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...
UNCLE CHUNK + GÜNTER & THE SAFEWORD + DOUBLE HANDED LIVE @ THE CROWN & ANCHOR / Saturday December 5th 2009
There's a little known fact that every seven years or so, on average, your entire human body will replace itself with a brand new one. Or more specifically it'll take just five days to replace the inner lining of your gut, two weeks to replace your skin, four months to replace your blood, a year to swap out your liver, ten years for your skeleton and well over a lifetime to replace one half of your heart. The only parts that apparently DON'T need "replacing" are your brain (says you!), the lenses in your eye (bastards!), the one retarding "reflex" that's responsible for making you piss up the ceiling first thing in the morning (damnit.. not again!), and that weird "squirty thing" at the back of your throat that occassionally goes off for no good reason whatsoever (no really.. what the fuck is up with that shit!?) but other than that? after seven years or so you're pretty much a completely different "you". Awesome huh!? Which is not only great news for anyone who's ever pursued a career out of killing themselves retarded as a gonzo journalist and was hoping to survive it (who me!?). And lends further weight to the phenomenon of the "seven year itch" if ever you need a legitimate excuse to get the fuck away from it (pfft.. never!). But also means thanks to a million or so of these pink squeaking bastards bouncing about in this city at any given moment (aaaah fuck I love humanity!) the Adelaide scene is in a constant state of flux. Yup it's the cycle of life in all its dysfunctional "splendour", and at no other time is it ever more volatile than right here in the month of December: "The Twilight Zone" of the calendar year. No shit! Everything here is in limbo, on hiatus, shutting up shop, leaving the country, compiling top ten lists and going bellyup kaput. And yet at the same time it's also being reborn into all kinds of shitcrazy and colourful new forms. And if you know where to look? watching it all unfold can truly be a wondrous thing to behold!
Which is obviously why I'm here at THIS "hilarious piss stain" tonight. For if ever there was a place to "celebrate" all that life and death and a silly season of uncertainty could unleash upon the Adelaide scene, it'd be right here in the ONE PLACE that's survived and thrived through it all utterly unscathed: The Crown & Anchor. Yup I swear in all the years that I've been here, it's never changed. I mean sure it's been given the occassional "fresh" coat of paint, swapped about a few lightbulbs, barstaff and management (and even every once in a while disposed of all the dead bodies deposited out back in the dumpsters "no questions asked") but it's still the SAME Crown & Anchor that's withstood every fleeting subculture, scene, meme and movement from funk, grunge, brit pop, electronica, new metal, garage, post punk, psychedelic, shoegaze and indie disco without even flinching. We all know it's a human toilet, we all know it's an open sewer, we all know it's a halfway house for the criminally deranged and yet we still can't help but admire it's durability. Why? because within these festering walls, within this ever ripening stench: if we but flare our nostrils wide and breathe in deeply? maybe it could teach us a thing or two about surviving the odds!
