Live review: Marilyn Manson + Apocalyptica + Deathstars – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 27/2/15

marilyn manson brisbane

BY NOW you’ve seen all the headlines, heard the gossip and checked out the grainy Instagram footage.

So let’s cut to the chase here: this gig will forever be remembered as the one in which Johnny Depp popped his pirate-y headband around the curtain and joined Marilyn Manson for his Sidewave encore.

The 51 year-old – in the country to shoot the fifth instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series – already made an appearance at this week’s Foo Fighters gig, and while he may have given a Brisbane audience much more than they could have hoped for, it’s shock rocker Manson who should be most grateful to the actor for putting some much needed shine on an otherwise lethargic and forgetful performance.

After a short opening set from Swedish rockers Deathstars and an impressive flurry of intricate, classical-tinged metal tracks from Finnish cello-toting titans Apocalyptica – the latter earning huge cheers from a pumped audience – the lights dim and dark rumblings get the hardcore at front-and-centre excited.

Manson skulks onto the stage with hair looking like he’s been bombing his car down the freeway with his head out the window, as his band open with recent single ‘Deep Six’. While a slow opening building to some sort of release might be expected from Manson, all we mostly get are mumbled vocals and the view of the Pale Emperor’s back throughout ‘Disposable Teens’ and ‘mOBSCENE’, as the exalted one seems happy to let his band do most of the work, while he sits back and presumably saves himself for the main event at Soundwave. When he does find it appropriate to put some effort into his vocals he sounds great, but these moments are unfortunately few and far between. Muttering ‘Brisbane, Brisbane, Brisbane’ and pausing like you’re trying to think of something to say about the city between songs isn’t that cool either. Marilyn, we don’t expect some anecdote about how you love the beach at Southbank; we just want to see you play like you mean it, man.

‘Sweet Dreams’ sounds great because it’s simply a damn great song and it’d take someone even more apathetic than Manson to stuff it up, while laidback newer track ‘Third Day of a Seven Day Binge’ at least takes less effort to sound like it’s meant to. An encore – featuring the aforementioned pirate-y one – of ‘The Beautiful People’ is enough to finally get the audience excited as every camera phone in the room suddenly makes an elevated appearance, and while it’s this little episode that will make history, it doesn’t tell the true story of this gig. Manson used to look and sound dangerous, but now he’s just another bored middle-aged guy at a rock concert, albeit one who happens to be holding the microphone.

For Scenestr

Film review: Project Almanac (USA, 2015)

project almanac feature

THERE are two ways you can go when making a movie about time travel.

The first is to do a bit of research into the science and at least have a stab at including some form of explanation about how it’s done in your movie (see Interstellar). The second is to throw the scientific journals out the window, say “to hell with it” and simply have fun with the whole idea (see Back to the Future, Bill & Ted and a million others).

Project Almanac is most certainly in the second category, but while the idea of a found-footage movie starring four relatively-unknown American early-twenty-somethings playing 17 year-old schoolkids who chance upon plans to build a time machine may seem painful, the reality is somewhat different.

Seventeen year-old David Raskin (Jonny Weston) has followed in his dead father’s footsteps by aspiring to be a scientist and inventor. Needing to get a scholarship to attend a prestigious university, he roots around his father’s old spare parts for project ideas and finds a video camera containing footage of his seventh birthday. Watching it with friends Adam (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn (Sam Lerner), and his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner), he spots his 17 year-old reflection in a mirror on the video. They find blueprints and a mysterious mechanical object in the basement, and in a montage that would do Team America proud, they build the machine (don’t ask – it’s something to do with car batteries and hydrogen).

So far so good. After a few test runs involving sparks, bright lights, blatant product placement and not much dialogue beyond “Woo, yeah! Did you see that?” the fun begins. With the class babe Jessie (Sofia Black D’Elia) along for the ride, the quintet use time travel to pass exams, win the lottery, avenge bullying, get backstage passes at Lollapalooza and generally become the cool kids in school.

However, it’s not long before everything turns to crud when the gang realises that the tiny things they change in the past have huge consequences for events in the future – David and Jessie not getting together, their school football team not winning the championship and a huge plane crash being the main three, seemingly in no particular order of importance. It’s only when David realises he has to go back in time by himself to confront his father, destroy the blueprints and still work out how to get the girl that the climax is reached.

So, does the dodgy plot or unnecessarily cheesy love story ruin Project Almanac? On the whole, no. It’s a harmless bit of fun with decent acting by a young cast, and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, mainly courtesy of excellent supports Evangelista and Lerner. Just don’t think about the science.


For Scenestr

Drake: Force of Nature


HE MAY HAVE started from the bottom, but Aubrey Drake Graham is very much on top of the world right now.

Rapping is the 28 year-old’s bread and butter, but with fingers in the metaphorical pies of acting, business, clothing, management, production and sports, the multi-award-winner could never be accused of being a one-trick pony.

