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...
LEADER CHEETAH + CLOUD CONTROL + THE BATTERY KIDS LIVE @ JIVE + THE ED CASTLE / Saturday November 7th 2009
In the ever popular "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" series by Douglas Adams (preferably experienced in the five book "trilogy" and NOT as the blitheringly ambivalent 2005 Hollywood film adaptation starring the equally incomprehensible Mos Def as Ford Prefect.. go figure!?) there's this whimsical piece of technology called the Total Perspective Vortex: "allegedly the most horrible torture device to which a sentient being can be subjected". It works as follows: "When you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little mark, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, "You are here."". Or in other words you are given a glimpse into just how insignificant your entire life is in the grand cosmic scheme of things, the grim realisation of which will ultimately kill you. Now obviously all of this is nothing but fiction (did I mention it's powered by a single piece of fairy cake!? no shit!) but if ever you want to experience it for real in the Adelaide music scene: you need only read The Adelaide Advertiser, or better yet flip straight to the Adelaide (Confidental) section to lose your will to live. For in those two pages you'll discover what is truly "celebrated" in this city. And unless you're a weather presenter, an aspiring model, a sporting identity, a reality show contestant, Pink touring here for the upteen billionth time (or better yet one of the founding members of Former Child Stars) you're simply not "it". Being an Adelaide musician WON'T get you famous, not even in your own city, not even in your street press that'll happily devote more space to "I Love Schnitzels", social pics and fashion spreads than promote your pissy little "album launch". It won't even get you laid. Seriously telemarketers make more money than you do (and what do they do for us!? NOTHING!!). Obviously it's a dead end, it's a fucking joke, everyone's moved onto "better things" like Guitar Hero, DJ club nights, iphones apps and product placement. I MEAN WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE ALL DOING HERE MAAAN!? WE'RE WASTING OUR LIVES AWAY!!
And yet despite all this, the Adelaide scene continues to exist outside of The Entertainment Centre. Outside of all the pyrotechnic circus spectaculars, lip synching scandals, tabloid exposés, high energy dance disasters, raging "sexual (or even species) ambiguity" and all that other artery clogging cheese you continue to hear about day and night (whether you want to or not). Strange but true! Stranger still it's practically thriving in this city (better than ever in fact) with or without anyone at large taking ANY outside interest in it at all. Yup here in the Adelaide scene the outside world simply doesn't matter. We get along perfectly fine without it! Thanks to a littany of self absorbed bloggers, facebook fansites, twitter feeds, Triple J Unearthed, youtube, and yes EVEN crappy 'ol myspace (wait that shit still exists!?) it's STILL possible to have a "wildly successful career" in music without ever achieving anything other than "music" (or even financial stability.. HA!). Yup we're talking that which is oh so rare in this world of stupifying commodity: the career musician. It's NOT a myth, it's NOT a laughable contradiction in terms (well actually it is but that's besides the point!), it STILL exists and it's out there like Bigfoot ready to be documented as fact. And tonight at Jive (and possibly elsewhere as well) we'll continue to collect these "proud specimens" (turds and all), poke them with sticks, ridicule them at large, forget why we even came here in the first place and publish them all on a website that no one ever reads! For here in the arse end of the zeitgeist: insignificance is NOT a curse, but a license for artistic freedom!
