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Live review: Dead Letter Circus + Closure In Moscow + Sleep Parade – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – 14/9/13

Those of us whose ears still have that droning mrrrrrrhhhhh sound resonating from BIGSOUND and related gigs should probably have stayed at home tonight, instead of heading along to West End’s The Hi-Fi Bar to catch bands whose volume levels could be described as toweringly gargantuan, at the very least. But alas, here we are; our battered ear-drums present and correct to take another beating at the hands of one of Brisbane’s finest alt-rock bands of late. Ear-plugs have never been my thing; I see wearing them at a gig as like going to a pie-eating contest and taping up your mouth, although I’ll probably revise this approach when the pain of hearing even the softest folkie becomes too much. Secretly and somewhat desperately, I’m banking on bionic ears being readily and cheaply available from Big W or K-Mart by the time I hit retirement age, otherwise I’m pretty much fucked. Either that or I’ll have walked in front of a bus by 35, having not heard it barrelling towards me at 110 kph with horns blaring. So it goes.

The first band to take several years off my hearing lifetime tonight is Sleep Parade; the Melburnians putting in a solid set of searing guitar lines and apocalyptic drums, despite being a bit cramped to the front of the stage so as to avoid the range of gear laid out for the head-liners. A large and enthusiastic crowd has already made The Hi-Fi close to uncomfortably full, and give the alt-rockers a rapturous response, especially after singer-guitarist Leigh Davies does the old playing-the-geetar-with-the-teeth trick. Nice.

Next up is a band who are also capable of putting out suitably massive amounts of sound to further reduce my chances of listening to Keith Richards’ 100th birthday concert; Closure In Moscow. The Melbourne prog-rockers take to the stage after some time and blare out monumental levels of noise, centred on the grandiose lead vocals of front-man Christopher de Cinque. Yeah, he might look like an avant-garde Vince Neil circa 1987 and dress like a dandified Goth complete with silk shirt, gold medallion, and shorts so tight they remind me of the time I wrapped the Christmas ham in cling-film, but he has a voice strong enough to make all the luminous skull-waving silliness seem like a secondary part of the show, and nothing more than a bit of harmless fun.

Closure In Moscow
Closure In Moscow

Dead Letter Circus enter from stage right at around 11:30, and after only a couple of notes from Stewart Hill’s bass I know the future is bleak for being able to hear stuff. First up is opener from latest album The Catalyst Fire ‘The Cure’ followed by ‘The Mile’ and ‘Reaction’. After ‘Alone Awake’ huge chants of “D.L.C! D.L.C!” reverberate around a by-now close-to-capacity Hi-Fi. Security guards here have a reputation for zero-tolerance in regards to crowd-surfing and moshing, and it’s at this point one particular thrill-seeking lad is hauled from his lofty position atop a couple of dozen audience members’ heads and slung back into the crowd where he is suddenly introduced into my world with a sudden clash of skulls. Well played Mr. Security Man – don’t you just have a giant pair of primitive balls that we should all be so impressed with, ya big fuckin’ knucklehead? Never mind, as by the time the on-fire band get to new single ‘Lode Star’ the audience has lost their collective shit and is enjoying the sounds and spectacle as one. After an encore including a massive ‘Next In Line’ we make for home, and as I cross Victoria Bridge with an even bigger mrrrrrrhhhhh sound in my ears for accompaniment, I’m grateful for the lack of buses running at this time of night. Well played, Dead Letter Circus.

Live review: BIGSOUND Live 2013 – Brisbane – Paul McBride

Mining Boom
Mining Boom

Trying to remember everything that happened at BIGSOUND Live 2013 is like trying to pee with an extreme case of stage-fright; you just gotta persevere until you get it all out. When the moment of sweet, glorious relief comes, a million sweat-drenched, beer-stained memories pour out at a rate quicker than Bakery Lane filled up in the minutes before Billy Bragg hit the stage. Here are at least some of mine, mostly unsullied by the passage of time.

Forget all the industry shenanigans, the free tote bags covered in corporate logos, the lanyard-wearing, glassy-eyed matronly types who look like they haven’t been to a gig since Led Zep were last in town, the live section of BIGSOUND is – and always will be – about the bands, and there is no shortage of fine examples to sink our teeth into this time around.