The focus, however, will be very much on the Toronto native’s musical skills when he performs for the first time on Australian soil, headlining Future Music Festival and completing a run of sideshows. Drake tops a bill featuring Swedish EDM superstar Avicii, English electronic stalwarts and 2013 headliners The Prodigy, rap-ravers Die Antwoord, Grammy Award-winning DJ Afrojack, as well as local favourites Hilltop Hoods, in what is another stellar line-up put together by the festival.

Future Music Festival director Brett Robinson told of the organisers’ joy about securing the rapper in a less competitive marketplace following the demise of the Big Day Out.

“Scoring Drake for the festival is a big jawdropper,” he said.

“We have been able to focus on presenting the festival we really want with less competition in the marketplace and not being pressured about who is going to get what act.”

“And that has been very good for the budget too with ticket prices going down.”

An appearance at Brisbane Entertainment Centre two days before the Queensland leg of the festival is set to serve as a warm-up, with support coming from friend and frequent collaborator 2 Chainz, who is also booked to appear at the festival. The fact that promoters have confidence enough to book a slot at the 13,000 capacity venue when a festival appearance is already locked in says everything you need to know about the Canadian’s popularity in Australia.

Rising quickly from an acting stint on the small screen in Degrassi: The Next Generation to holding the record for the most number ones on Billboard’s R&B/Hip Hop chart, Drake is a genuine phenomenon, with 36 million Facebook followers in tow and close to a billion YouTube views to boast about. But how has an artist who didn’t even release an album in 2014 managed to remain at the forefront of Hip hop and R&B culture? The answer likely lies in the diversity of his output; from becoming rap’s hottest co-sign and second biggest touring star (after Jay Z), hosting Saturday Night Live and the ESPYs, to allegedly getting his wood on in Nicki Minaj’s Internet-breaking ‘Anaconda’ video.

Great things continued to happen for him despite a misguided swipe at Rolling Stone for pulling his front cover at the last minute in order to pay respect to the life of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He also claimed quotes he supposedly didn’t say about Kanye West made it into the feature, which the magazine belatedly published.

“I’m disgusted with that. RIP to Phillip Seymour Hoffman. All respect due. But the press is evil,” he Tweeted, before adding “I’m done doing interviews for magazines. I just want to give my music to the people. That’s the only way my message gets across accurately.” Rucking with the music press has been the downfall of many an artist, but Drake has managed to ride the critical storm and come out the other end smiling.

Not happy with only taking verbal potshots at the media, he has been involved in so many beefs with other rappers that there is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to them. Perhaps most prominent was his diss trade-off with rap mainstay Pusha T, in which the two traded lyrical and online blows before Chris Brown became the new target after an alleged incident in a nightclub.

As well as having his share of first-world problems, Drake hasn’t always had a life of glam and glory. Writing about the origins of his single ‘Started From The Bottom’ on his label’s blog, he said “I feel sometimes that people don’t have enough information about my beginnings and therefore they make up a life story for me that isn’t consistent with actual events. My family and my second family (consisting of the best friends anybody could ever have) all struggled and worked extremely hard to make all this happen. I did not buy my way into this spot and it was the furthest thing from easy to achieve.”

It’s perhaps unsurprising then, with such a willingness to roll up his sleeves and put in the hard yards, that Drake is so heavily involved in a number of successful enterprises outside of music. As global ambassador and member of the executive committee of his hometown basketball team the Toronto Raptors, he is subtly and successfully merging his love of sport and music. His record label October’s Very Own (OVO), which he founded with longtime friends Noah ‘40’ Shebib and Oliver El-Khatib in 2012, is home to a small roster of North American rapping talent, with ILoveMakonnen, PartyNextDoor and Majid Jordan being standouts. Building the OVO brand into a multi-faceted business which includes a clothing range and the OVOFEST festival – the latest of which featured Outkast and the man himself – Drake has proven himself to be equally adept at raking in the dollars via non-musical methods as he has done via rapping.

As far back as 2009 he was writing the lyrics “I want the money/Money and the cars/Cars and the clothes/The hoes, I suppose,” for his song ‘Successful’. Fast forward six years and he’s got all of these things and more in the palm of his hand. Now it’s Australia’s turn to feel the force of Aubrey Graham.


For Scenestr

Live review: St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Brisbane – 31/1/15

perfect pussy brisbane laneway

Perfect Pussy

“It’s so hot; how can you live like this?”

These are some of the first words Benjamin Booker mutters into his microphone as he takes to the stage at yet another talent-packed and heatstroke-inducing St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival. And he’s from New Orleans…

It’s an appropriate question from the 25 year-old singer-songwriter, as rivers of sweat run from every pore on every square inch of every dancing punters’ skin under the punishing Queensland sun. But since when did a few rays and humidity stop Brisbane having a party?

Particularly perfect party-starters are New York’s Perfect Pussy (try saying that after a few ales); the noisy five-piece charge through a blistering set of shouty punk and hardcore. Singer Meredith Graves may look fairly angelic in her all-white get-up, but once her brutal vocals and flailing arms get going, you realise she is a force to be reckoned with. The juxtaposition of her meek “thank-yous” and ferocious vocal performances is truly a wonderful thing.

