Sunday, March 6, 2011

March 2011 gigs

35. Roxy Music, Rod Laver Arena 3/1/2011
At Rod Laver Arena a haze fills the cold night air. Summer is over, and the oldies are out for Roxy Music. Tshirts are $40, bags are $20, and glossy souvenir programs are for sale. Mondo Rock were supposed to play support but according to the grapevine, their guitarist Peter Laffy died three weeks ago. Support went to a a band called The Cameras[Panics related I hear]. In any case, we missed them.

Rod Laver Arena looks 3/4's full, and the crowd eagerly await the main act. Then, Roxy Music arrive on stage, count them...1,2,3... It’s a serious affair! There’s 9+ people on stage. There's spangly dancers and two belter backing singers. Amongst the 9+ include Phil Mazanera[guitar], Andy Mackay[sax] and Paul Thompson[drums]. B Ferry is the last to arrive on stage, all suited and dishevled, looking like a guy who stepped out of the TAB on a Monday afternoon. They start the set with a bunch of songs I'd never heard of. Fortunately this guy jotted down the set list: They started and it was entertaining, toe tapping stuff. The crowd were itching to get up, waiting for their moment. Perhaps they were distracted by the unusual and sometimes confusing light show.

There was a lot of cheese, piano solos, clarinet, excessive guitar solos, excessive sax solo[every song], bad whistle solos, boring drifting moments. The walkouts started leaving before half way through the set... Roxy Music are the kind of band whose music I both love and despise. They were so popular when I was a kid, that's all you'd ever hear - but you'd only hear the same songs over, like Avalon. But delve deeper to discover they're more than just a handful of songs popular on FM radio. They're a band with a bunch of great songs, who seemed to forge their own path and do it with their own style. It's their stripped back angular pop and their glam sass what I liked best. Their material teetered between the worst of the 80's, and some pretty good stuff with a whiff of edge to it.

Playing for almost two hours there was no encore. But the end of the set is weighted with the crowd favourites; Virgina Plain, Love is the Drug; Let's stick Together and so on. This prompted to over 40’s crowd to disregard the seating arrangements and shake it. The music thinned out as the band left the stage very graciously, acknowledging the crowd for their attendance, one by one they departed, leaving behind the keyboard player. Then, it was lights on and time to go home.

36. Ukeladies Orchestra Marquis of Lorne 5/3/2011
I love Ukelulele. I love Hawaiian music. So there's no reason why I shouldn't really like this group. This is the act where two glamorous, beautiful blonde women play soft, floating Hawaiian songs or contemporary pop [think Xanadu & Kokomo] with Hawaiian styling on the uke. Dressed up in resort wear and Lei, they're accompanied by a highly skilled band featuring Phil K on double bass[Blackeyed Susans+more], Clare Moore on Vibes[Moodists + more], and Dan Luscombe [Drones+more] on electric guitar. Soft tones of the Vibes gave an exotic - vacation flavour, sustained notes on electric guitar were played so well pedal steel is not missed. In addition to all of this, Capt. Manas adds some backing vocals, dressed in a Safari shirt and sarong. By the end, he returns to the stage to sing a Harry Belafonte number; Angelina. Last song, they're joined by a guitarist, who played with them at the Tote anniversary. The song? A cover of Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run. Pretty bloody enjoyable.

