Live Review: Songs of Hope and Healing – QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane – 8th June 2022

A large and enthusiastic school-night audience filled QPAC’s concert hall for an evening of musical hope and healing to raise funds for HEAL (Home of Expressive Arts and Learning); a program that provides creative arts therapy to young people of refugee backgrounds.

Hosted by lawyer, CEO, human rights advocate, and refugee of the Soviet-Afghanistan conflict, Mariam Veiszadeh, the evening provided an eclectic and affecting mix of music to inspire collective belief and soothe the weary soul.

When it can feel like the walls are closing in, connecting through stories and songs has a way of breaking them down, and, following a Welcome to Country and self-written lullaby courtesy of Gudja Kerry, the hope and healing began with the QPAC Chamber Choir performing a sprightly version of Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’.

Next was the first of two appearances from the outstanding headliner Mahalia Barnes; her powerful blues-rock vocals lifting the audience to another plane with a rendition of Helen Reddy’s ‘I Am Woman’, followed by a long and luscious ‘Ain’t Nobody Else’.

Mahalia Barnes

The most unique and captivating performance of the evening followed from JADE; a Brisbane-based ensemble featuring Japanese koto master Takako Haggarty Nishibori, Nepalese tabla virtuoso Dheeraj Shrestha, Australian guitarist Dr Anthony Garcia, and Wakka Wakka didgeridoo and keyboard player David Williams. The quartet played the subtle and stylish ‘Ancient Waters’ and ‘Fishbowl’, with Garcia relating the story of the latter track being written deep in the bowels of QPAC itself in an artist area known as the ‘fishbowl’ to the audience’s appreciation.

JADE

Next came Irish band Sásta (meaning ‘happy’ in Gaelic), who are warming up for an upcoming tour of France and Ireland, with the instrumental ‘Ron’s Time’ followed by ‘She Said’, which allowed singer-guitarist Mick Hughes’s deft vocals to come to the fore, before the QPAC Chamber Choir seized the opportunity to promote their upcoming ‘ABBA Evolution’ concert in August with their version of the Swedish legends’ recently released ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’.

Deline Briscoe changed the pace and injected a more direct storytelling approach with her songs ‘Sweet Frangipani’ and ‘Big Law’; the Yalanji woman relating tales of her grandfather’s youth on Palm Island, the sounds and smells of the place and time, and the injustice experienced by her family in a skewed justice system. Soft and mellow the telling of her stories may have began, but when the Cairns-based singer let her voice soar, strength and courage reverberated around the hall.

The Obscure Orchestra

The expansive stage was quickly filled by roughly 20 members of Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra; the recent Queensland Music Award winners taking the audience on a whimsical journey through a three-track set including highlight ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’. One of Hsu’s trademark instruments, the $27.95 Mitre 10 saw, appeared as part of a fitting finale to the set of surely one of Brisbane’s most innovative groups.

Finale

And so, for the grand finale to send gig-goers home feeling healed and hopeful. Mahalia Barnes once again took to the stage to blow the roof off QPAC, performing mighty versions of ‘Three Times and I’m Gone’, ‘Little Light’, which she proudly dedicated to her 13-year-old daughter, and ‘You Are My Sunshine’, which saw the Obscure Orchestra return to the stage. The curtain came down after a final dose of thunder with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, on which all performers from the evening collaborated to form the ultimate Australian super group (for one unique performance only).

On a chilly Tuesday evening, hope and healing never sounded so good.

Donate to HEAL at its website.

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Feature: My Kind of Chaos is Ready to Rip it Up

Source: My Kind of Chaos Facebook

Nic Griffiths may have been playing music for decades, but he’s never been as excited by a line-up than the one he’s part of now.

The singer-songwriter fronts Brisbane-Gold Coast heavy rock quartet My Kind of Chaos, and despite a few pandemic-related hurdles of late, Griffiths is as keen as ever to get out on the road and rock.

“We were rehearsing, and everything was going great,” he says. “And then the pandemic hit. We spent a lot of money on film clips and getting the album ready, and everything just fell apart. I nearly gave up, but I thought, ‘You know, I’m not gonna’. I kept going and managed to find the band we have now.”

The solidification of the line-up resulted in the completion of debut album ‘The Monster Stirs’; an eight-track collection of hard-driving rock.

“It started with myself and my friend who I’ve been playing music with for 30-odd years,” Griffith says. “We decided to write an album, and when it was finished, we would put a band together. We had this great drummer who brought his mate Mick [Norris], a bass player, and he came and played one song on the album. From there, Mick said ‘I’m in; I wanna be in the band’, so he stuck with us through thick and thin. Unfortunately, the drummer didn’t quite make it. Then, we found Cameron [Appleton-Seymour], our guitarist.”

The completion of the line-up by drummer Rick Zammit was the icing on the cake for Griffiths, taking the band’s musical chops up several notches.

