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 BUMBLEBEEZ + FIRE! SANTA ROSA FIRE! + THE SHINY BRIGHTS "IT ALL STARTS WITH V" @ HQ COMPLEX / Thursday August 13th 2009
Drunks. For me there's something SO refreshingly honest about them. Why spend years attempting to decipher a riddle (or worse still a downright lie) about a person when you can simply jump straight to the punchline and then work your way backwards? No shit, just like cartoon caricatures of society: good or bad they're the true reality of who we are. For many years now I've lived amongst them, and in "researching" all their hilarious extremes I've learnt a few things about the human condition. In short we ain't nearly as bad as we like to think we are. As adults we always assume the worst, but at our "worst" we actually do far less damage than we give ourselves credit for. No really, they're perfectly harmless! Simply keep them well away from knives, projectiles, motor vehicles, firearms and ex-flames and they're an absolute joy to have around! Of course not everyone shares my enthusiasm (especially not if you work in the hospitality industry) in fact short of chance sanctuaries like Jade Monkey and The Grace Emily where they simply treat them like "one of the family", most live venues consider the humble drunk to be an all out declaration of war. From Jive's simple "nanny state" approach: part babysitter, part zookeeper with its spastic sirens blaring anytime one of them tries to escape. To the "fashionable" oppression of Rocket Bar: enacting their DJ determinism, evil eye stares and stiflingly dark interiors to impose their fascism. Worse still, it acts like a feedback loop. The more you try and control them, the more chaos you'll invariably invoke. But all that pales in comparison with HQ and their "Checkpoint Charlie" giving everyone the finger as they step through that front door on West Terrace (as demonstrated here by Tom Krieg from The Battery Kids given the once over with a metal detector). As much as we may argue that this shit is simply a "necessary evil" to combat all the wacky stabbings and drive-by-shootings HQ's damn near infamous for, you can't help but feel that by it's very presence it actually promotes it. Just like many things in life: with drunks you truly get what you pay for.
And therein lies the comical irony. The more a venue treats its drunken revellers like hardened criminals, the more profitable it invariably becomes. It's insane I know but people freaking LOVE that gestapo shit, and HQ has that reign of terror nailed to an artform. They've mastered that lowest common denominator, that crassly commercial, shit magnet and meat market abattoir feel that appeals to the very worst in our society. From drug pushing psychos, porn stars, shaved gorillas, plastic bimbos, reality TV celebrities well past their prime to the crack addict socialites who wouldn't know the first thing about class even if it cocked a hind leg and pissed all over them: all of them call HQ home! Or in other words, this place is every reason why the Federal Government is currently fighting a war on "binge drinking".. YEAAAS!! Still, HQ isn't above offering a wealth of charm in return. How about offering some of the finest national and international touring acts you could possibly ever imagine? hosted in a resplendent multi-level room that comes loaded with the very best lighting and sound equipment that money can buy!? Yup, as much as I try to steer clear of this shithole like swine flu (so much so, this is only the second time it's been featured in this blog in well over three years!) I'm also acutely aware just how skull fuckingly awesome it is to catch a live gig in here. I know in SO many ways it makes me gouge my eyes out screaming just thinking about it (and I'm definitely having second thoughts now) and yet like a moth to the flame I'm still inextricably drawn. Damn you HQ, you may be pure evil BUT YOU'RE EVER SO SHINY!!
THE SHINY BRIGHTS (****) myspace :: And as for WHY I'm putting myself through all this hell on a Thursday night? Well apparently it's for some wackyarse product placement promoting "V Energy Drink" thinly disguised as a "free gig" showcasing four of Adelaide's finest "indie bands" headlined by The Bumblebeez. Aaaah fuck I love HQ! I mean how I could possibly miss a conflicting headfuck like that!? A statement made no less ironic thanks to me arriving two hours too late and missing two of the opening acts (The Killgirls and The Touch).. fuck damn! Oh and might I also add I only just finished writing the previous episode of this blog all of twenty minutes before I left the house tonight, I'm completely fried, I'm surviving on less than five hours sleep, circling the drain fast with nothing but a strong hit of caffeine from three hours prior propping my eyelids open and.. wait, why the FUCK am I still here again!? Oh yeah The Shiny Brights! Yup, if ever you were looking for a band to encapsulate the very essence of an energy drink (or better yet an energy drink thrown into a microwave) look no further than the hysterical stage antics of these idiots. Everything about them screams heart palpitations, hallucinations, mass hysteria, muscle spasms, panic attacks, the explosive need to urinate and ultimately spontaneous human combustion. They're not so much a "live act" as they are witnessing every one of your body parts being demolecularised and shat all over the ceiling. Most of this is thanks to their lead singer Wolfgang who treats every live set like a toddler would react to having all of their Christmases at once crossed with someone being thrown into an electric fence. It's downright disorienting to watch as he throws himself about: arms flailing, jumping off speaker stacks, drum platforms, into the crowd, smashing the fuck out of his tambourine and shrieking erratically in the space of five minutes; but it definitely sells the performance. And with the rest of the band whipping him into a killing frenzy in kind and the shitstorm of stage lighting in accompanyment, I'm half surprised the entire audience hasn't collapsed around me in an epilectic foaming mess on the floor (although they sure as shit are dancing like that). Yup as far as "indie" goes they're definitely more about the psychotic "shock and awe" and not so much about anything that approaches artistic depth. Still if you're the sort of trigger happy hyperactive who loves hearing a chaotic connect-the-dots mashup between Bloc Party's "Silent Alarm", the first two Kings Of Leon albums, "Just Ace" by Grinspoon and Lost Valentinos "Man With A Gun" fronted by what appears to be a busted up car alarm crossed with Robert Smith from The Cure? they'll definitely do wonders for your raging sex life (just as long as you can find a place to dump all the "smoking corpses" afterwards). Yup I may've been sleep walking when I got in here mere moments ago but now thanks to The Shiny Brights: I'm wide awake, screaming obscenities and gunning to destroy!!
