Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October gigs 2010

198. Terry McCarthy Special The Gem 1/10/2010

Do I count this? I’m not sure, but I experienced it. TMS playing that brand of country meets reggae frontbar, background sounds.

199. Jules Sheldon Jess McCann and bassist Fernandez, The Brian Hooper Band, MJ Halloran Grace Darling 1/10/2010

Jules Sheldon is a well dressed, nicely coiffed boy with an acoustic guitar who sings songs beyond his maturity.  Accompanied by Jess McCann on piano accordion and a young lady bassist, whose name eludes me, I didn’t love this boy. But his front and his camp speech prancing suggest he was born to be on stage.

I wanted to like the Brian Hooper Band. Brian Hooper, suited, only complete with walking stick and white loafers. Once upon a time he was a young handsome man and he looks weathered.  But there’s still a fire inside. He sings, plays guitar, backed with a guitarist and keyboardist. Unfortunately it’s just not very good. I later read he was the bassist in Beasts of Bourbon, and producer to MJ Halloran.

MJ Halloran had a great press release,and sounded decent on his CD so Amanda and I thought we’d give it a go. MJ sings songs about girls and life, I supposed. But it all turns out a little creepy. After all, he’s a guy who looks like he’s in his 50’s, hair combed over and hanging both off his head,  and out of his shirt, singing love songs about a 19 year old girl. Maybe [name deleted]’s strong opinion of him swayed my own. His bassist and drummer were good, be he just was not likable. Maybe it was because he demanded the keys to go down mid performance, offending both soundie and keys, forcing them to laugh at the star. It was all a serious affair. The saving grace was Spencer P Jones guest performer, whose blistering guitar was enough to nod the head. Yes, tonight was the real show was to witness the difference between amateur and truly talented. Spencer P Jones, can be the biggest let down, and the loosest canon, but when he’s good, he’s fucking great. MJ Halloran hmmm. Probably enough said already.

200. Steph Brett Builders Arms 2/10/2010

Beautiful bookish Steph Brett, playing to an audience consisting of the bar staff, Scrabble players, a lonely guy at the bar, and me. She’s not good, but bloody awesome and it’s a shame that not more people were there. But then again it was Grand Final Day, and Collingwood won.

201. Crystal Thomas and Skritch  Labour in Vain 2/10/2010

The worst performance of CT I’ve seen. Sloppy, she seemed bored playing her songs. Skritch: OK songwriter, better songwriter than singer. CT should start singing Skritch’s songs.

202. Steve Axel B, The Gem 3/10/2010

French, violin, bass, guitars, vocals and cleavage. Didn't really grab me, since the songs weren't brilliant.

203. Waz E James with John Beland The Standard 3/10/2010

Country band, St Kilda singer, lashings of pedal steel and Flying Burrito Brother John Beland on guitar. Laid back and perfect for Sunday arvo, evening. Really good stuff.

204. Skyscraper Stan and Plague Doctor The Old Bar 3/10/2010

Walked into the Old Bar to find D Heard standing there, and slide guitar twanging. Stan, tall and thin, singing into the mic, finger pointing to the audience. The Old Bar is the place for Skyscraper Stan. It just works.

As per usual, Plague Doctor bring the house down with their arsenal of catchy, funny songs, boy/girl vocals. Great guitar, great piano. They added a couple of new songs and by the end the 3/4 of the crowd inside were dancing. Yes dancing at the Old Bar on Sunday night. Was it the band? Was it the weather? Who knows? But to me, they were great.

204.5 Angie Hart and Georgia Fields Rock’n’roll Trivia at The Grace Darling 5/10/2010
Angie Hart is breathtakingly sweet. Where others were annoyed at her for being twee, I always liked that about her. She sang the cover of Bizarre Love Triangle, and one of her own. Truly captivating, she’s a real talent. Georgia played Uke, and even got to sing one of her own, in a breathy tones. After Angie finished, Mick told me “I think I’m in love with Angie Hart”

205. Rich Davis, Little John Duo and Alysia Manceau and John Builders Arms 7/10/2010
Rich Davis is a Scottish guy who moved to Melbourne 10 years ago. His singing style is reminiscent of an 80’s pop belter. The rest of his sound is placed in a dark pop zone. He admits tonight he has the flu.
Little John tonight consists of bass player who moonlighted as a Uke player for one song. John does his usual repertoire, and his songs do stand out strong.
Alysia Manceau is described as folk noir and it’s pretty much on the money. She finger picks her way through her set, switching between acoustic guitar and electric. Accompanied by tall John in his high set jeans, they do winter songs. And it suits. It’s October and it’s still bloody cold. Songs to drink mulled wine to.