Leeds likely lads Eagulls are plying their own brand of guitar noise over at the Good Better Best stage, although theirs is more of the post-punk variety. The harsh afternoon heat hasn’t stopped Brisbane’s music fans from turning out early in large numbers, and the quintet go over well.

Back at the Mistletone stage, Connan Mockasin is one of a few artists who will experience sound problems today, although the New Zealander takes it in his stride, seating himself on a monitor and pulling off some of the most laid-back licks on show today. His woozy psychedelia is perfect for hot days and stiff drinks, which is pretty damn appropriate.

At the Never Let It Rest stage, American singer Raury’s sound is the first of the day to go beyond big and into massive territory; the Atlanta native’s final song ‘God’s Whisper’ being the finest on show so far, as his band mates’ hats fly from their heads, are replaced and fly off again as they bounce around the stage.

Next is South Australian ball of energy Tkay Maidza, who is, quite simply, an infectious delight throughout her entire set. The teen rapper has justified all the hype surrounding her over the past year, and if she keeps pulling out performances that make audiences want to move as much as this, surely world domination isn’t just a pipe dream. ‘Switch Lanes’ is a highlight, as is the ridiculous ‘Brontosaurus’, but it’s Maidza’s I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-but-fuck-it grin that makes her the most fun to watch.

Andy Bull receives a suitably colossal reception from an ecstatic crowd at the Never Let It Rest stage, just before Benjamin Booker gets his sweat on next door. Despite initial problems which force his rhythm section to jam while a pedal is fixed, the classy Louisianan remains unfazed, even while one confused and inebriated woman shouts “Where’s Agnes?” No lady, this is not Mac Demarco, and go drink some water FFS.

jungle laneway brisbane


Back at the Mistletone stage, Norwegians Highasakite finish off with an epic sing-along to their single ‘Since Last Wednesday’, before a storm warning is announced under a heavy and ominous cloud. As English duo Royal Blood kick off and bassist/singer Mike Kerr asks a heaving audience “are you ready to get wet?” that’s exactly what happens; the sky briefly opens and a temporarily-concerning mass of sopping punters surges towards the gates, causing a crush. “If you push me any harder, this girl in front is going to end up pregnant,” announces one guy caught in the mass of bodies, and the band play on, unperturbed.

The rain clears and normality is restored, and Courtney Barnett takes to the stage in front of another huge audience. After kicking off with ‘Lance Jr.’, the Melbournian proceeds to shred with aplomb throughout her entire set; a fact that only increases anticipation for her debut album, set to be released in March.

Now comes perhaps one of the most anticipated moments of the day: Mac Demarco and his dear old mum. In a cheesy move, Agnes introduces her “talented and beautiful son”, before the man himself starts into ‘Salad Days’ with all the right amounts of quirk and whimsy. The almost God-like status he is afforded by a baying audience is puzzling, but it’s all silly good fun, so what the hell.

Future Islands draw somewhat less of a crowd than might have been expected if their slot didn’t clash with both Banks and Little Dragon, and while their synth-pop is tailor-made for a festival of this size, the majority of people present at their set are clearly only here for that song, which frontman Samuel T. Herring almost introduces with a sigh, as he says “Okay – let’s do it”. The crowd at the front at this point goes suitably mental, while the rest of us hope ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ doesn’t become the band’s ‘Creep’.

Now: shit gets real as English soul collective Jungle prove themselves to be a major highlight in the dark of the Never Let It Rest stage. An opening salvo of ‘Platoon’ and ‘Julia’ is enough to get every person present moving more than they have all day, before fourth track ‘The Heat’ whips the crowd into even more of a frenzy. ‘Accelerate’ is good, but ‘Busy Earnin’’ is great, and as this reviewer finds himself involuntarily shuffling past the probable brilliance of St. Vincent, ducking his head under the water tap before tumbling into a taxi with demands to be taken to the nearest vendor of pizza slices, he realises Laneway has defeated him for another year. Jolly good show, St. Jerome.

For Scenestr

Live review: The Rolling Stones – Brisbane Entertainment Centre – 18/11/14

the rolling stones brisbane

“We know you’ve waited a long time, cuz we ain’t been back for aaaaages!”

While no apology is needed for the unfortunate circumstances in which the Rolling Stones were forced to cancel their last Australian tour, it’s nice that Mick Jagger acknowledges the fact shortly after an explosive opening double-salvo of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ and ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)’. It’s also nice that he receives a response loud enough to probably kill every bird within a ten-mile radius.

Two songs in and it already feels that incredible amounts of energy have been expended by both band and audience. The lack of a support band hasn’t kept an arena-sized bunch of music fans of mostly advanced years from allowing themselves to be whipped up into a frenzy by Jagger, who almost can’t find enough parts of the stage in which to shake his bony hips and flail his arms like it’s 1969 all over again. Besides the prancing peacock frontman, ol’ Keef and Ronnie are looking mean and lean (and dressed mostly in green) as they puff on cigarettes and interchange licks. Charlie is the epitome of cool and reigns everything in. Touring members are sounding and looking hot. The knowledge that we’re witnessing a bunch of frail septuagenarians roll casually yet efficiently through their hits has been suspended from our minds and we are being drawn into the Stones’ world of swagger, mystery and comfortable trainers, if only for a couple of hours.

