Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Melbourne Big Day Out

I’m happy to say that largely thanks to a handful of great performances, smart scheduling, minimal queuing, plenty of room and an aptly named Green Stage, the 2008 Big Day Out at the Flemington Racecourses was an overwhelmingly enjoyable experience.

There were a few negatives too of course. A festival of this size, appealing to so many people in a certain age group is never going to be the perfect environment to see your favourite bands (i.e. it’s not Meredith), but I guess you just have to take what's on offer. Perhaps if I was insistent on watching acts on the main stages, then I may not have been as pleased. Fortunately enough I am seeing Arcade Fire tonight so I didn’t feel as strong a need to face the masses and the dusty discomfort for their main stage performance. I’ve never been a huge Bjork fan but avoided her also for this reason.

Other gripes included the utterly ridiculous upfront requirement to purchase at least 30 bucks worth of alcohol tokens. Security’s overly liberal use of water hoses was annoying also.


Die! Die! Die!
First band on the ATR schedule was the fragile, brooding, yet surprisingly catchy New Zealanders. Despite starting at 11am, the trio ferociously tore into their set.

The lead singer jumped the barrier and joined the crowed on numerous occassions, which I guess some could find gimmicky. But to be frank, if you have the songs, you play mean and tight anyway, and the songs work with something a little unhinged, then it’s not a gimmick, its part of the charm.

Die! Die! Die! delivered their performance without even a hint of the pretentiousness perhaps expected for a band beginning at this hour on such a small stage, playing to a meagre handful of people. Brilliant.


Eddy Current Suppression Ring
One of my local favourites once again failed to disappoint. The set was made up of quite a few new songs, but if you hadn’t heard the band before it would have been very difficult to tell – such is their cohesion. And singer, Brendan Suppression is one of a kind. He’s a manic performer. Quite mental at times actually. And not in a ‘this is my stage persona’ kind of way.

While being interesting to watch, he’s also endearing. Always conscious of his command over a crowd, while at the same time appearing genuinely surprised by the reaction he and the band provokes.


Midnight Juggernauts
After a wonderful performance at Meredith, I was highly anticipating their BDO debut. Unfortunately they were a huge disappointment. Partly it was the setting. The main stage is ultimately for patrons with the most popular tastes, and to enjoy Midnight Juggernauts at the Big Day Out requires dancing among kids, which to me, feels a little strange.

The dusty surroundings didn't help either. While the Green Stage was set in one of the few lush corners of the Flemington Racecourse carpark, the mainstages were parked right in the middle of gravel, so whenever anyone moved it stirred up a huge cloud of dust.

But I think the main reason was they sounded pretty average. The thumping disco sections just weren’t loud enough. Too much drums and guitar in the mix it seemed. And Vince is pretty quiet most of the time, but was made to sound meeker than usual.


Spoon
For some reason I’ve overlooked them before, but will never again after yesterday. A perfect choice for a mid-afternoon slot while the sun shone down on the Green Stage.

Britt Daniel gave a supremely measured performance, emaphasising in a live context many of the intricate and elaborate textures buried within Spoon’s music. And not only can he play a mean guitar solo, but I didn’t quite realise how soulful they were until yesterday. To be honest, I can’t think of one other ‘indie rock’ band who would make me dance that much (The Underdog was the highlight).

It’s a shame I won’t be seeing them again on this tour, but regardless, I will definitely be digging into their back catalogue on the strength of yesterday’s performance.


Children Collide
Part grunge, part psychy Aus rock (think Gersey or Gaslight Radio) and in part sounding a bit like they are doing that post-punk revival thing, this Melbourne three piece played a relentlessly intense set on the local stage. Blasted away without even appearing to draw breath, or raise a sweat. It actually seemed remarkable that Heath and Johnny could still play their instruments the way they were throwing their bodies all over their stage.

Their music does lack a little restraint at times and it could do with a few more shades, but ATM they are awesome rock performers, and they are a young band so there is plenty of time to develop these extra elements. Look set for a big year, on JJJ at the very least.


Battles
Who said Melbourne crowds are stilted, and boring? A throbbing mosh to Atlas was one of the most surprising aspects of yesterday. To me, Battles’ incredibly complex music demands more time, space and ultimately comfortable surroundings so they didn’t quite make me react in this way. But the more bands like Battles they get along to the Big Day Out in the future, the more likely it is that I will continue to buy a ticket. Big points to Ian from Battles who played (complete with bright gold headphones) despite a broken eardrum!!!