37. Foxtrot The Vic, Keiran and Jack@ Anarchist Bookshop, Leslie Avril Band Edwards St Stage, Little John, Spencer P Jones and the Escape Committee, Brian Henry Hooper and band The Retreat, Uknown band at Penny Black, Sydney Road St Party, Brunswick 6/3/2011
Street Festivals. It feels like they're a thing of the past. Brunswick St, High St - they no longer run. Lygon St doesn't have the music I crave. St Kilda - too far away. So this is one of the few Northside that I know of. A good street music festival should introduce you to a whole new world of music. But I found myself going to the same old artists that I like. I did however try a new venue.
The news this week[street press] is The Vic are booking bands. Foxtrot are the first band on at The Vic. The floor of The Vic is laid of black and white lino tiles, and walls are lined with 70's Australiana. Bar staff are good looking and maybe this could be a good band venue? Back to Foxtrot- they're a 4 piece melody driven poppy punk group consisting of young boys having fun. File under boy music.
Keiran and Jack are two white greasy faced teenage slobs, that don't try too hard to rap. They do it in their own voices, and find rhythm easily, rapping about underpants, etc. They do it, without putting up a macho front, and they had a cowboy, and a mohaired punk dancer. Not bad.
Leslie Avril band featured the larger than lie persona and voice of Leslie Avril, country singer. Backed by a band including fiddle, drummer with a washboard vest, acoustic guitar and bass, Leslie entertained the older crowd at Edwards St Stage. And she frocked up – pink halter frock, boots and cowgirl hat.
At the Retreat, I caught the last moments of Little John who seemed to have the attention of the crowd in the beer garden. They finished on the acapella song, making way for Spencer P Jones. Jones was supposed to play with the Escape Committee, but the drummer was missing, so he started with a solo rendition of The Hate Inside, then Monkey has Gone, about shaking a heroin addiction. The booker bought a bottle of Cuervo to the stage. Short sleeves revealed scarred arms. As a rock pig, Spencer is the real deal. Wonder if his ability to tap into the darker side of life makes his songs so poignant? When he plays guitar, it's blistering. He's really got an in depth musicality. Even when you think he's mucking up, he can still bring it back because he can. About midway through the set the drummer arrives and his kit is assembled quickly by a team of friends, and partner. Bassist Helen joins the stage, and it's the Escape Committee who filled out the sound, and gained the attention of the beer garden, and a few front row dancers. By the end he was playing in the audience, getting amongst the people. His fans loved it, and it made for some entertainment. It's great when you have faith in Spencer and he comes through with excellence. And what great songs!
Brian Henry Hooper and SPJ were once in a band together and to me, whilst Brian Hooper may have had the looks, SPJ has the serious talent. BHH songs weren't great, prompting me to leave.
Only got to catch one song of the unknown band at Penny Black who played pop music with irresistible hooks. They're a four piece with a smoke machine. I'll watch out for these guys next time.

38. Best Coast and Os Mutantes The Forum 11/3/2011
I loved Best Coasts album- the indie pop bliss, charming melodies, simple, catchy songs, teenage girl lyrics and so on. But seeing them live, didn’t really match up to my expectations. Was it the sound? Was it the on stage surliness? Was it the indifference from gawping crowd, holding their front stage spot, eagerly awaiting Brazil’s Os Mutantes? Who knows? I warmed to them during their set but was underwhelmed by Best Coast live. Os Mutantes arrived, dressed in robes, armed with big sounds, old hits, rhythmic bird calls and more. Only two original members remain: Sergio Dias and drummer out of the 6 person line up. The strength of Os Mutantes is that they’re fun and they’re different. They’ve got unusual ideas that still sound fresh, because they are very unusual to Western ears. And they played new material because they want to be” a living band”.

39. Sonny and the Sunsets & The Clean 13/3/2011
Sonny and the Sunsets are a San Franciscan band that play indie pop filled to the brim with irresistible hooks. Kelley Stoltz has a really talented band, drummer, guitarist-singer, and bassist in The Sunsets. Nothing really new about the sound. It’s classic indie pop. Adored this set. The Clean started in the year 1978, and are said to be the band that was the catalyst for the formation of Flying Nun. Mesmerising indie guitar jangles with soaring moments, sweet melodies. I’m far too young to really know their work well, but I really enjoyed their set, although at times it felt samey.

