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 + HAWKS OF ALBA + BOX ELDER "COOPERS ALIVE" @ THE ED CASTLE / Friday October 15th 2010
In all my years of writing this insanity, one thing has truly baffled me the most: despite continually demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that I don't have a single fucking clue (or qualification) what I'm talking about here? more and more of you grinning nitwits have come to read this blog under the mad assumption that I'm a "resident expert". Now obviously I've figured this to be some kinda awesome joke. I mean it has to be.. what do I know about the Adelaide scene!? HA HA HA NOTHING YOU FUCKING IDIOTS!! And so I simply played along like you were all in on the joke too. Made sense.. and even better, I totally knew I was just the one to "perpetrate" it too. I mean I'm reasonably clever, I have an overactive imagination, I'm good with words and pictures, and it's not like anyone else was writing it (let alone living it) to call my bluff.. so I figured I could pretty much make it up as I went along; which is just as well too, because considering how blind drunk I like to get in doing this? I wouldn't remember much of anything anyways.. FUCK YEAAAH!! and yet in spite of just how farcical this exercise has surely become for us all? (and how!) you keep coming back in droves. And you're more than just a trickle here, you're a stampede, there's thousands of you now, and clearly we're well past the point any of you would believe a single word I say.. so what gives!? Well as much as I've struggled with this "mystery" for the longest time, I think I might've finally found the answer: through little or no effort of my own I've achieved a "bachelor of attendance". I've simply turned up, time and time again, until people actually legitimately believed I knew what I was doing. I mean pfft.. obviously I DON'T, I never did, but it doesn't matter as long as you've been around for as long as I have. Do that? and they'll simply assume you're an authority on the matter. Even better? they'll even start rewarding you for it: they'll start inviting you to things, they'll offer you free entry and before you know it someone slips you an "all access" pass to the Coopers Alive showcase for the next two weeks as thanks for everything you've "done". WHY? who the fuck knows why!? as far as I'm concerned I just got drunk one night and I woke up as the president!
Yup so here I am "accidently" bluffing my way into Coopers Alive as a legitimate "member of the media" tonight, which we all know that I'm not. Here for a yearly event that brings two seemingly wildly unrelated concepts together: live music and beer.. "wuh? no waaay!" into the one whizzbang celebration showcasing the best that the Adelaide scene has to offer over two weeks and eight venues. I've been given "all access" doorlisting courtesy of APRA and Music SA, which was awfully decent of them (as much as it'll surely come back to haunt them) and not at all ironic either, considering I've chosen to cover THIS show at The Ed Castle tonight: despite the fact I've already been here so ridiculously often that all the barstaff and security simply assume I run the joint, so I pretty much have free reign anyways (I know.. you'd think they would've learnt better by now!). And as for why I'm so ridiculously happy to be here that I'd damn near consumate a marriage with Coopers Alive for making this happen? that'd be thanks to all their live shows being provided with "a marketing and production budget courtesy of Coopers Brewery and The Australian Business Arts Foundation" to make them just that little more "unique": which in the case of tonight? leads to all these whizzbang night lights and desk lamps being used as stage decoration. Awesome huh!? TOTALLY!! for as much as they might make it next to impossible for me to photograph any of these bands in following? (duuude tell me about it!) it still makes a welcome change from every OTHER night I've ever been stuck here with the same madenning sequence of red, black, blue and yellow lights UNTIL MY FUCKING HEAD EXPLODES. Or in other words: for making The Ed Castle all shiny and new again? (and for being crazy enough to invite me along tonight to cover it!?) Coopers Alive.. no really, THANK YOUUU! YOU'VE FINALLY GIVEN ME SOMETHING NEW TO WRITE ABOUT!!
