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...
VAN CLEEF + SAINT HUCK + THE ASTEROID BELT LIVE @ THE CROWN & ANCHOR / Friday May 22nd 2009
The Adelaide music scene. For all its wealth in creativity, ingenuity, inspiration and whimsical retardation, it's also very much akin to reliving your highschool years all over again. Fighting words I know, but for anyone who's ever lived through those five years of hell like I'd been through (and better yet had nightmares about it for a good five years afterwards) then I think we can all agree on the parallels. For one, calling it the "Adelaide music scene" is clearly a misnomer, as there isn't just the ONE Adelaide music scene that can ever agree on anything but in actual fact five or six smaller music scenes dividing ever further into hundreds of even tinier "splinter cells" constantly at war and bickering with one another. Everyone identifies with at least one of these. We all have our names we love to mock them with: indie fags, stoners, hippies, pub rockers, cock rockers, metal heads, metros, goths, emos, bogans, gang bangers, pill munchers (the list goes on). They each have their own chosen venues. They're constantly fending off wave after wave of invasion from rival gangs switching allegiance from one venue to the other. And I think we can ALL agree who the "popular ones" are. You see them battling it out every week in the west end. An increasingly volatile hissy fit fought between Rocket Bar, Jive and The Ed Castle, as they attempt to dominate the exact same über fickle, fashion tragic crowd. It's awesome, it really is! And just like every other "popularity contest" you've ever seen play out in the past from the Hollywood box office, free-to-air television ratings, the top 40 charts or fuckit any "democratically" held election: the lowest common denominator ALWAYS wins out in the end. It's a war of attrition, it's brutal, it's nasty, until all you're left with nothing but a herd of cattle mooing in unison for fear of reprisal. No shit, if ever you thought highschool was insane, the minute you hit the real world it only gets MUCH worse!
Which is just the kind of excuse I'm gonna use for why I'm hiding out in the east end ghetto instead. No shit, you can practically taste the tumbleweeds as they blow past Grenfell Street tonight (isn't it wonderful!?). I'm here because Rocket Bar's "sold out". I don't mean two years ago (buuurn!!), but more accurately a few days ago thanks to Art Vs Science and The Touch selling it out to capacity (and perhaps a few others I'd rather not incriminate because it turns out I rather like them *cough*) for yet another "indie dance party". And you know what's even better!? when this shit's happening EVERY week in the west end now! So much so I can't sneak a lit fart into The Ed Castle, Jive or Rocket Bar anymore without causing a freaking gas explosion!? FUCK YES!! I love popularity contests! So much so in fact that I had to go the opposite end of town tonight, just so my head wouldn't explode from all the "awesomeness" of it! Wow, you think I'd never get sick of this shit, right!? and yet here I am! Weird. You'd think I was making a point or something..
Yup, the Crown & Anchor is as far from where the "cool kids" hang out as you can possibly get. Don't get me wrong, it has its moments but if ever you're looking for that highschool analogy: then this place is very much akin to that weird kid you knew back in chemistry class for three months before they dropped out entirely and ended up on the evening news shooting up Gouger Street. Every highschool has one. You know the sort: dyes their hair weird colours, brags about giving frogs "petrol enemas", scratches weird initials into their arms, wears two dog tags around their neck in the event of a nuclear apocalypse and works for community radio. I forget the name of the dude I knew but I'm pretty he's in advertising now or maybe he works for NASA? fuckit.. point is whenever you're sick of the same 'ol routine? nothing quite beats hanging out with these freaks for a few hours to truly appreciate the finer qualities of life! There's more to a music scene than just the crap that floats to the top. Bring a shovel, bring a snorkle and who knows WHAT you'll find!?
