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...
STEERING BY STARS + LIKE LEAVES + CORTEZ "ABRACADABRA" @ ROCKET BAR / Friday August 21st 2009
This episode of Spoz's Rant is dedicated to one Kassandra "Shitcrazy" Poulos: the awesomest bartender Rocket Bar has ever known (with the possible exception of every other bartender Rocket Bar has ever known who I'm clearly offending by not already dedicating an episode to them). Obviously she doesn't work here anymore (*sniff* I know!), she left here a few weeks ago, and along with her she's taken one of the last few reasons I ever had for dragging myself through this shit hole again.. I shit you not! Short of those awesome three dollar "happy hour" beers on a Friday night, cracking jokes with their resident mixer Patrick "The Fidel Castro" Saracino, or the indescribable joy I'd experience if ever I saw this place burn to the ground ("meth lab explosion" anyone?), there was NO way in hell they were ever gonna get me back for an encore.. NO FUCKING WAY!! I'd quite simply HAD enough of all the abuse! Every fucking night it's been the same: the same skull raping electro smashed to ear bleeding levels, the same impenetrable soul sucking darkness rife with clique born conspiracy, the same plastic people and fashion fascists licking the walls and ceiling, that same inescapable feeling of dread that any minute now their "evil twin" Electric Circus would simply swallow them whole and usher in a thousand years of Satan's rule!? NO MORE I SWEAR!! But then I saw THIS lineup tonight, this impossible coming together of all things good and pure that this Adelaide scene could possibly ever aspire to and I just knew I had to give it another try. It didn't matter if this place was the living embodiment of the Death Star, Mount Doom, Modular Records and Voldermort's dark rule combined: for Steering By Stars, Like Leaves and Cortez? Fuck it! I'd go almost anywhere, even into the very heart of hell to experience it!
Still I admit even THEN it was a struggle. There I was past the hour of nine, still at home, still twiddling about on facebook, still weighing up my options, when Lejla the photography midget popped up all chirpy in a chat window. Recently returning from a whirlwind trip to the United States and Canada, she sent me links to a whole host of colourful musicians she discovered in Chicago. Awesome and inspiring alt country and alternative acts like: Tom Schraeder, Inchworm and Jesse Woods (and about as far removed from all the indie "buzz" bands that'd been plaguing my existence as you could possibly imagine). No shit they were just the B12 vitamin shot I sorely needed. They reminded me of just why I chose this hilarious mess in the first place! "Hey maybe it won't BE all that bad tonight!?". I left the house with renewed hope. And upon arriving at Rocket Bar it appeared luck was indeed on my side. Welcomed inside by the whimsical refrains of Grandmaster Melle Mel's "White Lines", it was soon followed by the finest in oldskool party hiphop: Beastie Boy's "Root Down", Beats Internationals' "Dub Be Good To Me", Blueboy's "Remember Me", Arrested Development, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and House Of Pain (to name but a few). "Could it be that Rocket Bar's thrashing something half decent for a change that DOESN'T make me wanna hoover so much cocaine that my face goes missing!?". Yes.. yes it is! It was a small difference granted, but the effect was immediate, the good time grooves infectious, everyone was in a mad mood to celebrate! For it appeared that we had chanced upon that rare exception to the rule: that one night out of a hundred where Rocket Bar was indeed the awesomest place to be! I know you're shaking your head in disbelief.. but I swear to you now that it IS still possible!
