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...
JUPITER LEAD + THE BATTERY KIDS + 20TH CENTURY GRADUATES "ABRACADABRA" @ ROCKET BAR / Friday August 7th 2009
Rocket Bar has always been at the very forefront of "fashion". It's why I LOVE this joint, it never relents, it never compromises, if it ain't fashion then it has no place in here! We're not talking the present tense, pfft.. that's SO embarassingly passé! We're talking of a future that's forever intangible and unattainable, of obtuse angles, impossible assymetry and of souless automatons smashing square blocks into round holes with quantised precision.. FUCK YES! It tantalises and mystifies me as much as it disturbs. It makes me lose faith in humanity and in the best way possible! The DJs run the show here and they run it with absolute authority. Nothing else matters but that which is "fashionable" and despite what you'd like to believe you're nowhere near it; not if you still have lungs that breathe and a mind that questions. We're talking fine china mannequins with slavish devotion to a code that cannot be deciphered. We're talking ten foot tall brick walls and you slamming headfirst into it with no way through. Oh such sweet and sublime horrors that pull me back in again and again like a siren song to jagged rocks! To imagine Rocket Bar is to picture that cutting edge, like a proverbial knife running through a jugular vein, defining all that is exclusive, uber elite and damn near extraterrestrial: like a secret society in matching Columbian neck ties cutting off your oxygen supply. Everytime I step foot in here I can't help but feel more outgunned and outnumbered, like this place wasn't designed for the human race, but for whichever species is destined to replace it. Or as Mark Renton said best in Trainspotting: "In a thousand years, there will be no men and women, just wankers" only it's here right now and they've got me surrounded. I swear I dream of nights like these: nothing but me and the plastic people, hopelessly lost in a blackening abyss, desperately trying to shoot my way out, and then I wake up screaming. Thanks Rocket Bar for making all my dreams come true. No really, THANK YOU!!
Yup, everytime I think Rocket Bar's changed I get another night like this: when it's all about the DJs, the dancefloor, the fashionistas and "who gives a fuck about the live bands?". Or in this case it's all about the female frisbee spinners taking turns on the decks. They control everything tonight; everything else is but a hiccup in their uninterrupted transmission. I'd half imagine from previous experience that they're impossibly cute, ditzy, utterly unattainable and styled in one of the two 80's trends I've seen a lot of in Rocket Bar of late: (a) brunette goth prom with ridiculous shoulder frills and fingerless gloves or (b) blond bogan from a Guns 'N Roses music video in singlet tops and tiny denim cutoffs, although I can't be certain as quite frankly I can't see SHIT out there. Thanks to them running the show the entire venue is pitch black, and I mean PITCH BLACK. In fact in many ways it reminds me of The Ed Castle (I wonder if they swap notes?). And it's not just the stage lights either (dude, don't get me started!) it's fucking everywhere. I can't even count my change at the bar let alone recognise anyone standing more than two metres away. Which when combined with their indie dance remixes and alienating eurotrash electro they've got banging FUCK-OFF LOUD, means I can't talk to any of these "people" I can't see, who I dare not approach either. Genius huh!? I can't see anything, I can't hear anything, can't do anything, they've replaced most of the barstaff with complete strangers tonight (damnit, those bar chicks were the only reason I still frequented this hell hole! *sniff*). And all I've got to look forward to now for the next hour boring myself shitless in this sensory deprivation tank fuck full of fashionistas before the bands start, is to drink myself retarded (aaaah $3 beers, the ONE saving grace!) and wish for sweet death!? Yup that's Rocket Bar alright, they really know how to make you feel welcome!
