1. Pheasant Pluckers The Standard, 2/1/2011
First gig of the year. A 4 piece middle aged male string band featuring a Dobro/Banjo player wearing a Hawaiian shirt, playing country styled music. Pleasant sounding/Nothing offensive. But their best was their mountain style music.
2. The Bulls, Mike Noga and Harmony The Old Bar 5/1/2011
Linda puts everything into her performance and delivers a jawdroppingly believable performance. Amazing talent, An Old bar barman joins her and brother on stage playing snare and cymbal. Missed Mike Noga. Harmony return to the stage, six squeezed onto the tiny stage. Crowd of curious onlookers check it out. Too old, I go into the front bar as there was too much sound in the band room, and I couldn’t hear the singers. But in the front bar, it came through clearer- voices screaming over the disjointed, slow moving rock slack. Big sound.
3. Henry Wagons & Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Billboard 6/1/2011
Only caught a couple of songs but the crowd loves Henry because he tells a story, he’s funny and has good stage presence. He charms the audience into engaging into audience participation. I was really looking forward to the Hawaiian, country, rock and roll, and bluesy set of Kitty Daisy and Lewis, but the surprise performers on stage were none of that trio. It was mum, dad and the horn player. KDL looked beautiful in their 1950’s get up, swapped instruments, but seemed so tired of playing their songs, from their album. Hawaiian songs melt my heart, but when performing these on stage, it felt that they were simply going through the motions. It was refreshing when special guest *name I didn’t catch* got on stage and started playing trumpet. They quickly added rocksteady to their repertoire and did it well. Mother, Ingrid Weiss on double bass is a fox, and plays in a really exciting way, throwing it around in time to the beat, and just generally acting cool without trying. Dad played acoustic guitar.
4. Bon Scotts and The Tiger and Me Workers Club 7/1/2011
The Bon Scotts don’t actually play bogan rock and roll. They’re a 6 piece raucous upbeat folk pop band featuring Electro Nord 3, piano accordion, Mando in addition to guitar, bass and drums from people in their seemingly 30’s living out their dream to be in a band. Pleasant, big sounds, and it reminds me a bit of The Arcade Fire.
Tiger and Me started out as a folk duo, and I couldn’t see how many there were in the group stuck up the back. But judging by the sound there were a lot! Inoffensive jazzy female vocalists, boy vocalist, glock, piano accordion, guitar, bass drums, fiddle.
A folky gypsy-esque pop troupe with a strong triple J sound. I had to leave whilst they performed a pop tango.
5. Kingswood & Cambodian Space Project YahYahs 7/1/2011
Kingswood are a 4 piece white guy bluesy rock band, with big choruses and a strong suburban feel. Final song, guitarist played slide, and the crowd sung along. Fans or mates or a combo of both?
Cambodian Space Project are a Phnom Phen based band, featuring 2 Australian ex pats, 2 French ex pats, 1 rags to riches Cambodian singer and 1 ring in rock’n’roll organ player. One audience member remarked: “They seem to be a combination of sex tourists and oil company men”. But to me they were the surprise band of the year[having seen them on Myspace and thinking they were a poor mans Dengue Fever], and as a result the best to date! How did mindless 60’s pop get to the former Indochina region? The story is American GI’s bought psychedelic pop sounds to the area, locals adopted the sounds, and adapted the style according to their singing style. The end result is an unusual combination of music culture. Now the sad part is, a lot of this music was lost in Cambodia, when the Khmer Rouge seized power, and the records were destroyed. The Yah Yahs crowd witnessed the band playing mindless Cambodian classic 60’s pop including crowd favourite ‘Kangaroo Paw’. The singer had a beautiful voice, their songs were good fun pop, the band had the ability to pick up the pace and rock out appropriately. The sound was perfectly muddy. The end result was dancing and smiles from a mixed crowd including 3 muscle men standing in front of me. Total fun.
5.5. Tehachapi Dead Man on Deck The Brunswick 8/1/2011
These don't really count as gigs - as they were back ground for the nights proceedings. Tecachapi - young slow grunge act featuring lady drummer, Dead Man On Deck - I liked their brooding sound, and their youthful arrogant attack suits them- but only got to catch a couple of songs. More attitude than talent?
