodating, I’m not sure which – and have a look and a listen to the pixie-like Elizabeth Rose. The venue is packed with punters, musicians, and Triple J faces alike; all ready to hear the young Sydneysider’s synth and vocals solo show. If she is nervous it doesn’t show at all, as tune after tune of multi-layered electronica is reeled off, accompanied by her confident vocals. “It’s my first time at BIGSOUND and I’m loving it!” she tells the audience, before kicking into her remix of ‘Foreign Language’ by Flight Facilities, her eyes closed as she puts everything into the vocals, while twiddling several knobs and pushing buttons at the same time.

The only knobs that King Cannons twiddle at Winn Lane are the ones that turn their amps up to eleven. As straight-forward a rock show as you will see; theirs is also one of the most exciting. Striding onto stage like men (and woman) on a mission to be your favourite band, they start into ‘Stand Right Up’, peeling off the committed, everyman style of blue collar rock they have made their trademark. I already know this is going to be the highlight of the entire BIGSOUND Live festival.

“If you feel good, clap your hands!” yells singer Luke Yeoward, and the crowd respond in unison, before the music rolls over into ‘Call For Help’, with Lanae Eruera’s bongos setting off the dual-Fender and piano riffage nicely. ‘Take The Rock’ is next; the chorus part of “Blow it up! Tear shit up!” sounding like possibly one of the best drunken sing-along songs you’d ever want to hear at a festival. ‘Too Young’ follows, another rousing track from The Brightest Light, as sweat pours in rivers from Yeoward’s face and the energy of the audience shows no sign of lowering. ‘The Brightest Light’ and ‘Too Hot To Handle’ are next, without a drop in energy level; the latter morphing into a galloping cover of ‘Rockaway Beach’. Just when I think this set can’t get any better, they go and play a Ramones song. HELL YES.

The closer for King Cannons sweat-drenched set is ‘Teenage Dreams’, the reggae-influenced rhythms allowing the band to have a bit of a jam, chucking in a few bars of ‘Pressure Drop’ by Toots & The Maytals in a singularly epic finale. The appreciative roar from the audience is massive, and with ringing ears and in the knowledge that I’m unlikely to hear anything better tonight, I set off towards the Mustang Bar.

Mia Dyson’s band are setting up in the partially-full venue as the lady herself chats to fans by the pool table. Looking like an ‘80s Annie Lennox and carrying herself with the confident air of a well-travelled performer, Dyson grabs the audience’s attention with her bluesy, whisky-throated drawl and ability to shred with the best of them. Introducing ‘Jesse’ as a “song about adoption”, before summing up her BIGSOUND experience as “having no idea what to expect, but this is lovely,” she then counts in the first track from her new album The Moment, ‘When The Moment Comes’, which she makes sound effortlessly stylish.

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Trudging back to the Press Club for one last set, I realise BIGSOUND Live is almost over. Tired but happy, I fight my way through the crowd waiting to see Drunk Mums. As they start to play in their raucous pseudo-anarchic style, I scribble the words ‘they look like a bunch of hyper, bogan speed-freaks, pissed off ‘cos they’ve had their hubcaps nicked,’ and that, to me, makes some kind of perfect sense. Their set is a glorious mess of scrappy garage-punk songs, mullets, and blood (the skinny, shirtless one covered in marker pen scrawl keeps punching himself in the mouth). As the sweaty, aggro-fuelled set is coming to an end, a scuffle breaks out to the side of the stage as a BIGSOUND bouncer jumps on a guy who was apparently going a bit too far with the argy-bargy on the dance floor, and they roll around, locked in a loving embrace on the floor for a while until the punter realises he‘s defeated. Girlfriends inevitably get involved, handbags come out, there is shoving and confusion, and I decide it’s time for me to call it a night and go home. To the taxi rank, home, and into bed with ringing ears I go, happy after a night of great music and good times.

