Tag Archives: bands

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.

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)

Record review: Maps – Vicissitude (2013, LP)

Back in 2007, the powers that be saw fit to nominate Northampton native James Chapman’s (a.k.a. Maps) debut album We Can Create for the Mercury Music Prize, among such esteemed company as Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse, and eventual winners Klaxons. Six years and two albums later, and it’s hard to see what could have possibly possessed that year’s panel of experts; one has to assume it was a pretty lean year for British music, outside of a few big albums. That album at least had a relatively fresh sound for the time; the electronic shoe-gaze approach to making music being fairly uncharted territory in a year that saw a resurgence in beardy indie bands. The truth is, listening to Vicissitude is a tiring and insipid affair. Opener ‘A.M.A.’ sets the scene for what’s to come by evoking nothing but a face-cracking yawn, as waves of sickly, over-pleasant muzak waft over gentle vocals, and second track ‘Built To Last’ follows in a similar and almost indistinguishable vein. ‘Nicholas’ is probably the worst effort; getting through its six minutes of dull, repetitive dirge is a challenge to test the strongest of constitutions. The only positive thing that can be said about Vicissitude is that it could make pretty good background music in a situation when you don’t need to notice it, but that’s hardly much of a compliment, is it? It has to be assumed that making this album cost someone quite a lot of money, when really they shouldn’t have bothered. (EMI)

Record review: Grant Hart – The Argument (2013, LP)

Formerly sticksman for legendary ’80s hardcore band Hüsker Dü, Grant Hart moved from the drumstool to the singer-guitarist position long before Dave Grohl successfully did the same, but his subsequent career has enjoyed much less attention than the former Nirvana man. The Argument is Hart’s fourth solo album, following 2009’s excellent Hot Wax, and is a concept album about the epic poem Paradise Lost by 17th century poet John Milton, and Hart’s friendship with notorious beat poet William Burroughs. Sounds heavy, right? In some ways it is, and twenty songs and seventy-two minutes is a lot to get through, but like all Hart’s solo work, it’s laced with a variety of sounds, psychedelic fantasy, literary references, and grand themes; which is enough to keep you interested, and his song-writing is, as ever, first rate throughout. Opener ‘Out Of Chaos’ sees Hart indulging in some spoken-word theatrics, ‘Morningstar’ is a catchy lo-fi pop number, and ‘Letting Me Out’ is a jaunty rockabilly tune, while ‘If We Have The Will’ can only be described as a science-fiction polka. The melancholy ‘Is The Sky The Limit?’ is unquestionably Milton-inspired, as is the wonderfully off-kilter ‘(It Was A) Most Disturbing Dream’, as biblical themes involving the Fall of Man are explored. Translating these songs into forms that can be played live will surely be a major headache for Hart, but The Argument is a unique and brilliant album that showcases an artist who clearly has complete control over every aspect of his work, and the freedom to do exactly what he wants. (Domino)

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

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

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

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

The Grand Scheme
The Grand Scheme

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

The Strums
The Strums

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

The Mercy Beat
The Mercy Beat

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

Interview: Sonny Chin of A Cartoon Graveyard

a cartoon graveyard
Hi Sonny, you’ve just released your debut album, The Men Who Stole Your Horse Are In The Woods With My Friend. How would you describe the songs on the album?

I think the songs really need to be described as part of the album. And the album I might describe as manically nostalgic. The songs for me really reflect off each other and have a certain completeness when heard together on the album. Its kind of like how without Data’s inventions or Chunk’s big-heart the Goonies would never have found the hidden treasure. And that can only lead to evil developers destroying small sea-side towns. So yeah, in a way they’re good enough.

I’ve always been an albums person and for me there was no other way to put out these songs. Singles seem to be becoming more popular these days but I think eventually people will come back around to the album as the way to listen to music. Or maybe not, whatever.

Tell me about your writing and recording process – is it something you enjoy or something that can prove difficult?

I love writing music which makes it a pretty easy thing to do. I don’t really think about the process too much. The recording process is a completely different animal. Its a self-produced album, so we were doing all the mixing ourselves and you can end up getting quite self-conscious when you’re mixing tracks that you also play on. I think we ended up getting the hang of it and the last few songs we recorded were done in a fraction of the time that it took to do the others.

How does it feel to have your album finished and in the public domain?

Its great having it done and its good to know that our music is somewhere out there in the sub-ether. Although since finishing the album most of my life has been taken up with promoting it, which is a bit up the hill backwards, but its good to know the songs are now on ‘record’ in the literal sense so that we can look forward in a way and perhaps start branching out from what we have been doing for a while now in our live show.

What has the reaction to your album been like so far?

The reaction so far has been good from the people who have heard it, although it would be nice if more people did hear it. The great thing is that these days there’s this under-current of people searching for music that isn’t necessarily heard through major media and so we’re slowly building an audience there, which is cool.

You know, its like those jazz or Cuban music albums that used to be made as short-run pressings for small fan bases. The guys who made those albums were doing it on a small budget and were basically doing it for the love of playing music. So from the outset I felt like that was the sort of album we were making, except with rock music.

Which artists have had an influence on your music, and which do you currently rate?

As a band and as individuals we’re influenced by a whole range of artists and hopefully that comes through in our music. The Ventures are one of those great surf guitar bands that I think heavily influence our sound. Again, I’m into bands that have created great and diverse albums. The Beatles, Bowie, Big Star… and that’s just the B’s. My favourite current artists are probably Dirty Projectors and Okkervil River.

You are playing an album launch show at Black Bear Lodge on 19th June. What can fans expect from your show?

Wow, well for starters I’ve organised a massive LED stage for the audience to dance on, there’s gonna be some pyrotechnics and the whole club is going to be moved to a remote country town for the evening. In fact, we may not even be there, but if we are we will be in robot helmets. I just hope it hasn’t been done before.

If you could share a stage with one artist, living or dead, who would it be?

I’d probably go with a living artist, because you can almost guarantee that things would get a bit messy with a dead one. I did once have an idea of forming a tribute band called The Zombie Beatles, and we were going to play covers like “With a little help from my friends’ brains” and “While my re-animated flesh gently weeps”, so maybe Zombie John Lennon. I think he went vegetarian so we wouldn’t have to worry about the whole ‘eating brains’ issue as long as we kept a few heads of lettuce around the stage. We’d play ‘Rain’ so he could join in on the harmonies in the chorus. Actually, how about dead Bieber?

How do you rate the current scene in Brisbane for bands like yourself? What could be done to improve it, if anything?

There’s definitely a scene. But unfortunately there are only a handful of venues that will actually play original bands which makes it difficult. Hopefully more venues will open up under small bar liquor licences and give bands that have modest followings more places to play. Venues and bands alike need to take more risks. Doing what everyone else is doing is an easy way to guarantee numbers, but nothing great was ever created by maintaining the status quo. Other than ‘Rockin’ all over the World’. People also need to get out and support local music, and see a band they haven’t heard of. It’s also becoming more important for bands to be well organised and plan gigs and releases well in advance.

What are the band’s plans for the rest of 2013?

We haven’t really thought past the 19th June. You can over plan these things.

A CARTOON GRAVEYARD PLAY BLACK BEAR LODGE JUNE 19. THE MEN WHO STOLE YOUR HORSE ARE IN THE WOODS WITH MY FRIEND IS OUT NOW.