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...
LEADER CHEETAH + NO THROUGH ROAD + LIKE LEAVES "THE SUNSPOT LETTERS" LAUNCH @ JIVE / Friday June 19th 2009
Let's face it, being a musician in the Adelaide music scene blows a fucking goat. It's the same 'ol story time and time again. You practice for days, weeks and months to get it right. You write heartfelt songs, heartwrenching songs, you squeeze every last drop out dreaming you'll be the next Joy Division, Pavement, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or The Animal Collective. You start a myspace. You start a facebook. You get a gig at Rhino Room or maybe even The Exeter. You promote the fuck out of it and only ten to twenty of your closest friends and family bother to show up. The same ten to twenty who'll show up to every subsequent show. You record a demo. You dream of the day you'll get to play Jive, Rocket Bar or The Ed Castle. You get a manager, they treat you like crap. You lose a drummer, you record a demo with a drum machine. You start a Triple J Unearthed. You obssess over how many myspace friends you have, when your next gig is, how best to dodge Centrelink, why you only have three followers on Twitter and whether all the bands you've buddied up with secretly hate you. You score a month long residency at The Grace Emily, nobody shows up till the final night. You play Rocket Bar once, only to get kicked out before you can even collect your instruments. You barely make enough coin to pay the mixer. The drummer constantly drinks all of your rider. You're playing to the same ten to twenty people. Spoz finally shows up for a gig, gets trashed, takes shit photos and the review's even worse; and yet you still gain five more fans. You survive just long enough to record an EP. You score an interview with Rip It Up or dB. You host a launch party. It's the best damn night of your entire life! You're getting high rotation on Three D Radio. Richard Kingsmill even gives one of your songs a four out of five. You're living the dream! Then just as it's getting good the bass player fucks off to Melbourne (or better yet London) to "start a real band". You get a fulltime job. Nobody can find the time to jam anymore and the band breaks up. Six months later no one even remembers your name: just another casualty of the Adelaide music scene killing you way before your prime.
Yup, you see thousands of their corpses littering the streets every day, lining up in dole queues, working menial jobs, sleeping in lecture theatres and falling off the radar. But every once in a while one of them makes it through the cracks, thrives against all adversity and launches an album. Each and every one of them has been a shining example of the Adelaide scene at its finest: Mr Wednesday's "The Garden Where Parties Grow", Wolf & Cub's "Vessels", Soft White Machine's "The Great Divide", Morals Of a Minor's "Questions And Answers", BrotherSister's "The Wunder Tales" and The Sea Thieves' "Hiding In The Shade" (to name but a few). For years it was SO rare to see one actually happen, you couldn't help but celebrate (even if almost none of them ever got the exposure they deserved). But now? there's a fucking flood of them! Who knows whats changed, maybe nothing's changed (or maybe everyone's simply swapping marijuana for cocaine and exploding out there) but in the last month alone there's been a veritable avalanche of no less than six album launches (seven if you count No Through Road from the month before). From Before The Aftermath's self titled and Quiet Child's "Evening Bell" launching two weeks ago, to Wolf & Cub's "Science And Sorcery", Coerce's "Silver Tongued Life Licker" and Humble Bee's "When I Should Be Sleeping" all launching last week (and all in the space of one night no less), to Leader Cheetah's "The Sunspot Letters" launching at Jive tonight? Fuck, no wonder I'm exhausted writing about all this shit! For years this blog used to be nothing but me, the freaks, the geeks and the tumbleweeds smoking trees of weed and drinking till dawn; now look how far we have come!
