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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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Live review: AC/DC + The Hives + Kingswood – Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre – 12/11/15

AC/DC brisbane 2015

IT’S been a long five years since the AC/DC train rolled through Australia on the Black Ice tour, so it’s not surprising that seemingly every rock fan in Brisbane has descended on QSAC, armed to the teeth and ready for battle with flashing devil horns and the blackest of black T-shirts, ready to see if the Rock or Bust show can top that triumphant memory.

The great thing about AC/DC shows up to now is that fans know exactly what they’re going to get: two-ish hours of straight-up, world class rock ‘n’ roll with duckwalks and inflatable cartoon groupies thrown in for good measure. This time, though, something is different: rhythm linchpin Malcolm Young and long-serving drummer Phil Rudd are no longer with the band; the former now suffers from dementia and the latter found himself under house arrest. Replacing them are Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young on guitar and drumming veteran Chris Slade; both have served time with the band previously. So, are the new/old boys up to the task?

Kingswood are the first to step up and warm the audience’s eardrums, and they do so with hard-rocking aplomb. Opening with ‘She’s My Baby’, the Melbourne quartet immediately sound massive, and as the cool-as-funk synths of ‘I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me’ slice the dusk air, it feels like they’re making this look and sound easy. Frontman Fergus Linacre’s towering vocals during closer ‘Ohio’ sound right at home in a stadium.

Everyone’s favourite Swedish garage rockers are next, and it’s great to see that after 20 years in the business, the Hives are still throwing themselves around stages with as much hyperactivity as they did after breaking big in the early 2000s. With his trademark high kicks, microphone swinging and crowd baiting, frontman ‘Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist covers several kilometres around the stage, issuing unintelligible demands and declaring his love for Brisbane. ‘Walk Idiot Walk’, ‘Die Alright’, ‘Tick Tick Boom’ and the “song about me being an asshole”, ‘Main Offender’, still sound great, and by the time they’re finished with ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’, the air is thick with anticipation and the smell of a thousand upturned rum and cokes.

After the traditional animated opening, this time featuring an asteroid Angus, AC/DC kick into the title track from Rock or Bust, and any concerns over the absence of certain tried-and-trusted band members fade. Immediately sounding, and more importantly, feeling, like the AC/DC we know and love, the band is tight and heavy. Slade is a powerhouse behind the kit and Stevie Young plays as closely to his uncle’s sound as probably anybody could.

‘Shoot to Thrill’ is followed by ‘Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be’ and ‘Back in Black’, at which stage, despite singer Brian Johnson’s top form and bassist Cliff Williams’s solid display as ever, it becomes the Angus Young show for the rest of the gig. He is basically the frontman of AC/DC after all, and whether he’s duckwalking, pointing to the audience, shredding like a maniac or throwing himself around the floor like a child having a seizure, the six-string legend has thousands of people eating out of his hand at every move.

Newer track ‘Play Ball’ sits perfectly among the Back In Black-era songs, ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ earns the first of many boob flashes of the evening, ‘Thunderstruck’ receives an earth-shaking response and ‘High Voltage’ sees Brian Johnson calling Malcolm Young’s name and hearing it yelled back at him in glorious harmony. It’s after ‘Have a Drink on Me’ and ‘TNT’ that inflatable Rosie makes an appearance, which leads into an extended, fiery version of ‘Let There Be Rock’ and an encore of ‘Highway to Hell’ and ‘For Those About To Rock (We Salute You), complete with trademark cannon salute and fireworks.

It seemed difficult to imagine how AC/DC could have topped the spectacle of the Black Ice tour, but with Rock or Bust, they’ve done it. To think of what they’ve accomplished having lost a founding guitarist and established drummer is remarkable, and this show is the evidence. Whether there will be another tour is hard to call, but if tonight’s gig was anything to go by, Angus and the boys can do just about anything they want to.

SETLIST

Rock or Bust
Shoot to Thrill
Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Play Ball
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Thunderstruck
High Voltage
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train
Hells Bells
Baptism by Fire
You Shook Me All Night Long
Sin City
Shot Down in Flames
Have a Drink on Me
TNT
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock

Encore:
Highway to Hell
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

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Live review: Meg Mac – Max Watt’s House of Music, Brisbane – 2/10/15

Meg Mac, Brisbane

A sold-out venue at the end of a sold-out tour, following four sold-out nights at the Corner in Melbourne is the setting for the rising phenomenon that is the Meg Mac show. Gushing reports have followed every date the Sydneysider has played so far, but has she left enough in the tank to conquer Brisbane on a warm spring evening?