20TH CENTURY GRADUATES (****) myspace :: Which could be no better introduction for our opening act (wait.. I swear that's not an insult!) for here there can truly be NO argument: they're genuine lifelong "music nerds" of the most hilariously tragic kind (which I think we can all agree often make for the best live bands!). Yup they may only have been playing together for little over six months now, and yet even in THAT short time they've still built an envious reputation for themselves. Not only for being the most "ridiculously upbeat" indie pop band in all the Adelaide scene: or at least until The Honey Pies and The Keepsakes (sharpening their safety scissors and plastic picnic sporks as I speak) both conspire to destroy them, but also for their unassuming yet accomplished musicianship that shows they've truly been at it for years well before they even thought to form this band. Featuring current (and former members) from The Keepsakes, Lumonics, The Warsaw Flowers, and whatever thrashcore/screamo band Larissa Perry must have "escaped from" to get here (I've got my dibs on Slipknot) they're not just an Adelaide supergroup (seriously it STILL kills me Lumonics never released an album) they're also proving themselves far and beyond the sum of their parts. Yup even here stuck in the dreaded "graveyard shift" at Jive tonight (with barely a thirty minute set to show for it) they're no less diabolical in their potency; oh no they're nothing short of the GREAT SATAN itself! 20th Century Graduates. In essence think of them as a spastically happy mashup between The Shins, Belle & Sebastian, Broken Social Scene and a whizz bang episode of Sesame Street; only calling them THAT is rather like attempting to describe a rainbow to a blind man. Better yet imagine yourself inside of a fuckoff giant sized bag of Skittles, inflated like a bouncy castle, stuffed inside of a hamster ball in turn, and crowdsurfed through a kindergarten on a mad tab of acid. Now picture all of that on a perfect summer's day. Now throw in that lethal combination of James' trumpet and Larissa with her tambourine bouncing about the stage like all her Christmases have come at once (awwww I know huh!?). And in that sweet spot moments BEFORE your head explodes like a candy piñata is where the 20th Century Graduates like to operate. WHOAAA FUCK!! Yup it's absolutely impossible to hate them, believe me I've tried, I may even need a cult deprogrammer to shake myself loose of their vice like grip before I sign over all my earthly possessions and join whatever whackjob suicide cult they MUST clearly be running. So much so, with such giddy technicolour sing-a-longs tonight as "Misery Jane", "Keeping Up With the Jones'" and "Fireflies": there's nowhere to run, NOWHERE TO HIDE, you can only but beam a mile wide grin and hope like hell the cops can find your dental remains. Yup that's the 20th Century Graduates, we can be thankful they only played such a short set tonight (almost annoyingly so). Because with this much Vitamin C vibrancy, and in large enough doses? duuude there'll be truly no stopping them from killing us all!
CLOUD CONTROL (****1/2) myspace :: Which brings us to our second act tonight, and yet another one of those wacky "high rotation" artists that Triple J is ever so fond of beating me black and blue with anytime I'm foolish enough to flick on the radio. FUCK YEAAAH!! And yet as much as I STILL don't approve of their assinine brainwashing techniques (no really if I hear Scott Dooley spin Dizzee Rascal's "Dirtee Cash" one more time I SWEAR I'LL FREAKING EXPLODE!!), and it maaay just be the Stockholm syndrome kicking in to compensate (wow took damn it long enough!) I dare say their "aim" is actually starting to improve. Yup far from the dark days of yore when they used to dig up shrieking arseclowns like Operator Please! and thrash about Architecture In Helsinki well beyond a human rights violation or two (or in other words well beyond the point that Baha Men's "Who Let The Dogs Out" crossfaded with the Crazy Frog ringtone starts to sound a whole lot more preferable) a lot of the free spirited junk they've been "unearthing" of late I swear has been nothing short of inspired! Take Philadelphia Grand Jury for example. I mean sure that first song of theirs was every definition of an eye gouging aneurysm (and then some), but when you see them live? DUUUDE!! Or what about Washington from last week!? no shit, I STILL can't get over how mind blowing their set was (and I wasn't kidding about proposing marriage either!) And now they've done it to me again!? Yup Cloud Control from the Blue Mountains are a rare find indeed. They're one of a kind! Arriving on stage as a solemn two piece, Alister Wright on guitar harmonising with Heidi Lenffer on keys: like an Amish Clark Kent joining forces with one of The Mamas & The Papas to sing Winter Hymnals (and I so wish I was kidding too!). Their look practically screams "home schooling with Julie Andrews and The Sound Of Music" (or better yet "locked up in a cellar for 24 years with Josef Fritzl".. yeeeouch!) but this was nothing but the entrée to the freak feast that followed when the rest of the band: Jeremy Kelshaw on bass and Ulrich Lenffer on drums joined them on stage. Starting with a minimal Fleet Foxes feel they build up the intensity song after song, layer upon layer, to introduce elements of everything ecclectic from My Morning Jacket, Josh Homme's "The Desert Sessions" and Paul Simon's "Graceland" (by way of Vampire Weekend) till they're nothing short of a freak-folk explosion that I swear I couldn't get enough of. Everything from spirited yodeling, jubilent yelps, choiral harmonies, knee slapping bass rhythms, tribal drumming, church organs and frenzied guitar strumming were thrown into the mix. It was the maddest thing ever watching it all unfold. And yet as utterly chaotic as it was, it was ever so expertly crafted, never a dull moment, never short of a hook or two to draw you in further. Their signature high rotations: "Death Cloud" and "Gold Canary" were the obvious highlights (in featuring all of the above), but there were so many other colourful tangents to explore, that gave so much added richness to their sound. Such vibrancy! Such character! Who knew all these hayseed yokels had it in 'em!? Cloud Control. No shit, no other band has made living like a hopeless shut-in sound ever so good!