40. Dick Diver Old Bar 15/3/2011
Caught the last song by Enclosures who appear to be a noisy indie 4 piece troupe, 3 of which are women. The only male Mark, is also in Teeth and Tongue.
Dick Diver played an acoustic set: the drummer was missing but it was no biggie. There’s three of them [acoustic guitar, electric guitar and bass], one with a really convincing mullet. No great voices, but boyish looks and vocals, melody driven indie pop songs, instantly catchy, really sweet stuff. They played new songs: standout one was a tune about being on Newstart again. Amongst the instrument swapping they were charming and I’d see them again.

41. Bowers Duo The Standard 16/3/2011
Phil Gionfriddo [electric guitar] and Liam Linley [acoustic guitar] sing melancholy or uptempo Bowers songs and a Yardbirds? cover for the first set at The Standard.

42. Immigrant Union Old Bar 16/3/2011
Missing their lead singer [who just became a father], Immigrant Union took ages to set up, seemingly phaffing around, congregating band members and so on. After the wait of 25ish minutes, they finally began and their sound was instantly catchy Americana music. Well crafted songs, the kids got into it, and although the boy from Benalla sporting the hippie look may not be the main lead singer, he did a good job taking the lead. The guy on the Nord was really awesome, and added an evocative character to the sound, and the vocal harmonies were really well blended. All the band members seemed to be having fun on stage, but there was something about them I didn’t like – they had a lack of respect for anything going on around them, except themselves. I could be wrong.

43. Orville Brody The Marquis of Lorne 17/3/2011
Orville's Birthday coincided with St. Patricks Day, and this was celebrated at a gig in Fitzroy where his band played. Need background? Orville Brody is a French country music guitarist/singer who played an angry style of country music with his distinct husky voice. He was travelling with his French band, and together they sounded good - guitarist was excellent. They were upbeat, but something was missing. Perhaps a little bit of heartbreak, or at least a touch of melancholy. Orville doesn't seem to connect to his audience via this channel and that's my favourite if you're speaking country music. He has the style, but lacks the ability to reach you and pull you in.

44. Jack on Fire, Leadfinger, Swedish Magazines The Tote 18/3/2011
6 members of Jack on Fire occupied the larger stage of The Tote playing their brooding brand of country infused rock. With so many instruments, there’s a lot going on in Jack On Fire. Sydney’s Leadfinger had their album launch tonight and played pop rooted rock and roll. With excellent guitar solos, dramatic pauses, powerful rhythm section, melody driven vocals, their sound was very 90's, but they were fun. I had two friends, one in each ear. He declared: “Now this is rock music”. His girlfriend, in the other ear said “this is so clich├ęd”! Melbourne’s Walker brothers known for their folk stylings return to their rock roots with Swedish Magazines. And they play Oz pub style rock’n’roll. I’d wanted to love this act, but V Walker is best as a folk balladeer. But I guess this is their fun outing from that…

45. Ukeladies Orchestra Marquis of Lorne 19/3/2011
It was family day at The Marquis. Parents bought their small kids. I bought my mum. Caught the second set featuring Dave Graney on guitar. He played Riders in the Storm and another song with the Ukeladies backing him. But the Ukeladies were the stars today, beautiful looking, gorgeous sounding with their voices, Uke’s & mini piano accordion, vibes so lush, warmth of dbl bass. Downers: No Dan Luscombe on guitar today, and the peacock on the Harley outside created a very smelly, smokey vibe. This hilariously interrupted the floating aura created by the Ukeladies butonly temporarily. The presence of Capt. Manas pleased everyone, especially the girls at the front dancing for their lives. Nah, they just liked the music.

46. Chris Russell's Chicken Walk and Jimmy Stewart Labour in Vain 20/3/2011
The Large No. 12's cancelled so instead it was Fitzroy regulars Chris Russell's Chicken Walk and Jimmy Stewart. Chris Russell did his brand of stripped back blues. Commanding deep voice and guitar. The latter he used deeper notes to keep time, the higher notes used to paint the songs with twang, and his voice intertwining. At times he sung throaty accapella. All of which motivated Fitzroy old timer Roy to come in from the street and start dancing. Roy kept dancing for Jimmy Stewart, singer/songwriter with guitar who sometimes croons, sometimes shouts but generally always entertains with his fun time songs that hark back to times past.