THE WEEVILS (***1/2) myspace :: Our opening act hasn't got an album out yet but if they did it'd likely be the most fuck off feral thing you'd ever hear moments before doing three lines of coke and a tab of acid, blacking out cold, waking up weeks later in a maximum security prison, on death row, completely oblivious to the fact that you were solely responsible for assassinating President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela using nothing but a cocktail olive and a rubber band, stark naked, whilst painted head to toe in blue body paint screaming hysterically in fluent Portugese; or yeah.. maybe that's just me. The Weevils. In essence they're a garage rock band channeling the very best in ear bleed from the late 50's throught to the early 60's with a few other insane punk and grunge influences thrown in for good measure (or one the best new Adelaide bands I've heard all year whilst simultaneously being one of the worst). Think of them as The Who mixed up with every shitty b-side from Nirvana and The Pixies as fronted by Craig Nicholls from The Vines attempting to cover Nick Cave's "The Birthday Party". Think of them as a teenage hormonal hissyfit gone horribly right. Or simply think of them as a hessian bag full of cats fighting, accompanied by the cheapest, nastiest guitars and amps that a quick trip to Crime Converters could possibly afford. Or maybe they'll like nothing else at all. Everything about them is out of tune, out of whack, off key, jarringly loud and utterly unhinged with necks crooked, arms thrashing, coin operated and flailing; and yet they sound all the better for it. It's any wonder how they do it, althought the fact that three of the band members are formerly from Skeletons (quite possibly the most skull-fuckingly genius hit of face melting jazz and incoherent screaming you never heard back in 2007-2008) may have something to do with it. The Weevils. Just like J. D. Salinger's "Catcher In The Rye", The Beatles "Helter Skelter" and every ultraviolent title developed by Id Software and Rockstar Games combined: if ever the CIA got their grubby hands on it we'd surely be upto our nips in desiccated carcasses in next to no time!
LIKE LEAVES (****1/2) myspace :: Our second act tonight are currently in recording. It might be a full length album, a double disc or an EP and released onto CD, cassette, vinyl, eight-track, wax cylinder, clay tablet, internet download or etched into a gold plate stuffed into a deep space probe and shot beyond the orbit of Pluto; either way I can't freaking wait to hear it. Of all the times I've seem them live, both this year and last (eleven times in total?) I've never gotten sick of them. They're like a fine cuisine in that regard, a psychedelic sound you can eat and drink to the full, a sound that satiates the soul. Despite only having a handful of songs at their disposal, everytime I hear them I always pick up on something new. The most telling of which tonight is "Falling For A Fleeting Moment". If ever you've seen them in the last six months you'd know it well. Both Dan and Juliet on vocals, those distinctly discordant guitars washing to and fro like waves on a beach on a cold winter's night, a sound not too dissimilar to My Bloody Valentine meets Nine Inch Nails' "The Fragile". I like to think of it as the measuring stick to just how good a particular Like Leaves set is. It's that fine line between fragile beauty and leaving something to warp on the dashboard. It's just like a souffle. Get ONE ingredient wrong (especially the live sound) and it all goes belly up, Get it all right however and it's like the best thing ever. And to the infinite credit of Matt Hills the mixer in residence (and the band themselves), tonight they freaking nail it. It's probably the best rendition I've heard in months, it warms the entire set with a golden glow. Most other bands would be insane to consider a song as temperamental as THIS one as a centrepiece to their set but Like Leaves aren't most bands. They take risks, they forge their own lysergic path. It's bands like these you hope to see busting mad jams well into their triple digits like blues musicians. It's bands like these you know are true artists. And as much as tonight's set was essentially no different from the sets they've been playing for the last few months (short of a sequence shuffle), they did come up with ONE new surprise, a song called "Mercy Sound". Featuring Juliet on vocals and channeling everything from Beth Gibbons from Portishead, Karin Dreijer Andersson from The Knife, Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane to PJ Harvey from the Desert Sessions; it's everything you could ever ask for out of a Like Leaves song, that me attempting to string three to four superlatives and exciteable expletives together couldn't possibly do justice. It's songs like these and many others equally as brilliant tonight (their opening number "Fruit" with the teeny tiny finger cymbals was especially awe inspiring), that has me itching like crack addict for an album release. I'm told it'll be sometime in August or September later this year. and dude? it couldn't come soon enough!
