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Record review: Busby Marou – Farewell Fitzroy (2013 LP)

Busby Marou

With their 2011 self-titled debut album and lead single ‘Biding My Time’, Rockhampton duo Thomas Busby and Jeremy Marou announced their arrival onto the music scene with a uniquely Australian take on the folk and country genres. Now, after two years of playing shows up and down the country several times over, it’s time for their so-called difficult second album, and it’s a task they take in their stride with total ease. Singer-guitarist Busby is the primary songwriter of the pair, while Marou provides backup vocals and impressively quick-fingered guitar licks, despite apparently never having had a guitar lesson in his life. As you listen to their tales of leaving home (Fitzroy being the river on which Rockhampton lies), being on the road, and of broken relationships, you can’t help but think of classic Australian troubadours like Paul Kelly; such is the evocative power of Busby’s lyrics. Anthemic folk number ‘Luck’ is a major highlight, while ‘Heard It All Before’ shows they can rock hard when they want to. Second track ‘Get You Out Of Here’ is another peak while ‘Over My Dead Body’ begins as a slower and more melancholy affair, before Marou unleashes a devastatingly fast solo. This album’s generally bright and breezy vibes make it perfect for a summer’s day, and the down-to-earth appeal of Busby Marou’s songs mean they can be appreciated just as much in the local pub as they can on the country’s biggest stages. (Footstomp)

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.

Flashback: Thin Lizzy – UK Tour ’75 (LP, 1975)

thin lzyy 75

Everyone knows Thin Lizzy. The music world is awash with their albums and there are enough bootlegs, greatest hits, extended versions, live albums, compilations, radio cuts, cover bands, and once there were even enough versions of the band itself out there to choke the airwaves for the rest of time. Of course, almost every music lover is familiar their ‘big’ rock albums Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, Bad Reputation, and their touring masterpiece Live and Dangerous; all albums filled with rock radio staples we know and love. But to me, their finest and most interesting period was just before ‘Jailbreak’ and “The Boys Are Back In Town” sent them stratospheric, around the time of the Nightlife and Fighting albums.

Eric Bell had sensationally quit the band during at gig in Queens University in his hometown of Belfast by throwing his guitar up in the air mid-song and marching off stage in a state of epic drunkenness. Not wanting to get caught mid-concert with no guitarist ever again, band leader Phil Lynott decided to hire two of them as a safety net. Brian Robertson was in town trying out for the spot of drummer in another band, and Scott Gorham had flown over from California to audition for Supertramp (how things could have been so very different,) and both of them landed guitar spots in ‘Lizzy. Their first album together – Nightlife was a fairly patchy and poorly produced affair, but the follow up, 1975’s Fighting is a stone-cold classic, and laid all the foundations for their success with Jailbreak. Live and Dangerous was released in 1978 and has since been considered by many to be one of the best live albums of all time. How much of it was overdubbed in the studio has also been a topic of discussion ever since, although this small controversy doesn’t detract from its pure rock brilliance and rightful place as a classic album.

When, in 2008, it was announced there was to be a new Lizzy live album to be released, the reaction was lukewarm at best, due to there being more than a couple of disappointing Lizzy releases out there. However, what is to be found on “UK Tour ’75” is an absolute gem of a collection of Thin Lizzy songs, recorded at a period just before they hit the big time. It’s a snapshot of a band on their way up, not quite yet possessing the hard-boiled confidence they would later display, and way before things started to go awry for Lynott and his various addictions. What you will also find here is some of the best Lynott crowd banter, and a band trying out some new songs and part-songs that will later evolve into chart smashes. It’s bloody fascinating.

Recorded at Derby University in 1975, the show begins with Lynott speaking into the microphone. “One, two, testing,” he says, before telling the audience the gig will be recorded and asks them to “make a lotta noise, hear yourselves on the radio,” and the band launches into ‘Fighting’. What is immediately clear on this album is the quality of the sound. Many Lizzy releases – including the awful ‘Live/Life’ series – sound like they were recorded with two toilet rolls and a long piece of string, but the sound here is crisp, clear, beautiful, and moreover, the band are on great form.

