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...
RADIO SPECTACULAR!!! + TIGER ET GHOST + PABLO LIBIDO
LIVE @ THE GRACE EMILY / Saturday July 4th 2009
Nerds. They live among us. We've known them by many names: goobers, geeks, grinds, dweebs, dorks, squares, swots, wimps, wusses, wonks, drips, preps, propellerheads, programmers, pencil necks, pocket protectors, eggheads, mensa, mouth breathers, boffins, trainspotters and four eyes. They inhabit our libraries, our laboratories, our pharmacies, colleges and chess tournaments; they're suspended in trees by the waistbands of their underpants. We know them as proud purveyors of all things World Of Warcraft, Unix, Linux, Livejournal, LAN, LARP, MMORPG, IRC, Apple, Google and Microsoft. We recognise them in the bespectacled faces of Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Milhouse Van Houten, E.T. and Rick Moranis. They're a stereotype as old as time itself. Ever since the division of labour, even before we had names for them, we have ridiculed them. They're our intellects, architects, accountants, engineers, scientists, priests, scribes, our socially inept specialists and purveyors in all things vitamin D deficient. And as much as you may laugh now thinking your waaay different from all of those crater faced kooks that surround you, I have news for you: thanks to the information revolution? we are ALL nerds now! If you own an ipod, an iphone, even a conventional phone and have found yourself prone to SMS, MMS or GPS: you are a nerd. If you own a Nintendo, a Sony, an XBOX, downloaded music or bought yourself a DVD boxset: you are a nerd. If you have a youtube, myspace, facebook or even a twitter: you are a nerd. In fact, the minute you get a University degree, an occupational specialty or even a literary inkling above that of a third grade reading level? YOU ARE A NERD. There's really no point denying it, simply embrace your inner Poindexter and join your brothers and sisters in celebrating it!
Still I know what you're thinking: you've got a rock band, you've got Triple J high rotation, you're the very definition of "cool" with all your scensters, hipsters, fashionistas and sycophants following your every move; so you've gotta be immune riiight!? wrong! Take away all the hysteria, the goofy drug paraphernalia, the music videos, fashion labels and the lucrative record deals and what you've got left is a kid who learnt to play the piano, violin, drums, guitar, bass or took up singing lessons for five years instead of doing something infinitely more badass like blowing up letterboxes. If you can read notation, tabulature or time signatures, if you know the intricate histories of the greats from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's, if you spend most of your time in rehearsal spaces and studios, if you can speak the same language as the dude who's mixing your album? YOU ARE A NERD! If you doubt me still, I have two words for you: "band camp". And yet still we keep pretending, still we keep putting them up on a pedestal. We even designate safe zones like The Grace Emily where we can still rule that line in the sand to keep all the "freaks" out. You can see it in that sticker proudly plastered above the bar fridge spelling it out in capital letters: "DRUM MACHINES HAVE NO SOUL" *pfft* like THAT'S gonna make a difference! There is no black or white here, people! merely shades of grey! What's the difference between a drum machine, keyboard, effects pedal and an amplifier? it's nothing but semantics dude.. we are all nerds!
It's a sliding scale of denial. The Grace Emily may put its walls up and post guards (Clanger's a top team master in Brazillian Ju-Jitsu dont'cha know?) to protect their hallowed turf from the crass extremities: bug-eyed goons, bashing their 8bit beats, square synths, laser beams, diodes and blinking lights; but that's just the visible spectrum, the tip of the iceberg, all those shrinking ultraviolets and radio waves can still slip through just fine! You see them all from those solo-acoustic pipsqueaks, countryfried hillbillies, sixties revivalists to gangly giraffes geeking out on microphones: nerds by any other name. Yup, once you see the truth, that we may be many separate branches and yet we all sprout from the same tree: you see that we're one and the same maaan! As such, I know it may not look like it, but I won't be ridiculing these bands in following for their whimsical devotion to all things "nerdly". In my own "special way" it'll be nothing but a celebration (yes that's right Radio Spectacular!!! a celebration) of all that unites us! So, hold that oversized head up high: bring your sinus tablets, car sickness pills, busted spectacles, retainer and your recorder and let that geek flag fly.. cause it's gonna be one hell of a wild ride tonight!