20TH CENTURY GRADUATES (****) myspace :: Which in context makes our opening act all the more improbable but no less inviting on a live stage tonight; or rather like discovering a bright yellow canary still singing sweetly like nothing's amiss in a collapsed coalmine long since condemned to a cemetery. In both reality and ridiculous metaphor: neither should really exist, but we'll still gladly accept them regardless. That's the 20th Century Graduates, or more specificially that's their "lead cheerleader" Larissa. Granted she's not the lead singer of the band: that would be Jeremy the long haired "labradoodle" hidden away on the drumkit. She's not exactly the most crucial member of the band either: as her singing, tambourine playing and all that whimsical shit she pulls with a melodica (aaah who the fuck knows!?) doesn't exactly scream "pivotal" (in quite the same way that we often wonder just what it is that Art Zinoviev provides for Fire! Santa Rosa Fire!). But she IS the first one you'll notice and she does set the mood brilliantly. Thanks to her beaming one hundred watt smile and her boundless enthusiasm bordering on shitcrazy Jesus freak devotion (and perhaps a few other band members playing ACTUAL instruments) the 20th Century Graduates are without a doubt the happiest damn band in all the Adelaide scene. They're fucking infectious. They even give The Keepsakes a run for their money (somewhat ironic given that they share two band members: Jeremy on drums and Jon on bass) in fact in many ways I'm half wondering if they're bona-fide flesh eating serial killers. I mean c'mon, nobody can be THIS head explodingly gleeful without harbouring some seriously psychotic brain dysfunction!? (yes I'm looking at YOU Larissa!). And yet that's exactly who they are: nothing but rainbows, sunshine, lollipops and teddy bears skipping hand in hand, happy as all fuck; like they're one teeny tiny bag of Skittles short of a fullblown outbreak of type two Diabetes. Weirder still (especially with James' joyous trumpet revelries bursting forth every minute) you can't get enough of it. Even if the songs pretty much run the same sunshine happy theme over and over, it's still a winning formula. Yup, if you could imagine Frente! joining forces with Belle & Sebastian, Crowded House, The Shins and The Smiths to write songs about summer love, swimming pools and ice cream trucks. If you could imagine a Combi van with a giant fuck-off daisy painted on it gathering rust in a fantastic field of green, as a merry band of minstrels skip about arm in arm blowing bubbles while you trip balls on acid. If you could imagine any of this shit grinning from ear to ear, whilst stuck in THIS sickening soul sucking void on a Friday night? then you're in an awesome place indeed; for such is the diabolical power of the 20th Century Graduates tonight. They may very well kill us all where we stand and wear our skins like "Silence Of The Lambs", but it's a small price to pay to feel THIS ridiculously cheerful!
THE BATTERY KIDS (****) myspace :: As much as our opening act were at odds with the stifling surrounds they found themselves in (and would likely be much more at home frolicking in the springtime accompanied by a birdsong chorus of Disney's cheesiest cartoon characters) our second act welcomes this inpenetrable gloom willingly like a heavy winter's cloak. They channel that darkness, harness all of that foul discontent, amplify it to truly anthemic levels and then unleash it upon us wave after wave, with gnashing teeth and screaming guitars like the whole world is about to crash about our ears. Or in other words they sound very much like Muse. Picture any music video featuring Matt Bellamy and his cohorts having an exploding hissyfit on guitars as next to everything around them gets blown to shit by excessive g-forces and hurricane winds, or simply picture the Four Horseman Of the Apocalypse fucking up next to everything as reinterpretted by Japanese manga and that's pretty much what we're dealing with here; only in teeny tiny budget form like Pokemon vs Digimon (and infinitely more claustrophobic on Rocket Bar's oppressively dark stage tonight). It's that same shriekingly melodramatic, frequently operatic, "Bohemian Rhapsody" inspired energy that everyone loves to shit pineapples to with Muse. The only real difference here is the vocals: which thanks to Shannon Juvan's "effeminite" delivery (sounding rather like Daniel Johns from Silverchair at his most hormonally challenged) only makes them sound even more emotionally overblown. It's fucked up I know, and it'll likely annoy the piss out of you the first time you see it (dude.. tell me about it!) but the more you hear them the more you start to dig their shit something fierce: partly for the ripe comedy of it, but mostly for the open invite they give you to go fucking beserk in response. The Battery Kids. For them it's all about SELLING that performance, exaggerating it to truly absurd levels: through Shannon Juvan's meaty riffs, Tom Krieg's spastic whiplash rhythms, Bowl Lipson's toddler temper tantrum keys and Shannon Simpsons aristocratic abrupt style of drumming; till it practically makes your teeth rattle. It's all in the violent contrasts. From those weird interludes where they all take turns to hoot like owls, to the exploding crescendos that follow. It's all in the psychotic covers they perform: with their snarling renditions of both Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" and Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" damn near bringing the roof down. Short of Bowl Lipson donning a teeny tiny viking helmet and hitting a high castrado while their lead singer Shannon Juvan spontaneously bursts into flames it's hard to imagine how they could make it any more extreme. In many ways I'm very much relieved that they don't. Like a fourpack of redbull shoved into a microwave, this is the kind of band that should come with their own medical disclaimer. The Battery Kids. Just like all of puberty experienced in less than forty five minutes, only twice as funky!