NO THROUGH ROAD (****) myspace :: On the grand scheme of things our third act tonight shouldn't exist. They're a freak anomaly bordering on the fictional. They're an Adelaide band that's actually released more than one album. Not just EPs, singles or brown paper bag demos but full length fucking albums. I know I hardly believed it myself, so I looked it up and there it was: "Monkey On A Rock", "Too Much Or Not Enough" and their latest release "Winner". That's three whole albums they've unleashed. Four or more if you include "Lo-Fi Sandwich" and all those other recordings their lead singer Matt Banham released as a solo artist: "Girls Are The Devil", "The Chelsea Theatre EP" and "Learning to Write Hate Songs" (to name but a few). Yup, where most bands promptly fall apart after less than two EPs, No Through Road have damn near made a career out of it. They're far from a buzz band, a skinny jean, spastic synth, haircut, fluoro fashion disaster with dancepunk beats and angular riffs to fuck like jackrabbits to. They're a messy, noisey, frequently belligerent, grouchy, anti-social and anti-establishment act to drink, mosh, and party to. They're just like your grandfather: half crazed and yammering in a retirement village dreaming of the good 'ol days when bands still played the beer gardens at The Austral and The Exeter. Don't let their relatively youthful appearance fool you, they've been at it for years, they've been at it so long they don't give a FUCK what you think. And in many ways THIS is why they've survived so long. It's that blitheringly casual "dont-give-a-fuck" attitude that's allowed them to thrive while many others have failed (that and the fact that Matt Banham may be the most annoying prolific artist in all of the Adelaide scene). You see it in every one of their gigs and tonight is no exception. Matt Banham out the front, tie askew, thrashing like an exorcism, hands raised in mad salute, swinging the microphone around on its lead like he's blind drunk and swimming laps in a karoake bar. Band members crashing into each other like dodgem cars, swapping instruments and spilling about willy nilly like it's more of a rehearsal space, an extended in-joke or Matt Banham's personal comedy routine than an actual gig but it's this laughable lack of polish and professionalism that makes them who they are: a band that fucking kills when they play live. For as much as the audience often misses the point (especially the scenster crowds who frequently freeze up to this schtick) they're never short of being a feral free-for-all to let loose and obliterate to regardless (if only you're crazy enough to join them). From the bottled heat of "Explosions" (featuring Paul from The Weevils busting a nut on the saxophone) to the primal screams of "Die For Something" to the aptly titled "Party To Survive" it's one fuck of mad jam from beginning to end. Sure most of it's lost on the crowd tonight as they simply stand there blinking like goldfish (save for a small scattering out front going berserk), but No Through Road couldn't care less either way. No matter what, they're still having the time of their lives.
LEADER CHEETAH (*****) myspace :: Which brings us to our headlining act: the band that everyone came here to see, in such high numbers in fact that they've just posted the "sold out" sign on the door; all for the chance to see an Adelaide band launch a stinking album? Yup, just a few short years ago such a rapturous applause would've been damn near unheard of. And yet if any band deserved it, it would be Leader Cheetah tonight. You can see it on their well worn faces, relieved to see hundreds of smiling faces beaming back at them. They've dragged themselves through all nine layers of hell to get to this point; especially brothers Dan and Joel Crannitch on vocals and drums respectively. For just a few short years ago they used to be in The Pharaohs, maaan those freaks were hilarious; you may've heard of them. Back in the day they were yet another up and coming Adelaide buzz band. Abrasively post punk, fuck full of dancepunk beats and angular riffs; they were right up there with Bit By Bats and Wolf & Cub in indie street cred, they even scored Triple J high rotation for such shrieking body popping anthems to alienation and woe as "Keelhaul" and "Broken Arm". Their future was just about assured, they were everything Rocket Bar's fashion nazis would've damn near shat a kidney for but something didn't sit right with lead singer Dan Crannitch; it just wasn't him. Midway through touring their angry little EP "Medicines" he picked up an acoustic guitar and penned "Bloodlines" and it all made sense. THIS is where he wanted to be. Moments later he ditched The Pharaohs and Leader Cheetah made their shiny debut with brothers Dan and Joel Crannitch joined by Dan Pash on guitar and Mark Harding on bass (I think they played their first gig to perhaps ten or twenty people at Urtext Studios back in mid May 2007!?). Clearly we all thought he'd gone completely insane. Nobody knew or understood what the fuck he was thinking with this whole alt-country schtick. Many of us wondered if those signature sideburns of his had simply taken root in his brain. But sure enough, in time, he proved us all wrong. "Bloodlines" was just a hint of what was to come. Triple J latched onto it, spun it into high rotation and had us all hooked through the latter part of 2008. So that by the time "The Sunspot Letters" was released in March this year, people flocked to it in droves. Its golden tones, earthy hues and homespun feel won people over and along with it scores of accolades and blogger buzz; thanks in part to the work of one Mark Kramer (producer for Galaxie 500, Low and Urge Overkill's "You'll Be A Woman Soon") and also thanks to Dan Crannitch's distinct vocal presence: possessing an oddly fragile, quavering nasal quality that reminds you of both a Vegas drag queen and Neil Young being dragged by his ankles through the desert. A voice quite unlike any other we'd ever heard in the Adelaide, let alone Australia. Yup, talent this unique and weirdly accomplished doesn't come along very often and for once we sure as shit weren't gonna let it go quietly. When Leader Cheetah finally spun by their home town for an album launch party tonight, we packed Jive to the ceiling in celebration..