BOX ELDER (****) myspace :: Which thus brings us to our opening act, who perhaps "inspired" by the spirit of the occassion themselves are providing a little something different too. Yup you might remember them from their support slot for No Through Road at The Jade Monkey a little over a month ago (and if you didn't you seriously missed out on one of THE maddest shows of the year) or maybe you caught their EP launch two weeks later (which I totally planned on seeing too if I weren't for Taught By Animals launching their album at The Ed Castle.. ooops!). And as much as I can only vouch for the former and not so much for the latter? it appears they've stepped up their "game" a notch. And don't get me wrong, this isn't necessarily criticism for what they were doing PREVIOUSLY. They've been cooking up some mad shit for the past year or so, I've been digging the potential, I totally snagged a copy of their EP "Rewind The Wall" too, and if you're a fan of everything post punk to post rock from: Deerhunter, Gerling, My Bloody Valentine, Pavement, Sonic Youth, Sigur Rós to the Animal Collective? duuude your endorphins to dopamines will totally pull spastic pretzels to it. No seriously! hunt that shit down (they've even got a bandcamp so you can totally purchase it online) give them a year or two and trust me you'll be totally bragging to all your friends that "you knew them way back when.." (or kinda like what Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! were back in 2007). Still being a relatively "new band" and all, there has been this slightly "awkward" quality to them. This certain "newborn giraffe" naivity, this whimsical aspect between "youthful exuberance" and shitcrazy stage fright that's urked me somewhat like teeny tiny fingernails to a blackboard. Part of it is their lead singer Patrick Lockwood sounding ever more "slightly" out of tune the louder he sings: as much as most of THAT might've just been the live mix at The Jade Monkey (as it's not an issue on the EP, so I might just be nitpicking here). Part of it is the hammering dirge they unleash in the more frenetic parts, where you wonder just WHICH of their three guitarists is being utterly redundant in delivering it (but you can never quite place who). And as much as I'm simply being an hilarious bastard in bringing it all up just now (I'm so very sorry.. I'm a shit stirrer I know!) there's none of that evident here. Nope for THIS performance tonight they're nothing but blissfully poetic, maybe even downright haunting in parts. For one it's their live mix that's just that little more forgiving, by running that "My Bloody Valentine aesthetic" (ie: the vocals are artfully overwhelmed by the guitars but given added urgency in doing so) where everything's just that little more rounded and less abrasive. But more specifically it's the way in which they've reordered their setlist tonight. Instead of attacking us with all the shock and awe shit right from the outset, they've focused on the subtler numbers instead; in fact the first half of their set practically sounds like a lightly dappled lullaby (and in the best way possible). Songs like "Folk Hands" and "Disco" very much remind me of The XX in this way: all understanded and contemplative, awash with warm reverb (helped no doubt by the moody stage lighting as well). Third song "Harmonica" works its namesake lightly, building layers of soothing fuzz like a Sigur Rós song. Fourth song "Cubist" begins to build up a turbulent momentum; so by the time they hit the home stretch in "Microdots" and "Empty Castles"? their frenetic "Deerhunter style delivery" actually resonates that much more in drawing everyone in. It's like they're focusing more on the whole experience now, how each song flows into the journey, that progression from A to B, and at the very least for me? they're all the better for it. Yup that's Box Elder. They may be just that little bit "gangly" still.. that little bit goofy, flailing both blissfully and cluelessly in their chosen sound; but they're totally figuring it out too. And if tonight's set is any indication of where they're heading? duuude it won't be long till they're downright deadly with it!
HAWKS OF ALBA (****) myspace :: Which then by a curious contrast, brings us to our second act. Who in all the times I've ever seen them live (and this would be the seventh time on record) have remained largely consistent. And by "largely consistent" I clearly mean that as a ridiculous understatement. And I'm not even kidding you! short of a few throwaway jokes their drummer Aidan Moyse cracked about potentially covering Bon Jovi tonight (aaaah if only they had the time!) a slightly chunkier sound from singer Sarah Masters' bass guitar, a missing second guitarist in the form of Nat Stone from Diplomat for their cover of Magic Dirt's "Ice" (what.. shouldn't he always just magically appear everytime he's needed for that song!?) and some hilarious jackass in the crowd (who I assume was a friend of the band) heckling them after almost every song? (and he came up with some real zingers too!) yeaaah it's pretty much the exact same schtick they've always played right down to the setlist. And as much as that would seem like a bad thing when you've seen them six times already this year? especially when you're trying to write a "wildly entertaining" review (ie: grossly infantile stringing together of non sequiturs) for their SEVENTH without simply reverting to copy/pasting what you already wrote on them before? (oh believe me I've been tempted!) it's actually one of the best things about them. Seriously! it doesn't matter where they play, what they play, or who they play for, they're largely consistent because they're largely stupidly freaking awesome. They're nothing short of a surefire bet. In fact I half suspect they're pulling the same routine over and over just so that everyone else in the Adelaide scene will finally sit up, take notice and realise (just like I do) how fiendishingly fuck off a-grade they are. Or in other words: they're totally pulling a "bachelor of attendance", only unlike the pissy example I gave in the introduction? they actually have the legitimate talent to back