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...
THE SECOND ANNUAL SPOZ'S RANT AWARDS / PART TWO ADELAIDE MUSIC SCENE / January - December 2009
Yup it's THAT madenning time of year again, that "blissfully" mindnumbing purgatory around Christmas to New Year's: when next to every single one of our "favourite" music sites (and maybe even a few of the shit ones) abandon all pretense in providing us with any new original content, and instead provide us with all of these fucked up end of year "best-of" retrospectives. Why? because EVERYONE LOVES a "best-of" retrospective don't they!? OOOOH SHIT YEAH WE DO!! With the possible exception of every one of you nitwits out there rolling their eyes at me right now if it weren't for the fact that you're simultaneously too bored to care. YEAAAS!! I know, believe me I know! I FEEL YOUR PAIN!! I mean shit do we really need another lamearse "best-of" retrospective? Do we really need another half baked opinion on the year that was? Do we really need another overlong "awards ceremony" to encapsulate it all (and especially from someone as wilfully ill informed as me!?) FUUUCK NO!! WE WILL NOT GLORIFY HALF BAKED NOSTALGIA!! WE WILL NOT PUBLISH A "GREATEST HITS" COMPILATION SIMPLY FOR THE EXCESSIVE WEB HITS!! WE WILL NOT STOOP TO THIS ASSININE LEVEL OF SELF CONGRATULATING DEPRAVITY!! Which is why without a hint of irony (and especially after all the endless accolades and death threats we received from The First Annual Spoz's Rant Awards last year) we're back for more THIS YEAR with "The Second Annual Spoz's Rant Awards"! Yup this is part two of three epic installments. There is so much more yet to come in celebrating the very best and worst of the year that was in 2009. Join us if you dare!
TRAINWRECK OF THE YEAR / WINNER: THE TORRENS The way I see it, there's three (maybe four) different strategies you can employ in effort to be a "raging success" in the music industry. Firstly there's possessing actual talent: the ability to make music. Granted it's not always necessary to have, and a great many acts in the Top 40 and Triple J high rotation have done perfectly fine without it (especially ever since "autotune" and Protools were invented) but if you do and you actually know HOW to play your instrument, keep in time, keep in tune, and cook up a modicum of skill in songwriting and lyrical composition (or you know.. all the basic shit) then you're well on your way. Of course it may take a few too many years to master it and you may even need to practice every once in a while, so it's probably not for everyone; especially if you're into Aussie hiphop (wait.. did I just say that out loud!?). So if all THAT fails you could try a hand at mastering the second option: stage presence (ie: if you can't be good at something, simply be loud). Do not EVER underestimate this ability: if you can command an audience, have oodles of charisma and a shitcrazy excess of exploding energy then it's amazing what you could achieve; even WITHOUT talent (I mean shit it worked for Adolf Hitler and he was history's biggest monster!). And if you somehow possess neither of THESE abilities? there's always a third option: simply throw money at it (and believe me you don't want to click that link to see how THAT works). And if you don't have any money!? Fuck it, there's always the fourth option: just be an hilarious trainwreck and let the "adverse publicity" (if there IS such a thing!?) take care of the rest. And that's what THIS award celebrates in spades! Take our first nominee for example, Aviator Lane. Despite their masterful grasp of subtle (and heartfelt) songwriting and performance (and the fact they released a perfectly decent album in "Common Distance") they're surprisingly far better known for being THE MOST HECKLED band in Adelaide. Weird I know! Weirder still? their lead singer Michael Radzevicius actively encourages this shit, so much so we almost forget they even played music in the first place from laughing so hard. Then there's our second nominee Femme Fatales: who'd be a perfectly decent indie electro act (in fact they've even come up with the occassional mad buzzing tune) if it weren't for the fact that they almost NEVER rehearsed. Better yet I'm almost dead certain their guitarist Luke McKay doesn't even play his guitar (see previous nomination) which isn't much of an issue as it's continually breaking down anyways (funnier still it only makes them all the BETTER for it!). But still both of them pale in comparison to The Torrens: one of those rare live acts who could took all of this dysfunction, ran with it to the "nth degree", and made it into an artform all of its own. Were they hiphop, electro, standup comedy, amateur theatre, or a complete fucking disaster!? it's hard to stay (as they're quite possibly all the above) all that we DO know for certain was that to see this band live in 2009 was to witness nothing short of genius itself. Yup just like seeing the Adelaide equivalent of Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" only worse!? No shit duuudes, they were SO hilariously bad this year they were brilliant!
