Tag Archives: live music

Feature Interview: Winston McCall of Parkway Drive

Parkway Drive

Sixteen years and six albums into his glittering career, Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall isn’t about to start taking anything for granted.

“From day one, we’ve always had to prove ourselves,” he says. “We’ve always said in interviews that we just go out there and do what we do, but, now having sat back and looked at it, the place we’re at now is literally the last place anyone would have expected for this band, including ourselves.”

Sixth album ‘Reverence’, released in May last year, pushed the band’s creative ambition further than ever before and has brought not only exciting new avenues and achievements, but additional pressure to the Byron Bay metallers.

“The past 12 months has been crazy; like a complete time-warp,” McCall says. “We’ve done a hell of a lot of touring and the band has grown so much in that time that I forget the fact it’s only been a year since [‘Reverence’ came out]. It’s been the biggest release of the band’s career and we’ve reached several milestones in the past 12 months. These are things we never even thought we would see and they just rolled over, one after the other. It’s been busy and hectic; so hectic. We’ve had three major injuries within the band in the past 12 months, we’ve played the biggest headline shows we’ve ever played in every continent we’ve played in, then we’ve played the biggest festival appearances and biggest shows of our lives.”

Written and conceived around a dark period for the band, ‘Reverence’ was informed by personal tragedy and loss, and took the five-piece’s music into sometimes difficult yet often ground-breaking territory.

“All of that writing and stuff happened, we brought the record out during that whole ongoing thing, and I guess it’s just a part of life.” McCall says. “It’s something that never leaves you, that loss. It gets easier the amount of time you put between when it happens and now, I guess. You carry it with you all the time and you see it through different lenses and shades as you go. In that respect, dealing with it is going well, but you always have a relationship with it. That’s probably the best way to describe it.”

After a heavy few months spent touring Europe and the States, where McCall says he was offered crack in a diner before food was even mentioned, the band will play its only Australian shows of 2019 at Good Things Festival; a trio of dates which stand out for several reasons.

“It’s our first time being able to headline a major Australian festival,” he says. “And it’s really cool to see heavy and alternative music making a resurgence in festivals in Australia because it’s such a massive thing and it’s such a massive community. It’s been underplayed in the past as a lot of people think it’s a small amount of people in this country who enjoy this music, which is so far from the truth it’s insane. So it’s really nice. So many people in the past have seen the local Australian scene of lesser or less of a commodity than an overseas name, and for us to be able to make a statement by being in that slot is a massive, massive deal. It’s going to be fucking awesome and we’re pumped.”

Australian fans can be guaranteed an eye- and ear-blistering live show when the band lands for the December run of shows. Inspiration for the visual spectacular that is a Parkway Drive gig can come from almost anywhere, McCall says.

“We’ve retained creative control over every single aspect of this band, which means there’s a hell of a lot of work that goes into it. If you have the drive to create something more, we have a very large canvas, but that means you have to have the imagination to fill it. Ideas come from everything: other bands, theatre, music, film, videos, from literally just walking around spaces, architecture and anything from the past. We’re taking an interest in what our lighting guy is doing and work with him to create something so we know what the physical and emotional impact of the stage show are. It takes a hell of a lot, but being able to couple your music with something you know will heighten the experience is a very powerful experience. At the end of the day, when you rock up to a gig, you know it’s very different to just watching your favourite band play your favourite song. We want it to do things that create moments that are worthy of your time.”

While they’ve come a long way from that Byron Bay backstreet to being a major player in Australian and world metal, McCall and Parkway Drive will likely continue aiming to prove themselves for some time to come.

“Years ago, nobody was saying Parkway was going to be able to get as big as we are, play the songs we play, create the music we do, put on the shows we put on and have the actual imagination to do that,” McCall says. “We’ve had 16 years’ worth of pressure and this has been the year we’ve realised we can do this and we have the space to create something using our imaginations, rather than just be in survival mode. So there’s more pressure, but we’re also aware of what the pressure is, and how to deal with it better. There’s been a hell of a lot of people who say we’re one thing and we’ll never be anything else, or we’ve been left out of many equations, which is fine. But it helps us realise the fact we were aware of that status the entire time, and it’s something we’ve been trying to smash. It’s nice to know we’ve been able to do that. It’s been a very interesting experience.”

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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: BIGSOUND Live – Brisbane – Night three (5/9/19)

With livers running at 200% capacity and the memories of a normal routine feeling distant and fuzzy, it’s time to dust ourselves off and give it another crack at Bigsound’s third official night of live music.