LCD Soundsystem
I never thought I’d say this, but thank god for Rage Against the Machine. Because of the scheduling it meant that there was a decent amount of jiggling room to enjoy these critical darlings. The set was the same as Sydney BDO. All My Friends was even better than on record, and Time to Get Away – irrestibly good. I also never thought I could enjoy such monotonous lyrics before!

I’m always surprised when a seemingly electro oriented band have such an organic live setup, but LCDSS hardly rely on electronics at all in their live setup. Instead all the energy comes from the traditional heartstarters.

As expected with the Boiler Room, many of the viewers didn’t appear to be fans, and because of the distance between the stage and the audience, as well as the dim lighting, there was only a minimal band v audience dynamic. But from the strength of their tight live unit, I now expect big things for Thursday night’s show.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

The National @ Corner Hotel, 19/1



I know when I’ve really enjoyed a gig when I cannot stop playing their music when I get home. And today, The National have been on rotation all day.

For anyone that went on Friday, the performance was very similar, the only notable difference being that the whole band (minus Matt Berninger) wearing Fitzroy jumpers during the encore. Matt explained that he had left his in his hotel, although it emerged later that because of his muscular deficiency it may have been on purpose.

The set list and its sequencing were almost the same too, but instead of All The Wine we got Wasp’s Nest. Daughters of the Soho Rights (I fucking love this song) came right before Fake Empire last night, which ended the main set on both nights. The only other change saw the encore begin with Gospel instead of Green Gloves.

But even these slight changes in the set list seemed to make for a noticeably varied alteration in tempo. All the songs they only performed on Saturday were slower. This not only focussed greater attention on the relative poignancy of these songs, but also on the songs that were already in Friday’s set. Ada was one song that sounded more delicate to me because the tempo of the whole gig had changed.

Yet, it wasn’t just the slower songs that benefited from these changes. While there were similar renditions of all the songs that were repeated on both nights , the harder edged songs, Abel and Mr November sounded more frantic, more emotionally disturbed because they were surrounded by a slightly more varied track selection.

The main difference however appeared to be a better mix. For starters, it was welcomed that the drums were clearer, but it was themarkedly more lucid guitars that made the most difference to me . The Dessner brothers’ occasional short sharp blasts of feedback demanded attention on Saturday instead of floundering within a muddy mix on Friday.

So, while Friday night may have hinted that The National were a good live band, with some very minor changes, Saturday night suggested they are perhaps much much better than this initial assessment.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

The National @ Corner Hotel, 18/1


(Note: - Above not from Melbourne show)

Brooklyn's The National are one of my favourite bands right now, so, at the Corner last night it was great to be able to see their first ever show in Melbourne.

A big highlight of the performance was the delivery from two of the band members. The unbridled enthusiasm of Aussie multi-instrumentalist Padma Newsome was a joy to watch, irrepressibly devoting his efforts into two keyboards, as well as frenzied violin solos.

Also great was the impenetrably intense delivery from Matt Berninger, always impassioned - even to the point of delirium with his on-stage stumbling, and off-stage excursion during Abel reminding the audience that his ‘mind’s not right’.

The setlist was pretty much split between Alligator and Boxer, with the only exception being the final song of the encore. There were some regular peaks within songs that were quite inspiring, but it was actually hard to identify a song highlight. I guess this is a testament to the band’s consistency as songwriters and performers, but also an indication that this was probably just a solid, not an outstanding show.

It seemed a rawer, rockier performance than I’d imagined . This was to be expected to some of the angrier and more emotionally confused tracks of Alligator, but I’d imagined a touch more variety. I'd envisioned more meticulous, restrained renditions of songs such as Slow Show or Fake Empire.

I also didn’t think the sound seemed quite right. It didn’t seem loud enough (which was a bit at odds with the rawness of the show), and the mix seemed too heavily balanced in favour of the vocals, over everything else. Would have loved to hear more of the smooth, sharp snares.

All in all it was pretty good though, and I’m really looking forward to be seeing them again tonight.