FASHION TRAGIC OF THE YEAR / WINNER: THE TOUCH Some bands merely become "fashionable" quite by accident: they just so happen to be in the right place at the right time with the "right sound" (read: conservatively retro) and *BAM* they get discovered, they get signed, blogged, broadcast, promoted, toured the world over, become ridiculously popular with the all important (read: highly profitable and impressionable) "MTV tweenie demographic" (girls aged 10-14) and modern music history is made once more through absolutely no fault of the original artists. Awesome! And no, despite what you may be thinking this ISN'T an award given to celebrate or otherwise insult all of "them". Far from it. It's not even an award given out to all those calculating opportunists who come flooding in soon AFTER looking to cash in with their own pale imitations. FUCK NO! This award is only given out to the most diabolical of "fashionistas" amongst us. For to be truly "fashion tragic" is to realise the REAL truth behind what is really "fashionable" in the first place. And no it's NOT about ripping off the eighties again and AGAIN till it's well beyond a cliche. And it's not about ripping off Bloc Party, The Rapture, The Presets, Vampire Weekend, MGMT, or Van She just so you can cash in under a lamearse "me too!" fascimile. It's simply about propagating hype and LOTS of it! Simply make the quickest, dumbest, disposable, utterly unintelligible (but otherwise catchy) noise in a danceable four/four and smash it FUCKOFF LOUD and believe me all the hipster hoards will come rushing no matter WHAT it is. It's shock and awe, it's advertising, it's brainwashing, it's style over substance, and more so than any other year maaan? it was THE ultimate pissing contest in all the Adelaide scene in 2009! Aaaah I know what's not to love aye!? Now obviously there were SO many of these "fashion bands" I could have named (and shamed?) in this category, but three of them clearly stood out above all the rest in 2009. For how could we forget all the extremes that our first nominee Jimmy & The Mirrors went to in promoting themselves? No shit! From brash mismatched colours, checks and stripes, shouty sing-a-long choruses and spastic face glitter, coupled with their overblown video shoot in April and their ridiculously overhyped EP launch (with accompanying crass underwear merchandising to boot) back in October!? they took the live scene to brand new highs and lows it may never fully recover from. Or what about our second nominee The Shiny Brights? You need only witness the shitcrazy antics of their lead singer Wolfgang ONCE to understand that they truly know not the meaning of "subtle" (no shit, it still gives me nightmares just thinking about it) and all the hysteria that surrounded their single launch in September!? WHOAAA FUCK!! But all that was STILL dwarfed by The Touch. With all the genius of a "paint-by-numbers" musical approach they shouted their way to the very top of this dung heap in the most hysterical way possible. It was truly inspiring to watch! From all the spastic exhibitionism of their lead singer Josh Moore (and how!), to their idiotically catchy songs (for all the worst reasons) spewed forth in abundance, to their cheesy "Touch Party" EP launch in January that all but overwhelmed The Ed Castle in a mad symphony to their own excess, to every cheesy publicity stunt unleashed in between: they were every bit the masters in Machiavellian conquest. They were undeniably "the beast". The Touch. For being the loudest proudest scourge of my existence? for being the butt of ALL my jokes in 2009!? I salute you!
