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 KEEPSAKES + THE SEA THIEVES LIVE @ THE GRACE EMILY / Sunday June 28th 2009
Unlike every other episode you've read recently (especially in the last few months) tonight is nothing special. There's no album launch to celebrate. There's no interstate or international touring act to infiltrate (ie: scam free entry). There's no farewell to commiserate (as yet another Adelaide band is consigned to the dustbin of history). It's just another night. Just like any other night of the week. Or more specifically a Sunday night. Anything goes on a Sunday night. And when it DOES you can pretty much take it or leave it; or do whatever the fuck you want to do with it (even twist them into balloon animals or set fire to them if that's what floats your boat). It's what I like to call the "bonus round" and it's the awesomest shit ever, it really is! There are no expectations to live upto in the "bonus round", there are no rules to abide by or break. Nothing, anything and everything simply exists at the same time, simultaneously in a constant state of flux; or in a quantum superposition like Schrödinger's Cat stuffed in a box. In the "bonus round" you can be both alive and dead. You can be howlingly hungover or bright eyed and sharp as a pencil. You could be fifty foot tall, flaming orange, covered in a fine fur and swatting F22 fighter jets out of the sky; or you can stop tripping balls on that funny fungus for a while and reacquaint yourself with reality. Anything goes! Which after all I've seen and done in the past month, where it's been nothing but album and EP launches, that I've known about for weeks in advance, that I would've kicked myself if I missed them (and I missed four of them as it is!?) is nothing short of a revelation. I wish every night was as blitheringly nonsensical. I mean, whose to say I should live by any kind of regular schedule anyways? *pfft* what schedule!? I was never a legitimate journalist to begin with!
And so just for the fuck of it, I thought I'd front up to The Grace Emily tonight. No real reason. I just saw that these two bands were playing, and here we are. Little did I realise however, what I'd invariably set in motion. It all started half an hour ago, while I was waiting at the bus stop. Some scruffy looking dude stumbles upto me and asks if I had two dollars. Nothing unusual in that; and usually I'd just pretend I didn't have any and he'd be on his way again (I know I'm such a humanitarian aren't I?). Just this once however I thought "what the hell" and handed him two dollars. Moments later we both get on the bus, I find the seat at the back, fire up Bing Goes To Monaco on my ipod and think nothing more of it. Somewhere around track five however: "Initial Theories, Almost Big" the bus stops dead again. Looking around, wondering what the cause could be, I discover a huddle of people forming outside. All kneeling around the same guy I gave two dollars to mere moments ago; now curled up in a ball. I wondered if somehow I was responsible, that maybe my coins were cursed, or maybe Bing Goes To Monaco had some bad juju going on, or who's to know what the FUCK I unleashed!? I dared not get out of my seat and investigate further lest the bus explode around me in a shower of shrapnel. We were there for five minutes, it was nailbiting stuff: then to cut a long story short I'm pretty sure nobody died, and here we are.
Upon arriving at The Grace Emily, I bump into Zac Coligan (aka: "Psychic Bartender Zac" from the Jade Monkey, aka: The Sea Thieves). I explained the situation to him and we both pondered over the infinite possibilites. On the one hand we figured it had to be a positive. If I hadn't given him those two dollars he would've simply collapsed where he stood; and at least THIS way I helped him get a little closer to home. On the other hand we figured it was an ill omen, nothing short of the impending apocalypse and we should all stock up on duct tape and move to Switzerland. Stranger still, we speculated over a third option. What if he didn't get on the bus at all and simply spent the two dollars on goon; only it'd have to be a teeny tiny bag of goon for what he could afford. Problem is, it didn't exist yet, so clearly he'd have to invent it. We figured it'd just be like one of those funny face iceblocks, only it'd be 100% pure goon, and it wouldn't be frozen. We even came up with a name for it: "Goon Face". No shit, it blew our minds when we came up with it (and he would've been a freaking billionaire if he patented it). As for what any of this shit has got to do with any of the bands tonight? absolutely nothing! still it really makes you think doesn't it!?
THE SEA THIEVES (****1/2) myspace :: Our opening act I only ever see once a year. It's always about this time of year and it's always on a Sunday. It's not like I actually plan it this way (and they do actually play other gigs at other times throughout the year) but there's always something rather poetic about it all the same. Just when shit gets too hairy out there (or even just before that) they're there when you need them the most. Some might consider it a coincidence, but not me; I'm well aware of Zac Coligan's serendipitous psychic abilities. He likes to make a game of it everytime I'm at the Jade Monkey. Before I even know I want a beer he's ready for me: presenting a bottle from below the bar still frosty from the fridge I never saw him reach for. It trips me out everytime and it shows in the music too. The Sea Thieves are a happy accident through and through. It doesn't matter that his better half Naomi isn't here tonight, it still comes together as if by chance. You can hear it on the album they released last year "Hiding In The Shade". Recorded in the Jade Monkey no less, it's riddled with amusing quirks: a whistling breeze, a creak of the floorboard, a passing bus, even an entire track "Helicopter In The Afternoon" devoted to pretty much what the title suggests. It adds a homespun charm, that makes it more of a conversation than a concert recital to experience live. In closest equivalent think Beck's "Sea Change" mixed in with a little bit of Tom Waits; think of the warm crackle of a fire on a winter's night. Their whimsical selection of instruments only add to the effect: with found objects ranging from singing saws, toy pianos to ukuleles embuing a richness that perfectly compliments Zac Coligan's sandpaper register. As for tonight's performance he covers up for Naomi's absence by looping his guitar or ukulele before swapping to the next instrument, or by throwing in a drum track (the singing saw, just like a theramin, is especially mesmerising). The songs for the most part are off the album (which I totally recommend you get), but he also throws in the occassional ecclectic cover too. The first is Elvis' "Blue Moon" that by his performance tonight somehow reminds me of Jim Henson (so much so I expected a choir of muppets to burst forth in accompaniment). Even more obscure is a cover of a Massive Attack song from the Batman Forever Soundtrack: "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game" (originally written by Smokey Robinson no less). It's amazing just how much this one bearded gimp can conjure, it's a captivating performance in all its quirks. The best solo gigs are like this: rich with character. And when he finished for the night? we didn't want him to leave. He didn't have anything prepared off hand, but he still whipped up a killer encore in "Faster By Degrees" all the same. Yup, you know it when you see it: this dude's a natural. No wonder he's one of the best bartenders in Adelaide!