LEADER CHEETAH (****1/2) myspace :: Which brings us to our headlining act: who I swear in all the times I've seen them this year have done their utmost to "shoot themselves in the foot" with their curious choice in support act. And I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way, far from it, to their credit they've always had exceptional taste. Take their headlining tour back in February for example, when they invited none other than The Middle East, only to be blown clear out of the water by all their jawdropping sounds (no really that performance still ranks as one of the best gigs I've seen all year!). Or what about when they hosted their album launch back in June only to be foolish enough to invite: The Weevils to melt all our faces off, Like Leaves on the very night they unleashed "Mercy Sound" and No Through Road.. well simply for being "No Through Road" (which are a hard act to follow just for Matt Banham's mad eccentricities alone). And then they do it all over again with Cloud Control and the 20th Century Graduates tonight? WHAT THE FUCK ARE THEY THINKING!? And yet as much as they're clearly not making it any easier on themselves (no shit!) it also speaks volumes for just how at ease they are with their lot in life. Unlike the mad desperation of old when both Dan and Joel Crannitch performed as The Pharaohs (the quintessential "fashion band" if ever I heard one): Leader Cheetah are a longterm career trajectory, not only in the "world weary" sound they weave but also in how they unveil their depth of character over time. Out of all the albums I've sampled this year I simply can't let go of "The Sunspot Letters" for this very same reason: it only improves with subsequent listens. Which not only gives them more breathing space to let the support acts compliment the experience (I mean who has need for egos here!?), but also makes them the more difficult for me to review as a "detached observer". Still Leader Cheetah hardly disappoint tonight. Although this was apparently the "weaker" of their two sets at Jive this week (and last night's was the best show of their lives!? sheeiiit of all my dumb luck!) and a few technical issues DID crop up, it didn't for a moment detract from their slow cooked sound. Arriving on stage to a suitably "pine lodge" lit surround, they launched into their set with little or no fanfare, putting the focus squarely on the music. Most striking initially is Dan's voice: that warm crackle, that flickering quaver, how it invites you in like an open fire (even if it does occassionally remind you of Fran Drescher doing her very best Neil Young impersonation.. go figure!?) it's not the only quality that's evident here. From Dan Pash's weather beaten strummings (like a faithful 'ol greyhound with ear muffs attached), to Mark Harding's loping riffs from his oversized acoustic bass, to Joel Crannitch's lumberjack antics on the drums (who's itchy trigger coverage of the kit especially is so ever much more flamboyant live than it ever was on record) it's an all encompassing experience. Joined by Tom Spall from Cortez, who provides extra violin for "Dianne" and "Fly Golden Arrow Pt. 1" (to name but a few) and with their high rotations "Bloodlines" and "Alibi" well received as always, the real highlight here is the new song they cooked up with all five members singing group harmonies. And although I obviously captured it on video, since I promised the band I WOULDN'T upload it (or in other words you totally didn't ask me privately, and I totally didn't slip you a link *ahem*) let's just say it shows they've got a bright future ahead of them. Overall it's regrettably a "short set": eight songs at best, but all the richer in the territory they covered (and all the more climactic as Dan Crannitch and co near about destroy the stage in the shredding finale). Leader Cheetah. Yup even on a "bad night" like this they're still golden. And the best bit is? you sense this is only just the beginning for them. Like a fine wine their signature sound can only but grow from here!