5.7.Clinkerfield Old Bar 9/1/2011
What can I say? Clinkerfield attract a party crowd.
6.Super Wild Horses, Kim Salmon and the Surrealists and John Spencer Blues Explosion Hi Fi Bar 15/1/2011
Super Wild Horses do their thing, cool chicks pounding drums and guitar, intertwined with screechy vocals. With simple songs, their sound is loud and directly assaulting. Not my thing, but those gals are oh so cool. Boundary pusher Kim Salmon was joined by The Surrealists and played a set of not pop songs creating contrast and confusing sounds. The Surrealists throw energy and professionalism into their performances making confusion sound like an experiment in art rather than a mistake. I had no expectation of JSBX who promised to play ‘Orange’ tonight. Forget any notion of has -beens for two main reasons: Their songs stand the test of time, and they can play and perform really well. It was all on show tonight. Opening with Bellbottoms, the enthusiasm of the sold out room was uncontainable. Those who could rushed to the front. And so began a gig. Judah Bauer played unreal guitar. Russ Simins – a powerhouse on drums. As a band they were so impressive. Great songs, playing one after the other, most without even a pause. With a pit of half naked swirling men at the front, and the gaze of a transfixed room, Jon Spencer appeared to have cult-like leader capabilities. Was it the all black - ’68 comeback special-esque tight shiny black pants with zips for optional flares, jumping onto his knees, wide leg stances that pay tribute to the energy of excessive Elvis? Was it the mad scientist Theramin he played to duet with Bauers guitar parts? Was it the Baptist preacher meets game show host style delivery of speech in everything he said? It was probably all of that, plus songs the crowd loved but there’s more. JSBX are an American fusion band: fusing gospel style declarations, psycho-trash rock and roll, bluesy wig outs, Elvis-philia plus the myriad of other influences. They fuse it well, carry it out with style, and make the whole experience so believable, that he appears to be the encapsulation of the best and worst of American pop, rock. Highly enjoyable.
7.Pete Baylor and The Roadhouse Romeos The Gem 16/1/2011
3 piece country outfit: twangy electric guitar, double bass and drums. Originals and covers, fronted by a middle aged man who can really play guitar.
8. Skyscraper Stan, Skippy’s Brain and Clinkerfield Old Bar, 16/1/2011
Skyscraper Stan and band really only seemed to warm up by their last song. When Stan doesn’t have to play guitar, he points and leers, storytelling in the style of Nick Cave. There’s a lot to like. Hurricane Gemma joined in for a song, and is an exciting performer – loud, reckless and talented. I hear on the grapevine she’s got a solo or band project on the boil. One to watch. Skippy’s Brain seems to be a bedroom project by three mature gents, one in a skirt. They have slow groove moments interrupted by psych guitar shredding. It’s sparse at times, innocuously building, and before you know it’s crescendo time. Sometimes tribal drumming, sometimes surf, other times jazz. Really good wake up music for the weary, and the crowd agreed, asking for an encore[but they could have been their mates]. The vocal mic was only used to graciously say thanks for the attention and applause. Clinkerfield played next and I paid attention for the entire set
9. Barbaras Bush Old Bar 19/1/2011
Barbaras Bush is indie lady Erica Dunn who plays sparse guitar, sings melodies.
10. Tully Summoner The Gem 19/1/2011
Tully Summoner is a low key singer/songwriter who plays acoustic guitar, banjo and resonator, joined by fiddle, double bass. Didn’t really capture my imagination, but then, I’m just one person.
11. Fingerbone Bill The Gem 21/1/2011
How I adore Fingerbone Bill and their up tempo front bar string band music. Ironically, Mandolin rocks. Perfect for Friday night at The Gem.