“Only two months ago we found Rick, who just came off tour and was gig-ready,” he says. “He learnt the songs in four hours. When he came in to audition, it was about halfway through the first song that we realised we weren’t auditioning him anymore, he’s auditioning us. We’re happy to say we passed the test. During our rehearsals, I actually forget to sing because I’m admiring his drumrolls so much. The band that I have now is the band I’ve dreamt about my whole life; they are amazing, incredible musicians.”

With the line-up locked in the band’s manager started booking gigs and now the pandemic pains are in the past for Griffiths.

“We get a second crack at it,” he says. “We did pretty good overseas and that, but now we get to tour the album. The response so far has been amazing. It’s such a solid album as it was produced by double-ARIA-award-winner Anton Hagop. He did a fantastic job. We’re going to be touring all next year, for all those who’ve had their double jab.”

Having reached a level of contentment not experienced in recent times, you’d be forgiven for thinking a punk veteran might have mellowed. Not so; Griffith says there’s always something to be peeved about.

“I’ve come from a traditional punk background,” he says. “I was one of those teenage, pissed-off punks from back in the ‘90s. There’s always a bee in my bonnet about something. A lot of my songs are about life experiences. There’s a song on the album called ‘Making Zombies’, which is about the ice epidemic, which is everywhere. There’s a song on there called ‘Stop Running’, which is about me chasing success. There’s a song on there called ‘Euthanasia’, which is self-explanatory. I try not to write empty lyrics; there’s always a message in there. I think it was one of the things that attracted the other guys.”

Despite restrictions being eased and a new album unleashed into the world, Griffiths is not content to sit still just yet.

“We’ve released the first single off the second album already,” he says. “It’s called ‘Calm Down Karen’. I had a run-in with a ‘Karen’ in a store in Pacific Fair. It was ridiculous. She was just screaming, and I came home and wrote that song in two-and-a-half hours. The lyrics just wrote themselves. In hindsight it turned out really well.”

An upcoming run of shows will see the new line-up and material being simultaneously road-tested.

“We’ve got King Lear’s Throne on 28th November,” Griffith says. “Vinnies on the 10th of December, 13th January we’re at the Zoo, and we’ve just picked up our first festival at Jimna Rocks in April. Everything’s just exploded for us.”

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The Killer Queen Experience: The Show Must Go On

Source: The Killer Queen Experience Facebook page

Calling all Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boys, Fat Bottomed Girls and Invisible Men of Brisbane: get ready to rock like it’s 1985 when The Killer Queen Experience returns to the Tivoli for one night only on Saturday 13th November.

The Queensland-based band, featuring John Blunt in the role of flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury, has been a mainstay on the Australian and international scenes for two decades, perfecting the knack of celebrating the beloved British band’s legacy in style.

With a wealth of showbusiness experience under his belt, stepping into the yellow jacket came naturally to Blunt.

“I’ve always been a performer,” he says. “I’ve been involved in a lot of cover bands over the years. I worked at Movie World for several years; I performed the role of Roy Orbinson, Freddie Mercury and Elvis. In fact, I was the only male performer there who did three singing roles. From leaving there, I put together a show where myself and my band did a tribute to both Elvis and Queen, calling it ‘The King and Queen Show’. After a few years a lot of people said we did a great Elvis, but everybody does Elvis. So, we dropped Elvis and purely concentrated on doing Queen. We then started a full two-hour show with what we called Killer Queen.”

Getting into the mindset of one of the most admired and missed vocalists of all time has become a process all of its own for Blunt.

“I have a few rituals,” he says. “It’s basically all about getting into the changing room, looking into the mirror, putting on the make-up, realising what a fantastic team of musicians I have around me, and all of us falling into the groove. There’s laughter, there’s guitars. We go through harmonies, go through songs, and before you know it the costumes are on and I’m looking around the room, staring at what looks like Queen circa ’82 to ’85. Then I’m in full character and we’re ready to go on.”

After taking a COVID-related hit to its performing abilities over the past couple of years, the band has enjoyed a run of successful shows recently and is looking forward to rocking audiences all over Australia as soon as possible.

“We’ve been around for almost 20 years now,” Blunt says. “So we’re always getting contacted by promoters, venues and people putting on festivals. We’re always on the radar of people who are trying to put on shows; people who want to keep the industry going, even through the thickest of lockdowns. We’ve always been incredibly grateful for that, and I think that comes from being around for a long time and, without blowing my own trumpet, we definitely deliver the goods.”

The show is full of songs that fans have come to know and love since Queen’s formation in the early seventies, through to the end of the original line-up with Mercury’s death from complications related to AIDS in 1991.

“We used to think we were clever doing songs that were deep cuts,” Blunt says. “But when a paying audience member comes up after the show and says, ‘What was that song about spreading your wings?’ or ‘What was that about too much love will kill you?’, I’d find it interesting that they didn’t know those songs. We’ve now got a motto: stick to the hits. Two hours go by extremely quickly and we add new songs to the show. We don’t announce them on social media; people hear them when they turn up. We like to have little surprises here and there.”

So why see a tribute band playing songs of a group whose original line-up ended 30 years ago? It’s all in the way you approach it, Blunt says.

