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 DRONES + WITCH HATS LIVE @ THE GOVERNOR HINDMARSH / Friday May 1st 2009
Our taste in music is one of the few things left in life: short of politics, sport (and the retarding realms of a "Mac verses PC") where it's still perfectly acceptable to behave like a bigotted fuckwit. Sure we may've fought long and hard to combat other forms of bigotry: such as racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and religious intolerance. We may even like to think that we're close to winning, and that we're finally maturing as a society and embracing humanity in ALL its wondrous diversity (and duuude wouldn't it be awesome if we did?) but we all know that this is bullshit the minute someone flicks on the radio and we hear a song that we hate. Musical intolerance is alive and kicking in our society, it's a veritable growth industry and for proof of this look no further than the internet. Look no further than any given music blogger howling reems of abuse at any new album that fails to measure up to the old, to any given fan forum "flame war", to any given youtube with more than two pages of comments to illustrate just how little we've progressed as a species. And as for all of you out there who still think "but duuude c'mon, it's harmless! it's not like anyone ever gets KILLED for this shit!?". Yeah? well, try telling that to Tupac Shakur or Biggie Smalls; oh except you can't, because they're freaking DEAD people! And as for anyone else who simply shot back with: "yeah? but that's hiphop for ya!" you've just proved my point again. We're all bigots, we're all guilty of it, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves (if only it wasn't SO damn fun making fun of it all!). From East Coast/West Coast rap rivalries, to rap verses rock, to rock verses pop, to punk verses everyone, to everyone else giving dance music the finger, we're all fiercely divided and proud of it: all for no good reason other than to pick on people who don't walk, talk or act like us. Still don't believe me? ask anyone for an opinion on "emo", "indie", "electro", "Australian Idol" or the fourth Kings Of Leon album? and you'll know just what I'm on about!
And yes I readily admit I'm no different (in fact I'm pretty sure I'm a whole lot worse.. I DO write this blog afterall!). As much as I like to pretend I'm "open minded", as much as I like to pretend I treat everyone as equals and I review everything "objectively" we all know I'm lying. I play favourites, I always have, I always will. I'll always "support" what I love about this music scene above all else. And if ever I'm NOT writing a "glowing review" on everything YOU do (cunningly disguised as paragraph after paragraph of hilarious abuse at your expense) then chances are you're simply the support band copping it for all the wrong reasons (isn't that right Radio Spectacular!!!?). But there ARE the rare exceptions. Sometimes I'm given an offer I can't refuse: to go see a band, an event, or even an entire music festival that I'd otherwise consider cruel and unusual punishment but I'll happily accept regardless: knowing full well how hilarious it'll be to write it up afterwards. I did it with Vanilla Ice when he played "Summer Party" back in January 2008, I did it with the eye gouging horror that was MTV Kickstart back in August and I'm doing it again thanks to some mad fool in my email inbox who thought it'd be hilarious to invite me to see The Drones at the Governor Hindmarsh tonight. Everyone has a band they love to hate, and this sure as shit is one of mine! Maybe it's Gareth Liddiard's unique way of "singing", maybe it's that whole uncompromising blues shred that rubs me up the wrong way, maybe I'm just a blind fool for not seeing the true genius behind it all (yeaaah, let's all believe that last one shall we?) either way I knew I was going to have fun facing off against this one tonight. No shit: if you ARE a fan, if you're the band reading this right now (hi guys!) don't say I didn't warn you; this may get messy!