it up. Yup Hawks Of Alba so totally WIN at life it's embarassing! From their punchy indie pop guitar sound (inspired very much by 90's grunge at its most "summer slacker" sublime) where every song is an instant classic in gang vocals and bouncy castle rhythms. To Sarah all chipper as a chipmunk on bass and lead vocal urging the audience in closer at the end of every song: "awwww c'mon, Spoz doesn't need all that room out front!" (seriously I don't! I kinda feel stupid when I'm the only one out there!). To Hannah Fairlamb fumbling about with her guitar in the solos like she's trying to dress an unruly toddler and yet continually coming up with endless ear candy in fuzzing feedback and riffs. To Aidan the "drill instructor", counting in every song, grinning like a cheshire cat and playing the glockenspiel and drums simultaneously like he could do it all in his sleep. To the very fact that all THIS combined with their chirpy upbeat demeanor makes it feel like they're playing a live show in your living room, or perhaps it's their living room, or perhaps it's suddenly all OUR living rooms combined in the "hippie communal sense" and we're all passing joints around laughing it up like this is the only place to be.. because THAT'S how blissfully at ease they put you everytime they play. Yup that's Hawks Of Alba. There was truly NOTHING unique or memorable with what they played tonight: they could've been at Coopers Alive, a kindergarten, the Big Day Out or in a broom closet thrown off a cliff for all they cared.. and yet even so? you couldn't help but beam ear to ear like a kid on Christmas Day happy as fuck that they came along.. encore! ENCORE!!
STEERING BY STARS (****) myspace :: Which brings us to our headlining act. And believe me they're all about the special occassion, the post rock equivalent of a ceremonial catharsis made uniquely memorable and everything just shy of singer Lachlan Wilson performing an "exorcism" on himself with the Egyptian Book Of The Dead (so many angry bees in his mind! so little understanding of Latin, Aramaic or ancient Babylonian to make sense of it all!) as much as they also share something in common with our second act: in that every show they play pretty much achieves all the above like it's nothing out of the ordinary. "WHOAAAA FUCK!! did you just see that keyboard guy spontaneously burst into flames while the drummer hacked himself up into billion bouillon cubes and orbited around him like a locust swarm or was I just hallucinating!?". "Oh that? HA HA HA duuude that happens ALL THE TIME!! you should see what happens when their guitarist and bass player dress up like ninjas, play the glockenspiel, sing Kumbaya, and the entire room fills up with water!". Or in other words? if ever you've listened to their album "Cables" in full, on an acid bender and NOT woken up in a hospital bed three weeks later with most your vital organs missing? (let alone survived one of their drummer Tom Smeet's "performance pieces" without requiring months of extensive crisis counselling!?) then you truly haven't lived. Still in saying that, it IS possible to acclimitise to all their quirks and idiosyncrasies over repeated listens: kinda like appreciating a fine wine, a bag of mushrooms or Fuck Button's "Street Horrrsing" album (no really I dare you to click that link!). And when you do? and begin to decipher the near impenetrable haze of their live performance!? you're privy to a whole other level of madenning spectacle. One where you realise not only how utterly accomplished they are in pulling it all off live (and how!) but also how closely they come to totally fucking it up. I mean don't get me wrong, tonight's set was utterly sublime and face meltingly transcendent (and shit since when are they NOT!?) but what made it all the more entertaining for me (and a few other more knowing members of the audience) was just how close it came to disaster. Granted to begin with, it was nothing but bliss in first song "Dissonance": thanks to Lachlan's hissing, spitting and 360 head spinning (last bit possibly imagined) combined with Adrian Reveruzzi's stabbing bass rhythm. It flowed seamlessly into second song "Inky", and we were nothing but eyes rolling back in our skulls and foaming on the floor in unison.. duuude you SO wish you were here! But then just as they segued into their next song? things started to go ever so slightly "awry". At first I figured it was just Lachlan layering in a new "buzz" distortion to his keys, only to notice it was carrying over into Rory O'Connor's guitar instead: it started crackling and cutting out, only to drop dead entirely; and yet for all their dumb luck? it happened JUST when his guitar wasn't needed. And so while most of the audience blissed out to their contemplative tickle of keys, bass and light percussion in "Magnets" we watched increasingly astounded as Rory flew around in a blind panic, plugged in his spare, attempted to tune it in silence (tripping over Adrian's bass leads all the while) only to leap right back in JUST as fourth song "Closer" roared into action. And as much as that doesn't sound all that nailbiting in the retelling? first hand I swear, it was like watching someone defuse an atomic bomb with a ticking countdown, and we were mere seconds from mutually assured destruction.. duuude it was fucking epic! Of course after all THAT effort it simply fucked up again at the end of their fifth song "Cables" (only to stop the band dead in their tracks as Rory apologised for the delay) but all was promptly forgotten in the finale when Lachlan let loose a psychotic tirade in "Blood-Letting" so very much living up to its namesake that I swear they left the pink walls here a few shades lighter by the time they were through. The crowd here was utterly transfixed, gobsmacked and hushed into silence. We witnessed the near impossible made possible. And yet all THIS was just Steering By Stars doing what they "do" every damn time!? Yup they're like the musical equivalent of four people cooking a soufflé with a blowtorch, chainsaw, jackhammer and a machete I swear! And yet no matter how many times you see it come together like a symphony? it's no less extraordinary.
