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 BARON + MAYFIELD + AMUNDSENS FLAG "FUSE FESTIVAL" @ PRODUCERS BAR / Thursday March 5th 2009
Consider for a moment the average human brain: squishy, pinkish grey, exceptionally dense, occassionally brilliant. 1400gm mass, 10-12% fat, 8% protein, 1% carbs, 77% water, 2% soluble organic and 1% insoluble salt. Cooks over a low flame for 2-5 minutes, serves 2-3 people, recommended with a riesling, not known for its aerodynamic qualities. Now imagine that same brain placed carefully on a stainless steel bench. Now imagine it lovingly tickled by a peacock feather. Now imagine a sledgehammer. It's a signal-to-noise ratio: the human brain bursts like a water balloon. Now consider how many people you know in your daily life: friends, relatives, loved ones, work colleagues, regular acquaintances, first name basis. Now consider the bleedinglyobvious in excess bulletins, twitters, status updates, SMS and your phone ringing off the hook; it's a signal-to-noise ratio. It's an infinite overload of sensory imput and only 1% of it is relevant. It's a flight or fight response and a daisy-chain of Catch-22s cocked and loaded like a pin cushion. We're in the thick of it now. I'm rejecting ever more than I'm accepting, my cold corpse is clutching at straws, needles in a haystack; the city is alive! Nothing but noise, colour and excitement! Five hundred channels and nothing but shit to choose from? spam clusterfucks, a riot of wonder! We're truly living the culmination of the human condition! Festivals upon festivals, the lunatic Fringe, there's just too much of it all to fight at once and now there's nowhere else to run! Fuse Festival: eighteen venues and five days of talks, seminars, panels, round tables, keynotes, interviews, insight? Ignite! Explode! Detonate! Defaecate! Defenestrate out of the nearest thirty story and starfish that car bonnet below? Mad March!? FUCK YEAAAH! I love this time of year, I truly do!
There's a billion options on offer this Thursday night and it's rapidly giving way to paralysis and a blue screen of death. Kytes Of Omar, Jackson Firebird, Decortica and The Beards at The Crown & Anchor. The Keepsakes and Buster Fidez at the Jade Monkey. The Killgirls, The Villainares and Femme Fatales at Light Square. The Amcats, Saint Huck and Young Hearts Fail at The Ed Castle. The Shiny Brights, The Sunpilots, Masterthief and Galleon at Jive. Quiet Child, Double Handed, Amour Fou and The FAK at Enigma Bar. Your Motive For, Tracer, Tommorow Is, Stu Daniels, Squeaker and Raw Ether at The Grace Emily. Billy Bishop Goes To War, The Touch and Tyger Tyger's last ever show at Rocket Bar!? FUUUCK! (and I'm pretty sure thats just the tip of the iceberg). I briefly entertain everything from hari kari, human cloning and exploitable loopholes in the laws of quantum physics. I'm just one person, I know that I can only choose but one, and that I'll invariably offend fifty others (if not all of them). Welcome to my nightmare! I really should quit while I'm ahead (which we all know was months ago) YEAAAS! Why am I still here again!?
And so it is into this comedy of errors that I spin that globe, stick out an index finger at random and it stops dead over Producers Bar. Its been months since I've been here, my first visit for 2009; what better place to hide? You couldn't miss my arrival: I was the one running, screaming, flailing through that door; followed by swift kick of a table turned over, diving for cover, madly heaving and breathing, eyes nothing but whites, cocked shotgun, waiting for a war. And then I turn around and see what's behind me *shit* I'm outgunned, outnumbered, snipers are everywhere, a full documentary crew no less (Urtext.. is that you!?), they've got the place wired to blow: lights, projections, cameras, crane mounts, tripods and tag-teams. I probably should've left it to them and simply fucked off home; it's about fucking time too! I consider retirement in the face of all these reinforcements, then ritual suicide, burning bridges and all that a nine-to-five oblivion could offer me.. if only briefly before someone hands me VIP status and free beers over the bar. Yup, we all know that's why I'm REALLY here: journalistic integrity!? *pffft* it's ALL about the bribes!