First up at Crowbar Black is Towns, playing their twelfth show since Saturday. The Adelaide duo immediately set the scene for a tip-top evening with a charismatic, funny and skilful set of punk/pop/rock numbers. “I’m so fucking happy!” says frontman Aston Valadares, grinning ear to ear, before throwing a bunch of t-shirts into the audience, Oprah-style. A medley of television themes, including ‘Home and Away’, ‘Round the Twist, ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and ‘Friends’ provide a fun counterpoint to their admittedly “little sad” track, ‘Bleach’.

towns bigsound live brisbane 2019
Towns

Over at Black Bear Lodge, Sunbeam Sound Machine’s Nick Sowersby and his band are making a gentler, more blissed-out sound, including tracks from new record, ‘Goodness Gracious’. ‘Talking Distance’ goes over particularly well in a venue that is perfect for the intimate feel of the group’s music.

At the Elephant, Reliqa vocalist Monique Pym is more into demanding intimacy from her enthusiastic audience. “Tell someone you love them – the person right next to you!” she suggests, to awkward glances from strangers taking in the Gosford collective. Pym is a powerhouse of energy with a towering voice that must place Reliqa as one of the most exciting young metal bands in the country.

Reliqa Bigsound Live Brisbane 2019
Reliqa

Mermaidens are certainly not the demanding types at the Ivory Tusk, saying they “don’t want to get in trouble” if they play over their timeslot, although they do mention their new album being out tomorrow (6th September) several times. They do exactly as their bio describes, and do it extremely well – all dreamy vocals, hypnotic guitars and more charm than you can poke your hangover at.

Mermaidens Bigsound Live Brisbane 2019
Mermaidens

At the Outpost, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers are simultaneously expressing their gratitude for the presence of a sizeable crowd, generating considerable industry buzz, displaying their Canberra home-town pride and playing a collection of rock and alternative numbers like its some of the best parts of the ’90s all over again. ‘I Like That You Like That’ is their best song and marks them as serious contenders.

Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers bigsound live brisbane 2019
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers

Following a solid first-night show, the draw towards Laura Imbruglia at Black Bear Lodge is almost irresistible, and going against some imagined principle/protocol/ethic/whatever of Bigsound and seeing the same artist twice suddenly doesn’t seem in any way criminal. The Melburnian and her band, the Bin Chickens, are, quite simply, a class act. ‘Tricks’ and ‘Carry You Around’ allow lead guitarist Alex MacRae to flex his considerable chops as the quartet settle into a potent groove for another evening-winning set.

Laura Imbruglia Bigsound Live Brisbane 2019
Laura Imbruglia and the Bin Chickens

What a bloody great three nights of live music.

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Live review: BIGSOUND Live – Brisbane – Night two (4/9/19)

Dusting off hangovers, minor/major exhaustion and the shadow of day jobs brings the second night of BIGSOUND back into focus, and with another outstanding line-up of bands to get the teeth into, the appetite is big for night two of the showcase.

First up at Crowbar is Sydney quartet The Buoys, who blast through a high-octane, “emotional rollercoaster” of a set, with frontwoman Zoe Catterall getting among the audience and getting into the mood by snagging a bite from a punter’s Bloody Mary celery stick between bouts of highly impressive shredding.

The Buoys Brisbane Bigsound 2019
The Buoys

Over at Ric’s, Egyptian-Australian Mariam Sawires is impressing in a somewhat more serene fashion; her voice on songs like ‘Together’ – inspired by missing her sister when living in Japan – soars high and marks the nomad vocalist as not only one to watch, but probably deserving of a classier setting than the milk-crate-adorned surrounds of the beloved Valley venue.

Mariam Sawires Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Mariam Sawires

Meanwhile, at The Wickham, Sydney rap queen Lauren. riles up an enthusiastic audience by getting in their face before claiming, “I only smoked one bong today!” to a huge roar of appreciation.

Lauren Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Lauren

At the Brightside, Brisbane’s First Beige have packed out the room and melt into an instantly engaging jam, including a guest trumpeter, while at the Elephant’s crammed back bar, English quartet The Amazons run through a set of polished pop tunes on their first ever Australian gig, and Ainsley Farrell is winning hearts and minds with a classy, lilting and uplifting set at Black Bear Lodge, including new track ‘Dark Spell’.

First Beige Bigsound Brisbane 2019
First Beige

Downstairs at Crowbar, Melbourne metallers Outright are loudly-and-proudly anything but polished, with powerhouse singer Jelena Goluza taking the classic foot-on-monitor stance between explosions of noise, before Sydney post-punk outfit 100 put in a solid and loose shift in front of an appreciative audience.

