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...
LIKE LEAVES + CORTEZ + THE BURNING SEA LIVE @ THE JADE MONKEY / Saturday November 21st 2009
For me life is all about being creative. It's what defines us as species. It's what makes us human. I mean forget all that other crap about opposable thumbs, self awareness, walking upright, building fires, wearing clothes, society, civilisation, war, politics, religion and overpopulating a planet well beyond the point of sustainability. That's nothing maaan! Even a fucking microbe with half a functioning DNA strand can do all that! Nope being creative is where it's truly at, I shit you not! That unique ability to solve one simple problem with an infinite number of complex solutions? only to create an infinite number of complex problems with NO simple solution? only to pass it all off for the next generation to solve!? SHIT YEAH DUUUDE, THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!! Imagination, invention, diversity and an insatiable appetite for new experiences? that's what I fucking live for! Which DO I realise is a little ironic in saying right now, when I consider what I write about each week: the Adelaide music scene, and the fact that I'm essentially writing the SAME story every fucking week. The same venues, the same bands, the same people, the same predictable ending at Supermild!? "And oh look here I am at the Jade Monkey again: wasn't I here the night before? what the hell am I doing here again!?". And not that I'm complaining but am I the ONLY one who's noticing that almost every single live act I'm covering of late is either 60's pop, twee folk, semi-acoustic or alt country? And now all the scenster tragics are nanna as fuck with all their geek glasses, button down shirts, cardigans, vintage frocks and sensible shoes. Or worse they're into their indie disco DJs, hiphop and being drug fucked unintelligible and out of their minds!? And I swear I haven't destroyed a single camera in well over a year because I'm not getting nearly enough carnage without resorting to punk, emo or thrash metal!? WHAT THE FUCK PEOPLE!? But not tonight, I swear it'll ALL be different: and THAT'S why I'm at the Jade Monkey. If it's all about "keeping it fresh"? Trust me dude: right here is exactly what we're looking for!
THE BURNING SEA (****) Which brings us to our opening act. They're new, and I mean brand new. It's their first ever gig. They don't have a myspace, a facebook, a twitter feed.. fuck it they didn't even have a proper name to identify themselves with (or at least not until the very last minute). And in all their street press and associated promo at best they've referred to themselves as simply "Nat Stone's Band". A working title that a few mischievous idiots (not that I'm naming names.. Steve!) were hoping to keep alive WELL after the show (or at least for the purpose of ongoing mockery) by printing them up as novelty t-shirts; except unfortunately for all of us present they forget to bring any to wear. FUCK YEAAAH!! Yup we're off to a great start already. Clearly this is JUST the kind of shit we were hoping to see. Still with all that being said, although this band IS "brand new" they're far from new on the Adelaide scene, not by a long shot, and ARE in actual fact a "supergroup" of sorts between three OTHER bands (aaaah isn't it always the way!?). The Burning Sea. Featuring Nat Stone with the frizzy clown hair (from Diplomat) on lead vocals and guitar, Mark Draper with the best "ducks arse" haircut I've ever seen (from Swords) on bass, Aidan Moyse with the psychotic mop top (from Hawks Of Alba, Running With Horses and Bad Girls Of The Bible) on drums, and what appears to be seventies cricketing legend Dennis Lillee on guitar: could be considered (at least in the simplest of terms) as a bitter and twisted take on the conventional post rock instrumental. In closest approximation I'd see them as The Mark Of Cain and Helmet mixed with Mogwai (only with all the distortion cracked way up). However for those of you in the "know", they most resemble the chugging intensity of Illinois band Russian Circles. As such their guitar riffs swing, hack and cleave like heavy handed weapons of war (like a mix between a battle axe and a war hammer bludgeoning through bone). Their rhythms no less diabolical stab their downcast rhythms over and over with unwavering certainty. And in every sense they're truly a dark and dour journey. So psychotic in fact that barely one song in Aidan has to "sandbag" his drumkit to stop it flying into the audience from the relentless beating he's giving it, whilst Nat Stone on vocals (even though he's practically puncturing a lung from all the screaming in the final song) is all but buried in the mix by the skull crushing force of their instrumentation. Yup just like a Viking funeral, an anti-hero western and a post apocalyptic road movie all mixed into one: and yet at the same time never too obtuse or inaccessible (and sometimes even tranquil in its skull ringing delivery). All the usual suspects from Swords, Bronze Chariot, Thunderclaw and Robotosaurus are predictably all in attendance: nodding their heads along (and shrieking in the interludes) they know they're onto a good thing. And in many ways I'm very much inclined to agree. The Burning Sea. Just like a woolly mammoth hacked to bits with a fuck off chainsaw, only five times more artfully meditative!