12. Mesa Cosa, Chigwell Sharp and Brat Farrar, Old Bar 21/1/2011
Mesa Cosa are a party band with catchy songs, and a motley crew of young and old, tall and short, handsome and ugly, half of whom were screaming into the mic for their party songs. They are fun. Next up, make way for the booming lady rock vocals of Sally Bailey, lead singer of Chigwell Sharp. They’re a 4 piece - lead and rhythm guitars, bass, drums – rock band. Sally has a powerful voice and presence. A friend gasps, and says “she’s tough”. At least she convinces us and commands respect. What’s interesting is she’s balanced out by the guitar player who’s so jaw droppingly and unexpectedly bloody good who possesses a fine sensibility for music and impeccable execution. Guitar solos are numerous, and the pendulum of gaze swings from guitar to vocals. It’s a talent heavy band. Brat Farrar are a 3 piece – drums guitar, bass, playing boy rock music from a guy who bought you D&TPs, RRs, and more, and two brothers from Yis. Sadly only caught last two songs, where the bass player made his way into the audience, fell on the ground, got up, scratched his bass strings on the wall.
13. Dirt River Radio, The Standard 23/1/2011
Big anthemic songs by energetic all male alt country/southern-esque rock group. The foot stompin’ in unison makes such an impact, you can feel the reverberations sitting in the audience.
14. Kim Salmon, The Retreat 23/1/2011
Kim Salmon played a set of 90’s songs, he called it funk not grunge, exposing tremendous range to the uninitiated and pleased his loyal followers. We were witnesses to well crafted songs, genre shifts from sparse and brooding Australian underground rock to sparse midnight jazz, bluesy rock, straight pop songs, even a little country plus more. His skillful guitar playing inspired Nick in the audience to yell “You’re on fire! It’s like Johnny Guitar Watson!” Afterwards, Kim was selling records.
15. Clinkerfield The Old Bar 23/1/2011
Uptempo, party, pirate-esque music.
16. Nick Murphy The Gem 26/1/2011
If I didn't know any better it would be easy to think Nick Murphy owns melody. Nick, ex bassist from The Anyones, and from band Shilo was accompanied by Jeff Salmon. Together they formed duet, Nick on acoustic, Jeff on electric, singing harmonies. It was easy listening, they did a cover of a Simon and Garfunkle song, and when added up it sounds lame, it wasn't. It was beautiful and a combo of originals and covers and they even did a cover of the Go Betweens song Bye Bye Pride, dedicated to Australia Day. A surprise delight in the backstreets of Collingwood.
16.5 Terry McCarthy Special The Gem 28/1/2011
Terry McCarthy Special are a three piece – guitar bass and drums – did their brand of slow grooves, a little country, a little funk and sometimes reggae – but always actin’ cool[in the aloof way]. Set highlight was their cover of Acid Country complete with a yodel attempt at the end. It was dedicated to David Heard who was up at The Old Bar.
16.7 Susy Blue Builders Arms 29/1/2011
A quick duck into the Builders arms it seems Susy Blue is a singer songwriter, who plays keyboard, and has a backing band that includes a sax player. Prejudice overcame me, and I didn’t stay but probably should give it a chance right?
17. Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Primal Scream, Red Bacteria Vacuum, Barbarion, M.I.A., Big Day Out, Flemington Racecourse, 30/1/2011.
Direct sun, 40 degrees, the long awaited summer had finally arrived. It just happened to be on the same day 52,000 Melbournian youth, congregate for the fashion parade meets expensive hangout, meets music festival. Yes it’s the Big Day Out. The last time I went, I vowed never again. It was expensive, everything was a constant queue, and it was full of teenagers. My older friends in their 30’s warned me not to go early – because the day was too long. At the time I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Why wouldn’t you go early? Wouldn’t you want to squeeze it all in right? Fast forward to 2011. Times have changed, plus it was too hot to get there too early. As I arrived at 5pmish, kids were leaving, one in particular looked like a glazed baked ham. I’ll admit, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle the BDO.
The first act worth witnessing in life was Iggy Pop and The Stooges. I’m not a massive Stooges fan, having no idea who the muso’s were or what all the names of the songs, but it was clear there was a legend on stage. In his 60’s, tight black pants, no top, leather skin, pouncing around under the hottest conditions. The guy’s impressive. Inspiring a whole new generation of Stooges fans, he invited kids up on stage to party, making life dreams come true. The strict organization of the crowds meant there was no easy access to the front of the stage. It felt impossible to reach my mates at the front, but later they told me they could barely hear Iggy, even though they were in D section. Access to this area was blocked by folded armed security guards, who spent quality time checking out half naked teenage girls. Ironically, it seemed the best sound, was at the very back.