It is worth also mentioning Deloris, who put in a great performance as main support. Energy, catchy tunes, guitar feedback. I kinda forgot them when I mentioned that list a few weeks ago about local stuff, cheap and live.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sufjan Stevens @ The Forum, 16/1



Like so many others, I dig Come on Feel The Illinoise. It’s bold and imaginative album. Quirky yet complex. A broad thematical and emotional scope but never too dense. At times playful, hopeful, sincere as well as chilling. A thoroughly engaging listen. (For some reason, I have never got around to hearing any of his other records)

A songwriter with such a grandiose vision is always going difficult to replicate in the live arena. However, after the assessments coming out of the Sydney blogosphere, it looked like Sufjan had done exactly that.

Unfortunately my assessment of his debut Melbourne show at the Forum last night failed to concur with the overwhelmingly positive feedback from my fellow bloggers. A noble attempt at majesty – no doubt, but one that felt a little flat in its execution.

The visual design of the show was commendable. A somewhat stimulating video presentation, vibrant colourful costumes, and, a highlight being an extravagant hula hooper on one of the tracks (2 hula hoopers if you include Sufjan!). Admittedly it did appear a little bit on the cheap side, and with so many performers on stage, this made it feel a little bit like a community group (or, dare I say it, a church group), design and performance. But this definitely worked in its favour. Too slick and it would have detracted from the honest offbeat qualities of his music.

But, I just don’t think there was the performance to match.

Apart from some movement from his female pianist and bass player, Sufjan’s band, for the most part, gave a very rigid performance.. Many of them acted like session musos, the only quirk being they were dressed up.

They sounded OK, but it seemed a bit dull. No songs or notes hit me the way I hoped. There were some abstract diversions but the performance wasn't as passionate as the wildly inventive music required, and much of the band performed as if reading off sheets of music.

Sufjan himself tried hard, and that was appreciated. From his interaction with the audience many of earlier songs clearly emerged as an escape from poverty - the introduction to Seven Swans recalled Sufjan growing up, at the same time powerfully and whimsically conveying the lack of options when poor, as well as subtly indicting his nation’s treatment of those in that situation.

But Sufjan always felt awkward as a performer, never quite displaying the comfort in himself, nor the control perhaps expected as the leader of such a large band, playing such huge and ambitious music.

Later in the show he admitted that it was a humiliating experience performing live and when he said that I felt quite empathetic. So much is expected of an artist who releases good music to come out a deliver a live performance that matches the record, and with the full band, the lights, the costumes etc. he was definitely aware of the expectations and tried to meet them.

So, points for putting in a big effort, and most people seemed to go away pleased. (Of course I did hear the obligatory ‘best gig eva’ remark on leaving), but it fell short of my expectations. With an artist as talented as him, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. He does set the bar very high.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Looking Back Down Low



Last week I went along to the first (?) instalment of the Don’t Look Back series in Australia – Low performing their sombre and eerie master piece, Things We Lost In The Fire

I don’t propose to review this show, because, well, I just wasn’t in the frame of mind to fully absorb their rather morose musings. For one it was Friday night. Low seemed better suited when you’ve got the midweek blues, rather that euphoric Friday night feeling. Secondly, I had a shithouse sleep the night before for some reason. Thirdly, well, I should have known it wasn’t the best preparation but I had already indulged in some post-work celebrations. So even though they were sounding hauntingly beautiful, after about 30 minutes my mind began to wander.

So, that’s enough of that, this post wasn’t supposed to be about my Friday night sleepiness…

The real reason was the format, and I’m going to have a bit of a whinge. We didn’t get any dialogue about the album, the input from different musicians, the motivation behind the songs, the development of the songs, quirky anecdotes, album themes, etc, etc.

Nothing.

It was all a bit disappointing. I thought the whole reason for this Don’t Look Back series was to focus on a single record, and in doing so celebrate the album format, and provide some observations about what makes a disc of 10 or 12 songs such a great piece of work. Hardly seems like a celebration if they don’t even mention it. They even launched into to a few songs from other albums straight after they finished Things.

While I’m likely to go and see any band play an album in full if I really dig it, to get the most out of this concept, there needs to be more interaction, more explanation. Otherwise it just seems as though you’re watching a live rendition of the album. Which, in itself is fine as a purely nostalgic (or marketing) exercise, but not one that provides any particular interesting insights about the creative process.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Favourite Melbournian Albums in 2007

While everyone else seemed to compile their best of 2007 lists before the year had even finished, I thought I would actually wait until the year finished so I could listen to few more local albums in the chance that they might make this highly subjective listing of albums whose release dates (for these purposes at least!) fell within a rather arbitrarily chosen 12 month period. Turned out I didn't listen to much else.