206. Fingerbone Bill The Gem 8/10/2010
Fingerbone Bill followed after work drinks. Double bass, acoustic lead guitar, banjo and harmonica, they perform old time country sounds and they do it well. Songs showcase the talent of the players. Everyone gets a moment to shine in this band. On the flipside, no one really stands out. They're all good. Nothing new but highly enjoyable drinking music. Met a guy named "Lucky" who survived the bushfires. Left Amanda who later went to the Tote.

207. Roller One Workers Club 8/10/10
Weird. First thing I see is Alysia Manceau standing at a CD sales table. Walking in midway through their set, I find Fergus onstage sporting a Beatles haircut, Adam in his usual chic getup. It's a pretty good turnout for a couple of guys who play every Monday night without fail. There's not a lot of bad going on here. It's just that stripped back sound, creating space in songs which is where the beauty lies. It's all about simplicity of sound. Sometimes it feels as if songs end before they should have. Supported by a handfull of local musos, and a room rull of good ears, they'd have to be happy with this turn out. Missed out on Fatti Frances and Romance.

208. Spencer P Jones Yah Yahs 8/10/2010
Following incidents that occurred weeks ago, I was extremely reluctant to walk home feeling vulnerable. So I enlisted the help of D Heard and his mates, who were at Roller One, and planned to head to Yah Yahs. I had every intention of going home, but the door charge was finished, so naturally I went in to check it out. I can only assume SPJ played a long set because I think I saw 30-40 minutes. Tonight he was good. Not great, but good. Standout songs are his saddest and slowest songs: ‘Between The Raindrops’ and that killer Monkey off my back song. As written previously his guitar rips through songs, and just when you thought the song couldn’t get any better, it does. Sobering Thoughts is an excellent album and he played many tracks off that. I really like how he can turn a bitter rant into a song-hear The Bogans. Chris remarked that Spencer IS rock royalty, but sadly audience numbers don't reflect this. The venue was far too empty-even if he does play a number of gigs a week.

209. Steph Brett The Builders Arms 9/10/2010
Delightful and whimsical I can’t get enough of Steph Brett. Interestingly as she sings, her face is awash with what at times seems to be an anxiety ridden expression. She snaps out of it, and then becomes all smiles again. A slightly larger crowd, and she draws the attention of the Scrabble table, but it seems the timeslot 4-6 is too early. Matt and Grace came too, and I thought she was good. Grace said dress her up and this place would be full. Talk afterwards reveals she’s been playing for about 8 years. Shy, alone and sad, she picked up the guitar in foreign country [Japan]. The point was doing things you wouldn’t ordinarily do because you’re overseas. Although playing in front of people was not a problem since she’s always been a singer. All very interesting.

Sideshow Brides Marquis of Lorne 9/10/2010
I didn't count this because I only caught one song. They sound better than last time and one sister has a Veronica Lake fringe cut. Exciting twang from this rockabilly set of siblings.

Jonneine Zappata East Brunswick Club 9/10/2010
A strange one. Arrive as Teeth and Tongue end, and there’s a note on the counter that the lead singer has lost her voice and will only be playing an instrumental set. This was the answer to my problem as I had two gigs to go to. Tram back to Melbourne.

210. Mulatu Astake and the Black Jesus Experience The Order of Melbourne 9/10/2010.
Admittedly I knew nothing about Mulatu except he played some arty festival earlier in the year, and I had some of his work from an Ethiopiques compilation. Crowd were older jazzy white people, a few hipsters and the chick I was standing next to was on her Iphone all night. She shouldn’t have. Mulatu is a legendary Ethiopian Jazz percussionist and tonight he was good but not in a way that you’d expect. The DJ’s did their best work to amp it, big songs, loud music, buzzy vibe. There was a lot of waiting around, then finally the band came one, then more waiting. As the anticipation built to a peak, Mulatu comes out then starts banging away at the xylophone with class and restraint. It was cool because he really set the pace. The backing band were super enthused to play with a legend, and annoyed the crowd didn’t match their own enthusiasm, and Mulatu exudes cool: and has a less is more style. This understated style of music has an effect: it lulls you into another state. For me it lulled me into a sleepy haze, which is not a criticism. I just found this is how the music functions. Afterwards Richie remarked it would be good music at home to get stoned to. I agreed. Even though I know nothing about those things.