Having been recorded in 1975, the album is years ahead of songs like ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Waiting For An Alibi’, and ‘Don’t Believe A Word’; instead it is filled with great songs that fell away from the Lizzy live roster after around 1976. “Wild One”, “It’s Only Money”, and my own personal favourite of all Lizzy songs, “For Those Who Love To Live” are given a fine run out, with the band sounding HEAVY. Later live staples are in there too, from Bob Seger’s ‘Rosalie’, and earlier Lizzy track ‘The Rocker’. Rosalie sounds particularly fantastic, and just shows that had “Live and Dangerous” not been overdubbed, it still probably would have sounded pretty damn good.

The finest thing about “UK Tour ’75”, though, is the wonderful opportunity to hear a band refining their sound and songs. Track thirteen on the album is labelled ‘Derby Blues’; a working title for a song that would eventually become Lizzy classic ‘Cowboy Song’. It’s simply fantastic to hear Lynott trying out lyrics and rhyming couplets, as he announces it as a “new number, this one, as yet untitled… we’ll call it Derby Blues”. The dual-guitar riff is there, the opening line of “I am just a cowboy, lonesome on the trail…”, and the rest basically consists of a bit of a jam and Lynott throwing in lyrics about being lost on the road and turning up in alien places. It’s a must-listen for any Lizzy fan, pure and simple.

And as if this embarrassment of riches wasn’t enough, there’s also a three-minute sound check jam tacked onto the end, which showcases the guitarists warming up their fingers in a groovy blast of improvisation, and a rather fetching booklet with a few dozen photos of the band in and around the time of recording. Again, the sound check jam is a thing of beauty and of such outstanding sound quality, especially for the time. UK Tour ’75 has now overtaken Live and Dangerous as my favourite live ‘Lizzy album, and maybe it will for you too.

Flashback: The Replacements – Tim (1985, LP)

replacements tim

There’s something magical about hearing a song for the first time, looking up the album it came from, and finding the other songs to be just as good, or better. But, have you ever loved a band on first listen, only to discover they split up years ago, leaving you wondering just how the hell you’ve never heard of them and lamenting the fact they’ll probably never record again? Let me tell you about how I discovered the Replacements.

A few years ago I spent a freezing January evening in a dingy bar with an old friend, downing beer and shots and discussing plans to better ourselves in all sorts of fantastical ways. After we parted I stumbled home through the cold night air, turned on the electric heater and slumped in front of the TV with a beer. By dumb luck the set was tuned to some long-forgotten channel showing a documentary about lesser-known college rock bands of an unspecified era. It was at that glorious moment, through my numbing alcohol fuzz, I heard a throaty voice singing the words “Sweet Georgia breezes, safe cool and warm…” I reached for a piece of paper and scrawled the name of the song: ‘Left of the Dial’.

It could be argued it was a very Replacements-esque way of discovering something: being a bit worse-for-wear, alone, and dreaming of better times. The band had taken self-sabotage and hard-living to ever-increasing heights since their 1979 formation, in between releasing albums containing a mixture of bonehead punk, sloppy adolescent thrash, and occasionally, heartfelt pop; all done in a way that would make you think they were the only band to ever truly understand loneliness and alienation.

By 1984, Minneapolis label Twin Tone could no longer contain them, and they signed to Seymour Stein’s Sire. With this in mind, the production quality on 1985 release Tim could be expected to be a step above previous recordings, when the opposite is true. Produced by former Ramone Tommy Erdelyi (allegedly through a set of headphones as he was near-deaf from his touring days), the sound is blunt and distant, especially Chris Mars’ drumming.

Nevertheless, Paul Westerberg’s song-writing and worldview make Tim great. ‘Left of the Dial’, ‘Hold My Life’, and ‘Bastards of Young’ are anthems for fringe-dwelling outsiders everywhere. ‘Kiss Me on the Bus’ – originally titled ‘Kiss Me on the Butt’ – is a brilliantly jangly, rockabilly-tinged, pop tune that you never want to end. Dumb rocker ‘Dose of Thunder’ is followed by quite possibly the only song ever recorded about being at the mercy of prima donna air hostesses: ‘Waitress in the Sky’. “Strutting up the aisle, big deal you get to fly, you ain’t nothin’ but a waitress in the sky,” is Westerberg at his most cutting.