A short set by local act Big Strong Brute sets up Banff – a.k.a. fellow Brisbanite Benjamin Forbes – to run through a set of soft and pleasant indie-pop tunes before a room rapidly filling to bursting point. Songs from his recently-released EP, Future Self, go down well, including the gently rolling ‘Anyone Else’, while a version of Midlake’s ‘Roscoe’ reveals Forbes’ influences and provides a suitable close.

Following a quick turnaround and a curtain raise, it’s to a wall of deafening, mostly female screaming and a palpable release of energy in the room that Megan McInerney takes to the stage, dressed in her trademark all-black and wide-rimmed hat. It’s not her fashion sense that makes her a class act, of course; it’s that voice. Variously towering, soulful and dripping with the sweetest of tones, hers is a vocal talent which few Australian artists can match, and will be the tool which will surely be used to forge a long and successful career in music at home and abroad.

Mac’s songwriting and stage act aren’t to be sniffed at either; as she works through tracks from her EP and a couple of covers, the quality doesn’t drop for a minute – quite the opposite, in fact. ‘Every Lie’ provides an early highlight, before ‘Known Better’ doesn’t seem like it can be beat, only to be outshone by the roof-raising ‘Grandma’s Hands’ and show-closer ‘Never Be’, with space for a cover of Jimmy Ruffin’s ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ in between; the Motown sound being a large part of the young singer’s makeup.

A baying crowd isn’t going to let her slip away that easily, though, and it’s an encore of her ‘Like a Version’ effort, ‘Bridges’ by Broods, which sends her audience back into the Brisbane night, safe in the knowledge we had just witnessed something special by a remarkably accomplished young performer.

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Live review: BIGSOUND Live – Fortitude Valley, Brisbane – 9th and 10th September 2015

Wednesday 9th

BIGSOUND? More like bloody massive sound. Whatever the next level up from ‘embarrassment of riches’ is, QMusic have pulled it out of the bag in 2015. With 150 bands on 15 stages over two nights, BIGSOUND Live is the metaphorical all-you-can-eat buffet of emerging Australian musical talent. The only problem with having so many options is the effort it takes to suppress your FOMO when working out a schedule for the evening.

The first stop for this reviewer also proved to be perhaps the most brutal of the night at Crowbar. “We’re Jack the Stripper,” announced frontman Luke Frizon amidst a barrage of machine-gun kick drums and savage riffs, before scrambling over the railing and getting among his audience, which has doubled in size in the space of a minute, as his band’s guitarist spits beer over everything within a few metres radius. The quintet’s brand of merciless metal blows the cobwebs away and puts the eardrums on edge for the night ahead.

Jack the Stripper Bigsound
Jack the Stripper

Over at the Zoo, Sydney’s Big White are equally impressive, albeit in a more jangly, indie-pop way. Their guitar-pop is innocent but intense, and laced with melodies to die for.

Big White Bigsound
Big White

Tucked away in Winn Lane, there is a palpable buzz in the air as well as in the name of the largely unknown, but most exciting act of the night so far, Green Buzzard. With the floppiest of hair and finest of equipment the quintet give a first impression of being like Peace but with talent, and frontman Patrick Harrowsmith has undoubted shades of Tim Burgess and Ian Brown. “This is pretty cool for a Tuesday, no – Wednesday,” says their bass player to an audience too laidback to get into it. Expect big things from these lads.

Green Buzzard Bigsound
Green Buzzard

Back at the Elephant, Melbourne’s Pearls are handing out a lesson in cool to a large and eager audience. A final flourish with their single ‘Big Shot’ is an excellent way to go out with a bang, before Perth’s Methyl Ethyl enjoy a similarly-sized amount of adulation before a smoke-hazed crowd.

Pearls Bigsound
Pearls

As the air chills and the evening is well and truly broken in, Ella Thompson takes to the stage at the Brightside’s outdoor area with the voice of the night, hell; the voice of ANY night. The first of two performances from the talented Melburnian over two nights, prior to Dorsal Fins’ Thursday showcase, this over-too-soon set only reinforces the fact Thompson possesses one of the best and most soulful pop voices in the country. Songs from her debut album Janus, including second track ‘Drift’ sound, quite simply, divine.

