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...
BOOSTER + BEFORE THE AFTERMATH + BLISTERED PALMS LIVE @ GRACE EMILY + ED CASTLE / Saturday November 29th 2008
"On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero" - Tyler Durden / Fight Club. Wise words indeed. Even if he was Edward Norton's shit ridiculous hallucination when he said it (wait.. did I just ruin the plot twist to that movie!? aaaah fuckit!) but still, such "lengthening" notions of life expectancy and existential angst are meaningless when you consider the ever diminishing returns of a life lived by the rock & roll rulebook. We don't stick around for the final curtain call, we're long dead before the third act, there is no death by "natural causes" here. We live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse. We even have a well documented cut-off point for just when all of this is meant to happen: "dead at age 27". In astrological circles they call it the cusp of the "Saturn Return". It's that pivotal moment when Saturn (aka: Father Time, the Grim Reaper, who's weapon of choice is ironically; the sickle) returns from his lengthy orbit around the sun and beats us upside the head for being so horribly irresponsible. Many don't survive the intervention, especially when one's career aspirations begin with heroin and end with Courtney Love. So much so in fact that rock & roll also has another name for it: the "27 Club". Etched into infamy are the illustrious members of such an elite suicide squad: Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and Kurt Cobain. Many others have also died mysteriously close to it: Otis Redding, Gram Parsons, Tupac Shakur, Tim and Jeff Buckley. Others didn't even get anywhere near it: Sid Vicious, Ian Curtis, The Big Bopper and Buddy Holly. Weight up those odds, strike the days off that calendar; if you ever make it past your 30th birthday count yourself lucky!
But there's always the golden exception to this rule. These are the lucky individuals that quite simply defy all odds, despite all the mounting evidence we pile against them. They're the ones that can't be killed by conventional weaponry or fire. They're the chance few, the coincidental, the freak combination of DNA (or the accumulative effect, that for lack of a better term, we simply refer to as a "pickling agent") that outlive all our expectations. We see it in the elvish visage of a David Bowie, the reptilian scales of a Iggy Pop, the vampiric essence of a Keith Richards, the pure dumb luck of an Ozzy Osbourne or the simple fact that Cliff Richards refuses to die no matter how many times we may shoot, stab, poison or drown him. Science has yet to explain any of this shit (some would claim we're simply witness to a worldwide conspiracy stretching back for decades that involves animatronics, animal sacrifice, blood transfusion, organ harvesting and the second coming of Elvis Presley) and we already know that most of the world's organised religions have renounced their works a lifetime ago. But still, when all else falls into ruin, they'll just keep on rocking, rolling, and creaking those brittle bones across the world stage for YET ANOTHER reunion tour. They are the tribal elders to an impossible dream, they are the true pioneers leading the way!
And thus tonight we've come to The Grace Emily, this hallowed turf, this holy land to ages past (and buckets left wanting for the kicking) to pay homage to these wisened figures. We are here to celebrate those of us who are over the hill rather than buried six feet under it, to celebrate those of us who are way passed their prime rather than prime mince to the dirt and worms, to celebrate those of us who are not just bringing back the 80's again and again but never left the 80's in the first place. We truly can learn a thing or two from these decrepit fossils, these shriveled relics, these diminuitive yodas, and gain a further understanding to the true nature of "the force". Granted some of them have seen better days: their movements may be laboured, their speech yammering, drooling, dribbling and incoherent, many of them may require 24 hour nursing care in roadies, dealers and groupies; but they're here for the long run, they've got all the time in the world, and the accumilated wisdom they could teach us, could well and truly save us all!