211. Emily Ulman, Roller One, Van Walker and LIZ Stringer Pure Pop Records 10/10/2010
Cassie suggested this be the introduction to Pure Pop Records I needed. So we went and it was lovely. I can’t believe I’ve never been there before. Emily Ulman did her style of singer/songwriter folk, Roller One were glorious. Van Walker and Liz Stringer good too. What I really like about Stringer is she’s a straight shooter. Her lyrics, her style comes straight from the heart. Ace arvo. What a great venue: excellent sound and you can smoke and drink whilst listening to music. Props to the sunshine. This was the first warm day in months. It’s been such a long winter!

212. Bones Blackwood, The Jacks and Molly and The Level Spirits The Old Bar 10/10/2010
One man band; Bones has a drum kit, guitar and mic and sings bluesy rock. The Jacks are a three piece, playing punky rock that I don’t dig. I find Molly confronting because she oozes sexuality and I get unnerved – says more about my prudish fears than her unique stagecraft. So I sat in the front bar and listened. I liked them. The Level Spirits are bass, guitar and drums and altogether they play bended notes rock and roll. Jemma was DJing and included some classic tracks like Who wears Short Shorts? And Rock A Hula. What a way to start the working week...

213. Ladyfingers, Hailey Cramer, Girl Brigade, Syreneyiscreamy and Pash Order of Melbourne, 14/10/2010
Tonight was a night where I was forced to throw my personal biases out the window. Hip hop, and electro. I really thought they're not my thing at all. An all women night? Is it passé? Is it necessary at all? I had no idea what I was in for. Tonight it's Pash's night and Pash is launching her album. By the way, Pash, PBS announcer has a show named Very Necessary, the aim is to highlight women's voice in hip hop.
Ladyfingers, the all female, youth DJ collective played Latino music to warm things up. The first act on stage was Hailey Cramer, a singer in Blue King Brown I'm told. She had a guy on a Mac, and two back up singers. Although she only played two songs, she had a strong soulful voice and the ability to get the attention of the almost empty room.
Girl Brigade were a two piece electro indie outfit, playing mashups with a serious Yacht rock influence. Not taking themselves seriously, they were serious fun. Really different. At the end of their set they invited Pash up, who rapped in her yellow jump suit. If this was a sign of things to come, I was destined to stay.
Solo Syreneyiscreamy has a booming voice and amazing ability to scare and captivate with her talent. Combination of singing and rapping and electro.
Then Pash came on stage. She had a costume change, wearing all black. She was accompanied by a cool chick on a Mac and her sister on drums. Pash then launched into song, and she was confident, cool, and had real spunk. Pash is a real star. I was suitably impressed.
This was a showcase of fine talent. After going to gigs as frequently as I do I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of any of these acts. By the end the room was still fairly empty, but enough people were into it, to make it good fun. A scan around the room showed an audience of young, hipsters, camp guys, women, arty types and some of Pash's family. Important to note, this edgy cool crowd was precisely the crowd that Rampage is lacking. This was perhaps the coolest PBS event in a long time. There was some amazing talent to behold, from voices that are continually marginalized. It’s a timely reminder that Feminism is not a dirty word. Well done to Pash for organizing an excellent, diverse and entertaining evening.

214. Matt Dwyer Band The Gem 15/10/2010
Blandish 3 piece[electric guitar, drums, double bass] 50’s styled background music rock’n’roll. Suitable soundtrack to Friday drinks.

215. Steph Brett Builders Arms 16/10/2010
Steph did what she does, this time accompanied by a an acoustic Guitar/Dobro/Uke player named Nara who plays for Wikimen, Vulgagrad and other bands. Another good afternoon session.