Which in all irony leads us to THIS Fuse Festival showcase event: "Grunge Has Returned". Grunge: the uncompromising. Grunge: the unwavering. Grunge: the nothing short of life and death, suffering, bipolar disorders, doing too many speedballs of heroin and introducing a shotgun to your head in a tool shed as a final solution to the quarter life crisis sound of artistic integrity! How could we forget the golden years: 1989 to 1994!? Nirvana, The Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam; they defined a generation! Back when it was still cool to be morbidly depressed! Back when everyone dressed like they were derelicts and drifters! Grunge! It went out for cigarettes and a bottle of Jack Daniel's fifteen years ago; we could've sworn it all died out long ago: but now it's back! It never sold out, it never backed down! It's the very antithesis to commercialism, it's forever resisting every effort from MTV to corrupt and claim it, it never died at all! and tonight we're here to celebrate its triumphant return in a massive launch party (aka: "Glorious Homeless Records") complete with marketing, merchandising, a hornet's nest of mass-media coverage, satellite link ups, a wall-to-wall of industry delegates and a host of roaming Dadaist performers "decrying modern excess and celebrity obssession"!? irony? *pfft" what irony!? When it comes to grunge: irony and reality are simply one and the same! Yup, if ever we were to cut through all that bullshit and noise this month, it would be right here tonight!
ENDLESS NAMELESS (***) myspace :: The stage is set. Everything is awash in dirty hues of black, red, brown and yellow. The air hangs heavy with smoke and circling fogger fumes. It's just like "Smells Like Teen Spirit", short of those cheerleaders thrusting their boobs in the air and that crusty old janitor doing the slo-mo shuffle with his mop. The crowd, quickly packing to capacity, is devolving to their simian roots: bedraggled, blood curdling, fists in the air and shrieking. And it is into this arena that the soothing tones of Nine Inch Nails' "March Of The Pigs" eventually gives way to our opening act. They stumble unkempt onto that stage before us beer burping and disoriented, knuckle dragging and incoherent. They're Endless Nameless, they're from Brisbane, and from all appearances and odours they're nothing short of the real deal; I'd almost suspect the paper-thin plot of Encino Man at work here. Still, whether they be Cro-Magnons or Neanderthals thawed from fifteen or even fifty thousand years ago; give them a guitar and they're all the same. Endless Nameless. As the name suggests (ie: no less than the hidden song from the end of "Nevermind") they run a recogniseable gene sequence between Nirvana's "In Utero" and Alice In Chain's "Dirt": fuck full of lockjaw progressions, deconstructed punch drunk neaderings, gasoline guitars and heavy bass rhythms all mixed in with a bag of cats fighting. Other more recessive expressions range between System Of A Down, Cog and perhaps even Pitchshifter; all pulled apart with pliers and with the excess fat taken out. There's no production here, no sequencers, no synthesisers, everything's raw as fuck and swinging wildly like a rusty car door in a dust storm. Songs frequently fuck up, guitars constantly go out of tune; it's a shambolic mess all mixed up like an underage drinking party moments before the cops arrive and everyone dives into the bushes (aaaah memories!) and it's EXACTLY what we were looking for! It's grunge, it's Endless Nameless, and it ain't pulling any punches!