BEFORE THE AFTERMATH (****) myspace :: With our opening act appearances can be deceptive: for what we may very well be witnessing here tonight may be a chance combination of dry heat, desert sun, frequent recreational "embalming" (VB, XXXX, Fosters, any brew that when a ring tab is pulled: a pub falls from the sky) and other such arcane practices stretching way back to that of the pharoahs (ie: who else hasn't "pulled their brain from out of their nose" after a long night drinking!? weeeeeee!). And it is true, this band HAS had a long and proud history in this music scene. In fact I dare say in one form or another they've been playing music since at least the last decade, the last century or even the last millennium. Still, I know what you're thinking: "doesn't their myspace claim an origin point in 2005!?" (which by Adelaide's standards and our habits for making people "disappear" is already quite an accomplishment!) and yes I agree my facts may be scant on the ground (pfffft research my arse!), but I know it when I hear it: they walked the Earth primordial in the time of titans and demons, they're one of the ancient ones. Before The Aftermath. Its how in their stooping gait, their gunning riffs and their gutteral grooves they harken back to the golden age of 80's Australian rock. It's how they bring us back to a simpler time of mullets, mudflaps, wife beaters, pig shooting, local footy, brown Datsuns with orange flames, cigarette packets stuffed under the t-shirt sleeve, and the glory that was Cold Chisel. But this is not where it ends: they do away with any pretense of glam or gaudy excess, they take this sound even further back to the Mesolithic, to the very blueprint that defines the human species at its most primal and survivalistic. Everything here is rough hewn, home made, carved from antler horns and ivory, chiseled into rock. Their themes are archetypes: of babes, bitches, brews and BBQ stoves cooking up one mammoth ribcage at a time. They need no time machine, nor spatial anomaly to bridge the cosmic divide to reach us tonight. They've been here all along waiting for the day we would simply dig them up, switch on that amp, crank that volume waaay past eleven and let them take care of the rest..
Before The Aftermath. In essence they're every bogan's wet dream: loud and proud, and closet case alike. It's in how Luke Ryan hits all the white knuckle high notes on vocals. It's in the howling sinew of Nathan Dalton on bass. It's the shaggy dog drying himself that is Adam Hollinshead on guitar. It's Bennet Syme cracking the pavement in between. Predominantly they're the nuts in a vice sounds of Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Kiss. Snaking amongst these mightly pillars of doom, and doing their own little burnouts in the dust however are lots of other little influences like: Mötley Crüe, Judas Priest, Quiet Riot, Queensryche, Ted Nugent and Dio (aaaah Grand Theft Auto - Vice City soundtrack you are my research!). Look further still and you'll pick a contempory in the mix with Queens Of The Stone Age's "Songs For The Deaf": with the low growl of Mark Lanegan and the retarding scream of Nick Oliveri. They're both the widescreen excess of Wayne and Garth chanting "we're not worthy! weeee're not worthy!" as they are minimalism itself in garage rock ringing in the noise complaints. There's no need for the big hair, the double frets, the fireworks or the cannons exploding midgets. They're the pure Neanderthal presence that makes raising both devil fingers duplicate and doing the windmill the most awesome way to end up in hospital! We form audience to the spectacle, we are but their disciples, Before The Aftermath: the name says it all!
BOOSTER (*****) myspace :: Which brings us to our headlining act and a history lesson for us all. For the history of THIS band tonight is, in some ways, the history of just how I came to be writing this retarding blog in the first place, this band and this one man: Sean Kemp, drummer for Booster. Part cartoon character, part cliche, part Adelaide icon. I've known this idiot since 1995, when a friend of a friend suggested I go to some gig. The band: "Blindside", the venue: some half forgotten footy club in the western suburbs. I went with a bunch of me mates, we got horrifically drunk, we didn't even remember the band was even playing. It was a complete disaster, but it introduced me to the twin pillars of beer and noise and I've never looked back. Ever since then with a mix of curiousity, boredom (and the fact that he always made such an easy target to make fun of) we followed his occassionally clumsy and colourful antics in music. From the early days of Blindside back in 1995-1997 playing rundown venues like Cartoons and Madlove Bar. Through the middling years of Tendahook from 1998-2002 playing The Austral, The Exeter, The Crown & Anchor and Enigma Bar. All the while this one drummer, his many bands and the littany of late nights, drinking piss and running amok he lead us through the dark ages of the Adelaide scene: of pokies, noise complaints, residential development and wasted youth. It lead me to discover other bands: Mower, Rash, Revolver, Yakspit, Honeyfix and Kaleidoscope. It soon lead me to discover the people behind these bands. And it inspired me to write all these stories that relentlessly target and ridicule them all. Sure it was a wasteland out there, sure there was no audience and nobody really gave a shit but we had an escape and we kept on drinking till everyone else started catching up again. Right here was the buzz. Right here was where it all began. If not for Sean Kemp making a hysterical fool of himself to the amusement of many, then this website would not be the reign of terror you know today!
