The Adelaide music scene: to many of you it might be little more than a touring speed bump between Melbourne and Perth but to us it's a way of life. Feast within, on all its dysfunctioning splendour, as we bring you the highly satirical, laughingly fictional and intellectually imbecile tales from our rock & roll wasteland...
STEERING BY STARS + RED INK + THE PHOBIAS LIVE @ THE ED CASTLE + JIVE / Saturday February 6th 2010
So here I am standing outside of Jive on a Saturday night.. and oh look! there's that same sign I'm always taking photos of (or at least I would have been, if I didn't already just recycle the same shot I've been using since last October *cough*). And if this was any OTHER Saturday night? I'd simply storm right on in, bluff my way past the door bitch: "yes my name IS on the door.. and no, these aren't the droids you're looking for", shoot the shit out of whoever-the-fuck is playing live on stage (it's even funnier when they freak out and duck for cover!), tap a tonne of incomprehensible SMS notes into my phone so I can take the piss out of them later (like maybe in the blog you're reading now), get stupendously drunk at the usual suspects (Ed Castle or Supermild? whichever's more bleedingly tedious), collapse head first into a late night bus or taxi that'll miraculously deliver me home for "detox" and/or exorcism (Royal Adelaide emergency ward heeere we come!), edit, process, upload and write reams of ridiculous gibberish on my laptop, press "publish post" and wait for the hatemail to flood in! But of course this ISN'T just any 'ol Saturday night. OOOH FUCK NO!! it's the Saturday night after Laneway Festival. I've already covered 11 artists, shot 2505 photos, spent two days editing and processing down to 144, spent another two days just to write a blog about it.. and now it's Thursday evening (or 6:59PM to be precise) and I'm completely fucking fried! I mean seriously, does ANYONE give a shit what I did on Saturday!? OF COURSE NOT!! But I'm still gonna publish a blog about it anyways. WHY!? Well a thought occured to me.. in all the hysteria of Friday afternoon and night (oh and the fun we had!) I didn't catch a SINGLE Adelaide band, and this is a blog about the Adelaide scene. I think you see where I'm getting at here.. and if you answered with: "Spoz you're a fucking retard!" then you're dead right! So here's to yet more live bands reviewed in yet more live venues.. for the simple fact that I'm shitcrazy enough to attempt it (and will likely regret it afterwards). OOOH FUCK YEAH, LET'S GO FUCKING MENTAL!!
THE SCARLET IVES (***1/2) myspace :: However like always, there IS a "method" to my madness and I'm not just randomly selecting targets. Take our opening act for instance, The Scarlet Ives. Sure I've already seen them before, at least twice that I can remember: once at Supermild, once more at The Ed Castle. They do that whole Jeff Buckley meets Radiohead's "The Bends" schtick (and surprisingly well at that!), and I'd totally recommend them to anyone. I mean fuck, what else do you want from me? A FULL FUCKING PSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILE!? (don't make fun of Gavin's singing.. DON'T MAKE FUN OF GAVIN'S SINGING!!). But not only is this the LAST show that lead singer Gavin "Daniel Johns" De Almeida (oh crap NOW I've done it!) will be playing with both bass player Rick Wood and drummer Travis Williams, as both of them are leaving after tonight: the former for America, and the latter to start up a new (as yet untitled) band with former members of King Daddy and Taught By Animals (ie: check this live video if you're curious to see how that'll turn out). But it'll also the FIRST TIME I've ever managed to capture this band under stage lighting that DOESN'T totally gargle the diseased nutsack of a goat? OOOOH FUCK YEAH, this is NOT a selling point to be taken "lightly"! (excuse the pun). Need I refer you to the blog (one of many) where I bitch about this shit ad nauseum!? OF COURSE I DON'T!! In short there's no way I'd ever want to miss this show.. because they're that kinda special and NOT in a "slow" way (ie: DON'T MAKE FUN OF GAVIN'S SINGING!!). And as for tonight's set? well as much as it was painfully short, with all of five songs shot through rapid fire (ie: they started late) and I SO wish I could have heard more.. they still had plenty to offer of the "ear candy" variety. For the real appeal here is in MORE than just the basics. It's not JUST that they do an exceptional job of aping Radiohead's "The Bends" in such a way that you almost believe they're capable of coming up with "OK Computer" (ie: if only some record label were thoughtful enough to nudge Nigel Godrich and a farm in rural Oxfordshire in their direction). Or for the fact, that as much as I LOVE to poke fun at him (especially in this review), Gavin does have that "distinctive" yodeling, lilting, growling, passive aggressive quality to his voice that only but adds gravitas and pathos to anything he accompanies. No, where they TRULY shine is in their arrangements. Rich in both indie charm and art rock sensibility, songs flow effortlessly through sweeping solos, nuanced breakdowns and subtle time changes. Gavin's guitar work is especially mesmerising: in how he swoops, spins, dives his chords and builds layer upon reverberating layer like slow-motion swordplay straight out of a "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (no shit.. you can almost see him splitting those raindrops!). But then of course it's only five songs and it's over all too soon. Bugger! Still as much as The Scarlet Ives may be losing two members? word is Gavin's already found two replacements. And with luck? he may get to make his "OK Computer" yet.