Looking at the program for Wednesday evening, one name leaps out immediately: The Delta Riggs. Having seen them four or five times before, I’m keen to maybe give them a miss this time and check out someone new; perhaps Patrick James or Mama Kin – that being the whole point of BIGSOUND Live. But after procuring my blue wristband shortly before 8pm I am drawn by some invisible force towards The Zoo, where subconsciously I know there will be a rock ‘n’ roll show that probably won’t be beaten, and before I know it, I’m watching the five lithe blues-rockers knock out a suitably raucous start to proceedings. One of the great things about each band’s set being only thirty minutes is that no time is wasted cutting to the chase, and The ‘Riggs do so with ‘Stars’ and ‘America’; the first two tracks off their latest album. Frontman Elliott Hammond is all hips and wrists as usual, and as ‘Rah Rah Radio’ is fired off into a rapidly filling venue, we all know we’re in for a good night.

The walk to Electric Playground takes about two minutes, or about the same length as one of Sydney punk-poppers Bloods‘ songs. The trio of MC, Sweetie, and Dirk are all smiles and clearly enjoying themselves as they play songs from their new EP, Golden Fang, and even manage to fit a new song in, because “we’re such professionals we’re going to play a new song in front of a bunch of industry people.” There’s something pretty special about their brand of garage-punk-pop and their vibe is infectious; a clear line runs from the earliest days of Brat-pop in the fifties, to classic punk bands like The Ramones, and through to the best of nineties girl alt-rock bands. Despite some ear-melting feedback, ‘Bodies’ and ‘No Fun’ are catchy early numbers, and the slower, more melodic ‘Back To You’ rounds things out nicely. In truth, we all could stay in Electric Playground all night and have an absolute blinder, with Dune Rats, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Bleeding Knees Club, and Regurgitator putting in appearances, but alas, my fate lies elsewhere.

Next comes possibly the most diabolical timetable clash of the whole deal, as Billy Bragg, Mining Boom, and Yukon Blonde all play at the same time (I’m not concerned with Cub Sandwich, or whatever they’re called now). As I stand in the static queue to see Billy Bragg and am told by a staff member that Bakery Lane is at capacity, I recall the words of Bragg himself from his earlier keynote. “If you want change, it’s your responsibility, not mine,” and “Singer-songwriters can’t change the world. The only people who can is the audience.” With this, I immediately decide to leave the queue and go see relative newbies Mining Boom at Ric’s, and am almost instantly glad I did.

One of the first of several top performances by Perth bands this year, their set is a ragged, charming, and eccentric mix of self-conscious indie-rock stoner beauty and unassuming pop melodies. Opener ‘Craigie’ may be the best song played by any band anywhere tonight, or anywhere this year. With lines like “One day I will bash that cunt, and it won’t be pretty and it won’t be fun, but one day I will bash that cunt,” it’s a song that will stay with you a long time, and ‘Telecom’ is a wonderfully scratchy ode to the “fifty buck cap and unlimited texts”. If you weren’t one of the thirty or forty or so people here tonight, I’m tellin’ ya – you missed out. Sorry about that.

Back at The Zoo, Stonefield are getting ready to be the loudest band here tonight, and they proceed to be just that. The four sisters from Victoria step onto the stage in front of a large and sweaty audience and with singing drummer Amy Findlay taking the front-woman role for the initial part of the set, the band kick into crushing opener ‘Blackwater Rising’ and all of a sudden I want to drink harder, rock harder, and break out my The Doors and Jimi Hendrix records. New single ‘Put Your Curse On Me’ rocks in a similar fashion to their earlier tracks, and just when you think Amy’s voice can’t possibly take any more, she cranks up the action several notches more for a colossal finish.