Thus in his blithering and neandering way he brings us to his current incarnation Booster: active ever since 2004 and despite supporting many of the greats from Spiderbait, TISM, Machine Gun Fellatio, Airbourne, The Casanovas, The D4, and Peabody remained largely a footnote in music scene history. You may briefly wonder why bands like these warrant any mention at all. Granted Sean Kemp has never been the "sharpest tool in the box". He's never been the smartest. He's always been a whole lot of talk and not a lot of focus. His bands have never truly reached the lofty heights of Superjesus or The Testeagles. He's never played the Big Day Out. He's always lived somewhat on the periphary of everyone's perception. But therein lies the real story in all this. He is the everyman. He's living the impossible dream. He's the clumsy, fumbling, well meaning, delusion of grandeur within us ALL itching to break loose. Of all the other bands I've featured since, his music exemplifies the reality, the comedy and the slapstick humour of our tiny music scene that almost could. And let's face it, when you spot him huffing, puffing and wheezing out there, breaking a sweat, thrashing away like a Lamaze class crapping out a drumkit; sure you're rolling around the floor laughing taking photos of him, but deep down you identity with this guy, you ARE this guy, and you want him to succeed against all the odds stacked against him..
Yup, it's been a long time coming for Booster but they're not looking back, they're forever looking forward. Joined by Craig Lewis (from Kaleidoscope) on guitar and Josh Biggs (from Fighterpilot) on bass have already released an album: "The Real Deal" back in 2007. They've already released two EPs before that. And they've been slowly but surely proving themselves like the bands of yore used to do it before their was a Myspace, a Facebook, an iTunes and a Triple J Unearthed: one gig, one venue, one audience member at a time. They're not an overnight success granted but tonight's launch for their new EP "Rodeo Song" shows that they've come of age! They're the sounds of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy to Jimi Hendrix. They're the 70's juggernaut of chugging beats, lightning solos, gunning rhythms, verse / chorus shouts and falsetto wailing. They're simple, chicken fried, and not too bright but you can't deny it: this is where all good things start. Rock and roll. Meat and fire. Wine, women and song. Booster on stage, getting it done!
And it's in these new songs that you can see that their lifelong investment is finally paying off. These aren't the songs of a twenty-something upstart. For good (or bad) there's no desperate urgency here, there's no screaming desire to burn up the sky, burn out fast, and leave a smoking carcass behind. This may be why they've survived so long. Their signposts are the Dave Grohls, the Josh Hommes (and in these two new songs especially) the Jessie Hughes of Eagles Of Death Metal. This is a different juggernaut altogether. This is a beast that cannot be killed, cannot be stopped. This a survivor's tale whiskey bottle in hand laughing, when everyone else has already dropped dead. They're taking it in their stride, they're laughing it up, they're drinking us under the table, and tonight they own this room! They're Generation X teaching the Y where to go..
The response is unaminous: this could very well be the start of something big. Maybe part of this is the room they're playing in. There's something about The Grace Emily, in it's musty hues, warm textures, carpets, and well worn surfaces that lends itself to a distinct air of authenticity and aristocracy: not in the birthright sense, but the hard won sense. Mr Wednesday, The Sea Thieves and their Sunday session back in July instantly springs to mind, a roll call of singer songwriters back in May also comes to hazy recollection, the monthly residencies, the fact that time and time again this venue fights off residential advances, they claim their own heritage, this night tonight and these howling baboons shrieking for more: this is where it's at! Or maybe, quite simply it's Booster's time at last (or maybe I'm just really drunk). Either way, it's right here tonight..
And then there's this character: this blithering outer suburbs anomaly, sinking piss in the wings, who sums up the night perfectly, when between, before and after EVERY song that Booster plays he's continually shrieking "1234!" like a mantra, like the very chromosomes of rock. He's everything this night represents! Sure he's way past it, he's way over it, he's losing his way through it, and he's completely and utterly out of his fucking mind; but there's no stopping him. If ever you tap into this energy force and learn to master it, you'll damn near live forever!