So, what to say in summary about this fantastic festival? The first thing is that I had a damn good time. The second is that it was put together brilliantly. In fact, probably the only thing worth debating is which bands played the best sets (King Cannons and The Preatures in this writer’s opinion.) Kudos to the organisers, and the volunteers, and the venue staff who made it run so smoothly; you guys did a bang-up job. But most of all, thank you to the more than 120 bands who made us forget the world for a short, but glorious time. BIGSOUND 2013 can’t come soon enough.

Live review: Soundwave Festival, Brisbane – March 2013

Duff McKagan
Duff McKagan

Walking from Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley train station to the RNA Showgrounds before the first installment of 2013’s Soundwave instils a certain feeling in a music fan. Trudging these plain back streets would normally be a non-event, but as the stream of mostly black t-shirt-ed metallers, rock chicks, and the odd shambling drunk winds its way towards the gaping entrance to the festival, a growing sense of anticipation and excitement becomes apparent.

Each of us is swallowed up by the throng of people surging through the entrance barriers, before being delivered deep into the belly of the beast that is the sprawling Soundwave festival. Next comes confusion, as maps are studied in a vain effort to gain a sense of geography, before the line fans out and is absorbed into various crowds. Game on.

Choosing the first band to see solely based on the fact they are (presumably) named after a much-loved coming-of-age TV show you watched at your grandma’s house every Thursday after school may not be the conventional way of doing things, but Philadelphia’s The Wonder Years prove to be a good starting point. Their bouncy brand of pop punk attracts a large crowd, which quickly turns into an energetic, elbow-y circle pit on singer Dan Campbell’s request.

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Orange Goblin

Next up is veteran English hard rock act Orange Goblin over at the secluded stage five. These guys have featured several times in Classic Rock magazine, and for good reason; they rock as hard as anyone on the bill today, and frontman Ben Ward has the everyman appeal that makes you want to be his mate, as he pumps his fist in the air and asks for more from the audience, wearing a t-shirt bearing the faces of his obvious influence, Thin Lizzy. “This is our first ever show in Australia,” he semi-growls, to a rapturous response, as both band and audience seem genuinely grateful to be present. Well played lads.

Flogging Molly have a large, sweaty crowd eating from their Celtic folk-punk hands over at the larger stage two as they run through a set of songs custom-made for a good ol’ festival singsong. Dedications to Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash only increase the fervour as Bridget Regan breaks out her tin whistle and spasmodic faux-Irish dancing breaks out among the boozy audience – ridiculously comical, yet somehow quite perfect.

Over at stage three, Sleeping With Sirens are typical of the type of band on the bill that seem geared towards attracting the teen dollar, and each of their poppy post-hardcore tunes elicits a swell of adolescent screeching in the hot afternoon sun, while back at the main arena, Kyuss Lives! mostly ignore the crowd as they crank out waves of heavy stoner rock across the arena. Any form of Kyuss without Josh Homme or Nick Olivieri on board loses the majority of its appeal, and today’s show reinforces that idea.

Seeing many of the Soundwave bands brings back fond memories to ’90s and early ’00s kids – indeed many of the groups on the bill had their first successes around that time and are now either stalking new territory or living on past glories to various extents. There’s no harm in either of these routes of course, as long as they can be pulled off (seriously, how many people are really here to hear Blink-182 play the B-sides from the latest album?), but Sum-41 can’t really manage either, as their newer songs are average at best and their early material was never really that good in the first place. Add to this frontman Deryck Whibley’s lukewarm attempts at crowd interaction and you get a disinterested ‘meh’.

A quick trip back to stage three (via a brief but savage blast of Slayer) to be subjected to a short burst of All Time Low’s sub-par, teen-baiting dick jokes is followed by the hike back to stage five for Duff McKagan’s Loaded. It’s interesting that each of the ex-members of Guns ‘N’ Roses put their names in their band titles – from Slash’s Snakepit, Adler’s Appetite, and Izzy Stradlin and the JuJu Hounds, and it’s a sign of what sells and why people still want to see them play; because they were in frickin’ Guns ‘N’ Roses. Not needing to trade on past glories, McKagan’s band is tight and melodic, and he is an engaging frontman with a decent voice (as well as being in amazingly good shape for a man of nearly fifty).