‘Swinging Party’ and ‘Little Mascara’ tell more tales of wasted opportunity and loneliness, with Westerberg admitting “If bein’ wrong’s a crime, I’m serving forever, if bein’ strong’s your kind, then I need help here with this feather.” Such honest inadequacy probably wasn’t heard since ‘Teenage Kicks’. Closer ‘Here Comes a Regular’ is a melancholy ode to the pathetic booze hound; something Westerberg could see himself becoming, and what Stinson had been for some time, bringing about his sacking from the band before Tim’s release (he died of alcohol and drug related causes in 1995.) Gut-wrenching and arresting, it’s a fitting end to a fantastic album.

After Tim, the Replacements were never the same; seemingly floundering between punk ethics and Westerberg’s desire to crash the top-20. While they took several more years to fade away rather than burn out, Tim stands as testimony to the power of the Replacements, and tells the story of a time in the fakest of decades when four young punks from Minneapolis were the real deal. Grab a beer and give it a spin.

Flashback: King Cannons – The Brightest Light (2012, LP)

king%20cannon%201

This morning, via the band’s Facebook page, King Cannons singer Luke Yeoward confirmed what had been feared for some time: the Melbourne via New Zealand rock darlings have split up. His message reads:

“Unfortunately the news is true, gang… Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the support over the years. So many great experiences, great people, and great laugh’s along the journey. Life changing stuff, really. Massive love and respect to each and every one of you. Honestly. Onwards and upwards – Luke Yeoward”

I wrote this review many months ago, but have never posted it on here until now. Here it is, in honour of the one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands of recent years (and also the third best live show I’ve ever been to).

King Cannons are a hardworking band, and they want you to know it. They have fought poverty and hardship every day of their existence to be together. Their songs are full of cliché and nostalgia, being almost exclusively about being flat broke, escaping the oppressive factory dust, and the joys of finding solace in rock ‘n’ roll and the open road. They aren’t exactly original in style or substance, stealing from the slicked-back greaser ’50s style of American rock, to the angry punk-with-a-heart teachings of ’70s Joe Strummer, the anthemic bombast and big drums of ’80s Springsteen, with a sprinkling of the blue-collar working man‘s plight of ‘00s Gaslight Anthem. Okay, that’s the bad news out of the way.

The good news is that the hard-rocking New Zealand quintet are one of the most exciting new rock ‘n’ roll bands of the last couple of years, with an incendiary live show and now a debut record to match. They take what will already be familiar to many a music fan and apply their own steadfast conviction and earnestness to it, using their influences as a driving force rather than allowing them to be a disadvantage. They want you to know that it’s okay to dream and it’s okay to want something better, and their own back story told through their songs will just about inspire you to do anything you want.

Singer and sole songwriter of King Cannons, Luke Yeoward, lived the working man’s lifestyle until only a few months ago. A mill worker or furniture removalist by day, he wrote songs in his spare time and played Auckland’s dive bars by night. After the band released their first self-titled EP in 2010 and it began getting serious airplay on Australian radio (mostly focussing on the excellent ‘Take The Rock’ single), they packed up their small amount of gear and moved to Melbourne; the route for many a Kiwi band wanting to take their career further. There they met fellow Kiwi, producer, and Shihad drummer, Tom Larkin, who offered to man the dials on their debut record. It was a fortuitous meeting; the experienced sticksman going on to fill the drum stool on a national tour of the country as the band’s current drummer was fulfilling other commitments in the States. King Cannons have toured incessantly in the last couple of years, and the result of all their hard work is the debut album The Brightest Light.

Change is coming, I’ve been told” sings the gravely-throated Yeoward on opening track ‘Stand Right Up’, over an unconventional intro combination of Lanae Eruera’s bongos and handclaps, before the full band kicks in to make a rolling anthem spring to life. “We’ve been all riled up, now we don’t sit true, flip that coin is what we’re gonna do,” he continues, and it’s instantly clear he means every word.

By second track ‘Too Young’ you’ll realise that King Cannons like getting straight to the point. “We’re too young to settle down, fighting the workers battleground,” is the opening line, before another barrelling, joint guitar and keyboard riff kicks in, sounding like some of The Hold Steady’s rockier moments. “Sixteen, working in factory, breathing that dust five days a week, rather be rocking with the gang all night, needed a living, didn’t want a life,” could be King Cannons’ mantra. The first two tracks signal the intent of this album and sum up just about everything the band stands for.