PABLO LIBIDO (***) myspace ::
Our opening act may not be familiar to most of us at first glance, but the minute he makes misty eyed mention of The Grace Emily's "Open Mic" policy on a Monday night, or better yet the minute he starts "singing"; we instantly identity with him. We see people just like him playing in shopping centres, country fairs, chook raffles, political rallies or better yet winning scores of accolades at the Adelaide Fringe Festival for boundless reasons that we can never quite fathom just by looking at them; and nothing short of a silver bullet, decapitation or fire could possibly kill them. Oh yes, we're witness to a genuine performing busker! On the one hand they're the absolute scourge of society, but on the other they also provide endless hours of entertainment in what would otherwise be a torturous half hour of free-to-air television. I am of course speaking of Australian Idol. The minute you see one of these lunatics skipping gleefully into a live audition you know you're onto a real winner. With boundless enthusiasm they'll tear into their chosen instrument, shrieking at the top of their lungs with all the passion and gusto of a malfunctioning smoke alarm. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you give your TV a standing ovation, Dicko will give an exasperated expression.. and yet they will still KEEP ON PLAYING until all three judges are forced to leave the room, jump on a plane and leave the country. In fact, if only there were more "suicide bombers" quite like these fronting up to auditions there would be NO MORE AUSTRALIAN IDOL. Just think of what we could achieve if that happened!? They're just like a loaded gun, all we need to do is inch them in the right direction and victory will be ours! Pablo Libido is one such shining light for the music industry. He is both astoundingly brilliant and utterly horrendous in equal measure, I don't know whether to give him five stars or none at all, he is truly an inspiration! He takes a stage by its throat, he treats a live set like a hostage situation and with a shrill singing voice as powerfully emotional and its jarringly off key he will spit, howl and shriek and make you feel every one his songs as your intestines twist into knots. Imagine something akin to standup comedy routine, a children's television show and cruise ship performer mixed in with Weird Al Yankovic, They Might Be Giants, Dave Graney & The Coral Snakes, and what appears to be the sound of Abu Graib set to a Louisiana swamp groove; and you'd barely cover half of what he had on offer tonight. No shit, I quite simply couldn't get enough of Pablo Libido, I could have listened to this shit all night long.. ENCORE! ENCORE!!
But no review of Pablo Libido would ever be complete without addressing the rest of the "band". And no, I'm not just speaking of the trombone player Ben Lambada who joined him on stage for the last few songs, nor am I referring to the "audience participation" bit where he handed out a tambourine, triangle and maracas and got the crowd to play along for as it turns out the full name of this act is in actual fact "Pablo Libido & The Wild Robots". The only reason I never mention the "Wild Robots" bit up until now is simply because I couldn't fit it in the title (and quite possibly for "dramatic" effect) but they're no less important. Throughout the set this humble combination of drum machine, effects unit and mixer (aka: The Wild Robots) would provide all the bass and beats (froggy, squelchy rhythms tied to basic 808 kit) with a vibe very much reminiscent of a Nintendo Gameboy mixed in with a cheap Casio keyboard and a little bit of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" from "Top Gun" to boot (an obscure 80's reference I know but I swear it was in there somewhere). Throughout the set Pablo Libido would also address it as if it were an actual person, took great offense in anyone who claimed otherwise (ie: DRUM MACHINES HAVE NO SOUL), even had a song prepared where he attempted to emphatically disprove that theory, and generally did his very best to "workshop" us into believing it was no less the lively stage presence that he was. I know, clearly he had a few screws loose but it definitely gave a new spin on the whole solo-acoustic schtick; and for that you just had to applaud him, check where the exit signs are, then applaud some more.