Back at the main arena, the time of day when bellies being to rumble and the desire to trade all your worldly belongings for a comfortable chair has arrived. The dull drone of A Perfect Circle booms out across the showgrounds as dusk looms, and after a quick visit to the litter-strewn feasting area, it’s time to check out another band who had their heyday in the ’90s: Garbage.

Guys (and girls) of a certain age will always have a soft spot for Shirley Manson; she was the alternative rock babe of choice for a while back in the day, and tonight she proves she’s still got the pipes and the performance for a big occasion like Soundwave. The stick-thin singer bounds from one side of the stage to the other in an up-tempo and committed performance, as two of the band’s biggest hits, ‘Stupid Girl’ and ‘Paranoid’ are fired off early in the set like they’re no big deal, earning a huge response from the large crowd.

Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham wastes no time in getting among the sparse but hyped crowd over at stage five. “You could be getting a good spot for Metallica but you came here instead, HA HA HA HA,” the singer yells, before throwing off his shirt and launching his considerable bulk at the front rows. The following couple of minutes is a lesser-known highlight of the entire festival, as the singer mixes it with the fans, invites participation on vocals, loses his microphone cord, and fights off attempts by security to pull him back towards the stage, as the band ploughs faithfully on with looks of “he does this all the time” on their faces and the barrier between band and fan is beautifully and unequivocally shattered. Actually, damn it, it is the highlight of the festival, and the small yet appreciative crowd seems to agree.

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Blink-182

And so, the business end of the show is fast approaching as darkness falls over Soundwave. Much has been said and written about timetable clashes and drummers not making the flight blah blah etc, but the truth is that the Soundwave organisers have put together an absolutely stellar line-up for this year’s festival, and the rock-loving people of Brisbane and elsewhere are spoilt for choice, such is the embarrassment of rock ‘n’ roll riches on show here tonight. Two pretty great bands playing at the same time? First world problems, motherfuckers.

As the curtain rises and Blink-182 kick off their set, it occurs to me what a colossal noise they make for a three-piece, and how Brooks Wackerman fits in seamlessly on the skins. By third track ‘Rock Show’ the pumped up audience is so absorbed in the music that Metallica seems like a distant memory. It’s hard to know whether Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge are still the boneheaded, dick-joke cracking frat brats they profess to be, or how much of it is just them doing what’s expected, but god damn do they put on a show.

And so, as the sky lights up, the spaghetti western theme trails off, and Metallica open up with ‘Hit the Lights’ and ‘Master of Puppets’ before closing with an epic ‘Enter Sandman’ in an absolute monster of a show, the Soundwave faithful know they’ve witnessed something special here today. AJ Maddah and co. will surely give themselves a headache trying to better this line-up next year as what just happened was pretty spectacular. Led Zeppelin and a reformed Cream, perhaps? Bring it on.

Live review: Future Music Festival, Brisbane – March 2013

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Anybody reading this will probably know by now that the Brisbane leg of Future Music Festival 2013 descended into something close to the seventh level of satanic mud hell; a washout of such magnitude that at one stage I caught myself looking at a discarded soggy pizza box and considering it a good vantage point. It’s tempting to launch into a rant about festival organisation/contingency plans/lack of shelter blah blah etc., but given a few hours to reflect since fighting off borderline hypothermia and trench foot, I realise that the day’s rain, mud, and general quagmire-related grimness are the things that are going to make Future 2013 so memorable. To my fellow festival-goers who made it through the day and came out smiling – I salute you!