Ella Thompson Bigsound
Ella Thompson

The atmosphere is Rics is thick with hype and brooding talent as Melbourne quartet Gold Class put in a masterclass of post-punk intensity and smart rock. With an unmistakeable whiff of Joy Division and a Soviet-era fashion sense, the band put in the best performance of the evening to surely win many new fans and mark themselves as serious new contenders.

Gold Class Bigsound
Gold Class

Not-so-new contenders Cosmic Psychos, meanwhile, are putting smiles on the faces of everyone watching their outstandingly raucous garage and punk show at the New Globe. As an inflatable doll is thrown around the front rows and Ross Knight announces “It’s a Wednesday – every day is a good day to go to the pub,” the band kick into ‘Nice Day to Go to the Pub’, and a mighty climax is reached for many punters’ first night of BIGSOUND.

Cosmic Psychos Bigsound
Cosmic Psychos

One last showcase can be fitted in for this reviewer, however, and it comes in the form of Le Pie at the Press Club. With a head adorned with flowers and socks pulled to knee height, the diminutive singer and her band find it hard to fill 30 minutes, but with toes dipped in pop, punk and soul, the Newtown singer shows enough talent and promise to earn a rousing and well-deserved reception from a grateful audience.

Le Pie Bigsound
Le Pie

As usual, BIGSOUND Live has delivered, most especially in the form of standouts Ella Thompson and Gold Class. May the merciful, sweet hangover gods spare our souls as we aim to do it all again tonight.

Thursday 10th

With hangovers supressed and a renewed skip in our step, we took to the streets of Fortitude Valley for another round of whatever BIGSOUND Live could throw at us.

At the Zoo, Sydney’s I Know Leopard provide a rousing beginning to the evening with a set of high energy indie-rock gems that show why the hype surrounding the band is so great. Single ‘Close My Eyes’, from a new EP released today, sounds particularly good, as does the mammoth finish with ‘Perfect Picture’.

I Know Leopard Bigsound
I Know Leopard

Over at the Brightside, Melbourne’s Dorsal Fins turn the car park area into an eighties dance party; the band’s nine members exude as much joy from one set as a dozen bands put together. ‘Mind Renovation’ is the perfect place to start, and while singer Ella Thompson remains the major talent of the band, it’s the collective sense of fun that makes their show so appealing.

Dorsal Fins Bigsound
Dorsal Fins

Meanwhile, at the New Globe, Sydney ambient rockers Dumbsaint aren’t in the business of fun. Their brand of rock is even more dark and intense live than it is on record, and is enough to hold an audience entranced despite a ‘clusterfuck’ of technical difficulties, as drummer Nick Andrews puts it. The quartet should consider their showcase well and truly nailed.

Dumbsaint Bigsound
Dumbsaint

At Rics, Jonny Telafone takes barely one song to remove his shirt and expose his dadbod to an audience which laps up his electro-ambient, post-apocalyptic R‘n’B silliness. The Melbourne-based singer is perhaps one of the least known acts on the BIGSOUND bill, but will have gained plenty of deserved attention after tonight. Have a listen to ‘The Prayer’ and take your top off – go on, it feels good.

Jonny Telafone Bigsound
Jonny Telafone

At Oh! Hello, Melbourne rapper Baro shows why he is one of the most exciting new talents in Australian rap and Hip Hop, amid repeated demands to “make some motherfuckin’ noise” and uniform arm-waving with an engaged crowd. Closer ‘Resume’ provides a mighty climax and leaves this reviewer in awe of the talent possessed by a guy who is still only 18. Highlight of the night.

Baro Bigsound
Baro

Brisbane indie-pop darlings Major Leagues have drawn a big crowd at the Wooly Mammoth, and it’s easy to see why; their tunes are still as infectious and poised as ever. The quartet are, by now, veterans of BIGSOUND and take their chance to air new single ‘Someone Sometime’ in a set which goes down well.

Trying to get close enough to the Brightside stage to see JOY is a thoroughly pointless act, so the destination is Rics once more to catch Us the Band, who are thrashing out a couple of final tracks of high-octane garage-punk.

