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...
LIVE REVIEW / RACHEL CEARNS (****1/2) ADELAIDE FRINGE FESTIVAL @ THE PROMETHEAN / Sunday March 6th 2011
As you might've noticed, for the past three weeks or so I've done my utmost to avoid The Fringe Festival... WHY? FUCK 'EM THAT'S WHY!! And I like to think I've done an exceptional job of it too! Or at least short of catching Bird Wizdom's "Master's Curious Delirium" at Nexus Theatre (twice!), seeing Lemurian and The Aves at Shimmering West, or the night I spent spreadeagled in astroturf drinking myself into a blind stupor at Coopers Urban Garden Experiment, but pfft... that's barely a drop in the ocean compared to 700+ other shows I could've been attending; in fact not once have I even stepped foot in The Garden Of Unearthly Delights this year... NOT EVEN ONCE!? and I swear it's been the best shit ever being THIS blissfully oblivious! FUCK YEAAAH!! WOOOO!! IN YOUR FACE EXCITEMENT!! Or at least it would've been if I wasn't being avalanched with upteen billion facebook event invites, messages, texts and emails regardless, reminding me just what I'm missing out on (duuude my guilt trip's got enough "miles" to fly me to the Moon!) while barely getting more than three hours sleep each night trying to make "sense" of what little I HAVE seen (damn clowns gonna eat me I swear!) to the point I've been speedballing so much caffeine with an upright spoon, mad pinging off the walls trying to write it all up, I make interstate truck drivers look like droopy-eyed armless children... NO REALLY? WHEN THE FUCK IS THIS CLOWNSHIT INSANITY EVER GONNA END!? (in just seven days time? PHEEEUW!!). But even so? there's always exceptions to the rule, Fringe events I couldn't possibly refuse (in fact I'll more than happily attend... ON A SUNDAY) and not just because they might have asked me ever so nicely, or they did that AND doorlisted me, or paid for blog advertising, or even because they might have offered me ALL THAT, and they happened to be female friends of mine, and they're "kinda pretty", and I'm seriously THAT simple minded when to comes to choosing gigs to cover for this blog!? HA HA HA OF COURSE NOT!! This is a legitimate binge drinking publication, I have standards damnit and *cough* oh look it's at The Promethean? and I've never been? and I've always been meaning to? yeaaah let's just say I'm here for THAT!
And this is who I'm here to see. And not just for all the lame excuses I listed above (awww but she's a teeny tiny pixie elf with dredlocks... HOW COULD I POSSIBLY SAY NO!?), or because she's an exceptionally talented singer/songwriter performing a solo show here tonight (with band) in an exceptionally stylish venue... (although that does help). No to be honest? I'm simply here because of THIS poster. It's way too ridiculously fuckoff epic for its own good. It makes her look like a shit hot international touring artist who was all set to perform at The Entertainment Centre tonight; only at the very last minute she didn't like the look of the "mixed fruit and cheese platter" they were offering backstage (or the feather fanning eunichs who were serving it) and decided to play here instead to... you know "rough it" a little and yes I'm really ridiculously jealous that I didn't design it myself. I mean who wouldn't want to attend the riotous FUCK out of a show like that... eh? EH!?
And this is their arty farty interior. I mean JUST LOOK AT THAT SHIT!! And yes, please excuse the poor quality photos here, as they truly don't do this justice (as I'm pretty sure my camera fried a microchip or two it was that ill accustomed to such radiant splendour). More to the fact? I could've sworn the doorgirl actually FLARED her nostrils at me when I arrived and mentioned "my name was on the door" it was THAT damn near extraterrestrial for me to be here; I mean she was happy to oblige me and all, but you could just sense something was a little awry with that transaction too.