“These songs are the soundtracks of people’s lives,” Blunt says. “Tribute bands are able to bring back a little bit of that nostalgia. I’ve said this for 20 years: we know we’re not Queen. I don’t call myself Freddie Mercury or anything like that. What I want people to do is to come along and enjoy these wonderful songs that they got married to, celebrated their 21st birthdays to, danced to back in the ‘80s, and watched Queen on film clips and so forth. I want people to walk away thinking that they know that wasn’t Queen, but damn that was close, that was cool, and we enjoyed that. I’m always giving a little wink back to the audience to let them know that we on stage are having just as much fun as you guys are having. There’s only one Freddie Mercury; we’re not trying to replace him, and he doesn’t need our help to let his legacy live on. He’s practically immortal, so we’re just there having some fun with the crowd.”

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Tex Perkins: Up Late for Rock ‘n’ Roll

tex perkins scenestr paul mcbride live music brisbane australia GOMA

Tex Perkins is arguably one of the hardest working people in Australian music, and a true survivor at that.

As a member of Beasts of Bourbon, The Cruel Sea, Tex, Don and Charlie, The Fat Rubber Band and others, as well as a finger in the pies of the acting, writing and presenting worlds, Perkins has been working practically non-stop since the early-’80s. Having had many guises over the years; from hard-drinking rocker, Johnny Cash in his ‘The Man in Black’ show, or member of a bonafide Australian super group, as well as simultaneously juggling family life and personal relationships, Perkins isn’t going to be held back by the roadblocks of recent months.

The enigmatic singer-songwriter will be continuing his decades-long relationship with Australian music-lovers when he appears at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art’s ‘Up Late’ series on 20th March as Tex Perkins & Friends; an ensemble including Jez Mead, Lucie Thorne and Christian Pyle.

The latest edition of the popular series is part of GOMA’s ‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’ exhibition, which examines the ground-breaking designs that shaped one of the most iconic vehicles and features 100 of the greatest motorcycles ever assembled. Included in the outdoor celebration, which runs for two nights at the Maiwar Green at South Bank, are Indigenous rapper and musician JK-47, Brisbane punk/grunge outfit VOIID, and DJs Eamon Sandwith, Paolo and Patience Hodgson. Throw in GOMA’s top-notch bars and food service and you’ve got a veritable smorgasbord of delights.

Added to this, Perkins’ year is looking as busy as ever, with appearances pencilled in at Byron Bay Bluesfest in early April and the Gympie Music Muster in late August, and a string of club shows lined up, among others.

But being a rock ‘n’ roll survivor inevitably takes its toll and doesn’t come without its scars. The past couple of years have seen the loss of some of Perkins’ closest friends in the music world, including the Beasts of Bourbon’s bassists Brian Henry Cooper and guitarist Spencer P. Jones, who both passed away from cancer at the ages of just 55 and 61, respectively, and put an end to the much-loved band forever.

Then came COVID, but, not one to stand still or take time out, Perkins put together ‘The Show’; an online concert series recorded and staged not in the pubs and hotels of urban and rural Australia, but in a shed on his country New South Wales property. With the help of family and friends offering expertise in equipment use and setup, recording and editing, the series kept the ever-busy Perkins from getting restless before the re-introduction of the live music show towards the end of 2020.

Now, fresh from lockdown and with a number of shows with Matt Walker under his belt, including a recent show at Kings Beach Tavern on the Sunshine Coast which a Scenestr reviewer described as “ultra-solid”, Perkins is back in the game. It’s a timely return to a natural habitat for the Fender-toting guitar-slinger.

If quality rock and roll performed by one of Australia’s most experienced and respected industry veterans in a moon-lit urban setting is your thing, this one can’t be missed.

Catch Tex Perkins & Friends at GOMA’s ‘Up Late’, Saturday 20th March at 9pm. Tickets via GOMA.

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Live review – The Stress of Leisure – Lefty’s Music Hall, Brisbane – 19/11/20

The Stress of Leisure Lefty's Brisbane 2020

It was a good night for an art-rock hootenanny as Brisbane’s The Stress of Leisure successfully launched their new album, ‘Faux Wave’, before an amped-up audience at Lefty’s.

With COVID restrictions eased just days ago, there was a palpable relief and optimism in the air as ales were sunk, memories of distant gig-going were reawakened, and heads were nodded in time to the quartet’s unique brand of jittery, unconventional and fun sound.

Given much of the lyrical content of the songs to be found on ‘Faux Wave’, with song titles including ‘Non-Expertise is Killing Me’, ‘Banker on TV’ and ‘Beat the Tension’, one could be forgiven for thinking this is The Stress of Leisure’s ‘lockdown’ album. This couldn’t be farther from the case.

Indeed, the entire album was recorded in February, just before everyday reality spiralled sharply into the realm of shitshow; possibly making The Stress of Leisure the soothsayers of a generation or simply fortuitous peddlers of exactly the right kind of musical vibe suited to these *cliché warning* unprecedented times.