After the quick one-two opening salvo comes the title track. It begins as a slow burner with Yeoward dropping the wonderfully descriptive Springsteen-esque line “There’s something about a mid-summer’s Friday night, the smell of the grass and gasoline,” before erupting into a pounding, smashing chorus that explodes with the joys of summer and being free. It’s quite the heady, uplifting anthem.

Fourth track ‘Too Hot To Handle’ adds a bit of soulful funk into the mix, complete with shout-y chorus and a grinding guitar riff; less rocky than the first two tracks yet standing alone as an excellent album track in itself.

‘Call For Help’ again features bongos in spades, as Yeoward indulges in some storytelling about having his ass kicked by the big city. “Went down to Otto’s and drank all the booze, saw a conga band play in ninja suits, went to Manitoba’s but they wouldn’t let me in, I guess that New York wins again”. Call for help, indeed.

‘Shot To Kill’ and ‘Ride Again’ could be two parts of the one song; both being mid-pace rockers that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Gaslight Anthem album, before ‘Charlie O’ introduces some Caribbean rhythm and groove in a laid-back, funky track that shows the band’s versatility, and allows Yeoward’s baritone voice to shine through. In a recent interview Yeoward said it took him a long time to learn how to sing properly, preferring to get drunk and shout at the microphone in his punk band days, but from this evidence that’s not apparent at all.

‘On Our Own’ is a fantastic story of friendship and lending a helping hand, and shows the band’s Americana influences. “All we can do is trust, be true, and keep our heads above water, and stay out of that box”. Amen to that.

‘Everyman’s Tale’ follows, and provides another pleasant surprise by being a gentle acoustic track, somewhat melancholy yet still bursting with the feeling of being free and the right to choose your own destiny. The execution is different, but the message is consistent.

Final track ‘The Last Post’ finishes The Brightest Light on a high; it’s a soaring anthem that sticks to the sentiments of the entire album, a statement on the pointlessness of war, and an urging for more hope for the future. A great finish.

King Cannons want to be your favourite rock band, and they’re prepared to work until their hands bleed and their backs ache to earn that title. More importantly, their honest, workmanlike approach is incredibly refreshing in a time when earning an internet following seems to be more important than an on-the-road one for new bands. Call them old-school, call them blue-collar, call them whatever you want; it’s down-to-earth rock ‘n’ roll at its finest.

P.S. – I saw King Cannons recently in an intimate venue and something strange happened. I’m not a dancer; I prefer to watch a band and take as much in as possible, but these guys had me bouncing and screaming with excitement like a little girl, and there was only a minimal amount of beer involved. That’s music for you.

Laura Silverman of Cirque du Soleil’s The Immortal: “It’s Cirque du Soleil meets rock-pop concert”

Michael Jackson

MAINTAINING the musical legacy of Michael Jackson is no small feat, but Cirque du Soleil’s new show is up to the task, says stage manager Laura Silverman.

“It’s extremely important to us,” she says. “It’s interesting because most people in the world, even if they aren’t huge Michael Jackson fans, know at least a couple of his songs, and when you watch our show and hear the songs you know and maybe a few more you didn’t know were his, you realise how vast his musical catalogue is. There are also moments when you just hear his voice, and you realise when you take away the sequin gloves, the moonwalk, and all the headlines and everything, he still was such a talented musician. His talent can give you chills; he changed the entertainment industry forever, and everyone involved in the show is grateful for the chance to carry on his legacy. We want the audience to enjoy Michael’s music from the early days of the Jackson 5, to his later hits from just before he died.”

The Michael Jackson: The Immortal show brings together the best of Jackson’s music and all the elements that Cirque du Soleil is known for.

“It’s Cirque du Soleil meets rock-pop concert,” she says. “Fans will see all the acrobatic elements they know Cirque for, and of course Michael Jackson’s music. There are a lot of his dance moves in the show, his iconography, his costumes, his messages, and his voice. We were given unprecedented access to all his original master tracks, and what you’re hearing is Michael’s voice from the original tracks played with a live band, so you feel like you’re at one of his concerts. When you put those two entities together you come up with something pretty wild.”