CORTEZ (****1/2) myspace :: By the time our second act arrives on stage and lurches into their first psychotic ode, the aptly entitled "Some Kind Of Metal" (with its jerking start/stop attack and shit staining delivery) I begin to pick up on what is obviously the prevalent theme here tonight, the signature sound that unites all three bands, a sound that I readily admit I've very much missed. Although in THIS particular incarnation they find a lot of their energy in the volatile extremes: think thrash metal, noise punk, lo-fi garage and grunge (ie: simply throw everything from Shihad's "My Mind's Sedade", You Am I's "Berlin Chair" and Nirvana's entire "In Utero" album into a blender and that'd be your chainsaw massacre in one). It's in how these influences all blend together with an aggressive (yet instantly accessible) verse/chorus dynamic that's the most telling here, especially when you consider just how rare it is in the Adelaide scene of late. Yup we're talking the simplest of pleasures found in fucking up a musical instrument as LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE in a four four "rock" rhythm. Short of maybe Mayfield, Angelik, Isle Of Vision or the Kytes Of Omar very few bands even touch this shit anymore. Some may dismiss it as little more than a "pub rock" sound (or worse still confuse it for the bogan extremities of whatever-the-fuck Wolfmother or Cog are butchering of late) but in doing so they totally miss the point. It's not about being a 90's fashion disaster, a "beer stain smoking a cigarette", or not showering for three weeks straight. It's NOT ABOUT THE IMAGE. It's about achieving true sophistication in butchering the fuck out of your instruments. It's about that animal instinct, that makes you want to skull a fuckload of piss and go fucking beserk: and THEN give it a voice you can totally chant like a meditative mantra. And it's THIS mix especially between howling catharsis and zen focus that Cortez nails in one. Although they've only been at it for a year now as "Cortez": theirs is a lineage you can trace back through all their former incarnations from Mirrorline to J-Ded and all the way back to the beginning of this decade. And in all that time they've still kept that "accessible hook" that drives everything forward. And yet here, especially in the more recent material (ie: the first four songs of their set tonight) they've considerably amped up the schitzoid carnage. And I swear it makes you want to explode like no other (or perhaps just short of the ferocity of The Prodigy). Better yet, far from understating it their stage presence, all four band members deliver it like nothing short of a bar brawl. Tom Spall with his neck veins popping acts as the "bad cop" on vocals to "good cop" Gabe Phillips' and his pensive poker face. James Hastings on bass practically bounces off the ceiling swinging his shit around whilst Ben White demolishes the drumkit a few shades short of John Stanier from Helmet. Just like The Burning Sea before them their instruments are pushed to breaking point, as James' bass amp explodes after the third to last song (apparently it does it shit ALL the time.. heh, go figure!?). And yet all the while their sound is still pinpoint accurate: possessing all the finesse of a Japanese samurai blown up to Godzilla proportions and sent out to destroy us all!? Aaaah fuck I miss this buzz I really do! (and the sooner they're let loose at large the better for us all!). Cortez. Simply throw yourself into the epicentre, clear your mind, as all your intestinal hit all four walls at once? nothing but bliss!