100 Bigsound Live Brisbane 2019
100

Seeing Mambali – from Numbulwar in the Northern Territory – is the perfect way to finish the evening; the Indigenous collective play an exciting, captivating show to a wildly engaged crowd as the evening draws to a close.

Mambali Brisbane Bigsound 2019
Mambali

Is anyone ready to pass out yet?

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Live review: BIGSOUND Live – Brisbane – Night one (3/9/19)

Like Christmas, your birthday, or the dread of filling out another tax return, BIGSOUND rolls around again in no time; although it’s significantly more welcome milestone than many.

First up at Crowbar, singer-guitarist Siobhan Poynton introduces Scabz as “the shittest band at BIGSOUND” before opener ‘What You Stand For’ – a song about Anthony Albanese and false promises. “Told you we were shit,” she follows – a patently untrue statement. ‘Brett Lee’s Got no ID (And He Can’t Get Into World Bar)’ tells the story of Poynton’s encounter with the cricketer at a former place of work; a close call as he “likes Tony Abbott”, as it turns out.

Scabz Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Scabz

Over at Woolly Mammoth, Concrete Surfers are conducting a more polite, but equally impressive and somewhat ramshackle, affair. “We’re here to hopefully rock your socks off,” claims frontman Jovi Brook, softly, while bassist Trent Courtenay – looking like the throttled young caddie from ‘Happy Gilmore’ – slaps his instrument like a master.

Concrete Surfers Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Concrete Surfers

Only a lucky handful of people are present to witness Black Rock Band at the Woolly Mammoth, and what a delight they are treated to by the West Arnhem collective. They aren’t the only band giving an acknowledgement of country tonight, which is encouraging to see and hear, but are likely the only singing in Kunwinjku – addressing both a depth of cultural and social issues and making a rapidly growing audience dance their asses off, too.

Black Rock Band Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Black Rock Band

Reija Lee, playing outside at The Wickham, promises to “amp it up a little” at the beginning of her set. The musical chameleon delivers a varied collection of pop and electro numbers, switching between bass and vocals and winning over a seated audience in no time at all. Her voice and performance deserves a bigger stage.

Reija Lee Brisbane Bigsound 2019
Reija Lee

Over at The Foundry, Dianas are shaking the walls with the tightest performance so far this evening – the Melbourne-via-Perth group make a hell of a sound for a trio, despite complaints of an incredibly sticky stage. Powerhouse drummer Anetta Nevin steals the show with a skin-thumping masterclass, leaving her kit beaten and defeated as the cymbals ring out on the final tune.

Dianas Brisbane Bigsound 2019
Dianas

At The Zoo, Laura Imbruglia and her band the Bin Chickens immediately prove to be the best act of the evening so far as they run through songs from new album, ‘Scared of You’. Opener ‘Tricks’ and follow-up ‘Carry You Around’ set the tone for a classy, skilful set that looks like it will be hard to top this year.

Laura Imbruglia Bigsound 2019 Brisbane
Laura Imbruglia and the Bin Chickens

BIGSOUND veterans Bad//Dreems go about their business with the loose, vaguely off-kilter aesthetic they are known and loved for, playing songs from their upcoming third album, including new tune ‘Piss Christ’. Older tracks ‘My Only Friend’ and ‘Mob Rule’ still sit well among the new songs, while “oldie but a garibaldi” (frontman Ben Marwe’s words) ‘Hoping For’ remains some of their finest work.

Bad/Dreems Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Bad//Dreems

Approachable Members of Your Local Community are the perfect end to the evening at the Ivory Tusk. The “deep south” Melbourne quartet, dressed in ludicrous, matching red Adidas shirts and shorts, are fun, upbeat and silly in all the best ways. New track ‘The Internet’ sounds like a winner while ‘Semiotic Vision’ is perhaps their best song, but it’s the performance that makes it a killer show.

Approachable Members of Your Local Community Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Approachable Members of Your Local Community

Bring on nights two, three and four.

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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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Fowler’s Live Closes: The End of an Era

Fowlers Live Adelaide South Australia music

When a social media post announced the impending closure of Fowler’s Live on October 3rd, the outpouring of love for the beloved music venue left operator Peter Darwin staggered.

“The support we’ve received has been unbelievable,” he said. “We had thousands of comments and messages on there. The overwhelming reaction was that people felt safe here, they enjoyed the community, and they felt that it had a genuine family feel. For a couple of days there I was really quite gobsmacked and found it difficult reading a lot of the heartfelt comments and feeling the love for the place.”