1:30AM - Now with all the live bands done and dusted for the night (and let it not be said they were any less spectacular in passing for saying that) this would usually be an opportune moment for me to do what I always do any other night I'm at The Ed Castle: and that's get SO hideously drunk at the front bar that I'd forget I'm even AT The Ed Castle. Which might I add? usually leads to some of the best damn nights I've ever had here at "The Ef.Cawgklh" too (huh what!? aaaah who fucking cares!?). Only naturally in THIS instance I'd have to stop just short of acting on that impulse when I realise: "hang on.. didn't APRA and Music SA doorlist me for this show? shouldn't I at least PRETEND I have an ounce of journalistic integrity in covering it!?". And so I'd shake my head sadly, walk slowly away from the bar, and do the "decent thing" in collating all the notes on my phone and all the photos on my camera for the resulting episode of Spoz's Rant (that'll surely aim for only the highest in reporting standards). Or at least I would until it hits me again: "duuude it's Coopers Alive!! it's an event sponsored by beer, beer ferfucksake!! BEER I DRINK!! WOULDN'T IT BE A CRIME AGAINST NATURE IF I DIDN'T GET SPASTICALLY PLASTERED ON THAT SHIT!?". Which is exactly what I would've done too (HA HA HA duuude tell me about it!) if I hadn't otherwise been buzzing about all these desk lamps like a retarded insect for the past half hour or so. Hmmm yup. In short, I'm pretty sure they knew what they were getting themselves into when they "hired" me.
2:38AM - Eventually however, I did manage to pry myself loose from that wacky desk lamp "event horizon" (either before or after house mixer Alex Ciaravolo finally pulled the plug on them, you fiend!) only to discover just how much time had passed and that The Ed Castle was already closing up for the night. And so just like every other night before it? yup I headed towards the bleedingly inevitable destination. But along the way I did manage to spot THIS sweet advertising on a shop window for where I'd just been. WHOAAA FUCK!! you mean to tell me peeps outside of facebook actually heard about this shit for once!? Coopers Alive.. your wonders truly never cease!
2:40AM - Yup if ever there was conclusive proof that a "bachelor of attendance" truly gives you everything in this world that logic would dictate otherwise.. it would be Supermild. Because as much as I understand it, this is a hip happening joint that caters to only the most stylish and "drop dead sexy" sophisticated souls among us. We're talking hipster fashionistas, fashion models, fashion photographers, fashion designers, fashionable buzz bands, indie avant garde artists and the cultural elite; or pretty much any cutting edge scenester who LOOKS shit hot fashionable 24/7 thanks to a freak combination of vitamin D deficiency, nicotine dependancy and impeccable bone structure (fuck I love them.. they're ever so pretty!). And then there's ME. Now does it really take a genius to see how this shit shouldn't work? And yet I've simply come here so many fucking times (for well over two years now) that they've somehow confused one for the other. I mean not only do they let me in here to begin with without a full x-ray and a bomb disposal unit, but they've totally given me permanent doorlisting to boot and the bouncers even let me cut the line!? HA HA HA no kidding! I know I've said it before.. but that shit's so ridiculously awesome IT BLOWS MY MIND!!
