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...
DUKES OF WINDSOR + THE DARK LIGHTS + SHE SAID YOU "TRANSMISSION LIVE" @ THE ED CASTLE / Friday July 31st 2009
I swear I'd damn near given up hope. There was nothing left to give. "The Adelaide music scene is FUCKING DEAD!". I wholeheartingly believed in what I said. I'd written all I could write. I'd done all I could do. I was finished. I was closing that book. I was giving it its last burial rites: ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I swear I was the only one left still living, breathing, going batshit insane in this endless desert of tomorrow. All gone, every last person, every last band, every last gig, GONE!! Where the fuck did it all go!? And then I remembered just where I was, just where I've always been when I've come to this same batshit insane conclusion: the "dead" of winter, and then I realised I was a fucking idiot. Of course it isn't dead. It never really died. It's only a season and it will pass. I'm sure of it; I mean I'm pretty damn sure of it, I mean I'm almost sure of it, on second thoughts I'm not sure at all? I know, I know! it's just the cabin fever fucking with me. It never gets any easier and this winter in particular has had it in for me, I swear. It's got me climbing the walls maaan! I'm doubting shit like never before. If only there were snow falling on cedars and a shitcrazy pagan festival to accompany it I'd have something to hold onto; but there's nothing like that to punctuate its passing here in Adelaide. Maybe we could invent one? Maybe we could set fire to a fuck-off funeral pyre of carcasses and car wrecks, drink ourselves retarded, go beserk, dance about the flames and have ourselves a laugh over the simple fact that we've survived. It would sure relieve the tedium, anything to distract our fingers from itchy triggers because I'm clutching at straws here. I'm at wits end. I'm reminding myself again and again that the weather will break and there will be new life again. One month's rations is all I'll need. One more month till spring. One mantra that bears repeating till I damn near believe it: "it's always darkest before the dawn".
All this time with nothing to do.. sure I enjoyed it to begin with. I was getting eight hours sleep, catching up on a few films, some television, a whole lot of work I'd been neglecting (oops I almost forgot I actually DID that) it's been awesome! That was the first few days. Now we're three weeks in and seriously, where the fuck IS everybody!? Everything's on hiatus. Everybody's gone into hibernation. They can't ALL be "working on albums" can they!? Then just to rub it in, along comes a Friday night like this one, like the twoothers before it, where I'm flooded with all these fucked up choices and I've got to choose ONE because tomorrow night there'll be nothing again. And I just know that whatever I pick I'll be kicking myself stupid over all the ones that I didn't (like say Steering By Stars and Bing Goes To Monaco at the Jade Monkey? FUCK!!). It's a "Catch 22", it's all or nothing, it's Friday night or bust. I'm in no mood for this shit but it's all we've got and I'll take all I can get. So I'm happy to wait in line outside of The Ed Castle for fifteen minutes because every fuckwit in Adelaide has flooded this joint in a mad panic tonight. I'm happy to be stopped by a bouncer checking to see if I've got a stamp every fucking time I walk into the band room, despite the fact they already stamp everyone at the door. I'm happy to deal with all the fashion nazis and the assinine indie electro the DJs are banging that's making me feel like I'm stuck in "Rocket Bar: version 2.0". Fuck it! I'm happy to put up with all of this shit: including some of the WORST stage lighting on record at The Ed Castle (which I'd be more than happy to bitch about for fucking up almost every one of my photos if I hadn't already blogged about it before.. YEAAAS!!), because anything that gets me out of the house in the dead of winter is better than nothing. I mean hey, maybe the bands won't half suck tonight. There's always a silver lining, you'll see!