The show was almost a straightforward run-through of ‘Faux Wave’ from start to finish, with additional tracks including oldie-but-goodie ‘Sex Time’, ‘Thought You Were Young’ and ‘Pulled Pork’; the latter of which frontman Ian Powne declares a work of “genius”, as it’s one of the only songs to tackle “politics, nationalism and pork-barrelling”; not to mention getting shouted at him “any time he walks around New Farm”.

‘Non-Expertise is Killing Me’ is dedicated to “Donald over in the States”, while latest single ‘Banker on TV’ and a gloriously ramshackle cover of The Clash’s ‘Lost in the Supermarket’ round off a solid hour of off-kilter rock and pop; leaving an audience riding high on the crest of a wave of ‘faux’; whatever that may be.

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Feature Interview: Dune Rats

Dune Rats 2019

New album. New tour. Same debauchery. Dune Rats are back, baby.

If ever a band lived every day like tomorrow was the apocalypse, it’s the Brisbane trio, who are almost as well known for their off-stage antics as for their catchy garage rock and punk gems.

Being a bunch of hot messes hasn’t held them back, though. In fact, it’s probably still their biggest catalyst as they hurtle towards their tenth year together. Just maybe, however, there are hints the band are growing up in ways not even they might have expected.

Set for release in January, third album, ‘Hurry Up and Wait’ steps into new territory for the group, says bassist Brett Jansch.

“Nobody is Peter Pan and stays young forever,” he says. “Because we write together, we want to write about things we actually give a shit about, and when you get a little bit older, your life is changing. Not everyone wants to hear another song about cocaine and Scott Greens and shit, you know what I mean? I like when albums by bands I love are different and they take it in a new direction.”

The band avoided difficult-second-album-syndrome with the wild success of ‘The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit’, which hit number one in the ARIA charts upon its January 2017 release, but such a lofty achievement isn’t taken too seriously in the Dune Rats camp.

“Different album, different things,” Jansch says. “It was rad that that album went to number one, but let’s see how this one goes. I think the songs are way better on this one that the last one. That’s not to say the last one was shit, but it’s just the evolution of the band and not trying to fall back on the same way to write a tune or the same things to write about. We’re pretty psyched. It’s taken a long time; we finished recording at the end of January this year and I’m fucking psyched about how it turned out.”

The band took time out to record with long-time friend and collaborator James Tidswell of Violent Soho on production duties.

“It was probably one of the most laid-back recordings we’ve ever done,” Jansch says. “We wrote the songs pretty quickly, then when we went to record, we went to the Grove, which is a studio at the Central Coast in New South Wales. It’s a place where you live there and record there as well, so we were constantly churning the album over and getting it done, while we were having beers and shit. It was a very pleasurable recording experience.”

With a large and loyal following built from years of criss-crossing Australia and putting in serious mileage overseas, the band is in a solid position to capitalise with ‘Hurry Up and Wait’, set for release on 31st January via Ratbag Records.

The record pays homage to the group’s whirlwind touring life and associated excesses, among other strange and wonderful tales.

And while they may be a little older they aren’t necessarily that much wiser, recently telling triple j of the story behind latest single ‘Crazy’ being one of the excess and indulgence they have become (in)famous for.

“’Crazy’ is one of our heavier songs that we wrote over in LA when we were surrounded by a lot of excess,” singer Danny Beaus said. “Everyone is doing anything and everything because it’s available, whether it’s taking drugs, eating shitty food or being surrounded by technology. All this stuff at the end of the day, whilst awesome at the time, doesn’t leave you any better off even if it feels that way in the moment. We didn’t set out to make a big album, or a polished album, or an album about partying because the last one did alright, or an album not about partying because we want to get away from that. It’s just writing about different stuff in our lives. It was always just going to be Dunies.”

Following a European jaunt, the trio are hitting the road for an Australia tour starting in February, taking in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with support from Ruby Fields, Northern Beaches indie-rockers Dear Seattle, and Wollongong three-piece Totty.

“[Europe has] been a blast; such a good time,” Jansch says. “It hasn’t been that real relentless touring like in the past when we’ve done 30 shows in two months in the UK or the States. We’ve kind of just been blagging through cities we’ve loved and the shows have been really, really fun. [Back home], I hope people can get they and check out Totty, and stay the whole night. The whole night will be full of enjoyable music and good times, and stepping up into venues of that size will be awesome for us. Hopefully that means 3000 people having a good time, so I hope it’s a great place for people to get loose and sing along.”

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Live review: Elton John – Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane – 18/12/19

Elton John Brisbane Entertainment Centre

It was a night of big hits, storytelling, sequinned blazers and a masterclass of musicianship as Elton John and his band brought their Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour to Brisbane on a humid, midweek evening.

The 72-year-old may be around halfway through a 300-odd-show run for a tour which began in September 2018, but the energy level didn’t let up for over two and a half hours as the British Knight Bachelor showed he still has the Midas touch when it comes to mesmerising an audience – a task the old master has been succeeding at for close to 50 years.

A lack of supporting artist made little difference to the palpable level of anticipation echoing around the dated walls of the Boondall venue as an army of Elton diehards found their seats while adjusting flashing glam-era spectacles, removing layers of glitzy clothing and chomping on boxes of hot chips with eyes affixed to the big screens for signs of movement on their hero’s part (kudos to the tour team for the acknowledgement of the Turrbal and Yugara people as the Traditional Owners of the area).