216. Luau Cowboys Labour in Vain 16/10/2010
I was asked why would you want to see them? They’re men in their 60’s? That would be precisely the reason I’d like to see them: they’ve had time to learn their instruments and work out what their sound is right?] Luau Cowboys are 4 men in their 60’s[Double bass, guitars, Dobro or banjo] who play a cowboy songs or Hawaiian classics. Had some difficulty listening to the songs as the lead singer is not a great singer, but the band are excellent musicians, and the instrumentals were good. Could incorporate more Hawaiian, but good front bar music.

217. The Break and Dengue Fever The Forum 16/10/2010
The Break are a surf rock band who include members of the Violent Femmes and Midnight Oil. They speed through their songs, play with energy, fervor, and power. It gets whacky at times, by the inclusion of the Theramin, but here’s four guys you can trust to make the sound track of a trashy party. Why didn’t I like it? Songs went too long – they were epic: at times it felt really self indulgent. The essence of The Break is this: created by a bunch of guys who wanted to relive their youth. Cool projection by Robin Fox? Head was not in the right place. After all, I really wanted to see Dengue Fever. Even though I’ve got some of their records, I don’t know too much about Dengue Fever except they’re from the US, and the singer is of Cambodian descent. She sings Cambodian style, with an American accent. On stage, there’s a bouncing bassist, a guitarist who can sing, a sax player who plays flute and trumpet, a keys player who makes shrill noises with his instrument, and he sprays the drummer with Glen 20. Centre stage is Chhom Nimol, the Cambodian looking and sounding singer. She’s beautiful. She’s dressed in blue. But it’s her voice that absolutely captivates; a Cambodian style of inflection that is so unusual to Western sound. She gives the band the point of difference. They’re a tight band. They incorporate 60’s Cambo pop into their sounds, in addition to weaving grooves, a bit of rock and drama. They’re prepared to entertain, they’ve got good songs, and they’re better live possible because they’re excellent. They performed one encore, and the almost full forum were gushing with thanks. Interestingly, some were members of the local Cambodian community, of varied ages. My only criticism is: I would have liked to have heard more Nimol solos. Note: My secret hero Julian Wu was at this gig. He was tired.

218. Lisa Salvo and Chad Mason The Standard 17/10/2010
Lisa Salvo is a the tiny lady who sings with her whole body. Big gasps before singing, she reminds me of Joanna Newsome minus annoying moments. Very sweet sound. Chad Mason is a guy in a cowboy shirt with a guitar playing alt country-rock tracks. Each track was studded with a sometimes excessive lead break. Not the greatest, but sturdy Sunday evening front bar music.

219. Eaten by Dogs and Level Spirits The Old Bar 17/10/2010
Eaten by Dogs performed as a two piece and it worked well. Molly was more sedated and demure tonight in movement and attire. She must have channeled that energy into her singing because her voice boomed tonight.

219.5 Leena Grace Darling 19/10/2010.
Leena is a young singer songwriter from Fremantle, who moved to Melbourne two years ago. On a recent trip in the US, she was dumped. She is beautiful, her sound is sweet, rougher moments a little M Etheridge. She sang 4 songs. 2 covers[Joelene and Atlantic City], 2 originals which pulled glimpses of her life. Nice voice, lacks confidence but this is sure to grow in years. Pleasant but not mind blowing.

219.7 Twoks at The Rainbow 21/10/2010
On stage these kids look like an NMIT school assignment. As my mate said, everyone looks like they’re in a different band. But their soundwise, they had some good pop songs, with a front woman who appears to have been coached in the art of performing from a young age-her R & B flavor and sings with a smile. Only caught them for a moment, but the kids are alright.

220. Chelsea Wilson Toff in Town 21/10/2010
Chelsea Wilson is a jazz singer who has been influenced by the retro styled releases of the Daptone label. She honed her craft, singing on cruise ships and around the world. Tonight she was singing songs from her EP Bitterness. Backed by a white man soul band, 3 backing singers, Chelsea was dressed in a gown suited for a young diva. The sound was large, Chelsea worked the stage, told stories, entertained the crowd, and everyone had fun. Not strictly my thing but kudos for Chelsea for making it happen, in the well packed room.