NEWBORN GIRAFFE AWARD / WINNER: YOUNG HEARTS FAIL And now to the opposite of the scale we present our next category: devoted to celebrating all those bands of the meek and geekly persuasion to whom the very concept of playing "live on stage" (let alone publicising themselves in any way whatsoever) filled them with nothing but untold dread in 2009. Yup you may like to call them "deer in the headlights", "introverts" or "chronic victims of stage fright" but for me? I preferred the term "newborn giraffe" simply for the whimsical imagery it conjured of one "learning to stand on its gangly legs for the first time" everytime I saw them playing live on stage.. YEAAAS!! One which you may be right in assuming I named after the infamous Ben Revi of Humble Bee and Cheer Advisorary Council when I saw one of his former bands "Meanwell College" perform back in 2007 (aaaah and such high hilarity it was too!). Now obviously MOST bands only experience this for a few formative weeks at best, quickly outgrow it as they find much needed confidence as live performers, only to become nothing less than raging egomaniacs of the "best possible kind" (ie: ones which can provide endless inspiration for me to make endless fun of them on this blog). Some however never seem to outgrow it and pursue being awkwardly "shy" as nothing short of an artform all to itself: and is to these rare few that THIS award is given. Take our first nominee Bing Goes To Monaco for example. Not only did they find endless charm and appeal with the "cardigan crowd" for their simple yet awe inspiring odes to dappled domestic bliss in guitar, vocal harmony and twinkle keys. They also provided endless amusement for me personally (yes I know.. I'm pure evil) in all the wide-eyed terror that they expressed in performing it live on stage. Even more so as they only ever got MORE popular throughout 2009, which only seemed to exacerbated the problem ever further. Awesome! However, slowly but surely they DID get better at it (even if Anny Duff on keys still looks like she's going to crap out a spotted egg and fly away) so they're hardly the serial offender we're REALLY looking for here. So what about our second nominee Kittyhawk then? A side project formed between Dave Williams and Caitlin Duff from Fire! Santa Rosa Fire! they were undoubtfully the very epitome of high strung with ruffled feathers freaking the fuck out when I FIRST saw them this year. Again however, it was also just a passing "awkward" phase and by the second time I saw them they were nothing but assured. Which obviously leaves us with Young Hearts Fail then, the clear winner in any conceivable way, the poster child to all things "newborn giraffe" thanks in no small part to their ridiculously cute lead singer: Xixi Cao. FUCK YEAAAH!! For as much as we all knew she had an amazing singing voice from all the blissful recordings they posted on their myspace? it was almost impossible to hear it live. For no matter how LOUD they cranked her microphone, she'd always drop her voice ever quieter to compensate, while the band around her played ever louder and louder to "cover" for it. No shit it was hilarious! Better yet? as much as all this "public performance" seemed cruel and unusual torture for them, they continued to torture themselves live again and again, almost to oversaturation point in the first half of 2009 only to NEVER get over their stage fright. Yup they were they shyest band you'd ever see, they were nothing short of brilliant! Young Hearts Fail. For giving us new meaning to white knuckled fear? you were truly an inspiration to us all!