CORTEZ (****) myspace :: Yup, our opening act summed up the miraculous turnaround quite brilliantly when one of their guitarists Gabe Phillips looked around him during an early song break (no, not the screaming midget who looks like an 80's John Cussack, the other one), noted just how incomprehensibly black the "stage lighting" was, and jokingly remarked: "wow! it's kinda dark up here isn't it?", only to further clarify (almost apologetically so) that he "kinda liked it". Obviously I pissed myself laughing over what was clearly the understatement of the century (dude, don't get me started!), only to be shocked to discover that not once, but twice, people actually came up to the DJ decks and attempted to rectify it (duuude!!). Granted after all that effort it STILL wasn't the brightest shit we'd seen in here, but in stark contrast to their usual somber setting (ie: when even lighting your own farts would achieve far better results) it still had me practically weeping for joy over what they achieved! And it didn't end there. The minute they tore into their set tonight you just knew this wasn't any 'ol "fashion tragic night" at Rocket Bar either. It was that refreshingly abrasive sound, sans synths, cheesy handclaps, footy club choruses, or shitty indie dancefloor rhythms that lit up the room quite like a molotov cocktail hurled through the storefront window of a tanning salon. Yup, Cortez, quite like their Conquistador namesake killed the very minute they hit the stage. No shit, it was just what I was looking for! Nothing about their sound was "clean cut". Guitars interplayed between vocalists Gabe Phillips and Tom Spall were refreshingly coarse, corroded, screamingly insurgent, like a busted up old chainsaw; yet reigned in ever so artfully with pendulum precision. James Hasting's bass was overdriven like a supercharged petrol driven menace, like a V-8 Interceptor straight out of a Mad Max movie and just as equally unstoppable. Whilst Ben White whipped through that backline, blunt and bludgeoning and yet unwaveringly to the point, with a drumming style not too dissimilar (especially with the high set cymbals) to John Stanier from Helmet. In style picture anything from Nirvana, Shihad, The Mark Of Cain to the volatile extremes of Children Collide. In delivery picture a pack of junkyard dogs let loose on a late night interloper. Although occassionally lost in the changovers tonight (their between song banter all but nonexistent save for a few awkward exchanges) they didn't for a minute compromise on the blow by blow account of their songs. The ferocious numbers let loose by Tom Spall proved especially deadly (as always), while even the more "reflective" numbers sung by Gabe Phillips were starting to find their feet (beyond any "shrinking violet tendancies" they might have had before). Yup there was something so utterly cathartic about this shit, like they were performing a much needed exorcism on a venue long thought to be beyond all hope. In many ways they were the opening act that Rocket Bar SO richly deserved after all this time. They burned a war path for everything that was to follow, like babarians and Viking beserkers laying waste to a decadent order. So that now quite like the proverbial phoenix this unholy hell could rise again, forged in our own image!
LIKE LEAVES (*****) myspace :: So far everything was coming up Milhouse. Me and my like minded revolutionaries, Cortez, by book and by sword, had achieved the impossible tonight: the bloodless coup. Even with the lights dimmed low again, the DJ continued to bang them block rocking booty jams to much applause. People all around me were beaming with smiles and embracing us as "liberators", it was too good to be true, it was just like 2006 all over again! (maaan those were the salad days!). But we knew we couldn't rest easy, not just yet. Rocket Bar had done it to us before, the classic reverse "Trojan" tactic, allowing us one or a pair of gift horses to pony up the support then *BAM* there's blood on the walls again. Lest we forgot the eye gouging terror (lest we mention their name!?) that followed on from 20th Century Graduates and The Battery Kids two weeks ago. Or the gross abomination they paraded before us after Lyla last month (and I'm STILL having nightmares about that one!). No, we couldn't let that happen, not again, surely too many lives were a stake! And so we brought in act two. Like Leaves. Humble they may be, almost to a fault, yet do not be fooled, they're true artisans of the scene! With an act of this esteemed calibre we quite simply couldn't fail! For one, every band their "sticks man" Ryan Manolakis has served in (he of the omnipresent drumkit) has become nothing short of an inspiration: Mr Wednesday, BrotherSister, Cookie Baker and Bing Goes To Monaco (to name but a few?). For years now both Daniel Varricchio on guitar and Patrick Saracino on bass have served up masterful mischief in The Bitches Of Zeus (backing bands to both Damo Suzuki and Mani Neumeier) as ecclectic solo artists in their own right and as no nonsense sound engineers (you may recognise the latter as the dude "rolling his eyes" most nights behind the mixing desk at Rocket Bar). And how could we forget "recent" addition Juliet Hunter on violin for her ethereal presence in Artax Mission (lysergic legends of the psychedelic underbelly): she of the golden pipes that transcend both time and space. It's been mere months since last I'd seen them live (have they been working on an album? or is it an EP? either way it'll be out later this year) but I swear in this demon dimension it's felt like years! I've said this countless times before but they're truly a feast, they're food for the soul. Especially tonight in this heart of darkness as we swarmed like moths to the flame to drink our fill. Each and every song from opener "Fruit", through to "Swordfight" and "Complex Denial" filled the gnawing spaces between our ears with a symphony of riches. Possessing both a dizzying level of detail in their swirling miasma of guitars, violins and drums and yet also a hypnotic accessibility in the bass, it celebrated in all the contrasts: equally aesthetic as it was antagonistic, equally as savage as it was statesman'esque (or in other words: equally as extreme as The Mars Volta as it was succinct like My Disco). And quite like their namesake in kind we absorbed it all like chlorophyll, sequestered that carbon and neutralised all the negative mojo that once made this place so utterly noxious, continuing what Cortez had started only to cleanse the air completely. Their epic latter half especially: "Falling For A Fleeting Moment" and "Mercy Sound" made all that divided us simply irrelevant, so that by their closing number "Monument" we were as one, a single tree connected, swaying in the breeze. Fuuuck I know! and all this from a forty five minute set!? Yup, Like Leaves truly made that happen!
