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...
And yet here I am STILL writing a blog about it? and there's all these photos from who-the-fuck-knows-where in it!? AAAAH FUCK!! Yeah I know, of all my dumb luck aye!? You see there I was this Sunday afternoon, spread eagled on the couch, two panadols foaming in a glass, mi goreng steaming in bowl, IV drip "hair of the dog" (naturally), basking in all my lofty accomplishments, satisfied in a job well done thinking: "hahahaha wow, I'M SO GLAD THAT'S OVER WITH!!" and then the calls came flooding in. All these chirpy chipper voices, all flooding me with an insane offer, an insane offer I couldn't possibly refuse. *GNAAARRRGH FUCK!!* Or rather like Carly Whittaker and her goofy grin here at the door. I mean could YOU say "no" to that!? OF COURSE YOU COULDN'T!! she's so whimsically insane and cute as a button.. DAMN YOU CARLY, DAAAMN YOU TO HELL!!
In essence it operates as a multipurpose art space, live venue, bar and shop front. Walking in you'll find "The Zine Shop" stocked with over 300 badly photocopied titles of head exploding awesomatude (and open from 3PM each day!) which leads onto the bar serving stubbies at $4-$5, wine at $5, "snorkels" at $6, long necks at $9 (fuck I KNOW!!), a whimsical array of human skulls for $70 ($85 with added "skinks".. whatever the fuck that means!?) as well as a choice selection of cupcakes, lemon slices, chocolate crackle and soft drink for $2 or less. And as for THIS mezzanine gallery right here? This is "The Fauso Coppi Space" (named apparently after "the world's greatest cyclist") playing host to a rotating exhibition of visual art throughout the festival. Awesome huh?
*ahem* excuse me while I take the stairs here..
In this basement level, otherwise known as "The McKeague Space" you'll find one of two things. THIS wacky installation piece hidden under the stairwell, acting as a veritable shit magnet for pretty much every stoner and wastoid in a 1km radius (I know!? how freaking awesome is it!? WOOOO!!).
And THIS multipurpose live performance space and art gallery, devoted to pretty much ANYTHING that a "live performance space" entails, the wilder the better, seven days a week (no really check out their wacky program guide: they're even getting Craig Schuftan from Triple J to host a "Disco Lecture" on March 13th!), as well as a series of live gigs: "The Format Festival Of Song" scheduled here pretty much wherever "the mood strikes them", but usually on Thursday to Sunday nights.
In overall vibe, as obviously THIS is where I'll spending most of my time tonight, think of it as rather like an overgrown house party; only it's the most fuck off awesome "house party" you've ever been invited to. There's a wealth of ultra comfy "sharehouse" style chairs and couches, as well as milk crates and makeshift "bar stools" fashioned out of car tires and cushions scattered about; which is just as well as otherwise you're pretty much settling for the cold concrete floor (which I can tell you from first hand experience.. is dusty as all fuck!) but besides that teeny tiny nitpick? I have nothing but praise. No really.. if I could? I'd totally move here and live in this joint 24/7.
Which then leads me to the live stage.. or more accurately the "random scattering of musical instruments" stuffed into the back of the room. But hey! don't get me wrong here, all things considered? it actually works quite beautifully. It's well lit (or at least I've had much worse), the red curtain makes a more than effective backdrop, there's plenty of space to move around, the live sound's almost "half decent" (ie: somewhat between The Exeter and what you'd expect from The Jade Monkey) and short of that great big honking pillar in the middle (which you'll be sure to see in the live videos) I might actually get some good shots here! No really, "thumbs up" duuudes!
And this is what they're offering for tonight's entertainment: "Twee-Fest? TWEEEE-FEST!? WHAT THE FUCKING CRAP IS THAT?". Oh yes we truly do feature nothing but the very best on Spoz's Rant. And it's not just for all the awesome live acts involved, as let's face it you can never go wrong with Humble Bee (NO SHIT, THEY'RE SO RIDICULOUSLY BADASS THEY PRACTICALLY MAKE MY PENIS IMPLODE!!) but also because it's called "Twee-Fest": quite possibly the best name for a music festival ever.. since I accidently "invented it" in a conversation I had with Carly Whittaker over six months ago. I mean suuure in the credits they say SHE came up with the whole concept (and yes that's totally true), I just came up with the name. "Twee-Fest"? oh yeaaah, I'm really that good!