47. Unknown Idgaff 20/3/2011
Idgaff is the kind of place where the hobby musician breaks out of the bedroom to perform onstage at Idgaff. No-one knew the name of the long-haired guy onstage wielding a guitar, but he had all the sounds he needed in his pedals. So he played guitar and sung over the top of his pre-programmed sounds, and his songs meandered in a Radiohead style.

48. The Ukeladies Orchestra, Marquis of Lorne 26/3/2011.
Delightful Ukeladies are missing Dan Luscombe on guitar and Clare Moore on vibes, and they still sound delightful.

49. Springsteen Tribute Night, The Gem 26/3/2011
A tribute night for Springsteen, organized by Jimmy Stewart bought the masses out to the tiny pub. Arriving at 9:30, Van and Cal Walker were on stage, but it was impossible to get in front door. So tried the back door instead. It was impossible to get a drink or a view that way. So the night was spent out the front of the pub, with a view of the back of the musicians and adoring Bruce fans, singing along, and a glass up to the window to hear well. Other featured singers that eve: Liz Stringer, Chris Altmann, breathtaking Flora B Smith, and awesome rock chick from the Chigwell Sharp, Sally Bailey.

50. Paul Collins The Tote 27/3/2011
I knew nothing except friends said he was in The Nerves and The Beat and I should go. The so called self titled “King of Power Pop” is old, bald and sporting a neckerchief. His band are the Morris brothers and the tour organizer. Backtrack to power pop!? A term not used all that often. But pop music ain’t a dirty term for me. I love pop, so I was keen to witness this gig. Centre front, Collins spits out catchy song after song, verse, chorus verse chorus, bridge, instrument solo, chorus, with no song seemingly lasting more than 4 minutes. His voice is chunky and always louder than everything else. Perfect for the punter who likes a well crafted song and a good melody. This was his first ever Australian tour and there seemed to a some cultural nuances he wasn’t aware of about Melbourne audiences: He asked for a sing along from Tote punters over the age of 25, and asked that the venue turn house lights on for it. 2. He asked all the girls to get up on stage. 3. He tried to provoke women to dance on stage by pitting them against Sydney women, saying the “Sydney Girls got up”. Although his attempt at an all in singalong did not quite work, he eventually managed to get women on stage dancing. And everyone had a good time. Playing two encores, pleasing adoring fans and enlightening new folk, Paul Collins played a good gig, satisfying most if not all. I’m no expert in the genre nor the monarchy but I can go along with kingly…..

Note to touring acts in Melbourne:
1. Be aware that Melbourne People aren’t necessarily responsive to audience participation requests. Have a rapid response plan if you decide to do a sing-along and nobody sings along.
2. Don’t call the female punters girls. They’re women.

51. Courtney Barnett and The Olivettes Builders Arms 27/3/2011
This gig kicks off with Courtney Barnett, a nervous gal playing guitar and singing sweet indie pop in the style of Darren Hanlon and the Lucksmiths with jazzy overtones to her voice, and an Aussie accent minus the major cringe factor. She returns after the set break as rhythm guitarist in The Olivettes. For the Olivettes, flannel reigns supreme, each member of the 4 person band wears different variations. In addition to Courtney the band features 3 guys with long hair: guitar, bass and drums. They start their set by jamming. With time to listen and observe, I discover the lead guitarist and bassist just want to rock out. The lead guitarist threw a hissy fit because he didn’t want to play the first song first. He rebelled by noodling over the top of their tune with guitar wank, adding rock unecessary rock posturing, drawing attention to himself and taking the direction out of the song. At times they were poppy, other times funky and wacky. They sounded like a band where each of the members wanted to do different things, but when they played together had some good moments. More posing than talent.