Stonefield
Stonefield

The fight to get into Electric Playground to see King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard isn’t one I’m ever going to win, so it’s back to Ric’s I go for a dose of dark indie-rock courtesy of Bad//Dreems. I’m going to say it here and now – these guys were the highlight of the first night of BIGSOUND. Yeah, they look like a bunch of bogans who just finished a shift carrying bricks at a building site, but they’ve got the tunes and an us-against-the-world attitude that, when combined with the sticky, almost unbreathable air and electrical-cables-lying-in-puddles-of-beer aesthetic of the front bar, it makes for quite the show. At times they might seem to opt for sheer brutality of sound from their traditional two guitars, bass, and drums set-up, but on songs like ‘Chills’ they show they can really play, and the barrage of noise that blasts the audience’s ears during closer ‘Caroline’ comes as one of those moments in which you wouldn’t trade places with anyone in the world.

Money For Rope are a Melbourne band whose surf-rock and dual-drummer sound is perfect for a venue like The Zoo, and in front of a large crowd they put in a hair-twirlingly energetic set. Mostly featuring songs from their excellent debut album, like second track ‘Easy Way Out’, their tunes take from the best of the classic rock bands like The Who and The ‘Stones, and chuck in liberal doses of flailing limbs and sweat.

Thursday night’s gig-going starts off at The Zoo once again, with Canberra’s Fun Machine. Covered in enough glitter to partially blind the growing audience, the band confidently flow through their first show in Brisbane like a pop-punk version of Scissor Sisters in hotpants. It’s a good warm-up for their upcoming shows to launch new single ‘Naked Body’.

It somehow seems strange that it’s taken until now for me to darken the door of Oh Hello! and the Triple J Unearthed stage, but Brisbane’s own pop up-and-comers Major Leagues provide enough of a draw to pull me in. Sometimes when I see them play, I want to turn the vocal volume up a couple of levels, but ultimately their understated approach is part of their appeal. Single ‘Endless Drain’ is a high point, as are the guitar lines on ‘Teen Mums’ as the packed venue heaves and sweats in unison with the band’s sweet melodies.

Over at Ric’s Sydney’s Born Lion are embarking on some sort of jazz odyssey and spewing out words that sound suspiciously like Percy Sledge’s ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’. “When a man loves a woman, he just wants to fuck her,” apparently, although this approach quickly gives way to an indecipherable wall of scream-y, squally, no-frills punk-in-tight-pants noise and head-banging that has the small venue packed to the gills once more.

By this stage Oh Hello! is rammed for The Love Junkies, and it soon becomes clear why, as the Perth trio put in the performance of night two. Relentless and raucous from start to finish, the retro rockers fill a set with bluesy grunge and rock riffs and plenty of energy from the off, and as early as second track ‘Black Sheep’ it feels like a fire has been lit under the arse of BIGSOUND and something is about to explode or go deaf, or both, despite a broken string on lead man Mitch McDonald’s guitar which flails like a windsock in a gale for the rest of the set. “My guitar is being temperamental, but we’ll all laugh about it after,” says McDonald, before unleashing another maelstrom of noise. Many a set of ears will be hurting for days because of these guys.

Back at Ric’s Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – clearly a touch uneasy at playing at an industry event – are being heckled by their audience to produce business cards to share around. “We’re selling analogue business cards. They come in the form of T-shirts and cost fifteen dollars,” they announce, while New South Wales six-piece The Walking Who are making good use of the awkward layout of The Press Club by compacting all their members onto the tiny stage with little room to spare. Their bluesy psychedelic rock might be better suited to a venue like Ric’s or The Zoo, but their kaleidoscopic jams are strong enough to carry them through, with second track ‘Have You Seen The Colours?’ being a particular highlight, before a long, smooth, fuzzed-out jam sees them finish up. Over at a throbbing Bakery Lane The Jungle Giants have the audience bouncing with songs from their new LP, and once again I’m most impressed by the classy guitar moves of Cesira Aitken, as well as her fondness for pulling goofy facial expressions when wringing out the notes.