JUPITER LEAD (**1/2) myspace :: And now before I begin with.. well, I think you can guess where this review is going (aaah don't you just LOVE this blog!?) I feel a disclaimer might be in order. You see in effort to get into this gig for free tonight: I got our headlining act to sneak me on the doorlist. Awfully decent of them too. They totally didn't have to do it, but they were more than happy to oblidge knowing full well it could totally backfire on them (and how!). So let's give them a round of applause for that, no really, that shit takes true courage, you dudes rock! Because after all they've done to get me in here tonight they totally don't deserve what's coming to them. No really, if you're Jupiter Lead I'd strongly advise you DON'T read any further. I'm SO sorry, I truly am! I mean where do I even begin!? First off: they're a loud and proud "jock rock" band in the worst possible way, they're "Zoolander: The Musical" (and I'm not even kidding with this shit: one of their guitarists Nick "Hunter" Gill even plays for Adelaide Crows.. FUCK YEAH!) which let's face it is really BAD sign. Unless you're as downright hilarious as Josh Moore (and you front a band as wildly "entertaining" as The Touch) being "jock rock" is a recipe for disaster. Jocks shouldn't form rock bands, it totally goes against the principle of the thing. Rock bands exist so that disenchanted nerds and pasty white dweebs who got beat up a lot in highschool BY jocks (ie: Thom Yorke, Billy Corgan, Kurt Cobain) can finally make themselves heard, speak of true pain and pathos, create art that truly speaks for a generation, then score with lots of loose women. Shit like THIS however is just rubbing our noses in it. No I mean really, NO! It's not a popularity contest! YOU'RE ALREADY POPULAR!! Which brings us to the second issue: as catchy as all the songs are, as downright radio friendly (Nova would totally blow a load over this shit!) it really doesn't say anything with it. Granted it's an agreeable blend of Kings Of Leon's fourth album, Coldplay, The Killers and Vampire Weekend, it hits all the right notes with the buzzing guitars and all that indie synth shit that's so IN right now (and it's driving their female fanbase fucking wild tonight) but it has no soul. Thirdly: that cover of The Killers' "Mr Brightside" was cruel and unusual punishment and YOU know it! (and scarily accurate too, so much so I feel compelled to throw away my copy of "Hot Fuss"). Fourthly: having a handclap chorus in EVERY FUCKING SONG does not constitute actual "songwriting". Fifthly: aaah fuck it, you know what? I give up! The worst thing is I just know they'll go far. There's every indication here that they'll pack out stadiums, that people will love the shit out of them, that they'll wind up in the "Confidential" section of The Adelaide Advertiser for week after week, on the red carpet for MTV, appear on Rove Live and receive endless accolade for years to come. And they're perfectly decent blokes too, if this was any other band I'd wish them the very best (I met their bassplayer Adrian Plevin before the show, totally upstanding dude, don't have a bad word to say about him!). I just don't agree with this shit on principle. It totally goes against all my beliefs. Just because you're aspiring for popularity doesn't mean you'll instantly achieve artistic credibility. They're NOT one and the same. It's not real. Real music makes you feel something, ANYTHING. And let's face it, this is nothing but fast food; and I hope sooner or later these mad fools can tell the difference!
12:34AM - After Jupiter Lead made their triumphant exit to howls of applause, only for them to be drowned out soon after by the DJs smashing yet another indie dance electro remix whatever-the-fuck at obscenely loud volumes, I stumbled off to the bar. I ordered a drink. I found the darkest corner of the venue (take your pick, fuckit, even the middle of the dancefloor would've sufficed!) and briefly considered blowing my brains out. Is THIS what the Adelaide music scene had become? Is this what it's been reduced to!? I mean we always suspected it was heading in this direction for the last year and a half, but we always thought there was STILL time to turn it all around; but I guess there's no denying it now. Soon the whole west end will be nothing more than a homogenised wasteland of fashion mannequins, black lights, banging beats, synths, skinny jeans and excessive haircare products. It's not my world granted, but good on them! maybe they'll make a tonne of money out of it!? And maybe this means I can finally take up something slightly less hazardous to my mental health now, like say: peace keeper for the Middle East, hostage negotiator or programming director for Channel 10? Just think of all that I could accomplish with that! Just THINK of all of the insane possibilities!! Wait, what the FUCK am I even on about!?
1:09AM - Yup, I suddenly realised where I was again: Rocket Bar. And that this impenetrable murk that surrounded me, this unrelenting kickdrum in my skull, so synthetic, aesthetic, robotic, this waking nightmare sinking deep into my very soul with its blackening tentacles was simply its way of making me feel "welcome". Weirder still, to think I actually chose this fate too? This dystopiate future: equal parts Blade Runner and music video by The Presets gone horribly wrong!? But that's the thing, sometimes this shit's the best thing ever (at least before midnight) I mean how was I to know they'd "switch" it up on me!? But that's Rocket Bar for you, forever the trickster fucking with your head. Yup I don't know about you but the sooner I get the fuck out of here!? the better!