Now I've seen my fair share of sold out shows and more often than not (especially when it's hosted in Jive) it's a fucking zoo. It's a screaming throng of hilarious dickheads, sprouting camera phones, vomiting up surface to air human missiles with arms and legs flailing, beers spilling everywhere, broken glass, bruises and sore heads; followed by the barstaff spending the remainder of the night scraping suspicious stains off the ceiling. Sure that can be a good thing, many of the best nights have been just like that; but thankfully tonight was none of the above. It was still packed to the ceiling, but it was far less a shrieking monkey cage flinging faeces everywhere and more akin to that toasty feeling you get whilst watching the music video to Weezer's "Island In The Sun". Y'know the one directed by Spike Jonze with the band frolicking about with all the lion cubs, squirrels, bears, chimps and shit? If you don't know what I'm getting at take a quick look, and chances are when you return you'll be beaming with smiles; because THAT was what Leader Cheetah were like tonight. They were a warm winter fire and we were three hundred cats and dogs basking in its glow for the entirety of their set. From opening numbers "The Explorer" to "Alibi" with the three piece horn revelry joining them on stage, to "Bloodlines" and "Dianne" with Tom Spall (lead singer from Cortez) joining them with the violin: their well worn "busted sofa" of a sound drew you in. You could see it in Dan Crannitch's odd arm twirling, Dan Pash's oversized earmuffs, Joel Crannitch's hillbilly beard bobbing to the beat and Mark Harding's hunchback. You hear it in how fragile and yet how full every song sounds in that velvetly quaver. It's all those little quirks and flaws both visual and audible that made them ever so much more strangely compelling, you couldn't help but drift along to the journey. By the time "Spirit To The Bone" and "Fly Golden Arrow Pt 1" flew by we were in a whole other place where tumbleweeds blowing by on dusty roads weren't seen as snarking metaphor for a city of suburban waste and existential ennui, but a place we could all call home. And when they returned for the encore and album outtake "Grass Castles"? duuude we never wanted to leave! Leader Cheetah not only owned this crowd, they freed it from all it's worldly concern. Which when you consider they're nothing but a "local band" fronted by a scruffy loon who pulls beers at The Exeter and yet they're still playing to THIS shit tonight; is nothing short of a triumph. Adelaide? fuuuck, who knew it was possible!?
12:57AM - Surely we've witnessed every exception to the rule tonight. In three supports and one headliner we've seen everything that this scene could possibly aspire to and so much more. Clearly it's too much for my brain to handle. This isn't the Adelaide I know, especially not in the dead of winter, isn't this meant to be the slow season? (six album launches in the last three weeks? sheeiiit just YOU try and do them justice!? and I barely caught half of them!!). No, we must be in some kinda freaky alternative reality where red is green, the venues are packed full and the skies rain cocktail shrimp. I needed something to return me to reality. All those dark ales I'd been drinking tonight clearly weren't getting the job done, we needed something much stronger. And as luck would have it, Matt Hills the mixer had just the remedy! I had no freaking clue where it came from (he claims he got it in Switzerland but I knew better) but something told me it'd do the job like nothing else. Cannabis sativa syrup (5%), sugar, concentrated lemon juice, black tea extract (0.14%), antioxidant, L-ascorbic acid and cannabis sativa extract (0.0015%)!? Ooooh yeah, down the rabbit hole heeere we come!! So without hesistation I popped the lid and necked it all down..
