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...
LADY STRANGELOVE + JAY WALKER & THE PEDESTRIANS + ALPEN "TRANSMISSION LIVE" @ THE ED CASTLE / Friday April 30th 2010
Oh look it's a Friday night! and wouldn't you know it? I'm here at The Ed Castle again!? WOWEEE!! IT'S LIKE ALL MY "DREAMS" HAVE COME TRUE!! And it's not like I'm being sarcastic in saying that, HA HA HA OF COURSE NOT YOU IDIOTS!! I'm never sarcastic! I love it here at The Ed Castle, I've always loved it here, it's like the best damn place to see live music in all of Adelaide! OOOOH SHIT YEAH!! Oh wait, I've already told you all that haven't I? Like two weeks ago on a Saturday to be precise? That night The Amcats headlined here for "Plus One", and you totally didn't believe a single word I was saying in my utmost "adoration" for this place!? Wow huh? I really didn't think you'd be able to "read between the lines" like that (mental note: give audience waaay more credit!). But I assure you, as much as you SHOULD never take a single word seriously in this blog? I truly DO mean it when I say it: "I love it here at The Ed Castle". And it's not just because it's a festering fashion hole, or a scenster shitdive, or an eye gouging pink piss stain for all the plastic people to parade about in (or for the fact the stage lighting seems to get worse everytime I shoot here). I mean pfft.. of course we know all that's true, let's not deny it! (in fact sometimes I like to refer to it as "Rocket Bar version 2.0" for those exact reasons) but that's not why I'm here again, in fact quite the contrary! (hence why I haven't been to Rocket Bar in over six months.. buuurn!!). Nope the best reason to be at The Ed Castle is simply because it has the BEST beer garden to get ragingly shitfaced drunk in. YEAAAS!! Especially when you're SO mind blowingly blasted on the turps you don't even remember you're IN The Ed Castle. NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL A GENIUS PLACE TO SPEND A NIGHT!! Now obviously I'm nowhere near that point right now, I've only just walked in, but at least it's something to aim for.. and I DO love a "live venue" that inspires me to set goals!
ALPEN (***) myspace :: Now obviously there ARE other reasons to be at The Ed Castle again, and that would be for the live bands. I mean shit duuude, why else would I be here again? to watch fashionistas flit about with their limited edition $5000 Chanel handbags and argue over who's hotter: Rob Pattinson? Zac Efron? Matt Van Schie? or Justin "I'm really a girl" Bieber!? Hmmm yup, and as much as all that bullshit usually DOES take centre stage over what's happening in the band room (almost to the point of making it invisible), tonight IS the exception to the rule thanks to Transmission Live. Yup for all the endless jokes I've been cracking at The Ed Castle's expense (and believe me I've only just got started!), this is one of the things they STILL do right. Especially tonight as we're witness to nothing short of a miracle here: as The Ed Castle band room is actually packed with a crowd who are weirdly excited to be here. And by "weirdly" I clearly mean they're excited for our opening act Alpen (I know, it takes all types huh!?). Now obviously this isn't the first time I've seen them, that would've been their EP launch back in December 2009 (and yes they rocked the shit out of it) and again a month later just after New Years, and yet even so I've yet to fully figure out why they've gathered such an "exciteable" fanbase here.. or at least past the fact that YES their drummer Tony Marshall DOES have a moustache, and yes it IS the most ridiculously awesome thing I've seen all week (no shit, I was almost planning on basing this entire review on it!). You see as much as I can gather, Alpen are actually two live bands in one. On the one hand they're embarassingly "white bread" (think Vampire Weekend meets Eric Clapton meets Cliff Richard being beaten to death by The Young Ones) especially in Chris Bateman's crooning vocals and his bandmates cooking up a sound that's almost bordering on a smooth bossa-nova in style. But then just before you dismiss them as a lame "adult contemporary" act (ie: the sort that gets sold in late night informercials featuring cliche couples walking hand in hand on the beach with scrolling song titles) they totally go all "Jekyll & Hyde" on our arse and unleash these fuckoff insane 60's psychedelic jams that kill like nothing else. And even weirder? they totally pull both extremes IN THE SAME SONG!! No really! It's like someone flicking a light switch between The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" and "The White Album" (facial hair, sitars and all) and yet as utterly schizophrenic as it is? (and believe me it was a shock to me the first time I heard it) they somehow make it all work. As such in reconciling both extremes, think of them as a mix between Kyuss' "Vision Valley", Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and Stillwater's "Fever Dog": yeaaah y'know? that fictional band out of Almost Famous (or in other words all those other 70's bands I could claim I've heard of as a "prentious rock writer" when you know I really haven't). They find their strengths initially in Chris' golden pipes, and the fact he manages to ape a "Josh Homme" statuesque stage presence right down to the erratic head twitch, but more so in his and Lachlan Tanner's shredding guitar solos (which Chris mostly spends chasing his own tail), Andrew Marshall's dirty brown bass tones and Tony's shitcrazy percussive breakdowns. And when they bring in the horn section for their Spanish flavoured "If This Amounts To Nothing"? duuude it never fails to twist your brain into a pretzel; so much so they ALMOST give Colonel Kernel a run for their money (and that's saying something!). Awesome huh? But even so we're still left with two Alpens here: one mild mannered "vanilla" and another face meltingly "vindaloo". So if they'd only ditch the former (save for the vocals), embrace the latter, take more drugs and crank that volume? who knows what kind of shit awesome psychedelic act we'd have on our hands!?