“Michael was always a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil,” she continues. “He saw one of the very first shows in Santa Monica California in the eighties, and then in 2007 he visited our headquarters in Montreal and just fell in love with it. He got lost in the costume department and met a bunch of the artists. They planned to one day work together, but unfortunately the opportunity didn’t come up, and then his estate approached Cirque du Soleil and decided this was the best way to create a show to celebrate him. We wanted to create a show that would pay tribute to his legacy, and who he was as an artist, and also that he himself would have loved and would have wanted to be a part of.”

Putting together a touring show of this size hasn’t been without headaches for the organisers.

“This show was designed specifically for arenas, and to feel much more like a concert than any other show,” she says. “The other shows that we’ve put on have been designed with the traditional big top in mind, so this throws up a whole new set of challenges. What we’ve found is when you’re touring at the pace that this show has been, you can have ‘big’, but you might not be able to have ‘that big’ as we’re going in and out of trucks twice or three times a week, and you have maybe only half a day to set everything up. So there are technical and logistical liberties that needed to be made to make the show as big as we wanted, but also be something that could travel as much as we need to. In the end we found a happy medium to get everything we wanted. There are 124 touring members, including 49 artists and all the support staff, from management, wardrobe, technicians and so on, and we hire about 150 locals in each city. The creative process for the show was about a year and half, which compared to other Cirque shows is quite short. This show was put together in about a year, then the artists spent just over four months learning their parts, so it’s still a fairly long process to get it up and running.”

The famously guarded Jackson family have given the show their blessing, adding that all-important element of authenticity.

“They were very supportive from the start,” she says. “Michael’s mother, kids, and brothers came out to the world premiere in Montreal in 2011. They came to the premiere in Vegas as well, and his brothers came to Montreal during the rehearsal process to meet with the artists and creators. They’ve always been supportive of it, and told us that Michael would have loved this show, which is what we hoped for.”

MICHAEL JACKSON: THE IMMORTAL OPENS IN BRISBANE OCT 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview: Dan Rothman of London Grammar

london grammar

With favourable comparisons to The XX and Florence and The Machine, English art-rock trio London Grammar have barely been making music together for a couple of years, but are already being tipped by some as a band with a big future. I had a chance to chat with guitarist Dan Rothman ahead of the release of their debut album, If You Wait.

Your new album is coming out on September 6th. What does it sound like?

It’s kind of consistent to what people have heard so far I guess. I think that was the idea. We released a few tracks that were representative of the record, as I think we always wanted to make quite a consistent album with a consistent sound, mood, atmosphere, and that kind of thing. That was our intention anyway. There are also a few surprises in there that people might be excited about. It’s quite dark and emotional; I think that’s the warning I would give as well.

Your band has a definite sound that makes you pretty much unmistakeable. Is that something you consciously developed or did it just naturally happen that way?

We definitely developed it consciously in that regard because it’s something we wanted to do, but the fact that we have that specific sound is also a natural development as it’s just what happens when the three of us are in a room together, and we all have different influences which help to make that the case. Generally whether we want to play guitar, sing, or play a song as a whole, it’s really important to have a sound that’s someway recognisable as being our own. And that’s what hopefully separates us from other bands.

Do you sometimes clash over influences?

We’ve clashed a fair few times. Me and Dot tend to have these huge arguments over certain bands which tends to fuck Hannah off for various reasons, mainly having to listen to us arguing. Mainly we argue over The Smiths, as I’m quite a big fan, but Dot despises them.

So, how do your songs come together?

It tends to vary a lot; Hannah has written certain songs on the piano and brought those in and we’ve worked on them from that point onwards, or I’ve brought in guitar parts, or Dot’s brought piano parts, but probably the majority of them – like ‘Hey Now’ for example – were written in a room together in a rehearsal, or in my garage in a jam-like fashion. It does vary; there’s no set format for us.

How was the recording process? Did you enjoy it?