RYAN MEEKING & THE FEW (**1/2) myspace :: Our next band is one of those "lucky" few unknowns you always end up seeing on this blog. One of those "lucky" support acts I never actually plan on seeing, never know what to expect, and if memory serves me correctly (hi Radio Spectular!!!) invariably cop waaay more than their fair share of hilarious abuse. I know, I KNOW! I really DO derive way too much sadistic pleasure out of this shit don't I!? OOOOH FUCK YEAH I DO!! Or in other words: duuudes? I totally apologise for all this shit in advance.. and if it helps? try to think of it as a "comedy roast"!? Awesome! And so with THAT in mind, heeere's Ryan Meeking & The Few! Yup, apparently they're a touring band from Melbourne. They're launching a new single, an EP, maybe it's a 7" vinyl (or yeaaah fuck it, what do I care?). And the first thing that strikes me about THIS band (as trivial as it may be) is in how much their lead singer Ryan Meeking, eerily resembles the former drummer from Adelaide bands Dead Popes Of The Vatican and Angelik. Yup we're talking Nick Hadley, and we're talking one freakyarse doppelganger! And as much as you THINK I'm simply beating up on an hilarious "in joke" that nobody else is going to understand? Take a look at this photo and tell me IT'S NOT HIM!! (and before you ask? no it ISN'T Nick Hadley, he's in England right now.. I swear!). Secondly and more importantly, there's the matter of just how ridiculously "earnest" they sound. Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with being earnest per se. Wearing your heart on your sleeve? telling people by the "power of song" JUST HOW YOU FEEL in totally forthright and righteous manner? all that crap!? It's a beautiful thing! NO REALLY! It's just that when I hear it: I can't help but think John Mayer, I can't help but think "Your Body Is A Wonderland", and then I just wanna shoot myself. But that's not all, there's numerous other influences I'm picking up on here too: a little bit of Ryan Adams, a little bit of Jeff Buckley (good so far) and whole lot of John Butler Trio (ok.. now they're starting to lose me), and a few too many overwrought moments where I could have sworn they were aping Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" album in the MOST cheesingly radio friendly, commercial sapfest kind of way. On the positive however, I readily admit they're exceptional musicians. Exceptional! They sell this shit, by the porcelain load, with every fibre of their collective being. I mean there's not a single note out of place here in every soaring heart breakingly epic ode to whatever-the-fuck! But perhaps THAT'S the biggest problem: as fiendishingly proficient as they might be as "performers" (and then some!), their paint-by-numbers approach to songwriting makes them about as "edgy" as Hootie & The Blowfish. But hey what would I know!? (and let's face it I've been wrong in the past!), I bet you and your "footy club" would ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!
Speaking of such: within minutes of them playing their first note, a veritable flood of The Ramsgate's "finest" come flooding in to the front of stage. Suprisingly I'm pretty sure they're NOT here as part of Ryan Meeking & The Few's touring "rent-a-crowd", but in actual fact here to see our headlining act. And upon hearing those "heartfelt" sounds? they simply can't help but be swept up by the emotion of it all. Unsurprisingly however they're clearly SLOSHINGLY drunk, and I can't help but piss myself laughing everytime they clumsily lurch into view as I shoot the band, flapping their arms about, in a blithering attempt to distract my attention. Aaaah I know? what's not to love!?