If anyone was feeling a tad lethargic or in the depths of a midweek funk, the first few bars of “Bennie and the Jets” changed all that. Its delivery was one of power, poise and nonchalance; tossed off by a master in perfect control of his realm and with nothing to prove. The fact that we were witnessing a man who has created some of the most perfect pop hits for several decades hit like an embarrassing reminder that we shouldn’t have expected anything other than utter brilliance.

“All the Girls Love Alice” followed quickly, before the man himself addresses his people. “We hope you like what you see and what you hear,” he says, before launching into “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and “Border Song”; the latter before which he takes the opportunity to relate how Aretha Franklin’s decision to record it in the early ’70s gave him and co-songwriter Bernie Taupin great confidence as young musicians. This is the first of many such reminiscences and nods to the skills and input of Taupin of the night.

The anthemic “Tiny Dancer”, as fifth song in a 25-song set, is almost thrown away without a care, but not before getting the biggest response of the evening with a spine-tingling sing-along in the 13,000-capacity venue. It’s a similar situation for “Rocket Man” in eighth position, although the band take their time with the classic track; each taking a masterful solo to transform it into an extended, bluesy jam. Elton takes his bows and laps up the adulation between hits, and a genuine connection is felt between performer and audience.

There may be moments for the diehards only, including “Burn Down the Mission”, and patches of lower intensity that follow, but towards the pointy end of the show, the hits start rolling again, with “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, “I’m Still Standing” and “Crocodile Rock” which perfectly set up an encore of “Your Song” and obvious closer “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.

The overall feeling as the frenetic applause finally fades and the satisfied hordes dissipate into the night is that they just don’t make them like Sir Elton any more.

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Live review: Regurgitator – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 27/10/19

regurgitator brisbane the tivoli 2019

They may be 25 years into their distinguished and acclaimed career, but you can bet your shoes on the fact Regurgitator aren’t about to start taking themselves too seriously.

In fact, the Brisbane trio brought out all the weird and wondrous silliness they are known and loved for as an appreciative audience, many of whom were likely not born when the band formed, brought the party to the Tivoli on a balmy Sunday evening.

The second of two nights celebrating the homegrown legends, this was a veritable mini-festival of fun stretched over six hours, with supports Koko Uzi, The Stress of Leisure, The Fauves, Screamfeeder and Shonen Knife providing the build-up to the main event.

Much like Regurgitator’s musical output over the last quarter-century, it was a wild and eclectic affair that played out in several parts; each celebrating a different element of their history and interjected with humourous and ludicrous introductory videos featuring Dylan Lewis and Tim Rogers, among others, as well as retina-searing and, at times, hilariously lewd graphics.

regurgitator brisbane 2019

Early tracks ‘I Sucked a Lot of Cock to Get Where I Am’ and ‘F.S.O.’ (about domestic violence – “Let’s fuck that right off”, requests frontman Quan Yeomans), went down a storm amid a maelstrom of noise and enthusiasm as the band bounced around in costumes adorned with multi-coloured pom-poms.

Next came the rap-rock section, and a switch to the “life-sucking” (bassist Ben Ely’s words) tracksuits, with ‘Light Me on Fire’ proving to be a high point.

Another switch to a somewhat gold-sequinned costume affair and the arrival of Seja Vogel on keys brought the band to their ‘Unit’ phase, which was always going to be a major highlight of the evening, including the graphic cartoon rimming on the big screen during ‘I Will Lick Your Arsehole’.

The lingering feeling is that if Regurgitator was to somehow still exist 25 years from now, it would continue to be the irreverent, self-deprecating, outsider beast that it has always been. And that’s exactly how it should be.

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Live review: Alice Ivy + Miss Blanks + DVNA – The Foundry, Brisbane – 7/6/19

Fun and positive vibes were the name of the game at a bouncing Foundry in Fortitude Valley on Friday night (7th June).


Alice Ivy

In town to promote latest single ‘Close to You’, Melbourne beatmaker Alice Ivy was to play the penultimate show on a nine-stop tour in style, but if she was tired from yet another sizeable national tour, it certainly didn’t show.

First up was Gold Coast producer DVNA, who played a fun, earnest and endearing set to a filling Foundry, while taking time to thank her audience for coming along. Among a swag of smooth tracks, ‘Girl on the Move’ stood out as a soulful, glistening pop gem.


DVNA

Next came Miss Blanks, who dialled the sass up several hundredfold and truly got the party started in her typically brash and entertaining fashion. Between tracks the Brisbane rapper, and former Alice Ivy collaborator, was genuinely funny and self-deprecating, with set highlight ‘This Bitch’ bringing together everything good about her act: lyrical savviness, humour, profanity, and solid hip-hop chops.


Miss Blanks

This gig, however, was all about Alice Ivy. The Victorian producer and multi-instrumentalist was on top form from the get-go, as the audience increasingly let loose on a Friday night.