‘You Got Me Rocking’ is up next, followed by ‘Tumbling Dice’, after which Jagger gets playful, referring to the G20. “Everyone in Brisbane was so well behaved, I hear” he says, almost sneering. “Even Tony Abbott was well behaved” Cue boos. “No shirt-fronting for Abbott. He was in a Putin-free zone.”

The always-outstanding Mick Taylor joins in the fun to run through ‘Silver Train’ and ‘Bitch’; the former taking a few seconds to start, while Jagger confesses they are “trying to remember the arrangement.”

A punchy 1-2 of ‘Paint It Black’ and ‘Honky Tonk Women’ takes the fervour up a notch before Jagger introduces the band and leaves the stage to let Richards take lead vocal on ‘You Got The Silver’, ‘Before They Make Me Run’ and ‘Happy’. “All you up the back there – I’m thinking of you,” he mocks, in his trademark whisky-soaked voice; the voice that gives rise to the argument that he might be the best vocalist on stage tonight, just as there exists the strong argument that Mick Taylor is the best guitarist present. Not that it really matters, anyway.

An extended version of ‘Midnight Rambler’ sees just about all band members do a circuit of the tongue-shaped extended stage, and ‘Miss You’ allows bassist Darryl Jones to unleash his incredibly funky fills. ‘Gimme Shelter’ and ‘Start Me Up’ keep the hits a-comin’, then Jagger cranks his inner dandy up to 11 as he comes back onto the stage draped in huge red feather cape for ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, and ‘Brown Sugar’ gives back-up singers Lisa Fischer and Bernard Fowler the chance to strut their stuff.

And now, the obligatory encore. Huge kudos to the guys and gals of Vibrancy, the Choir of the Cuskelly College of Music, for their perfectly-executed take on ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, although their choral careers might have just peaked – sorry guys, it’s all downhill from here. Closer ‘Satisfaction’ does the job, and multiple bows and a spot of fighting over tossed plectrums and drumsticks later, and the night is complete. Not bad for a bunch of guys labelled as has-beens as far back as the early seventies.

For Scenestr

Lou Rhodes of Lamb: “The mind is a terrible editor”

lamb band

THERE was only one recipe for success when writing the latest Lamb album: keeping things organic.

The English electronic duo’s sixth album, Backspace Unwind, is the band’s second since their 2009 reformation, and singer-songwriter Lou Rhodes says it took her and Andy Barlow to get back to basics to make it happen.

“When we split in 2004, the whole thing was getting very confused,” she says. “I was dying to go off and do more acoustic-based stuff, to the extent that I was trying to pull Lamb in an acoustic direction. At the time, when we wrote Between Darkness and Wonder, we were writing with a full band as well. As a result, that album is quite confused as a Lamb album as it has all these elements pulling in different directions. When we split up, I wrote three solo albums then got back together in 2009 to do Lamb shows and subsequently write 5, [after which] we talked about what Lamb was and where it had gone wrong. The essence of Lamb is basically Andy’s electronica and my song-writing, and the kind of strange dialectic that they do with each other. So, writing a Lamb song is very much of a case of starting from really basic principles like a drum track from Andy or a few simple words from me. We always have to grow [songs] between us, and that’s what makes a Lamb song.”

Formed in 1996, the genre-defying duo may have found a new lease of life with Backspace Unwind, helped by their new, relaxed approached to song-writing and the ability to banish that doubt-instilling inner monologue.

“I was describing this to a journalist the other day,” Rhodes says. “It feels like from the very beginning of the process of writing this album that there was a flow that somehow set into place and we just ran with it. It just feels like that’s kind of continuing now that it’s released. The response has been amazing; people seem to really get the album and it’s really very, very positive. This is our sixth Lamb album, so at the very beginning I had this though in my head, ‘oh shit, what have I got left to write about?’ So I started playing around with free association ways of writing, so rather than thinking about what to write about, I almost got my mind out of the way and it became almost like a meditation. I’d kind of let the thoughts come through me, rather than from my mind, if you can imagine that. The mind is a terrible editor; it’s like ‘no, that’s shit’ or ‘no, that’s great’. It comments. If you do some meditation, you notice your mind kind of commenting on everything, and you’re just like ‘won’t you shut up a minute.’ That was my process with certain songs; ‘Shines Like This’ and ‘In Binary’, which are very much examples of that way of writing, where I just let it flow. As a result, the lyrics are quite abstract in a way.”

An invitation to perform with a Dutch orchestra found the duo more than a little out of their comfort zone.