AMUNDSENS FLAG (***1/2) myspace :: Yeah I don't know what the fuck is up with this second act either. Someone on the night did rather helpfully suggest that they're from Ceduna (they're not) but thanks to a quick flick on the wikipedia we can also offer these entirely useless facts: Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen (16 July 1872 - 18 June 1928). Norwegian explorer of polar regions. First person to reach both the North and South Poles between 1910 and 1912. First to traverse the Northwest Passage. Disappeared in June 1928 while taking part in a rescue mission. As for what any of this shit has got to do with a band that's actually from Carawa: a town 700km west of Adelaide and about as far removed from Norway as you could possibly ever imagine is anyone's guess; but if it helps they've also been known as "The Flag", "DSM 4", "Clown Stabber" and "Forgotten Rose" (and if you feel like you're just about to have a stroke? don't worry.. that's perfectly normal). Amundsens Flag. They're the sounds of Stone Temple Pilots and Alice In Chains mixed in with Pearl Jam's "Ten" and a mad hit of weed: firstly in the way their lead singer Bronte McCallum apes Eddie Veddar baritone vocals with a head concussion, and secondly in how every song sounds like its been dredged up from a hillbilly swamp, plugged into a guitar amp and cranked up on full. They're also one of the messiest, sloppiest bands you'll ever hope to see perform on a live stage (or more accurately fall OFF one). They'll throw mic stands about and into the crowd, hurl guitars into walls, dive into drumkits, collapse on the floor squealing like infacts and drink themselves into a coma all in the course of one forty-five minute set. And yes, it's every reason why you should go see them. Jangling meat driven chords? stoner ballads? the sounds of rats fleeing a sinking ship? what better time than now for a band half as fucked up as this one!? Oh and as for why they're all dressed in fuglyarse drag tonight (or more accurately like Marla Singer from Fight Club) I can assume one of two equally plausible explanations: either (a) they're paying homage to Nirvana's "In Bloom" video (or more indirectly to that "hot chick" in lingerie on the "In Utero" CD that's in actual fact Dave Grohl.. yeeeouch!), or (b) providing conclusive proof to the fact that Carawa's drinking supply gives you more than your daily recommended dose of lead poisoning. Yup that's Amundsens Flag! They may scream substance abuse and willfull dysfunction from every direction (and there's a good chance they'll all be dead by the age of thirty) but fuck damn do they know how to rock!
MAYFIELD (****1/2) myspace :: Our third act tonight presents to us a series of "what if" scenarios: some of them obvious, some of them more obscure, others beyond even that which science could hope to explain. For instance: what if Kurt Cobain was still alive? What if he was shooting up steroids instead of heroin all this time? What if he was shooting up asteroids? What if he lived on nothing but cocaine, Red Bull and hollowed out swinging cow carcasses for kicks? What if we put Kurt Cobain on the Trent Reznor screaming no-neck diet? What if he was a Viking beserker? What if he was Frankenstein's monster? What if he was 30ft tall, bright green, radioactive and swatted jumbo jets out of the sky like they were mosquitos? What if he didn't even exist at all and someone else merely assumed his place in Nirvana? How would the history of modern music be any different if Nirvana was fronted by Henry Rollins? Mike Patton? James Hetfield? Christian Bale? Tyler Durden? Darth Vader? What if all six of them were trapped IN the body of Kurt Cobain and fighting over his personality for dominance? What if there was no way of stopping him short of a "Cloverfield" final solution? Would any of this shit hope to explain the existence of Ziggy West: lead singer for Mayfield!? Shit no! (come to think of it I've got no idea why I mentioned it in the first place!?) and yet everytime you see Mayfield, you see that freak out front, neck veins popping, part tree-trunk, yeti and shaved wookie and you speculate over this shit for days. Mayfield. Imagine Nirvana's "Negative Creep". Imagine if it was the soundtrack to the movie "300". Imagine every Foo Fighters song where Dave Grohl well and truly loses his shit combined into one: Monkey Wrench, Stacked Actors, Breakout and All My Life; that's what you hear in this band moments before your head explodes. Watch Jett play that bass, shredding back and forth like Jekyll and Hyde, like Robert DeNiro in "Raging Bull", like his head's banging against that prison cell wall over and over till there's nothing but neck and a disembodied scream. Watch Sam Knight plays those drums with his teeth, as clearly both swinging arms have been long lost into that crowd screaming for more. Mayfield. It's all about the subtleties.. it truly is! Subtleties deep fried, rolled in bacon, fried some more, stuffed up the rear end of a buffalo with a few sticks of dynamite, rotated on a spit, stuffed into a rhinoceros, put through the singularity of a blackhole, placed between two hamburger buns with a sprig of mint and eaten whilst sitting on a toilet seat moments before an atomic bomb explodes. Even better, imagine experiencing all THAT whilst a packed capacity crowd in Producers Bar works you like a cheese grater. Or better yet just watch the live video instead.. either way: Mayfield? FUUUCK!!