LIKE LEAVES (****1/2) myspace :: If the opening act gave us our "gravity", and the second act our "intensity", then the third our headliner definitely delivers on the "versatility". In all the times I've seen them live (and this would be the ninth on record this year) it's this quality especially (along with countless others) for why they continue to inspire me. With such a minimal palette on offer: guitar, violin, bass, drum, a smattering of vocals (and admittedly about a billion fuckoff guitar pedals) they paint such an intricate canvas; and one that could potentially take almost a lifetime to unravel. In every performance, even in the songs I've heard a billion times before, I'm always picking up on something new, something improvised, something imagined or incidental: that only adds more depth and range to colour their expression. As such the real trick here is in how they manage to achieve such equilibrium with all these of extremes. It's in the subtle way that Daniel Varricchio's epically overblown (yet mesmerising) guitar work and Juliet Hunter's otherworldly violin both counterpoint and compliment Patrick Saracino's hypnotic bass rhythm and Ryan Manolakis' textured (yet punctuated) percussion. It's in how they weave their winding path between all the hysterical hissyfits of The Mars Volta and the metronomic punch of My Disco, between all that is poetic and turbulent, between prog rock and psychedelic: that even with all of their idiosyncrasies in full effect they still manage to stay true to their manifesto. You can hear it in all their classic cuts where they simply mix everything together. From the punchy artrock aggression of "Complex Denial", the spaghetti western progression of "Fruit", the dogfighting antics of "Swordfight" and the cascading chords of "Falling For A Fleeting Moment": all display a dizzying array of moodswings in their ebb and flow. But where it becomes MOST striking tonight is in all their new songs that find added clarity in the contrasts. Like their deceptively simple opening number "Tissues For The Convoluted" that starts with a minimal Modest Mouse style martial crunch only to form a swirling maelstrom of gypsy excess. Or the haunting blues introspection of "Mercy Sound" that builds ever outwards as the song progresses until it envelopes an entire room in its ethereal glow. And yet all of these songs STILL pale in comparison to their closing number: performed for the first time tonight, that simply goes by the working title "Bazooka" on their setlist. With just Juliet's voice and violin to begin with it builds, slowly but surely, sneaking in subtle instrumentation one by one, until it becomes so unbelievably explosive in grandeur it practically makes Hans Zimmer sound like a Nokia ringtone by comparison. I shit you not: in just those nine minutes alone you experience all the myriad emotions between life and death, until by the very end of it you can't help but be a disembodied shell pissing into the infinite with a smile on your face; and that was only the ONE song!? FUUUCK!! Granted it still wasn't their most flawless set overall, there was the occassional hiccup to contend with, even in the last song (and one notable false start) but with music like this that feeds so directly into the soul? such quirks are easily forgiven. Like Leaves. No shit, of ever you wanted to substitute your own reality for another: you couldn't do much better than this!
1:45AM - Yup in this one gig tonight and with just but one humble guitar, perhaps two, a violin, a bass, drums and whatever-the-fuck Juliet was reaching for in the middle of that last song if only it hadn't fallen behind one of the speaker stacks.. hmmm (and perhaps a few billion effects pedals and vocals to bolster it) I've witnessed an infinite number of creative solutions. And not ONCE did I need to drop a reference to Fleet Foxes!? FUCK YEAAAH!! (I mean I love their shit as much as the next person.. but it does everyone have to freaking sound like them of late!?). Yup it truly is inspiring isn't it? to know there's always an infinite number of alternatives to the sounds of "alternative"? and every day yet more people are coming up with yet more crazy fucked up sounds that continues to deviates from the path!? No really, to all you brave pioneers who are either discovering or rediscovering all that music has to offer us? I freaking salute you! And to think it all happened in the Jade Monkey AGAIN tonight? Aaaah is there anything this place can't do!? I think not! Fuck it, why go anywhere else maaan.. I'm staying right HERE for the rest of the night!
1:58AM - Still sooner or later I had to face the inevitable: even a place as dribblingly awesome as the Jade Monkey, even a place that plays Interpol's "Turn On The Bright Lights" (aka: quite possibly the best album EVER) while I'm drinking my beer (a beer I totally got for free from the bartender as thanks for all those photos I took the night before.. sweeeet!!) HAS to call "last drinks". It's a sad truth I know. All good things must come to a close, even at the Jade Monkey (lest I wake up on its floor hours later with one fuck of a hangover). And so begrudgingly I stumbled one leaden foot in front of the other, vaguely in a straight line, and out that door again. Just where COULD I go to now!? Hmmm of all the available options there was clearly just ONE that I could take.. and so, completely disregarding that I ended up at The Crown & Anchor instead.
