The Adelaide music scene: to many of you it might be little more than a touring speed bump between Melbourne and Perth but to us it's a way of life. Feast within, on all its dysfunctioning splendour, as we bring you the highly satirical, laughingly fictional and intellectually imbecile tales from our rock & roll wasteland...
SMASHING PUMPKINS + QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE LIVE @ THE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE / Wednesday April 2nd 2008
"A person is smart, but people are stupid": of all the half-baked idioms I could come up with tonight, this one rings the most true. We may have the potential within each and every one of us, quite like a delicate little snowflake: an invididuality and an inner beauty yearning to be set free. We may under the right conditions aspire to a thought, an action or an ideal that will change the course of human history. We may also coordinate such genius into teams, groups and bands and become the architects to a meme or a movement that'll echo into the infinite. But as these numbers swell into the double, triple and quadruple digits, as these faces blur into a sea limitless to the horizon, we hit that fateful tipping point: and then all it takes is one clang of a cowbell, one dull thud into the wet grass below and we're upto our armpits in it; nothing but a chorus of blank stares all mooing as one. Consumerism, climate change, fast food, primetime tv, popular music, SMS voting, the mob rule, the hollywood blockbuster; entire stadiums devoted to it; this is our 21st century idiocracy. And tonight it has a face: The Entertainment Centre. This isn't rock photojournalism, this is survivalism! Come one, come all and lose yourself to it.. weeee!
Yup I admit it, I have a troubled relationship with the "rock concert". Don't get me wrong; I DO quite enjoy the circus of it, but I also can't help but feel alienated by it. Maybe back in our tribal roots we could've all stood in the same room and sung as one, but no more. We are a million and one different species. Our music forms walls within walls, bubble boys and bubble girls all with our seperate headspaces shutting ourselves off from the world. At our very best we could be one hundred monkeys on one hundred typewriters writing the same novel (and often it's like that every weekend in the smaller venues) but at worst, packed in our thousands, standing room only, right up in each other's faces, it's a fucking zoo. It's anyone's guess how it'll go tonight here at the Entertainment Centre. Queens Of The Stone Age and the Smashing Pumpkins? some of you will likely be fans of both but many of you won't, either way, it's gonna get ugly..
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (***1/2) myspace :: As luck would have it, I scored myself a General Admission ticket (cheers to Kelshy). So for me the battle was already half won. The next miracle however, would be attempting to punch my way through the rest of the crowd still standing in my way to the front. This was easier said than done. Despite it being Queens Of The Stone Age: probably one of the most awesome bands on the planet to drink, shoot and fuck to, they also had the unfortunate position of playing support act to a crowd of Smashing Pumpkins fans. *cough* Yup say what you will to defend yourself, but if we were to chart THIS crowd tonight according to the four states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, or a red hot plasma 50ft high and reflecting your shit right back at you? Josh Homme and his band would've been playing to a solid block of ice. Try as they might, short of a chainsaw and a blow torch, there was no way either of us were gonna break on through it. So while I did my very best not to breathe and take lamearse sniper shots from a million miles away (if you think these shots are shit, you should see the three hundred I deleted!) Queens Of The Stone Age hammered out an absolute shitstorm of savage party riffs fit for a Viking massacre that largely fell on deaf ears. Perhaps they may've missed their former bass player, Nick Oliveri screaming like a retarding banshee in the nude, whilst an exceptionally drunk friend of mine who also thought wise to follow (birthday) suit, ran around the crowd with his suffering girlfriend in tow desperately trying to put his clothes back on (aaaaah memories!), but as far as support acts on a "school night" go? this still didn't suck. You dudes can party on down here anytime!
For all you trainspotters out there itching to know, the setlist went a little something like this: Turning On The Screw, Monsters In The Parasol, Hanging Tree, Burn The Witch, Do It Again, 3's and 7's, Go With The Flow, You Can't Quit Me, Make It Wit Chu, Little Sister, Misfit Love, Sick Sick Sick (which I couldn't help but capture on video here) followed by the final crowd pleaser No One Knows. All delivered in a laidback stoner groove by a band that seriously didn't give a fuck, and considering the "tame" crowd response would've probably been happier getting drunk backstage. This became increasingly apparent the more the set wore on, as Josh Homme toyed with the crowd "all we want to do is get drunk, get laid and party! who's with us?", until a few minutes into No One Knows (watch 2:35 into this video for a laugh) he finally snapped; "is this a rock concert or your grandma's house? there's too many fucking rules here!!". Yup life sure ain't easy being the support band, even if you're Queens Of The Stone Age. Ouch!
SMASHING PUMPKIN (***) myspace :: At this point, many of you are probably hoping for an affirmation of my undying love of the Smashing Pumpkins, how I grew up with them, how they changed my life, how I'd be nothing without their music. This of course would be utter bullshit. I'm one of those lazy Pumpkins fans. The first I ever heard of this band was back in 1995 when they released Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. I was that drunken idiot at parties who loved nothing more than to scream along to "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and then skip past all those other shitty songs with the piano in them. I rather liked "Rhinoceros", "1979" and "Disarm" but couldn't for the life of me remember which albums they were on. I was the first to ditch them the minute they went all gothic, Billy Corgan shaved his head, fired Jimmy Chamberlain and added all those idiotic drum machines in 1998. And chances are this entire review will consist of nothing but jokes at the expense of his overblown ego. Still despite all this, I own and enjoy all of their albums, their best of CD, the DVD, that retarded Zwan album (that I've played more than once!) and even a copy of The Future Embrace. We have a complex relationship, but somehow we make it all work..