FIRE! SANTA ROSA FIRE! (****1/2) myspace :: A few short years ago our following act weren't all that dissimilar to The Shiny Brights. They shared that same clownshit insanity and that same retarding delivery hammered to a drillbit intensity. I believe whimsical terms like "spastic disco" and "hummingbird shitstorm" were often used to describe them, comparisons frequently made with bands like The Rapture, Bloc Party or the Klaxons (ie: simply name checked any of the usual suspects everyone was ripping off at the time) and I mean who DIDN'T love that Justin Timberlake cover!? that shit was extreme! and then somewhere along the way they finally learnt how to play their freaking instruments and they've never looked back (yeeeouch!). Now don't get me wrong, this isn't to say they WEREN'T ridiculously awesome as a throwaway "buzz band" at the time (and I'm not having a dig at The Shiny Brights here.. I swear!) I fucking LOVED that shit! In fact I often feel the need to apologise profusely to next to every one of their oldskool fans who had to put up with me making a complete dick of myself, drunk dancing front of stage, at all their shows circa 2006 to 2007 (I swear Freya from Bing Goes To Monaco still hasn't forgiven me for that shit). Still with that being said it's truly inspiring to see how far they've come. Fire! Santa Rosa Fire! have developed their own unique sound, rare in a city reknown for its "cover bands" (literal or otherwise). They've built a name for themselves on the merit of their own artistic integrity, even rarer in a scene increasingly reknown for its crass disposability. In fact when it comes to describing them now: it's not so much about making fun of their stage antics (despite how hilarious Art their keyboardist may be whacking the shit out of that tambourine) or their unabashed geekiness (ie: see every joke I've cracked at the expense of their guitarist Dave), but more about the strength of their songs. There's a wealth and a range here that goes past the indie cliché of "four on the floor thrashed fast as fuck". From the slow keyboard build of "Merchant Ships" in the opener, the gunning bass grooves of "Dogma Don't" and "Haystack Rumble" (channeling the urgency of Interpol's "PDA"), to the distinctive slow burn of "Cold Star" (comparing quite favourably to the funk jam of Pink Floyd's "Money"). The real quality here is in how they've built that off kilter rhythm, that angular attack, layered it with a swinging guitar pattern, a keyboard flourish and an offhand lyric and then change it all up on the turn of a ten cent piece. They're songs made memorable by taking all the routes less travelled: ecclectic, introspective, off in their own little world. It's like Battles getting together with Broken Social Scene and having a mad 'ol jam: there's all these details you can totally bug out to! And to think all this inspired genius is coming from Fire! Santa Rosa Fire!? Yeah I know, when I first heard that these dweebs were recording an album last year, I too wondered how the fuck they're going to pull it off. But they've been taking their time, they've been toiling away on some truly mad science creations, and with tonight's set the quality shows: this shit truly keeps on getting better and better!