12:30AM - Now that all the live bands have had their all too fleeting moment in the sun (and yet no less richly rewarding) Jive is once again flooded by the infamous Saturday night stampede, outnumbering our insignificant presence five to one for the "all important" DJ club night that follows (what? is that me rolling my eyes over the fact that they ALWAYS finish bands early on a Saturday night just to make way for this crap EVERY FUCKING WEEK!? oh of course not!). Still as much as I love to ridicule the "Archdemon Of Doom" running this scam into the ground for the past two years (aka: DJ Craig), at least it's NOT another indie disco cheese installment we're dealing with here but his alternating (and ridiculously awesome) sixties theme night "Dig" instead. Schweeet! Which of course means about as much to ME as a slight change in "white noise frequencies" (ie: as I hide away in my corner, editing out all my dud photos, drinking my beer, all but oblivious to the retarding scenster shitstorm around me) it's no less welcome all the same. And then after an hour or so soaking it all in, suitably numbed by the whole experience, I slip off into the night again.
12:35AM - Only to stumble off into The Ed Castle (aka: the pub where no one will give you "the time of day", but will still stalk you on facebook). Where I'm sure to get much more of the same: only five times more scenster tragic, fuckoff fashionable and whimsically obnoxious. YEAAAS!!
12:36AM - Speaking of such: while next to everyone else was out in the beergarden or the front bar desperate to be seen, or otherwise getting themselves retardingly munted to the indie disco DJs and the "Plus One" Facebook tagging spree that'd be sure to follow (oh don't you just love it!?) I happened to stumble upon THIS in the almost empty band room. The last thirty or so seconds of what appeared to Carnation (a band from Melbourne) self destructing on stage. Awesome! Now far be it for me to judge a band on the merits of this shit alone, but if the rest of their set is anywhere near as head exploding as this!? I don't care if they're ripping off Nick Cave's The Birthday Party something fierce (because apparently nobody's doing that!) THIS is the kind of junk I'd happily drink myself comatose to! No shit, next time they tour here? I'm so bringing me a funnel!
THE BATTERY KIDS (****) myspace :: But the good times didn't end there. OOOH FUCK NO!! For just a few minutes later we're treated to The Ed Castle's headlining act (although that may just be a technicality at best), here to launch their brand new single "Ancient Curse" to even less of a crowd than before. YEAAAS!! Still to their credit, although they may only have been performing to thirty people (and only half of them were even aware they were playing on stage? aaah don't you just love The Ed Castle!?), they were no less voracious in their undying appetite for this band. No shit, The Battery Kids are no strangers to being Adelaide's "best kept secret". So much so they've actually run with it as a recurring theme. And it's not just in their wacky EP and song titles: "Requiem For A Nightmare", "Waiting For The End Of The World", or the ever so aptly entitled "Ghost Town" (a sly pisstake for this city's reputation as a "raging hotspot" if ever I heard one). Or in their signature style that could be best described as "Daniel Johns from Silverchair fronts Muse and performs it like it's a Rock Eisteddfod" (with accompanying spirit fingers!? squeeeeee!). But more so in how they well and truly treat EVERY show like it could be their last. Yup there's really no such thing as OVERDOING IT when you're The Battery Kids: operatic acapellas, mashing chords, busted keys, rubberband bass antics, torn kickdrums, sprained ankles and aneurysms, they've got it all! And tonight was truly no exception. Bursting onto the stage to a mad screen projection of one of their latest music videos (I forget which but it has this wickedarse "Dawn Of The Dead" meets "Cloverfield" glitchy low budget aesthetic to it) and some of the BEST fuck off lighting I've seen in here in well over SIX MONTHS (no really? Tom Capogreco, I don't care if you've got goofy man bits.. marry me!?) they hit us like nothing short of Hurricane Katrina making mad love to the Book Of Revelation. Oh yes, this was a "spleens and intestinal tract splattered over the walls" type