THE ASTEROID BELT (***) myspace :: The Crown & Anchor has always prided itself as being THE number one "shit magnet" for Adelaide's criminally insane. Do you have a lazy eye? missing three of your fingers? half a brain? do you constantly find yourself waking up in strange places with no shoes? loitering about children's playgrounds with no pants? do you love to set fire to shit? strangle kittens with clingwrap? is your name Dick Dale? do you drive a van!? who cares what your parole officer says! who cares if he's stuffed in the boot!? you're ALL welcome here! It's part of The Crown & Anchor's charm. It's one of MANY reasons why I chose to be here tonight over anything else the west end was offering (actually it wasn't.. there was simply nothing worth watching in the cinemas tonight *cough*) and our opening act is NO exception! I've got no freaking clue who they are or WHERE they've come from: maybe they were huge in the 80's, maybe they were huge in the 70's, maybe they were simply rifling through the dumpsters on Union Street mere moments before I got here and someone offered them a bucket of fish heads and some loose change to play here tonight (awesome!) either way you can't deny the vintage that they bring to a live stage. They're The Asteroid Belt. They're that distinctive brand of dirty 'ol blues and fuzzed out werewolf riff rock that a certain Jack White from The White Stripes would damn near kill himself stupid to be a part of if only Mark Lanegan from the Screaming Trees or Mark "E" Everett from The Eels hadn't already beaten him to it. They're also predominantly instrumental. If ever they DO sing vocals: it's rather akin to what you would hear garbled over a train station loud speaker crossfaded with a senior citizen falling down a flight of stairs. It's mesmerising stuff. It's hard to pinpoint exactly. Everything's all rough hewn and covered in fungus (there's maybe even a little peyote laced in the mix) but if I were to hazard a guess I'd sit them somewhere between Led Zeppelin, Ministry, the fictional band "Stillwater" from Almost Famous and anything Josh Homme's "Desert Sessions" could come up with after a few too many bucket bongs. The Asteroid Belt. They sure as fuck ain't pretty to look at (and they likely smell even worse if you stood downwind of them) but damnit I think I like it!
SAINT HUCK (***1/2) myspace :: By the time we reach our second act, we're definitely starting to pick up on a unifying "theme" here tonight. It screams job prospects after a four year arts degree, fist fights in a Centrelink dole office, doing burnouts on a Saturday night in the Elizabeth Shopping Centre parking lot, gargling a bag of goon, waking up in the cop shop on a Wednesday morning with an infected nipple piercing, starring in a vox pop appearance on Today Tonight, and just the slightest whiff of urine and incest. Or in other words very much what the rest of Australia imagines when they think of "Adelaide" short of a car race and a killing spree. Still it could been worse. I could've been stuck in Rocket Bar listening to Art Vs Science butcher "Parlez Vous Francais" at full volume instead (thanks Triple J Super Request for drilling that song into my skull.. no really, THANK YOU!) moments before I hanging myself off the nearest light fixture. We can be thankful for small mercies, especially this second band. They're of course nothing like anything I've just mentioned (although from the looks of their lead singer Scott Anderson I can see how you could be confused). Saint Huck. In a nutshell they're Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (from "Tender Prey" to "Henry's Dream") mixed with The Horrors, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Pixies and a teensy bit of The Drones. They're also the familiar sight of Luke and Jess from Mona Lisa Overdrive on guitars and keys respectively; but this is perhaps a mute point. For as accomplished as those two are, most of the insane appeal comes from the other two members: one James "Saint" Thomas pounding the blacker than black funeral drums, and one "Cardinal" Scott Anderson tearing a few new holes in his larynx up front. You can't mistake him. Like a drowned rat cross bred with a barking chihuahua, he looks and sounds rather like what you'd imagine Quentin Tarentino and David Fincher would've come up with if they pitched "Beverly Hills 90210" (instead of Aaron Spelling) as a weekly slasher flick starring Christian Slater. If you could imagine a "laugh-a-minute" teenage drama that would've featured Jennie Garth being mauled to death by trashyard dogs in the first episode, followed by Tori Spelling being buried alive in the second; then you could just as easily imagine THIS band provided the soundtrack to it. Awesome huh!? Saint Huck. They're just like coughing up a black lung, rolling it in tobacco, lighting it and smoking it whole, moments before a crooked loan shark busts your front door down and blowns your brains out with a sawn off shotgun. Hey maybe that's how Jason Priestley could've bought the farm in episode three! With Saint Huck at the helm, all this and more is possible!