Anyways, here it is...Apologies to all those artists whose albums I didn't actually hear as well as those who released EPs that were also enjoyable (Actor/Model, and You Will Die Alone immediately come to mind here). Long live the album format!

1. Art of Fighting - Runaways
[web][myspace]


2. Midnight Juggernauts - Dystopia
[web] [myspace]

3. International Karate - More Of What We've Heard Than We've Ever Heard Before
[web] [myspace] [ATR comments]



4. Wagons - The Curse of Lightning
[web] [myspace]

5. New Estate - Is This Real?
[web] [myspace] [ATR Comments]



6. Pikelet - Pikelet
[myspace] [ATR Comments]



7. The Smallgoods - Down on the Farm
[myspace]

8. The Small Knives - Rain on Tin
[myspace] [ATR Comments]


9. Devastations - Yes, U
[web] [myspace]

10. Love Of Diagrams - Mosaic
[web] [myspace]



Pat.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Live in Melbourne '07


Favourite Performances

!!! @ Golden Plains

Restless disco fun with a sexy, rhythmic and devastating percussion assault.



Bob Dylan @ Rod Laver Arena

Could barely see the man, but he played superbly.

Daft Punk @ Myer Music Bowl

Yes, it was a light show, but a damn fine light show.

Dan Kelly and the Alpha Males @ Northcote Social Club

Final show with the Alpha Males. Let's hope Dan returns to the live stage soon.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring @ Meredith

Hot Chip @ Prince Bandroom

I missed their BDO sideshow because it clashed with Joanna Newsom @ The Forum (That show just missed this list), but was fortunate enough to have another chance to see them.

M Ward @ The Corner

Two encores at this New Years Day gig. Great tunes, masteful guitarist, twin drum assault.

Midnight Juggernauts @ The Espy, Meredith

Lots of sweaty bodies but played a pulsating early morning set on Australia Day Eve. Also impressed at Meredith.

Patty Griffin @ Athenaueum

Perfect venu for an amazing voice.

Whomadewho @ Prince Bandroom

The Prince was only half full for this Sunday night gig in early March, but three middle aged Danes in skeleton costumes treated the crowd to an hour of thumping electro rock.
....................................................................................

Top 10 Locals for Under 15 Bucks

At the end of '07 these bands still charge only very small amounts to see them play, but all are super live performers.

The Basics
Children Collide

Eddy Current Suppression Ring
Little Red
The Lucksmiths
Mountains in the Sky

My Disco
The Nation Blue
SubAudible Hum
Wagons


....................................................................................

Most Disappointing

The Shins @ Metro

They played OK, but mostly went through the motions. Venue was too large for their relatively simple tunes and straightforward delivery. Crap sound.

Wilco @ Palais

First gig on their world tour was a bit underwhelming. Sounds like they improved by the time they went up to Sydney. Fingers crossed for a better show when they return in March this year.
.....................................................................................

Worst Performances

Camera Obscura @ Northcote Social Club

Sound was near perfect, but the band were completely disinterested. Tracyanne Campbell failed to raise a smile for the entire show.

The Slits @ Golden Plains

Oh dear!

Teenager @ Bootleg

Lead singer Nick Littlemore was a little too affected by substances to deliver any sort of commendable performance.
Pat.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

Built to Spill @ The Corner, 29/12

Having been a fan of winding fractured indie guitar stalwarts Built to Spill for some years, I was highly anticipating their first visit to Australia.

Their tour Australia kicked off with a show at the Corner on Saturday night. And did it live up to expectations???? Well, kind of.

It was a decent measured performance from the veteran quintet but perhaps a little inconsistent, displaying not only their mind blowingly brilliant yet splintering catchiness but also their sometimes overly introspective jam band tendencies.

Goin Against Your Mind was a major highlight early, the powerful rising ebb n flow dynamic energy accentuated after the band opened with three of their sharper, poppier numbers. Made Up Dreams was a perfect chaser.