THE BARON (***1/2) myspace :: And after the "cleaners" have disposed of all the bodies, we're shown a brief video from Scuzz: grunge rockers from Germany (and fifth act signed to Glorious Homeless Records) as they present to us one of those token "wish we were here to accept this MTV award" type speeches. One that serves little or no purpose other than to remind everyone now rushing to the bar, that their beloved VIP beer tab had long since ran out.. FUUUCK! And then, moments after all the tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons have cleared through the room *cough* we're back again with our final and fourth act: The Baron. Unlike every other band we've seen tonight they're not aping Nirvana, they're not even grunge (which coming from a grunge showcase event is no mean feat). Instead they've chosen to plunder the Chris Cornell back catalogue in effort to compliment it: throwing in every volatile extreme from Soundgarden's "Jesus Christ Pose" to Audioslave's "Cochise". Chuck in some Black Sabbath and a little Living Colour and that's pretty much The Baron in all it's fucked up glory. Most of it's instrumental, most of it's bluesy, alternating between prog metal and full throttle doom funk, with a shitload of cut up guitar solos and breakdowns, and just like winning round after round of Guitar Hero (thanks to Mark Turner's frowny face antics) it shreds out like a motherfucker. But all this fails to acknowledge the bleedingly obvious, he's Sam Hall their new lead singer. He's the egomaniacal bastard who treats that mic stand like it's a stripper pole and makes me gouge my eyes out with all the insane dance moves he pulls; it's nothing short of hilarious and horrific all at the same time! Or how he prowls the stage with his oversized cowboy hat and sunglasses in the beginning, channelling an A-Z of 90's Bono (from Actung Baby to Zooropa) with all the swinging arms and exaggerated karate stances? I don't know WHERE the fuck the rest of the band found this monkey (reality show contest anyone!?) but shit damn can he pulls some hilarious shapes! He takes The Baron to a whole new level! He's like JD Fortune fronting INXS, like Chris Cornell fronting Audioslave, like William Duvall fronting Alice In Chains, or like.. um.. *cough* maybe I should just quit while I'm ahead! The Baron. They're an undenial rock juggernaut of doom. They tear it up. They bring the roof down. They own all who fall before them tonight, arms raised up on high wailing "we're not worthy! weeee're not worthy!" (and as long as they don't plan any airport "terminations" anytime too soon.. there's a bright shiny future ahead of them!). The Baron. Watch out for them in 2009, they'll come fuck you up!
And yup, that's our grunge showcase: Fuse Festival at its very finest (in every way that you surely won't prove me wrong!). Impressive yes, undeniably so.. but will this night be ground zero for the triumphant return of grunge? Does grunge even need to return? Perhaps those five short years when it reigned supreme is why we value it the most and why we shouldn't wish for more? It had its time: ever so fleeting, tragically cut short and forever time capsulated for future generations to enjoy; isn't that enough? Or maybe there's no better time than now for it to return! We can see it from Neil Young to The Pixies, Nirvana, Pearl Jam to Creed.. and we can tell where it all went wrong. We can map it in The Smashing Pumpkins from Gish to Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie, Adore, Machina to Zeitgeist.. and we can vow never to return. Or what about The Vines!? It's all just signal to noise, it's a constant struggle, it's entropy and decay. Are we witnessing one of many signs that this civilisation's set for a fall.. or just another encore? If only I knew.. wait and see?
The brain can handle only so much sensory input: it's essentially been the same for the last 20,000 years; and yet we keep on building more sledgehammers. Maybe grunge IS the antidote. Maybe we need something simple and subversive that tears all that shit down, so we can start from scratch again. Hmmm.. signal-to-noise indeed. Let's burn this all to the ground! Who's with me!?