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...
THE MESS HALL + LADY STRANGELOVE + MONA LISA OVERDRIVE LIVE @ ENIGMA BAR / Friday August 8th 2008
It's a fine line between genius and insanity. A functional chaos. In the thick of it you often forget. The circus of it can be overwhelming. Then you step back. You look to the horizon, look to where you've been, where you're going and you laugh at all the death count left scattering in your wake. You treat it like a military campaign. You plan weeks in advance. You ping pong between all the ying and yang extremes. You charge your weapon. You're a singularity in purpose. You're an assassin. You know your entrance and exit points. You know your plan of attack. You're ever mindful of your surrounds. How they lurch and spit. A bristling porcupine in punching fists. You dodge those bullets like Neo. You laugh when that avalanche hits just as you predicted, hits just moments after you left that spot, just a moment sooner and you'd be dead. You think you know what's coming. You write it all up as if it actually makes sense. Like it's all heading somewhere. But it always the same hilarious mess in the end. You can plan all you want but you can never fight it. It's humanity in all its insane glory. It's a zoo, it's a flood, it's a frenzy and sometimes you just get eaten. And as much as it IS possible to tame it.. duuude just YOU try and control it!
And yet here we are this Friday night at yet another shining oxymoron that aims to do just that. The live music venue. Order to the chaos. Zookeepers to our fractured psyches. We walk in erect and articulate, we pay our money and we walk out knuckle dragging, bedraggled and howling at the moon. Kinda poetic really. Kinda disturbing too when you consider that we have just so many of them in the same city mile. Purpose built batting cages to beating us senseless. Take Enigma Bar for example. NOTHING about this place is civilized save for the welding points that holds its purple candy shell in place. It speaks of fire, fury, pillage and plunder. It speaks of midgets shot out of cannons, TV sets thrown out of hotel balcony windows and you throwing up all over the sidewalk afterwards. It sure as fuck ain't pretty, but it serves its purpose well.
We arrive en masse. A sellout crowd packed from floors to ceiling for touring act The Mess Hall and two supports. We leave our brains at the door. We hit the bar. We hit it hard. We look to the stage riddled with such a whimsical disarray. Of sprawling leads and effects pedals. Of guitars and amplifiers. Of kickdrums and crash cymbals. Of keyboards and mic stands. We can see it. We can smell it. Oh yes! we can damn near taste the ripening insanity here tonight!
MONA LISA OVERDRIVE (**1/2) myspace :: Which could be no better an introduction to our opening act, Mona Lisa Overdrive: equal parts genius, insanity and waking up hours later sprawled on the floor whilst paramedics slap you silly about the face and feed a few too many metres of rubber hosing down your throat. Is it garage? psychedelic? 60's mod? Velvet Underground? or the sort of mad buzz in mismatched ingredients private school kids cook up after that one chance chemistry lesson when they realise it's possible to synthesise pure alcohol using nothing but sugar, yeast, water and a distillation kit stuffed in a classroom locker? Back when I was 16, they called it "Pink and Purple". Colourless, odourless, flammable, mixed with cheap name brand cordial and served luke warm in a brown coffee mug. Now they call it "Mona Lisa Overdrive". Granted the ingredients are all different: guitars, keys, vocals, drums, hold the bass, but the results are just as unpredictable. Sometimes they're an intoxicating bliss. Sometimes they're an insane pink and purple mess spewed up all over the carpet and bathroom floor. I'll let you decide for yourself which one they were tonight.
As such, I'm told synthesizing your very own Mona Lisa Overdrive tonight is quite simple. Pick two songs and thrash them simultaneously. Throw "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas" on the TV at the same time as projecting Walt Disney's "Dumbo". Take a mad tab of acid and snort a line of speed. Tap your head and rub your stomach. Drop the toaster into the bathtub just as Jefferson Aeroplane's "White Rabbit" peaks. I swear if I went slightly crosseyed I'd see a pod of dolphins fucking a sailboat out there, but tonight this shit's just not synching up for me. Maybe they need a lava lamp and a smoke machine. Maybe they need hippies go-go dancing in cages. Maybe they need Andy Warhol shooting laser beams out've his eye sockets. Maybe they just need a bass player. Either way I need two panadol and a lie down, this makes my brain hurt..