Us the Band Bigsound
Us the Band

It’s up to Byron Bay’s wonderfully ramshackle Skegss to round off the evening’s entertainment in front of their homemade banner reading ‘Skegss – the worst band eva!’ Their set is ramshackle and great fun, and while the band are certainly not the worst ever, they are perhaps the loosest on show tonight – in a good way.

Skegss Bigsound
Skegss

And so, the curtain falls on another BIGSOUND Live, and QMusic should be congratulated yet again for a bloody cracking job. Highlights for this reviewer included Baro, I Know Leopard, Gold Class and Ella Thompson. Now, just give me a bed and don’t bother me for several days.

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Live review: HOLY HOLY + Fractures + Big Bad Echo – The Zoo, Brisbane – 22/8/15

SOMETIMES I think I’ve had enough of all these bleedin’ indie bands and the whole damn scene. I mean, how am I meant to feel good about myself when they’re making looking cool appear as easy as flicking on a switch, while I’m four beers in with a self-conscious sweat on my back that’s making me want to pack in this gig lark for good?

It’s probably a good idea, therefore, to be reminded of what a great guitar band can do and what an indie-rock gig can be from time to time. The warmth, the uplifting fervour, the sheer bloody majesty of it all. It’s good to be reminded of these things, and HOLY HOLY (augustly capitalised, if you please) seems the type of band capable of doing it. A sold-out Zoo is, as always, the prime venue for the occasion.

Two support bands set the scene for tonight’s show. First up is Brisbane quintet Big Bad Echo, who will have won a plethora of new fans with this performance. Part The National, part Jesus and Mary Chain, part “huh?”, their dark and trippy jams are mesmerising and intense. Eyebrows were raised as a saxophone was produced at one point, but it was a move that only served to make their strangeness more daring, and as a result, endearing. Consider this reviewer converted.

big bad echo

Fractures is Melburnian Mark Zito, who delivers a collection of dark and often melancholy songs from his debut, self-titled EP. ‘Unwind’ and new track ‘Noise’ sound particularly good and go over well with a swelling audience bursting with anticipation.

fractures

And so, time for that aforementioned majesty. HOLY HOLY are a band on an upward trajectory that has recently seen them tour overseas, play Splendour in the Grass and release a well-received debut record. Singer/guitarist and songwriter Tim Carroll’s Brisbane roots make this particular show a little bit special for the band and audience, and the boys deliver in fine style (and yes, there was dancing).

holy holy brisbane

‘History’ and ‘Sentimental and Monday’ are top tunes to start with, as Carroll’s controlled, masterful vocals compliment Oscar Dawson’s slick licks. ‘Wanderer’ quickly follows in what is a largely laidback and comfortable set so far, before a Terminator 2: Judgment Day theme cover pops the balloon of earnestness in unexpected and compelling fashion. ‘House of Cards’ and ‘A Heroine’ further cement the band’s skills as not only top songwriters but performers too, and as ‘Impossible Like You’ leads into the soaring ‘You Cannot Call For Love Like a Dog’, some sort of symbolic wall is kicked down and the mood in the room instantly feels elevated by several levels. It’s a song good enough to remind even the most weary gig goer of the joys that drew us in in the first place; all soaring dual guitars and singalong lines that demand facial contortions from everyone who wants to sing or air-guitar along.

An encore of Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’ rounds off what is a fantastic night of rock music, provided by an Australian band who have come of age in recent months. As I take the first steps along Ann Street towards the chaos of Brunswick Street Mall, I can’t helping feeling my faith in indie-rock is restored.

Live review: The Foundry Re-Launch – Fortitude Valley, Brisbane – 20/8/15

the foundry brisbane

‘G’DAY, it’s been a while,’ read the sign over the door of Fortitude Valley’s newest and coolest live music venue for its official re-launch last night (Thursday 20th), as the Foundry reopened its doors for business after what has seemed like a long wait since its initial March opening.

Live performances from Major Leagues, Orphans Orphans, Palms and Dune Rats helped the Wickham Street live venue, arts space and creative studio complex celebrate its return in explosive fashion, in what is another major win for Brisbane’s live music scene.

Many rounds of complimentary drinks and food courtesy of the adjacent Greaser Bar helped a packed house settle in before local lasses (and lad) Major Leagues opened the musical entertainment for the evening with a typically delicate set of pop and shoegaze tracks, with ‘Endless Drain’ sounding particularly good in front of a rapidly growing audience.