THE PHOBIAS (****) myspace :: And speaking of headlining acts that everyone came here to see: if ever there was a reason to pry yourself off that toilet seat and head into Jive tonight? (and perhaps use their toilet seats instead) it'd definitely be for THESE guys. And I'm not just saying that because they're playing their final farewell show tonight (whoaaa shit.. you're saying WHAT now!? DAAAMN YOU!!) and thus pretty much rendering this entire live review useless for everyone involved (no shit, the lead singer's totally moving to America and everything!). But also quite simply for what they were playing. In short? they were mightly impressive. In an utterly longwinded format as is customary for me to write in this blog? read on! The Phobias, as much as I understand it, were formed back in 2001 over a mutual admiration of Faith No More (at least that's what they told us tonight). After their first appearance at Adelaide Uni Bar they played numerous shows since, none of which I ever saw.. or at least not that I can remember (damnit!). They took an "indefinite hiatus" around 2005, only to miraculously reappear for a scattering of "reunion" shows late last year, one of which (with The Scarlet Ives) I was itching to go see simply on the merits of Gavin's word alone.. if it weren't for the fact it was at Rocket Bar: the place where all good cameras go to die. And now heeere they are tonight! Oh and as it turns out? short of their brilliant cover of Faith No More's "Land Of Sunshine" (complete with keyboard flourishes) they sound absolutely NOTHING like them. Instead what they most remind me of is oldskool Muse. Think "Plug In Baby", think "New Born", fuck it.. throw in the entire "Origin Of Symmetry" album. All that pent up aggression? piss and vinegar? wailing paranoia? it's all there. To round it all out: sprinkle in some Placebo, and maybe throw in a little Elastica as well and it's a truly lethal combination. Fronted by Wayne Palmer on vocals and guitar, I couldn't help but imagine what Liam Neeson's life would have been like if he'd swapped places with David Bowie's "Thin White Duke". That intense bird beak stare, that sinewy frame, how he appears perpetually perched on the edge of a psychotic breakdown? There's no "play acting" here.. just coilspring tension delivered with laserbeam intensity, one haunting falsetto at a time. Songs are slow to build (and brilliantly so): soft, soothing, sweeping, only to let loose in a shrill bombastic explosion. The keyboards especially (and I don't think I've EVER seen a "virus" synth used outside of a drum & bass or industrial act before) are pounded with such understate malevolence by Greg Webb that they practically make my skin crawl in accompaniment. Oh yeah, it's trippy shit. And even when they get their female vocalist Kate Ward on stage to add her liltingly sweet refrains to a smattering of songs in the middle? it's only all the more unsettling in its impact (and that's putting it mildly). Yup, all in all they make for one HELL of an impression (and in the best way possible) and in their final show.. all the more painfully so. Intense, psychotic, shriekingly angst ridden and buzzing with such menacing riffs? The Phobias, no shit.. their name said it all!
11:29PM - And there we have it. But obviously that's not the end of it. As much as I could have easily left it with JUST those three live acts tonight, and especially after all eleven acts I'd already covered at Laneway Festival the night before (I mean no shit, haven't I already done ENOUGH damage for one weekend? WHAT THE FUCK AM I THINKING!?). Yeaaah let's face it I've never been one to back down from a challenge on this blog, especially if that "challenge" is completely and UTTERLY batshit insane and bordering on the suicidally retarded (YEAAAS!!). For THIS as we all know, is where I truly love to operate! And so, throwing all caution to the wind (and CLEARLY all of what was left of my sanity), I decided to go with one of my all-time favourite "venue-tag" gambits (ie: one which I've frequently employed in the past on a Saturday night). When one show ends at Jive? yup, chances are you'll be here just "in the nick of time" for another show at The Ed Castle!