TIGER ET GHOST (***1/2)
For those of us in the know our second act came as a bit of a shock. Not only because I'm told that as recently as "Winnerfest" back in May they were a two piece experimental act, but also because the lead singer of this band is none other than Morgan Read, otherwise known as "Belittle League": Adelaide's answer to LCD Soundsystem (and also a person who bears an all too uncanny resemblance to Rowan Atkinson). Seeing him perform in a three piece rock band tonight is rather akin to that moment when Moby ditched the synths and picked up a guitar back in 1996 for that weirdly experimental punk rock album "Animal Rights" (or rather akin to seeing Mr. Bean front The Vasco Era). While many critics would later slam Moby's album as one of Rock & Roll's greatest disasters right up there with Bob Dylan going "electric", Chris Cornell teaming up with Timbaland, The Black Eyed Peas releasing "Elephunk", or when the Kings Of Leon were inexplicably replaced by a boy band for "Only By The Night"; Morgan Read's "reinvention" definitely fairs a whole lot better. Tiger Et Ghost. Weird name I know, but as a three piece band they truly mean business. They're a vicious bass riff that sets your teeth on edge, a reverb drenched guitar that fills a room, and a beat that alternates between languid and menacing and makes you think of long stretches of desert highway filled with nothing but poverty and ruin (and quite possibly the plotline to the next David Lynch movie). Immediate comparisons make me think of everything from the abrasive blues of Grinderman, the staccato punk of The Hives, something rather akin to 60's surf, maybe a little bit of the swagger of Elvis Presley, a whole lot of Johnny Cash's jailhouse desperado and the chicken fried twang of The Rolling Stones. Either way it was a definite one-eighty. Where Belittle League was known for its wry, sardonic take to songwriting and lyrics, Tiger Et Ghost is much darker in its agenda; desperate even to gnaw its own arm off and get the fuck out've dodge the minute the last beat drops. Vocal duties alternate between Morgan Read: who's thin lisping register conjures up everything from Brian Molko from Placebo to Fred Shneider III from The B-52's (especially in that one song near the end where he went apeshit with a cowbell) while the bass player Declan Reck: possesses a somewhat grittier register, closely resembling that of a Tom Waits. There's the occassional burst of sly humour, not least of which is a song entitled "Space Dennis Hopper" but for the most part they keep a poker face, form a protective circle away from the audience and play like their lives truly depend on it. Sure it's not the least bit welcoming in its tombstone delivery but it's no less powerful. No shit, who knew Morgan Read had it in him!?
RADIO SPECTACULAR!!! (***1/2) myspace ::
A second review of our headlining act has been a long time coming, not the least of which because it's been well over a year since I'd written one (their first back in February 2008), but also because it got such a "rapturous applause" from their fans that I was half expected to find swarms of red laser dots tracking my forehead wherever I went. Yup, as far as ill-fitting support acts went last year, they were definitely the most memorable. There I was at the Jade Monkey all set to soak in the solemn shoegaze aesthetic of both BrotherSister (for their album launch) and Mr Wednesday (for their triumphant "comeback"), a journey not unlike Dante's Inferno in that it would surely lift my world weary soul through the very minutia of existential angst and ennui and take me to a place where gravity has no grip.. only to get sucker punched in the face by the spastically happy NERDGASM that was Radio Spectacular!!!. It was just like a mad hit of the bends, my brain totally bluescreened and of course I just HAD to give them shit for it (aaah what can I say? I do LOVE this blog!). I believe the line that stuck with them the most was: "I'd love to douse them in gasoline, strike a match and run" (although in my defense I DID follow that up with a compliment). In the end I wished them well with what would surely be a wildly successful career performing to preschoolers that'd easily rival that of The Wiggles (enthusiastic handclaps, spirit fingers, glockenspiels and songs about ice cream anyone!?) and hoped like hell we would NEVER cross paths again. Little did we both realise however, but we'd both missed the point. As much as I've discovered since (especially with fans of The Smashing Pumpkin when I dissed Billy Corgan back in April 2008) that not everyone gets MY "sense of humour" (or worse still confuses "the dumbest prank I've ever gotten away with for three years running" with legitimate journalism) I too confused THEIR warped sense of humour as being deadly serious as well. In time I came to appreciate them for what they really are (nerdcore to the EXTREEEME!), curiousity got the better of me and I just HAD to take another look. A quick scouting mission back in January proved quite fortuitous (ie: they didn't have to call my next of kin to identify the remains) and SO here we are tonight..