WITCH HATS (***1/2) myspace :: Still not all of this is gonna be a shitkicking review, make no mistake! Sure it may've been raining all night and it's freezing cold, and I might've spent a good half hour to forty minutes earlier tonight standing in that rain and that freezing cold "laughing it up" on North Terrace because my first bus was late, only to wait for my second bus that I could've caught a whole half hour earlier: if only (after chasing it down to the traffic lights and banging on the door for at least a minute while it was sitting there) it would've let me in. Sure I may've gone to all this insane effort tonight just to get here hours early, only to realise that thanks to one of the support bands pulling out a week or two ago (Qui from the USA), I'd now arrived hours too early as everything had long since been rescheduled. But I ain't thirsting for blood, far from it! Firstly I'm blessed with a venue quite like The Gov: one of the best midsized music venues in all of Adelaide you could EVER hope to shoot bands in. Secondly it gives me more time to drink before the show. Thirdly for a support band quite like the Witch Hat. They're from Melbourne. And just like our headlining act, also from Melbourne, they're yet another in a long line of "uncompromising blues bands" you'll often see making the walls bleed in places like Jive. The sort of band where the lead singer raises his mic stand as high as it'll go, asks for the stage lights to be turned as low as they'll go, and then proceeds to spend the entirity of the set turning his nose up at the crowd shrieking like a bag of cats fighting, intersperced with flailing violently about the stage shredding a guitar like he's strangling the neck of a chicken. It makes it next to impossible to do justice on camera but it's an awesome spectacle to watch no less. Imagine Craig Nicholls from The Vines fronting the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Imagine a nightmarish yet ridiculously infectious drum and bass groove that drives it, one that sounds all too eerily like it came straight out of Nirvana's "Bleach" (and more specifically "Negative Creep"). Imagine that same blackening rhythm kicking in at the start of next to every one of their songs like a freight train crossed with a rage blackout: and duuude, it kills like nothing else! It reminds me of a similar way that The Mess Hall hammer their madenning techno precision, only it's rawer, dirtier, angrier and a whole lot uglier; at most that other guitarist there (that guy on the left?) is simply holding the chains, so they don't break loose and murder us all. Witch Hats. It's the sound of your blood boiling, your pupils dialating, teeth clenched, neck veins popping, fists thrashing with a broken beer bottle; like that chihuahua from Ren & Stimpy, looking to maim every motherfucker who dares stand in your way; and damnit I think I like it!
THE DRONES (****1/2) myspace :: For me it was always about the first impression with this band. I remember it well. It was back in April 2006 when they performed a gig at Jive. They were there to promote their album: "Wait Long Enough By The River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By" that'd been hyped relentlessly thanks to six months of Triple J high rotation. At first I was impressed by the ferocity at which Gareth Liddiard tore mercilessly at his guitar, that alone was impressive, it was insane, it was like he was attempting to wriggle free out of a straightjacket (and dislocating both shoulders in the process); but then that initial burst of energy gave way to song after song of unrelenting, mind raping chug. I remembered tortured riffs, squealing feedback and murderous rage let loose by a band who (short of Gareth's histrionics) looked deathly bored, like they wanted to be anywhere but there that night. I mean shit; maybe they DID want to be anywhere else but there, maybe the mix was bad, or maybe they were playing the performance of their lives; I'm pretty sure everyone ELSE loved it (and I remember they were raving about it afterwards) but I for one couldn't handle it, just got more and more offended by it, and after five or more songs I simply walked out: crossing them off the list of bands I'd never want to see again. Clearly my loss. As clearly since then they've won legions of fans, fiercely loyal fans who'd kill for them (and for good reason) and clearly I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. And so, years later, February this year to be precise, I attempted to rectify this glaring oversight: I saw them for a second time at St Jerome's Laneway Festival. Sure they were no less grating to my ears (especially Gareth's distinctive shrieking vocals), but they had gained some polish and articulated anger to their sound in the intervening years, and even more curiously a particularly snide sense of humour. This snide humour in particular came memorably into play midway through their Laneway set: when seemingly fed up with the crowd, they ordered everyone to turn their backs to the band, as if they couldn't stand the sight of us anymore. They pulled this for an entire song, as the crowd dutifully obliged. It's as if they found our mere presence offensive, like we were a swarm of scratching insects, and yes I couldn't help but find that endlessly amusing. As much as their sound STILL hadn't made me a fan (I know right? clearly I'm insane!) it was THIS hilarious turn of events that brought me back again curious to see if it would make an encore appearance. And tonight they didn't disappoint..