JAY WALKER & THE PEDESTRIANS (****) myspace :: The last time I saw our second act it was for their launch party back in February: maybe you remember it, or maybe you're like me and you've only gotten back onto solid foods again. Either way as much as it WAS hilariously eye goungingly, head explodingly awesome (so much so I swear I haven't been having recurring nightmares about it ever since.. FUCK NO!!) it was also one of those rare "launch parties" where the overblown shitcrazy theatrics of it actually did their sound a disservice: what with all the stage invasions, the crowd surfers, the broken glass and all the screaming. In fact I even recall ONE moment when I looked back at the mixing desk laughing my arse off thinking I was going to die, only to see Matt Hills the mixer slowly shaking his head in disbelief over just how retarded it was. But tonight there's thankfully none of that here. Although the room is no less packed with people (well maybe it's two thirds that), it's a much more relaxed atmosphere. "Seth Cohen" at the desk is providing a truly masterful mix, Alex Rajkowski from The Shiny Brights is doing genius work with the lights (so much so I half wondering why they don't just throw him a few free beers each time so he could do this shit on a regular basis) and all in all I'm reminded just what I liked about this band in the first place. "IT'S ABOUT THE MUSIC, STUPID!!". I mean suuure it IS the same 60's rock revival almost every dickhead and their dog's been ripping off of late: equal parts The Who, The Kinks and The Velvet Underground. Or more recently think The Fearless Vampire Killers, the Black Lips, or simply read all the rapturous Melbourne street press that follows Eddy Current Suppression Ring wherever they go, and you'd be dead on the money. But where Jay Walker & The Pedestrians differ is in how smooth, laid back and utterly effortless they sound. It's possibly WHY I found that "launch party" SO abrasive in the first place. They're not a band to puncture both lungs and black out unconscious to, FUCK NO!! They're a band to smoke a phat blunt, drop some acid and pull weird shapes to. And tonight? oh yeaah I'm feeling that shit! I can taste the colours! it's like I'm at an open air music festival, I'm covered head to toe in mud and there's a gentle breeze whistling through my junk (hmmm try not to linger on THAT mental image for too long) duuude it's like the best shit ever! I mean for one there's something just so eerily authentic about their 60's sound. They're not so much parroting an ipod playlist as they're THE bonafide reincarnation of Monterey Pop, circa 1967. From Dan Beacom's droning, snarling, shrieking and spitting mid register (like John Lennon meets Lou Reed over a bottle of whiskey). To his and Ryan Harris' guitars jangling in that chintzy register that's ever so trashy, ever so iconically 60's, yet endlessly endearing (duuude it's even better when they dogfight in the solos!). To the rhythm section in both Tom Stevens' chunky bass and Alister Pike's loose drumming that keep all the "wild woolly extremes" flowing ever so seamlessly from beginning to end. No song outstays its welcome, everything's fluid as fuck, and when they throw in that cover of Iggy Pop's "I'm Bored"? it's not like it's a sore thumb, but more like it's all part of the same continuity, like they're passing joints around, and Bob Dylan's the next to take a toke.. ooooh yeah! Jay Walker & The Pedestrians. I'm told their bass player was totally freaking out over the prospect of me reviewing them again (hi Tom!) but as far as I'm concerned, and as far as anyone should give a shit what I have to say (pfft!) if they just keep kicking this blissed out vibe and give it plenty of air to breathe? I'll be nothing but two thumbs up and long gone grinning.. groooovy!