After 15 years spent fighting government red tape and upheaval to keep the 500-capacity venue afloat, Peter finally had to admit defeat when Arts SA announced they would be seeking to expand the use of the space at a significantly increased rent.

“Essentially, for that entire period we’ve only had two-year leases or occasionally a little bit longer,” Peter said. “There have been probably two other occasions when government policy was looking to revert the space into theatre or general art space, and on both those occasions that changed again. They then advised on September 30th that there was another operator coming in and we wouldn’t be able to continue. Clearly I’m unhappy about the situation, but I also am a realist in that I’ve known that, ever since I’ve took the place on with two-year leases, it was clear that it was going to end. To get to 15 years of operation and not be bankrupt is a reasonable achievement.”

The venue is well known as a national touring spot and as a place for local bands to cut their teeth, and leaves behind countless memories for those who have passed through its doors. While Peter could probably tell stories about the venue for days, two in particular stand out.

“We had the Mark of Cain, obviously a great Adelaide heavy-rock band, playing here one night some years ago on a stinking hot Adelaide summer night. It was about 42 degrees outside and must have been 60 inside by the time we had 500 people under the hot lights. It was just one of those nights when 500 people were operating as one person, rocking out to the band. Everyone was dripping in sweat, the place stank, and we were handing out water everywhere – it is still so clear in my mind.”

“Another time, [Californian punk band] Unwritten Law had played a gig here that night and some of Keith Urban’s crew and band came back to the venue, and the Unwritten Law guys were hanging out having a beer. For the next two hours, there was this bunch of punk guys drooling over the experiences, the stories and the knowledge of the crew and musicians of the Keith Urban band. The monitor engineer had been around for about 30 years and was reeling off stories. These guys were just beside themselves with the experiences and stories. You would not think those two groups of people would any recognition of each other at all.”

While the Fowler’s Live community is left with only memories, Arts SA has announced that Five Four Entertainment bid successfully for the lease, and aim to operate it as a live music and arts venue from January.

Peter, who will keep busy with the upcoming Keith Urban tour and looking after live music for the Adelaide 500, among other things, reluctantly admitted he can look back with pride.

“I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity and proud of what we’ve achieved,” he said. “Somehow I managed to make things go from A to B without fucking up. I just hope the new tenants keep a strong, original live music content here.”

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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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Live review: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Riverstage, Brisbane – 25/1/17

nick cave brisbane riverstage 25/1/17

“It’s always so f**king hot in Brisbane,” says Nick Cave, four songs into the set. “How do you even tolerate it?”

The answer to that question probably includes tonight’s audience being willing to endure the heat and a whole lot more for the chance to spend the night before a public holiday in the company of one of Australia’s finest artists (somehow the words ‘musician’, ‘singer’ or ‘songwriter’ fall pathetically short when applied to Cave).

It may be hot, hot, hot at Brisbane’s Riverstage, but such trivialities melt into the background when faced with the all-conquering qualities of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; whose latest album ‘Skeleton Tree’ is getting its first airing in these parts. For that reason, themes of loss and death are particularly heavy in the set, but nothing exists in a single dimension with Cave. Despite the darkness, frustration, and anger in much of his music, the show is a remarkably humorous affair. Cave urges the audience to write to the City Council over the “fucking absurd” 10pm curfew, playfully shouts “Sexual harassment!” when a female audience member gets a bit too hands-on, makes a subtle dig at that Trump guy, and gloriously messes up his vocal timing at a couple of points: all adding to the enjoyment of the spectacle.

nick cave brisbane riverstage 25/1/17

An opening trio of ‘Anthrocene’, ‘Jesus Alone’ and ‘Magneto’ confirm it is going to be a special night, before a slithering and emphatic ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ provides an early highlight, followed by the towering ‘From Her to Eternity’. Cave dominates the stage as he slides left and right, arms gesticulating wildly and face contorted with intensity. At almost 60 he is still as magnetic and charismatic a frontman as you are likely to encounter, adding to the near-ritualistic nature of the show.

‘Tupelo’, ‘Jubilee Street’, ‘The Ship Song’ and ‘Into My Arms’ are up next, with Cave describing the latter as the best version they have done in 15 years, and, with a cheeky smirk, asks the audience to “leave it to the professionals” when song requests are hollered. ‘Red Right Hand’ brings perhaps the biggest highlight of the second half of the show, and sees Cave once again getting among his worshippers at front-and-centre.