It’s at this stage that my evening goes temporarily awry as, after my mate and I buy a beer back at Ric’s I am accosted by a menacing big skin-headed bastard claiming to be a plain-clothes policeman and threatening to do all kinds of damage to my extremities if I don’t show him what’s in my jeans pockets. Refusing to do so unless he produces his police I.D. only gets him more fired up and in my face, and while I’m pinned to the bar and trying to casually sip my beer and appear nonchalant while inwardly shitting bricks and expecting a glassing or head-butt at any second, security guards step in after what seems like an age of illogical arguing and psychological to-ing and fro-ing. The bonehead so-called Constable has one arm in a sling which quickly pops out and appears to be fine (Ted Bundy, anyone?) and is frantically protesting to the (calm and professional) Ric’s security guards about how I have (the plot thickens) now “stolen his police I.D.” We all go outside to sort it out, I empty my pockets to prove my innocence to the security guards and after he makes a lunge for my jeans pocket once more (which contains nothing more than my wallet and timetable), he is removed from the area and I go back inside to down my beer and be thankful for the fact my nose is still pointing in its usual direction.

After a suitably angry blast of hardcore punk from Melbourne lads Clowns helps to clear my head, it’s back to Oh Hello! for the grand finale, Kingswood; and what a finale it is. The Melbourne rockers follow the trend of cutting to the chase with opener ‘She’s My Baby’, and are uniformly pumped and energetic throughout, despite guitarist Alex Lasta being chair-bound due to an unspecified injury. By fifth track ‘Ohio’ the sense of BIGSOUND soon coming to an end has unleashed desperate last-ditch attempts at crowd-surfing, and as singer Fergus Linacre’s spirit bottle is passed around and downed by the hardcore at the front, the volume is cranked up to eleven. A sublime cover of ‘Jolene’ is only bettered by closer ‘Medusa’, and we all file out of Oh Hello! not yet ready to go home.

KINGSWOOD
KINGSWOOD

To sum up, what can I say? BIGSOUND – you’ve done it again. Personal highlights were Mining Boom, Bad//Dreems, and The Love Junkies, with honourable mentions for Bloods and Kingswood. In saying that, last year I picked The Preatures and King Cannons as the cream of the crop, and in the last couple of weeks, one of those bands has played arenas for the first time and the other broke up, so one of these bands is probably going to do really well, and another is fucked – good luck guys. I’m off to get my ear-drums sewn back together. Well played, everyone.

Live review: Cloud Control + Palms + Gang of Youths – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 23/8/13

Cloud Control
Cloud Control

The Tivoli has started to feel like a second home recently, such has been the frequency and quality of gigs happening in the fine old Fortitude Valley venue. Spending so much time there has resulted in the first whiffs of the beer stench of the old carpet feeling like a comforting pair of arms drawing me to some familiar, homely bosom, willing me to forget the trials of whatever day-to-day crap I may have encountered and lose myself in the religion of music… or something along those vaguely ideological lines. Recent reports of it possibly being sold and bulldozed hopefully won’t become crushing reality, otherwise where would nights like tonight happen? It’s enough to make a live music lover want to chain himself to the balcony railings, plaster his self-righteous physical form in bicycle grease and start ranting about how our culture is going down the tubes. Or maybe just buy a pizza slice and skulk off home with the rest of the apathetic masses – given that I’m all out of bicycle grease.

Generalisations aside, there’s a gig to be reviewed, and first support for tonight’s show is Sydneysiders Gang of Youths, who are already making an outstandingly melancholy noise as I enter a semi-filled Tivoli; their lead singer possessing one the most wonderfully rich voices I have heard in recent months. There is very little information about these guys online, but go to Soundcloud and check out their song ‘Knuckles White Dry (Car Ride Home)’ – I defy you to tell me it’s not beautiful.

Palms
Palms

Next up is Palms; the Sydney shredders introducing an immediate element of scuzzy raucousness to proceedings, with frontman Al Grigg putting in a brilliantly manic and sweaty performance from start to finish, as they plough through a set of “aspirational rock ‘n’ roll songs about living your dreams,” including ‘Don’t Be Ashamed’. As his baseball cap flies off his head mid-head-bang during the first song, the audience know this is going to be a good set.