THE BRITISH ROBOTS (****) myspace :: Which brings us to our opening act, and the one other reason I'd finally dragged myself away from the laptop, the couch, the panadols and the proverbial IV drip to be here tonight.. "what and for Twee-Fest wasn't nearly GOOD ENOUGH an excuse for you!?": as they just so happen to be one of those rare few live bands left in the Adelaide scene (quite like Buster Fidez before them) who I've always been meaning to go see, but through no fault of their own they've always just "slipped under the radar". Hmmm. Still, let this be a lesson to all you aspiring "unknowns" out there (hi Notorious Daughters!), if ever you DO want to feature in an episode of Spoz's Rant? simply scam yourself a gig with either Like Leaves, Steering By Stars, The Keepsakes or the 20th Century Graduates and duuude I'm already there! Ironically enough however, The British Robots already did JUST THAT back in 2008 when they snuck themselves onto the bill with The Killgirls and The Mischief (from Sydney) playing Higher Ground waaay back in September that year (quite possibly in the hopes I'd make an appearance) and I even turned up too! Only it turned out the venue had only the ONE functioning toilet cubicle that was perpetually stuck in the "engaged" position, only for me to hobble off to Enigma Bar after HALF AND HOUR OF WAITING to use their toilets, only to say "fuck this!" and hit The Crown & Anchor instead. Oh and I bet The British Robots laughed and laughed when they read that story too (and even more so when they saw that other band The Mischief make an appearance on this blog a few months later.. DAMNIT!!) and yes I don't doubt there's been countless "near misses" with me since. But now, finally, after all these years WE MEET AT LAST!? YEAAAS!! (and I dare say they've been well worth the wait.. and for the strangest reasons too!). Yup The British Robots are as "twee" as they come, in fact they're SO ridiculously twee they practically make the head exploding "twee-ness" of Joanna Newsom sound like Megadeth by comparison; but it's never a bad thing, OOOOH FUCK NO!! it's all part of their infinite charm! Yup thanks to the unique vocal stylings of both Mark Curtis and Zoe Behan: the former with his goofy "folk falsetto" and the latter with her endlessly endearing "Irish" lilt (or is it Welsh? or is it American? or is it Norwegian!? AAAAH WHO THE FUCK KNOWS!?) they remind me very much of what The Kinks or Belle & Sebastian would sound like if they were fronted by Tiny Tim and Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. AWESOME HUH!? And it's not just THOSE two extraterrestrials who strike such an oddball (yet beguiling) presence, the rest of band look so hilariously mismatched in their 70's sideburns and long hair clashing with bass player Casey Cumming's mobster getup (aaawesome hat by the way!) I half wonder if they're escaped mental patients from Degrassi Junior High (or better yet they're home schooled!? WOOOO!!). Still as much they're goofy looking, even wilfully so, they're utterly brilliant songwriters and performers. Their arrangements are ever so whisper light and effortlessly breezy, they're chock full of all these sweet acoustic flourishes, and this wondrously infectious rhythmic swing.. and oh maaan it's all so utterly cute and endearing I DARE YOU not to smile and bop your head along; in fact it may actually be impossible! The British Robots. They may just be chamomile tea with the "volume" turned up.. but damnit I LIKE IT!!
HAWKS OF ALBA (****1/2) myspace :: Unlike our opening act this ISN'T the first time I've seen Hawks Of Alba, it's actually the third time I've seen them in little over a month; most recently of which being little over two weeks ago in support of Jay Walker & The Pedestrians (whoaaa no kidding? that was ONLY TWO WEEKS AGO!? DUUUDE, IT FEELS LIKE IT'S BEEN TWO MONTHS!!). Yup and as much as I can gather, short of an exceptionally appreciative crowd here tonight who are loving every moment of their set (and understandably so), trading in-jokes with the band, laughing it up and making song requests: absolutely nothing here has changed, and I mean NOTHING, it's just the "same 'ol shit" we've heard three times before with maybe a few songs rearranged. Hmmm. And as much as you'd THINK this would make it difficult for me to write about them (and maybe a sign I'm getting sick of them already!? FUCK NOOOO!!), in actual fact it begins to explain a lot of their lasting appeal. For as much as I can gather, in all the places I've seen them live from The Grace Emily to The Ed Castle to Format Festival tonight they have EXACTLY THE SAME SOUND: the same crystal clear clarity, that same relaxed feel for "negative space", that same infectious skipping attack that propells everything forward. And I think I've pinpointed WHY too! Aiden Moyse their drummer is an absolute psychopath for drum tuning. I shit you not, he's practically retarded for it! He's like one of those fuck off oriental swordsmiths who fold the steel on their blades a thousand times over in precision density.. just so they could pull off all that crazy Crouching Tiger/Jet Li/splitting raindrops aeronautical bullshit. I mean seriously everywhere you hear it.. fuck it, it might not even be his drumkit here tonight and he STILL pulls it off! It's like the perfect potato chip coming at you again and again. And don't get me started in how he can play a glockenspiel and drum at the same time, or how he counts in EVERY song like an orchestra conductor.. because it's not just him who's insane for this shit either. With both Sarah Masters on bass and Hannah Fairlamb on guitar: all three of them are practically coin operated in how effortlessly yet precisely they nail each song. In fact there's a good chance they might actually be robots sent from the future to kill us all "three minutes at a time"; one mad buzzing 90's "girl grunge" hit after another (think The Breeders? and yeaaah you've pretty much got it!). From Sarah's teeny tiny "schoolgirl" vocals conterbalancing Aiden's brutally sharp percussion, to Sarah's minimal bassline strumming complimenting Hannah's cascading guitar fuzz.. there's almost never a bung note here, it's nothing but end to end ear candy! And with the crowd loving every minute of it, how can you possibly go wrong!? Hawks Of Alba: the more you hear it the less you can fault it.. duuude they make this shit look EASY!!