RED INK (***1/2) myspace :: But of course just like before, there IS method to my madness here (although admittedly it may be skating on thin ice by now). For one I've "accidently" arrived a just little too late to catch their opening act: "The Daisy Chains" (OH MAAAN!! I'm so "disappointed"). Which for those of you NOT in the know (and I count myself borderline in that category.. by CHOICE) are a brand new side project featuring the "exceptional talents" of one Tom Hanna from Femme Fatales and Josh Moore from The Touch. And no, I needn't explain to you just how catastrophic that may be (but hey! feel free to click on that link anyways if you want a "loose approximation" of what I believe hell might sound like). Secondly I've arrived JUST IN TIME to make a head explodingly awesome discovery in THIS band. OOOOH SHIT, where do I even begin!? Yup this right here is Red Ink, they're a touring band from Melbourne, and they are without a doubt THE MOST HILARIOUSLY FUCK OFF AWESOME BAND I'VE SEEN ALL WEEK. No really! they're a gift, a gift that keeps on giving and giving till I swear I've fucking burst a spleen from laughing so hard. I don't know where the FUCK Ross Osmon FINDS these freaks (he's the band booker here don't you know?) but I SO owe him a beer for this! To explain, picture the LOUDEST, STUPIDEST, "NU-RAVE" INDIE DISCO DISASTER you could possibly ever imagine having an exploding hissy fit on stage.. now multiplied that by a factor of 2. Or better yet: picture Jared Leto from 30 Seconds To Mars fronting the Klaxons. Or maybe Brüno (aka: Sacha Baron Cohen) fronting The Rapture. Or perhaps an entire Japanese game show being shat out of the arse end of a Flamingo with accompanying strope lights and ooops.. there goes the nosebleed! I mean fuck, I could've sworn with this new decade and all we'd be done with dance punk, I thought indie disco was over, or maybe it was wishful thinking!? But this band has made my fucking MONTH! Red Ink are so damn 80's it hurts. THEY'RE FREAKING HILARIOUS MAAAN!! From the stabbing synth, buzzing guitar, itchy trigger beats, pogo bass rhythms to the retarded shouted slogans. To the fact that at least two of their band members are sporting noughties equivalents of the "Flock Of Seagulls" (aka: the "fauxgull") OOOOH FUCK IT'S TOO MUCH!! No shit, they're a Commodore 64 arse raped by an episode of Countdown while Duran Duran watches! And if the music itself wasn't hilarious enough? their lead singer, one John Jakubenko is truly the icing on the cake! In that peculiar way he minces about on stage, flapping his arms and legs akimbo in various comical interpretations of "Jesus Christ Pose" and "Peter Garrett having an epilectic seizure": he's quite like what you'd imagine Jar Jar Binks would look like if he ever he impersonated Michael Hutchence. I'm in stitches here! I can't get enough of this shit! There's even a surreal moment where he bows down at the back of the stage and proceeds to violate the curtains like it's fucking rhythm gymnastics! And yet.. as hard as I'm laughing here, and as much as it may pain me to say this: they "own" everything they do. From the artful precision and polish of their songs: verse to chorus, hook line and sinker.. catchy as all fuck, to their itchy trigger performance they can't be faulted! They're electro pop assassins. They are the beast incarnate. They piss all over every Adelaide assinine entry in this field (short of The Killgirls) by being nothing short of consumate professionals. And now if you'll excuse me.. I'm gonna go shoot myself. For if Red Ink have anything to do with it? this indie disco crazy is FAR from over, it's only just begun!
STEERING BY STARS (****) myspace :: And what makes that band all the more utterly batshit insane, is that they were supporting a live act of THIS rarefied calibre: and the real reason why I went to all this ridiculous trouble in the first place (well ok, perhaps half the reason.. the rest was just me seeing how far I could "push" this shit before I fucking exploded out there). Why!? because it's been well over FOUR MONTHS since I'd last seen them play live, that's why! And that my friend is a crime against nature! Yup, to elaborate in terms that most of us should know WELL by now (ie: thanks to at least six months of my superlative gibberish), Steering By Stars are just one of "those bands". One of those bands you just have to go see live. One of those bands that personally inspired ME to hunt down all manner of OTHER bands that I'd never even heard of prior to them: Deerhunter, M83, The Horrors, Fuck Buttons, Explosions In The Sky; bands that they were obviously influenced by. And in doing so expanding my already ecclectic tastes in such a way I wondered how I ever lived without it (aaaah I gotta love it when a band does that!). Yup there's truly nothing else quite like them in Adelaide. From their first gig back in December 2008 they'd already found their personalised niche: that netherworld between post punk, post rock, shoegaze and arty experimental. For the next nine months they honed it to precision in their live performances. And here back again in 2010 it appears they've refined their sound further still. It helps of course that they've been putting the finishing touches on their debut album, one which I'm itching like crazy to hear (y'know once they finally get around to RELEASING it *cough*) but in all the songs featured here tonight there was just that little bit more "definition" and "clarity" to bring character to what was already a well polished repertoire. A little lyrical articulation here, a little guitar flourish there, it was subtle I know but it was definitely in there. Another new addition was the second synth used by their bass player Adrian Reveruzzi, which featured in a brand new (possibly as yet "untitled song") that teamed both Adrian on second synth with singer Lachlan Wilson on the first, whilst both guitarist Rory O'Connor and drummer Tom Smeets went "totally beserk" with a xylophone duo. And I know it sounds kinda wank from way I described it, but in execution? I swear you could practically hear a pin drop in the room as an utterly gobsmacked audience were drawn ever further into the blissful subtlety of it all. Once more the muffled scream-fest of their song "Dissonance" proved especially popular with the crowd (always a personal favourite of mine) and althought it might have been a somewhat "understated" affair compared with other shows I've seen them play of late (or in other words.. only MORE so), all in all? their introspective songcraft still provided a wealth of wonder for all those willing to take the plunge. Yup that's Steering By Stars. I mean really? how could you possibly go wrong!? Now if only they'd release that freaking album already, we could all play along at home!