It’s with the stage lights almost totally dimmed to nothing that Cloud Control enter the fray, and like any band with a new record to plug, they begin with the first two songs off the new release, ‘Scream Rave’ and ‘Dojo Rising’. The woozy psychedelia of that album sounds great booming from the Tivoli stage, with hooded frontman Alister Wright exclaiming “This is the first show of the tour – I think we’re off to a good start!” and the audience responding in the affirmative. There’s plenty of time for the best of 2010’s Bliss Release to make appearances with the pop melodies of ‘This Is What I Said’ and ‘Meditation Song #2 (Why Oh Why)’ and it’s vaguely Celtic chorus chant as the faithful down the front bounce in unison, before the band jump back to the new material with ‘Scar’ and ‘Moonrabbit’. The new songs show the diversity that Cloud Control have injected into their sound, and it’s during ‘Promises’ that we get a feeling of how much of a charismatic frontman Wright really is, despite his diminutive stature. A finishing rendition of ‘There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight’ sends the audience daft before the band come back on for an encore that includes the title track from their new album, inevitably sending a Friday night Tivoli crowd into spasms.

With the final chords still ringing in our ears, all that’s left is for us to leave our beloved venue and head off homeward-bound, stopping only for a pizza slice and to check the prices of bicycle grease.

Live review: Ash + Blonde on Blonde + Charlie Horse – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – 21/8/13

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“Like the baby Jesus, Ash were born in a lonely stable. The sleepy Northern Irish village of Downpatrick is about as far away from the throbbing heart of the rock ‘n’ roll jungle as it gets. But like all such places, it’s packed with countless kids intent on escaping. And with Ash, it started the way it always starts – with two guitars, a drum kit, seemingly boundless energy and invincible optimism. ”

So says Ewan McGregor’s voice-over at the start of the Ash documentary Teenage Wasteland, as a trio of spotty-faced teenage wannabes thrash around in a series of fuzzy video clips from around 1992. It’s been a long twenty-one years since those heady days of busting a three-chord groove at Downpatrick Civic Centre, but while their music may have changed, the memories of those glorious mid-nineties days haven’t. Ladies and gentlemen, please get comfortable while this review gets a touch nostalgic.

Tonight’s show begins with a suitably exuberant set from Sydney band Charlie Horse, followed by proud Fortitude Valley rockers Blonde on Blonde, whose frontman coaxes the growing crowd to the front of the floor by promising that if we all “come forward, I’m not gonna touch you. Okay – I’ll probably touch you.” The quartet are probably too talented and stylish to be covering the likes of Oasis‘s ‘Hindu Times’, and while they do it well, their final track – new number ‘Weekend Behaviour’ – is much, much better.

Now: Ash. Being forced into this world in the same Downpatrick hospital ward that spewed forth the probably-delightful bundles of humanity that eventually became the indie-punk-pop heroes, in some roundabout way makes me feel like I understand them. For the three inarticulate Northern Irish schoolboys, making music was all about escape. They’ve taken the limited abilities that they were given at the time, started running, and never looked back, while managing to save Irish pop music from the shiver-inducing hideousness of the fucking Cranberries while they were at it. Most of what they’ve achieved was the result of a work-rate that would kill off many a lesser band, and singer-guitarist Tim Wheeler’s ability to write punk-pop songs that spoke to us like a fibre-optic cable hard-wired directly into the deepest recesses of our very souls. It’s pretty powerful stuff.

Tonight, the band take to a Hi-Fi stage awash in blue light, and launch into opener ‘Lose Control’; the three-piece immediately sounding tight, powerful, and incomparable all at once. Tim Wheeler has essentially always been a poser; the Flying-V in his (still surprisingly youthful for a man pushing 40’s) hands is evidence of that, and Mark Hamilton – while having put on a few pounds since 1977 was released in 1996) has lost none of the energy that has always made him so fun to watch on stage. The bassist’s ability – in the band’s early days – to perform while horrendously wasted was always worthy of admiration, in this writer’s opinion, and drummer Rick McMurray is just Rick McMurray – hammering away at the skins without so much as changing facial expressions all night, or probably all his life.

1977 spawned no less than four singles, and the next two tracks, ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Girl From Mars’ are two of them. Watching the band perform such classic tracks makes for a strange, wonderful, and somewhat distressing feeling; when you realise that these songs don’t belong to you solely, and that there are hundreds and possibly many thousands of people to whom they are every bit as sacred; when the lyrics are so intertwined with memories of your own adolescence that it’s hard to tell them apart and it feels like someone is dictating your very thoughts on a public platform. After ‘Goldfinger’, Hamilton stands on the monitor, stares down the audience with a look of extreme distaste, grits his teeth and mouths “COME ON” like his life depends on it. Like I said – powerful stuff.