Spencer White of local supergroup Orphans Orphans probably had the biggest and most impressive frontman pout on display anywhere in Brisbane during his band’s set, to go with his equally impressive mullet and undeniable lead singer charisma. The quintet – also featuring members of Jungle Giants, Moses Gunn Collective and the Belligerents – put on a wonderfully retro show of ‘60s and ‘70s-tinged pop tracks with clear nods to Jagger, Morrison, and even a little David Johansen.

Orphans Orphans
Orphans Orphans
Palms are a special band. The Sydney quartet seem the type of rough-and-ready gang who would be the most energetic party guests but would probably destroy you in a fight, yet their best songs have titles like ‘Love’ and ‘Don’t Be Ashamed’ – both of which sound fantastic tonight. Despite it being their first gig in over a year, the guys shred with sweaty aplomb, lead by the always-impressive Al Grigg.

Palms
Palms
And so, with the eloquent opening of “We’re Dune Rats, you cunts,” the Brisbane trio let loose a typically shambolic set filled with countless drug references, nudity, offers of sex and C-bombs; basically exactly what has come to be expected from a Dune Rats performance. ‘Dalai Lama Big Banana Marijuana’ is enough to have the audience’s dancing off-tap, while ‘Red Light Green Light’ gets the biggest reaction of the night, leaving DJ Dom Alessio to pick up the pieces.

Dune Rats
Dune Rats
It’s taken a while, but the great news is the Foundry is back and is here to stay this time. There’s already an outstanding list of gigs locked in for the rest of the year, leaving no reason for you to not check it out.

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Live review: TV on the Radio + Kirin J Callinan – the Tivoli, Brisbane – 10/6/15

tv on the radio brisbane

AHHH, the summer of 2008.

It was a bleak time for popular music. That ‘Electric Feel’ song was hanging around like a fart in a blanket, Kaiser Chiefs were still being taken seriously and Kings of Leon had begun the long journey up their own arses. All was not well, oh my brothers and sisters.

But just as the wave ebbs, again must it flow, and its warm and welcome embrace arrived in the form of TV on the Radio’s breakthrough third album Dear Science; a masterpiece of indie/art-rock that was as innovative as it was well-received. Nothing would be the same for the Brooklyn band again, and now, two albums later, they have become something of an institution, highly regarded internationally for both their recorded and live output. In the country to play Vivid Live and a handful of east coast headliners, the quartet are taking the opportunity to give material from their latest album, Seeds, an Australian airing for the first time and it’s Brisbane on a cold (read: not that warm) Wednesday evening that’s the setting.

Someone who cares little for the setting is Kirin J Callinan. “Look at all you Brisbanites together – isn’t it good? Well, it’s good for you, not me,” he laughs, most of the way through a set that chafes, charms and confuses. Top-drawer between-song banter is fast becoming a lost art, but Callinan is a master, although it’s his ability to deliver the unexpected – in this case the crushingly soulful ‘Apology Accepted’ followed by the camped-up-Iggy-on-acid ‘The Toddler’ – that makes him most exciting.

TV on the Radio’s performance, on the other hand, is anything but unexpected – they are tight, trim and untempered by genre, style or trend. Taking the start-with-a-humdinger-before-taking-it-up-a-notch approach with ‘Young Liars’ and ‘Lazerray’, it’s clear the band are up for it from the first few bars. Tunde Adebimpe is a rare breed; a singer who can roar and howl while remaining smooth and soulful, and he consistently proves this while flapping limbs with impressive fury.

‘Happy Idiot’ is an early highlight; it’s typical of the band’s best output in that it’s simple, catchy and urgent, while ‘Could You’ is its obvious twin and ‘Winter’ arouses Adebimpe’s suspicions concerning the lack of anything winter-like in Brisbane. ‘Wolf Like Me’ gets perhaps the biggest response of the evening before ‘Trouble’ and ‘Repetition’ provide a wigged-out close.

It’s now – during their encore – that TVOTR throw a curveball (simultaneously speaking to the nerd in us all) with an excellent reggae/dub version of the Game of Thrones theme. It’s an ace move that is well-received but leaves more than a few heads being scratched, while ‘Staring at the Sun’ provides a more familiar and fitting close to a solid and, at times, rousing performance.

Hats off to TV on the Radio; they made existing in 2008 a more tolerable affair and they’re still doing it seven years later. That ain’t no mean feat.