DOMINANT MEME OF THE YEAR / WINNER: INDIE DISCO Above all else in life I love to celebrate individuality, originality, creativity and the power of the human mind to imagine new realities. I mean isn't that the best shit ever!? OH YOU KNOW IT IS!! It's what makes us so head explodingly awesome (beyond all our psychotic tendancies), it's what defines us as a species, it's what will truly save us all! OOOOH FUCK YEAH!! Problem is of course, there are a LOT of insane limitations to just how individual, original, creative and imaginative we can ever be at any given time. For one there's little under seven billion of us on this planet. We're all at least 95% chimpanzee DNA (which believe me explains a LOT of the problems we're experiencing of late). Everything NEW has already been done to death countless of times before, and even if it hasn't? nobody wants to take a risk on it unless it's guarenteed to turn a profit (and you need only look to what's coming out of Hollywood of late to see all that.. yeeeouch!). And so in the end we're left with a situation that's very much like highschool, only on a much larger scale: almost everyone does what everyone ELSE does for fear of looking like a freak and almost nothing new gets made. And so a great many things, including the arts, tend to look exactly the same after a while. Call it the dominant meme, call it the prevailing culture, call it whatever-the-fuck, it's hard NOT to be beaten over the head with it wherever you go. And believe me, here in the Adelaide scene? if ever there was a cliche to abuse, we were practically floating up to our tonsils in it; and this year was truly no exception. Yup above all else three things dominated in 2009. Firstly almost every band you could think of had to feature a horn section. Beats me why, but all of a sudden those brass bastards were absolutely everywhere. Sometimes it was just a trombone, sometimes it was a pair of saxophones, sometimes it was a veritable shitstorm of brass poking out your eyes: either way? I swear WE COULDN'T GET ENOUGH OF IT!! And what about our growing obssession with all things twee folk, acoustic and nanna rock? I mean don't get me wrong I love all that Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Suns and Grizzly Bear garbage as much as the next nitwit but by year's end it was just too much maaan! FUUUCK!! And yet as much as all that shit was still quite tolerable in small doses (or even enjoyable in large doses) there was one overwhelming scourge that truly ate at my sanity like no other: indie (fucking) disco. Without a doubt it was THE "evil empire" to take down in 2009. No shit! It was everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE with a fuckoff lineup, a door charge, a fashion police and a DJ smashing eighties synth retro. The Ed Castle clearly bore the brunt of it with the Touch Party, Transmission Live, WOW! and Plus One but it spread SO all encompassing in the Adelaide scene (especially in the west end) that there was NO escaping it. It was cheesy, it was crass, it was tragically metrosexual and fluorescent, and as funny as it all was (and more often than not it was freaking hilarious!) spinning the Baywatch theme was clearly pushing it waaaay too far! (yes that means YOU Josh Moore from The Touch). Before too long it ruined live venues. I couldn't even go back to Rocket Bar after the indie disco DJs there hollowed it out like a blacked out smack den, The Ed Castle was starting to look the same (or worse) and if there's but one hope for 2010? it's that anything, and I mean ANYTHING new will come to replace it. Why? because any "change" around here duuude, is as good as a holiday!
NOMINEE: EVERYONE LOVES A HORN SECTION
NOMINEE: TWEE FOLK
DEADLIEST GIG OF THE YEAR / WINNER:GOD GOD DAMNIT DAMNIT In all the six years that I've been writing this live blog, I've managed to go through four cameras, yes.. four cameras! I'm now onto my fifth. And by "go through" I clearly don't mean "retired" or "died of old age" I actually mean all but one of them has been utterly obliterated: lenses crushed, bodies drowned, sensors disintegrated, you name it.. it's been nothing short of a teeth shattering battlefield around here. And yet none of this growing "death toll" has disturbed me in the slightest. Why? well because, as much as I've ALWAYS assumed it's always been this way since the very beginning. No really, every year or so I swear it happens (sometimes even three times in the ONE year) it's all part of the game, I accept every one of their sacrifices as a badge of honour; as every single one of them has truly lived their life to the fullest. Which is why I'm a little disturbed to note that at the end of THIS year I'm still using the SAME camera as I was when I started it. WHOAAA SHIT, SAY IT ISN'T SO!? Yup my trusty Canon IXUS 960 (aka: "Astro") has truly survived it all (and then some) and not through any lack of carnage either. For 2009, even with all of its whimsical folk, indie pop and indie disco in abundance has STILL seen its fair share of massacre. And as much as most of it was STILL business as usual for any "combat photographer" of my illbient ilk? some of it definitely came close to claiming us all. For how could we possibly forget Hospital The Musical: fresh from Wollongong when they hit Enigma Bar like a tornado back in July. With a lead singer like wrecking ball: fists swinging and lunging wildly into the audience, it was as utterly terrifying to watch as it was hilarious to capture (I kid you not, the live video barely does it justice). Or what about when The Thieves hit Jade Monkey back in November with an accompanying shitstorm of fans playing pingpong with the walls in giddy worship of their irish punk revelry? No shit! I swear my camera almost went through a fucking wall trying to capture all of that, it was intense, it was insane, I don't even know how in the hell I survived it! But above both of them, the deadliest show all year would have to go to God God Damnit Damnit back in March. The name truly says it all! Not just for the twelve to thirteen piece "band" that assembled on the claustrophobic stage: cooking up a sound that very much resembled every one of Mike Patton's psychotic side projects played simultaneously on a mad tab of acid (moments before your whole head explodes) but for the post apocalyptic piranha swarm of circus freaks, fringe dwellers, gypsies and serial killers they attracted from far and wide that managed to fill Jade Monkey to the absolute brim and almost devoured it whole by the end of it. For 45 minutes or so none of us could breathe let alone blink lest we be crushed by the insanity of it all. It was a nightmare that still haunts me to this day. And as much as still I don't have the foggiest clue how I got out of there with all my teeth intact? what I do know is that I'm itching to return! OOOOH FUCK YEAH, WHAT A MAD FUCKING BUZZ!!
