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 SEA THIEVES "THEY WILL RUN" ALBUM LAUNCH @ THE JADE MONKEY / Saturday May 21st 2011
Sooo... how do I best "set the scene" for this album launch tonight and why I'm here for it? hmmm perhaps I'll start from the beginning: the night I first met the "Jade Monkey"? It was 2002 I think; not entirely too sure the month (it was a bit before this blog) but I'd been out drinking that night; that much I know for sure (at the usual east end dives? Crown & Anchor, The Austral, The Exeter!? aaaah who cares!) and there's my friend Heidi talking up this new live venue that'd just opened on Twin Street. "Wuh, what? where the fuck is THAT!?", just off Rundle Mall she tells me, "pfft... you're making that shit up!". So me and whoever I was there with at the time (Fiona? tall Fiona with the glasses!? no wait... midget Fiona? HA HA HA yeaaah that's it! or maybe it was the both of them!?) figured we'd call her "bluff" and go check it out. And so after blundering our way drunk down a back alley for what felt like forever? we arrived at its mysterious threshold. "Is this it!?". Awkward silence. Nobody knew what to do next, dumbstruck, paralysed, like it was a "portal to another dimension", so fuck it... seizing the initiative here: I threw the door open and burst in like a conquering hero. "YEAAAS!! LOOK WHAT I'VE..." only to freak the fuck out when I realised just what I've interrupted: a cardigan clad confessional huddled in a dark room, quiet as mice, I mean IMPOSSIBLY QUIET, like you could hear an angel in a million "dancing on the head of a pin" drop softly into satin, and I'd just? OH FUUUuUuuu...!! I almost ran right out the room again. But my friends pushed me back in and we found our place seated on the floor (apologising for creaking floorboards and all) as one lone figure on stage had this room in "captivated silence": black trousers, suspenders, white shirt, bow tie, bowler hat? gently strummed a ukulele. We did our best to be polite, to soak up the full magnitude of this moment in pious meditation. But "midget Fiona" just couldn't handle it anymore. She surreptitiously picked herself up off the floor, left her wine glass, inched the door slowly open, tiptoed down Twin Street until she thought she was a good safe distance away and then exploded in riotous fits of laughter. Aaaaah yes the Jade Monkey! it was an "unique experience" back then and there's been no "other" like it since! and the reason why I'm reminded of that again just now? is because what we're about to witness tonight isn't just any 'ol album launch at The Jade Monkey, OOOH FUCK NO!! for the band who's launching it, is none other than THE JADE MONKEY ITSELF!!
BYE BYE MOUNTAIN (***1/2) - And speaking of shit that has absolutely nothing to do with anything else (pfft... segues are for chumps!) along comes our second act; except if ever they WERE looking into wanting to merchandise their own weirdarse shit? ("Bye Bye Mountain" diet pills, anti-viagra and crime scene corpse removal anyone!?) maybe they could release their very own specialty brand "cold & flu" tablet; or yeaaah maybe it's just me? To explain, this isn't the first time we've crossed paths: that was April 2009 at The Grace Emily (or if we go even further back? June 2007 and February 2006 at the Jade Monkey and Rocket Bar respectively, when some of their members used to be in a different band called Little Ice Age) and I haven't always picked up this "vibe" from them (in fact if memory serves me... this was once a joke I reserved at the expense of Mr Wednesday and their singer Moon's perpetually furrowed brow) but there's something about tonight's performance that makes me think grey skies, someone coughing at a bus stop, a throat lozenge, a cheesy rainbow bursting through the clouds and then the tag-line "if pain persists...". And it's not so much their soothing "alt country" lullaby sound that's doing it to me: equal parts John Denver meets My Morning Jacket, The Middle East, Mazzy Star, Fleet Foxes and Neil Young, only round out all the "rough edges". Or even the fact I had fuckall sleep last night (still writing up my last week's episodes) a fuckload of caffeine to compensate; only now it's wearing off and the beers have yet to kick in (no wait, that's got EVERYTHING TO DO WITH IT!!). No it's more the live mix, or more specifically the "live mix" where I'm at, front of stage taking photos. I mean the Jade Monkey has always been a bit of a weird room to mix, it's a venue that very much has a life of it's own (especially when competing with a crowd) but this band especially is making it very location sensitive; as depending on where you stand? you get a totally different experience. Where I'm at: sounding all heavy on the layered instrumentation, low on the vocals, kinda "shoegazy" with the gentle wooshing and swirling? it's damn near drifting me off to sleep. I mean duuude I'm literally struggling to keep my eyes open! But if I stick my head directly in front of one of the PA speakers? (and the one on the left especially that's slowly forming a "fireplace" huddle, all purring like alley cats with "Cheshire" grins?) it's nothing but magical to behold: clear and crisp with the interwoven vocal harmonies, blending seamlessly with the gentle guitar melodies, the slow pitter patter drum and bass country rhythms, like eucalyptus and honey and lemon (and cinnamon!?) *sniff* it was freaking beautiful! In fact if ever they got this band playing next year's Laneway Festival with THAT sound: cable-knit tragics all over would be foaming superlatives into their tumbler accounts at the sublime majesty of it all. So overall? I'm a little confused as to how I reconcile all these extremes into the one "Bye Bye Mountain"; as it wasn't universal, it could've sounded like whale song in the toilets and Crystal Castles in the bar fridge for all I know!? So fuck it... what I've given is more a vague "aggregate" than an absolute rating. But in the right overall acoustics, who knows!? Because at the very least they're ever so weather appropriate and my phlegm feels so much looser now!