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Live review: Ed Sheeran + Jamie Lawson + Conrad Sewell – Brisbane River Stage – 20/3/15

ed sheeran

IT’S 6:30pm in Brisbane and something big is happening. Traffic is gridlocked across the CBD, there’s a queue at every ATM and a childlike optimism fills the streets; something definitely isn’t right.

As a giggling swarm of teenage girls descends upon Brisbane’s River Stage, absorbing a seemingly endless supply of hot chips and Dagwood dogs, Ed Sheeran fever takes hold, and it’s not yet clear whether tonight’s gig – the first of three in Brisbane – will be a triumph or a tragedy.

Brisbane boy Conrad Sewell is first to feel the force of the girly screams; the young singer and his pianist run through a short set of sickly sweet pop songs including singles ‘Hold Me Up’ and ‘Start Again’, which sound fine, but could do without introductions like “this next song is about the world” or “this is for all the ladies in the building”.

Second support is Sheeran’s countryman Jamie Lawson, who is the most timid and melancholy performer on show tonight, although his guitar work is fairly classy. He loses the majority of the audience for the first half of his set, before reeling them back in by requesting the wall of baying girls at front-and-centre “be his horn section” (the jokes practically write themselves) on ‘Ahead of Myself’ and latest single ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’, which includes the classic lines “You spent the night in my bed/You woke up and said/‘I wasn’t expecting that’”. Don’t worry mate; it’s happened to us all.

By now, the 9500-capacity venue is full to bursting and the screams welcoming Ed Sheeran to the stage are approaching ultrasonic. Bouncing around with his flaming locks flapping in the breeze, the 24 year-old announces “My name is Ed and my job for the next two hours is to entertain you. It’s your job to be entertained,” as he starts with ‘I’m A Mess’ and ‘Lego House’, with only an acoustic guitar and loop pedal in tow. It only takes the Englishman to stand on his monitor and put his arms in the air to unleash another wave of screaming that threatens to shatter windows within a kilometre’s radius as he moves through ‘Don’t’ and ‘Drunk’, which by now I seriously wish I was.

“I came down with a bad case of man flu this morning. I’ll lose my voice by the end of the show; I hope you do too,” he says, before yet another request to sing along in what, by now, is becoming part of an obvious formula for pretty much every song: (1) request singing, (2) strum a few jaunty chords, (3) throw in some “ooh, oohhs”, (4) break into a sort of pseudo-rap vocal nonsense for two to three minutes, and (5) stand on the monitor if the response isn’t satisfactory.

After the first few songs the formula gets very tired very quickly, and while Sheeran undoubtedly has talent and puts everything into his live performance, it’s hard to see how anyone except naïve kids and their bored middle class parents could be taken in by what plays out as essentially a glorified busking set. In saying that, there’s major money to be pulled from the willing hands of those demographics, as tonight’s gig shows; quality of musical output be damned.

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Live review: Kingswood + Lurch & Chief + The Belligerents – The Triffid, Brisbane – 21/3/15

kingswood brisbane

SUPER cell storms and flash flooding be damned; when Brisbane wants to enjoy some quality rock, there ain’t no weather going to get in our way.

While a freak afternoon downpour may have put the dampeners on many a punter’s Saturday night plans, a sold-out Triffid hosted a triumphant triplet of bands, each of which is doing great things for Australian music right now.

First up is Brisbane’s own The Belligerents who kick the night into gear and show how much they have come into themselves in the past couple of years. Their penultimate song – and recent single – ‘In My Way’ is a major step forward musically for the band, while Jim Griffin’s space-rock guitar takes their sound to a new, stratospheric level.

Melbourne six-piece Lurch & Chief have got to be one of the most exciting new(-ish) bands in Australia at the moment. Fill the superlative jar up to the brim and let it overflow all down your shirt and fill it up again; these guys are bloody brilliant. The juxtaposition between the towering monster vocals of Hayden Somerville and Lilibeth Hall’s more poised approach is a joy to behold, as Somerville throws his arms and hair around the stage and Hall remains the epitome of cool in the centre. New tracks from their upcoming EP sit well next to the more well-known ‘We Are The Same’ and even their cover of Chris Isaak’s god-awful ‘Wicked Game’ comes off wonderfully.