Switching between guitar, bass, electronics and more, she showed off her range across a swag of tracks from her debut album I’m Dreaming, but it was single ‘Close to You’ that we were here to witness in the flesh. The track, a poised and slick electronic pop number, went down a storm.

The good vibes increased with Alice Ivy thanking and expressing her love to everyone for coming, with fans returning the love many times over as the set came to a climax and a night of celebratory electronic pop came to a close with a sea of smiling faces spilling onto the street.

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Live review: Kimbra + Exhibitionist – The Triffid, Brisbane – 16/7/18

“Very meaningful,” is how Kimbra Johnson coolly describes her first gig in Australia in four years about midway through the first stop on her Primal Heart tour at Brisbane’s The Triffid on Monday night.

Kimbra Brisbane The Triffid Primal Heart 2018

Yep, meaningful. Yep, four years. Yep, Monday night. It’s not the most obvious choice for a triumphant return to a country to which she has ample musical links, but that didn’t stop a large and enthusiastic crowd gathering to collectively fend off the winter bite and enjoy some top tuneage under the arched roof of one of Brisbane’s finest venues.

Exhibitionist – aka Brisbane’s Kirsty Tickle and band – set the tone with a half-hour set of sometimes smooth, sometimes brooding, sometimes dark pop. “Sorry, guys,” she smirks, as she introduces ‘Sally’s Song’ – written with Sally Seltmann with music industry misogyny firmly in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, French drummer Jonathan Boulet is grinning from ear to ear as he basks in Les Bleus’ recent World Cup triumph, before closer ‘Being a Woman’ is introduced as “a little bit aggressive”, and is widely appreciated for being exactly that.

Now for something a whole lotta meaningful. New Zealander Kimbra takes to the stage amid a cacophony of vibration and expectation, taking her position stage-centre with the assurance of someone who has appeared on many of the biggest stages worldwide in the last few years.

An early one-two of ‘The Good War’ and ‘Black Sky’ showcases the strength in depth on the Hamilton native’s third album as the singer strides across the stage surveying her domain, while singles ‘Human’ and ‘Like They Do on the TV’ get big responses from an audience finally starting to relax.

‘Settle Down’ keeps the mood high, before the sparse ‘Past Love’ breaks it all back down. After ‘Two Way Street’, Kimbra challenges her crowd to dance when ‘Sweet Relief’ brings the funk in spades. It’s a veritable musical smorgasboard with no obvious flaw or failing.

All in all, when you look past the electicism, seemingly effortless style, and retina-threatening lights, it’s the 28-year-old’s powerful, soaring voice that’s the star of the show. Who knows what sort of meaningful stuff Kimbra can come up with in the next four years?

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Live review: Mojo Burning Festival – Hamilton Hotel, Brisbane – 14/4/18

The fifth annual Mojo Burning Festival proved that it continues to be a local musical force to be reckoned with at the Hamilton Hotel on Saturday night (14th April).

Positioned as an ‘outside-the-box’ blues, rock and stoner festival, the gathering has gone from strength to strength since its comparatively humble beginnings at the New Globe Theatre in 2014.

Thirty excellent bands over three stages and ten hours is an embarrassment of riches by any festival standard, and almost instant turnaround times between acts kept the momentum going throughout the day.

The Zed Charles Hendrix Experience in the psych room proved to be an early-evening highlight: the balance of showmanship and homage to the songs was just right, and a perfectly blazed ‘Hey Joe’ was a solid closer.

Over at the blues stage, Hat Fitz and Cara let loose a barnstorming set of country/blues numbers, working up a sweat before a baying audience, and climaxing with the stomping ‘Power’.

It was clear that Jeff Martin was a big reason for the presence of many at the festival, and not without good reason. The Tea Party singer-guitarist upped the ante with a solo set of style and class, with some humour thrown in for good measure. ‘Coming Home’, ‘The Bazaar’, ‘Stars in the Sand’ and ‘Line in the Sand’ were mashed up with NIN/Johnny Cash, the Doors and Martin’s heroes Led Zeppelin to make a hard-rockin’ audience happy.

Jeff Martin Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

After the intensity of Martin, the light-hearted Henry Wagons was a fun point of difference. The Melburnian, with trademark leopard-print jacket and headband, jokingly teased the audience between alt-country numbers, before getting among them during final song ‘Willie Nelson’.

Henry Wagons Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

Then came Wolfmother and bedlam. Stockdale and co. still know how to rock, and HARD, and as the rock stage became a barrage of headbanging, big riffs and bigger hair, keeping track of anything became increasingly difficult. ‘New Moon Rising’ and ‘Dimension’ were highlights, as were Stockdale’s wardrobe changes. Everything else was lost in a haze of noise and exhilaration.

Wolfmother Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

Throughout the evening there was a rail-thin and somewhat bookish-looking guy moving among the crowd, fixing a dark-eyed, intense stare on anyone crossing his path while sipping on a schooner with an almost un-Australian restraint. Seconds after Wolfmother was finished, he (Rafael Cohen, as it turns out is his name) was onstage, having shed his glasses and all restraint in his role as guitarist for Elephant Hive – an Israeli power duo who rocked as hard as anyone at the festival. Cohen and drummer Tom Bollig were spotted by chance by the festival director at a show in Tel Aviv, and will have won many new fans on their first Australian jaunt.