“We were asked if we would like to play some shows with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta,” Rhodes says. “It’s a world-class orchestra, so how could we refuse? It was a real learning curve for us, as there was quite a communication barrier between our world and theirs. I mean, they are very much a classical setup with recognised boundaries and they like to play what’s on the page, and Lamb is just about the opposite of that – we play almost exactly what’s not on the page. Andy can a bit bolshy at times, so it was a very interesting dynamic, I’ll put it that way.”

A five-date February tour of Australia is locked in, and Rhodes is hoping to go down as well as they have done in these parts in the past.

“We always have an amazing time when we come and play there. We find Australian audiences incredibly open and enthusiastic. Australian music is generally very positive, and when we play live it’s important that we have that amazing connection with the crowd – we certainly seem to get that in Australia. There’s a lot of positivity in Australian people, maybe because it’s a relatively new country in the world; you’re not dragged down by history as much as many of us. We seem to have made a connection there and long may it survive.”


For Scenestr

Interview: Andrew Dice Clay

andrew dice clay

Andrew Dice Clay is one of America’s most controversial and outrageous stand-up comedians. Banned from MTV and many other television and radio stations, and opposed by women’s rights and LGBTI groups internationally, he has been a polarising force in comedy for more than 30 years. He’s also one of only a handful of comedians to have sold out Madison Square Garden two nights in a row, and has a considerable acting career under his belt. For the first time ever, Clay will appear on Australian stages, as he brings his ‘The Diceman Cometh Down Under’ tour throughout October.

First of all, why has it taken so long for you to come to Australia?

The truth is I really don’t go anywhere. I don’t leave the States. Australians have always been coming to see me here so I just figured, why not. They’re cool people. They’re always at my shows in Vegas and they are some of the coolest people I’ve met, so I decided you know what take the trip, enjoy your life and have a good time. Let me tell you something, Australian people know how to have to good time.

Australians are no strangers to blue humour, but what can we expect from your show? Is it safe for us to bring our grandparents?

Uh, no! Not unless your grandparents are real and love the real deal, you know what I mean? I’ll tell you the truth, when older people come to see me they go crazy, maybe because they’re older, maybe they don’t give a fuck but they just love it. They go crazy.

Why should the Australian public spend their hard-earned cash to hear what Andrew Dice Clay has to say in 2014?

You know what, I’m current and I am the funniest guy in the world, that’s the bottom line. It doesn’t even matter what I’m talking about, they’re just going to leave the theatre going ‘I am so glad I got to see that’. I’m a concept performer, I know what I do to crowds.

When you were first starting out and throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, there seemed to more comedians willing to take a chance and be ‘controversial’. Do you think fewer comedians are willing to take a risk now?

Yeah, you got a lot of dirty comics out there. But you know dirty and funny are two different things, so a lot of them just curse for the shock value of cursing, but it’s not shocking anybody anymore. You got to paint pictures. I know how to paint those comedic pictures — those filthy, dirty, comedic pictures. That’s the key because anybody can talk dirty, anybody walking the street can talk dirty, it’s another thing to make it really funny and that’s where I pride myself.

You’ve been known for making some pretty controversial statements about certain groups of people in the past. Have you ever regretted anything you’ve said in your shows, as time has passed?

You know what, not really. No. The stuff I talk about; it’s base. It’s relationships, it’s what goes on between people, you know, sexual but it’s sexual cartoons. It’s funny! It’s like, I could meet the nicest girl, polite, nice, you know and then I kiss her and turn her into a dirty little whore. I don’t want somebody to be nice in the bedroom, I don’t want anything with being nice in the bedroom. And then you take it on stage and it just makes it really fucking funny.

Do you think you could have ever been as successful as you have if you hadn’t been seen as being controversial?

You know what, I honestly didn’t set out in my career to be controversial. It just came with the territory. I never even thought that way. I’m an actor and a comic, so it’s all about acting for me, it’s all about performance and theatre, [it] wasn’t about being controversial. The media did that. I never even used to think of that stuff.

How was your experience working with Woody Allen and Cate Blanchett in ‘Blue Jasmine’?

Working with them was unbelievable because from doing nothing, all of a sudden I’m working with what I call Hollywood royalty from the Baldwins to Cate Blanchett, who was just, to me she was just a throwback to what movie stars used to be. She’s unreal and she’s deserved every award she [has] won. I love her that’s it. And I’ve loved her for a long time before I did the movie with her, but doing the movie, I got to see how cool a person she was: down to earth, grounded, family-orientated. Just a great girl.

Does your return to stand-up and touring mean your acting career is on hold?

No, no. I just did a new thing that Martin Scorsese is doing for HBO. So that’s the newest one.

What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia?

You know what, to me it’s just going to be a whole experience. It’s just going to be fun. The shows are going to be great. I’m going to have some of my people with me and we’re just coming there to have a blast.

For Scenestr

Live review: BIGSOUND Live – Brisbane – 10/9/14


PERHAPS it’s appropriate that the first song I hear at BIGSOUND Live 2014 is ‘Get On Your Horse’ by The Furrs at Oh Hello! It’s an appropriately-named kickstart to another night of top drawer Australian music across a multitude of stages and hidey-holes in the Valley.