STEERING BY STARS (****) myspace :: Somehow we had succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. We had achieved the impossible. Thanks to Like Leaves we had ushering in nothing short of an "Age Of Aquarius", if only for a moment, here beyond the event horizon of a black hole. There was no good or evil here, there was no need: only peace and unity, a singularity in thought, all singing in harmony through a rainbow of ecclectic and multi-dimensional frequencies.. I shit you not! even the DJs were giving us the thumbs up! either that or someone had slipped me a seriously strong hit of peyote into that pint I was drinking and I wasn't long for this world (either way what an awesome way to go!). But hey, why stop there? Why not attempt something truly ambitious? Why not reach for those proverbial outer limits, why not lick the sun like Icarus, and make those quietly contemplative souls Steering By Stars our headlining act tonight!? FUCK YEAAAH!! LET'S PUNCH SATAN SQUARE IN THE NUTS!! Still with all our boasting it was no mean feat. Pulling a stunt like this in Rocket Bar (even tonight) would be rather like hosting a black tie "wine and cheese society" function in a septic tank. Or better yet hosting it in the baboon enclosure of the Adelaide Zoo, at night, with all the lights switched off with nary a tranquiliser dart in sight. Still we had to give it a shot. In symbolism alone it would represent a true turning point in history: where the Adelaide music scene would once more be about the "music" (wow, what a wacky concept!?) and not just an endless fashion parade of "scensters" desperate to cash in on it. Yup in every conceivable way: cardian clad, shoegazing and hopelessly introverted, Steering By Stars ARE that antithesis, that shining antidote to Rocket Bar's extremes. To see them live is much less about the spectacle, or even about the sound that they're conveying but more about the act of meditation. In quite the same way that you would pause to reflect upon a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh: studying each brush stroke in depth (or especially a Jackson Pollock in their more psychotic interludes), you would study each keystroke here in a quest for deeper meaning. Their influences are numerous, yet blissfully obscure. Think M83, Explosions In The Sky, Deerhunter, The Horrors and A Place To Bury Strangers. Or in more familiar territory simply think back to My Bloody Valentine, The Cure's "Disintegration" or Vangelis' sweeping filmscore to Blade Runner. Their arrangements are largely orchestral in feel: alternating between explosive white bursts of post punk and howling asphyxiate rage (their lead singer Lachlan Wilson especially, letting loose during "Dissonance" tonight half wondering if his microphone was even switched on) to more contemplative numbers loitering in lightly dappled keys and whisper quiet feedback. They even had a whimsical interlude that featured nothing but the "sound" of their guitarist Rory O'Connor attempting to win a staring contest with a xylophone. Yup, it can be a bit of a tall order for most audiences to wrap their head around (especially outside of the Jade Monkey and The Grace Emily), especially when they're out of their fucking minds drunk and climbing the walls. In fact in hindsight it might have been TOO ambitious a stunt to pull on Rocket Bar tonight (even with a "home team" advantage). But still the thought and the message that they conveyed were no less powerful. For nothing quite beats pulling a "Gandhi" to truly fuck with an evil empire!
