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...
NO THROUGH ROAD + BATRIDER + DIPLOMAT BREAST CANCER RESEARCH FUNDRAISER @ JIVE / Friday July 9th 2010
So here I am on yet another Friday night, or July 9th 2010 to be exact.. "whoop-di-doo and shit!". I'm standing outside of Jive and I don't know about you maaan but I'm completely fucking fried. Duuude I'm totally and utterly destroyed, I'm circling the drain fast and I don't know if I can stand another night of this.. FUUUCK!! And I don't mean physically fried here, pfft.. of course not! I'm in totally kickarse shape! I could totally run a marathon in a blizzard, go toe to toe in a bareknuckle boxing ring with a rhinoceros, drink all you dribbling fools under the table doing doubles shots to your singles (laughing like the righteous bastard that I am) and STILL be up for a sequel.. SHIT YEAAAH!! I mean suuure I could probably do with a shave while I'm at it, one of those pine tree airfresheners, a comprehensive liver detox diet, an exorcism and a few days of R&R in a "stainless steel box" (aaaah I DO love the smell of formaldehyde in the morning!) but that's NOTHING maaan! No this, THIS is some deep grained psychological, metaphysical, chicken fried existential shit I've got going here. This is some serious up shit creek to kill Colonel Kurtz a-grade madness I've got fermenting here. No really! I feel like I haven't had a decent night's sleep in yeaaars, like every week's a month, a season, a century as much as it's pissed by in a second. My eyes are like aged cheddar, all inkblot bloodshot and propped open with toothpicks. My mind's a half deflated balloon creased in crows feet, like all the colours are receding, like all the sound are distant and muffled and all my thoughts are circling like a swarm of bees.. BEEEES!! and I can hear them even now buzzing "buzz buzz buzz", and you want to know WHY!? Because this blog's been driving me screaming up the fucking walls THAT'S WHY!! For the past month here that's all I've been doing! writing! nonstop fucking blogs! I've been writing in my sleep! in my dreams! in my nightmares! in my half waking delerium! writing them through hangovers like I'm pushing a giant fucking boulder up a hill over and over! and then I look at my browser window again AND THERE'S STILL NOTHING THERE!? HA HA HA I'm coming apart at the seams! And yet here I am going back for more tonight? WHY DAMNIT WHY!? Well why else duuude? I love this shit I truly do.. even if it fucking kills me!
And better yet all these live bands are playing a fundraiser tonight? Awesome huh!? TOTALLY!! I mean granted it was pretty low on a long list of reasons for why I chose this gig, or more accurately four reasons why.. as this IS a music blog afterall (ie: in those rare fleeting moments when it isn't ostensibly about binge drinking). But what can I say I'm a sucker for supporting the "no brainer" cause for this blog: whether it be something bleedingly obvious like a political fundraiser for The Greens (arguably the least retarded political party we have), encouraging people to enrol to vote (so they can vote The Greens in?), bringing about an end to child slavery (but.. but.. who else is going to work in our diamond mines? dwarves!?) and all that other feel good "volcano relief fund" whatever-the-fuck that all our celebrities love to cash in on after they get busted for cocaine possession. And seriously how can you go wrong with "Breast Cancer Research"? YOU CAN'T THAT'S THAT!! It's the least controversial cause we could ever endorse! And better yet they're totally selling tickets to a raffle tonight and there's all these cool prizes we can win? (and I know all this because I read about it in the toilets!?). Oh I'm so happy I chose this gig, it might make me cry!