And if that wasn't enough to make you wanna gouge your eyes out in giddy hysterics, then maybe THIS stunt they pulled in the finale (and as it turns out for their LAST ever gig!?) would've surely done the trick. Originally billed as a Velvet Underground cover featuring Luke on vocals: things took a turn for the decidedly more deranged when Scott unplugged his guitar midway through the song, doused it in a "shot of vodka" and then attempted to set fire to it with a cigarette lighter. Now I'm no chemist here but I'm pretty sure this "Jimi Hendrix" was doomed from the start thanks to one of three possible reasons I've since googled at my own convenience: (a) it was much too cold for the vodka to produce enough fumes to achieve "ignition", (b) the vodka was "under-proof", (c) someone pissed in a shot glass instead. Either way Scott eventually gave up on this tactic, smashed his guitar a few times around the stage instead, and then hurled it into the audience..
Afterwards I asked him if this was simply a cheap-as-chips "Crime Converter" meeting its inevitable conclusion tonight (ie: see a similar stunt pulled by Sascha at Zeta's last gig with a $50 stick of kindling) but no THIS guitar in actual fact cost him well over $300. And as painful as THAT must've felt just now? just think: he wasted a perfectly good shot of vodka on it too! duuude!!
VAN CLEEF (***1/2) myspace :: Yup, there was no way in hell our headlining act could've beaten a stunt like that. Unless of course you told me that their lead singer Mike was in actual fact the illegitimate (and chronologically illogical) "love spawn" between Bill Bailey from Black Books and Billy Joel from.. well, y'know where (I mean it's not just me who's thinking this, riiight?). Or even better, imagine if Mike torched HIS keyboard at the end of their set, all the while singing a cover of "We Didn't Start The Fire" with a shot of something that was ACTUALLY flammable (*cough* I mean Scott, what the FUCK were you thinking!?) only for an exceptionally drunk Dylan Moran to rock up at the last minute and put the inferno out by projectile vomiting all over it. No shit, how awesome would that've been!? but once again I digress. Quite like The Asteroid Belt in the opener, our headlining act is a dirty as fuck oldskool rocking blues band, fermented in the authentic way that only decades of alcohol abuse could possibly ever bring you. You'd think this would make them unique somehow but there's a surprisingly large number of these old bastards still doing the rounds in the Adelaide scene; and despite looking as damn near terrifying as a Countdown comeback tour (don't mention Gary Glitter.. don't mention Gary Glitter!) they're a freaking inspiration all the same! I can think The Molting Vultures, the Avant Gardeners and All Flight Crew Are Dead as being in the same league as this (The Captains Of Industry probably not so much.. although their lead singer has an exceptionally shiny scalp!) and as such: if they've played it, chances are they've lived it, and have the bypass surgery scars to prove it. Van Cleef. In a nutshell they're a Frankenstein's monster. Not just for Mike's keyboards that somehow run the gamut between the BBC rendition of the Doctor Who theme to Tim Burton's wildest hallucinations and a heavy dose of Melbourne band Rocket Science to boot; but also for somehow managing to mix that in with everything from Nick Cave's "The Birthday Party", The B52s and Primus. It also doesn't hurt that their bass player's whimsical array of facial expressions very much reminds me of that scene out of Total Recall where Arnold Schwarzenegger's eyeballs threaten to burst out of his skull. That shit gave me nightmares then when I saw it almost twenty years ago, and reliving it again tonight is sure as shit doing me wonders now. And yet somehow Van Cleef make it work. Maybe it's their effortlessly loose musicianship that wins you over, or maybe I'm just drunk; either way? good times for all!