Personally, I really enjoyed it. I think the process for us was long, and it wasn’t quite how I envisaged it; it was quite a choppy process, almost messy and complicated, and I kind of find it difficult to recall what happened, as we spent so much time developing it in different studios, demo-ing it up and getting it to a certain point, and once we had all the songs written, we went into the studio to record the album. From that point I think of really fondly; I really enjoy being in the studio. There’s loads of old gear to look at and lots to learn, but it’s also a bit stressful as we were so concerned about making the right album, so we had arguments over certain choices. It’s a wicked thing to do, and was definitely one of the greatest experiences we’ve had – I think we all really enjoyed it. We spent so much time on the album, and every different part was so arduous that we were so glad to have it finished by the end, and as a result we find it kind of hard to listen back to it now, which is a shame, but it’s just the way we are I guess. I’ve spoken to other bands who’ve had the same feeling after finishing an album, but I think we’re all really proud of it and happy with the final result. When you’re going through the whole process of writing it, producing it, re-producing and re-editing it, and then being involved in the mixing process as well, you’ve heard the songs a thousand times and it’s hard to view it objectively any more.

How do you feel when your band is labelled as an overnight sensation?

It doesn’t feel like that to us, because it’s been such a long process, and it’s even been seven months since we put ‘Hey Now’ out, but a lot of people think that it’s happened really quickly for us, which I guess it has in some ways. I wouldn’t want to disagree with the fact that things have happened quickly for us, and we’re really grateful for it. If people want to label us as that it’s completely fine by me. There was a singer in the ’80s, Paul Young, who said he spent ten years becoming an overnight sensation, so that’s a bit worse than us. His act was just so ’80s, so once the ’80s were finished he was pretty much fucked!

How big a role has the Internet had in your breakthrough?

Pretty much a huge part to be quite honest, although it’s not like one of our songs went viral and had millions of hits or something like that Gotye record did, or ‘Video Games’ by Lana Del Rey. Everything combined – from blogging, Twitter, Facebook – did it for us I think, and a body of stuff on there has propelled it forward.

What are your plans for the rest of 2013?

Touring, lots of promo, and we should be coming out to Australia some time too, although I’d better not say anything, because l got in trouble last time for telling someone we were playing at Laneway and we weren’t!

LONDON GRAMMAR’S DEBUT ALBUM IF YOU WAIT IS RELEASED SEPTEMBER 6TH.

Interview: Lindsey Stirling

Global Youtube phenomenon Lindsey Stirling is about to bring her signature violin-electronic-dubstep style to Australia for the first time. I tripped over all those hyphens on the way to the interview.

Your style has been described as ‘hip-hop violin’ or ‘classical fusion’. How did you arrive at the sound people now know you for?

I started playing to hip-hop tracks because I wanted to make the violin fun again. I wanted to dance and I wanted to entertain both myself and the crowd. When I was finally able to produce my own music, I basically took all my favourite styles – electronic, dubstep, classical, and Celtic – and combined them all together.

Growing up in Arizona, what music influenced the songs you make today?

I always listened to electronic music. I think I was the only kid in my high school who liked techno. Haha! But I also loved pop-rock. My favourite band of all time is Evanescence.

After being dismissed by the judges on ‘America’s Got Talent’, were you ever tempted to change your style or approach?

I was actually considering giving up. In my mind, I had failed so dismally and I was so humiliated after that experience, I wondered if I had the courage to get back no stage again. But after much thought I turned fear into motivation. Nothing gives me more drive than when someone tells me I can’t do something. I now had a point to prove.

How does it feel to know your videos have over 300 million hits on YouTube?

Mind blowing.

Do you think it’s still possible for artists to ‘make it’ without the Internet?

It would be really difficult because that is where people connect now; not TV, not radio, but through the Web. The Internet and technology has made it possible for the Average Joe to do it on their own and bypass the record label.

LINDSEY STIRLING’S SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM IS OUT NOW. SHE PLAYS BRISBANE POWERHOUSE ON SATURDAY AUGUST 24.