I arrived at Doomben Racecourse just before 1pm, and headed to the Mariachi stage on the far side of the compound. At this point there was plenty of water on the ground and rain still falling in torrents, but no hint of the sludge-fest it would soon become. Gypsy & the Cat were just kicking off, sounding like a sight for sore ears with the always excellent ‘Bloom’ appearing early in the set to lift spirits and brighten hearts. The band’s music is perfect for a summer festival; all sunny melodies and harmonies, and it still sounded so through the deluge. ‘The Piper’s Song’ and ‘Only in December’ followed, before ‘Jona Vark’ provided a late set highlight, as singer Xavier Bacash invited the audience to sing along, which they did in spades.

Okay, I don’t want this review to turn into a weather report, but it’s safe to say that at this early stage I was soaked to my balls, as was every other person present, I’m guessing. Ellie Goulding – next up at the Mariachi stage – acknowledged the shitty situation with “thank you so much for coming to see me guys, I know how bad it is out there,” between showcasing her powerful voice (forgive me for not writing the playlist down – my notepad turned to mush and my phone was wrapped in a plastic sandwich bag) and covering several kilometres around the stage. Another fine set to lift spirits.

There are only so many times you can listen to “Brisbane: make some noizzzeeee!” or “Brisbane: put your hands up in the aaaaiiiiirrrrr!”, so Rita Ora’s crap-pop quickly became tiresome. Party and bullshit? Well – you’re half right Rita.

So, after a quick trip to the bar for the soothing nectar, it was back to the Mariachi stage to catch New York indie-rockers Fun.. Satisfyingly, they began with single ‘Some Nights’ and the energy level of frontman Nate Ruess didn’t let up from there, as the crowd bounced in unison to their quirky pop tunes. Any band that can make lyrics like “Well some nights I wish that all this could end, cause I could use some friends for a change” sound so damn cheerful and catchy are okay by me.

Weather update: still raining, beginning to shiver. Grass slowly disappearing under mud.

Azealia Banks has courted plenty of controversy recently with her alleged homophobic remarks, but it has to be said: the girl has a voice. She had gathered the biggest crowd of the day so far to her set; her voice booming across the racecourse with the easy confidence of someone who had been doing it for decades, not the young lady that she is.

One name that stood out to everybody when looking at their timetables was South Korean sensation Psy. His ‘Gangnam Style’ was one of the most talked about things of 2012, and I still can’t work out why. As I got a decent vantage point for his set I felt a small sting of shame that I was a tiny part of making this nonsensical tune more of a thing than it should be. Psy himself, is under no illusions, however. Addressing the audience before a note is played, he humbly pokes fun at his act by saying “You know me for one song only, but I’m contracted to do five, sorry,” before playing three songs (with excellent vocals on his part and a multitude of glamorous dancers), then announcing he will do ‘Gangnam Style’ twice to massive cheers and hectic dancing. I leave thinking that it’s all a bit of harmless fun and we’re all total suckers for finding something so silly even remotely entertaining. Well played, sir.

At this point I needed to get some circulation going again in my limbs, so I made the trek through the sea of deserted, muddy shoes and up to the grandstand to get some heat, food, and beer in my shivering body and send my editor a bitchy text along the lines of “Only the Stone Roses are worth this shit.”

After a deep, drunken, and borderline sexist discussion with some wasted Irish guys about the ins and outs of dating Australian women, I return to the other side of the waterlogged field once more, take in the end of A-Trak’s set, and settle in for The Temper Trap. It had taken over five and a half hours, but finally the musical heavyweights were here. Darkness had fallen, and a superb set by the London-via-Melbourne lads culminate with the ubiquitous ‘Sweet Disposition’ in the red spotlight and stage smoke glow provided the highlight of the day so far. Were they ever going to finish with any other song?

Weather update: total fucking quagmire. Can’t feel fingers. Stopped caring ages ago.