The middle section however sagged a bit. It was probably to be expected with such a long set (approx 2 hours) in such heat, playing their intense meandering tunes but I wonder if meaty versions of Some or Mess With Time would have jolted me back into consciousness. In fairness to the band, the momentum wasn’t helped by some technical difficulties and the passing out of a dude down the front, both of which appeared to drag out the pauses between songs.

The band recovered their panache to end superbly with two of their best tracks, Conventional Wisdom and Carry the Zero, but the encore was a major disappointment. Randy Described Eternity started off in a blast but ended up floating around for far too long in improvised limbo.

Earlier in the evening, The Crayon Fields played OK, and it was great to hear previews of some of their new tracks, but, at the moment they are too shy to be a successful live act in front of such a large audience.

Gareth Liddiard, was his laconic, slurred yet intense self, sitting down and playing The Drones’ tracks solo over on the side stage. Unsurprisingly he could barely be seen or heard above the chatty and somewhat muscular crowd.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Meredith '07

Now that I'm all rested up and all Christmas committments are complete, it's time to start delivering the noos from the rooves.

Firstly, while you folks are probably starting to look ahead to Golden Plains, I'm going to reflect on Meredith just past. Once again, it was a great weekend, and kudos again to the organisers for putting together a great lineup. Could have done with a tad more variety in the acts, and perhaps a reshuffle of the scheduling, but these are ultimately just minor criticisms.

Here's a few thoughts on every band I saw on the Friday and Saturday. Sorry there's no pics folks.

Lady Strangelove
Heavy stoner-psych in the mould of Wolf n Cub but only with more instrumental and tangential diversions. Still relentlessly loud though, and also not that interesting

Black Pony Express
My first time seeing this dark soulful and textured country sextet, and I was impressed. One of the unexpected pleasures of the weekend.

Ned Collette
Still can’t seem to enjoy his new approach. Many of the songs just seem to meander into nowhere, and with his dry soothing delivery, it was a weird choice for this timeslot. Would have been better suited to Sunday morning.

The Galvatrons
Ridiculously tight eighties synthy hair rock seemed to appeal to many, but after enjoying them early in the morning at Roxanne several months ago, my opinion has changed. If it's a joke then i'd prefer and see a comedy show. If they're serious then they have a limited lifespan with this type of music.

Dr Dog
I find their songs overly derivative, but I was expecting a fun, wacky and flowery performance that would overcome their deficiencies. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite there. Not as much energy as I hoped, the sound was boomy and the lead singer’s voice screeched and grated a little.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring
Admittedly I was pretty drunk at this stage but I had a crazy time up the front during this set. My highlight of the festival.

Crystal Castles
Lead singer Alice Glass had wonderful stage presence with her punk attitude, sultry pouting and bouncy energy. Like Yeah Yeah Yeahs had discovered electro. Unfortunately there was a bit of crowd inertia which suggested I was one of only a handful of admirers.

Devastations
Great way to kick off Saturday. Disturbed and seedy new sound was complemented perfectly by Conrad’s sleazy shoulder roles and hip movements. Guitarist Tom Carylon was a monster with the effects pedals. The squawking sprawling Rosa, a perfect closer.

Little Red
Fun as always with drummer Taka even cheerier than usual, mounting the drum kit for a joyous clapping routine, and some onstage dancing. Unsurprisingly they managed to win the crowd over with their enthusiasm, despite a few too many dud notes. Some of the new tracks sounded a bit too much like commercial R&B though.

The Black Lips
As with any fucked up rock band, the music was loud, raw and scuzzy. And then of course there was the confronting, and weird white trash rock n roll performance from this reportedly intelligent garage group involving vomit, blood, saliva and even a bandmate pash. Unlike anything I've seen before.

Andrew WK
I didn’t get close enough to the stage for this one, but simple themes combined with non-existent poetry, hair metal, elementary keyboard ability, and wacky interpretative dance isn’t just my thing. Maybe I just need to learn a little about L.O.V.E and instead just party party party?

Art Brut
Despite his obvious lack of vocal talent, Eddie Argos confirmed his reputation as one of the most dominant and witty front men around. The whole performance was really fun too, although at times it was over engineered so it was slightly irritating. Would have been great to get more vocals into the mix too to hear those deliciously ironic lyrics.