Make no mistake: Radio Spectacular!!! are THE nerdiest band I've ever seen in the Adelaide music scene (and considering I've seen most if not all of the bands that Ben Revi has ever featured in? that's saying something!). They truly wear their "dork" on their sleeve. If you're the sort of pasty faced shut in who snorts when you laugh, has a pet turtle or an axolotl, keeps oldskool Commodore 64 cartridges ("Skate Or Die" anyone?), wears SNES game controllers like jewelry, sneakers with velcro, socks with sandles, can solve a rubik's cube in less that ten seconds, rides a bicycle with a basket, has to change pants anytime Steve Jobs makes a keynote address (and you're STILL scouring the fan forums speculating over his "life threatening illness"), then let's not kid around here.. if you're the very epitome of Napoleon Dynamite or Ugly Betty!? you'll absolutely LOVE the shit out of Radio Spectacular!!!. To their credit, in the year or more since last I saw them, they've earned every one of those exclamation marks: not least of which for scoring the soundtrack to the latest Canon IXUS commercial (which I think we can all agree is the ultimate in über-goober) but also because they've solidified their sound in leaps and bounds. Although they still feature a few of the cute and clunky nursery-rhymes of old ("Vintage Piano" and "Wendy" instantly spring to mind), they've also come up with a plethora of dancefloor friendly slammers that'll be sure to get any tongue tied Nobel Laureate or button down librarian busting a "Molly Ringwald" in next to no time. In Radio Spectular!!! you'll hear everything from Hot Chip, Chicks On Speed, Le Tigre, Devo, Datarock, The Ting Tings to Architecture In Helsinki; and all of it without a hint of irony. In Phebe Rendulic and Harry Worth (with accompanying YMCA moves and start/stop 80's guitar riffs) you'll picture everything from a kindergarten teacher bopping the night away with Norman Bates at a Blue Light Disco (pom poms to boot), a Monday night game of Bingo with your grandmother, to a Countdown audience having an exploding hissy fit over Plastic Bertrand. Sure I may be clawing my own eyes out screaming right about now, pretending I'm having an allergic reaction to this shit but we all know it's an act. We're one and the same, I can see that now. We've all been that same knock kneed spaz back in highschool (the same we've all spent years feverishly hoping to forget) only this band is shameless in rocking that shit out loud and proud with superpowers like Peter Parker. Yup you know it, don't deny it, you SO you want to cut sick to this. Radio Spectacular!!!. They've come a long way, and admittedly they've still got a long way to go, but as long as they keep embracing their inner Urkel like this? duuude the sky's the limit!
12:15AM - Feeling like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders: "was that guilt you were feeling Spoz? GUILT!? OOOOH YOU SHOULD BE FEELING GUILT YOU BLACK HEARTED BAAASTARD!!" I suddenly realised that this voice wasn't just in my head but standing right in front of me, all around me and blocking all available exits. "Oh how cute.. inflatable animals!" I said, only to see them glaring right back at me. They didn't need to speak to get my attention now, I heard them loud and clear. They were the ghosts of rants past. In inflatable form they represented every one of my victims from Kittyhawk last week "you gave us 2.5 stars!? YOU ARSEHOLE!!", Clue To Kalo, Quest, New Translation, Penelope Suicide, Love Zombies and Mayday Fair even Jump! You Revolutionary, Ricochet Pete and Circus Arcade. "What.. you too Morals Of A Minor!? but your album was freaking gold!! I even gave you 5 stars!?". Oh, they remembered; they'd been waiting for this moment their entire lives. I thought I was a goner for sure as they inched ever closer, their binky squeaks growing ever more menacing. And then it hit me: "dude, they're fucking inflatable!". So I gave them a swift kick, they all went flying and then I made a mad dash for the door..
1:09AM - And so they gave chase as I ran screaming down Waymouth, took a sharp turn down a side street, hit a loose rock with my foot and went flailing face first into the tarmac. FUCK! Dusting myself off I realised I was still brandishing a pint glass from The Grace Emily, possibly as a keepsake, possibly as a weapon "hmmm.. that's weird!?" only then did I notice a powdery white residue circling around the bottom. It was clear that I'd been drugged, by who I couldn't say (hmmm maybe I did it to myself!?). There was only one thing I could do, any minute now I those inflatable terrors would catch up to me and who knows what would happen if they did!? And so I handed my five dollars to this dude in the "pie cart", he handed a foamy concoction right back to me that he swore was a "floater", I downed it in one gulp, both my horizontals and verticals did a little dance, everything went crosseyed, my ears popped and then I was back. Awesome! I looked both ways, realised nothing was coming at me, grinned sheepishly and I was on my way again.