1:52AM - A whole hour passes by in a complete blur, doing what exactly I can't recall, short of a few brief flashes: me licking the purple muppet fur on the pillars, laughing hysterically at all the shooting stars whizzing by above me, attempting to start a rave with the exit sirens and a stolen kick drum, rocking back and forth in foetal position behind one of the main speakers shrieking hysterically wishing all the voices would stop arguing in my head; y'know.. the usual. When I eventually came to, suspended by my ankles over the balcony wearing scuba gear (don't ask) everyone else around me had already gone; all three hundred save for a blurring apparition by the bar. Whoaaa. Could it be I simply imagined this entire night (and somehow concocted the rest in Photoshop)? What the hell was I doing in Jive when it's obviously been closed for the last six hours? and are those.. sirens!? Shit, I dunno about you but I gotta get the fuck outta here!!
2:45AM - I stumbled about the blackening wreckage of Hindley Street with nothing to accompany me but a stiff breeze, row upon row of beady eyes peering warily from shuttered windows and a dull splashing of puddles. It's like I'd somehow stepped out of that smoking DeLorean and found myself in bizarro 1985; and yet THIS felt more real to me than anything else I'd seen tonight. THIS was the Adelaide I knew, I was sure of it! And thus, my shrinking sanity reassured, I made my way down to The Ed Castle: near empty, save for a small scattering of mental patients huddled about the DJ decks and I found my home again. Here listening to an ecclectic mix of Led Zeppelin, Jane's Addiction, Kyuss, Funkadelic and some fuckarse bizarre shit from the 50's composed by some experimental nutjob by the name of Bert Kaempfert. For the next half hour I stole as much beer as inhumanly possible from Azz Strangelove's rider (I mean who wouldn't? he gets six jugs yo!!), jotted down all that crazy shit they were spinning (you can never have enough fuckarse retarded junk for your ipod) and then ever so discretely I made my way out that door again.
3:22AM - Yeah I know, I'm so fucking predictable aren't I? It's like I can't do anything anymore without ending up at Supermild. Go out for a loaf of bread and a carton of milk; next thing I know it I'm at Supermild. Fall asleep in my own bed; wake up on the floor of Supermild. Kidnap a gopher from a small down in midwest USA, steal a pickup truck, drive it screaming over a cliff, die in a massive explosion; screen goes blank and guess where I respawn moments later listening to Sonny and Cher!? (oh no wait.. that's Groundhog Day). Yup, it's moments like these that I'm really beginning to suspect that I actually died a year ago and I've simply been haunting this place ever since. Any minute now Haley Joel Osment will show up and dude it'll be all over; I just know it!
3:50AM - Of course there was next to no one in here tonight (at least no one I recognised) save for this one nitwit I found snuffling about in the beer garden, feeding his insane nicotine habit the only way he knows how. You may recognise him as Brent Carraill, bass player for Quiet Child. And if you've got a really good memory you may also remember that he actually died almost two years ago, on October the 5th 2007 at Enigma Bar: after a hilarious prank with a bag of popcorn went horribly wrong. To quote: "Brent's small intestine tied itself into a knot, he collapsed dead in a pool of his own foaming vomit and moments after THAT his twitching remains were to be found on sale behind the bar for $12.50 with a serve of fried rice. Wow, cycle of life huh?". Yup, it's all beginning to make sense now. Not only does this explain that weird cardboard cutout that's taken his place in the band ever since; but also points to a much wider conspiracy theory unravelling before our very eyes. Everything we're seeing is clearly a lie. We're all dead. We're living in a ghost town. Maybe it was the swine flu, maybe it was bird flu, maybe everyone simply packed up and left for Melbourne years ago and forgot to tell us. Fuuuck, I dunno how I never saw it before!?
None of this night made a lick of sense. It was an anomaly, a glitch in The Matrix and any minute now the whole thing's gonna bluescreen in front of me, we're gonna need to reboot the entire system and reinstall Windows XP from a command prompt because we clearly fucked up one of the registry keys that keeps this reality in check. This isn't Adelaide anymore, this is something else altogether. Six album launches for the last threeweeksrunning? and not ONE of them was The Hilltop Hoods? could that actually happen!? Yeah maybe it didn't, maybe I imagined it, maybe I've gone completely insane, maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and we'll all be back to where it was five years ago; back in the dark ages where bands only lasted two EPs, played gigs to audiences of ten to twenty people, move to Melbourne and simply vanished without a trace. Surely it's like that every OTHER weekend around here. Or maybe.. just maybe, this is but a hint of what's to come!