Elephant Hive Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

That left Money For Rope (with two drummers in their four-piece setup) and Hobo Magic, switched from the psych room to the larger blues stage, to kill off any remaining eardrums and complete a festival the organisers can be proud of. Consider all mojos well and truly burnt.

Money For Rope Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

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Live review: Fatboy Slim – Electric Gardens Festival, Brisbane – 25/1/18

It’s Australia Day Eve, it’s hot as hell, and thousands of thirsty Brisbanites are looking to cut loose.

Fatboy Slim Brisbane January 2018 Electric Gardens

Sunnyboys are at the Tivoli and Foo Fighters’ brand of bro-rock is across town at Suncorp Stadium, meaning Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook, has some big-hittin’ competition for the collective attention of Brisbane’s gig-goers at Electric Gardens Festival at the Showgrounds.

The question of whether Cook is able to top his triumphant performance at Riverstage exactly two years to the day is another uncertainty hanging over the gig – that was a hell of a show.

Needless to say, the night proves to be business as usual for the EDM renegade master – complete with a typical array of hits, mesmerising visuals, tantalising sonic snippets, air horns and high energy.

After sets by Tim Fuchs, Motez, MK and Gorgon City, panic sets in at the drinks line when ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’ kicks off a couple of minutes before the slated 8:30 start time. After ten minutes of high-quality Fatboy, however, the party is well-and-truly underway.

From here, the master is in control of his disciples.

Brief blasts of ‘Eye of the Tiger’, ‘Seven Nation Army’ and ‘Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine’ get huge responses, as do ‘Renegade Master’ and ‘Star 69’. Two years ago it was Bowie featuring in a brief minute-or-so tribute, and this time it’s Prince; the Purple One’s image on the big screen is a nice touch.

Fatboy Slim Brisbane January 2018 Electric Gardens Prince

Much like Foo Fighters were probably doing over at Suncorp, Fatboy drops some Queen into his set with a bit of ‘Radio Ga Ga’, as the audience claps when he demands it. It’s not quite Freddie at Live Aid (nothing is), but it’s a lot of fun.

By 9:50pm another hit is well overdue, and ‘Praise You’ does the job, evoking an atmosphere somewhere in the region of bedlam. It only takes ‘The Rockafeller Skank’ mixed with ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ to put the icing on this sweaty, leg-weary cake.

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Fatboy Slim: Stormin’ Norman Heads Down Under

Longevity in the entertainment business is an elusive concept. Slippery as an eel. Statistically pretty bloody unlikely.

fatboy slim 2018-1

Evidence shows that lengthy success requires an artist to either (a) regularly reinvent their showbiz persona and take a punt (see: Bowie, Madonna, Prince), or (b) find something they do particularly well and just keep hammering away (see: AC/DC, The Rolling Stones).

For every rule there are exceptions, however, and it could be argued that Fatboy Slim is pretty unique in that he has done a bit of both.

On one hand, the Englishman has spent over 20 years honing an instantly-recognisable DJ-ing style and hasn’t put out a studio album since 2004. On the other, he’s the guy with an armful of aliases, a continually-evolving method of effecting euphoria, and a back story as interesting and varied as most.

With appearances locked in at the third Electric Gardens festival in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide through January, the bonafide EDM legend is bringing his unique party-starting style (and trademark Hawaiian shirts) back to Australia just two years after his last shows here.

It’s safe to assume he’ll be bringing his A game, as always.

“Australian crowds, they’re not shy,” he told Red Bull last year.

“And that’s always my favourite kind of crowd. It’s also a beautiful country to visit.”

While music-lovers now have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a Fatboy Slim show, it’s been a long journey for the 54 year-old to get to where he is today.

The man also known as Norman Cook has come a long way, baby, since being a skinny, pale Housemartin singing a cover of Isley-Jasper-Isley’s ‘Caravan of Love’ on Britain’s Top of the Pops in 1986 or reinventing The Clash’s basslines for Beats International’s smash ‘Dub Be Good to Me’ at the turn of the ’90s (and the coming of ecstasy).

In 1996, his world changed. The Fatboy Slim moniker was born (a name plucked from “thin air” he told NPR in 2001), he released the triple-platinum-selling You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby album a couple of years later, and a swag of awards and international recognition in the process.

A superstar DJ was born.

The transition required a new persona, meaning he became “like James Brown without the band,” he told The Guardian recently.

“I started cheerleading the crowd and showing off. Whenever I play, I kick off my shoes, put on my Hawaiian shirt and revert to being a 17-year-old who’s had one too many ciders.”

More hit records and a never-ending whirlwind of parties, festivals, gigs, travelling and even more festivals, gigs and parties lead to him not only becoming one of the biggest names in dance music worldwide, but also alcohol-dependent – a situation he didn’t address until 2009.