After that start, the trek to the Zoo is punctuated by a short stop at the Press Club to catch All Our Exes Live In Texas; the folky Sydney quartet sounding like perhaps the most elegant act on show anywhere here tonight.

You wouldn’t call Steve Smyth an elegant performer, but he’s all the better for it. The impressively-moustachioed Sydneysider’s sweat sprays off in fountains as he throws his Gibson and himself around the Zoo’s stage, with new song ‘Shake It’ being a particular highlight among many great tracks.

Over at the Brightside, Adelaide’s Bad//Dreems show why they’re one of the most hyped acts of this year’s BIGSOUND, as they power through a rip-roaring set of songs from their EP and upcoming debut album. A cover of The Replacements’ ‘Bastards of Young’ is the perfect setup to closer ‘Dumb Ideas’, as the quartet steal the show for tonight.


Following Bad//Dreems is another hyped act, the Britpop-heavy DMA’s, who finish with their sing-along epic ‘Delete’ to a massive response. At the same time, in the darkened cavern of Alhambra Lounge, Melburnians Lurch & Chief are making an unholy racket in all the best ways, with ‘We Are The Same’ being the standout.

At the Rev in Warner Street, a much more chilled vibe is apparent, as Melbourne’s Martha Brown – aka Banoffee – is going solo with a set of cool r ‘n’ b and synth numbers in an enticingly air-conditioned environment.

Every BIGSOUND night needs a big finish, and this time it’s provided by Kingswood. The Melbourne rockers are flying high, having just released their excellent debut album Microscopic Wars. Despite teasing a few bars of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and playing the intro to QOTSA’s ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’ after calling for the BIGSOUND delegates to “get your hands in the air”, it’s their own ‘Ohio’ that provides the massive close. What a night.

For Scenestr

Andrew Lowe of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest: “The mental illness side still applies today”

one flew over

LEGENDARY author Ken Kesey wrote the novel in 1962, and the 1975 film went on to win Oscars for best lead actor (Jack Nicholson in a career-defining role as protagonist Randle P. McMurphy), lead actress, picture, director and screenplay.

It therefore takes a brave bunch to take such illustrious material to the stage, and it’s New Zealand actor Andrew Lowe’s task to make the risk-taking, anti-authoritarian McMurphy come alive in Brisbane Arts Theatre’s latest production.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was just too irresistible for me to pass up,” Lowe says. “The hard part is trying to get away from the film and putting your own ideas in. People have their own perception of how they think it will be played. I feel [the play] is very different to the film, but then the film was very different to the novel. In the novel, they’re very much normal people that have been deemed mentally unfit for society, whereas in the film I feel they really played up the mental illness part more; not caricatures, but getting into comedy. Ours is still in development, and we’re going down the entertainment route as well, but I think it’s got to be that way for an audience to be engaged by it.”

The story follows McMurphy as he is sent to a mental institution to await sentencing by a criminal court. At first he sees his new surroundings as a place in which to escape doing jail time, although he soon begins to revolt and rally his fellow patients against the overbearing and subtly cruel Nurse Ratched, and the two become locked in a battle of wills that only one can survive.

“I think the play has some great points in it,” Lowe says. “The mental illness side still applies today; the way we treat mental illness. In the film it’s about McMurphy rising up against Nurse Ratched and promoting individualism and each person’s own traits as unique and part of human nature, whereas Nurse Ratched tries to make them conform. It’s a powerful piece because we need to embrace people’s individual traits in society and understand who they are and to let them be who they want to be. I think these days we have pills for everything that are supposed to tackle and solve everything, and this play shows that that’s not the way to do things necessarily – McMurphy is a great advocate of that.”

Lowe, who got into acting in Australia after studying law and accounting for five years in his native New Zealand, has diverse industry experience and sees Brisbane Arts Theatre as a vital part of the theatre and arts scene in Brisbane.

“I’ve done about 20 short films and I was behind the scenes on Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken,” he says. “I was the lead actor’s stand-in. I spent four months working with [Jolie], and it was fantastic to see how it all comes together and what it takes. It was a great experience; I just want a part of it now [laughs]. I’ve just shot a Tropfest film too; it ends up as a tragedy and I decided to break the fourth wall a lot on that as well – that Malcolm In The Middle sort of thing. This is my fourth show at Brisbane Arts Theatre. I’ve done Picnic at Hanging Rock, Frankenstein and A New Way To Pay Old Debts. Someone told me it was the oldest theatre in Brisbane, and that just speaks for itself if you ask me. There’s obviously a lot of history there and a lot of the origins of theatre in Brisbane. Of course, it’s a community-based theatre, so it’s great as an outlet for people who just want to get up there and do it, have a go and have some fun.”


For Scenestr

Steve Kilbey of The Church: “You can’t take journalists on”

the church

“YOU can’t take journalists on, because they have the last word. Like, if I was to really piss you off now and be really arrogant, rude and horrible, you’re going to be the one writing ‘Kilbey’s a cunt, I wouldn’t go see his fucking band at BIGSOUND’”.