3:03AM - But of course since I've been here so ridiculously often now, none of this shit seems "weird" anymore. I mean seriously all these wacky wall to wall hipsters, scenesters, fashionistas, this whole dancefloor here bristling with nonstop screaming debauchery!? it's simply background radiation to what otherwise feels rather like my "living room". I mean don't get me wrong it's no less fucking awesome to be here, shit why else would I keep turning up each week (HA HA HA duuude you should see all the mad crap we got upto that didn't end up on camera.. WOOOO!!) but it's funny how through sheer familiarity alone I can "turn down the volume" on all this insanity. I can simply find a "quiet corner" with my long neck, blend in with the background and I truly don't have a care in the world. Who am I? shit I dunno dude, I'm just the furniture now.. who are you?
4:01AM - Which possibly explains why I'm taking photos of the most random shit whenever I'm in here now (if I'm even taking photos at all!?). Like here in the beergarden: it's raining, it's empty and admittedly I'm feeling a little bit stupid for doing this (although if it helps I've already drunk through my first long neck and am well on my way through my second.. YEAAAS!!) but check out all these chairs maaan! is that just the craziest shit or what!? No seriously! imagine if I stacked them up in a pyramid, or made them into a fuck off ninja attack robot, or a really big chair made entirely out of smaller chairs and then I sat in the middle and.. yeaaah fuck this I'm going back inside!
4:35AM - And so suddenly remembering just why I write this hilariously fucked up blog in the first place: besides the whole "me scamming free entry into shit, achieving rock & roll celebrity status by very loose association with people who have ACTUAL talent, thus scoring hundreds of facebook friends who I've never actually met before (or perhaps I did, just that once, drunk at Supermild) and perhaps the off chance that I might actually make a lifelong career out of this shit if I don't OFFEND everyone in the process!", I figured I might head back inside and take photos of stuff you might actually give a crap about. Like Ruby Chew here: the most ridiculously awesome bartender you'll ever meet at Supermild, completely unrelated to the fact she's ever so ridiculously pretty or because she's holding up a wedge of lime right now (yeaaah ok.. it's pretty much for the lime).
4:40AM - Only to abandon that plan soon after in favour of getting obliteratingly shitfaced drunk on the couch here.. or maybe it's more of an upholstered bench? aaaah fuck it! either way I still end up attracting visitors almost in spite of myself. I mean it's the weirdest thing now. Despite the fact I write THIS blog, and have provided countless evidence, over many years, for why me taking your photo has got to be the stupidest idea IN THE HISTORY OF STUPID (so much so I've even entertained an increasingly popular notion of publishing a coffee table book on them.. no shit!) people still come from far and wide (or perhaps just from the general drunken vicinity) to get their photo taken, or perhaps it's because they legitimately get a kick out of it? I've truly got no idea! But hey, quite like that one terrifying night I spent at Transmission sober? (I'll let you decide WHICH of those two things I vowed to never do ever again) I'm still more than happy to oblige!
Or at least until I get a shot like THIS: which is pretty much every reason I can think of to flee the premises flailing and screaming tonight (or at least it would've been if I wasn't pissing myself laughing and shooting a whole lot more) as much as they'll surely be back again next week, and every week I go here (or drunks very much like them) to repeat the whole process until my head explodes. Damn.. I think I'm beginning to understand just how disturbing my ongoing presence must be for the Adelaide scene: I mean is THIS what I look like to you people!? *cough* yeaaah maybe it's best we don't answer that (no shit.. I have enough trouble getting to sleep as it is!).
Yup as much as I understand it I'm no "resident expert".. HA HA HA duuude I'm about as far removed from that shit as you can possibly get! And the only reason I've gotten away with it for so long? is because I've been at it for SO DAMN LONG NOW some of you lunatics actually think I'm legitimate. It's hilarious! and then it's downright terrifying (or perhaps it's a little comforting too?) to think that everyone else is in on the same "joke" too. It's true! None of us really have a right to be here, it's a total scam! Short of a few bits of paper and some references we've bluffed our way in, again and again, until they simply let us stay! It's a "bachelor of attendance" by any other name! But hey as long as we ARE here, and the invites keep rolling in (and again I'm pretty sure Coopers Alive knew what they were in for.. or at least I sure hope they did) for all the mischief and carnage I could otherwise cause here? it's nice to think I could do something good with it too! And once we figure out what the hell that is!? just think of all the awesome shit we could accomplish!