Midnight Juggernauts
Mysterious, sparkling disco stomp was rocked for this performance. Barely a still moment and more crowd interaction from Vince Juggernaut than I've ever seen before. One can only imagine the reaction if they had a later timeslot on Saturday.

Cut Copy
Started off quite flat, but hit their stride towards the middle of their set. Their fashionable synth washes over me fairly quickly but I still enjoyed them and were much better than in their Thursday night support set for Daft Punk. It must have been hard for them after the Juggernauts rocked the Amphitheatre earlier in the evening

The Gossip
Beth Ditto is, of course a great performer, but apart from her on-stage presennce, I didn't like them that much. Her ranting was quite tedious, and the music didn't seem to have much variation. A disappointing end to the night's live acts after Muscles was a late cancellation.
Pat.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Return to the Rooftops

Hi folks

Thanks for those who left the kind comments on the post below. It’s nice to feel missed.

Just to confirm, it’s unlikely the weekly gig preview will continue. The prep time was just a little too long each week. Damn hard too writing anything original and interesting about the same bands when they play week after week.

BUT don’t fret ladies and gents, ACROSS THE ROOFTOPS IS NOT DEAD. We’ve just been taking a wee lil' break so, when we muster up our combined creative forces and get our shit together then we'll start posting again. Look forward to festival reviews and some end of year theorising over the coming months.

Yours

Pat and Dave (The Rooftoppers)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Love Of Diagrams - Pyramid

For Dave

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bands 'n Stuff: October 17 to October 23

Wednesday

The Small Knives + Ollie Brown (Art of Fighting) + Ned and the Meds
@Northcote Social Club, 8:30pm, $10

After a plug a couple of days ago for their new record, here’s a chance to catch The Small Knives live. Surely you haven’t anything better to do on a Wednesday?

Spider Vomit residency + The Ancients + Kill Boogie
@The Tote, 8pm, $6


Thursday

The Dead South + Sailors and Swine + Screwtop Detonators + Hate Club
@Ding Dong, 8pm, $6

Sailors and Swine have an EP out soon which I’m looking forward to, so do the Dead South who actually sound a bit similar to the Swine. Perhaps a bit like Tom Waits meeting The Birthday Party?

Nick Murphy with Shylo + Downhills Home
@Northcote Social Club, 8:30pm, $10+bf

Stop.Drop.Roll - Albert's Basement Fundraiser
Combover + Look! Bird Lament + Morning and the Sleepy Kids + E-Wah Lady
@Glasshouse, 8pm, $5


Friday

Light Says Solo EP Launch + Pitching Woo + Little Star + Charge Group (NSW)
@The Tote, 8:30pm, $10



The spacey, melancholic Light Says Solo features Dan Brownrigg who has produced a couple of International Karate albums and also provided on a few tracks. Emmy Heenings wrote a nice piece about Charge Group in the latest edition of Mess and Noise, which has me interested in them. Charge Group also have a gig at Gertrudes on Saturday if you can't make it.

Mia Dyson + Epicure
@The Corner, 8:30pm, $20+bf


Saturday

Aleks and the Ramps + Charge Group (NSW) + Oliver Mann
@Gertrudes, 8pm

Des Miller (NSW) + Owls of the Swamp + Retail Fireworks
@The Empress, 8pm

Only local gig of this brief visit from this highly regarded Sydney indie singer-songwriter

house party
Bang! Bang! Aids! + Macaca Mulatta + Femur + Spun Rivals
@38 Stafford St Abbotsford, 5pm

The Panics + Whitley + Oh Mercy
@Northcote Social Club, 8:30pm, $17+bf





The Panics have a new album out, Cruel Guards. It’s in their typical brooding and laconic style, but a more lush affair than their last record, Sleeps Like A Curse. I expect fans of The Panics will be very pleased.

Support also from Dew Process labelmate Whitley, who also impressed me with his album launch a few weeks back at the Toff. While he was let down a bit by a rowdy Friday night crowd, the music sounded pretty good with a full band (particularly The Submarine) and Whitley himself possessed a healthy dose of charisma, which suggest he will charm many an audience in the future.

This trio of acts are also playing to a sold out Friday night crowd.

Princess One Point Five + Registered Nurse + Alex Jarvis
@Palookaville, 9pm, free

A Pharmacy Records showcase.

Primitive
The Unheard (NSW) + Witch Hats + Frowning Clowns
@The Tote, 9pm, $10

Also a show at The Town Hall in North Melbourne for the headline act.