The crushing and often overlooked ‘I’d Give You Anything’ and softer ‘Gone The Dream’ precede the first ape-shit moment as ‘Kung Fu’ has the audience losing their collective marbles. “Kung Fu/Do what you do to me/I haven’t been the same since my teenage lobotomy,” sings Wheeler with as much energy as he did way back when, and the crowd give it back in nostalgia-tinted spades. A blues-y interlude and a bit of a crowd sing-along is a nice touch, before the final single ‘Oh Yeah’ and it’s devastatingly close-to-the-bone story of bitter-sweet teenage love.

Once 1977 is done and dusted the band have free reign, and brilliantly delve even further into their catalogue with ‘Jack Names The Planets’ from 1994 mini-album Trailer. Jumping back to the post-1977 era, they continue with ‘A Life Less Ordinary’, and despite a stoppage to allow a bone-headed security guard to get his meaty paws on a crowd-surfer and Wheeler’s exclamations of “We’re trying to have some fucking fun,” the shows continues with an encore including ‘Shining Light’ and ‘Burn Baby Burn’ in a strong finish.

You can say they’re just a pop band. You can say there are better bands out there. You can call it nostalgia or nineties-revival. But the simple fact is this: Ash playing 1977 is a bloody beautiful thing. Powerful stuff.

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: 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.

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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: 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.

Live review: The Bamboos + Axolotl – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – July 2012

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I arrive at the Hi-Fi bar in Brisbane’s West End on Saturday night, fully prepared to be wowed by The Bamboos and ready to get my groove on. After a bit of a wait at the entrance, much miscommunication, and a brief discussion with the venue manager in which I find myself having to convince her that I’m not actually asking to be let backstage for any devious or sordid reason (apparently “Paul from AAA Backstage” is easily mistaken for “I want to go backstage”), I walk into the packed main hall of the Hi-Fi and catch the end of support act Axolotl’s set.

Dreamy folk music is the sound that greets me from the Melbourne three-piece; a pleasant, floating ambience centred on the vocals of Bamboos member Ella Thompson. They remind me slightly of the scene from Twin Peaks where Julee Cruise sings ‘Falling’ in the Roadhouse, although much less creepy, and with infinitely better fashion sense.

Axolotl leave the stage to polite applause and the heavy curtains close for some time, allowing the audience to fall back into comfortable conversation and sip on their beverages. Some time passes, and almost unsuspectingly the curtains suddenly whip open to reveal the nine-piece Bamboos, looking all kinds of dapper in their smart suits and colourful dresses. Frontman and songwriter Lance Ferguson and singer Kylie Auldist take the stage front-and-centre as the band launch into ‘What I Know’, while “We are the Bamboos, make some noise!” is the call. The sound is at once stylish, clean, and slick, and the band an engaging sight; there is just so much to look at and plenty of movement across all members.

By second song ‘Cut Me Down’ most of the audience is dancing along to the Bamboos’ mix of soul, pop, and funk, and ‘Now That You Are Mine’ and ‘Daydream’ follow. Auldist has one hell of a voice, Ferguson is the epitome of cool at this point, and I especially notice Graeme Pogson’s mastery behind the kit.

Ferguson introduces ‘Window’ as “a song I wrote for the late, great Amy Winehouse” and Auldist pulls it off brilliantly; she really puts everything into her vocals and leaves nothing in the tank.

Soon it is time for the unquestionable highlight of the evening, and as rumoured it is in the form of one Megan Washington. The Brisbane chanteuse is champing at the bit to get on stage as Ferguson introduces her, and she is looking fantastic dressed in all black, with dark lipstick to match. She throws her arms into the air and generally flails around as the band launch into Kings of Leon cover ‘King of the Rodeo’, which includes Anton Delecca absolutely killing the flute solo (words I would never have expected to say). Until now I generally considered flute solos to be about as cool as a punch to the lower spine, but this one is impressive in all kinds of ways.