THE BUMBLEBEEZ (***) myspace :: I admit I knew very little about our headlining act save for a few throwaway hits thrashed on Triple J high rotation (gee I wonder if we've heard THIS line before?) and that their "main offender" Chris Colonna was solely responsible for either producing or butchering the second Wolf & Cub album (depending on who you talk to in The Ed Castle beer gardens on a Friday night). Granted that was enough to pique my interest when I first saw them receive top billing for this event, but to be honest I WAS expecting a little more than what I got. I'd seen a few videos, in my head I had it all figured out. I was looking forward to catching a slacker rap-rock-electro act featuring Chris Colonna and his sister with a sideways baseball cap on, wife beater and baggy trousers, brandishing a microphone and ripping into nonsensical lyrics about getting blown, getting wasted, and wasting a whole lifetime on the dole. I was expecting the ultimate Aussie hiphop cliché. I was expecting a live band to accompany it: bass player, guitarist, drummer, some dude flipping burgers on a Technics 1200 and no shit if they did? it'd be a ripe barrel of laughs! Instead what we got (at least to me) looked like little more than a glorified DJ set. I mean sure you COULD call it an expert mashup, a remix medly, a creative reinterpretation, a whatever-the-fuck all-star tribute and you'd be dead right (you could also argue there were a stack of original songs in there somewhere) but let's face it, original or covers, it's still a DJ set (and totally not my "live scene" jurisdiction). So why am I still reviewing it anyways!? Well surprisingly it wasn't all that bad. Sure they were hammering that tired "Rocket Bar" schtick to near ear splitting levels (I swear everything from the sounds of Justice, M.I.A. to Santagold got an airing, or in other words: every other song you've ever heard thrashed to death in the past two years at Rocket Bar featuring cut-up electroclash, grime and hiphop overlaid with gangsta girl lyrics) but performed "live" it still pulled me in. In fact in no small thanks to that cute-as-all-hell female MC bouncing about the stage: the very epitome of vapid "club bunny" with a rapid fire delivery and a devilish grin, you couldn't take your eyes off them. I know, it killed me too knowing I'd just been bought by the OLDEST TRICK IN THE BOOK but hey to their credit: it still worked brilliantly. Chris Colonna displayed some fiendish deck shredding ability bridging the generational divide between Daft Punk and Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" and arguably there was some real artistry shown in cutting it all up, and maybe if I'd heard this over ten years ago at the height of "big beat" and "punktronica" I'd absolutely love the shit out of it (and it did have that mad potential). Still I couldn't help but feel that our headlining act was just a DJ set slumming it tonight and not a full "live show". And when you couple that with all the sub speakers throwing me about like a punching bag combined with my total lack of sleep from last night and a growing headache threatening to explode out of my skull? Yeaaah.. let's just leave it at that. Apologies if you're a rabid fan of The Bumblebeez.. but THIS I just didn't quite "get".
Still as downright seedy as I was beginning to feel out there watching the remainder of The Bumblebeez tonight: eyes flickering like a busted fluorescent tube, body like a rusted car chassis propped up on blocks with the wheels still spinning, thinking any minute now a fully grown woolly mammoth was about to burst free from my eye sockets and kill everyone in sight? I was very much in the minority. As much as me NOT drinking was probably the sane decision in this instance (as let's face it: me sleep deprived and heavily caffeinated are not cocktail mixers you'd ever want to party with), seeing all these happy drunks dancing up a storm I still had to laugh. Like those two hysterical chicks who tried their utmost to get my attention all night, jumping about in front of the camera lens, throwing my aim off, throwing their hands in front of my face to block my view of the stage: all the while screaming at me to take a photo of them (hoping they'd appear in this blog if only I didn't delete every single shot I took moments later.. HA!!). Sure I had no fucking clue WHO they were but y'know what? they were awesome! no shit dude, they were the life of the party!! Or what about the freak in THIS photo: so simple, so utterly naive!? he couldn't care less who was playing, what they were playing or how loud it was he's just lost in the moment like it's the BEST shit ever! I know, I so should've been drunk, shouldn't I? DAMN YOU THURSDAY NIGHT!!
And so Chris Colonna continued to thrash out a DJ set long after his female MC companion had left the stage. Most of the crowd: a mixture of fashion tragics you'd likely spot at any given Transmission, Transmission Live, Plus One, Square One or Sputnik were all but oblivious to the changeover, even as the venue began to fill with an assortment of HQ regulars. Just as they were all but oblivious to that V Energy Drink video presentation earlier in the night promoting some kind of Mitsubishi whatever-the-fuck (maybe it was a competition? maybe it was a prize-giveaway? pfft.. I mean who the hell cares!?). Just as they were all but oblivious to most of the live bands that were even playing tonight. As long as the bar kept serving alcohol and there's plenty of flashing lights and thumping beats they can crack a spastic to they're happy. I know, it's weird what little it takes to keep drunks entertained. There's something SO disturbingly honest about that isn't there?
Sometimes I wonder why I've gone to all this insane effort. I mean let's face it everything's pretty much interchangeable: DJs? live bands? pfft.. what's the difference!? everyone's simply following the person in front of them, they're all sheep, nobody really gives a fuck, the Adelaide music scene is fucking dead! And then I spend a night out like this where I DON'T get hilariously "blind" and I finally see them all out there for who they really are: all those drunks out there every night, packing out every pub, club and venue, all those dancefloors swimming, all these long lines crawling, all that heightened security, that rising pandemonium scrambling to hold them at bay. Sure they might not be into the same music that we're into, they may not look like us, we may even foolishingly think of them as the enemy, but they're OUT THERE MAAAN!! Just getting those drunks out of the house and seeing actual live original music is a victory in itself (you should've seen how fucked up the Adelaide scene was ten years ago!). And now the battle is half won. We've finally got the numbers. All we've got to do now is simply point them all in the right direction!