Y'see as much as I've gathered: The Drones aren't one to "suffer fools lightly". They're like a raw nerve exposed to all manner of teeny tiny niggling distractions, that people like us would otherwise take for granted in this 21st century sensory overload, but drive them to murder like nothing else. It fuels their music, it really does, it makes it burn like the fires of hell. I like to think of it as Bob Dylan reinterpretted by Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys with a little bit of Nick Cave's The Birthday Party thrown in. It's painful to be in a room with them when they're hard at it, but it's powerful all the same. You hear it in all their hilarious snide marks throughout the set. You hear it when Gareth screams "Veni Vidi Vici" at the end of The Minotaur like he's ushering in the apocalypse. It also made itself heard a song or two later, when the drummer got so fed up with the firing squad of photographers assembled out front that he made an announcement complaining about it and demanding everyone put their shit away. Sure I'd understand why normally this would be a simple common courtesy (as nothing is more annoying than a raised camera phone) but funnier still, this "firing squad" were all established media outlets: Fasterlouder, Rip It Up and the like, and it was just me in the middle with my silly "point and shoot" camera (supplying photos for this blog) that got all the dirty looks. Ooops! Oh and just to hammer the point even further: in the next song (after I sheepishly pocketed my piece before I got "brained" with it), a drumstick came flying at my head. It missed me by mere inches, it hit the guy behind me, and we all laughed. I'm unsure whether it was deliberate or an accident (granted the drummer did look guilty about it) but the moral of this story is clear: DON'T EVER FUCK WITH THE DRONES. And no, in all irony I never got a direct photo of the drummer either (you can see him reacting in the video however.. priceless!). Still with that hiccup aside (and me ducking for cover into the back of the crowd.. just to be on the safe side *cough*) it was nothing short of a mindblowing set. Most of it was clearly lost on me, but what I appreciated the most was the range. From the howling extremities of their heavier songs, to a haunting refrains of their first encore "16" as Gareth on acoustic and their drummer Michael Noga on mouth organ stunned the crowd into dumbtruck silence. It may have been argumentative, antagonistic, hypersensitive, lurchingly drunk and twistingly bitter till the very end (they even had a bit of a calypso swing in there?) but it was captivatingly so. It was like watching an old man attempting to pry apart shrinkwrap plastic packaging on a CD, with nothing but their teeth, screaming obscenities all the while: but there was such a wide palette in its expression. I might still not be a fan, but after tonight's set they've still won my respect.
12:47AM - For the next half hour after The Drone's blistering finale (and how!), I disappeared into the beer garden, drinking myself retarded in celebration over yet another untimely death narrowly averted: as the name "Michael Noga" was added to a long list of other likely suspects the police should track down in the likely event of my grisly murder (ie: in the unlikely event "Shannon The Cannon" from Ricochete Pete ever turns out to be a "cold lead") and all the while, in no way conveniently hiding out in the one part of the venue that was as far removed from stage, or backstage (or I dunno.. a drumkit) as humanely possible. With the crowd now thinning around me, there was no more time to spare. I seized my opportunity, I made my daring escape, I jumped into the next taxi heading for the West End and I got the fuck out've there.. freedom at last!
1:11AM - First stop The Ed Castle. I remember very little of what the fuck happened in here for the next two hours, save to except to say that at some point Travis (from The Scarlet Ives) shouted me one of those wacky "microbrews" (fuck I dunno.. it had an orange/red label? tasted kinda like ginger beer? anyone!?), and it was this same beer that I "drank" for the next two hours, thanks to all the refills I mooched off of Azz Strangelove's rider. Which is one of the many reasons why I dig this joint on a Friday: come for the dope tunes, stay for the complimentary alcohol poisoning!