1:13AM - Infinitely satisfied that I've somehow managed to enjoy a "quiet night out" on the town, as far as inhumanly possible from all the "popular" indie dancefloor haunts multiplying in plague proportions to the west (aaah dontcha just love them!?). I almost considered making the most of this moment, making my escape, jumping into the nearest taxi and disappearing off into the night. YEAAAS!! Which would've been a brilliant plan if ever I thought of one, if only I'd taken account of just where exactly I was tonight. As no night at The Crown & Anchor is ever complete without me making at least one entirely stupid mistake whilst exceedingly drunk that I come to regret later on (ie: like pretty much everything you've ever seen me do on this website) like say: alerting my "internet stalker" to my exact whereabouts tonight? what the FUCK was I thinking!?
Granted I've probably got hoards of these homicidal maniacs sifting through my garbage by now (and having them all befriend me on facebook probably doesn't help) but Miss Moira was the first and arguably the "worst" of them all (no shit.. she's awesome!). You may've only seen her feature very rarely on this site, and there's a damn good reason for that: I really don't like to encourage her! I swear I've tried everything from tasers, tear gas, weaponised anthrax and short of throwing Lee from Tony Font Show at her (apparently she used to stalk him too) nothing else works! So with no other option at hand, I hunt down the nearest "d-grade equivalents" I can find at short notice: Jess from Double Handed, Timmy (formerly from Tyger Tyger) and that other shaved gimp Nick (lurking about in the shadows) I throw them in her general direction and I simply run like hell..
(and wasn't Jess simply overjoyed that I've decided to include him in on this suicide mission?)
1:29AM - Of course I probably should've thought this "hasty escape plan" through a little more as there was no chance in hell I was ever going to abandon my beer. human sacrifices!? *pfft* I have principles damnit! So fuckit, here I am celebrating my insane victory all of two metres away from where Miss Moira is likely clawing, gouging and otherwise dry humping my friends to death (I know, I really DO bring out the best in people don't I?). And as for how Timmy has managed to crawl out of this mess relatively unscathed? *cough* ummm yeah, I really wish I could answer that one..
Just as I'm at a total loss to explain THIS photo, except to say that it's clearly the most hilarious photo I've ever captured of Deani here having a "brain fart" so monumentally mind blowing people were likely feeling those brown shockwaves coming at them from the other side of the equator..
1:48AM - Which is the only way I could possibly explain the "coincidental" return of Joe and Simone mere moments later, back from their holiday trip to Mexico (of all places!?) as clearly there's no other logical explanation, where ANY of this shit makes sense, in a reality we like to call our own; except to posit the wildly improbable hypothesis that Deani's "brain fart" somehow teleported them here, and even better provided them with complementary swine-flu masks..
2:51AM - Still, we can never be too cautious or TOO needlessly paranoid in these troubling times, especially when Deani's brain farts are teleporting potential swine flu disease vectors in without following the proper border security protocols! I mean fuck maaan!? what IS this world coming to!
3:04AM - Thus, with repeated desperate requests for Tamiflu and antivirals over the bar continually coming up "empty handed" (what.. Coopers Pale Ale again!? damn you psychic bartenders!!) I had to take matters into my own hands. The safety and wellbeing of this nation was at stake! And so, after much frantic searching high and low throughout The Crown & Anchor I finally found my solution! A solution SO utterly batshit insane it couldn't possibly fail! I mean sure, that glass may've only been half full when I got here but damnit I'm nothing if not an optimist!