But wow what a venue huh!? those low hanging lights, the balcony, those antique doors, and the well you can't quite see in either of these photos (as to be honest I couldn't get a clear shot of it) but it had the trippiest high vaulted ceilings too. All intricate in white lattice work, like it was some kinda "giant wedding cake" inverted and suspended in space. In fact I was almost tempted to lick it if only I'd gain upstairs access, a step ladder, and... yeaaah it's just wrong that I'm here huh? and by the look of the audience around me that suspicion is all but confirmed too. I mean we're talking comfortably middle aged "patrons of the art": adjusting their spectacles, intimate dinner theatre style seating, and all in what for the world looks like a classier miniature Thebarton Theatre minus the beerstains (plus additional plush cushion furnishing!?) and wait is that a grand piano on stage!? A GRAND FUCKING PIANO!? yeaaah I know, I know! I attempted that joke last week and I apologise for bringing it up again... but either way? duuude THIS is gonna be one hell of a show!
DUSTY LEE (***1/2) - Now before the main act, there was a support, well pfft... obviously! THERE'S ALWAYS A FREAKING SUPPORT ACT!! But since I'm introducing this whole "single serving" review schtick this year? ie: to occassionally save me the headfuck of writing over 5000 words for a full lineup of bands every fucking episode until my head explodes (or worse... I publish another B&W photo montage of me cooking up packets of mi goreng like I'm a freaking mental patient) I'll try my best to be "brief" here. This is Dusty Lee, full name Dusty Lee Stephensen (he doesn't really have a website I'm aware of, so it'd be kinda weird linking to his personal facebook instead) and he's a singer songwriter of the vaguely "alt. country" acoustic persuasion. Or be more precise? think equal parts Jeff Buckley and John Mayer. Or to be devil's advocate here? think one of those scruffy haired, bare footed, well travelled troubadours with the "husky" honeycomb voices that girls totally pants themselves silly for... (ie: need I mention Jeff Buckley's classic cover of "Hallelujah"?) whilst simultaneously driving us guys mad with jealously at the sight of it, wishing we'd worked this mad scam ourselves (as much as I'm personally going for more a Han Solo meets Hank Moody vibe; even if I more resemble a cheap knockoff of Chewbacca meets Bill Bailey only uglier). And as much as you'd think I'm leaning on a lazy stereotype here? I'm not even kidding you: EVERY song is a soft serenade about a girl he's just met, a girl he wants to get to know better, a girl he's just woken up next to only to realise he's running late for work, as much as they could all be about the SAME girl? (awwww how romanti... crap he's gotten to me too! THAT FUCKING ARSEHOLE!!) and then there's this one song called "Mary Jane" that we might THINK is about doobie-ing it up on the "double rainbow" (because since when is "Mary Jane" about anything other than Marijuana!?) but noooo... I'm almost dead certain by the way he's swooning with such sweet conviction? it's actually a song about a girl called "Mary Jane". And no this isn't me rolling my eyes, or silently wondering where I can steal me an acoustic and some lessons... because shit damn he's such a charmer, what with all the witty asides and disarming down to earth demeanor? it's almost impossible not to like him. Yup that's Dusty Lee. He may be a cliche (and how!) but he's exceptionally good at it.