1:22AM - Next stop The Ed Castle. Walking into the band room just now I'd almost forgotten it was "Plus One" tonight and there was an entry fee involved. Turns out I must've pulled a Jedi Mind Trick with the doorbitch to get here. Either that or she was so distracted by the pool party equivalent of The Battle Of Helms Deep amassing before her with murder in their eyes: "what the fuck!? is that a Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon!?", that she didn't even notice me slip by. Either way I'd made it just in time to catch the last band of the night: Lions At Your Door (and yes.. I'm aware of the irony). Sure I might've only seen the last two songs, but they were well worth the entry fee (that I apparently skipped out on). Think of them Operator Please! mixed with The Rapture and Young & Restless; only unlike the first one I mentioned they don't totally blow. Better than that they're actually kind've awesome: shredding violins, shrieking, shouting, burning a hole in the dancefloor!? Shit damn, I might have to catch a full set of theirs next time they swing by here.
2:06AM - Thinking that I could finally relax, I slipped quietly into the beer garden, beer in hand to soak in that sweet sweet smell of freedom; only to be ambushed by MCs Dedz and Jahmin here from Poetikool Justice. OOOH MAN did they look pissed too! With two hooked finger prodding me in the chest and accusatory glares burning holes deep into my skull they demanded to know why I kept giving them such glowing reviews, why I kept giving them so much praise, time and time again.. WHY DAMNIT! WHY!? They even took issue with the video that I shot at Queens Theatre last year that made them look so wildy popular and took pains to list all the people who gave them so many compliments about it. And that wasn't the end of it either. They took turns screaming at me like drill sergeants, a spray of spit, telling me how they thought I was such a positive influence on the Adelaide scene. They even bribed me with beers trying to get answers out of me, like: when was I gonna drop by WOW FM for a radio interview, or when I was gonna see them play next, they even had shows lined up at Fowlers Live with Mammal and at HQ with Blue King Brown. I couldn't stand it any longer. I broke down, I bawled like an infant, I promised them my outmost that I would give them my absolute WORST review next time, so horrible in fact they wouldn't even want to wipe their own arses with it. I wouldn't even take photos either, I'd simply draw shitty stick figures with giant dicks on their foreheads and throw in a few insults about their mothers. Satisfied that they finally got the answer they were looking for, they let loose my shirt collar and slinked off into the night *phew* I know huh? you think I would've learnt by now!?
2:42AM - Just like I always feared, it's happened. After all these years cracking jokes at the expense of all the goobers, geeks, grinds, dweebs, dorks and squares that inhabit this scene (and worse still, all those glowing reviews!? what the hell!?) it's finally come back to haunt me. I needed a place to hide but there's nowhere to turn. I need a place to run, but there's nowhere to go. Thanks to this site they know what I look like, they know where I've been, they can even track me on my twitter account. I'm doomed, I know it, what the HELL DO I DO!? And so clearly panicking, and with no time to spare, I grabbed the first thing I could find and I threw my head under it..
"Spoz? which Spoz!? *pfft* I'm not Spoz.. I'm errr.. Luke McKay from the Femme Fatales. Wait.. what do you mean I look nothing like him!? I'm TOTALLY him, I just.. dyed my hair? yeaaah that's it! and I grow it really quickly too, I'm just like The Wolfman! Yesiree Bob that's what they call me in the band too: "Wolfman McKay". And it appears I'm a few inches shorter too!? well look at that! I know ha ha ha ha.. I'm always cracking funny shit like that. I'm Luke "Wolfman" McKay, I'm like the craziest damn bastard around. What's this about Spoz? oh yeah pfft.. he's a total douche!".
3:27AM - And that's the hand I played too. Sure I didn't exactly fool anyone, with the possible exception of that grinning twizzle stick in the background giving me the two thumbs up (wait, didn't you ever SEE Luke play guitar!? duuude!) but at least it stopped people coming upto me now, as they were pretty certain I'd simply taken two tabs of E, lost my fucking mind and started a nu-rave band with Tom Hannah instead (I mean how awesome would that be!? wait.. where'd everyone go!?). Finally an hour passes, and with the crowds thinning at last I make my daring escape to Supermild (ie: the last sactuary for the damned and deranged); a plan all but scuttled the minute I run smack into this exciteable dweeb with the oversized glasses who was standing outside..