THE SEA THIEVES (*****) - Because after being "rudely" interrupted by our more than capable supports... "try the jam!" we're back to the subject at hand: the "Jade Monkey". Yup to talk about anything ELSE tonight: regarding this headliner or the album they're launching would be rather like "avoiding the elephant in the room"; or quite literally the elephant that IS the room (except obviously it's not an elephant at all, otherwise we'd be calling this place the Jade Elephant) because no really think about it, how fucking CRAZY is this shit? and if you're not quite getting it!? let's start with the source: Zac Coligan. Not only is he the lead singer of The Sea Thieves? but he's also owner and proprieter of the Jade Monkey (and if you're thinking him "performing live" is some kinda amateur hour "vanity" schtick he's pulling on the side? he also used to be in a whole bunch of OTHER Adelaide bands prior to this, the most notable of which being Bergerac) and tonight he's launching his second album AS "The Sea Thieves", here at the Jade Monkey; which like the first album was recorded at yup you guessed it: the Jade Monkey. And instead of it being just him and his wife Naomi Thompson like it was on the first album? (and yup she's owns the place too!) he's also roped in a bunch of extra musicians to form a full live band tonight, and no it doesn't take a genius to figure where he's got them all from either. Presenting? his in house sound engineers: Aidan Moyse on drums and Justin Hermes on bass; bartender: Tom Spall on guitar, violin, keys and ukulele; and two former Bergerac band members: Jed Palmer on guitar, keys and ukulele and Zoe Barry on cello and keys (who also play in Melbourne band the Alarm Birds). Or in other words? THIS is the "house band" the Jade Monkey was always destined to have (being as it is formed by and for musicians and as I discovered the first night: the kookier and more eclectic the better!) but it's also one that's very much embued with the spirit of its origin. Like the name The Sea Thieves? perhaps echoing the squeaky wooden floorboards beneath our feet like the groaning hull of an old ship, how the roof occassionally leaks in a heavy rain, how this entire building over 140 years old seems "shipwrecked" in the middle of this Adelaide CBD like a bygone relic, mischievous in its incongruity. Or how that ghostly presence seeps into their lyrics too: equally as playful as they're hauntingly anachronistic. Or their colourful choice in instruments, "stolen" from the most whimsical of sources: a singing saw, a teeny toy piano; all clunky and disjointed. Mirroring the mad clutter and cacophony you usually hear in this room around you (sometimes all but overwhelming the quieter acts on stage?) like the squeaking of a door hinge, the clinking of bottles, jingling change, the ringing of a cash register, the aimless chatter of a crowd. It's like they've grown as a musical fungus from the walls and ceiling over the past nine years and learnt to speak its language, draw upon its energy, communicate on its behalf and we can't help but be drawn into its spell tonight like a seance. So much so: all of us have hushed to a whisper in its reverent presence, to the point you can almost hear someone near shit themselves in the background attempting to count their coins paying for a drink at the bar. Yup to put it mildly: with everything coming together with such sweet synchronicity? it truly doesn't get much more magical than this! Just as me mentioning any specific details beyond that seems somehow trivial tonight. The live mix: that seemed to transcend the house speakers and seep out the walls and ceiling instead (as much as both Tom and Justin appeared to have constant "foldback issues" with it). The stage dressing: in leafy greens, extra lamp lights and a mad clutter of antique toys and technology that seemed both alien and uniquely indigenous. Or the setlist: mixing both old and new, first and second album, twelve songs or more (plus an encore). It wasn't so much a live performance as a fully functioning ecosystem: we dwelt within it, if only for a short while, we breathed in its rich atmosphere, got lost in its sweet sweet melody and better yet? we all got to take a little piece of it home with us at the end. Yup that's The Sea Thieves. If you were here and witnessed it for yourself you'll totally understand what I'm getting at here. And if not... at least you'll know just where to go now, if ever you wanna find it!
2:14AM - Now with all the bands finished here for the night? I'd usually be in a mad rush to go elsewhere and no... it wouldn't take a genius to figure out WHERE that'd be either (the same old "end game": Exeter, maybe Producers, Crown & Anchor? The Ed Castle then Supermild!? pfft!). But after I'd seen the Jade Monkey's own "house band" launch their album in the same place they recorded it, only for them celebrate here afterwards as well? I mean shit duuude why would I ever want to leave!? And so I ordered up round after round of beers (and as much as I'd love to tell you who was working that bar... yeaaah perhaps I'll just leave it a mystery?) and hit the beergarden. It might have been raining, none of us noticed. Hours might have slipped by undocumented in this blog, none of us even cared! And yes that IS Nathaniel Morse from Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! flipping me the bird when I took this photo as an afterthought and no it didn't bother me in the slightest. I mean suuure: for all the reasons I'm clearly too lazy (and no way too stoned!) to detail here in full it's not always THIS hilariously shit awesome to be here, but tonight? duuude you SO missed out!
2:30AM - Of course I eventually DID leave here, as curiousity did get the better of me. And hell maybe a bunch of us did jump into mixer Matt Hills' car soon after: nab us some Hepatitis J's on West Terrace, dropped by his sound studios, played a few mad rounds of Moon Patrol (or at least we would've if his computer hadn't blown up earlier in the week and he had to reassemble the motherboard and it took him three days and he hadn't reinstalled it yet). I mean who's to say what batshit insanity we got upto? or what recordings may eventually surface!? because let's face it: if your pub, club or live venue DIDN'T feature its own "house band" tonight, it SO doesn't compare!
And now that I think about it? I kinda wish I got me some of that jam.