Next up for Washington is a cover of James Blake’s ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ which she says is “a song about a junkie”, before saying hello to her dad, who is in the audience somewhere. Then her final song of the evening and contribution to latest album Medicine Man, ‘Eliza’, proves to be the best of the night, as Washington puts everything into her vocal, before leaving the stage to massive cheers.

How to follow such a performance from a much-loved hometown singer? The answer for the Bamboos isn’t easy to find, as the rest of the show slowly peters out and I retire to the bar area and watch one particular guy, who is steaming drunk, dance like a maniac. ‘You Ain’t No Good’ and ‘I Got Burned’ follow before an encore of ‘Like Tears in Rain’ and ‘Keep Me In Mind’ finish the show, and the Bamboos leave the stage to cheers and plenty of applause.

The Bamboos have taken giant strides forward with the song writing on Medicine Man and that comes across in the live arena. Overall it is a great night of soulful good times, with Megan Washington not only providing the best moments, but also strangely killing off the rest of the show as her performance can’t be matched. Advice to the Bamboos: only collaborate with people who are slightly less talented than you, lest they steal the show.

Live review: San Cisco + The Preatures + The Belligerents – The Rev, Brisbane – December 2012

At first I think I’ve set my alarm clock wrongly as I enter The Rev in Fortitude Valley on Sunday night, such is the expanse of fresh-faced youth blocking my way to the bar to get my milkshake – I mean beer – before a quick check that (a) it is actually dark outside and (b) I haven’t been able to pass for a minor since Britpop, reassures me that it is indeed the eighteen plus show I’ve arrived at, and not the earlier matinee version for the indie-pop-loving ankle-biters of Brisbane. Quite the relief.

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Doubts eased, I settle into a comfortable vantage point on the upper balcony, with a diet coke in my hand (the confusion obviously hasn’t totally cleared), just as Brisbane’s own indie-dance-pop party boys The Belligerents are stepping their set up a gear and making the kids down on the floor start to move. The five-piece are on great form; their track ‘Money’ sounds particularly strong tonight and there are some rather fine T-shirts on-stage, including the shit-themed one-two of Andy Balzat’s ‘I Heart Huggies’ and Konstantin Kersting’s ‘Pink Floyd’ number (I know this is how you meant it to be interpreted, fellas). The Belligerents are a top local band, and just need that one great breakthrough single to catapult them to the next level, but that hopefully shouldn’t be too far down the track.

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Next up is Sydney quintet The Preatures, who have already managed their own breakthrough single with ‘Take A Card’. It’s a top track, but there’s so much more to this band than catchy pop songs that take the piss out of, well… catchy pop songs (listen to the lyrics, kids.) Starting with an all-bloke jam before singer-keyboardist Isabella Manfredi takes to the stage and steals the limelight for opener ‘Pale Rider’, the band are tight and classy from start to finish, running through all five tracks from their Shaking Hands EP, and even throwing in a couple of new songs that maintain the hint of Americana present in their previous tunes while barrelling along with a welcome dose of rock; something that bodes well for their upcoming debut long-player. While the obvious focus is on singers Manfredi and Gideon Benson, I can’t help but be most impressed – yet again – by the less-is-more lead guitar work of Jack Moffitt.

And so to our hosts for the evening; Perth pop darlings San Cisco. After catching the band a few months back and thinking they needed to mature a little before being a true live force, I’m keen to see what influence their recent sojourns to foreign shores might have had on their stagecraft, and am far from disappointed by tonight’s showing. The quartet have a slew of pop gems in their arsenal, and a deft ability to write simple tunes with easily singable choruses and ridiculously catchy melodies; the sort of stuff to drive tonight’s audience wild. Starting with ‘Fred Astaire’, and running through ‘Golden Revolver’, ‘Hunter’, ‘Reckless’, and ‘Stella’ in quick succession despite some technical issues, it’s clear the band is tight and full of upbeat pop charm and good times. The necessity for The Preatures’ Isabella to join in on vocals for ‘Beach’, ‘Wild Things’, and ‘Awkward’ due to drummer Scarlett Stevens’ croaky throat only adds to the experience as the clash of styles works well and there is a collective losing of shit amongst the ‘Cisco faithful down the front.