DOUBLE HANDED (****1/2) myspace :: Which brings us to our opening act who've also survived and thrived through most (if not all) of the same clownshit insanity listed above, for well over the past five years now (no mean feat in the Adelaide scene mind you). In fact in the years after releasing their rapturously received debut EP "The Therapist" especially (launched back in 2006) they've gone through a veritable rollercoaster of confusing moodswings in attempting to keep all their shit together. From attempting the near impossible in swapping around their lead singer from Shaun Holton to Nick Russell (from Soft White Machine, Delusions Of Grandma, Quantum Kaos) back in 2007-2008 (when the former buggered off to Dubai of all places!?). To their notable shift in sound from the Tool/Incubus influence of old, to the operatic head exploding extremes of The Mars Volta in the new. To losing their second guitarist Cameron Sanderson in 2009 (also overseas). To gaining a revolving door of "guest performers" in between: from backup singer Katie Kowald, vocalist Kate Jarvis (from The Black Doves), saxophonist Joel McMillan (from The Dairy Brothers, The Beards, Delusions Of Grandma) to second guitarist Rhys Nixon. Only to culminate in their triumphant debut album release and associated launch party for "A Book Of Back Pages" (and subsequent east coast tour) back in September and October. I mean shit after all they've gone through by now you swear they'd be damn near unkillable short of the kind of arcane weaponry found in a Dungeons & Dragons' "Player's Handbook" (or an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer). And yet tonight, to the shock of many, they've suddenly decided to call it quits!? WHOAAA FUCK!! I know! It's anyone's guess why? I mean maybe they're simply ending it on a "high note"!? either way they sure as shit weren't gonna leave without one FUCK of a sendoff. Yup right from their opening number "Sit Still" (off of their debut EP) they exploded like a terrorist attack. Not only with their visceral stage antics (and their lead singer Nick Russell especially who shrieked and flailed like someone had set him on fire) but with the fanatical crowd assembled who embraced this shit like nothing short of a self flagellating suicide cult. Like a mad symphony of swinging fists, elbows, boots and battered skulls they made short work of the walls and ceiling (and almost demolished my camera in the process) only to become ever more volatile when they launched into their second number "Truth Dies Young" (off their debut album): an experience that was very much akin to a fullblown nervous breakdown shrunk to a black hole singularity and shat out of a volcano. Their third number "48 Hours" provided an odd feeling of calm (if only by comparison) as it was performed without the requisite double drumming. But the real clincher here came with their fourth and final number "Eugenics" that was stretched out into a fuckoff twenty minute(!?) jam so ridiculously overblown in scope it made Muse sound like Mickey Mouse by comparison. Yup it was weird to think that they ONLY played four songs. Even weirder when I swear we needed at least four times as many just to understand the full scope of their shit. Still for those of you living in shock, there IS hope! Both Nick and Jess Porter on guitar are continuing on in Young River & The Vultures Of Virtue. Joel McMillan is still pursuing his "day job" in at least three other bands. And as for "Iggy Pop Jnr" (aka: Fox Faehrmann) on drums and Simmo Newenham on bass? I'm sure whatever they'll be involved in will be no less head explodingly extreme. Double Handed. Quite like their name suggests they may have been a whole lot of "wank" in delivery (two fists full in fact) but you gotta admit rarely has it ever been THIS artfully rendered. Damn. If only they'd play an encore?
GÜNTER & THE SAFEWORD (***1/2) myspace :: Which brings us to our second act, who conversely are playing their "first ever show" tonight, or at least at The Crown & Anchor (as for the past few months they've been hiding out in shitcrazy suburban dives like Northern Sound System in Elizabeth.. go figure?) and thus by all accounts could be considering "brand new". Still as much as this band might not be familiar by "name", they're certaintly not unfamiliar by "nature" thanks in no small part to their lead singer one "Howlin'" Lee Cowan. The SAME Lee Cowan with the spastic poodle perm, plummeting IQ and questionable grasp of toilet training that used to front the near legendary Tony Font Show. The SAME Tony Font Show which for many of us needs NO reintroduction as from 2005-2008 they practically dominated the Adelaide scene, toured the east coast countless times over, released numerous EPs, and left nothing but shattered ribs and shit eating grins in their wake. WHOAAA SHIT YEAH!! Of course they regrettably disbanded almost eighteen months ago (coincidentially with an "epic breakup" gig at The Crown & Anchor) and since then many of us wondered what could have been. Which brings us to the obvious question: how does Günter & The Safeword compare? Well for the most part it's more of the same. Joined by David O'Callaghan (Matt's brother from Tony Font Show) on guitar and keys, Adam Leigh Springbett on bass and Adam Schulz on drums: they're essentially a disco/funk metal hybrid with heavy emphasis on four four beats, rubberband rhythms, hacking riffs and gutteral screaming. Think equal measure Faith No More, Mr Bungle, System Of A Down and the dirtier oldskool extremities of Red Hot Chili Peppers (ie: before they got off the skag), a sound which would obviously