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...
THE BEDROOM PHILOSOPHER & HIS AWKWARDSTRA + COOKIE BAKER "SONGS FROM THE 86 TRAM" TOUR @ JIVE / Thursday August 12th 2010
Music journalism is dead. There I've said it, we all know it, we've all seen it. Or at the very least it's now the "living dead" still tweeting and posting youtubes under the mistaken belief we actually give half a crap about Lady Gaga. Or better yet it's Pitchfork and every vital band in the known universe is now living in Brooklyn.. "braaains! BRAAAINS!!". And I know this shit for a "fact" not through any indepth research, statistics or well informed industry insight (pfft.. we need only look to the latest cover of Rolling Stone to know THAT "coffin" is well and truly nailed shut) but because for the past eighteen months or so record labels and A&R have actually taken what I "write" here as music journalism; or at least enough to flood my inbox with endless promo to support it. Awesome huh!? TOTALLY!! (it's even better when I ignore 99% of it too.. WOOOO!!). Because as we all know I'm NOT a music journalist, sheeiiit this isn't even a legitimate music blog, and I needn't tell you WHY (pfft, I've only said so countless times over!) but let's look over the basics shall we? A music blog manufactures "hype", a music blog generates "memes", a music blog celebrates A-Z in indie "buzz bands" one artfully aloof publicity photo, bite sized blurb and mp3 link at a time (as is the industry standard of course) whilst I merely get hilariously drunk with my fuck up friends, take thousands of photos and pretend I'm all kinds of Hunter S "Gonzo". And yet in spite of this shit they still keep on coming.. oh maaan do they ever! Every week I'm bombarded with endless promo, press release and download links, sometimes they even ask me for a postal address so they can send CDs, and I'm more than happy to oblige knowing full I'm never gonna review any of them; and you wanna know why!? BECAUSE THIS ISN'T A MUSIC BLOG YA FUCKING IDIOTS!! BWAAAHAHAHaHAhAhA!! No shit duuude if ever you wanted a double live album of Front End Loader or Buena Vista Social Club At Carnagie Hall unopened in their original shrink wrap (not to mention all the other hysterical crap I have piling up around here.. Awesome Color "Electric Aborigines" anyone!?) you know who to call! which brings me to THIS wacky package I received in the post little over a month ago. Hmmm?
Now obviously I'm not going to "name and shame" the record label or A&R type responsible for sending me this package.. I mean why the hell would I want to discourage that shit!? IT'S FUCKING HILARIOUS DUUUDE!! Or why it was addressed to one "Mephistopheles 'Throat Bubble' Esquire, aka: Cecil The Hemaphrodite Spleen": only to elaborate that YES I did supply the ridiculous name in question, I choose a new one each time, and it's all part of my ongoing joke with Australia Post (for reasons even I'M not entirely too sure of). Or why I collected it in person from my "pixelated post box" somewhere in Super Mario Land, instead of sending in a bomb disposal unit, by remote, from an unspecified location many MANY miles away (preferably upwind from the resulting "fallout" pattern, mutant mushrooms be damned). Suffice to say they're one of a teeny tiny "1%" of record labels and A&R who've actually READ enough of Spoz's Rant to realise this isn't an mp3 blog but a needlessly over elaborate binge drinking exercise thinly disguised as a live music blog (I mean pfft.. you'd think everyone would have gotten that by now? but NOOOO!!). Better yet they're totally cool with that, couldn't be happier with encouraging it in fact (you fooools!) and they're sending me THIS complimentary copy of The Bedroom Philosopher's "Songs From The 86 Tram" complete with complimentary doorlisting for a show they're playing at Jive on Thursday, August 12th (the first of a nationwide tour I'm told) in the hopes I'll actually provide a "live review" in return. See interwebs? sometimes it really is THAT easy. SWEET BRIBERY FOR BLOG COMMENTARY.. HEEERE WE COME!!