HAWKS OF ALBA (****1/2) myspace :: And speaking of things that make me ridiculously happy (to the point you wonder if I'm suffering a fullblown aneurysm in the way I'm writing about it.. WOOOHEHEHeHAhAHaHaHAhA!!) here comes our opening act Hawks Of Alba. Yup in all the times I've seen them live this year (and this would be my fifth on record) they've been nothing but gold maaan, nothing but candy coated joy with sprinkles on top, nothing but me beaming ear to ear like all my Christmases have come at once "squeeeee! it's a puppy and it's piloting a teeny tiny toy aeroplane!" because THAT'S how head explodingly awesome they are! NO SHIT!! In fact I'm almost dead certain that all three of them are recently escaped elves from Santa's Workshop on The North Pole (they'd say "Glasgow" but they're clearly not fooling anyone) possibly in a disagreement over only "celebrating it once a year"; and if ever they teamed up with 20th Century Graduates and The Honey Pies for a show headlined by The Grates!? they'd either usher in The Apocalypse (as foretold by Walt Disney) or every single one of us would contract Type 2 Diabetes and die; but hey that'd be perfectly OK because naturally it'd be a fundraiser show in search for the cure.. FUUUCK!! Which is just what I was looking for tonight, because I don't know if you could tell from the intro but I was in the worst possible mood walking in just now. Duuude it's been nothing but chronic insomnia, writer's block and me shivering my arse off in the winter cold for the past 2-3 days screaming insults at a computer screen. And now I'm caffeinated to high hell to compensate (never a good idea), head pounding, blood boiling and I've just spent the past twenty minutes or so pacing back and forth in front of the stage like I wanted to strangle someone, especially if they're the one twisted fuck responsible for inventing the QWERTY keyboard!? (I'd wring their necks like a chicken I would GNAAARRGGHHH!!). Oh this is SO gonna end well! But all this blissfully forgotten the minute Hawks Of Alba arrive on stage. Yup for theirs is a surefire cure delivered in a "three pronged attack" (and if possible imagine said "attack" accompanied by the sort of wacky CGI you see in a cough drop ad). First they reel you in with their signature sound: the finest in "sunshine seasoned" retro 90's, guitar pop. Secondly they deliver song after song of it crafted in such instantly catchy, bouncey, vitamin enriched glee that you can't help but throw yourself around the room like an exciteable muppet in mad celebration of it. And last but not least there's all these whimsical quirks that each band member provides in bringing it all to life. From Sarah Masters on lead vocal and bass: all chipper like a chipmunk, like a six year old singing nursery rhymes, like a cartoon character, ushering everyone to move in a little bit closer between songs. To Hannah Fairlamb on guitar (yes "lamb".. I mean how easy are they making this shit for me!?) who despite looking like a "deer caught in the headlights" when she's playing on stage: not only manages to shred into riff after monster riff (and accompanying squealing feedback) that's sure to have all the alpha and beta waves in your brain singing in harmony but also happens to be sporting this completely ridiculous Space Invaders "love heart" t-shirt tonight (with animated lights and everything) that then proceeds to LOUDLY "malfunction" with goofy videogame noises moments before their third song? I mean you just can't make that shit up, it's brilliant! To Aidan Morse on drums: near psychotically grinning as he tears into his kit with unnerving precision, coordinating the band like he's a conductor of a symphony orchestra and I know I've said it all before but it STILL totally blows my mind how he can play both the drums AND the glockenspiel at the same time! (seriously he's gotta be a fucking robot!). And when you combine all three elements and all three members into the one band? a bad mood doesn't even stand a fucking chance! Yup tonight's set, just like every one I've heard them play before, I simply can't fault (even the faults had me grinning!), for all their ridiculously catchy songs, for their cover of Magic Dirt's "Ice" with Nat Stone from Diplomat featuring on second guitar (and granted it's a slightly different take for them, much more chunky and aggressive in the attack, but they STILL pull it off) I mean what's not to love!? Hawks Of Alba. They're just like Santa Claus and The Easter Bunny combined.. only trust me they're 100% real!