2:24AM - So here I am an hour later at another wildly "fashionable" late night haunt: Supermild, laughing it up like THIS is the best shit ever. I mean I'm totally a hypocrite right? It's same fucking thing? I MEAN, C'MON!? And I admit on the surface I can see how the two could possibly be confused. Just like Rocket Bar it's pitch black in here to the point where you can't see two metres in front of your face, it's packed to the ceiling with fashion tragics almost as desperate to be seen as they are desperate to ignore you (aaah that irony never gets old does it!?), whilst DJs proceed to blow out both of our eardrums. But it's the subtle differences that make this place truly what it is. For one the choice in music, although not always brilliant (you get the occassional naff 90's dance) has a particular timeless quality to it that wins over any fickle "flavour of the minute" vibe Rocket Bar's got rocking. Get Griffy Griff or Curtis on the decks and I swear they mash out the best shit ever: oldskool hiphop, funk, the best of Motown, the craziest swinging ecclectic shit from the 20s to the 60s? FUCK YEAAAH!! Then there's the long neck bottles of beer: if nothing else, THAT wins any argument! Then there's Ruby Chew one of most ridiculously awesome bartenders you'll meet in Hindley Street (prove me wrong people.. prove me wrong!). And better yet there's the oddball freaks who populate this place and make it worth returning to again and again. Take Joe Phillis here for example, known her from way back, haven't seen her for years.. YEAAARS I TELL'S YA!!
Or what about Sammy Bruno here: bassplaying gimp for Lyla, providing everyone with endless hours of entertainment (or perhaps just the five seconds it took me to take this photo) I mean how could you possibly go wrong with lunatics like this!? Does it look like I'm nearly drunk enough yet!? FUCK NO, let's hit the bar again! Why because I completely forgot the reason, that's why!
Then there's these wildly two colourful characters: Anthony "Rock 'N Roll Cliche" Callisto and Galina "Femme Fatale" Petkova, who since they've appeared in my blog two weeks ago doing pretty much the exact same shit that they're doing right now (except for Anthony who's now swigging from his drink.. YES, EXCITEMENT!!) I have absolutely no fucking clue WHAT to write as an "hilarious" caption. Or maybe I just did? I know! The "adventure" never ends in Supermild now does it!?
3:18AM - Yeah ok I admit it there's absolutely fuckall people in here tonight (at least none that I knew) it's a total bust, so much so that I actually spent the last fifteen minutes taking photos of these two hilarious drunks: simply because they kept complaining that I posted all these "un-photogenic shots" of them last week (pfft.. I mean really, when do I EVER do that!?) and they wanted me to set things right. And since I had nothing better to do? fuckit why the hell not!?
Bored!? pfft.. I'm not bored, I'm never bored, I'm having the time of my life in here! YEAAAS!!
4:07AM - Which might explain why I decided to duck off to "Transmission" at the Bull & Bear moments later instead: celebrating four wildly successful years as Adelaide's premiere fashion tragic hotspot (once a month on a Friday) to get shitfaced and dance like a spastic to really bad indie dance music. Where obviously absolutely "nothing happened", as quite conveniently I've since deleted all photographic evidence to the contrary (isn't that right Renee? good times!) only to stumble right back to Supermild to keep on drinking as if I never left. In fact I don't even know why I'm mentioning any of this shit now. I mean who in their right mind EVER leaves Supermild!?
Yup, there are those of us who are at the forefront of "fashion", there are those of us who follow it, then there are those like me who the minute they SEE a trend emerging freak the fuck out and do their utmost to escape it. Still, it's hard to fight a dominant meme, and once you're caught in that "event horizon" you're in for the long haul. All those synths, all those four four beats, those buzzing guitars, they blur into the one and they follow me everywhere I go. I see the same funeral procession clad in black, hiding in black shadows, while DJs smash indie dance and electro back to back. Maybe it's a recessionist thing. Maybe it's 1989 all over again. Maybe it's a reductionist way of thinking. Why diversify? Why take the risk? Let's all hide in plain sight! Who knows!? For as long as I've studied its ebb and flow I've never truly understood it. I simply try and follow my own and hope for the best. Because I swear to you now if I get another Friday night quite like this one? almost to identical to the one that came before!? Duuude I might just go fucking insane!