SHE SAID YOU (***) myspace :: Our opening act has been winning a wealth of "critical acclaim" for the past year or so ever since their debut single "Dark Sunglasses" was unearthed by Triple J in 2008. They've supported the likes of Eskimo Joe, The Hoodoo Gurus, Evermore and You Am I (and likely a whole host of other equally "edgy" bands your grandmother would love), they've scored regular airplay on Nova (your home of "fresh new music" that's already been thrashed to death everywhere else for the past six months) and the only reason I knew any of this shit now is because a facebook event page accidently alerted me to all of it prior to their show. In hindsight I kinda wish I didn't, as it makes them sound about as scintillating as a loaf of bread that's been left on a shelf for five days. Granted this also means their commercial success is all but assured (if Coldplay's entire career trajectory or Kings Of Leon's fourth record is anything to go by) but it doesn't make it any easier for me to review them. So here I am tonight, hoping like hell their live act proves all their "glowing praise" and publicity wrong. She Said You. In essence they're a middle-of-the-road rock band that doesn't so much "scream" radio friendly values as make "polite conversation" with it. They're song after song of soaring power ballads, agreeable guitar hooks, soothing sing-a-long lyrics and an easy going, roadtripping, alt country swagger that appeals to just about anyone in the room without actually saying anything substantial with it. In style and influence they remind me of everything from Matchbox 20, Audioslave, The Smiths, Jeff Buckley, Neil Young, The Hoodoo Gurus and Vampire Weekend only with all the sharp edges taken out and none of the fire. Or rather like Leader Cheetah (especially in Greg Horan's lilting yodel that does its very best to ape Dan Crannitch's golden pipes) minus any of the colour, depth or texture that makes it interesting. Or rather like the comedy stylings of Rove McManus. Or come to think of it rather like a loaf of bread. I mean don't get me wrong they're nothing but easy on the ears, they're eager to please, they thrash out a professional set tonight from beginning to end (with barely a gap in between) and we all know "bread" IS a staple food source but for me bread's only good when it's freshly baked, toasted or you can add something to it; otherwise for all its finer qualities it's sorely lacking.
THE DARK LIGHTS (***) myspace :: Our second act may be celebrating their debut tonight but they're far from newbies. Three of the band members (Daniel Gaskin on leads, Matthew Ho on guitars and Rachel Ho on the electronics) you may recognise from the prog metal band Newtonheath, active on the Adelaide scene till late last year. Two of those (Matthew and Rachel Ho) you may recognise from the band Edison, active from 2000-2004. And if we're really trainspotting: we could perhaps mention that both me and Matthew Ho went to the same highschool back in the early 90s (except it really doesn't bear mentioning as it was an utterly shit highschool to go to). Either way, considering every band they've been in has been nothing short of exceptional, I was eager as all fuck to see what they were cooking up with this one (especially after they name-dropped "Interpol" as one of their influences and we all know I'm a sucker for that shit). And thankfully, despite being a little dizzy and disoriented on a live stage tonight they sure as shit didn't disappoint. The Dark Lights. In essence they're brooding post-punk meets electro with a dash of button-down emo, only with added oldskool depth and none of that gimmicky glowstick wank (despite the fact they also list "The Presets" as a reference). In a live setup sans drummer they instantly remind me of former Adelaide band Circle Clan (and quite favourably at that), which I realise means absolutely nothing to most of you, so instead picture Pitchshifter, Stabbing Westward, New Order and Depeche Mode with perhaps a dash of Linkin Park's Chester Bennington in the way that Daniel Gaskin tears into his vocals (but only if I was REALLY looking to twist the knife in). They also remind me of a swampier version of The Killgirls (which again they compare quite favourably). What especially appeals to me most however, is in all the little details that distinguish them from just any old b-grade electro "buzz-band". The percussion and programming that Rachel Ho hammers on her combination laptop and knob tweakers, especially in the opener, more resembles a spastic space invaders melt-down than just a simple four on the floor. Sure its hardly an Aphex Twin in complexity, but there's still more than enough articulate menace here to make up for an absence of a drummer. Both Alan Grillo and Matthew Ho provide the guitar shred that alternates between a Tom Morello start/stop delivery and something much more textured you'd get from a Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or a Daniel Kessler from Interpol. Whilst Dan on leads lurches about with his mic stand like a howler monkey to really sell the emotional urgency. And as much as their lack in stage lighting is making me smash my camera about in frustration trying to capture it all, it still suits the mood perfectly (pun intended). For what they lack in cohesion tonight (as it all kinda comes together in a mad jumble of nerves and energy), they more than make up for in potential. Once they figure it all out, give them six months, and dude they'll be freaking awesome!