So clearly I'd be insane if I missed them on their "comeback tour", I'd also be remiss as a gonzo rock photographer if I didn't find a way to charge through this crowd and shoot that bald bastard square in the pink bits. I mean who wouldn't, just look at that freak? FUCK YEAH! And so, with Billy Corgan's number one fan as my battering ram (a girl so insane for them, she even named her two dogs "Pisces" and "Luna" and fantasizes about Billy Corgan coming to her as a vampire to "claim" her) I made my advance. Again, this is an easier said task than done. No matter where you stand in a crowd you'll invariably face off against (a) a pack of 7ft tall bogans in front of you blocking your view screaming insults at Billy Corgan, (b) a pack of 4ft tall girls standing behind you screaming insults at YOU for blocking their view (c) a constant stream of punching fists in between trying to push through. Sure, it's a "rock" and a hardplace but the trick I find is not to fight it, but to embrace it. The minute another stream of those fucknards attempts to push past you arms flailing to the front? simply follow them; once you hit that mosh, you're home freeeee!
So here we are front and centre, eye of the storm, spitting distance to the reheated leftovers of what was once the madness and the glory of the Smashing Pumpkins, circa 2008. Gone is that freaky asian dude with the skunk hair on guitar (James Iha), gone is that hippy anaemic chick with the wispy blond hair on bass (D'arcy), gone is that brief flirtation they had with BucketHead (*sniff* aaaah if only!) and in their place we have Leopard Barbie, and some random doofus on guitar who they probably just dragged off the street moments before the gig.. YEAAAS!
Anyone who still thinks this is the Smashing Pumpkins in 2008 and not just another excuse for Billy Corgan to inflate his ego somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto is probably living under that same chunk of rock and ice with the 2-3 people who genuinely thought "Zwan" was a brilliant album (duuude, it's just creepy when he's all "happy" like that). Of course this may also be about Jimmy Chamberlain and his awesome drumming skills, but we all know the REAL Jimmy was replaced by a robot years ago so clearly this doesn't count. Oh no, this is all about the Billy: that shiny bald scalp, that fuckoff insane silver sci-fi astronaut shit he's rocking (what no muu-muu?), those sweetly shrill sinus cavities, that innate ability of his to fuck up everything you loved from Gish, Pisces Iscariot and Mellon Collie into the same twistin trash of white noise and feedback, that ever inflating ego. Oh how we love the Billy, oh how we'd love to punch him in the gnads!
I know I'll get a lot of shit for this, I mean c'mon! doesn't everyone beat up on him now? But let's face it, there is a before and after as much as we're concerned with Billy Corgan. Before when he had hair he was a tortured genius, prone to some of the most awesome and heart wrenching psychedelic odes ever penned to teenage depression in the 1990's. Kurt Cobain may've opted out with a twin barrel blast to the skull, but good 'ol Billy held that freak flag up high for us all. His sinuses stopped those bullets, he showed us the way, oh yes! But then, somewhere in the mid to late 90's everything went just a little bit pear shaped, and next thing we know it we've got this bald eagle nosferatu nut preening about like a Nightmare Before Christmas, he starts hanging out with Robert Smith banging about with all those synthesisers and none of us have a fucking clue what's going on. Is this still the Pumpkins we know, or a shitty Tim Burton remake?
But then give him an acoustic guitar and all is forgiven, those lyrics, those sweet sweet melodies, such broken down fragility! Awww we still love ya Billy Corgan, the Smashing Pumpkins live! the dream is still alive! Lets take him home and keep him as a pet! (although lets face it, if we did THAT the RSPCA would likely take one look at him: all shrieking, hairless and mangy thrashing that guitar in our backyard and have us arrested for gross animal neglect.. eeeee!)
As such, tonight's two hour set was a mixed bag. For half of it, they had us in the palm of their hands and it was nothing but love: Tonight Tonight, Stand Inside Your Love, Today, 1979, Bullet With Butterfly Wings, this freakingly awesome cover of Pink Floyd's "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun", each and every one of us were singing as one, all was forgiven, Smashing Pumpkins had come home! But then there's always the dark side to the moonscape that is Billy Corgan's scalp. The howling white noise, the aimless jamming, the antagonism, the seething arrogance. Billy Corgan can be a pretensious wanker, but he CAN be a surprisingly funny one too. As it turns out in his lengthy rant: Billy Corgan doesn't like Guitar Hero, Billy doesn't like us downloading music and Billy especially doesn't like sunlight, crucifixes, mirrors, garlic or the colour yellow. Or as he continued to rant "I know you don't give a shit about our new songs, well FUCK YOU! cause we're gonna keep playing them, FUCK YOU! buy our new shit! you stopped giving a shit 7 years ago! FUCK YOU! you want some old shit? here's a song we wrote BEFORE you gave a shit about us!" at which point they hilariously launched into "Drown", followed by a howl of white noise, some other shit, and this song "United States" from their latest album..
From here it rapidly went south as they kicked on for another 10 minutes of aimless jamming and feedbacking noise, followed on by another 10-15 minutes before the aliens landed in their spaceships and tried to take Billy Corgan home. Half of the crowd had already fucked off, cursing and swearing, but the band did return for one more encore. It wasn't what everyone was wanting. It wasn't Cherub Rock, Zero or even Disarm. But as long as you ignore the 2-3 idiots next to me arguing over who farted in this video, this was still one sweetarse jam. Just Billy Corgan, his acoustic guitar, and both middle fingers raised up at each and every one of us..
And that was the show. We came along in our thousands, all hoping to become one, but left all deeply divided over what exactly to make of all this mess. Such is the way of the bloated out rock concert. It may not have been the shining victory we were all hoping for, but it was far from the crushing defeat we had all feared. We may make fun of our idols, we may hurl abuse at them, taunt them and kick them when they're down, but in this fucked up world they're all we've got. I mean shit, what else were we gonna do on a Wednesday night, stay home and read!?