TOURING ACT OF THE YEAR / WINNER:PHILADELPHIA GRAND JURY For me when it comes to TRULY memorable "touring acts" throughout 2009: it wasn't for all those big name international stars that really did it for me, I couldn't care less maaan! OOOOH FUCK NO!! Did I buy into any of that ridiculous hype, hysteria or raging spectacle? or any of that other epic sized "stadium shit" any of the larger capacity venues like Thebarton Theatre or The Entertainment Centre were trying to sell me this year: what with their spastic explosions, bells and whistles!? pfft.. I laughed in their faces I did! Mind you I couldn't scam into ANY of that shit for free EVEN IF I TRIED but was besides the point, it's the principle of the thing damnit! I mean what do I look like here? some kinda cheesy print journalist!? I don't even LIKE Britney Spears, Beyonce or Pink; seriously what do I care!? (and don't even get me started on Lady GaGa.. yeeeouch!). No for me it was ALL about the aspiring artists from interstate this year, artists with something to prove, artists of true measure not audience size that mattered to me the most: they were what this scene was all about! And I swear Adelaide had no shortage of them in 2009, in fact in many ways we could say this year was the finest year YET for touring artists in general. Of course there's obviously too many to mention now (so much so I almost feel guilty for omitting a whole lot of them in doing so) but that's only because the quality level we were inundated with was THAT head explodingly awesome! Take our first nominee The Middle East for example. Before they toured back in February I had no fucking clue who they were, and after they left? there was no way in HELL I could possibly forget them! You need only see THIS video of their closing song "Blood" to understand just what I'm getting at too. It's like all the little hairs on your arms and the back of your neck making for a standing ovation, no shit it still gives me chills hearing it now! Or what about The Woohoo Revue? I mean who knew that a gypsy folk band could stir up that much dancefloor insanity!? but when they toured back in April at The Crown & Anchor and again at Jive twice later this year I swear it was a wall to wall feeding frenzy and nothing but wide eyed grins for days! And as much as it's near impossible to choose anything above that (and believe me I debated this shit for weeks on end) along comes the undeniable juggernaut that was Philadelphia Grand Jury. Most of us only knew them at the start of this year for an exceptionally annoying Triple J high rotation, but by the end they'd truly made their mark as one of the most shitcrazy memorable touring acts you could ever hope to see in Australia. Not only thanks to their support slot at Jive for Bluejuice back in May where they near abouts demolished a drumkit and the whole stage around them whilst their bass player MC Bad Genius hurled himself into the audience and out the front door (I shit you not it was hilarious!) but also for their hysterical headlining show at The Ed Castle later in October where their capacity crowd practically did the demolition job for them and near abouts took the roof in the encore. Better yet they actually backed all the hype with classic songs that killed both live and on record!? Yup that was Philadelphia Grand Jury: it truly didn't get much better than that!
