Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 2011 gigs

19.Ross de Chene Hurricanes, Puta Madre Brothers, The Corner 4/2/2011
Wild rain on Friday night caused a series of delays. Fitzroy was temporarily flooded, and the idea of getting from Fitzroy to Richmond felt inconceivable. Fortunately, due to a series of unplanned events, we made it. The Corner was rain effected, and drips of water came down in the band room, near the designated mosh-dance floor.

Missed BJ Morriszonkle again! Damn. Walked in whilst RdCH were mid set. They’re an early 20’s [look late teens] guitar and drums duo who sing pop songs, and release them on cassette. On stage they seem like very nice boys erasing an edge. They had a big group of nice looking kids at the front of the stage, in a dancing circle, and one maniacal rockabilly dressed dancer who kept slipping over the wet spots. He really loved Ross de Chene Hurricanes.

My Puta Madre Brothers experiences are few. First time I saw them was 15/8/09 at Yah Yahs with Go Go Sapien when the room had a reasonable crowd size and a few smelly arty people are dancing up the front. Fast forward to 2011. Since then they’ve played more shows, released an album, played the festivals and grown in profile. Despite the rain, the Corner is sold out, and the crowd is younger and straighter than before.

The Puta Madre Brothers have props, costumes, accents and antics. But at the crux, they’ve got great songs and a great sound. 3x1 man bands – 1 playing electric guitar and kick drum; 1 bassist and kick drum; & 1 nylon string guitar and kick drum + tambourine. They’re odd and ludicrious. They play songs from their album. My favourite ones move slow, but tonight everything feels uptempo. At their most fun, they’re an awesome party band, and at their most beautiful they carry out slow burning sojourns. They introduce torch singers, backing singers, a gigantic horn section. You watch and listen and have fun. Some complain about the novelty factor – that it wears off, so if this is a serious complaint, you just need to return to the fact – they’ve got good songs, and they execute them well. The Puta Madre Brothers have style and perform differently and perfectly.

19.5 Lord Bishop Rocks The Brunswick 5/2/1011
Sex Rock – what is that? It sounds like a lot of slap bass…on second thoughts, I don’t want to know. A friend remarks they sound like Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Lord Bishop Rocks are an East German band with a New York via East Germany singer and despite the lure of the foreign mystique, they do not have it.

20.Marysville Pans on Fire BMW The Edge 6/2/2011
Emergence was a celebration to mark the second anniversary of the bushfires. Celebration, an unusual choice of words I know – but it was a celebration of community and the arts in the face of adversity. Formed post bushfires, the Marysville Pans On Fire are a 21 piece steel drum troupe made up of silver hair foxes, teenagers and the in between. Led by an accented, short haired lady, the players were divided into sections, playing different parts. Their happy sounds were so compelling, it incited the mainly middle aged-senior audience of middle class, polar fleeced to clap along. Pre-pubescent kids had fun, having a dance off. It was fun. Who knew there was a steel drum outfit in this country? Steel drum, my new favourite unusual instrument. But I arrived to see acapella community choir The Chocolate Lillies perform. They did five songs: a Sufi welcome song, Fly Away on a Clear Day, Hallelujah and If you miss me. There’s no great singers in this choir, but the point is, you join in, sing because it feels good, and feel part of a community. At times it felt churchy – but at its heart it’s all about being part of something. Props to Pam, 4th from the right in the back row.

21. Rechords The Standard 6/2/2011
Uptempo hillbilly sound and look 3 piece at The Standard. The place was packed, and the crowd appreciated it.

22. Chigwell Sharp, Wedgetail, Plague Doctor, The Tote 9/2/2011
Bias rules and I can’t judge Chigwell Sharp objectively, so I’ll just write this: I smile when this band plays. By the end Andre the drummer takes it out with an epic drum solo. Singer Sally Bailey ends up grounded, taken down by the flu but from the audience perspective it looked like she was seriously rocking out. Wedgetail are a 4 piece all male rock group with a penchant for cheese and sharing, cook a mean BBQ, but play a brand of music I can’t understand. Don’t get me wrong, I want to like them – I just don’t get it. Plague Doctor on the other hand, I reckon I comprehend. They offer drama courtesy of evocative midnight keys, build up their set working through a variety of genres. The darkness is lightened by the ludicrous lyrical content, and overdone dance moves by its male singer. He’s counterbalanced by the lady singer Sara Retallick, who always remains cool. Good songs with irresistible vocal arrangements, fine instrumental parts, grouse melodies, strong performances, songs about robots, fun pop. I ask you, what is not to like?

23. Belltones The Gem 11/2/1011
Jody Bell fronts this 4 piece, her on guitar and vocals, a guitarist, double bassist and drummer. Nasal country music that suits the front bar, with an upbeat vibe.