HUMBLE BEE (***1/2) myspace :: As you'll see with all the bands performing here tonight, there's an overriding "twee-ness" that unites them all (obviously, because hell it IS "Twee-Fest"), but what makes it SO entertaining for me (read: ripe for ridicule) is in all the different ways it's expressed with each band. With The British Robots it's in their overall style. With Hawks Of Alba it's in Sarah's vocals. With Humble Bee however it's in their unabashed goofiness. And for once I'm not referring to guitarist Ben Revi here, I'm not making yet another "newborn giraffe" joke at his expense (although believe me I've got plenty!) far from it maaan! that shitcrazy afronaut is nothing less than a diabolical assassin of shred, just look at him gun that guitar solo in the video.. JUST LOOOOK AT THAT SHIT DUDE! HE'S MAKING BALOON ANIMALS OUT OF IT!! HE'S TEARING IT INSIDE OUT!! GO MY SON!! WOOOOOO!! *ahem* No what we're talking about is what was formally a teeny tiny two piece band exploding out into a fullblown six piece "orchestra". And if you've heard their teeny tiny "intimate" album they released last year "When I Should Be Sleeping" you can probably see what I'm getting at here (otherwise go have a listen to their Triple J Unearthed.. no really go on! I'll still be here when you get back). Yup what was formerly lead singer Carly Whittaker, like a teeny tiny bird with a broken wing, singing ever so sweetly on love that went so horribly wrong (awww how cute!) has now mutated into this gangly, goofy, twenty four limbed teenager of wild giddy abandon. Now all you trainspotters out there might otherwise recognise all this as all six members of Ben Revi's Cheer Advisory Council merely shuffled about under a different name. But it's not just that they're playing "goofier" material here (Cheer Advisory Council is clearly the more "serious" sibling), or that they're playing different instruments: it's that they're swapping them throughout their entire set, willy nilly, almost at random, like this dizzying overdose of expression. No shit, it's pure fucking madness! Granted for the most part it works, all the wondrous minimalism of their album, and a few new ones, are given some added weight, emphasis, aggression (especially in that guitar) and a whole singing choir of voices; they also do this really heartfelt cover of R.E.M.'s "The One I Love" (they really nail it in the chorus); it's truly powerful stuff! It's just that I'm yet to reconcile THIS with all their old stuff and it's doing my head in. Yup what we're seeing here is clearly a band that's going through one violent growth spurt (more so than we last saw them support The Lucksmiths last year) and there IS a lot of promise on show, I'd just much rather come back after they've sorted their shit out so it doesn't blow my brains out. Still with all that being said if you're new to them? if this is your first time? ooooh they're SO damn twee.. they'll knit you a sweater with it! Bring your kids, your nanna, your psychiatrist, YOU'LL FREAKING LOVE IT!! Humble Bee. Just like a teeny tiny bird with a broken wing.. only now? they're totally beating me over the head with it!