This is just a sample of the type of industry advice to expect from The Church frontman Steve Kilbey, who will appear at the BIGSOUND conference as a keynote speaker with his band. Not that he’s fully sure what his role will be as yet, as becomes clear when he is asked what he expects to be speaking about.

“I don’t fucking know,” he says. “People are going to be asking me questions, aren’t they? Isn’t that how it works? I know I’m on a panel with The Church, and we sit there and field questions from the audience, and then I’m going to be on a panel with my manager and field questions about managers and artists, then I’m going to play a thirty-minute gig. I’m supposed to give you some bullshit now, but really someone said ‘hey, do you want The Church to be at BIGSOUND?’ I didn’t even know what BIGSOUND was and I was like ‘I don’t know. Yeah, I guess so.’ Some people whose advice I trust said I should go and do this and it’d be good. Everyone is saying it’s really good; I don’t really know anything about it. I’m just kind of wandering in, hoping to make the best of whatever happens to be there.”

After some initial prickliness, the 59 year-old singer and bassist becomes increasingly garrulous, self-deprecating and funny over the course of a twenty-minute interview, as he talks about his time in the music business, the benefit of hindsight and a recent change to The Church’s line-up.

“I suppose people will ask about longevity and why Marty [Willson-Piper] left and why Ian Haug joined, what our new album is like and what are the perils and pitfalls one should avoid and all that,” he says. “These are the sort of things you could ask an old seasoned trooper who has been around the tracks a few times.”

[At this point Kilbey points out that he doesn’t think he should be asked questions that might crop up at BIGSOUND, but relents when it’s pointed out that an article is being written about him, thus a requirement exists for him to say something. The floodgates then open and don’t close for fifteen minutes. Better get comfortable.]

“Alright: perils and pitfalls for musicians,” he says. “The business itself is set up – [or was] in my day at least – to take advantage of the types who could play music and knew about writing songs and stuff, but when it came to percentages and deals and someone looking after your money and all that, you just signed the contract without reading it. Also, being too emotional with the other guys in the band; taking it all out on them. I wish I had thought a lot of the time before saying things.

“I suppose walking that fine line between being successful and doing what you should be doing yourself; trying to hit that sweet spot between doing what you want to do and being successful as well – it’s hard to get that balance right. You can easily fall off that fine line and find yourself doing what you want to do and nobody is listening to it, or you can have success and it’s not the success you want to have, and it’s only going to be short-lived as there’s nothing really holding it up. Unless you’re massively successful like The Eagles or something, who can do whatever they like, to have a long career you have to try to please yourself while looking out there to see if anyone else is being pleased as well. Not living completely in the vacuum, but not folding or throwing in your hand every time you get a bad review or go through a couple of years where everyone’s ignoring you and it seems like things have plateaued. It’s all about hanging in there doggedly.

“I’ve been writing my memoirs and there have been a couple of points in the road where we quite patently did the wrong thing. Pissing off a couple of very important journalists – one in England and one in South America – by being flippant and stupid and stuff; things like that can stop your career dead. [The English journalist we upset] was a guy called Steve Sutherland. In the beginning he was our champion. This often happens with journalists – they start off as cub reporters and they write gushing reviews about you, then a few years in when they’re cleaning out their wardrobe and having a bit of a purge, it’s like a right of passage for them to start going ‘oh, this band didn’t really turn out like I’d hoped’.

“Sutherland seemed to get his hands on every one of our records from then on and give them bad reviews. He gave an album called Heyday a bad review, and it didn’t deserve a bad review because it was a great record. He compared it unfavourably to a whole bunch of English bands like Big Country and stuff like that. We were going to have the front cover of Melody Maker and this guy turned up and I fucking gave him what for; I kind of almost physically threatened him. I thought it would work, that he would put us on the cover with some story about how Kilbey tore him apart, but what he did was nothing. There was no article. I remembered that when I was raving on to him he had this smug look on his face that said ‘you can say whatever you like, because now there’s not going to be an article’.

“If the guy had just turned up and I had pretended like I hadn’t read all these bad reviews, which I can still almost quote verbatim, we would have been on the front page of Melody Maker and he might have reanointed us. I stupidly thought I could take him on, and you can’t take journalists on, because they have the last word. Like, if I was to really piss you off now and be really arrogant, rude and horrible, you’re going to be the one writing ‘Kilbey’s a cunt, I wouldn’t go see his fucking band at BIGSOUND’. At the time, I thought they were battles I could win, before realising that they aren’t.

“At the start, I was just a naive idiot who could play bass guitar, sing a little bit and write songs, and suddenly I had all these other jobs like being a leader of men. I had three other guys in my group and had to keep them under control and I had to do interviews, meet people, and be this and be that. You put one foot wrong out there and it can be all over. I’ve been lucky to have got second and third chances; I blew it tons of times with my big mouth, drug addictions, indiscretions and hopeless gigs when I turned up ill-prepared. You have to keep your eye on the ball the whole time; I don’t think as many people get as lucky as me. A lot of it is luck or simply being in the right place at the right time, and there’s something about that factor that nobody can ever manipulate or anticipate. Where is the right time? Where is the right place? Every portal that is used to get into the music business; once it’s used, it’s normally gone.