12:48AM - The whole gig was over in less than two hours and two encores; although it felt considerably longer in the living (and yet ever so much shorter in all the drinking). My mind is lost in thought over the momentous impact of it all. There were many lessons, a lot of wisdom to be gained tonight, in examples both actual and abstract it was laid out before us. So I took my moment to absorb (and by absorb I totally mean drink myself into a hilarious coma and out the other side again) as I meditated before this solemn shrine to Bert Newton. Hmmm..
2:22AM - Many hours later, after the third blast of the defibrilator woke me up with a jolt (aaaah this shit's better than a strong hit of coffee!), I fought off all the vultures pecking at my remains (I know them all by name now!) and I set off on the road again. For some this journey would now be over: into a taxi, back home and a lengthy six months of physical therapy but for me I knew there was another chapter yet to come, another chapter right here at the Ed Castle..
BLISTERED PALMS (***1/2) myspace :: I knew scant details of what the hell actually happened here prior to my appearance tonight. If I would hazard a guess now I'd suggest either: (a) one of the bartenders mere moments ago had discovered a chance Neanderthal tribe perfectly preserved in the permafrost encrusting the bar fridges out back and since they were bored shitless tonight and had "nothing better to do" they simply thawed them out, gave them some spare instruments, and let them "have at it"; or (b) fuckit I dunno.. Vikings!? Yup, clearly I'm waaay too drunk at this point of the night to entertain any such wild conjecture but thankfully a few pieces of evidence were presented for me to sort shit out. One was a gig listing: "Assassination Collective (Mel), Almost Human and Blistered Palms". Another was a rumour that ONE of these bands apparently supported Def Leppard back in the 80's. And finally a scattering of SMS's I received from their house mixer, Matt Hills, pissing himself laughing at the mad spectacle that was unfolding before him: "duuuude you gotta see this!". Either way you can't deny the vintage of this band when you see them firsthand. From the several small species of lichen and fungus found growing on one of their guitarists alone (one I hazard a guess would be called "Mark") I would suggests that either this actually WAS the infamous metal band who supported Def Leppard back in the 80's, or in the very least clubbed their fair share of woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros back in the 80,000's BC. Yup when it comes to the blithering extremes in rock & roll survival rates, I believe tonight we've hit the jackpot!
Blistered Palms. They're the world weary metal sounds (delivered to the point of caricature) that you'd normally associate with whatever three braincells were still buzzing around in Ozzy Osbourne's skull anytime he blundered himself onto a live stage at Ozzfest and shrieked "RAWWWK AND ROLL!!!". They're the vicious riffs of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden made all fluffy like a well worn slipper (or like a faithful old family dog sleeping on a porch). And they're me pissing myself laughing, not quite believing what I'm seeing, thinking that this may very well be the most awesome thing ever past 2AM on a Saturday. It's in the way that both "Mark" and "Decay" look like two gnarled tree trunks putting down roots as they thrash out their primordial death grind. It's in the way that their faithful crowd (many well into their forties) shrieked and waved their arms about like children begging for me. And it's in the way that I'm way too drunk to soak any of it in but I'm captivated all the same. As such I didn't keep any real notes (so this laughable excuse for review is a "sketch" at best) but I did happen to capture their cover of AC/DC's "Long Way To The Top" on video instead. Yup, whether it be a cautionary tale on what a lifetime of alcohol abuse will do to you, or a reassuring sign that there's still hope for us yet if dinosaurs like these are still roam the earth; either way I couldn't help but be inspired.
3:04AM - Feeling like I'd well and truly seen everything, I'm subsequently proven wrong the minute I stumble out of the Ed Castle after the gig and onto Hindley Street only to encounter the baffling juxtaposition that is THIS stretch limosine parked outside of Yanni's Yiros. I briefly wonder just WHY anyone of such clearly "infinite finance" would ever want a yiros in a rundown eatery at 3AM, when they could fuck.. I dunno fly to Greece instead; until it dawns on me that they're either (a) touring musicians in need of a fix, or (b) they're cannibals. Sure I realise I have next to no evidence to support any of these theories, but just think maaan, we're in Adelaide: serial killers, zombies, aliens, leprecauns!? this kinda shit happens here aaaall the fucken time!