24. Assassins 88, Scott and Charlene’s Wedding, Boomgates, Tr-Mould, 12/2/2011
Organised by B Huntley, this was a rather DIY gig for an indie pop scene which features the sounds of teenage dreams being re-lived by people in their 20’s.
Assassins 88 featured a singing drummer with electrical tape stuck over his mouth, both securing the mic and muffling the vocals. Although the drummer looked somewhat uncomfortable, he led the band, and guitar and bassist performed backing vocals. They had short, energetic pop songs with a little punk expression. A noisy pop band with a different spin on performance.
Scott and Charlene’s Wedding are a good looking 2 piece boy/girl pop act. There’s a blonde bombshell on guitar and lead vocals, and a brunette bombshell of a lady drummer. It was hard to hear the lyrics, but it sounds like introspective indie pop to me. Joined by an additional guitarist for their song about Footscray station - I found myself liking this pop band more and more.
Boomgates is the band that everyone’s here to see. A 5 piece group, with boy-girl rock vocals – of what actually appears to be brother and sister. Siblings or not, they make a really good onstage duo- well balanced. She’s got the voice and plays guitar. He’s got the stage antics. Male singer, B Huntley owns intense eyes, jerkish movements, direct delivery – real tough guy stuff. So it was cool to see this offset by his Melodica playing. Boomgates have really pretty simple indie pop songs, with good arrangements but they’re attached to the heaving weight of the hype machine. Minus that, what you get is No Frills Aussie pop with a DYI ethos.
Blind photographer Mr. T took photos. You can see them here or here:

25.Thee Mighty Childish, Penny Black 12/2/2011
Billy Childish cover band plays former post office turned cafĂ© turned bar meets venue/club night. Yes there’s a lot going on at The Penny Black on Saturday night. It was packed. It’s a little suburban nightclub, sprinkled with the occasional Brunswick arty coolsie, 60’s chicks and some rock types. The Penny Black hosted a 1960’s club night Go Go Postal run by Sye Saxon and Dave Gray, two 60’s music collectors/selectas. Now, about the band, Thee Mightly Childish are a three piece, and played their “first and last gig ever”. Dressed in Togas and olive crowns, they played with their might. Sure it was sloppy, but it was fun, and a tribute to prolific English singer/songwriter/upstart Billy Childish. Friends of the band in the crowd were excited by the show-in more ways than one*wink*wink*. Sadly not everyone got it, plain to see when a man in crowd yelled out “play some Chisel!” They played two sets.

26.Skyscraper Stan*didn’t get to see*, Jack on Fire, Little John 13/2/1011
The thread tonight was intensity. Each of these bands had it, despite some technical difficulties. Jack on Fire feature 5 members[fiddle/rhythm guitar/keys-piano accordion- mando/lead guitar/drums. They’ve got texture, and play brooding Australian rock with a slow country bent. Lead guitarist makes an impressive front man.
It was Sunday spirituals with Sunday residents Little John. The performance featured gospel folk, little 50’s rock’n’roll, one acapella, and a hint of brooding Australian rock. They played some songs from their album released 2010, and some new ones. It was bold to do a new song first, but they did and it worked. Consisting of John Dickson on acoustic guitar, harmonica and reverby vocals, accompanied by fiddle/mando, double bass, drums and a lead guitarist. Important to note, although Little John is led by John Dickson, no one member stands out as more important than any other. Little John is a band effort.Alone, John is another singer-songwriter. With his band, what you get is exciting build ups[all], rich textures[Greg and Damo], life and energy[Bill and Brooke], intense celebratory crescendos[all]. Little John is a good band, everyone’s got their role, they execute well, a solid team effort.

28.Water Music, Kilgore Trout, Simone Page Jones and Miles Henry O’Neill The Old Bar, 16/2/2011
Water Music is Matt Barker, a rapsy voiced singer songwriter, armed with a guitar and a set of songs about stars, and love. He performs with a whole lot of feeling, and this is expressed on his face, and his full force strumming. This is occasionally broken up with some light finger picking. He’s got some nice songs.
Kilgore Trout is one man from San Gras with curly hair, and an electric guitar. Here he combines the worst of white man jazziness, funk, showtunes, gratuitous guitar fanciness, Australian accented, nerves, the list goes on. He’s singing starts jazzy and he builds rather quickly to full screaming. Yet when he screams in his songs, it doesn’t make sense and it feels like a child trying to get the attention of the adults due to volume. He broke up his set with Choose Your Own Adventure banter. For some reasons, I just didn’t dig this sound. But I could easily imagine it sent to a radio station in an AMRAP kit or on JJJ.
By now the vibe of the room was very much a performing arts school crowd. Enter Simone Page Jones, and Miles Henry O’Neill, a duo who possess a style coffee house duo from the 1960’s. Miles played Banjo and guitar, and Simone was dressed in black with her glamorous face on. Together, they’re a contrast act. He’s got a demure voice, her drips with melodic honey, it’s beautiful. They sing country classic covers. When they each get a go at singing their parts, it’s clear that each have got serious talent. Simone’s voice is so good, she’s prone to overusing it when she should stick to the melody. She reminded me a little of Neko Case – just a fuckin’ great singer doing country songs and at times it really works. Miles’ voice is perfectly understated and complements Simone’s well. The big surprise in the set were the originals. Miles writes gorgeous songs, with the feel of Belle and Sebastian and one included a whistle solo. It all sounded very pleasant, but there was something a little amiss and the only way I can describe it is it feels like VCA grads doing country music.