DIPLOMAT (****1/2) myspace :: Which brings us to our second act who are no less welcome to witness on a live stage, as I swear I haven't seen them in years.. maybe even decades (hey remember when they used to be called "Rash" back in '97!? goood times!) or more accurately not since December 27th 2008 when they played at Fowlers Live along with Bronze Chariot, Space Bong, Robotosaurus and God God Damnit Damnit (and when you write a blog as ridiculously comprehensive as mine you tend to remember insane shit like that.. FUUUCK!!) but it's easily felt like longer than that for the quality catharsis they unleash. Featuring members stretched across two cities (so it's rare to ever see them playing in the same room) they've had an infamous repution (once challenged and damn near "bested" by Swords back in January 18th 2008) for being the "loudest fuck off band in the Adelaide scene". And when you hear it live in the flesh it's not hard to understand why. Diplomat don't so much as make music, as bludgeon every single atom of your body with blissful skull shattering intensity. And as much as this would seem like "cruel and unusual punishment" after the likes of Hawks Of Alba? with both of them sharing an affinity for the 90's sound, and a similar antidotal aesthetic (especially appreciated by my chicken fried mindset right now.. believe me!) they actually follow on quite nicely from each other; duuude they truly do no better to cure you of all your winter woes quite like a comprehensive hit of "musical chemotherapy"! As such it can be a little difficult to pinpoint their influences; or at least it is for me writing it right now. Their decade of origin is easy enough to pinpoint: it's definitely the 90's here, it's lyrically rife with overly educated self doubt, paranoia, boredom and angst (and there's barely a four/four indie disco beat in sight). But the rest is sonically riddled in intricate complexity that's not so easily read. In a nutshell I like to think of it as Sonic Youth meets At The Drive-In, or funnier still Something For Kate with all the distortion pedals turned up; and yet I can't help but feel both my comparisons come off as an insult (also I can't help but feel I have a massive knowledge gap in my late 90's indie references as I spent a good deal of it listening to The Prodigy and Aphex Twin instead.. DAMNIT!!). Either way the impact crater they create out of our smoking innards is damn near undeniable, the appreciation instinctual, and tonight I'm bugging out to all the frequencies, maaan I'm loving this shit! (And if you want to play this game at home? you can actually download both their album and their EP here for free.. which yes I'd highly recommend you do so!). Overall what appeals to me most about Diplomat is how everything is rendered so savagely blunt and direct, and yet the meaning is so beguilingly abstract. Like using nothing but giant blocks of stone or large swathes of paint to illustrate all the vagueries of "existential ennui"; it's both simply Neanderthal and subtly nuanced at the same time. It's brought to life through long sweeping arrangements, both shreddingly ultraviolent and blissfully meditative (like a "quiet/loud" dynamic pushed to its ludicrous extreme) and a lot of it could very well take almost a lifetime to unravel.. but that's very much part of the appeal. Nat Stone on vocals vents like a screaming faucet, ripping his lungs to shreds with every word (as much as he barely surfaces a shrill whisper above the artillery fire around him). While Adam Hollinshead on guitar, Justin Hermes on bass and Ben Matson on drums pull hulking shapes in the shadows and whip up the ebb and flow intensity to new heights. Every part of their performance tonight is flawlessly delivered (or at the very least I dare not pick it apart it's THAT well crafted). The sound is spot on: in that it's abusingly loud but never painfully so. And in the end I'm nothing but a set of grinning teeth and two thumbs up suspended in space and a shadow blasted against the walls and ceiling. Yup that's Diplomat. Like the sound of your internal harddrive being defragmented with a sledgehammer and a pair of pliers? aaaah fuck it's been too long!
BATRIDER (****1/2) myspace :: Which brings us to our third act who've been pretty much anywhere and everywhere like a complete and utter headfuck for the past few years: both figuratively and actually and especially in my lazyarse attempts to "research" it (so excuse me for all the glaring factual errors). Yup as much as I can gather they originated in Wellington New Zealand back in 2002, moved to Melbourne in 2007 (or maybe it was 2006?), moved to London in mid 2008, toured Europe twice and the US once throughout most of 2009 and now for reasons that are completely beyond me they've since moved here to Adelaide (possibly for all the cheap weed and serial killers.. aaaah fuck I dunno!?). They've frequently changed their lineup over the years (from a four piece originally to a three piece currently) with their only remaining constant being their guitarist and lead vocalist Sarah Chadwick: to feature everyone in the past from Julie Rouse on guitar (who's since left for The