LADY STRANGELOVE (****) myspace :: Now I don't know if you've noticed, but our headlining act tonight have been quite the elusive one of late. And it's not because they've always been the hardest act to photograph, pfft.. FUCK NO!! With a sound as downright shitcrazy and psychedelic as theirs, they're more an "artistic challenge" than anything else (or at least that's MY excuse). But more so in how elusive they've been with live shows for the past two years. Yeaaah ok maybe it's just me, because hell they DID play that show at the Jade Monkey last week when I was at Philadelphia Grand Jury (well shit, they WERE moving to the UK! what else was I going to do!?) not to mention that show earlier this year at Arcade Lane, or that wacky "opening slot" for Tame Impala. But still short of seeing them DJ at The Ed Castle every odd Friday night, or for their launch party back in November, or for those chance cameo appearances in Italian Spiderman (no really look that shit up, it's hilarious!), since about June 2008? I swear they'd all but "disappeared" from the Adelaide scene. NO SHIT!! And as much as I'd love to come up with all manner of assinine conspiracy theories to explain it (yeaaah you'd be much better off attempting to explain why all the "bees have gone missing") the simple fact is they don't really have a "home" to call their own anymore. I mean back in 2006 they had Rhino Room, then in 2007 they had Rocket Bar, then in 2008 it was The Ed Castle. But since then, what with all this indie disco shit running riot (and waaay past its used by date lemme tell you!) it's anyone's guess where they could go to next!? I mean seriously, seeing them here tonight? here in these pink walls of The Ed Castle!? it's like seeing a round block being punched into a square hole over and over and wondering why it won't "fit" like it should. It's like they're from outerspace! But still, the minute they fire into their set? oh trust me we're back maaan! Back to Adelaide circa 2005-2007: back when Wolf & Cub, Artax Mission and Lady Strangelove reigned supreme.. it feels like home again! And although four years may have passed here? it's still the same fucking buzz! It's Brendan Shaw in lead vocals, eyes rolled back, swaying about like he's in a seance, singing words we can barely understand. It's Josh Van Looy on guitar, fucking about so many psychotropic sounds at once it's like Tom Morello being fed through a kaleidoscope. It's Azz Shaw on bass and keys, like a lumbering hunchback, back to the crowd, tweaking the oscillators. And how can we forget Damian Satanek on drums!? (yes that IS his last name) duuude he's like a fucking animal! And as much as very little has changed (I mean let's face it.. it IS a winning formula!) there IS one notable difference that makes tonight's set truly memorable (short of wondering where their "fifth member" Will Spartalis has gone *cough*) and that's Brendan playing the guitar. "NO SHIT, HE'S PLAYING A FUCKING GUITAR NOW!? WHOAAA!! (no seriously, who knew he could even do that!?). And then there's the setlist, fuck full of new songs, mostly off their new EP "Freakquencies" (which you can totally download here for FREE by the way). But even so it's delivered in the same way they've always done, in such dizzying hypnotising loops you don't even know where one song finishes and the next one begins, let alone why all five of your sense are playing musical chairs in your head. And as much as they may be missing their video projection tonight to "seal the deal": all technicolour frolicking dolphins and Bambi footage spun backwards? it's not even needed. For 45 minutes or more they're an all encompassing experience, they dominate the stage, they make The Ed Castle band room their own dominion to fuck with as they please. Yup they may be proverbial "extraterrestrials" of the Adelaide scene (I mean take one look at their guitarist: peeps like that are an endangered species now!). But trust me, it don't matter what "planet" we're on: whether we're into dirge metal, twee folk, indie pop or garage rock (or even if we've spent waaay too many night's frequenting "Plus One" to even remember what a stage looks like) when it comes to Lady Strangelove we're one and the same species maaan: swirling disembodied, tripping balls, watching the universe unravel around us. And yes even now it's STILL the maddest place to be!