DUKES OF WINDSOR (****) myspace :: I've always had a love-hate relationship with our headlining act ever since I first saw them back in December 2006. On the one hand they're freaking hilarious live. They've owned every stage I've ever seen them play on and you've never quite lived until you've witnessed their trigger happy lead singer Jack Weaving climb all over the speaker stacks like a spastic ferret and launch himself into the crowd, it's freaking awesome! On the other hand however, there's next to every single of theirs you've ever heard unleashed on the radio. The prime candidate of which, is obviously their obnoxious hit "It's A War": one that's instantly recogniseable by its eponymous nails-on-the-blackboard chorus, delivered with such shrill intensity by their Jack Weaving that it sounds JUST like a chihuahua being beaten to death by a cricket bat. Thanks to this ear bleeding anthem and many others just like it they walk a thin line between the infectious dance punk fury of The Rapture (which I can't get enough of) and the assinine sounds of a commercial grade cheese-grater (which I can't far enough the fuck away from). Even more disturbing? both Triple J AND commercial radio freaking LOVES them in equal measure. Yup that's the Dukes Of Windsor, they're a love-hate relationship through and through. As such tonight's performance comes as a quite a shock as they deliver a surprisingly subdued set, almost downright apologetic in places. So much so it actually makes me appreciate the music more for its "finer qualities". Weird I know, but it's true! First of all their singer seems to be holding back the "chihuahua" for a change and letting the music speak for itself. The guitars, the funky rubber band rhythms, how they interweave through each other so effortlessly; it's actually quite accomplished. Secondly their original drummer "Corey Blight" has recently gone AWOL only to be replaced by session drummer Angus Tarnawsky (from Melbourne's math rock afficionados Bachelor Of Arts) giving their sound a distinctly darker driven intensity tonight that only adds fuel to the fire. Thirdly the next to non existent stage lighting, which with it's rapid spin cycle from black to yellow-black to blue-black to submarine red: not only makes them next to impossible to photograph (as they're next to invisible on a stage before us) but it also puts the focus squarely on all their strengths as musicians. There's no bullshit here, it's nothing but the music, so that by the time they unleash "It's A War" at the end, its so damn silly and infectious by comparison that we can't help but go beserk to it. Everyone in the room (me included) is singing every one of their drunkarse lyrics at the top of our lungs, we're having the best damn time of our lives. Sure it's dumb as all fuck, but by the cover of darkness they've reeled us in hook, line and sinker! Yup as much as they may drive me insane (and how!) everytime I hear them on the radio, on a live stage they can't help but win me over again and again. Damn you Dukes Of Windsor, you ridiculously infectious dance punk bastards, DAMN YOU TO HELL!!
1:28AM - Moments after the Dukes Of Windsor cleared off the stage or perhaps moments before that (fuckit.. I forget) I was ambushed by this "frisky feline". Obviously I've never met her before in my entire life and for the life of me could never get a straight answer on who the fuck she was: as everytime I asked her all I ever got was the name "Exstacy". Which has either got to be the dumbest thing ever, the awesomeness thing ever, or she's clearly a stripper, an exotic dancer or a pornstar of some kind and what you're hearing right now (and rather loudly at that) is the sound of me "smacking my forehead" wondering if I'm seriously the stupidest dude alive. The answer of course is: yes I am! Either way she clearly knew who I was as she kept bugging me over and over to take a photos of her in the hopes that she'll be making an appearance in this week's blog..
Only to realise moments later just how badly that could backfire on her.