Twerps), Toby Morris on bass and Tara Wilcox on drums; to now feature Sam Featherstone on bass (their former band manager) and Stephanie Crase on drums (formerly No Through Road and Birthglow). *Phew*. They've also released three EPs, two albums and one 12 inch vinyl (that was only available online and at live shows), the last time I saw them live was back in March 2008 on a stinking hot 40+ degree night at The Ed Castle (and yes it was ridiculously awesome and you should've been there); and all of this obviously matters absolutely fuckall to your appreciation of them TONIGHT: as despite all their frequent relocations, line up changes and releases over the years? yeaaah they're pretty much the same shit awesome sound on a live stage. Batrider. In the loosest of terms you could describe them as being grunge at its most stereotypical (hmmm do I suspect a 90's theme developing here?) only with absolutely no pretense for wanky aesthetic, nothing but 100% authentic, beaten black and blue with a whiskey bottle and dragged through the mud. In other words think Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth rasping her throat red raw, think Hole back when Courtney Love had actual talent (I think it was a six month period back in 1995?), think oldskool PJ Harvey, think the entire Nirvana back catalogue played at half speed and twice the volume and that's pretty much your monkey.. possibly quite literally dragging its knuckles on the floor. But what really sells it as something special is in the hellfire delivery. Sarah Chadwick on lead owns it all like a lifelong drug habit, like she's leaning on it for life support, like its the only thing she has left to lose short of a pack of cigarettes and a loaded handgun. Stooping forward like an old wino leaning to piss in a gutter, guitar slung loose, chewing on the microphone (like she's trying to extract the very "marrow" from it) she makes for a visceral presence. She sings like an open wound, like she's a wounded animal howling, wailingly off-key, frequently feeding back the microphone in turn but it only makes what she sings all the more compelling. When she's not singing, she's lurching back and forth ripping her guitar to shreds, head bowed to the floor in a punchdrunk pendulum that's mirrored toe to toe by Sam Featherstone lurching back and forth on bass; while Stephanie Crase keeps time on the drums with a nonchalant sense of detachment that borders on narcolepsy. It's utterly and astoundingly mesmerising to watch, it's as utterly alienating to experience as it draws you in inextricably to share the misery. Every song vents a slow boiling pain, a raw nerve, a primal catharsis that can only be satiated by the simple self abuse that can be found in a few too many goonsacks; every note falls flat, blunt, jarring, yet beautifully arranged in one sparse composition after another. From all the heavy songs to the more contemplative I swear there's never a dull moment.. and that one song especially where both Sarah and Stephanie sing harmony with just a guitar? duuude it totally blows you away! Yup that's Batrider maaan they just can't be beat! They're like every moment Nirvana used to goof about in drag all rolled into one: Kurt in a skirt, Dave in a dress.. only it's no fucking joke and they're all out gunning for blood!
NO THROUGH ROAD (*****) myspace :: And if all three of those supports hadn't quite "soothed the savage beast" yet, and believe me it's worked a world of wonders for MY mental state so far (so much so, if it wasn't for the "raffle draw" between bands just now I would've totally forgotten there was even a fundraiser at all!) then at the very least our headlining act will provide our "human sacrifice" to finish the job. Yup his name is Matt Banham, he's the lead singer of this band and he likely needs no introduction to any of us reading this shit right now; but what the hell I'll give you one anyways (as let's face it I gotta clock up my word count somehow). You see when Matt Banham here and his fuck up friends/band members/nursing staff aren't crafting song after song of timeless "scruffyarse brilliance" tailor made for drinking yourself to a shit grinning stupor (four albums in and counting!) or cooking up a solo album "Self Destruct" earlier this year that pretty much achieves all the above only on a much more misery guts scale (need I link you to the music video "Death Mocks Me In My Sleep" with all the fucked up medical testing and war footage!?), or acting as band booker for The Metro: he also serves as the Adelaide scene's premiere "punching bag" du jour. And no I don't quite understand how this all happened either (although some may claim the position was made vacant ever since Mike Radzecivius put Aviator Lane on "indeterminate hiatus" late last year). But what were once considered live shows here of little "ill repute" have long since devolved into all out heckling, pushing, shoving and gratuitous acts of alcohol abuse. And as much as this MIGHT sound alarmingly like a musical career skidding precipitously into ruin (a la Jim Morrison in his "public urination"/"homeless beard" period.. or see Mike Radz on any given night on the turps) and