And Simone: who's batshit insane idea it was in the first place to "drag me in here" tonight. Awesome! Although let's face it it's not like I needed she needed to do much convincing, because hey it's Simone.. everyone loves Simone riiight!? OH OF COURSE WE DO!! (wait, why do I hear the sound of at least a thousand people removing me from their browser bookmarks all a sudden!?). And if that still fails then why not do what SHE did and send me at least fifteen SMS for the past two hours (ie: most of which I jokingly ignored) wondering why I wasn't here yet. FUCK YEAAAH!!
2:42AM - Still as much as I might be beating my head repetitively with my laptop keyboard right now, screaming obscenities, attempting to come up with "witty commentary" for all this rubbish for the upteenth time this year (which I totally assure you I'm not!). There IS a damn good reason for why these hystericals nitwits have become two of my longest serving "regular cast members" on this blog for all the reasons they shouldn't. Simply put: not only do they have the prequisite ability to drink me "laughingly under the table" whilst simultaneously NOT getting the cops involved (a rare quality indeed) but they also provide me with infinite solutions to the very vexing conundrum of our age: how to make your night of hideous binge drinking more than just a lame excuse for a "facebook photo gallery", and nothing short of a whizz-bang comedy routine that'll be sure to entertainment hundreds, nay thousands of complete strangers (or at least until you discover how all those "privacy settings" work). Oh yes in SO many ways they're a gift that keeps on giving!
2:45AM - Take Joe's latest "discovery" for example: this um.. whimsical pink thing that he apparently dug up "somewhere" nearby (exactly where!? yeaaah he didn't really tell us). Obviously neither of us had any fucking clue what he was on about (and possibly suspected that last shot was to blame), until Joe Blogs helpfully elaborated it was a "snack food", he was tasked with "promoting it", and if he had his way? two weeks tops is all it would before all the cool kids would be into this shit "like crack cocaine to the ghetto" or that fuckarse retarded "All I Want For Christmas Is A Westfield Gift Card" viral campaign to your facebook newsfeed of late. YEAAAS!!
Understandably I had my doubts. Even Simone here, who would normally "leap at the chance" to embrace anything insane that came her way, appears reluctant to take the plunge. Or at least she was until Joe managed to convince her that it had vodka in it. After which she simply couldn't get enough of them. Of course I DO realise this was an outright lie, but if it helps, most of us were rather exceptionally drunk at the time. And by "most of us" I clearly mean the both of them.
Aaaah just look at him chowing down on it. Doesn't it make you wanna bust a packet of whatever-the-fuck this is and keep on gorging until you need a forklift to pull you out of your front door, just so you can waddle off to the store to buy up another boxful, crateful, a whole shipping container and then a controlling stake in the company!? yeah me neither.. but shit damn it looks zesty!
Eventually after what felt like hours watching them both eat this junk, one pink hockey puck after another, curiousity finally got the better of me. I just HAD to find out what this is and more importantly where in hell Joe got it from. Was it from a vending machine? a candy machine? one of those random moustachiod skeezebags who hands out lamingtons!? I NEEDED ANSWERS DAMNIT!!
Hmmm yup, I don't know about you: but the sooner we get the fuck out of here, the better!
3:26AM - Obviously there was only one place we could possibly go from here (other than the Royal Adelaide Hospital's "Emergency Ward" in effort to pump both of their stomachs), or more accurately there was two.. except there was no way in hell we were EVER going to Shotz. And for those of you who are yet to get the wacky punchline here? I believe it starts with "Supermild" and ends in you throwing your computer out of a window. FUCK YEAAAH!! Now originally it was suggested that we should all take a taxi there, until I rather helpfully countered with the "wildly original" suggestion of walking there instead. Which was possibly the most ingenious plan I could ever have cooked up: if it weren't for the fact it was pissing with rain at the time. Still, since the temperature tonight was in the "mellow" mid to low twenties? yeaaah it's not like any of us really noticed.
3:38AM - Now here's where I'd usually provide you with a suitably halfarse, hilarious, utterly implausible (read: exceptionally lamearse) excuse for why we're at Supermild again. Except as we all know I'd run out of that shit well over six months ago. Awesome! So which way to the bar then?