EVENT OF THE YEAR / WINNER:THE MISSING DISCO It's occassionally been said that the Adelaide scene as a whole are a fickle bunch when it comes to supporting live music. Said by who exactly I do not know, only that we have a dodgy reputation for it all the same. Apparently we're notoriously slow when it comes to buying up tickets until the very "last minute", we'll often abandon countless shows to half capacity or less, give a lukewarm reception when we do bother to show up and FUCK, that's just how we treat international artists (which is clearly why so many of them fly all the way from Melbourne to Perth in effort to avoid us). When it comes to local artists? OH WE'RE SO MUCH WORSE! I mean sure we could easily blame all this shit on the pokies, or our ridiculously cumbersome surburban sprawl (one hundred kilometres north to south for only one million in population anyone?), or the fact that we have fuckall late night public transport to support it ($40 or more for taxi fare!? yeeeouch!) or for the ongoing scourge that is "Australian Idol" for diluting any fanbase we would otherwise have left for it; but either way? let's face it, it's a fucked up situation. At almost any given gig you're only EVER going to pull twenty people: that's your entire audience. Awesome huh!? And the only way you're ever going to get MORE is if you're either hosting the equivalent of a birth, a wedding or a fucking funeral. Or in other words the only way you're ever gonna get a capacity crowd (or have a chance in hell of playing Jive) is to make your gig into THE event of lifetime? Hmmm. And thus the grand solution for 2009!? simply throw more events! FUCK YEAAAH!! And not only did we deliver this in spades with regular Friday and Saturday night installments of Transmission Live and Plus One, but also in our ridiculous over abundance of single launches, EP launches, seven inch vinyl parties, mini festivals and FUCK even album launches.. DUUUDE!! I mean we were SO spoilt for choice this year it was freaking retarded trying to avoid it all: it was everywhere you looked, it was nothing but epic, and anytime anyone threw one? everyone else did their utmost to outdo it!? I mean what more could you possibly want as an audience member!? As such clearly I'm going to be offending all manner of you people by omitting your "party to end all parties", but for me personally three events truly stood out for being the most unique in 2009. Firstly how could we ignore the mindboggingly spectacle that was "No One Wants To Play With Me" hosted at The Metro back in September? featuring a wealth of solo artists (many of them whimsically experimental, oddball and unusual) and showcasing so much creativity in all its colour and character that it practically makes my head explode even now just thinking about it: it was truly an inspiration! Or what about the infamous Touch Party back in January. As much as it may've arguably been little more than an exercise in "ego inflation" for The Touch in launching their own debut EP (you fiends!) you still can't deny the monumental pissing contest they set in motion for the rest of the scene to follow. One which would eventually be answered in kind by what was without a doubt the most fuckoff epic party event of the year: "The Missing Disco" EP launch for The Killgirls. I mean this was unprecedented! Not only did they throw this shitcrazy shindig in Queen's Theatre of all places (an unique inner city destination if ever I saw one) and threw together the most insane lighting rig I'd ever seen to illuminate it (like I swear all my dreams had come true as a gig photographer.. YEAAAS!!) but they also threw their very own shitcrazy ode to the Nine Inch Nails "alternative reality game" (aka: kidnapping attempt) through facebook, as a genius publicity stunt in effort to promote it? I mean they truly thought of everything here! (and to think I didn't even mention the hot tub!? WHOAAA!!) Yup in that one night alone they controlled the horizontal and the vertical, they flooded that joint to capacity, they gave the ULTIMATE feast for the senses, and in doing so they set the impossible standard. OH YES!! Adelaide you freaking know it, this is THE legendary event to beat in 2010!
And now that you've read more than enough "superlative gibberish" to last a whole lifetime, let alone the one year rambling retrospective it apparently provides on the Adelaide scene in 2009? (pfft yeaaah, like I EVER had half a clue what the fuck I was on about!?) then stay tuned as we nominate yet more of you fools for public ridicule, whilst glaringly omitting all the rest who you'd otherwise think would be far more worthy of praise. Where? where else duuudes but right here for the third and final installment of The Second Annual Spoz's Rant Awards. YES!! be mildly excited!