be more than familiar to anyone who's ever known Tony Font Show. Thanks to Lee Cowan's juvenile lyrics their songs also cover similar themes (ie: the A-Z of sexual dysfunction, drugs and poop jokes). And yes they're almost as loud, dumb, abrasive, obnoxious and wildly infectious. However there are some "subtle" differences. The most marked of which is how much more direct it is. It's more "dancefloor" oriented (and violently so) and in some occassions even approaches the indie cheese of say Franz Ferdinand (especially in their third album) only to dive straight back into the "Mike Patton playbook" for all the schitzoid aggression. Both Adams on bass and drums trade the "colourful quirks" of Tony Font Show's rhythm for more militant grunt. And then there's Dave on guitar and keys, who proves most impressive in his artful ability to juggle between the both AT THE SAME TIME and not totally fuck it up (and yes it's hell trippy to watch!). So overall there's quite a bit of promise here. Still any new band featuring Lee Cowan wouldn't be complete without his number one fan and sex crazed stalker Miss Moira (ie: see accompanying photo) giving us her thoughtful second opinion: "So.. Günter & The Safeword huh? Now normally I'd drop my panties at the words 'Lee Cowan': the boy's pretty fluffy poodle perm makes me wetter than a tsunami and all this combined with a german accident and kinky sex themes? let's just say.. yum! BUT.. I think the Fonty boys set the bar a little too high. Where was the funky beats? the sexy bass? the songs that make me wanna get naked and touch myself? Günter & The Safeword was like bad sex. It made me wanna drink more to deal with it. Someone needs to tell Lee there's only gonna be ONE guy to be famous with the name Günter and that's Dr von Hagans. And frankly? I don't think Lee could even spell doctor.. let alone BE one!". Hmmm yup that's Günter & The Safeword alright! Just like all the best and worst bits of puberty made into a Ren & Stimpy cartoon and cranked up to eleven: what's not to love!?
UNCLE CHUNK (****) myspace :: Which brings us to our headlining act. And by "headlining act" I clearly mean (without a hint of irony of course) that they're a touring band from Melbourne, this is the first time they've ever toured Adelaide, they've yet to hit any kind of "high rotation on Triple J" (that I'm aware of) and thus next to nobody in here tonight has even heard of them before. SHIT YEAAAH!! And better yet thanks to all the crowds crapping themselves during Double Handed's farewell? and all the "infamy by association" (and thus all the piss drunk revellers) afforded to Günter & The Safeword's "debut" tonight!? yup you guessed it.. they've just been upstaged by every conceivable measure, they're the last band anyone was ever planning on seeing tonight, and now everyone's likely off at the bar getting hilariously shitfaced drunk instead? FUCK DAMN IT'S AWESOME TO BE YOU DUUUDES!! But wait it only gets better! If there's ONE sound that I'd most associate with this band (besides a passing resemblance to say System Of A Down or Mr Bungle) it'd be the slap heavy bass delivery of Primus. And no shit everyone loves Primus riiight!? Or more specifically the distinctive playing style, quirks and idiosyncrasies favoured by one Les Claypool from Primus: the most fuckoff awesome bassplayer who's ever lived? No shit! And not only can you can hear it referenced in this band in both the way that their bass player Rohan Drew throws his instrument around like a rubberband, and in way their drummer Marc Russo springs about his kit like a bouncy castle, but also in all the whacked out facial ticks and singing style of their lead singer Mike Russo. And why is this so UNBELIEVABLY fuckoff awesome!? because by ALL THEIR DUMB LUCK they just so happen to be playing here on the SAME night that Les Claypool from Primus is playing at Fowlers Live. Yup that sound you're hearing right now (short of the sound of crickets chirping) is all three of these band members kicking themselves retarded over and over. DUUUDE!! To say they truly had their work cut out for them would be putting it mildly, Still to their credit they did make the most out of what could have potentially been THE "perfect storm of monumental suck". Uncle Chunk. In essense think of them as a funk metal band (obviously) only as all the above influences would suggest, they're the lightest, goofiest, colourful and upbeat extremes of "funk metal'. With exceptionally loose (almost jazzy) style arrangements and skeletal grooves they paint a world of wonder and whimsy rather like a cartoon. Or rather like being really really STONED and watching that cartoon. Or as one of their lyrics suggests: rather "like a curry full of flavour" maybe in a corn chip of some description that you could eat whilst watching those cartoons really really stoned. SWEEEET!! And it's all these flavours, all these differentials in depth and all those noodling interludes in between that I find most appealing. Yup in the best way possible you could totally get lost in this shit for days! It does however take a while to work it's magic on the audience. Mike Russo on vocals has to do his best to convince everyone to step forward (in what is always known as the lamest of "audience participation" requests) but by the end, with the room packed out, it's nothing but a goofy grinning paradise in slow smoking space jams. Uncle Chunk. We may have walked in here tonight for everyone else but them, but thanks to their blissfully whacked out set to close the night: not only did none of us want ever to leave, we couldn't even find the exit!