“Take The Arctic Monkeys – they did it all on MySpace, and suddenly there’s a zillion bands on MySpace, but it’s too late, you know? There are ways to get in, but my story won’t be a story that anyone can emulate, because even if things hadn’t changed and the business is exactly the same, the way it happened for me won’t be the way it happens for anyone else. Just like the way it happened for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wasn’t the way it happened for me, Iggy Izalea and blah, blah, blah. You’ve got to make your own luck, persevere and be resilient.

“[The music industry] is not a place for the faint-hearted and you can’t have too thin a skin, which is somewhat of a paradox for someone like me. To write all the songs I’ve written, I’ve had to be thin-skinned as [song-writing] requires a certain amount of vulnerability and thin-skinned-ness. Then, to read reviews where people are saying [your record is] the worst record they’ve ever heard, you have to be able to go ‘fuck you! I don’t believe you.’ You’ve got to be good at so many different things.

“In the beginning I was good at song-writing, not that good at playing bass, certainly not that good a singer, I was a lousy leader of men and I had everybody in the band upset. It’s a bit like being a father; I tried the strict approach and they hated me, and I tried the lenient approach and they walked all over me. That’s what being a band leader is like. When you’re like me, you’ve constantly got to be readjusting your course as you sail across the sea, moving from left to right, dodging whales and sharks and other boats, then when the wind is right you make the most of it. You’re always on your toes when you’re still relying on it to make a living.

While the by-now energetic Kilbey pauses for breath, the conversation is steered towards the future for The Church, and the band’s upcoming new album – their first since 2009.

“[Ian Haug] is an incredible, powerful guitarist,” he says. “He’s brought a lot of enthusiasm, happiness and a kind of willingness to work and make it succeed. I think he rejuvenated the other three guys; having someone whose relatively a spring chicken compared to me has helped. The first day I turned up to write a song with him I was very nervous because I had asked him into the band off my own bat; I didn’t even ask [the others]. When I turned up at Ian’s studio outside Brisbane we wrote a song within about five minutes had written the song that now closes the album. We immediately established a working pattern.

“I’m not sure how Powderfinger used to write songs, but Ian immediately fell into our way of writing, which is to fiddle around and then suddenly find something we like. He didn’t seem to have to learn the method; I’ve seen other people very confused by that method and want things already formed. When we made the album, he was just an endless source of material. It’s not like the three of us and him just hanging on there – Ian’s directly responsible for a lot of the songs. As you would expect for someone who was the guitarist in Australia’s biggest ever bands, Ian came loaded with assets and so far I can’t complain about one thing he’s done.

“I guess his status is now the other guitarist in The Church, until something changes, because it’s just a rock and roll band, and if he’s had enough or something goes wrong then so be it. Plus we’re all getting pretty old, so someone is probably going to drop off the perch and that’ll be the end of the whole thing.”


For Scenestr

Kram of Spiderbait: “We always feel that our shows are special gigs”


SPIDERBAIT are hitting the road for their first national tour in ten years and an appearance at Splendour, and drummer/singer Kram is taking it all in his stride.

“We just turn up,” he says. “That’s our way to get pumped up. We don’t really prepare that much; we do some rehearsing and stuff, but my whole philosophy is that our music is very spontaneous. We don’t think about it too much; we save ourselves for the show and we don’t get there too early. We’ve been playing together for over 20 years, so whenever we walk onto the stage we feel each other’s dynamic through the songs we play, including the new ones in the set. Then we just let it happen; we let it all come out and let the audience’s energy, our energy and the music’s energy create a melting pot that you can stir for yourself and have a great time. That’s kind of the way I like to do it and how we operate. That’s why I think our shows are very exciting, because you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen.”

While their self-titled comeback album was released in November last year, it’s been a bit of a wait for the accompanying tour.

“It was basically difficult for us because of some family stuff,” Kram says. “We did a couple of festivals in Victoria and we were originally going to do Big Day Out, but that unfortunately folded as we couldn’t reach an agreement with them. It’s a shame that the show has reached its demise; we have a lot of great memories of that festival. So, we decided we would put it off and start it at Splendour In The Grass, which we’re playing this month, then we’ll do the national tour after that.”

Having just returned from Brazil and with film score work in the pipeline, Kram is as busy as ever, but the chance to get Spiderbait back on the road was an enticing offer.

“Everyone was up for it, absolutely,” he says. “The guys at Secret Sounds, who do Splendour In The Grass, were really keen on doing it. It was probably more their idea, in a way. We were like ‘yeah, that sounds good’ because we hadn’t toured for a long time; it’s just not something that we do very much any more. Once they put forward the idea and the dates were set up, we thought it was really cool. We’re looking forward to it; it should be good. We love playing live. We always feel that our shows are special gigs and we love that. We love the energy the crowd gives us and we’re very grateful to our fans for wanting to see us.”


For Scenestr