Next up, Primal Scream performing Screamadelica surprised me. A very small crowd at The Green Stage witnessed the start of their set. “Movin’ on Up” featured an awesome gospel backing singer. My friend said “Bobby IS stylin’” and she was right. He was cool, and seemed to look just as he did 15 years ago. Slow grooves, became slower, prompting a move to another stage.
During The Stooges, Julian Wu left early to see Red Bacteria Vacuum at Lilyworld. Turns out RBV are a Japanese 3 piece[guitar, bass & drums] upbeat, quirky punky pop girl group with big facial expressions. Heaps of energy, cutesy but not as amazing as anticipated.
Barbarion performed at the fenced off Lilyworld, with their ludicrous, excessive, and unabashedly fun set, full costumes, pyrotechnics, long hair, you name it. They had it. Metal spoof or metal tragics? Does it matter? They’re entertaining.
MIA was last on stage in the scary boiler room. She’s a global, cutting edge popstar who’s a lady of the moment, making Muslim headscarves chic. Singing, rapping, attitude – she’s a cool performer & I love hearing her work when I go to clothing retailers, but struggle listening to an entire album. It’s packed out, hard to see, and had to think about transport options home.
With all the excitement of people, noise, heat, my only disappointment was missing Grinderman. Fortunately there were other things happening to lessen the blow. Rides, kids, exposed skin, hot chips in paper cups. It really felt like a well organized carnival.
Coping at festivals is all about technique:
Note to self: Festival tips [for impatient music fan for future reference]:
• Read & research the line up. Make mental notes of the bands you really want to see and their times.
• Don’t feel bound to the group. If the group start to give you the shits – abandon them immediately, and go and see the band you really want to see [note: could strain relationships but your friends should understand if they understand you’re a nerdy music fan-and the nature of that behaviour].
• When stuck in large crowds, shuffle by taking baby steps – it will give the feeling of constant movement and won’t give anyone space to cut in front.
• Talk to people about the bands seen. You’ll just get more out of the day and maybe make a new friend.
18. Precious Jules and The Jim Jones Revue The Corner 31/1/2011
Precious Jules is a two piece – Kim Salmon on guitar and vocals and Mike Strangers, pounding drums. With songs like ‘You’re A Backlash’ and ‘Shine Some Darkness On Me’, they walk the tightrope of comedy and dramatic darkness. At times it was hard to know if they were playing together, when drums and guitar seemed out of sync. They padded the set with ‘covers’ of Scientists songs. And they played their first single, ‘Pearls before Swine’, produced by drummer Mike. Kim signed off by saying “keep an eye out for those precious jewels” accidently slipping up on the delivery- & making it more cool.
A trusted friend, declared the Jim Jones Revue rocked it at the NZ BDO. After trying hard to listen to the album ‘Burning Your House Down’, I couldn’t really understand why. They do a rebirth of 50’s rock, make it sound tougher, with their attitude and other influences. But it was nothing new. On stage, it’s a band of grown English men all dressed in black. There’s guitars, bass, drums, sideburns, rock’n’roll keys[who happened to be an Australian fill in] and then there Jim Jones. He’s the lead singer, wearing a vest, long sleeve shirt and a neck tie. It’s Melbourne, and it was a 39 degree day. As they launch into song, JJ a screamer, growls, points, hip gyrates, spits, sweats & plays a bit of guitar. The attire, the onstage presence and the force of good sounds captivates, and incites audience participation. Notably it was easier to get conservative a Melbourne audience dancing rather than yelling out lyrics. They did however, inspire a man in his late 50’s to play air guitar in the audience [without asking]. It was a blistering performance with almost no breaks. The Jim Jones Revue are solid performers featuring energy, rock posturing- major posing. But, they deliver, they were fun, and played two encores. In the second encore, they played a cover of Good Golly Miss Molly featuring two sax players [I heard they borrowed one from The Stooges]. It was Monday night, I was tired, it was a 39 degree day, exhausted by the BDO the day before, exhausted by the prospect of a full day of work tomorrow. But The Jim Jones Revue reminded me of what good bands do. They make you forget all that. Special mention to the keyboard player who made me rethink the validity of the keyboard. Thank you AVR, GRA & RRR.