THE KEEPSAKES (****) myspace :: In our second act tonight you may notice a slight lineup change (different still from the lineup you might've seen just a few nights ago when they played at Rocket Bar). That'd be Clemi their guitarist, trumpeteer, tambourine player and master of the melodica (former bass player for Zeta) who I'm told is apparently "moving to Melbourne". In her place is violinist and guitarist Tom (no, not Tom Spall from Cortez.. some other guy called "Tom") and if you have trouble keeping up with THAT shit (and believe me you're not the only one) it only gets more confusing from here on in. For as I've increasingly discovered with The Keepsakes, they go through fourth band members rather like Spinal Tap go through drummers (or somewhere short of what Billy Corgan still likes to laughingly call "The Smashing Pumpkins"). In one year alone they've had a revolving roster of fourth band members featuring everyone from Alex Ciaravolo on guitar (from the 20th Century Graduates and formerly from the Lumonics) Felicity on keyboards and melodica (from.. who the fuck knows where!?) to every bespectacled dweeb in between and it's anyone's guess why. On the one hand they're building upon the ecclectic charm of The Keepsakes by adding some of Adelaide's finest multi-instrumentalists into their repetoire. On the other hand I shudder to think where they "bury" all the bodies (I mean, moving to Melbourne? that's the oldest trick in the book!). Still when you consider their core lineup, you begin to understand how they can get away with murder. Thanks to the fiendish talents of the brothers Wignall: Anthony and Jon, and what appears to be a twelve year old girl playing the drums (Jeremy?), The Keepsakes are the undeniable masters in all things indie-pop. In their set tonight you can hear influences in everything from The Shins, Wilco, Foo Fighter's self titled, 90's Blur to The Dandy Warhols. You can hear it in all the bombast of Oasis with none of the ego. You can hear it in all the melody, harmony and hooks that'd surely drive any cliche crowd of fangirl groupies to crap a lung in hysterics. That's The Keepsakes. Anthony's jubilent verse-chorus dynamic. Jon and Jeremy's simply bouncey rhythms on bass and drums. Even in this shortlived set (and I swear it was over in less that twenty five minutes) you couldn't help but want to join the party. New "fourth member" Tom and his violin fit the easy going vibe of The Grace Emily brilliantly. And when they invited Jon's girlfriend on stage to do backup vocals (see video) as blitheringly random as it was to see her up there; it still made perfect sense. Yup, it's official, The Keepsakes can truly do no wrong!
Moments after The Keepsake's all too abrupt exit from stage tonight, I found myself lost in contemplation over this cattle skull found hanging in the beergarden out back. I asked myself: what kind of life did it lead? was it a full life? was it happy life? was it any good on rollerskates? could it speak in conversational Chinese? why was it born a cow and not a chicken? why were any of us born here as humans and not as three headed gorloks from the effervescent planet of Spritzlebleen? and do I even know what the FUCK that shit is!? (hmmm do I smell something burning? *cough* nevermind). No shit, any one of us could've been this cow's head stuck on a wall, if only the dice roll came out differently. The only fate is what we make. The only one we have to blame for this shit is ourselves. Embrace the chaos dude, it's a beautiful thing to behold!
Somewhat satisfied in the fact that I'd clearly come to no conclusion with that cattle skull (seriously even I don't know what the fuck I'm on about sometimes!) I went back inside for another beer, a dark ale to be precise (I know, it seems to be the weather for it). I sat at a table with Ben Revi (everyone's favourite übergeek punchline from Cheer Advisory Council and Humble Bee) and his housemate Henry (who's most notable for the fact he wears a hat) and we talked complete and utter nonsense about absolutely nothing at all. We didn't keep track of time. None of it was of any consequence. I don't even know why it was worth mentioning now. And then after an hour or so, completely at random, we collectively came to the same agreement; and went our separate ways.
Tonight was nothing special. It was just atoms ping ponging in the ether, appearing at all points of the universe and then vanishing. You can search for all the meaning you want, attach grand significance to what is merely chance and coincidence, claim it was fate, destiny or a higher power that brought you here; or simply enjoy the moment for what it is. Here on a Sunday, here at The Grace Emily; watching it all unfold. Every night should be a "bonus round". Makes you appreciate life and all of its happy accidents. It's not fate, it's not a five year plan, it's free will baaaby!