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The encore for tonight is, quite simply, a wonderful thing, as once singer Jordie Davieson is done with his solo track ‘John’s Song’, the stage is invaded by a motley crew of hairy, bouncy folk for the final track ‘Rocket Ship’, as The Belligerents, The Preatures, and surprise arrivals The Jungle Giants jump into the action and crowd around whatever microphones are available. What is meant solely as a tour finale sing-along evolves into a bunch of usually too-cool-for-school musicians letting themselves go in the safety of the crowd; as they sing, dance, and bash tambourines like a bunch of demented monkeys. Yes guys; every one of you looked as goofy as all hell. And that’s why we loved it so much.

Record review: The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten (2012, LP) (AAA Backstage)

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Despite probably seeming like a gift from the heavens, the move to a major label has been a poisoned chalice to many a band; it marked the beginning of the end of the Replacements’ career, and it could even be argued R.E.M. were never the same after they signed to Warner, despite the commercial successes of Green and Automatic For The People. Handwritten is the Gaslight Anthem’s fourth album, and the New Jersey quartet’s first for Mercury Records, but does the change of signature on the cheques mean a shift in style or sound for the blue-collar band?

The answer, thankfully, is no. The production is crisper and the sound bigger than 2010‘s American Slang and 2008 breakthrough The ‘59 Sound, but as Led Zep said, the song remains the same; in this case a straightforward, gritty, heartfelt mix of coming-of-age lyrics, heartache, and an unwavering conviction to playing good ol’ honest rock ‘n’ roll in the vein of their obvious influences Springsteen and Strummer.

Opener ‘45’ gets stuck in with a rowdy urgency and sees singer Brian Fallon asking “Have you seen my heart, have you seen how it bleeds?” in his trademark sandpaper-throated voice, which sounds excellent throughout the entire album. It’s a tight start that harks back to the best moments of The ’59 Sound and should have crowds bouncing on first listen. The title track follows, with guitar lines sounding not unlike those on The ’59 Sound title track, with added “wow-oh-ohs”, hummed harmonies and even some minor piano tinkling in quite a melancholy yet strangely rousing track.

‘Here Comes My Man’ is next and features some sneaky mandolin and a simple Thin Lizzy-esque “oh-sha-la-la” chorus, before ‘Mulholland Drive’ sees Fallon mourning lost love with cinematic grandeur and more than a whiff of aching nostalgia. While the Gaslight Anthem openly embrace the past in terms of musical influences, it seems that Fallon’s does little but haunt him.

Next up is ‘Keepsake’, which lowers the pace but not the intensity; this time it’s family history that’s the cause of trauma. ‘Too Much Blood’ follows – another slow burner with a Faces-style feel, before ‘Howl’ provides a mid-album highlight, as Fallon ponders his fading youth over a pounding, urgent drumbeat and frantically-scratchy guitars, asking “does anything still move you since you’re educated now?” with genuine conversational innocence.

The stomping ‘Biloxi Parish’ is the closest to a love song you’ll find here, while ‘Desire’ sees a return to the “oh-ohhh-oh” choruses and crunching guitars, before penultimate track ‘Mae’ brings the balladry and places Fallon’s perfectly-gruff delivery even more into the spotlight.

Closer ‘National Anthem’ is the quietest track on the album and tugs at the heartstrings in unexpected ways. With lines like “I never will forget you my American love, I’ll always remember you as wild as they come” over a gently plucked guitar and strings, this is the Gaslight Anthem doing early Dylan, and it works beautifully. The quality of the production again plays a part here, as each note sounds clear and crisp as the album comes to a mellow close.

Critics will say it’s more of the same for the Gaslight Anthem, or draw comparisons to what fellow New Jerseyan Springsteen achieved with his first four albums, but they’re missing the point. Very few bands can turn the mundane nature of everyday life into poetry, give it widespread appeal, and do it with integrity. Even fewer can even come close to being compared favourably with The Boss.

In ‘Howl’ Fallons asks “do you believe there’s still some magic left somewhere inside our souls?” On the evidence on show here, the answer is an undeniable yes.

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.