2:38AM - At long last I've made it, I've reached the end of it! YEAAAS!! I mean I must have, surely? Sixteen bands in thirty six hours. Seriously? what MORE could I possibly squeeze out of this weekend without causing myself a fucking aneurysm!? Yup I may be laughably sleep deprived on the following Saturday afternoon (or 3:59PM to be precise) writing up all this gibberish "a few marbles short" of a mixed bag of red eyes, but I don't care.. it was WORTH IT MAAAN!! Here chilling out in Matt Hill's hi-fidelity cocktail lounge, downing sweet sweet frosty ales, bugging out to his 70's Bob Dylan and whatever the fuck.. he's back in residence at The Ed Castle dontcha know? (or at least he is while their official "mixer in residence" Alex Ciaravolo is off drinking himself blind around Europe). Aaaah I ask you what more could you possibly want!? this is living right here!
3:42AM - Which is OBVIOUSLY why I had to leave The Ed Castle just now, and make the tactical blunder of walking into Supermild instead. And yes I think we all know what's gonna happen next..
Yeah I know, I really do dig the biggest holes for myself don't I? and if I had ANY ounce of sanity I should never have left The Ed, but do you see me complaining right now? OOOOH FUCK NO!!
Yes this is Simone, nearest and dearest friend of mine. Yes she's dressed as a cat. Yes that's a head to toe velvet catsuit that leaves very little to the imagination. No, I have no freaking clue why she's doing that (what.. YOU NEED A REASON!?). And YES that sound you're hearing right now is both my eyes rolling around, followed soon afterwards by my jaw hitting the floor.
Here she is with her friend Jade. No, I've got no idea what the hell it is they're doing. And to be honest I couldn't care less. At this point I'm just happy that they're doing "whatever it is they're doing" near the bar here so I can get as hideously drunk as humanly possible in the shortest amount of time. Some people call it "binge drinking", I simply consider it a matter of "survival".
5:02AM - With any and all semblance of reality suitably "numbed" (ie: simply to prevent my head from exploding) I soon find myself HERE. Of course I'm a little unsure exactly where "here" is, only it looks a lot like the pavement opposite Enigma Bar, and according to my associates is one of those brand new "pop up" venues opening up just in time for the Fringe Festival. Sweet!
Since it's opened a few weeks before The Fringe however, there's little in the way of actual facilities (let alone a licensed bar) so we pretty much had to make do with whatever furniture we could find.
Furniture which also happened to double as our "live entertainment". Because let's face it, nothing's entirely more amusing than taking photos of Joe Blogs when he's completely and utterly shitfaced (and THEN SOME!), and then posting it online for the whole world to see.
5:22AM - Then again if this pissarse photo is any indication.. then I'm not all that far behind.
5:44AM - And this is me waking up outside of a service station "somewhere" in the western suburbs with little or no recollection how I got there. I'm also pretty sure it's actually Wagga Wagga instead and I'm no longer wearing pants. Yup, just like every other Saturday night before it!
Yup, we're barely a week into February (or two if you count the fact I'm writing all this shit at 5:31PM on the following Saturday). This is only the "quiet" before the storm. It only get a whole lot WORSE from here. Fringe Festival, Fuse Festival, Format Festival, Adelaide Festival Of Arts, Soundwave, WOMADelaide, Future Music.. the list goes on ad infinitum till mid March (don't mention the Clipsal 500, NEVER MENTION THE CLIPSAL 500!!), while every remaining braincell in my skull winks out one by one like a steamroller running over bubblewrap in a mad dash to flee the fuck away. It's my heaven and hell all rolled into one, and it's gonna take a WHOLE LOT OF DRINKING to plough my way through it. Yup I don't know about you duuude.. but I'm excited!