Record review: The Love Junkies – Maybelene (2013, LP)

Love Junkies

The Love Junkies have been plying their trade in and around Perth since 2009, and with an EP and a couple of singles already under their belts, it’s finally time for a full-length record. With eleven tracks clocking in at around the thirty-five minute mark, this is a direct, in your face rock album, and takes no prisoners from the start. With influences ranging from grunge, blues, and classic rock, the trio waste no time in stating their intentions with opener ‘Heads Down’; a straightforward rock song that could have been lifted from any number of ’90s grunge bands. Similarly to recent records by fellow Perth acts Emperors and Young Revelry, the ’90s alt-rock vibe flavours almost everything on Maybelene, which in this reviewer’s opinion is almost always a good thing. Single ‘Oxymoron’ is a catchy blast of Nirvana-esque grunge that leaves you thinking that these guys would be awesome to see live; all frenetic rock energy and big riffs. ‘Hurt You’ is the token mid-album slow number and veers a bit too close to Britpop territory for comfort, but ultimately only serves to make you more grateful for ‘Black Sheep Blues’; a riff-and-handclap-laden Led Zep-like blues-y number with just the right amount of sleaze. The Love Junkies seem to be flying a bit under the radar with this album, but rock fans will want to check it out, as the loud, raucous, and loose tunes sound like they’d be a lot of fun to get sweaty to. (Independent)

Record review: The Trouble With Templeton – Rookie (2013, LP)

It’s been a rollercoaster couple of years for Brisbane’s Thomas Calder, singer and songwriter for indie-rock quintet The Trouble With Templeton. After releasing the mini album Bleeders in 2011 and expanding his musical project out of his bedroom and into the form of a five-piece band, The Trouble With Templeton have received considerable amounts of radio play and industry attention both at home and abroad, chiefly in the United States. As recently as March this year Calder bagged the APRA Songwriting Award (and $30,000 worth of industry prizes), and has received warm critical appraisal for the maturity of his song-writing.

Rookie is the band’s second release, and is an assured and accomplished effort, by any standards. At times soft and gentle indie-pop, at others shivering, grandiose balladry, Rookie is chock-full of the type of quality stuff the likes of fellow Brisbane act The Art of Sleeping might write.

Opener ‘Whimpering Child’ is as delicate as the name suggests, with Calder’s controlled vocals almost whispered over restrained guitar lines and soaring vocal harmonies fluttering in the background. Single ‘You Are New’ has been played pretty regularly on Triple J and is probably the most recognisable track; “punched in school, I guess that’s what those scars were for,” hinting at the subject matter. Fourth track and second single ‘Like A Kid’ brings a welcome dose of rock to proceedings and ‘Six Months In A Cast’ has an almost Latin feel despite the less than Fiesta-esque subject matter. Calder’s vocal theatrics are most impressive on ‘I Recorded You’ and there are even some brooding synths on the darker ‘Soldiers’.

This is a confident and promising album by a band who surely have a big future ahead of them.

ROOKIE IS RELEASED AUGUST 2ND. THE TROUBLE WITH TEMPLETON TOUR NATIONALLY STARTING AUGUST 16TH IN MELBOURNE.

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

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

Seja
Seja

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Scary
Big Scary

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

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

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

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

Bernard Fanning
Bernard Fanning

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

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

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

Record review: Big Scary – Not Art (2013, LP)

Melbourne duo Tom Iansek and Jo Syme – a.k.a. Big Scary – aren’t a band to be restricted by genre. On their 2011 debut Vacation, they jumped between minimalist musical styles with ridiculous ease; from White Stripes-esque rockers to moody piano ballads, and they’re back with more of the same on Not Art. Describing their music as alternative pop, the pair have talent dripping from every pore, and they have an album with so much quality and versatility to surely make them more of a household name, both at home and overseas. It’s a slow-burning journey from the start, and one that will reward the patient listener for multiple listens, as Iansek switches between piano, guitar, whispered verses, and big choruses, and Syme hits the drums almost like a lead instrument in a way few drummers before have dared to do before, without ever being a detriment to the song. They can even make a Phil Collins homage sound cool on lead single ‘Phil Collins’, and question the validity of their music as an art-form on ‘Luck Now’. The boy-girl vocals and playful piano tinkling on ‘Twin Rivers’ are a joy to behold, as is harmonic piano ballad ‘Invest’. ‘Belgian Blues’ veers into Jeff Buckley territory, before ‘Final Thoughts With Tom and Jo’ closes the album with a final dose of piano-tinkling, accompanied by a sludgy synth. There is no obviously catchy single, and while they claim their album is not art, it should be appreciated as a whole. It’s most certainly Big, and it’s definitely not Scary; Not Art is quite the masterpiece. (Pieater)