3:13AM - We originally entertained the notion of hitting up Jive for whatever the fuck combination of Gosh, Glitter, Gary Glitter!? (oh dear gawd!) indie DJ insanity that they were celebrating tonight: only soon to discover that they weren't letting anyone in anymore unless they'd already had a stamp. It was at this point of the night that one of us had the genius notion of hitting up Cargo club instead (but only if the rest of us were perfectly happy to let him get randomly stabbed the minute he stepped foot in there) only to choose Worldsend down the road instead..
3:14AM - In the middle of getting one of those (lame) location establishing shots (ie: when I don't already have a comprehensive archive of a million and one exterior and or interior shots of the Crown & Anchor, Ed Castle, Rocket Bar, Supermild etc) I'm ambushed by Nat Stone, lead singer from Diplomat: and yet another freak survivor from Adelaide's rock & roll past (which some of you "senior citizens" may remember as the lead singer of Rash from way back in the mid 90's).
3:18AM - Only to wander into Worldsend moments later and stumble into this horrific display of chronic alcoholic excess (and a history lesson all in it's own right). As we find the ever infamous Drew Kemp in the middle: former lead singer of Blindside (1995 - 1997), former lead singer of Tendahook (1998 - 2002) and one half of the acoustic duo The Kemp Brothers, joined by Ley on the left (aka: Chris Graves) former drummer for Yakspit and Russian Teammate and um.. whoever the fuck that other gimp is on the right partying it up into the end of the night..
As disturbing a sight as it is (and believe me you don't want to see the "outtakes"), even more puzzling is the fact they've been doing this shit for well over a decade now and there's no letting up. They quite simply can't be killed despite the many crimes against humanity that they may be inflicting upon the public at this very moment. Sure, they're hardly snorting lines of ants, biting the heads off a bat, shooting television sets or floating cars in a hotel swimming pool but in the very Adelaide sense that none of these three freaks have yet to be found floating face down in the River Torrens and washing out to sea, speaks volumes for their freak longevity.
3:58AM - Deeply effect (disturbed) by all that I've witnessed, I seek refuge in Supermild to think things over (and perhaps second guess my vocation in life). It's been a long night, a historical night and an hysterical flight all the way down those stairs to get the fuck away from it all..
4:08AM - Both retinas now screaming with a littany of images and events stretching way back into infancy, my life flashing before my eyes, I make my way hastily over to the bar, tripping over Hollywood actor Clive Owen along the way "damn didn't even see you there!" and sought the quickest way possible to obliterate all thought: here in this long neck bottle of Coopers Pale Ale (damn where's my sponsorship money already!?). As much as it defies all logic, rational, an expensive Federal Goverment campaign on the ills of "binge drinking" I understand it all now. Everything's all down to luck, the roll of the dice, quantum physics, superposition, there's no reason why any of us should've lived this long, but it's all the more reason to celebrate it!
4:13AM - It's about drinking to your good health despite knowing full well this is the sort of shit that contributes to the ill health of just about everyone else, it's about living life to the full and it's the hope that you'll actually see dawn and not get visited by THIS idiot at the very last minute (aka: Tibor from Melbourne band Jika) who deems it entirely necessary to ply you with enough alcohol to refloat the Titanic, dissolve the pyramids, and raise the world's oceans by at least five centimetres. Sure Supermild doesn't STOCK any absinthe and there's a good chance I'll actually find an organ donor in the next 48 hours, but it's not through any luck of trying on his behalf..
4:53AM - Yup it truly IS all about developing uberfreaky superpowers of immortality and invulnerability and absolutely nothing to do with that "squeaky" sound the inside of your skull makes the next day. It's all about the wisdom you accumilate in your many travels, as verily as you decimate all the braincells responsible for storing and making sense of such information. Sure you've drunken yourself retarded, sure you're an enigma to all of medical science but there's nothing that a late night pizza at Marcellina's won't cure. It's the little details like these (and all the water you'll drink before you pass out) that'll surely save you from an early grave!
I am the accumilation of an age, I am rings on a tree, I am the chainsaw that cuts it down with glee. I've absorbed it all, I've adapted, I've thrived in this environment, I've witnessed the rise and fall of empires like waves upon a shore, I laugh as I outlive them all. As surely as I should've died from seeing too much of this life: it is here that I stay, It is here that I like my call home.