But of course there's always a catch. Firstly there's the inescapable irony that someone as "darkly satirical" as I (their words.. not mine) would even attempt to "review" someone as darkly satirical as The Bedroom Philosopher and hope to get out of it alive. I mean hell anyone even passingly familiar with "Northcote (So Hungover)" (thanks to months of Triple J high rotation) would know all too well just how hilariously this shit could backfire on me. And I know this for a "distinct possibility" tonight because not only are we're dealing with the same diabolical fiends who doorlisted me for that infamous show by The Drones at The Governor Hindmarsh last year (need I remind you how THAT turned out?) but they also followed it up by doorlisting me for "almost certain death" at the hands of Bluejuice and co a few short weeks later (ie: see accompanying video footage here and here if you need a grisly reminder of THAT) so yes this shit might actually KILL ME. Secondly we're up against Midnight Juggernauts, Dappled Cities and Steering By Stars who're playing the SAME night at The Governor Hindmarsh. Although admittedly this is a moot point for me.. as no matter how head explodingly awesome Steering By Stars will be tonight (and how!), or how "whimsically eclectic" Dappled Cities might be in following (meh?) it still won't make up for the retarding "mass appeal" of Midnight Juggernauts who've long since crossed over into "Wolfmother" territory (lest we forget the rapturous reception that greeted them there back in 2007 only multiply that by a factor of ten) leading me to being "nose to armpits" with thousands of fist pumping bogans covered in a fine confetti of what was once my own camera.. YAY? Thirdly did I mention it's a fuck off freezing cold Thursday night in August and I'm missing out on two episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" for this shit? DUUUDE WHAT THE FUCK AM I EVEN THINKING!? Well clearly none of the above, because heeere I am regardless! I know, I really am doing wonders in "selling" this show tonight aren't I?
Still upon arrival I knew I made the right choice and not just because I was bribed gratuitously to make an appearance here tonight; although if it helps this album they gave me totally doesn't half blow the proverbial hose end of a horse (in fact I may even have spun it more than once on me ipod.. TAKE THAT BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB!!) but also because I spotted THIS shit soon after decorating front of stage. "Duuude no way!? is that a twister mat we see before us?" OOOOH YOU BET YOUR EXPLODING LEFT NIPPLE IT IS!! "And did they ever use it for anything fuck off insane or ridiculously shit awesome tonight? LIKE AN ACTUAL BONA-FIDE GAME OF TWISTER? oh they SO totally did didn't they!?" pfft.. OF COURSE THEY DIDN'T YA FUCKING IDIOTS! In fact I wouldn't have the first clue why they brought it in the first place, but I so totally got you intrigued now haven't I?
And if that wasn't nearly enough to get you all excited in advance of what will surely be a crushing disappointment to all your teenage dreams? (as much as you secretly hope they really DID use that twister mat at some point tonight and I'm just "too coy" to talk about it because I may've accidently touched a girl's boob) then check out these shiny green shoes that just materialised on stage.. huh? HUH!? is that the craziest damn thing you've seen or what!? WOOOOHAHAhAHahA!!
GUILLAUME SOLO ACOUSTIC (****) myspace :: Yup this show truly has all the "potential" to change our lives for the better, I truly believe that! As much as I'm clearly bluffing here, or more accurately "blitheringly high" from hoovering way too much chai tea in the near hallucinogenic writing of it; as much as I doubt that proverbial "diet pepsi" of piping hot beverages even has the requisite caffeine in it let alone LSD to achieve that (but easily possesses three times the recommended daily dose of pixie dust.. go figure?) and for conclusive evidence of THAT? "huh what!?" we need only look to our opening act Guillaume Solo Acoustic. Yup you might recognise this whimsical cat (aka: Guillaume Vétu) as a regular fixture of the Adelaide music scene as both a solo acoustic and collaborative co-conspirator in everything from 2000 Men, Kelshy The Band, Chill Check, and about a billion other esoteric live acts and random "jam band" get-togethers (which I'd totally list in detail too if I could be arsed researching them all). As well as being a resident DJ on community Three D Radio; or at least I think he used to be one? or maybe he STILL is one!? (but again I haven't really researched any of this shit by even listening to Three D.. ooops!). In fact, I'm all too embarassed to admit that this might be the FIRST TIME I've even featured him in this blog, as I by all accounts he's been playing live for well over a decade now. Awesome huh!? TOTALLY!! Still all things considered he does make for one hell of a first impression tonight. You see normally