of course YOU'D BE DEAD RIGHT it also makes No Through Road's "live performance", or increasingly "lack thereof" all the more hilariously entertaining to watch (HA HA HA NO SHIT!! I haven't laughed this hard since The Crying Game!). And as much as I should hesitate to encourage such insanity (pfft.. as if!) tonight's example was definitely the best and WORST display of public drunkeness I have ever seen live (or at least since The Crying Game) duuude.. it was fucking deplorable! The minute Matt Banham walked on stage you could sense a shift in the crowd: like the flicking of a "good and evil" switch, like the adult equivalent of throwing in someone dressed as an animal mascot into a room full of red cordial riddled toddlers and they all think he's a walking piñata filled with candy; or better yet just give them all baseball bats and THAT'S what we're dealing with here. FUUUCK!! Dressed in a shirt, tie and suit jacket; lurching about stage like a karaoke singer with nothing to lose (and the lungs to match) like a court defendent who know's he's guilty as charged: he's nothing short of a "human target" to every single audience member in this room itching to unleash. I mean I could easily single out Matt Hayward (manager for Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire!, guitarist for The Crying Game.. etc.. etc) as being prime suspect in "making his life miserable" (I mean he's easily the loudest and most obnoxious) but he's hardly alone in this shit. Right from the get go we're pelted Matt Banham with ice cubes, empty beer cups, whole drinks are tossed in his face (see fourth photo down) we're punching him in the balls, it's all out war! All the rest of the band can do in response is to simply look the other way, try their best not to piss themselves laughing, and pray to hell it doesn't get shut down by security. Yup clearly the performance side of things is next to inconsequential here, but if you're at all curious: they played songs predominantly off their albums "Winner" and "Too Much Or Not Enough". There was a brand new song ("Young Skin" I think?) that they played for the first time tonight. At one point Matt Banham busted into an ill advised ditty dedicated to Breast Cancer Research: where many of the lyrics simply revolved around "your mum" and "boobs". They did an utterly shambolic cover of Kei$ha's "Tik Tok" (in fact I'm kinda embarassed on both counts that I even recognised it) and both "Explosions" in the beginning and "Party To Survive" at the end were easily the overall highlights; or at least once you got past just how blitheringly drunk "you know who" sounded in fucking it all up. Yup that was No Through Road. They were a complete and utter disgrace.. and damnit I couldn't get enough of it!
12:56AM - After seeing all that shit, all we could think to do was drink in riotous celebration. Of course we'd long since forgotten WHY we were "celebrating" but at the very least it was nice to know that it was for a "good cause". And I don't just mean for all the drinks we had thrown forming a sticky puddle on the dancefloor in front of us, or the "confetti scattered" raffle tickets that were marinating in it, or all the drunken revellers slipping and sliding through this muck and the mire as they continued to drink up a storm to the DJs spinning whatever-the-fuck for the following hour (but I'm pretty sure it wasn't Vampire Weekend). Although yeaaah let's face it: all that was still a sweet sign in the dead of winter if ever we saw one.. as much as I'm covering for it by posting THIS tranquil "blue" photo instead. Hmmm. No I mean just how many people here actually supported a "Breast Cancer Research Fundraiser" tonight. No really think about it maaan, that's fucking crazy! And so I took a moment to let it all sink in and then satisfied in a "job well done" I headed out the door.. the one show this year I was more than happy NOT to sneak in for free? yay for boobies!
1:42AM - Only to discover that when I arrived here, it had already ended well over an hour ago. Awesome! In fact short of the Strangelove DJs banging tracks by the front bar and a few "fashion trash" tumbleweeds whistling about the beer garden doing their best to be seen AND avoid eye contact, there was next to fuckall happening in here (aaaah fuck I love The Ed Castle!). So I ordered up two beers anyways, kept myself endlessly entertained with the sorry sight of one "Seth Cohen" Ciaravolo mumbling and grumbling in the band room packing away all the sound gear for another night (and I thought I was having a bad week!? wow duuude way to put all my dumb shit in perspective!) until I thought better of it and threw myself arse backwards out the door again.
2:03AM - And so it was here.. or at least half hour after lining up to get in (see I told you it was far too early!) that I spent the remainder of my night. Laughing it up having the absolute time of my life, all the better that I didn't have to take a single photograph while I was at it. No really! remember a few weeks back when all I freaking wanted was a "quiet night out"? Oh I totally got that here maaan! and it was everything I could've ever asked for AND SO MUCH MORE.. WOOOO!!