This is Matthew Gorgula: you may recognise him from his brief appearance as a drummer for Munchkin back in late 2006, by reputation as the current drummer for Monkey Puzzle Tree (or by appearing drunk in my blog). And if ever you're "Spoz" and you're looking to get rid of people like this in a hurry? especially if they know you by reputation!? simply tell them that you'll do your utmost to catch a gig sometime and they'll be sent scurrying for cover in next to no time! No shit, it totally works! Would you believe that Trent Worley from Isle Of Vision once bought me a beer back in August 2008 under the condition that I promise to NEVER review his band!? true story!
3:40AM - At long last I made it into Supermild alive and in one piece, although from the looks of it I'm "not entirely there" either. Where exactly am I then? aaah who cares! Hey wait.. I know! maybe if I stay close to Lucy here and stand really still nobody will know where I am!! "Hey Luce you seen Spoz, I'm looking to yell at him some more for giving Kittyhawk two and a half stars last week". "Spoz!? nope sorry Dave, haven't seen him all night". Rock musicians, little known fact: awesome hearing but their eyes can only sense movement: they're kinda like lizards that way..
4:26AM - Still I had little to fear by this point as I'd finally found my kind of people, here in Supermild, somewhere past four in the morning. Although you could easily argue I'm pretty much at home ANYWHERE past four in the morning because by then everyone's as blitheringly drunk as I am. There's really no point in poking fun at anyone now, as I'd simply be poking fun at myself. Take Tom from The Battery Kids for example, playing the ever popular game of "Tom Makes A Total Dick Of Himself". I mean who HASN'T played this game on Saturday night only to find themselves published on a blog the following week!? *pfft* that's shit we can all relate to!
Yeah y'know what!? I SO gotta stop making appearances in my own blog..
FUCK! that's it I'm putting my camera away!
4:31AM - Clearly we've gone waaay too far. It's just like in "Being John Malkovich", or more accurately it's just like that bit when John Malkovich goes inside of his own brain and all he sees is John Malkovich, and there's literally hundreds of John Malkovichs and all they ever say is "Malkovich.. Malkovich, Malkovich? Malkovich!! MALKOVICH!!". Except they're all Spoz. Sure I know they all LOOK different but I ask you.. WHERE have you seen those facial expressions before!?
And so, like so many nights before it (and always rather conveniently at this time of night) I take one good look in the "mirror", recoil in horror at what I see, and run screaming out that door..
4:41AM - It was somewhere in the carpark behind Jive where I finally come to my senses. I find a long neck bottle of Coopers Pale Ale resting on an electrical box (possibly left here by one of many "Spoz clones" spawned in my wake). I pick it up, take it with me, and once I find a suitable stretch of road before me, I hurl it with all my might. I figure by destroying it (some may say symbolically) I might verily return this fucked up world to its natural order. And yet despite a similar bottle shattering into a thousand pieces in Supermild after a drop of only ONE metre just last Friday: even after THIS bottle is hurled a good ten to fifteen metres and collides with the cement? duuude it didn't even dent the label! I was clearly through the looking glass now and there was turning back! (an observation made no less ironic when mere moments later, a car pulls up, it's Paul Belial: formerly from Circle Clan and NFI, and he offers me a lift home). Yup, if I'm insane then surely the entire universe is insane with me. One and the same dude. ONE AND THE SAME.
We are all nerds now. We can all thank the internet for that. We may travel in different packs, sects, cells, and cliques and think we're all cool for belonging, and ridicule those who don't but it merely proves it ever more emphatically that we are all nerds under different names. Thick rimmed glasses or a leather jacket; it's nothing but semantics. I for one am a nerd who likes to collect music, take photos of music, talk about music and listen to music to the point where I can't escape music. Maybe you're a fashion nerd. Maybe you like to collect stamps, spoons or parking tickets. Maybe you like to manufacture porn, miniature poodles or bucket bongs. Or maybe you're really good at firing a bazooka. We all speak the same language duuude, you just don't know it yet!