3:26AM - And so, promptly rushing this foaming fermentation back to the bar, which let's for the sake of argument we'll call "apple cider" (I know it LOOKS like a vodka and tonic but that sure as shit ain't a wedge of lemon!), we went about the grim business of assuring Joe Blogs got the full and comprehensive medical treatment that he SO rightfully deserved. One that only five minutes in badly researched wikipedia entries and a good night's "drinking" could possibly ever provide (the key I find: is in making sure you boil the drinking straws beforehand!). Sure, one may also argue that we should've give Simone the exact same cure but *cough* damnit she's ever so pretty!
3:44AM - Despite Joe turning at least five different colours, losing his inner ear equilibrium, slamming headfirst into the floor, blacking out cold and being declared "dead" for a good four minutes before miraculously regaining consciousness again (a "side effect" not at all related to the fact he may've just been drinking a vodka and tonic all this time *cough*) we had found ourselves a miracle cure and we were in a mood in a celebrate! Which clearly explains why we've just found ourselves kidnapped, thrown into a van, driven by an unknown assailant (or possibly just Scott from Saint Huck.. go figure!?) and heading off to Supermild. As I think we've all learnt well by now that nothing I ever write in this blog (especially in the introduction) has ANY bearing on anything that ever follows it. Narrative? *pfft* what narrative? there's nobody here but us chickens!
4:12AM - I have absolutely no recollection of what the fuck we did in Supermild. I would also like to take this moment to thank Matt "Sausage Fingers" Hein for shouting me that beer earlier tonight, Scott Anderson for shouting me that other beer later tonight, any other complimentary drinks I've since forgotten (wait.. wasn't I meant to shout Simone a vodka!?) and quite possibly the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the event this fucked up blog ever ends up adapted into a feature film and it wins a technical award for "best use of selective editing".
4:45AM - I believe this is a side alley off of Hindley Street, somewhere. I have no idea WHERE exactly but apparently it features this whimsically cute Malay Thai restaurant that also doubles as a maximum security prison. You can't miss that unmistakable smell of chilli, lemon grass, coriander, fried rice, freshly decapitated chickens and hepatitis! Hmmm speaking of non sequiturs, didn't they used to have a live venue called "The Proscenium" down here somewhere? until it became that indie dance club "O2" only to simply vanish without a trace? wow, it's almost like we've come full circle around here! If only I knew just where the FUCK "here" is.. ummm, anyone? HELP!?
5:25AM - And so, without a hint of irony we find ourselves at the end of the night at a "wildly successful" fast food franchise on West Terrace (which for the sake of my increasingly fragile sanity I dare not name). The exact same place that decided mere minutes before we stepped through those doors to switch up their conventional menu with the "breakfast menu". Because nothing is entirely more awesome after a night of killing ourselves retarded with alcohol than to gorge ourselves on a greasy hash brown and an egg mcmuffin that tastes rather like a moist dish washing sponge marinated with whatever's found "dripping" at the bottom of a wheelie bin. Mmhmm my intestines are twisting themselves into balloon animals just THINKING about it!
Oh and I'd also like to point out that these are NOT my glasses, I've never worn glasses, I have no idea why Miss Moira's plastered all over the table (excuse the pun) and I'm pretty sure that Scott on the left stopped responding to stimuli half an hour ago and we simply threw him into the deep fryer moments after this photo was taken. You may claim he's taking a "trip to London" to further his career as a rock musician but we all know otherwise (he also tasted a little like pork).
The Adelaide music scene can sometimes feel like a lot of the same. Just one gargantuan glob of grey goo devouring everything else in sight and spitting out carbon copies. Don't get me wrong, sometimes that's a good thing: especially if it's wildly successful. Sometimes it's nice to belong to the lowest common denominator. In highschool, in the office, in every business plan and creative venture where risk is involved; its the safe and predictable that often wins out. But I've never been comfortable with that shit for too long. I never found my scene back in highschool, I still haven't found it now; I like to live in several at once and simply change channels between them on a whim. And it takes the odd night enjoying the lunatic fringes to really appreciate that. It doesn't always have to be a success for it to work, sometimes it's just enough for it to be different.