52. The Bulls Marquis of Lorne 27/3/2011
The Bulls feature the genuine talent of booming vocalist Linda [vocal and tambourine] and her brother Bean[guitar]. Together they do country flavoured love and disappointment songs. Linda possesses an onstage wild woman persona sings with serious conviction, and you can believe it with the intensity of her voice and performance and her volume. Greater light and shade would make their performance more amazing. Stronger songs would also do the trick. And my friend and I agreed, we’d love to see The Bulls grow into a full country band with fiddle, pedal, bull fiddle etc. If they did, we know they’d be shit hot.

53. Western Union The Standard 27/3/2011
Western Union are a three piece featuring Sean McMahon playing acoustic guitar, a smartly dressed guy on bull fiddle and Alison Ferrier on fiddle and vocals. They did Western - old timey style music without the gaiety. I’d love to see the fiddle become the centre of this band and really take flight. They had nice songs, and provide a good backdrop for the Sunday eaters at The Standard.

54. Darling Downs The Old Bar 27/3/2011
Kim Salmon played a month of Sundays in the month of March and this was the final one. He said he saved the best ‘til last. No not the Scientist’s material. Ron Peno… So they reformed tonight on stage at The Old Bar for the bargain price of $8.00 on the cold Sunday evening. They worked through their repertoire: Kim on acoustic guitar, and Ron singing. The songs of Darling Downs don’t blow me away. Their songs are a little old timey but each of the players introduce something more to the styles. Watching the two together on stage is really something for a punter to behold. Kim Salmon has genuine guitar talent and fills some of the vocal gaps. He throws his head back and forward during serious moments. Ron Peno graces the stage with his expressive gesticulations, and sings from is soul. It’s like watching amazing actors in a great production: they take you on a journey and you believe every moment of it. In addition to their talent and conviction they work light and shade really well, creating a higher level of intensity. Surprisingly, it never boils over, and they leave the crowd wanting more. By the end, Kim pulls out the Banjo, and the crowd are treated to the twang. They played one encore. The beauty of this act, is how well they work together, each complementing the other perfectly. Although each offers something different, their talent is balanced. Some in the crowd sang along, some zoned out but I thought this was a perfect gig for Autumn and great gig for Melbourne music fans. Finally, I love The Old Bar on Sunday nights, and most of the time they book good bands. But isn’t it a shame that two musicians of this caliber aren’t playing somewhere like the Forum, or the Arts Centre, attracting mass audiences, and commanding big $$$? Because they’re worth it.
Note: During the set break I went to buy a loaf of bread and came back with the bread and the sandwich, only to greet Julian Wu at the venue, also with the same $2.00 sandwich and a loaf of bread. I swear I’m not stalking him…

55. Jimmy Stewart The Gem 29/3/2011
Jimmy Stewart’s mammoth residency [over 100 Tuesdays] wound up tonight, replaced by the potentially lucrative burger bonanza. First set, Jimmy played guitar. Second set, joined by a beautiful viola player who added light to his songs. Not packed like Springsteen night, but there was a bunch of Jimmy admirers there.

56. James McCann Old Bar 30/3/2011
Holding an acoustic guitar, James McCann starts and it’s a fucking shame that only 4 people are listening in the bandroom. Sure it’s a cold night and it’s midweek, but the kids out the back are really missing out. He’s not just another singer/songwriter, although it may appear that way. James works through a body of material in the style of folk, but with the essence of something else: a combination of talent, frustration and rock. When he’s disciplined and focused, draws you in because he’s got good songs that he executes convincingly. Tonight he plays some new songs plus songs from Sweet Casualty, and two songs with guitarist Rui Pereira. Rui projects as a diehard party animal at the bar, but on stage that same energy channeled into his guitar is thrilling. Both songs they did together were great, but the second song with the escapist theme of Sailing Away sounded like an Aussie classic to me.

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