2:25AM - And speaking of "alcohol poisoning", it was somewhere in this incoherent mess that I'm interrupted by this exciteable tumbleweed here: one of many strangely "familiar" (yet utterly unfamiliar) faces that I always seem to "meet" at least once whilst exceptionally drunk (ie: rather like I am right now.. YEAAAS!!), only for me to promptly forget them, only for them to "friend request" me days, weeks, maybe even months later on facebook: because clearly you haven't lived in Adelaide till you've utterly confused the FUCK out of Spoz at least once pulling a stunt quite like this. Even better I suggest you pull this exact same prank, then nine months later turn up with an infant: as I'm pretty sure that will actually kill me (or even better file for a life insurance plan under my name THEN pull all the above and *cough*.. wait, why am I telling you this!?).
Of course clearly NONE of this applies to Emily Millhouse here. Just like it didn't take me a full fifteen minutes hunting through my facebook friend list in vain attempting to remember just who the fuck she was at five o'clock on a Tuesday morning (all the while giving clueless running commentary to Kane Banner who just so happened to be online at the time.. duuude!) because clearly none of this ever happened.. OOOH HELL NO! Me and Emily? *pfft* we go waaay back!
3:01AM - Yup, it's times like these that I often find myself at Supermild soon after, or perhaps stumbling cluelessly into traffic a few metres further down the street: only to be flying tackled by bar staff and security, doused in chloroform, carried down those stairs INTO Supermild and then woken up with a beer or two in my hand moments later. Yup! As I'm pretty sure that's exactly how it happened as I have next to no memory how the fuck I could've ended up in here otherwise..
3:53AM - In following, thanks to my camera's "memory card", we can provide you with the following utterly nonsensical excerpts from my Friday night at Supermild (which thanks to my actual "memory", or lack thereof, I have absolutely no recollection of). Such as Azz Strangelove here with these two unlikely looking fools he appears to have kidnapped for organ harvesting: sure their brain, liver, lungs, kidneys and spleen maybe next to useless but it's amazing what you can still do with a small intestine, two litres of liquid nitrogen and a few ounces of high grade hash!
4:06AM - Whilst here on the right we have a bartender from The Ed Castle, while on the left we have.. *shit* no wait, I clearly got that wrong. On the LEFT we have a bartender from The Ed Castle, while on the right.. *fuck* wait, lemme start again. On the right we have? aaaah fuckit! Would any of you believe that despite all appearances (or maybe I'm insane), these two aren't in fact identical twins? nor are they in ANY way related!? and the ONLY reason they possibly even know each other is because everytime I bump into either one of them I get them confused for the other one and crack this same joke every damn time!? Yeah.. because clearly I'm THAT retarded!
5:03AM - Whilst this is Griffy Griff making a second consecutive appearance in an episode of Spoz's Rant (with an umbrella no less) for no other reason than my brain may have chosen this exact moment in time to lose containment and explode all over the walls and ceiling around us: for no other reason than YOUR brain might explode attempting to make sense of anything I have just written. Don't worry, it's perfectly natural, especially if it's your first time here, reading Spoz's Rant and attempting to "surface" too quickly CAN result in the bends.. you have been warned.
5:13AM - And here's what my headless corpse tripped over whilst stumbling out that front door in a dribbling search of fresh brains. You may recognise them as either: (a) Henri and Alex Dubois, (b) Henri and what appears to be his ventriloquist dummy "Fez" from That 70's Show, or (c) the two reptilian shapeshifters who killed them both and assumed their forms. Oh and would you also believe I actually took four or five of these photos, and despite every other shot looking infinitely more respectable (including ones I may've actually appeared in) I published THIS one instead? *pfft* Oh of course you wouldn't! why would I EVER pull a ridiculous stunt like that? I mean really!?
Yup, despite all our differences: whether it be the colour of our ipods, our musical preference or our choice in live venues; after a few too many drinks it really doesn't matter. We're one and the same you and I, the same strains of DNA that bear little difference to the chimpanzees from which we all sprang from, all banging those same four four beats into oblivion. There's something reassuring in all that, there truly is. As much as I defend my own tastes in music and as much I may unfairly judge you for yours: by the end of the night we're all reading from the same page.