I'm really not a huge fan of solo acoustic. I've been burned by waaay too many sad sack arseclowns at house parties past, picking up a six string under the mistaken belief they're the next "Jeff Buckley" or "Cat Power", to appreciate it on any kind of face value now. I mean to really NAIL the ancient art of "solo acoustic" without looking like a total douche? you need more than just the base ability to master three chords with a face full of hair, without fucking up all but ONE of them in a failed attempt to cover Grizzly Bear (pfft). You need personality, you need a richness of character, you need a shit load of colourful quirks; but Guillaume Vétu here truly has that in spades, duuude he may even need his own "wheelbarrow" he has THAT MUCH of it to go around. Arriving on stage with his baggy brown trousers, suspenders, wide collared white shirt, whimsical moustache, goofyarse hair and what you swear is a Monty Pythonesque approximation of a silly French "accent" (I mean c'mon he's totally gotta be putting that shit on for show!?) he commands unwavering attention like a cartoon caricature; like he's a few shades short of a carnival clown and you don't know whether to run screaming or punch him in the balls laughing (no really did I mention the shiny green shoes? WHERE HAS THIS A-GRADE LUNATIC BEEN ALL MY LIFE!?). Follow that up by throwing in all his exaggerated mannerisms, his between song banter rife with wacky witty anecdotes about this that and whatever-the-fuck (did someone mention deep sea creatures and lesbian hook ups!? YEAAAS!!) and before he even plays the first note? oh he's totally got you sold. As such it's a little tricky to pinpoint where his musical influences might lie. At a stretch we might figure it as the gallic equivalent of Billy Brag meets Ben Harper and Bobby McFerrin's "Dont Worry, Be Happy" by way of a Wes Anderson movie but clearly I can't use any of those references without coming off like a grand insult (especially not that third one). Nope it's more about the lyrical content here, the rich tapestry in tall tale he weaves from one song to the next, never without a wry sense of humour to colour it. Or maybe it's in the easy going manner in which he projects it: like a witty dinner party conversation, like a well travelled singing bard of yore. Or maybe it's in how he barely even needs to play his guitar in that light strumming canter to accompany it. Either way whatever the fuck he's doing, or not doing here? it's hard not to grin ear to ear like an idiot to it when it's nothing but gold. Guillaume Solo Acoustic. He's totally got the ridiculous name, his music's even more so, and yet he's all the better for it!
COOKIE BAKER (***1/2) Which brings us to the ever beguiling enigma that is our second act. Sometimes solo acoustic, sometimes a duo semi acoustic with our namesake on tambourine and keys and Jaan Kiploks on guitar (ie: that scruffy looking "Heath Ledger" clone you see there on the right) and sometimes a nine piece "orchestra" by way of a baudy "vaudville act" and a riotous head exploding symphony of the senses only for you to regain consciousness halfway up a tree laughing your arse off not quite understanding how you got there (only that you totally want to go another round). Oh yes Cookie Baker is all that and then some; as much as we're actually dealing with the musical equivalent of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster here. You see as much as many things have been said about Cookie Baker, very little is actually understood about Cookie Baker, she is verily a riddle wrapped in a rhyme. I mean sure we might know her real name is Holly Ball (as much as that sounds like a ridiculous stage name too and at any given moment she operates on a Russian doll's worth of shitcrazy aliases for tax reasons). Just as we might also know that her signature hairstyle in all its gravity defying, explosively flammable, ode to hairspray and architectural excellence is one of the few man made structures (other than The Great Wall Of China and the Pyramids of Giza) that can actually be seen from outer space. Just as we might also suspect that she was actually born one "Fifi LaFleur" circa 1900, became wildly successful as a Chicago socialite in the speak easy 1920's, only to pull a proverbial Amelia Earhart over the central Pacific, teleport 80 years into the future, only to reimagine herself as the "Cookie Baker" that we know today. And yet as much as we might know all this? in all the many years that she's been performing in the Adelaide scene to much hooting adulation and accolades aplenty she's also remained a bit of a mad mystery. As despite sharing the stage with the likes of Augie March, Little Birdy, Ben Lee, Kate Miller-Heidke, Old Man River and The Audreys, wowing Fringe Festival audiences for many years running here, culminating in the release of her debut album "Gala Day" in March 2009, only to be invited to host her very own theatrical music production "How To Draw