As for the highlight of the entire festival: this is the one. The Stone Roses. Now, I have to admit at this point that I’m a massive Stone Roses fanboy – from doing school exams when only ‘Waterfall’ could ease my nerves, to dancing like a monkey to the wig-out at the end of ‘I am the Resurrection’ as a drunken brat of a teenager, to breaking up with my first girlfriend and ‘She Bangs the Drums’ taking me to my happy place – like many others, the ‘Roses are practically sacred to me. Their songs have soundtracked my life, and when the unthinkable happened and they got back together, I shed a few tears of joy. At Future they played ‘I Wanna Be Adored’, ‘(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister’, ‘Shoot You Down’, ‘Waterfall’, ‘Fool’s Gold’, ‘Made of Stone’, ‘This is the One’, ‘Love Spreads’, ‘She Bangs the Drums’, and an epic closing version of ‘I Am The Resurrection’. Ian Brown was on top form – his voice sounding much stronger than Friday night’s gig at the River Stage, and Reni and Mani proved why they are still one of the best rhythm sections around. Before I saw them, I was ready to be most impressed by the groovy stomp of Reni’s drumming, but it was the guitar work of John Squire that made me gasp the most. He is a true titan of the guitar; under his unassuming demeanour there is a monster shredder trying to get out, and I could have listened to him, and all of them, play all night. What a fucking occasion – the music world has missed them.

For me, nothing could have topped the ‘Roses, so I dragged my sorry, drowned-rat ass straight onto the train and made for home, and the safe, comforts like hot showers, dry underwear, and cold beers. Standing ankle-deep in freezing cold shit-water while being pelted sideways by a brutal watery onslaught from the heavens for eight hours (with nothing but a flimsy poncho for cover) in order to hear a few tunes is something to be proud of. To every single person who lasted the day, I say well done. Douchebags, one and all.

Live review: Bluejuice + Gung Ho + The Cairos – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane, April 2012

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The rain-soaked streets of Brisbane’s West End are already full of the usual mix of hipsters, tramps, and drunks by the time the queue of people to see Bluejuice begins to stretch a couple of hundred metres along the side of the Hi-Fi on a cold Saturday night.

Although not quite a full house, the venue is tightly packed for what promises to be an exciting night of music featuring the Sydney pop-rockers, supported by local lads Gung Ho and The Cairos.

First up are Gung Ho; a young band deservedly making big waves on Triple J and with a very bright future ahead of them. Their catchy single ‘Twin Rays’ closes out a short, yet bright set of jangly indie pop.

Next is The Cairos, another band for whom we have high hopes, and also from the school of Triple J. Filling out a set with power, catchiness, and plenty of pop hooks, the local lads seem set for stardom; their new single ‘Shame’ being the highlight of a fun set.

With the crowd well-oiled and raring to go, the Bluejuice boys waste no time in bouncing onto the stage in retina-melting fluorescent garb, sending the enthusiastic audience into a frenzy with a flurry of arms-in-the-air calls to power. Blasting out opener ‘Can’t Keep Up’ with the enthusiasm of a bunch of kids who ate way too much sugar, vocalists Jake Stone and Stavros Yiannoukas work well together, and their infectious energy, unabashed smut, and calls for audience participation turn the crowd into one rippling, surging mass of energy.

They quickly follow up with ‘Recession’ and ‘Vitriol’; the latter track seeing Stone standing on the monitor leading his audience in a sing-along, complete with uniform arm-pumping. It’s at this point it becomes clear that Stone puts everything on the line for his performance, including himself. Over the next couple of songs, he forces his impossibly-skinny body through the audience at floor-level, along the railings at the side of the raised seating area, and back to the stage via the heads and shoulders of the audience; being pulled, pushed, and probably groped in all directions. As he returns to his vantage point he thanks security for “saving his life again,” and the crowd at the front responds with a massive cheer.

Older tune ‘Ain’t Telling The Truth’ keeps the energy levels high, before ‘I’ll Put You On’ is unashamedly introduced by Stone as a “song about fucking.” A tune with Rick James levels of down-and-dirty funk; it’s one the Bluejuice boys clearly wrote with the ladies in mind, and the Hi-Fi girls at front-and-centre show their appreciation with increasingly-frenzied dancing and ear-drum-piercing screaming.