Weekender
International Karate + My Empires
@Ding Dong, 9pm, $10

This gig also doubles as a Klaxons afterparty so if you're averse to neu-ravers then it might be an idea to head elsewhere after a stellar set from International Karate.


Sunday

Bulls residency
@Old Bar, 7pm, free

Ce Garage La Country
The Palenecks + James McCann's Dirty Skirt Band + The Great Apes + Jacky Winter + Danny Griffith (SubAudible Hum)+ The Auralees + Matt Kulesza (Good Intentions)+ Shombi Rumbla
@The Tote, 3pm, $10

McCann and his Skirts are a good live act with their raw Australiana. Bombastic and druggy psych glammers, The Great Apes are a quite a bit of fun too. Make sure you get in early for the bbq. Last time I went to a Sunday barbie and gig at the Tote. they were in a bit stingy on the snags.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

The Small Knives - Smoke and Ribbons



I really enjoyed The Small Knives’ first record, Rain on Tin, released in 2004 through Candle. It’s a familiar bunch of slow, sad, earthy, but notable tunes - not only for some uncomplicated yet gorgeously sweet and tender melodies (see Flashlight, Paper Wings, Hardin Your Heart), but direct, personal storytelling and simple yet evocative lyrics – (‘The contour of her teardrop like a raindrop on a vine’ from Down The Line is perhaps the best example of their lyrical talents). However, despite a number of strong tunes, the record is a bit too stark and introspective towards the end so whenever I listen I usually avoid three out of the last four tracks.

The Small Knives latest album, Smoke and Ribbons, retains the intimacy and organic feel of Tin, but with less overall detachment, it radiates greater warmth both thematically and musically than its predecessor, Also, with a better sequencing of tracks than Rain on Tin, overall, it's a stronger record.

Some of the best moments on Smoke and Ribbons are when the Knives leave the sadness behind, and let the band go to town such as on the wonderfully rousing pair of Hey! and Easter Everywhere. Hey! sincerely recalls a lustful lovestruck adolescent (‘She takes off her green summer dress/I lie and listen to her breath) and is the closest thing to a radio friendly hit they have written to date. I’m not sure what they’re on about with the religious themed Easter Everywhere, but whatever it is, it feels quite inspiring and spirited.

It is also interesting to hear Richard Buckner’s influence on the album. Leo Mullins’ raw robust drawl and the driving metaphors in the lyrics of Turnaround are quintessential Buckner rock (There’s a window on the backseat and we’ll keep it wound down) , while the haunting closer Space and Time reflects the atmospheric yet earnest dreaminess of Buckner’s performance at the Corner earlier in the year.

Other highlights include Summer, which fondly recalls holidays of past with poetic aplomb (Underneath the mango tree/The heat all around us/We could disappear for hours), as well as the tender balladry of The Kitchen.

Smoke and Ribbons is unquestionably a thoroughly honest and affectionate record. While the Small Knives will never ever be one the coolest bands in Melbourne, after listening to this record, one would find it hard to argue they are not one of the finest.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bands 'n Stuff: October 10 to October 16

Wednesday

The Brutals + Schweinhund
@The Empress, 9pm

Band names can be deceiving sometimes. Second week of this Empress residency from this guitar pop group.

The support band features Matt Sigley of The Lovetones and singer-songwriter Marcel Borrack.

Spider Vomit + Panel of Judges + Lazy Stripper
@The Tote, 8pm,

Band names can also be quite apt. It’s the start of another Wednesday residency at the Tote from another band on the rise. This time its cathartic stoner noise quintet, Spider Vomit.


Thursday

Art of Fighting + Little Red

@Prince Bandroom, 8:30pm, $22+bf



Third local show of the year from the stunningly beautiful and melancholic Art of Fighting. I believe Peggy is singing again live, which should be reason enough to go for anyone who was thinking twice about attending this show.

Icecream Hands + Marisa Yeaman
@Manchester Lane, 8pm, $15+bf

An acoustic show from Chuck and co. It will be recorded too, so if all goes well, will be available as a release in the future.

Loene Carmen (NSW) + Gareth Liddiard + Poker Hearts
@The Toff

Raw garagey rock from Sydney singer-songwriter. Her live band includes both members of the Mess Hall which should guarantee a decent show. A solo show too from The Drones' Gareth Liddiard which is increasingly rare these days given The Drones' hectic overseas touring schedule.