Which then brings us to the REAL reason why we're here this evening: Rachael Cearns. A name you may remember as one half of Winter's Lament (along with Luke Fazakerley on drums, who's since moved on to drumming for Taught by Animals... go figure?). Except as much as I remembered it, they played so rarely in their eighteen month's together (circa 2006-2008) your chances of actually catching them live was rather akin to stumbling upon an Elvis, Big Foot or UFO sighting; as much as I swear I saw them live twice myself (I even blogged that shit!) only that doesn't prove much of anything because we all know I'm the town drunk/village idiot (only with slightly better photos?) and you should never believe a single word I say, and so? yeaaah they pretty much never existed (but still, fuck damn they're awesome!). And as for what any of this has got to do with what Rachel Cearns is doing now... ummm? not a hell of a lot. In fact I don't even know why I mentioned it in the first place, as she's apparently moved onto "bigger and better" things. And by that? I clearly mean this evening, the minute she walks out on stage with her backing band in tow, and proceeds to blow our brains out with what it truly means to put on a proper "live show". Duuude! I mean this is so well beyond what I'm accustomed to from the Adelaide scene in terms of style and grandeur (especially for a goofy little singer songwriter most of us have likely never even heard of before!?) not only does it make me feel knuckle draggingly "Neanderthal" to be in its civilised presence? it actually makes me wonder why I'm still swinging through trees here, shrieking and flinging my poo about: while they're flying about in spaceships fueled by rainbows and good intentions; or maybe I'm exaggerating a little; either way it's a class act. Firstly for their inspired choice in venue: which again my camera doesn't quite do justice (or perhaps it's just my lack of opposable thumbs?) as much as it's also one of those daunting sit down shows... so I'm busting floor crawling commando moves just to get what I've gotten here (which proves slightly more difficult ducking and crouching after a Friday and Saturday night of heavy drinking at Producers Bar, lemme tell you!) but it IS an exceptionally swank, if somewhat "moodily low lit" live stage setup all the same. Secondly for the fact they're all dressed for the part. Rachel arriving on stage in a floor length red cocktail dress, joined in turn by her five piece "mini orchestra" suitably attired in suit and tie: featuring previous support Dusty Lee on piano/keys/guitar, Steve Salvi on guitar, Andrew Johns on bass, Jamie Jones on drums and Tom Boehm on violin (and a lot of them have that no-nonsense "session muso" look about them too... which is a tad bit intimidating). But mostly it's for the music itself. In overall style you could figure it as "adult contemporary" mixed in with a little bit of homespun alt. country and a teeny bit of "twinkle toe" fairytale goth. Or simply picture equal measures Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morrisette and/or Tori Amos (minus the angst) with Amy Lee from Evanescence (only minus the heavy rock aggression). Or about as far removed as you could possibly get from MY personal tastes in music just shy of introducing a harp (don't say Enya... DON'T SAY ENYA!!) but presented with such casual charm, polish and professionalism you can't help but be won over by it regardless. Here to showcase material off of Rachael's upcoming/yet to be recorded debut album with songs ranging from quasi orchestral in lush arrangement, to little more than just a voice paired with an acoustic (or a grand piano in one song), I DO find it occassionally amusing just how twee, innocent and "sheltered" her lyrical content is (she even performs a cheesy ballad over a melting snowman called "Death Of A Snowman"... yup, school of hard knocks here!) but what really sells is the singing voice. It's truly mind blowing shit. You can tell she's had a lifetime's classical training: crooning, swooning, warbling and lilting in an ever so ethereal fashion. As much as she's ever so blissfully devoid of any pretense in projecting it, geeking out over just how many people came to see her this evening? only makes it all the more endearing (she even makes a point to mention badges are for sale for $2 at the door, just in case anyone wants any!? HA HA HA awesome!). Yup that's Rachel Cearns. She knows not quite what she's unleashed, she's almost as dumbstruck as we are by it... but thanks to this ONE show, there's no doubt she has a bright future ahead of her!
And now here's both Alisa and Charlie making out... I forget why exactly?
And here's Rachel Cearn's setlist: note special mention of "badges" after the second to last song.
7:17PM - And wait... WHAT THE FUCK!? yeaaah I got no idea why they're doing that either. Or why they wanted me to take photos, although it's not like I was complaining despite my camera mysteriously "glitching" a good three to four times before I got a good shot of it (obviously!) or how it at ALL relates to a "live review" of a show at The Promethean which they're clearly hijacking with yet more nonsensical photos below *ahem* but still how trippy is that green light by the bar?
Suffice to say? moments later we all agreed to have dinner at "East Taste" in Chinatown, only that was already packed out. So we tried "Ying Chow"... same thing, went to "Wah Hing" instead: where I had the most awesome fried duck with salty plum sauce and then I went to a burlesque show...
Aaaah Fringe Festival, why didn't you tell me about this shit sooner!?