Portraits" later that year at The Adelaide Festival Theatre? many of us have been all but oblivious to this as she's achieved all of the above without ever hosting a myspace, facebook or twitter account to tell us about it; in fact all she's ever had to promote herself is a mailing list, a Music SA site and a Triple J Unearthed. I KNOW! it's like she's freaking Amish or something!? And yet I swear this only makes us feel all the more fortuitous and thankful if ever we find ourselves in her presence. WHY!? Well in essense you could consider her the Adelaide equivalent of Megan Washington mixed in with a little bit of Angie Hart, The Audreys and a pocket rocket Hadrosaur from the mid Cretaceous period (although I can't quite vouch if it'd share the same singing voice) and with her full band in tow? she's an absolute riot to behold, a honky tonk explosion of wry wit and whimsy and pretty much every reason imagineable to drink yourself to a debaucherous stupor. In tonight's duo with Jaan however she's a little more subdued, with a "winter appropriate" setlist to match. Like a teeny tiny bird with a broken wing, singing songs to soothe, songs to mend heartache, songs to long wistfully out a window over one's unrequited to the soft pitter patter of rain. Or like she's everything short of a steaming bowl of chicken soup to the emotionally infirmed. But when she rips into the more energetic numbers with the fiesty lyrics to match? that's when she really comes into her own. One in particular proves to be especially memorable thanks to its hot and flustered content pertaining to an undying crush for "Dr Steve" from All Saints (heh!) but there's several others here that are just as sly and satirical. So all in all it's a bit of a mixed bag tonight, but even so there's never a dull moment to be had in between. Cookie Baker. Who in the hell is she and what the fuck is up with that hair? we may never know, but if ever you do happen to find her in your travels? she'll always have a sweet new tale to tell!
THE BEDROOM PHILOSOPHER & HIS AWKWARDSTRA (****1/2) myspace :: Which brings us to our headlining act, the same one I was bribed to see (shit yeaaah gratuity!) witness to the blissfully befuddling conundrum that must surely follow him wherever he goes. For Melbourne's The Bedroom Philosopher (aka: Justin Heazlewood) is no ordinary performer to a live stage. Both live musician and half standup comedian, he appears to be as equally articulate and adept in handling both extremes as he appears to be utterly extraterrestrial to it. And not just by his goofy bespectacled presence tonight that appears to channel all the gangliest attributes of Where's Wally, David Letterman and comedian Glenn Robbins by way of Hans Moleman from The Simpsons (yiiikes!). Or by the equally oddball musicians he's assembled around him on bass, drums, percussion, guitar and sitar for his accompanying "Awkwardstra" (featuring members from both Paradise Motel and The Brunettes.. y'know whoever the fuck they are!?). But more so by the conflicting crowd presence he's attracting to match. On the one hand we have all the usual scene geeks and hilarious hipster tragics you always seem to find at live gigs: forming a furtive "semi circle of death" out front, arms crossed, sipping their beers, stifling yawns and wondering when the DJ's gonna arrive. On the other hand they appear to be outnumbered two to one (at least in sheer volume) by wildly enthusiastic "comedy club punters" waving their arms about, exploding into riotous fits of laughter and shouting out all manner of retarded suggestions in response to pretty much everything he says.. um YAY!? And as much as that sounds like a ripe recipe for disaster? (and believe me it IS) it actually begins to make perfect sense the minute they launch into their live set, and by "perfect sense" I mean total fucking head explosion. For as much as The Bedroom Philosopher & His Awkwardstra is about being both a live show and a standup comedy routine, it's also about YOU being beaten over the head by everything but the kitchen sink and loving every damn minute of it. To explain simply picture The Flight Of The Conchords, only done at ADHD speed: it's the best musical comparison I could struggle to think of, only they sound nothing like that. So better yet picture everything from semi acoustic, folk, hiphop, reggae, punk, thrash, garage rock, fuck it.. an entire A-Z of genre cliches shat out of a blender like it's a "Mr Bankrupt" ad gone horribly wrong as narrated by Jim Carrey suffering a fullblown nervous breakdown trapped inside the body of John Safran; only that's just the first song "Clearance Sale". And it's as much a rapidfire manifesto as it's a self depreciating parody of their entire act, a satire within satire, and it sets the scene brilliantly for everything that follows. The setlist as such is a mix of old and new. The new songs off their latest album "Songs From The 86 Tram" are admittedly a little bit hit and miss in delivery. Where