221. Pikelet and Low, The Forum 21/10/2010
My mate called me earlier in the day to try and offload this ticket. I had no intention of going to this gig, but found myself here. I always struggled with Pikelets songs – that electro indie twee never really reached me, so on the big stage, I felt it was merely an amplification of what I wasn’t fond of to begin with. Low: I was told they started in 1994 as a joke band, to contrast noisy music trends of the time & they’ve released 12 albums. It’s Thursday night, I’m slightly exhausted, and before the packed out crowd of hipsters at the forum are 3 people on stage; guitarist, drummer and bassist. What they do is strip back songs, create space, interweave male and female vocal arrangements and harmonise. It’s beautiful: like lullabies for indie kids and indie oldies[dressing like indie kids]. Although some might find this boring, the crowd were transfixed. Leading me to believe this was a gig perfectly pitched to the mood of the evening. Testament that music does not have to be endless lead breaks, amazing drum rolls, etc to have an impact.

222. Goodtime Medicine Band, Coral Lee’s Pepper Teas and Liz Stringer Band The Old Bar 22/10/2010
Goodtime Medicine band are 5 members strong including a fiddle and double bass player. Their name describes what they do; up tempo front bar music to booze to. Coral was launching her album tonight. Curiously, she was second on, which ended up working really well. Liz was the big name that helped draw in a larger audience for Coral. The Old Bar was suitably full and Coral was relaxed on stage as she played mostly up tempo songs. The band played well and it was an excellent performance. Her mum said she couldn’t be prouder. Liz Stringer is a singer song-writer who performs with genuine intensity and authenticity on stage. It’s easy to see why people like her so much.

223. Steph Brett Builders Arms 4-6 23/10/2010
Steph on vocals and guitar, accompanied by Nara playing guitar and Dobro. Together they play that kooky brand of jazzy, country pop love songs. On paper it doesn’t sound as if it works. In real life it does. Steph has a voice that sounds fragile, but in actual fact, it’s got strength in FEEL-purity and honesty in her delivery. Last song was a cover of Phil Spector’s He’s a rebel. Never heard it minus wall of sound. Stripped back as a song played by a guitar with slide embellishments, it was breathtakingly exciting. Testament that Spector’s an amazing songwriter, and Steph is a true talent, delivering the song with conviction and style. Why oh why does she not have a cult following?

224. Sideshow Brides Marquis of Lorne 5-7 23/10/2010
Two sisters[country] and two brothers[rockabilly] + a drummer: finally caught them, and they were very pleasing with their understated harmonies. The loudest instrument in the band was the guitar, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since he keeps bending the notes – and I love that. But maybe the guitarist could balance it out a little bit more, since he’s in control of the mixing desk.

225. Ukeladies, Eagle and the Worm and Mariachi El Bronx Forum 23/10/2010
Good timing. Walk into the Forum and The Ukeladies are on stage: two ladies who play the Ukelele. One is dressed in a gold 60’s cocktail dress. The other in a Blue shoulderless, yet collared blue spangly dress. Yes they have dressed up, and for good reason. They’re playing the Forum. Clare Moore was playing vibes and xylophone, with a gaudy green 70’s frock that reached the floor, and the men – Dan Luscombe on slide guitar, and Phil Kekulas on double bass were also dressed up. Captain Manus, on drinks wore a Captain’s suit. Apart from the Uke’s, there was a strong Hawaiian theme – an island back drop, Lei’s, flowers on shirts, and behind the ears. Ukeladies sang beautifully, each musician added something special to the performance, I loved every moment of it. Their songs are lovely. Their execution is great, a Ukeladies gig is no ordinary gig. It’s an experience for the senses and it’s hugely entertaining. Captain Manus played some percussion sometimes, and backing vocals. At the very end he sang Angelina which was a real crowd pleaser. People love the guy with the moustache in the Captain suit.
Sound like a wanker but here goes – in my work, I remember asking Eagle and The Worm what do you sound like? They had difficulty saying because there are 9 people in the band with different influences and all kinds of contributions. After this performance, here’s what I reckon: Eagle and the worm are a 9 piece EPIC indie pop extravaganza with a swag of good party songs with a vibe to match. Excellent stuff.