1:08AM - Yup.. looking back on the bands that played tonight, I wonder if the organisers somehow got it all "backward" (ie: they put what was clearly the most "fuckoff epic event" of the night on FIRST and so on). I mean what were they thinking? but then again how were they to know!? Double Handed only "accidently" decided to break up well after they'd agreed to perform first (you baaastards!). There was no way in HELL we could let Günter & The Safeword take the headliner slot (as let's face it Lee Cowan really doesn't need the ego boost). And as for Uncle Chunk? shit now I'm really confused! I mean as much as they didn't get the most "wildly enthusiastic" response (at least not initially) it's hard to argue with a band that comes with its very own guitar amp dressed as a robot. No really, how fuckoff awesome is that shit? And apparently they're touring here again next year!? Damn! And I bet it shoots lasers, breakdances, fights other robots and makes wickarse microwave pop-tarts too. Mmmm microwave pop-tarts. Wait.. where the fuck am I again!?
2:19AM - Still there's definitely a weird vibe in the air tonight, a dribbling uncertainty, a drunken unease, and I just can't quite place WHERE it's all coming from either. I don't know whether it's simply Double Handed breaking up (pfft naaah.. that can't be it!). Or if it's just the month of December (or just THIS weekend in particular) making it all "weird". Or whether it's something else, like say.. something they put in the beer, or maybe somebody just farted, or maybe it's fridge magnets!? (or maybe it's just a weird literary device!?). I mean fuck I don't know whether to stay, go, spin in an anticlockwise direction making retarded squeaking noises or all of the above!? And as for what ANY of this shit has got to do with these hysterical nitwits making weird facials in these two photos? Yeaaah I've got no fucking idea. But aren't you so glad I included them anyways!?
2:29AM - Eventually it all got too confusing for my inebriate headspace and I just had to leave: an outcome that's clearly totally unrelated to the fact I might have been swapped Coopers Pale Ale for Carlton Draught all night (oh wait.. that totally explains EVERYTHING!!) and not at all coincidental to everyone else doing a "disappearing act" either. Either way, moments later I was flying out those doors in search of "greener pastures" to get grinningly obliterated at. But where!? I mean usually I'd just let the "bleedingly obvious" guide me (ie: it's just like bat sonar only beer fueled) but I was looking for something "new" tonight, something "different". Hmmm.. should I go to: Shotz? Electric Light? The Exeter? Rhino Room!? Or should I hit the west end: Rocket Bar? Ed Castle? Enigma? Supermild!? OH FUCK OFF! ALL KNOW IT'S GONNA BE SUPERMILD DON'T WE!?
2:43AM - And so here I am at Supermild, except clearly it isn't.. because.. wait, did I just!? WHOAAA FUCK!! Yup for the first time in fucking ages THIS is somewhere brand new to get stupidly drunk at (although if it helps? I did find out about it last week AT Supermild). It's called Casa Blah Blah, situated on 12 Leigh Street (aka: that wacky paved laneway with the oldskool lamplights just off of both Hindley Street and Currie near King William). Apparently it used to be called Sarah's Cafe up until three months ago, then it got taken over by one of the dudes who used to run Zhivago (ie: before 2006 when it didn't blow a goat) and now if all the drunkarse "word of mouth" is anything to go by? it's the latest SHIT HOT dancefloor destination to get utterly fucked up at. Awesome huh!? And no before you ask that freak dressed as Batman ISN'T always here, he just so happened to turn up the minute I decided to take a photo outside. I know, go figure huh!?