LADY STRANGELOVE (****) myspace :: And speaking of brain damage, here comes act two: Lady Strangelove! Awesome band, shit impossible to photograph tonight without breaking my camera in half attempting to find the ONE frame amongst fifty strobing light changes and absolute darkness that doesn't come up a blurry mess (right now they're reading this and laughing.. yooouuu bastards!) Lady Strangelove. It's been a while between gigs for this psychedelic shitstorm, as they've been spending the last few months of their extended hiatus playing the occassional big name support slot, cooking up a new setlist and retooling all their new instruments after their OLD instruments got stolen back in May. Which is no easy task considering just how many thousand fold tropical birds it takes to jam into the one guitar and accompanying effects pedals to perfectly encapsulate Josh's guitar sound. The thousand and one NASA samples, whale song, sirens and tibetan chanting Azz jams into his keyboards. Or all the different strands of mind altering fungus Damo inhales by the bucketload in effort to play the drums. Which of course takes the all important time and effort away from what would normally go into Brendan's comprehensive speech therapy each week just so you could actually understand half the shit he fucken sings out there (I saw a lyric sheet once and it frightened me). It's still a work in progress and it shows. Tonight they offer more of a blues set: everything's stripped back, paired down, punchy and not nearly as howlingly lysergic. But full credit to their insane artistry tonight: it's surprisingly no less ferocious.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if Lady Strangelove unplugged everything and went acoustic. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we took all of that away too and just gave them a triangle, a tamborine and a duck whistle. Sometimes I simply wonder what Josh would look like with his head shaved doing the Hare Krishna before someone dropped 50,000 tonnes of rubble on his head and then I laugh hysterically for hours on end. Lady Strangelove. They're a mad mind fuck and it often doesn't make a shitload of sense (especially not in this live video I just posted from the end of their set), but it's one that's always worth the visit all the same..
THE MESS HALL (*****) myspace :: Which makes for a fitting character study when we weight all the above against our headlining act tonight. The Mess Hall. They're the very antithesis to decades of rock & roll excess. They're the shaved beast. They're the skeletal mainframe. They're one atom of hydrogen smashing into another over and over to make the skies burn. Two members, two instruments, two chords and two drumsticks beating us black and blue to the truth. Fuck, it's almost insulting how simple this shit is! And yet for all its minimalism, for all its simplicity, comes a punching metronome ten feet tall that hijacks your central nervous system and all those around you, plugs it into an amplifier and makes the entire room its swinging fist. I know this isn't the first time a two piece blues band has pulled this shit. We've already got The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Jackson Firebird (and these idiots *cough*). Every week another dickhead and their dog is pulling the same stunt and a lot of them employ a cavalcade of insane gimmicks to compensate: throw in some coy are they or aren't they boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, brother/sister? sexual tension, throw in a megaphone, xylophone and a stylophone, throw in some zany colour schemes, grow a pencil thin moustache and dress like Willy Wonka. Granted we can simply blame The White Stripes for most of this shit (and perhaps these idiots by association.. tee hee!) but there's NO fucking with The Mess Hall. There may be fuckall to them but OOOOOH FUCK DO THEY ROCK!
The Mess Hall. They're a pounding beat and punctuating blues riff drilled to techno precision. They're a precision killing machine with an insane afro cutting it up on the drums. They're The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army", Rocket Science's "Being Followed" and a four to the floor rinseout cranked to a stabbing heartattack uppercut. I mean shit.. crank this video up loud and just you try and NOT nod your head along! They may be minimal as fuck, they may just be the blues, but when they're this loud, and the crowd's THIS drunk, they're impossible to deny..
1:08AM - Just a few short hours ago this crowd was intelligent, articulate, educated and socially aware; now only three bands later and they're a shrieking, howling mess and circling the drain with a smile. Yup, just like every OTHER night at Enigma Bar. Mission accomplished!
1:36AM - Still being nowhere sufficiently deficient in higher brain function meself, I sought a sequel down here in the east end ghetto at Producers Bar. Normally I would've happily walked all the way, but instead I chose to jump into the nearest car filled with people who I hardly know, in the naive belief they'd actually drive me there safely and not dose me up full of tranquilisers, harvest my vital organs, feast on my carcass before scattering my skeletal remains behind the Cranka.. *cough* no really! have you seen how fucked up the east end's getting of late?