Sobriety called for further transition so the Fatboy Slim party didn’t suffer. He says a genuine love of the music and his audience keeps him as keen as ever.

“The people I play the music to … keep me inspired and amused,” he told Time Out this year.

“Last year was fun and I fully intend to deliver more of the same. I just try and makes sure there’s a little bit of everything for everyone.

“If you wanna party, age doesn’t matter!”

“It’s strange, especially when you travel around, [but] I always have a look at the crowd before I go on to see roughly how I’m going to approach it,” he told Noisey.

Naturally the transition to a sober life was a more serious affair than simply adjusting his approach to a show.

“I kind of lived the life of Fatboy Slim 24 hours a day for about a decade, and it nearly killed me,” he said in an interview with Digital DJ Tips.

“It’s untenable to try and live like that all the time, you’re not a responsible citizen, and you shouldn’t be left in control of children.

“So I kind of figured that the only way I’d do it was quit drinking, for starters, just to give me a bit more longevity, and also just to separate the onstage person from the offstage persona.”

Fans old and new are benefiting from the change too.

“[Sobriety has] prolonged my DJing life,” he told Noisey.

“And my actual life. It’s nice to be 54 and able to jump around at 5am. A lot of that is through being fit. But seriously, the whole thing is just vanity; self-preservation.”

Now a veteran of EDM and a stalwart of the music business, he’s in a good position to assess the scene – with the help of a clear head.

“A lot of the old school DJs are properly weird characters, whereas the new school are young, good-looking, but not hugely interesting,” he told Noisey.

“A lot of them are interchangeable.”

With fire still clearly in his belly and a desire for playing shows stronger than ever, Fatboy Slim is not in the mood to hang up his headphones just yet.

Retirement is an impossibility when he’s only just successfully learned how to separate his onstage and offstage personae, he recently told The Guardian.

“For me, Pete Tong, Carl Cox, we are the first wave of big DJs so there’s no precedent [to retirement],” he said.

“As I get older, Norman’s increasingly obsessed with fridge management and being a responsible dad and husband. He only lets Fatboy out of the box on stage now – Fatboy’s still a lunatic hedonist.”

For someone who has been there from the start to still be at the top of his game more than 20 years later is more than unlikely; it’s almost impossible, and Fatboy Slim’s long and eclectic contribution to music has arguably earned him the right to dictate his own future.

“I’ll step down when either the crowds or I stop enjoying it,” he told The Guardian.

“Neither of which has happened thus far.”

Fatboy Slim plays Electic Gardens Festival:

Friday 19th January
Red Hill Auditorium, Perth

Thursday 25th January
The Marquee, Brisbane

Friday 26th January
Centennial Parklands, Sydney

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Live review: London Grammar + Guests – Riverstage, Brisbane – 23/9/17

Billed as Brisbane Festival’s “marquee music event”, the five-act line-up of London Grammar, James Vincent McMorrow, The Kite String Tangle, Mansionair and Wafia provided perfect vibes for a chilled evening at Brisbane’s Riverstage on Saturday (23rd September).

London Grammar Brisbane Riverstage September 2017

With the tunes kicking off at 4pm in scorching sunshine, and running for close to six hours, the atmosphere was not unlike a mini festival, with the comforting aroma of Dagwood dogs and mid-strength beer reinforcing the feeling.

Wafia is a rare talent whose vocal power is more than enough to fill the amphitheatre, while Mansionair play a slick set and get a big response with ‘Hold Me Down’.

Hometown boy Danny Harley of The Kite String Tangle is delighted to be playing Riverstage for the first time, as he tells us twice. The sun aptly drops over the horizon as he plays ‘Illuminate’, but it’s his final track ‘Arcadia’ which is the perfect ending to the best set of the day thus far.

But hold on, the best set of the day is immediately bested, as things get international-class with James Vincent McMorrow. The Irishman’s soulful delivery is just about perfect on ‘Get Low’ and ‘National’, while the towering ‘Cavalier’ provides a goosebump-y moment or four.

London Grammar are all darkness and mystique as they take to a sparsely-lit stage and singer Hannah Reid begins proceedings with ‘Rooting For You’. It’s a controlled start, but one that grabs the audience’s attention and ensures it stays firmly on the band for the rest of the night.

‘Rooting For You’ perfectly rolls into ‘Flickers’, and while the trio’s sound is somehow both delicate and huge simultaneously, it is, of course, Reid’s ethereal, choral tones that are the highlight of the set.

‘Wasting My Young Years’ precedes a cheery rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for guitarist Dan Rothman, who is turning 28. A cake appears from somewhere and Reid asks the audience to confirm how young and handsome he is before pointing out how cake is bad for her vocal cords, “just like everything else delicious”. Boo hoo.

‘Hey Now’ receives perhaps the biggest response of the evening. It fills the amphitheatre from the river to the hot-dog stand and back again, as a captivated audience sings along. Conclusion: London Grammar’s music is built for big spaces.

The gig/mini festival vibes are over by the Brisbane City Council-approved 10pm, leaving plenty of time for reflecting on what was a pretty damn good day of music.

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