‘Skeleton Tree’ is the obvious closer, and with one eye on a clock showing 9:50pm, the band reappear quickly to run through ‘Mermaids’ and an apocalyptic ‘Stagger Lee’. There’s a lingering question over whether the “fucking absurd” curfew has robbed us of at least one or two more tracks, but if the feeling in the chests of several thousand people leaving the Riverstage isn’t 100% gig-going satisfaction, I don’t know what is.

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Live review: Fatboy Slim + Erick Morillo + Nick Galea – Brisbane Riverstage – 25/1/16

fatboy slim brisbane riverstage 2016

A near sell-out crowd witnessed a bonafide EDM legend’s triumphant return to Brisbane on a balmy Australia Day Eve, as the man sometimes known as Norman Cook proved he’s still the master of his craft.

An opening run-out for local talent Nick Galea was followed by a two-hour set from Erick Morillo as dusk closed around the natural amphitheatre of the Riverstage. “If you’re having a good time, make some motherfucking noise,” the Colombian-American demanded, to massive cheers. “If you’re having a good time and you’re gonna have sex tonight, make some motherfucking noise,” came next, to a much less confident response.

After only a few minutes turnaround, Cook appeared on stage at 8:30pm, and attacked his audience with a non-stop assault of sound for 90 minutes. Such is the length and breadth of appeal of Cook’s career that it could almost be divided into eras, and elements of every one of them got a run out and were met with a similar positive response.

‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’ and ‘Renegade Master’ kicked off proceedings, and as Cook moved through a relentless run of his many tracks and remixes, he also found plenty of time to pay homage to his musical heroes, with excerpts of Iggy Pop, Marvin Gaye, the White Stripes, Talking Heads and of course, the Chemical Brothers thrown in for good measure. A couple of well-appreciated Bowie tributes were nice touches, including mashing ‘Rebel Rebel’ into the mix, and the light show would have worried every epilepsy sufferer from Southbank to the Valley.

The only way to finish was, of course, his signature tune, ‘The Rockafeller Skank’. As the vast, happy audience poured out of the Riverstage, Fatboy Slim had to be given major credit for raising a valid question: when was the last time so many happy Brisbanites came together and danced their socks off on a Monday night?

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Live review: Rise Against + Clowns + Outright – Brisbane Riverstage – 4/12/15

rise against brisbane riverstage

“This is the sign that it’s been a great gig,” says Tim McIlrath, holding aloft a rancid, steaming trainer which has just landed next to him. Like with everything the Rise Against frontman says or does at Brisbane’s Riverstage on Friday night (4th December), a deafening roar is hurtled stage-wards from a ferocious audience. And after this comment, the shoes keep coming.

Every great gig need to start with great supports, though, and tonight’s show is lucky to have two of them. Melbourne hardcore outfit Outright are first to force the dials into the red with an intense early set. Singer Jelena Goluza will have undoubtedly won her band new fans with an impressively brutal vocal onslaught over a 25-minute set and a passionate speech about domestic violence before the track ‘A City Silent’. Fantastic work Jelena; the music world needs more of you.

Next up is Melbourne’s hardcore/punk gang Clowns, whose frontman Stevie Williams finds himself with a ripped shirt as early as the first song after getting among the audience at front-and-centre. The quartet are typically energetic and charming over a furious 30 minutes; in turn mounting monitors and amps, demanding that some dude “delete his fucking Tinder” and get off his phone, playing monster riff after monster riff, and finally, posing for a photo with their audience. These guys have got to be near the top of the pile in terms of what Australia can offer the genre right now.

As the R, I, S and E are unveiled from beneath their drapes and the steam begins to rise from a heaving crowd in front of the barrier, an obviously up-for-it band get to business with ‘The Great Die-Off’, ‘The Good Left Undone’ and ‘Satellite’ as an opening salvo, with a few hundred metres already run by guitarist Zach Blair and bassist Joe Principe, as they switch position and stances repeatedly. A testosterone-heavy crowd laps up everything coming from the stage and shows its appreciation with the aforementioned soaring shoes, pinging plastic bottles, and a cacophony of tone-deaf vocal accompaniment fit for a footy match.

‘Prayer of the Refugee’ receives a huge response, as does a towering ‘Ready to Fall’, and while McIlrath’s solo section, including ‘Swing Life Away’, takes the sting out of proceedings for a while, a massive finish is assured with ‘Savior’. Rise Against loves Australia and Australia loves them back is the takeaway from this evening.

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