it really hits is in songs like "Sudanese" and especially "Middle Aged Mum" both brilliant caricatures that are as wildly sarcastic as they're warmly sympathetic. Where it really misses however and most surprisingly so is in the Triple J high rotation "Northcote (So Hungover)" although not surprisingly when you consider the entire song is setup as a phone conversation (not exactly the easiest thing to translate live). But it's in the older songs that they really win the crowd over in spades. From the song "Acronymphomaniac" that spells out a list of increasingly ridiculous meat sounding acronyms (in mockery to the term "snag" meaning "sensitive new age guy"). To the song "Get Off Me": where The Bedroom Philosopher as an only child, imagines what it'd be like to be picked on by an imaginary older sibling. To their closing number "Generation ABC" that runs through an entire grocery list of childhood television memories like a whimsically nostalgia mixtape. It's broad humour granted, but it still works. But what really builds upon this is in its rapid fire delivery, how it effortlessly switches from one chameleon channel to the next, all the witty between song banter acting as comedy skit segues. But the real genius comes in the final third when Justin with just his acoustic, sings a song about a dad he's never met. We're waiting for a punchline, it never comes, the room's absolutely stunned into silence, and then we realise he's actually being dead serious!? Yup that's The Bedroom Philosopher living up to his namesake and then some. Just when you think he's being all ironic and sarcastic here? he totally points out the greatest joke of all: life. It might frequently be at your expense, it might not always be HA HA funny, but if you can't stop to appreciate the "humour" in it then you're totally missing the point.
Still as brilliantly insane and inspired as this shit might be, and believe me they're having their fair share of blitzkrieg comedy and mad musicality on stage tonight: The Bedroom Philosopher & His Awkwardstra are a "hard sell" on a Thursday night, especially in the dead of winter. There's maybe 75-100 of us, only we're not nearly drunk enough to fully thaw out to it (weirder still I'm dead sober!?) save for the "comedy club punters" bouncing off the walls like all their Christmases have come at once, mixing up with all the scene geeks and hipster tragics who are wondering if it's safe to laugh or not. And yet in spite of all this: all the artfully aloof and idiotically enthused among us still find that "middle ground" to enjoy it. The Bedroom Philosopher declares it a riotous success, says its one of the best crowds he's ever played too (made not at all ironic by the fact it's only the first show of their tour) and to celebrate it? he and his band treat us to a human pyramid on stage. Sounds completely ridiculous I know, but after all we've seen tonight, it makes for a fitting end.
With venue security now dispersing the crowd, as The Bedroom Philosopher peddles his various wacky accessories found at the merch desk: including a white iphone cover with the closing lyrics of "Northcote (So Hungover)" printed up in blue (ie: "I’m like running out of street credit" ya di ya whatever the fuck) I briefly entertain the notion of me getting hilariously drunk at that Midnight Juggernauts "After Party" held at Supermild (or at least that's what I THINK all those flyers were advertising last week?). Only to remember it's only a Thursday night, it's freezing cold, there's a whole weekend of retardedarse binge drinking ahead of me, and yeaaah I simply couldn't be arsed. So for once, aaaah fuck it.. let's pretend this blog is actually about the "music" shall we?
Yup, music journalism is dead. Especially if we're lead to believe I'M a "music journalist" writing about a musician who's actually a standup comedian who's actually a musician taking the piss out of everything and anything, as much as he's being dead serious about it too (go figure?). Just as I'm taking the absolute piss out of him, just as the joke's totally on me. Just as all of this is ever so hilariously "post modern" and "ironic", except it likely isn't, because most of the time I don't even know what it means (despite completing four years of a visual arts degree in effort to explain it all? duuude!). So until we wisen up to this shit and realise that all our roles here are utterly redundant, reversible and meaningless and that we don't even NEED a "middle man" anymore: just an RSS subscription feed and an ipod shuffle? I'll happy adopt the defacto position. YEAAAS!! I'll happily laugh my arse off and collect the endless gratuity. I'll happily write all these "reviews" as much as they're nothing but hyperbolant drivel. I'll happily drink myself stupid in a blind mockery of it. WOOOO!! Because as much as music journalism is dead, especially when every one of us is a "critic" now? the music's still out there maaan.. and nothing beats getting out there and living it!