I took a punt on Mariachi El Bronx because I heard they played their music Mariachi style. It seemed novel. It could be a laugh. What I found is they play their hardcore music Mariachi style. It meant that as a cohesive sound, it didn’t quite work for me.
This performance was parts exciting and horrible. The instruments they bought out were traditional Mariachi style - excellent. But the vocals did not work. It was that whiney 90’s US punky sound that I did not dig, and did not work in the style of Mariachi. It made the gig tiresome and by the end I was sitting up the back with the oldies. To be fair, they were very appreciative of the Melbourne audience, and said so frequently. Their last song and their encore were their best moments – last song- best song and encore they stood in a line, and played with a more mariachi flavor. Disappointed but I should have done my research. Ukeladies were the standout for the night.

226. Rusty Pickers, The Fox, 24/10/2010
It was The Fox’s 3rd birthday and the smell of BBQ filled the rooms. Three piece [double bass and two guitars] middle aged men, playing an assortment of country, blues, pop and jazzy songs with some serious twang. When performing covers, of classics, I love it when singers respect the melody. In order to put their own stamp on things, sometimes this got lost. Gig highlight: 3 girls clapping along, dancing to the beat and drinking soft drinks.

227. Adventures in Paradise Bertha Brown 28/10/2010
Vintage Hawaiian covers played by an excellent band including great guitar, uke, double bass. What really makes the sound magic is the lap steel played by Alex Burns. Incidentally the same man who makes the songs beautiful dulls the impact with an unsuitable blues rock smoky voice. This band needs a crooner. Instrumentals are divine. This is the kind of music where, if you close your eyes and you could really believe you’re on an exotic isle, in a time long gone.

228. Maldon Folk Festival 30th-31st October
MFF is in its 36th year and it doesn’t for a moment try to be cool. It’s a little folk festival that takes over a quaint country town. Acts appear at different venues, for example, a library, a heritage listed school building, town churches, local pubs and the camping grounds. Arriving midday I had fun at Uke workshop hosted by Rose Turtle Ertler, followed by another Uke workshop including an Open mic. The highlight for me was the Pacific Island brothers, who couldn’t play Uke according to reading music, but they played it by ear. They got up together, one singing in an Adam Sandler song, with Craig David R&B flava, the other played slide Uke in the background, using an empty pot glass. Next caught a bit of Abbie Cardwell, accompanied by her brother and Ash Davies on drums. Then there was the céilí dancing with many members, about 4 of which were accordions. It was lots of fun, but felt weird about touching strangers hands. Caught Hillbilly Heaven, who played at the Baptist Church who actually are a Christian country band with about 10 members. Then caught Appalachian Heaven who aren’t a Christian band but played Appalachian inspired tunes. Sadly the rain came down – good for the dams, bad for the festival and it was a wash out. So camping was out the question, but fortunately I got to stay with my lovely friend Hannah and her husband Tom. The Sunday was a little bit of a non event. Lost the program, checked out the Maldon Hotel, where a man was singing about the Hurstbridge train line. Can you believe nothing really appealed so we just wandered around town. But that in itself was extremely fun because the Morris Dancers were dancing, and the string bands were on the street. They seemed to be the kind of makeshift bands, where people just bought their instruments and started playing, and they blended into the crowd. In fact Cassie laughed since one man looked as if he was playing the meat pie. At times it felt like a senior citizens festival, it poured and it wasn’t cool at all, but Maldon was Fun. I’d go again.

229. Strine Singers Builders Arms 31st October 2010
2 girls, 2 guys playing indie pop, at times with a slide guitar. Vocals were layered, and the girls sang harmonies and in rounds - but the room could have done with a soundie since the players were out of any kind of balance

230. Gun Ballads, Howl at the Moon and Brothers Grimm and the Blue Murders 31/10/2010
The mix was LOUD, but what I could tell was this: Gun Ballads kinda reminded me of a 90’s indie guitar band. Howl at The Moon – quality lead singer. Probably one of the better performances I’ve seen them – they just packed more energy into it. The Brothers Grimm painted their faces in Kiss styles, and had a banjo and viola player who added more listenability – is that a word?- to the group. Band room, beer garden & bar were all heaving, and it was one of those nights that says – The Old Bar is THE place to be on Sunday night.


  1. Wow. Amazing concept! Pretty keen for your blog!

    If you're open to recommendations Only The Sea Slugs play Revellers North on the 16th. They're pretty awesome.

  2. Thanks MarieMaree. Will try and check it out