1:46AM - Yup.. about ten minutes ago, Lady Strangelove finished their set with the tribal refrains of "The Devil Inside" (a song which they only realised shared a name with an INXS song AFTER they named it.. go figure?) at which point they promptly vanished without a trace. Now obviously I can't remember how they "vanished", whether it was via: trapdoor, transporter beam, wormhole, one of those wacky wardrobes that lead to the magical kingdom of Narnia, or whether they simply walked off stage; as apparently I was waaay too transfixed by this small clusterfuck of tweaker units gathered in front of me. Hmmm. And the reason why? well for the life of me I could've sworn they were either: (a) jumping about like jackrabbits, (b) pulsing through at least four or five different colours, or (c) reciting the lyrics to Pink Floyd's "The Gnome". Sounds crazy I know, but it's actually a perfectly normal phenomenon to experience after a Lady Strangelove set. And the only thing you can do to alleviate it? is to simply keep on concentrating on whatever's in front of you until your eyes achieve "white balance" again; otherwise you totally get air bubbles in your brain and then you die. Still if it's any consolation? they do make such pretty colours don't they!?
2:24AM - And this is Tony Marshall from Alpen eating spaghetti bolognese from a tupperware container. Hmmm yup. And the only reason I'm considering that newsworthy in the slightest (with accompanying photo!) is that not only is he eating cold spaghetti bolognese (and that's crazy in itself), but he's also got a moustache. No really! think about THAT for a moment, like reaaally THINK about it: spaghetti bolognese AND a moustache.. is that the craziest shit ever OR WHAT!?
3:03AM - Now obviously The Ed Castle was an absolute riot to be at tonight, duuude it was a "party in your pants" and everyone was invited.. AND I MEAN EVERYONE!! (yes, even your mum!). I mean no shit not only was the beer garden absolutely pumping, but they also just opened the upstairs area to the public; how fucking mad is that!? (duuude I don't even have the words!). And obviously I just had to go check it out. I mean ALL I used to think the second floor was good for was that backstage area with the oversized photo print of Don Dunstan (with the unidentifiable stains on it), a few doors I never dared open (possibly containing "theatrical props" and/or glass coffee tables for miscellaneous DJ related purposes) and a second upstairs women's toilet that comes with it's own bathtub. But the balcony!? oh maaan the balcony totally changes everything! Shit, who needs a beer garden anymore when you can totally throw empty bottles into traffic. YEAAAS!! I FUCKING LOVE THE ED CASTLE!! WOOOO!! (no really! that was actually genuine praise this time!). Oh and as for what all this has got to do with a glaring lack of photographic evidence and a poster advertising next Saturday's night's installment of Plus One headlined by "Quite In The Lab"!? yeaaah I've got no idea *cough* absolutely no idea at all.. isn't that right Dougie?
3:58AM - But alas The Ed Castle eventually had to close (and not a moment too soon! people were totally going beserk, tearing their clothes off, staring fires, resorting to random acts of cannibalism and everything!) at which point I foolishly figured I'd just keep on drinking elsewhere. And so I went to Supermild, only to discover it was closed. Only to freak the fuck out and head to Zhivago instead, only to discover it too was closed. Only to briefly entertain the notion of hanging out with this supermarket trolley, because no shit this supermarket trolley's totally gotta know how to party riiight? SHIT, DOES IT EVER!! In fact come to think of it, isn't this the SAME supermarket trolley that's always been here? abandoned in the side streets off Currie and Hindley Street FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS OR MORE!? Because seriously if it is, how mindblowing is that!? DUUUDE!!
4:41AM - Turns out however, me and supermarket trolley haven't really been on "speaking" terms ever since I tried using it as my transport home back in September 2009, only to crash it into the Bakewell underpass instead. Hmmm and weird how I'd remember that too. And you know what else is really weird? How does it always manage to respawn back to its original place again? I MEAN WHAT KINDA MAGICAL SHIT IS THAT!? Yeaaah anyhoo, to cut a long story short? here's a "Hippo" dumpster I passed on my way home when I gave up and decided to catch a taxi instead. Exciting huh? TOTALLY!! This is like the most exciting night I've ever had in my life!! WOOOO!!
Yup, if ever there was a moral to this story (and believe me I've been struggling to come up with one) it's that you should never doubt The Ed Castle. It's just the best damn live venue in Adelaide! I mean suuure it may get more and more seedy as the months wear on, and the crowds may only get that much more fashionably oblique and impossible, and the barstaff only more laughably disposable, and I may always have that sneaking suspicion that all of this shit is simply the result of Rocket Bar setting up franchises throughout town to the point that I have to LEAVE town before it drives me insane (oh just you wait, it'll happen to The Metro next!). But still, quite like a lobster in a cooking pot as the water slowly rises in temperature.. as long as it still has a beer garden and a janitor's closet cunningly disguised as a "band room", The Ed Castle is the only place for me!