According to the sign outside it's a "Multicultural Tapas Lounge Bar": which if you're anything like me (and actually have to google up "Tapas" cause you're THAT fucking clueless) doesn't really say all that much. Still, stepping inside it's actually quite impressive. The interior's been decked out in an all red paint job rather reminiscent of Zhivago, coupled with an earthy brown black detailing in slate and concrete. It's furnished with ornate (possibly Morrocan style?) lanterns, tapestries, oriental footstalls and plenty of luxurious leather couches, all mashed together with a curious Buddhist Chinese/Indian flavour in stone statues and glowing golden figureheads. With an overall feel that's equal parts richly dark, minimal and inviting in an understated "fungal" kind of way.
Being a bit "skint" tonight I didn't really check out the bar menu. So I've got no idea if they've got expensive drinks, cheap drinks, long necks, tap beer, house wine, or what kind of cocktails they might serve, or whether that "Tapas" bit might involve anything out of that dinner scene in "Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom" (yeaaah you know the one!) but if they did I'd definitely be hankering for a chilled monkey's brain.. OOOOH SHIT YEAH!! (no really.. they should totally set that up). But as much as I DO know they run some wacky "Salsa" night every Saturday (so take that for what you will). But when I was here tonight the DJs were banging this fuckoff awesome pounding afro-tech junk very much reminiscent of Leftfield's "Rhythm & Stealth" album: so much so I've been banging Leftfield all week. No really.. what ever happened to those guys!?
Of course since it's only just opened it's not exactly "humming" just yet. Or maybe it WAS much earlier on when Batman and all his dysfunctional superheroes were here: and me taking all these photos NOW this ridiculously "late" on a Saturday (from every conceivable angle where you CAN'T see people to show off all the "architecture") can't be helping matters. Still I got a good feeling, it's got promise! In six months time it'll be mad buzzing. In a year's time it'll be huge. Then in two years time it'll be fucking massive, then there'll be a fuckoff door charge with lineups around the block, then it'll change ownership and then it'll be shit (naaah that never happens!) so NOW is definitely the time to hit it hard. Casa Blah Blah peeps.. bring all your friends, your frenemies, your worst nightmares and let's make it THE fashion "flash in the pan" it so richly deserves to be!
3:16AM - Still with Casa Blah Blah shutting up shop for the night (or at least it looked that way what with that bouncer out front "mad SMSing" and all) it was time to move on. *Sigh* I know, is it just ME or do all of your nights end like this too? playing "closing time chicken" with all the late night venues and lounge bars until you finally "wise up" and jump ship for the nearest taxi (usually slightly before or after you end up at a shithole like The Rosemont, The Strathmore or worse The Casino!? yeeeouch!). I mean why couldn't they simply open up a venue where you could drink nonstop from 9PM till 9AM without having to relocate, I mean wouldn't that be awesome? Wait, you mean I can do all this shit at home!? Hmmm speaking of such, I wonder what's happening at Supermild tonight? Absolutely fuck all worth photographing!? Awesome.. BEST NIGHT EVER!!
Yup it's strange days alright.. even more so now as we near the end of one decade and roll into the next. I mean who knows what's gonna happen next!? Everything's in a state of flux. Anything could change in an instant. Nothing's a hundred percent certain. You see it shuffle that deck, you keep a poker face, you're dealt your hand, you laugh when you realise that you can keep on playing. Damn! By Adelaide scene standards I guess that makes me an "immortal" huh? I've been doing this for how long now? and yet I keep coming back!? YEAAAS.. TAKE THAT GRAVITY!! Shit I wonder what this scene will be like in one year's time? or two year's time? or ten!? I mean do we even DARE think that far ahead? Yup I dunno about you duuude but I'm itching to find out!