Kingswood are another band flying high right now, with a new album earning rave reviews, a national tour almost in the can and their biggest home-town shows to date just behind them. After a fitting rock ‘n’ roll delay, the lavishly-maned quartet waste no time getting among the riffs with a hard-hitting opening trio of ‘She’s My Baby’, ‘All Too Much’ and ‘Sucker Punch’, in a blistering opening. Referring to the audience as “beautiful people”, frontman Fergus Linacre teases with the words “and I don’t say the beautiful thing every night”.

Perhaps, though, the real star of Kingswood is guitarist Alex Laska; his driving riffs and soaring solos are the standout feature of this international-quality band, although the four parts are as essential to the make-up of the band as each other. Their top-level song-writing on the recently-released Microscopic Wars is probably best epitomised by ‘I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me’; a song that opts for groovy sleaze over rockin’ riffs, their ‘Nightclubbing’ if you like. ‘Tremors’ and ‘Eye of the Storm’ go down well with an audience getting into the occasion, while the titanic ‘Ohio’ provokes such a mass sing-along that Linacre hardly needs to bother.

Sometimes you’re lucky to get one band on a bill firing on all cylinders, but this gig provided three. Sometimes it never rains but it pours.

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Live review: Velociraptor + SPOD + White Lodge – The Foundry Official Launch, Brisbane – 6/3/15

the foundry brisbane

Foundry: noun (plural foundries). A workshop or factory for casting metal.

Whether it was sculpted in sound/moulded in music/forged in the fires of rock ‘n’ roll (that’s my bad foundry puns exhausted), the newest and most promising live music venue in Brisbane has risen from the ashes (not literally) of the old Prince Consort Backpackers on Wickham Street in Fortitude Valley. It was Friday’s official launch party that gave people a chance to check out a new and potentially important part of their social lives. Thankfully, expectations were exceeded.

The first and most important thing to note about the Foundry is that it’s not just another bar with a stage. Besides the live music area and room for 300 punters, there’s a deck overlooking the Elephant pub, pool tables, arcade games, a creative hub of offices and studios, a spacious green room and accommodation for travelling artists. For those of us who care, it’s good to know that there’s a sustainable plan in place to ensure the Foundry remains an ongoing concern for the long-term, but for everyone else, it’s just good to know there’s a pretty cool new joint in which to chuck back some brews and see some bands on a Friday night. This particular Friday night would feature White Lodge, SPOD and Velociraptor.

With the words “Congratulations, Brisbane. I’m back!” SPOD bounded onto the stage and began with a rant at White Lodge’s “rookie mistake” of leaving their pedals onstage and unguarded, before dishing out bags of pork crackle to eager punters. Appropriately introducing ‘Deadshits’ as being “for all you guys up the back having chats like cunts,” the Sydneysider made it obvious he’s in fine, fighting form, before taking a swing at Andrew WK by pointing out his second song ‘Makin’ Party’ was written in 1996, five years before ‘Party Hard’. Other tidbits of wisdom from the mouth of the man include “Robert Downey Jr’s face is like my arse: perfect,” before Jeremy Neale joined in the offbeat brilliance on ‘Couple of Drinks’ and lyrics were forgotten on his closing track. Brilliant.

I was recently chatting with a mate about the consistent quality of acts booked at the weekly Trainspotters gigs at the Grand Central Hotel in Brisbane city, and the exchange contained a sentence along the lines of “Whoever is booking the bands really knows their shit and should be bought a pint.” It turns out that shit-knower is Patrick Balfe, who will be filling the same role for the Foundry as part of a three-man leadership team with building manager Brett Gibson and venue manager (and impressively-moustachioed Velociraptor geetar-guy) Corey Herekiuha. All signs point to promising.

It’s perhaps appropriate, then, that Velociraptor themselves be the band to headline. I count nine members onstage (I think), and all their usual charm and energy is present, as Jeremy Neale leads them through ‘In the Springtime’, ‘Robocop’ and ‘Sleep With the Fishes’, or “the hits”, as he refers to them. Although it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen them – they have a guy on guitar I don’t recognise, who looks like he’s never shaved – they’ve lost none of their rabid zeal, despite key members having things like running a new bar to worry about.

The thing is, though, this event isn’t really about the music; it’s about the venue, and the Foundry has all the ingredients to be up there with the best small live music joints in Brisbane. Get among its Facebook events page and go see for yourself.

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