THE KEEPSAKES (****) myspace :: When it comes to our headlining act (and for those of you keeping score, the "twee-ness" is in the hat!) I dare say I've struggled for the longest time to figure out why they're so good at what they do; and by "what they do" I'm clearly referring to Ned Flanders out the front there (aka: Anthony Wignall their lead singer) and his innate knack for cooking up some truly infectious "indie pop" of the utterly inoffensive kind. I mean I know the influences are bleedingly obvious: it's that whole "James Mercer meets The Go-Betweens and The Lucksmiths" kinda thing (with maybe a little bit of Ben Folds and Death Cab For Cutie too.. y'know if either of those mentions weren't a grievous insult). But it goes much deeper than that. No, the way I figure it The Keepsakes nail the same simple appeal that we find in say: a freshly cooked loaf of white bread, or a fresh bowl of vanilla ice cream, or one of those Kraft cheese slices in the plastic cling wrap (fuck I love those!) or a cool glass of water, or lettuce.. everyone loves lettuce right!? LETTUCE IS AWESOME!! And the trick here isn't in just settling for the cheapest knock-offs either, we're not talking trashy supermarket bought basics here, we're not talking nipping off to the servo for a quick fix.. OOOOH FUCK NO!! The Keepsakes nail the very aesthetic of something "simple" done RIGHT. And it's not something to be taken lightly either (case in point, read my Hungry Kids Of Hungary review from earlier this week.. yeeeouch!). For the real secret here, is that they make the very finest in "musical tofu" as it were, and then add a few teeny tiny "sprinkles" to flavour it all one way or another. Whether it be something Jeremy Lake adds with his nonchalant drumming, or Jon Wignall with his "puppy chasing its own tail" bass playing; it's just that little "something" that makes you appreciate the underlying charm of the songwriting so much more. It's why The Keepsakes have brought in so many guest collaborators in the past: Clemmi Wetherall from Zeta, Thomas Capogreco from Oh My Guard!, Alex Ciaravolo from 20th Century Graduates or even Sascha James Kenny bringing back the fingerbleed of old from Zeta (aaaah those were the good 'ol days weren't they?). They "lift" everything around them, they're "vanilla" made awesome, they're like Cliff Richard made cool again! Which is demonstrated once more tonight, when they "drag" their number one superfan out of the crowd to play along with them (aka: Dougie Arnott, who you may recognise from about a billion over eager comments left on your facebook profile this week). All he adds is some over enthusiastic tambourine and what I could've sworn was the sound of a donkey having an explosive joygasm; but in combination with the sheer brilliance of The Keepsakes, it all sounds just that little more "awesome" in the combination. I mean it's just SO ridiculously simple, almost "simple" in a special school kinda way; I know this.. but therein lies the genius! Their subtlety is their strength. They don't just scream "head exploding SHIT YEAAAH!!" like an idiot. They simply tap you on the shoulder when your back's turned and then run away laughing before you know what's hit you. Yup that's The Keepsakes! Where so much other indie pop of late just sound like a shit version of Vampire Weekend, they're showing us how it's really done: one simple masterstroke at a time!
If it's at all possible I'm even MORE exhausted than before. No really, I'm like one of those timber frame buildings you see in stock footage from the 1950's being blown to bits by an atomic bomb blast.. only freeze framed, propped up on two stilts holding a camera. And to think I've just spent the past three hours working an "obstacle course" out front for this shit: crouching, coughing, wheezing, stretching, collapsing, all covered in dust on the concrete just so I could take photos for ANOTHER blog? FUCKING HELL!! Yup I'm more exhausted than before, I'm an echo, I'm a sock puppet, I'm a mere shadow of my former self.. but I dare say it was worth it! Format Festival? YOU DUUUDES ROCK!! I stumble off satisfied at last, EEG sustain ringing off in my ears. I pass Stan Mahoney by the bar who glares at me and shouts: "oi.. why you haven't been drinking any beers tonight!?" as if I'M solely responsible for paying the "rent" around here (actually he might have a point!). Only for me to glare right back at him, hold back a coughing fit, imagine him tumbling loudly down three flights of stairs, only to laugh my arse off as I walk out that door *phew* I mean seriously? after this week duuude? after all I've been through!? DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED!!
On Monday night there's another invite, Tuesday night twice that, by Wednesday I can't even keep count. Every few hours without fail another flood of them ambush my inbox, they find strength in numbers, they're waiting for me even now: all set to pounce, pupils like pins, as they grab me by the scruff of the neck and scream "SEE MY SHOW!! IT'S EVER SO SHINY.. WAAAUHAhAHAhAHaHA!!". Yeaaah I know it's a hard life isn't it? I really DO dig the biggest holes for myself. But I'm SO not there anymore maaan, I'm nowhere near it, I'm far faaar away in a field of green, spread eagled eyes to the blue, going "LA LA LA LA!!" and smiling! It's the best thing it really is! I'll see if I can get your name on the door, you'll like it here.. sweet SWEET denial people, population: me!