1:43AM - So there we were dumbfounded, gobsmacked, flabbergasted and exhibiting every other spacial spasm in between utterly unable to cope with what we had just witnessed in here tonight. A full live lineup at Rocket Bar, all of them awesome, unique, ecclectic, not one of them gargling the pink bits of a goat or gnawing on a duck's twat (or anything else you'd find listed on "the specials menu" at a Chinese restaurant) and better yet we had the audience numbers to support them!? FUUUCK!! Of course like you, I was waiting for it all to go horribly wrong; as it invariably happens in Rocket Bar around midnight. The crowds switch up on you and *BAM* you're upto your armpits in dickheads (you can practically set your watch by it!). We waited.. almost an hour went by, we kept on drinking and laughing it up.. and still nothing! It was awesome, that DJ had the dancefloor pumping with the dopest shit! Then a few minutes shy of one thirty they finally snuck one in: MSTRKRFT's "Bounce". Granted it was an isolated incidence, it could've been a glitch, but we didn't want to take our chances. We finished our last drinks, eyed that exit and we got the fuck out..
Still, before I could flee what I'd half imagine to be the closing scene of Poltergeist at this rate (no really.. what DID you people do with the "real" Rocket Bar!?), I'm ambushed by Like Leaves in the stairwell looking to steal a quick photo opportunity. Clearly I wasn't the only one shocked by the "turn of events" tonight and the beaming look on their faces truly said it all! (with the possible exception of Dan who appears to be "downwind" of whatever Patrick ate for dinner.. hmmm).
1:56AM - Quite like every other Friday night out that begins with all the best intentions and ends up in a horrible drunken mess at Supermild (or in other words if it's not funny the first time? keep doing it every Friday night for a year and I'm sure it'll be freaking hilarious!) I thought I'd make a quick stopover at The Ed Castle first, in effort to steal as much "horrible drunken mess" off of the Strangelove DJs beer rider as inhumanely possible (or in other words: see above), which I totally thought would be a genius idea at the time. Gavin from The Scarlet Ives however thought it would be a stupid idea at the time (he said I should have gone straight to Supermild instead). I obviouly ignored his good advice and went there anyways.. and yup, as it turns out it was already closed. So Gavin, if you're reading this, this is that moment where you get to tell me: "I told you so!".
2:01AM - No sooner did I decide to head back to Supermild, did I bump into a lone supermarket trolley that had apparently lost its way somewhere between the intersection of Gray and Currie Street: quite possibly the SAME supermarket trolley that I always seem to find down here (even from over a year ago), despite the fact that it's nowhere near ANY supermarket chain that I'm acutely aware of. And since I was clearly way to drunk to argue with the first dumb thought that came into my head (I mean pfft.. why else would I be here on a Friday night!?), I figured I had to do something about it. So not only did I take it for a joyride down a side street in the hopes that I could deliver it TO Supermild, and not only was I a stupid enough to take a video of it, but I also thought it'd be hilarious days later (when of sober and sound mind) to upload it onto youtube and publish it onto this blog. I know.. I truly have the most awesome career aspirations don't I?
2:03AM - Unfortunately those "career aspirations" were all but cut short the minute I slammed it into this tollbar leading into that open air Hindley Street carpark before Cargo Club (yeah you know the one). Yup I'm such a genius aren't I!? And not only did it not occur to me that I could simply go "around it", I also didn't (not even for a moment) entertain the notion that I could simply "lift" that tollbar to free it either. Instead I pissed myself laughing, took a photo and left it there.
2:07AM - Eventually I arrive at Supermild, still laughing over that utterly unnecessary detour that had lead me here, only to laugh even louder when I discovered that the ridiculously long lineup that was here all of twenty minutes ago on the way to The Ed Castle was gone and I was free to enter whenever I pleased. Yup that's right Gavin, WHO'S THE SMART ONE NOW HUH!? WOOOO!!
2:11AM - Still laughing as I promptly fall down that flight of stairs and into the basement below, I dust myself off, bluff my way past the door bitch: "oh of COURSE I'm on the list!", take a photo of their resident leprechaun for no other reason than she looks trippy as hell behind the DJ booth (yes I officially have the brain capacity of a moth) and then head straight to the bar to get even MORE stupifyingly drunk, as clearly I've just demonstrated that I'm not drunk enough as it is.