Pretty Boy Crossover + Flying Scribble + ii
@Afterdark, 8pm, free

Headline show from the ambient electro duo who occassionally masquerade as two thirds of Mist and Sea.

Cmon Cmon
You Will Die Alone + Popolice + Dom
@The Evelyn, 8:30pm, $8

Two quality local acts who shouldn't need an introduction for regular readers.


Friday

The Gin Club (QLD) + Derbeyfield + Loene Carmen (NSW) + Dead Letter Chorus (NSW) + Matheson
@The Espy, 9pm, free



The second visit to Melbourne in recent months from Brisbane folkies, The Gin Club. On their last trip down South, I saw them at the Tote. On the whole they had more than a few decent atmospheric and poignant tunes, and were unquestionably the tightest band on the day. They mix vocalists a bit too which generally worked, although one guy lacked a bit of range and volume.

At their last show, The Gin Club alluded to a poor turnup at their other show at the Toff, so it looks like they’ve gone for the safe option this time – Friday night at the Espy.

Midget (NSW) + Shooting at Unarmed Men + Blacklevel Embassy
@Northcote Social Club, 8:30pm, $12+bf

Regurgitator (QLD) + I Heart Hiroshima (QLD) + New Pants (CHN)
@The Corner, 8:30pm, $22+bf


Saturday

Flying Scribble + Light Music Club + Denim Owl
@Edinburgh Castle, 8:30pm, $2

Major Major EP Launch + Foxx on Fire + Jerry Falwell and the Gentiles + Detective Social
@Pony, 9:30pm

Plastic Palace Alice + Cuthbert and the Nightwalkers (NSW) + The Rocketsmiths (QLD)
@Rob Roy



So, the Rob Roy as we know it is finishing with the owners failing to renew the lease of the current operators. Coming only months after the closure of the Spanish Club, it’s another nail in the coffin to the once flourishing Fitzroy music scene.

There’s no confirmed word on the owner’s new plans for the venue, but, based on what I've heard, its unlikely that live music is in their plans. It will make that live CD released earlier this year an interesting collector’s item.

In the final show Plastic Palace Alice, who are launching their new video featured on this blog last week. If you haven’t seen them yet, tonight might be a great place to start, cause they’re a band with an intriguing and grand sound, and it’s likely they’ll be playing to a full house tonight.

The Nation Blue + Midnight Woolf + The Currency + Delta Reds
@The Tote, 8:30pm, $10+bf

Even if you’re not into angry raucous rock, it’s hard to disagree that The Nation Blue are one of the best live acts in Melbourne with their violently intense performances. Frontman Tom engages in a bit of behind the head guitar playing action too, and I do like a bit of novelty guitar playing.


Sunday

Albert's Basement
Love Is Science Fiction + The Psuche Ensemble + Seagull + Look Bird! Lament + The Pots n Pans + A. Wallace + Suamb
@The Tote, 4:30pm, $5

I believe these fundraiser gigs are to raise money to release a compilation vinyl with some of the bands that play at these shows. I’m yet to attend one of these Albert endorsed gigs, but it seems difficult to keep up. Every gig there are another couple of acts I’ve never heard of. The Basement just keeps popping out new bands.

Laura Jean + luluc + Light Music Club
@Manchester Lane, 7pm, $8+bf



Three of Melbourne's most sombre female singer songwriters

Silver Ray + Andrew McCubbin and the Hope Addicts + Danny and Ryan (SubAudible Hum)
@East Brunswick Club, 6pm, $10

A perfect fit for a cold Sunday night. Both The Ray and Andy have new albums out too. Also, an acoustic performance from part of SubAudible Hum to round out the lineup.


Tuesday

Oh Mercy + Simon Moore + Touch Typist
@Manchester Lane, 8pm, $8

Oh Mercy have big wraps on them for a young band, with an Unearthed nomimnation last year, and also having featured in the recent Wireless Bollinger series for upcoming bands. I like what hear on their myspace. Slightly warped but catchy folky pop songs, although from what I saw live a month or two ago they still have quite a bit of room for improvement.

On the other hand, I can highly recommend Touch Typist based on my previous experiences.

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Across the Rooftops 2006