3:44AM - Speaking of such it's here that Joe offers us these longneck bottles of "piss". Which I dare say after recents events at The Crown & Anchor I'm a little hesitant to accept. Or at least I was until I realised the odds of his urine being "refrigerated" was just as astromically improbable as his ability to "aim straight" into a bottle without otherwise falling down a flights of stairs and putting his head through a wall. Still just to be on the safe side: I didn't pick the "Sparkling Ale".
3:46AM - Cue what would otherwise be an utterly inconsequential sequence of photos where we do little more than drink "beer" at Supermild (hiiilarity!) if it weren't for the fact that Simone appears to be "innocently" sipping from a vodka rasberry instead. Hmmm it's almost like she's trying to tell me "something" here. No wait, it couldn't possibly signify THAT!? YOU DON'T MEAN I JUST..!?
3:47AM - Yup this is where it suddenly dawns on me that I've just fallen for the "oldest trick in the book". Even more disturbing: not only does this make Joe Blogs the human equivalent of a Soda Stream (wow seriously!? I never knew!) but his piss is still way better than a West End Draught.
3:52AM - And so in effort to distract you (as I proceed to scream "thunderous abuse" into the porcelain abyss, take a breather, only to scream out some more) here's some photos of Joe and Simone frolicking about fancy free with an upright fan. Yup.. just like an eighties power ballad!
3:59AM - After seven minutes of what was clearly just a wildly fanciful "plot device" I cooked up for the solo purpose of this blog (because clearly we've never pulled a prank THAT hilariously dysfunctional in real life OOOOH FUCK NO!!), I return vowing all kinds of hideous revenge on all parties responsible (ie: pretty much just Joe Blogs). Only to slam straight into Simone here looking all kinds of ridiculously cute. SO ridiculously cute in fact that I'd long since forgotten just why I was here in the first place (or just what exactly I might've been holding in this brown paper bag).
Then before I even knew what the fuck just hit me, they simply "disappeared" off into the night. And there I was: left with yet another episode of Spoz's Rant successfully side tracked by their pisswreck antics? No really, how DO these diabolical geniuses do this to me EVERY DAMN TIME!?
4:45AM - Almost an hour or so later I finally stumble out the front door of Supermild. Still a little disoriented, maybe even dehydrated, and not at all the wiser as to why I was STILL holding that nondescript brown paper bag, the exact nature of its contents, or how and where I managed to get my hands on it in the first place. "Hey look.. maybe it's chocolate brownies!?" (NO DON'T YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!!). Still before I could fall for what was obviously the "second oldest trick in the book" (or perhaps the third if you count what Simone pulled on me prior to their escape) I discover THIS. Here standing outside of Supermild, the rarest of the rare, a bona fide Tara sighting!
Wait.. who the hell is Tara? who the hell cares duuude!? I mean sure she might have looked a little too disturbingly like she'd been wandering the night drinking the blood of the living: hence the hand covering her mouth (either that or she had a mad case of the hiccups). Even so the very fact that you DON'T see her in this blog every other night? totally makes ALL the difference!
4:47AM - But all that was just the tip of the iceberg when I saw THIS: Hindley Street just like I always picture it, only after the rains had passed it all looked SO totally different! So squeaky clean, so reflective, so mind boggingly majestic! It was an epiphany! it was an inspiration! or perhaps I was just remembering that fucked up quote from Taxi Driver? (no not the obvious one, the one you actually have to watch the movie for), or perhaps I was blind drunk!? Fuck it either way after seeing all this? it totally changes everything! DUUUDE, THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!!
Yup every episode I'm faced with the same fucked up conundrum: the same city, the same scene, the same routine, the same set vocabularly bordering on the damn near hallucinogenic in search of something new. And I swear it drives me completely clownshit insane sometimes (read: all the time) searching for an infinite number of ways to write up what is essentially the same equation, the same human condition. But I'm not alone in this maaan.. there's hundreds, thousands, nay a million or more of us dribbling idiots in this city alone wreaking untold havoc YET to be told! We're a proverbial primate plague "monkeying" with the system (even fucking it up altogether) to come up with something new! And thanks to them duuude? every episode IS different, every episode is in a constant state of flux! Simply turn up and watch it all come to life! For in the end it's not about the definition of insanity: it's simply humanity "finding the means" to a creative solution!