performance in the best way possible! Shannon Juvan on leads sounded like all of puberty erupting at once, whilst both Bowl Lipson on keys and Tom Krieg on bass took turns exploding in toddler tantrums around him, as Shannon Simpsons whipped the drums into a nervous breakdown in the back pocket. Their singles such as "Ghost Town" and "Ancient Curse" obviously killed just as expected. But the real highlights here were the new instrumentals in the middle (as Tom did everything short of breakdancing on the floor with his bass guitar) and a truly inspired cover of Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" (always a crowd favourite.. and in the most retarding way!). And when they ended with a stage invasion (or perhaps just me up there after a few too many beers)? and with next to everyone else crawling the ceiling!? we just knew there was no WAY this launch would be forgotten in a hurry! The Battery Kids. Even if they're a tree falling in the woods and nobody was there to see them, they'd STILL know how to beat us over the head with it. And I ask you.. what more could you want than that!?
2:35AM - With the band room emptying out in record time (hmmm that couldn't have anything to do with me now could it!? AAAHAHAHAhaHAhA!!) I kept on drinking in the beer garden for the next hour or so, only for that to empty out in record time too!? I know it was the strangest thing! Not only because I somehow managed to get none of what happened here in all this time on camera (aaaah the endless hilarity to be had with people who's identities shall forever remain nameless.. YEAAAS!!) but also how such a "ragingly popular hotspot" like The Ed Castle could lose its raging popularity ever SO quickly. Yup although it's obviously way too soon to tell, and it may just be uni exam season to blame, and it could just as easily be raging NEXT WEEKEND, but such is the fickle nature of fashion tragics the world over. Hmmm I wonder where they all bugger off to now?
2:58AM - As obviously it can't be Supermild: considering I'm here every freaking night short of a week night, and we all know I'm everything that fashionable "threw up on" years ago and long since forgot about (ie: I'm clearly nowhere near fuckoff adrogynous enough with a spastic v-neck and a raging meth amphetamine habit.. and such a pity too!). Which I think we can all agree is the main reason why I love it here in the first place. YEAAAS!! Here's to frequenting a late night lounge bar waaay beyond the point of ridiculous: fire up the long necks and let's get loaded!!
4:38AM - Which is exactly what I did for the almost two hours that I was here, only to conveniently forget one of the main reasons why anyone would entertain me (or this blog) in the first place: taking utterly unflattering photos of people whilst drunk, taking the absolute piss out of them, only to post them all over the internet!? FUCK YEAAAH!! I mean as much as I always assumed it was just one of my many annoying idiosyncrasies: along with face palming people, grabbing them by the top of their head to scream at them and calling everyone "dude" (simply because I'm utterly crap at remembering names) could it be you actually start to miss that shit when I don't!? WEIRD! And so almost as an afterthought I thought fuck it.. I'd throw in a random photo of Ruby Chew here: not for any of the reasons established above, but simply because she's kinda pretty.
Yup, our "grand contribution to society" may be utterly insignificant, ignored and largely forgotten. We may fall on deaf ears even in our own city. We may struggle to get more than five people to front up to our launch party. We may even leave little more than a "fortune cookie" footnote in the event of our passing. But do not fear, we're still important to someone! Sure they might the same arseclown we'd cross the street to avoid. Sure they might be the same crater faced dweeb we do our utmost to delete from our facebook. Or that automated message taunting us everytime we try to reach Tech Support. Or that evil ex-girlfriend of ours who's plotting and scheming in every which way to destroy us. But we're still important to someone. Utterly insignificant but STILL important! Yup, for even in a fucked up world like this one where any idiot can get "famous" simply by appearing in a live music blog (that I swear nobody ever reads) there's still hope for us all!