29. Los Impenetrables Builders Arms 18/2/2011
Three piece Los Impenetrables has become a 4 piece with the addition of a drummer. Together they overcame “dumb” sound difficulties to deliver their brand of up tempo music, covering Rebetika, Greek contemporary pop, Calypso, Rancheras or Corridos, country and more. Guy from Johnny and the Johnny Johnny swaps guitar for piano accordion. Fiddle player Carrie takes my breath away with her playing style. Vocal harmonies are beautiful, and what you get is a fun front bar band playing the sound of musics. They ended their set with a series of Hank Williams covers.

30. Digger and The Pussycats & Mark Sultan Bar Open 20/2/2011
Rock duo [guitar and drums] Digger and The Pussycats did Digger and the Pussycats. What does a talented musician do if no-one wants to play with them? The creative thing of course is to form a one man band. Mark Sultan AKA BBQ had earned a reputation for being a prima donna. But to his credit, he did a string of shows, despite ‘Laryngitis’. This was his last one, and it drew a party crowd featuring the power trio MJW. Sultan is a Canadian one man band who has toured Australia as part of King Kahn and the BBQ show. Sultan is BBQ, last time here, he played drums and wore an Octopus on his head. But beyond the gimmicks, this is a guy who plays drums, guitar and sings. And can this bloke sing? He’s got the kind of voice - I could see him in some late 80’s early 90’s boy band in the style of Boys II Men. Blue eyed soul is his singing style, and his playing style is garage rock. He possesses a keen sense of melody, and songs that reveal it well. He’s a soul belter, and his performance was a song after song affair, with almost no breaks. The only pauses heard were in song to draw out anticipation, which attracted calls to ‘ Get on with it!’ Despite the criticisms, this was an entertaining gig, and the small crowd loved it, some wildly dancing on and around the stage behind him. The set had no encore but featured a cover of ‘Out of Time’, where he encouraged people to sing along.

31. Little John Old bar, 20/2/2011
The gig had sold out, regardless of the $10 cover charge on a Sunday night. A strong bill featuring Sydney band Gay Paris, Old Bar Favourites Brothers Grimm and the Blue Murders and my favourites, Plague Doctor. Missed all that but got to see Little John. Crowd enjoyed it. Best songs I Need Love and the gospel one that reminds me a bit of ballroom blitz, where John goes a little off tap, and starts playing Harmonica. Those are the exciting songs, but their blue moments are tops too. The set ended with an acapella. Not their best but pretty satisfying. The band are still good because everybody’s got a role and they do it well. A good band – band.

Don't normally count these but it's Live Music Week at PBS

31.1 Lisa Miller and Downhills Home PBS 47 Easey Street Collingwood 21/2/2011
Golden toned Lisa Miller continues doing what she does. Downhills home spread their warm country sounds.

31.2 The Ancients and Gareth Liddiard PBS 47 Easey Street Collingwood 22/2/2011
Ancients do soft indie pop bliss with obtuse angles. As someone mentioned - of course there'd be sound problems with the guy and the guitar! Gareth Liddiard faced some technical hurdles, and lost his nerve a little or a lot, forgetting some words to his songs.

31.3 Wrong Turn and Kim Salmon and the Surrealists PBS 47 Easey Street Collingwood 23/2/2011. Wrong Turn were exactly as I thought they'd be - a solid two piece garage rock band - which is great if you love that. I'd anticipated KSS an entire set of songs from their Grand Unifying Theory release of last year. Fortunately they didn't and what we got was an entertaining performance, with an intensity that could tear the most bored person out of any notion of complacency. The Surrealists expanded today to include Mike Strangers breaking up the high drama, with moments of triangle tings. To listen to what I'm writing about go to: or click here

31.4 Bakelite Age and Toot Toot Toots PBS 47 Easey Street Collingwood 24/2/2011
The Bakelite Age sounded pretty intense and heaps better than what I thought they would. Toot Toot Toots sounded just as I thought - wacky, party, cowpokey.