Tonight Producers Bar is hosting a wacky Pac-Man themed party called, rather brilliantly, "Pac It Out". Yeah I know, clearly someone was huffing glue when they came up with this shit earlier this week. Still to the organiser's credit they couldn't have picked a more apt theme..
The genius of which could best be summed up by Kristian Wilson from the Nintendo corporation when he said rather infamously back in 1989: "Computer games don’t affect kids; I mean if Pac-Man affected us as kids, we’d all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive electronic music.". Aaaaaah yup, irony can a real bitch can't it? :)
Speaking of repetitive electronic music, no after-hours entertainment would ever be complete without either the Transmission or Gosh! DJ's having an insane monopoly on it. As clearly I'm not seeing enough of these arseclowns clogging up every fucking club, pub and venue in this city after 1AM on a Friday or Saturday night as it is. FUUCK! still, it does give me the opportune moment to make fun of DJ RossRossRoss: who's never one to shy away from the camera..
"Whoaaaa I think all those magic pills have just kicked in.."
And to make fun of DJ Keenan here, who's forever trying to run away from the camera..
And no I've got no freaking clue who the blond is either (although I'm told she may've been the main reason 300 idiots packed out Tyger Tyger's launch party thanks to THIS poster.. woooo!)
Speaking of random blonds I can't for the life of me remember the name of *cough* heeere's yet another one! I swear, everytime I go out drinking these days I collect another one; only for them to add me on facebook weeks later when I've forgotten who the hell they are.. aaawesome!
*sigh* it's a hard life being a gonzo rock photojournalist isn't it?
2:23AM - One hour and a few too many beers later and things have gotten decisively hairy out there on the dancefloor. I begin to suspect that someone may've slipped some magic pills into my drink. I also begin to suspect one of these idiots from Tyger Tyger may've been responsible..
Only to be ambushed by the obligatory "facebook" photo shoots that constantly mob for my attention (note: subjects in frame may appear infinitely LESS sober than they actually are..)
Whilst (speaking of infinitely less sober) here's the ONE good reason why all these pill munchers threw this party in the first place: all to farewell Naomy, everyone's favourite Transmission DJ, who's soon to be leaving for the eastern states for pretty much the same reason why anyone of us would ever want to flee Adelaide: to avoid small burrowing creatures like Lisa from attacking you when you least expect it, or *cough* quite possibly a lucrative career of some kind..
2:43AM - Whilst I provide everyone else with a damn good reason to flee to the eastern states, clearing the floor with some utterly misguided dance moves that were quite possibly inspired by either (a) MGMT, (b) The Presets, (c) The Wombats, or (d) something much MUCH worse..
Yup, I don't know if I'm speaking for everyone at this point, but I believe this shot pretty much speaks for itself: no one is getting out've here alive and we're all going to die.. weeeeeeeee! :)
3:00AM - Still relief isn't far at hand when ever so mysteriously, all the bar staff simultaneously run out've batteries and stop serving alcohol. Oddly enough no one seems to notice in Anthony's case as he's pretty much been pulling this exact same expression ever since we got here..
3:05AM - Those few of us that remain in all the resulting chaos (and have yet to figure out the Cranka across the road is STILL serving alcohol for another hour) entertaining ourselves by flicking lit matches at Sophie (extra bonus points if one of her eyebrows catches on fire!)
3:11AM - Only to be sent screaming into the abyss by the sight of THIS freak in dysfunctional hat wear: the one sure sign on any given Friday night you've been drinking waaaay too much..
3:39AM - Although it takes another half hour after closing till I finally get the message, as I'm so totally out of it I seriously believe there's doughnuts hanging from the light fixtures and do my utmost to capture one (it's anyone's guess WHAT I'm actually eating at this point..)
At which point I regain my senses, catch a taxi and go home. Or at least I would've if I didn't find myself in the Electric Light beer gardens well after closing, in the dark, for the next three hours, drinking myself retarded with the bar staff and shivering our arses off because nobody could figure out for the life of us how the hell to make the heaters work.. *cough* yup we're idiots! :)
And there we have it: another Friday night that starts off with all the best intentions, the best laid plans, a genius in precision combat photography; only to end in the same hilarious, howling mess of drunk baboons shrieking and banging fists at an upright heater in the Electric Light beer gardens well into Saturday and wondering just how the fuck any of us got here. Yup, just another messy end to another messy night; and quite frankly I wouldn't ask for it any other way! :)