1:55AM - And so for the next half hour or so I happily drank myself retarded out back in the beer garden with a whole host of colourful characters who know all too well know not to be photographed on this blog after all the hilarity I've put them through (hi Daniella!) and thus won't be mentioned by name; or at least I won't mention any others by name (as quite frankly I was far too drunk to remember most of them). Instead I'll direct your attention to this poster I discovered soon after when I rushed off to the toilets to take a whizz. Partially because I find it hilarious just how much Joaquin Phoenix's head resembles that of a cow, secondly because it's FUCKING Joaquin Phoenix (and if you're wondering WHY that's hilarious, obviously you've never seen this infamous appearance on Dave Letterman), thirdly Woody Harrelson is giving it glowing praise (and that dude's one a-grade dope fiend!) and obviously none of this shit has anything to do with what is clearly a hard-hitting documentary on "animal husbandry". I mean hey if Joaquin Phoenix wants to marry a cow, and they're both adults, and they're both into consensual beastiality and shrub buggery, why can't it be legal? oh wait that's NOT the point? damn.. you could've fooled me!
3:32AM - The remainder of my night at The Ed Castle was clearly so head explodingly exciting (I mean it's Transmission Live.. when isn't that shit "going off" like an egg salad in the sun!?) that I plum near forgot to photograph any of it. Just like Supermild in the sequel was so eye-gougingly extreme to take in all at once (fuck damn I love that joint!) that instead of detailing all the wacky and hysterical hijinx we got upto in there (and how) I bring you THIS. Yup it's an actual toothbrush floating in the men's urinal. Aren't you SO glad you tuned into Spoz's Rant this week!? YEAAAS!!
And you know what's even better: not only is there a toothbrush floating in the men's urinal (and that in itself is pretty freaking awesome!) and not only do we not have the foggiest clue how it got here in the first place but ONE of these photos was actually taken the week BEFORE. Yup for all this time it's been here bringing smiles to everyone who sees it.. aaah I ask you, what's not to love!?
3:40AM - And so, entirely unrelated to any of what you've just seen (is that a hair on one of the bristles!? um, on second thoughts.. forget I even mentioned that) Supermild decides to "close up early for the night" as Ruby Chew zips up her hazmat suit, grabs a pair of chicken tongs from behind the bar, takes a deep breath and plunges into the unknown. And as much as I'd love to document what happened next, I'll instead provide you with a selection of photos I should've promptly deleted off my camera the minute I woke up on Saturday afternoon, saw them all and went: "WHOAAA SHIT! HOW MUCH DID I FUCKING DRINK LAST NIGHT!?" but instead have decided to publish on a live music blog that anywhere between eight hundred and a thousand people might choose to read each week because let's face it, who's even surprised I'd pull this shit anymore?
3:57AM - Fuck, I can't believe I just wasted the last seventeen minutes taking all those photos. And they say there's one more month of this shit till spring? damn I don't think I can take another WEEK. I wonder where all those taxi cabs are going. I wonder if I could take one all the way to the northern hemisphere: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Berlin wherever-the-fuck. We'll make it fly if we have to, then simply skip out on the fair when I get there. I'm sure they wouldn't mind. Anywhere but here in the dead of winter. Here in this existential wasteland, this figurative desert, dribbling half mad and climbing the walls FUUUCK!!
"It's always darkest before the dawn": whoever came up with that shit was probably the same wide-eyed optimist who came up with all those motivational posters featuring kittens clinging to tree branches with the phrase "hang in there, baby!". The same ditsy dipshit who sends you all those shitty e-cards with the teddy bears and the glitter font and fucks up your facebook feed nine to five with countless surveys listing their favourite 80s popstars, which Sex In The City character they most identity with and all those fucking LOLcat pictures. I bet they're really into Oprah Winfrey, Ghost Whisperer and Dancing With The Stars too. And if I saw them walking down a street right now whistling a sweet tune, I swear I'd smash their fucking faces in. Smug little fucks with their fortune cookie philosophies. GUH! I hate them all SO much! But you know what? they're fucking right you know! The Adelaide scene might be next to dead right now but by next week it'll all be back, you'll see! Why? because you can't keep a good thing buried, that's why! Bring a shovel, bring a car battery and let's start digging. We'll make them zombies dance in next to no time!