32. Spencer P Jones The Gem 24/2/2011
First SPJ gig I've seen this year, and he started the second set with one of my favourite songs, which Nick AW sang all the words to, then yelled out 'that song is heartbreaking'. I concurred. Then he worked through requests including an Axel Chitlon cover. Before we knew it the set was almost over, and when he told he only had time for one more song, he said he'd play one medley, but actually played three songs. Performance wise, he seemed to forget when to tap his distortion pedal,missing cues and mucking up his songs - but only temporarily. Not the best SPJ gig, but I liked it.

31.5 Plague Doctor, Ukeladies Orchestra, Gentle Ben and his Sensitive Side, Teeth and Tounge 47 Easey Street Collingwood 25/2/2011
Plague Doctor didn’t do their best songs, but what they did was good crammed into that tiny little sweatbox of a studio. Ukeladies Orchestra consisted of the glamorous Ukeladies + awesome guitar, double bass and Lady Clare Moore on vibes. Divine floating Hawaiian music. Teeth and Tongue were a cool indie band with a drum machine, and restrained vocals. All the boys fell in love with the lead singer. Gentle Ben and his Sensitive Side was conceived as a country band. That didn’t happen and instead they’re an adult pop band, who are alright. Kudos to Richie for having a big idea of live music only for live music week.

33. Betty’s Driving Force, Builders Arms 27/2/2011
Betty France is a Melbourne Uke star with a showbiz persona. Backed by drums, bass and piano accordion.


Lauren La Rouge is a blonde wigged Sydney lass who cracks jokes and does covers. With a killer body, she looks beautiful in her glamourous black frock, then has a costume change for something more comfortable - her underpants. She is a burlesque artist. She plays Uke, but her voice is the focal point because it's really rich and powerful but can waver delicate and breathy[think Beth Orton], and perfect for soul music. Which was good when she did an Amy Winehouse cover but difficult when she did Johnny Cash. She also did a little Wanda Jackson, but when her Uke playing failed her, she broke down on stage, reverting to some gags, which some members of the audience found tiresome and crude. Lauren was MC for the evening.

Singer, Renee Searles and her two men - The Lash and Marcus-who-can-park-us accompanied her on Uke and Guitar. From Byron Bay, she was dressed in black lace, frills, and velvet. Renee has a smooth, sweet voice, best suited to cafe music. She sang standards like Crazy, Dream a little Dream, Perhaps. Concurrently she pulled out sexy dance moves. The audience were most impressed with their cover of I'll fly away, attracting audience participation in the form of a singalong[on a Monday night in Melbourne].

All the way from the US, Jim D'Ville was next on stage, and finally there was a Uke centric act. Jim is a self taught player, and teaches others to play by ear. He's also an extremely entertaining performer, inciting singalong immediately. Instrumental Waltz of Sunflowers, which he played with a resonator Uke was excellent. Then he was joined on stage with Rose Turtle Ertler and played Redcliffe Rag, which really excited the room. Columbia Gallop featured tapping sounds on the Uke which of course sounded like galloping. He made full use of the Uke, and did a great job at showcasing the instrument.

Sophisticated Hulas are a Uke trio featuring the talent of Betty France. They did a mix of Hawaiian, Country and pop, all with class. Glimmering in sparkkes, hailing from Northcote and Preston, Sophisticated Hulas have good uke arrangements, good harmonies, a warm sound, really entertaining. They're solid professionals and did a cover of G Welch's Revelator. But the real crowd pleaser was Happytown, and were joined on stage by Belgian Uke player Remco.

The Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra look impressive. They've all got some kind of wacky costume which make them seem like a pack of weirdos. One uke player, Sam was wearing a one piece made from a mustard coloured bed spread, the glam rock chicks were adorned in excessively fun eye makeup, one had a bird in her hair. Sound wise, they've got a double bass, melodica, beautiful singing voices and a whole bunch of ukes. They're cross between a churchy choir, and cult. And they look like a bunch of musos who were once serious rock people, but found their niche on the uke.They sang pop songs like Happy Together, Road to Nowhere, Afternoon Delight, Joelene, Maneater and more. But I had 2 standout songs - A Tahitian song with an 8 string Uke and Carmel Russell did a hula type dance. The other main highlight was You Am I's Heavy Heart. The arrangement was beautiful on an already awesome song. Encore was Push It. Missed the last song to catch the last tram.

The Melbourne Ukelele Festival is a celebration of an outsider instrument, not taken seriously by the rest of the music world. But a reminder that good music doesn't have to be overly complex or the next coolest thing - rather it's also about having fun and joining in. Festival organisers should be proud of their second Uke fest, which prompted the Wellington INternational Ukekele Orchestra to declare 'Melbourne's a great Ukelele town!