‘Shock’ follows next; another slice of bouncy pop, before Stone again plunges into the crowd and is nearly swallowed up. Once again the security team prove their worth and drag him back to safety.

The majority of songs on Company get an enthusiastic run-out, and just as the energy level starts to drop, Yiannoukas announces “this is our second last song, but we’ll see some of you after for a beer and some sex,” before the band launches into the ridiculously-catchy single ‘Act Yr Age’. This gets the biggest reaction of the night as the crowd loses their collective marbles. Dozens of fluorescent glow sticks are launched into the audience from the stage, adding to the party hijinks.

The band then say their thanks and leave the stage for barely a couple of minutes; the foot-stomping and calls for more bringing them back out to fire off a mellow and melancholy cover of KC & the Sunshine Band’s smash ‘Please Don’t Go,’ before finishing up the set, thanking everyone and walking off stage to massive applause and deafening cheers.

It’s a cold, harsh moment when the house lights flick on at the end of a gig and it’s time to crash back to the reality of hard city streets, fast food litter, and cab rank queues. This is especially true after a gig full of such high energy and danceable pop tunes like the one Bluejuice just put on. A fantastic night of carefree good times was had by all. What more could you want from your Saturday night?

Live review: Angus Stone + Steve Smyth – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane, November 2012

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A packed Hi-Fi (on a night that sees Radiohead playing just up the road at the Entertainment Centre) is the venue on a rainy Brisbane evening, as the Angus Stone show rolls into town for the fifth stop of his Broken Brights tour. Having only ever heard rave reviews about him – and his sister Julia for that matter – but never seen him live myself, I’m here with a slate that’s as clean as a bean and a readiness to absorb the young New South Welshman’s charming folk-rock and psychedelic leanings. Sure, the crowd is made up of 90% girls, 5% brow-beaten boyfriends, and the rest of us are just wondering what the fuck we’re doing here, but with a drink in hand and a perch by the steps, the view is looking pretty good.

The surprisingly aggro-fuelled audience is already fired up by the time support Steve Smyth and his drummer saunter onto the stage, looking like lost Allman Brothers with an enviable array of angular facial hair and locks. “Good evening Brisbane, how are you this evening?” offers the singer, before setting forth on a varied selection of era-bending whiskey-soaked blues, gruff rock, and indie; combining the lot to craft perfectly-poised walls of noise that make the audience stop chattering and listen, impressed. As he swings his SG about like he’s trying to hit a persistent fly, Smyth sings in a voice that is alternatively coarse, clean, and at times even veers into falsetto territory. He ultimately grinds out a singularly bloody beautiful set of songs that leaves me, and I bet many others in the room, wanting to check him out further. Well played sir.

Angus Stone and his band stroll onto the stage in a haze of purple and red lights to the sounds of cheers from all corners. It’s clear by the sudden frenzy among many of the girls present that the singer’s appeal is greatly helped by the fact he’s a pretty handsome lad. How much of his appeal is based on that remains to be seen, although it’s clear that his simple and direct outlook on life is certainly a crowd-pleaser. As the singer and his band run through songs from his new album, with an extended ukulele wig-out thrown in for good measure, a large chunk of the audience sings along in a display of devoted fandom. By the fifth track ‘Bird on The Buffalo’ Stone addresses the crowd – something that he doesn’t seem to be naturally comfortable with – telling us that “when I have time off I like to sit on the couch and roll a big joint and watch television.” Well, who doesn’t, Angus?
‘Broken Brights’ and ‘Monsters’ again induce gargantuan sing-alongs, before Stone, implicating one particularly lairy rum-sodden girl, tells the audience “if anyone next to you is talking shit, tell them to shut up or else they never will. Their whole lives!” Cue massive cheers from all around, including the totally incognizant Bundy girl.

Towards the end of the evening I think I ‘get’ Angus Stone. His tunes are simple and sweet. His near-incoherent mumblings are ludicrously charming. He’s a hairy, earthy scruff that girls go ape-shit for. What else is there to say? The stratosphere awaits.