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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff Martin Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

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

Henry Wagons Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

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

Wolfmother Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

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

Elephant Hive Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

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

Money For Rope Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

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Jeff Martin of The Tea Party: “We’re making another record”

the tea party

THE TEA PARTY have had more than their fair share of break-ups and make-ups, but frontman Jeff Martin’s confidence in their new album and upcoming tour is higher than ever.

“It’s surreal, but we’re an achievement and an accomplishment,” he says. “I’m very proud of the three of us; that we overcame what seem now to be very petty differences, but at the time we thought to be much more than they were. The music won the battle and brought our friendship and this very important band back together. There are a lot of great rock bands out there, but there’s nothing like The Tea Party, and I think it’s good that we’re back. The mental framework of the band is better than ever, so here we are.”

The Canadian rock trio formed in 1990, but split in 2005 due to the dreaded ‘creative differences’, before reforming in 2011. Their new album The Ocean at the End is their first since 2004’s Seven Circles.

“It’s everything you want,” Martin says. “Everything that The Tea Party is capable of doing is on that record, and that’s a lot. That’s a lot of music on one record. It’s exactly what we need to be like now, you know? For ourselves and for our fans. Over the course of the years we were apart, promoters were calling our various agents with massive offers to get the band back together. The wounds were pretty deep for the three of us, then after seven years my agent called me and asked if I’d entertain the idea, and I was like ‘you know what? Yeah.’ Time had passed and I missed The Tea Party, and I missed Jeff [Burrows, drums] and Stuart [Chatwood, bass]. I was game, and if the other two were ready, so was I. And that was that. Musically, it was on fire immediately from the first rehearsal, although it was icy for the first few months as we tried to feel each other out, since we hadn’t spoken for seven years. That being said, I’ve known Jeff Burrows since I was five years old. Lots of bands say they’re like brothers or whatever, but this band truly is, as we’ve known each other that long. We just had to learn to trust and respect each other again; we’ve each grown with our own individual experiences and I think it’s now better than ever.”

Ontario-born Martin now lives in Perth, so it was an easy choice for the band to re-find their musical feet on Australian soil; the result being a 2012 live album entitled Live From Australia.

“The criteria that the three of us initially held in our minds was firstly, can we be that great rock band again and make that magic on-stage?” Martin says. “Yes, we ticked off that box with the reformation tour. Point two: can we rekindle that beautiful friendship that has to exist for us to continue? We ticked that box off. I had to also prove things to Jeff and Stuart, and also to myself – and we won’t go into it or anything – but towards the end of The Tea Party the ship lost its captain, you know? I sort of went off the rails, so I had to prove to myself, Jeff and Stuart that I could be the captain of the ship again. Then it was time to say we have to make music, but the one thing we did realise was if The Tea Party was going to come up with a new record, it has to stand up to anything we’ve done in the past; it’s got to be that good or else don’t do it at all. That’s why we took our time over a year and a half. We did four recording sessions, two writing sessions and we did them in tiny blocks of time, stepping away and coming back. It’s our statement now; it’s exactly where we’re at, so let’s go forth and conquer.”

An upcoming nine-date national tour will give fans a chance to reacquaint themselves with a band that has made Australia its honorary home in recent years.

“Australians have great taste,” Martin says. “Still to this day, there’s a great rock ‘n’ roll audience in Australia. Many of the great bands that came out of Australia had to prove themselves in the pubs; the INXSs, the Midnight Oils and all that stuff, right? They had to be a great live band to make rock ‘n’ roll fans go ‘yes’. I think that’s why Australian audiences have been so passionate about The Tea Party, because when we’re on we’re one of the best there is. Australians really appreciate the musicianship and passion that we put into it, you know? I want the band to be at its very best when we’re playing here and for it to be firing on all cylinders. It’s going to be a big campaign, about two-and-a-half years, but for music of the band, Australia is very much its home.”

When asked whether The Tea Party are back for the long haul, Martin once again answers with towering confidence.

“I’ll tell you this. I don’t know if it was an e-mail or text, but I got it from Stuart a couple of weeks ago saying he’s already booked pre-production in Vancouver for 2016. So apparently we’re making another record [laughs]. We’ll be touring Australia and making some great memories. Following that, we’ll do Canada, then take a couple of months off. After that, the world is calling. We’ve got Asia, South America, Europe; we’ve made a commitment to ourselves and this music, as well as the fans, and for us it’s the real deal. I’m looking forward to it.”




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