2:18AM - Stumbling off from the bar with my beer: I'm surprised to discover THESE awesome artworks inked on the walls under the stairwell and on the corridors leading to the beer garden..
And not at all surprised that moments later some hysterical drunk would choose to jump in front of one of them hoping I'd take a photograph of it. Awesome! Of course I have no freaking clue WHO this "hysterical drunk" is (I mean pfft.. when do I ever!?). Still I gotta give her bonus points for pulling a "Crystal Castles" on me: as it definitely beats the infinitely lamer "Van She" tactic.
4:17AM - Two hours pass with little or no incident, doing exactly what? who the fuck cares!? Until somewhere between the ninth or tenth beer (otherwise known as the same blood alcohol content that produces 95% of the photos you see on facebook) I felt the retarding need to document absolutely everything that clearly wasn't happening around me. Like Sarah here for instance (who I apparently met weeks ago): who looks simply "overjoyed" to have met me AGAIN tonight..
Or her faithful sidekick Sophie.. or wait, is it the other way around? (feel free to argue that shit amongst yourselves) who clearly isn't shitting herself in the slightest as I was taking this photo..
Then there's this awesome eighties reject, who since I never bothered to get his real name (what, are we the Sunday Mail social pages all a sudden!? no, well shut the fuck up then!) I'll simply refer to as "Flock Of Seagulls": as clearly no one has ever cracked THAT joke a million times before..
Of course no alcoholic camera misadventure is ever complete without Alex Dubois (Supermild's answer to Fez from "That '70s Show") jumping in front of the lens again. As clearly he hasn't made nearly enough appearances in this blog as it is. So fuck it.. let's just throw him in some more!
I would also like to take this moment to point out that we were actually pulling all of these faces knowing full well just how ridiculously they'd look. Or at least I was pretty certain that's what both Sarah and Sophie were thinking at the time (or at least that's the lame excuse I'm using for Sophie in THIS particular photo). Wait, where am I again and who the fuck ARE these people!?
4:35AM - Speaking of confused: here's me moments later holding up a beer that's clearly NOT mine (it's a Hahn Super Dry, I mean.. seriously, what the fuck!?) in fact I wouldn't even have the foggiest clue who's beer it was originally, except to say that Henri Dubois (Fez's brother) stole it from someone else moments earlier, and left it in my "safe keeping" just now. Which we all know is simply code for: "Spoz you should totally drink all of this beer, it's like the BEST SHIT EVER!".
Which obviously explains THIS photo I took moments later..
Which brings us to this bug eyed freak on the right, who you may recognise as Mick "Peestain" Armstrong: former guitarist from Tyger Tyger amongst other things (and no you really don't want to click on that peestain link either). Earlier today he discovered his prized car (a 1992 model "something or other") NOT where he originally parked it, but pushed back a full fifteen metres with its front bonnet smashed in thanks to some unidentified arseclown who rammed into it. When I saw him at Rocket Bar earlier tonight he was all bent out of shape (excuse the pun), he even showed me a gruesome photo on his phone, and quite understandably he's just spent the past six or more hours "getting over it" by getting as drunk as inhumanely possible (it was his mum's car and everything!). As for what any of this shit has got to do with anything else that's happened to me tonight? yeaaah probably not a hell of a lot.. but it really makes you think now doesn't it!?
Yup, I believe there's an Ice Cube song that sums this night up quite beautifully. Or at least the first half of the night that ever makes a lick of sense. Or more specifically the last four lines that I remember the most: " Drunk as hell but no throwing up / Half way home and my pager still blowing up / Today I didn't even have to use my A.K. / I got to say it was a good day!". NO SHIT! As much as none of this junk has anything to do with the ghetto, keeping it real, busting a cap in anyone's ass (or in a donkey's arse for that matter): any night that doesn't get ruined by Rocket Bar? and weirder still is all the BETTER for Rocket Bar? and still goes on to end on a high note!? (wait.. what!? that dude's car got totally fucked over, he didn't even have insurance.. that's a shit ending!) is equally as improbable! Aaaah no shit! If only EVERY night was as awesome as this!?