Friday, January 6, 2012

January 2012 gigs

The first band I saw in 2012 - The Whipped Cream Chargers supporting Hanni El Khatib
1. Whipped Cream Chargers, Hanni El Khatib, The Tote 1/1/2012
Hanni El Khatib
Gig 1 for 2012 was spoilt by a heatwave in Melbourne. Plus, it's probably a hard ask to get people to come out with NYE hangovers. Whipped Cream Chargers are at least a 6 piece rock band that try numerous happening styles but didn't seem to really draw me in. They seem like a band with a lot of different directions but no clear sound. Maybe I misunderstood.
On paper Hanni El Khatib sounds interesting: Californian with a Palestinian/Filipino background who plays guitar and sings [garage and doo wop I was told], backed by a drummer. But the live experience was a let down. It was really just a guy with a guitar singing with a drummer which was far less interesting than other acts of the same ilk. A  lack of energy from the artist and the crowd, meant I lacked attention span.

2. Facetime, The Tote 3/1/2012
5 Young kids playing shoegaze with twangy guitars, all squeezed into the Tote front bar attracts an intersted crowd of youngsters. They're supporting The Murlocs.

3. Chris Russell's Chicken Walk The Standard 4/1/2012
Chris Russell's Chicken Walk
A loyal following of Chris Russell friends and fans attend this front bar gig on a Wednesday night. Blues guy Chris Russell still astounds with his guitar picking style: keeping the rhythm by playing the bass strings, then doing fiddly stuff with his other digits, whilst singing and playing with a drummer. This is local, contemporary blues that is not lame.

4. No Zu, The Sand Pebbles, The Old Bar 5/1/2012
Percussion, loads of it. A sassy vocalist who bounces her vocals around. Jazzy horn sounds. Keys filling in the gaps. No Zu are a high energy, youthful, positive vibe party or outdoor summer festival type of band. There's lots of members all working towards creating that feel. They've got good arrangements, and although it's not really my bag, I can say No Zu are a good band, effectively spreading the message: that semi-circle area at the front of the stage where no-one usually stands is occupied by dancers.
Although they've existed since 2001, I've never seen The Sand Pebbles. But after experiencing them, I'd say they're a twangy poppy sounding band with 2 singers and 3 guitars that play different sounds, creating texture, and giving their sound some depth. They're a tight 5 piece and I can see why they've got a good reputation. 

5.Wally Corker's Drunk Arsed Band, Jemma  & The Wise Young Ambitious Men, The Tote 8/1/2012
Wally Corker’s Drunk Arsed band a rollickin’ good front bar band playing rootsy rock. Jemma is a singer with a pure and honest voice [well suited to country] & has personality to boot which matches her sense of humour. She’s backed by a talented band. Together they play country standards in the front bar.

6. Bad Taste, Mesa Cosa, The Workers Club 9/1/2012
Bad Taste
Bad Taste aren’t the best band you’ve ever seen. But they’ve got energy and humour. My companion suggests they seem suburban. Make of that what you will.
Mesa Cosa
Mesa Cosa are a rock and roll party band with a saxophone and give you the feeling they’re the greatest sloppy fun time band in the world at this moment. They look like a bunch of mismatched misfits, sound like slackers meets punks with a nod to garage. But everything about them tells me this act really works right now. Catch them at the Workers Club on Monday nights this month. There’s a $2 cover charge.

7. The Bluebottles, Meet Me At Mikes, 9/1/2012
The Bluebottles
There's no better place for a band like the Bluebottles to play than Meet Me at Mike's.  It's full of retro, kitschy, kooky second-hand items. The Bluebottles flavour sounds second hand- but they execute it so well. Watching them, you get the impression their aim is to be like a teen surf band you might see play at a high school prom in the movies. They’re dressed in character, but what makes them so likeable is that they’re really great at their instrumental covers and originals.  Their musical competence and arrangements carries it through, you can’t help but dig it.  If you’re looking for a 60’s party band that’ll please most, pick The Bluebottles.

8. The Murlocs, The Tote 10/1/2012
I’m reading this book and I learned that in the 1950’s, white boys playing R & B was called rock and roll. In the 1960’s, white boys playing R & B in their garages across small town USA, was called garage rock. So in 2012, garage rock is all the rage, a style done by so many before. Geelong band, The Murlocs continue the tradition. They play garage rock like you’ve heard it before, but their sound is instantly appealing, and the powerful vocal attack of the lead singer/harp player absolutely tears through songs. Go and see the Murlocs. They’re young, they’re good at what they do. They play the Tuesday residency at The Tote, and it’s free in January.

9. Bleeding Knees Club, Fed Square 12/1/2012
Cute 3 piece garage style band from Brisbane, with a very smiley drummer. They have a bunch of soundalike songs, with a couple of big hits that the crowd knows and loves. But to have maximum impact, they need to be blast your head off loud. And they weren't. If I was a teenager, I would have loved this, but having been exposed to other bands of a similar sound with better songs, and better presence, BKC just like a watered down, teen pop extravaganza - and that's great for teens.

10.Hammocks and Honey, Cant, Buffalo Club 13/1/2012

Hammocks and Honey
Hammocks and Honey are a 2 piece indie electro outfit featuring soft wafty, female vocals and electro textures, that create atmospheric lightness.  Their best song was their last one, and I don't mean that in the mean way.
Cant  - Photo by G. Tippett

Brooklyn's Cant start off with electro funk fusion vibes meets indie introspection, not afraid to turn it up and rock out. Then it moves to more indie balladry that relies on  light and shade, that eventually build up into epic songs. Loudness, vocals effects, beyond genre exploration. On paper, it's all very interesting. The crowd nods their heads in approval of the cerebral indie sounds, but I find it very underwhelming. Now for the Buffalo Club: what a place! A Grand Lodge Hall for men, based on The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB). The website says in the 1950's it became an over 25's dance club, but this finished up by the 1970's. An excellent intimate venue, with flavoured water for teetotallers, little booth seating and tiled tables for intimate chats, mirror ball, a picture of the Queen, and flags that demonstrate the RAOB's reach. Best intimate venue in Melbourne CBD.

11.  Stella Angelico, Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, 14/1/2012
Stella Angelico wears gold pants better than anyone I know

 Stella Angelico is a soulful torch singer with style and sass. I don't know where her conviction comes from but it's spot on, even if she is playing in the park, in broad daylight in front of children. Call it professionalism. If you thought the current scene in Melbourne lacks this think again!

12. Sugar Mountain, The Forum Theatre, Melbourne, 14/1/2012
Sugar Mountain was a mini festival that took over Melbourne's most beautiful theatre; The Forum. Then the artists involved made it even more beautiful with projections, arty signage, installations and more.The music  was programmed in such a way, where no act was alike, but there's was always something different on. And if you didn't like what you were seeing, you just had to wait 10-20 minutes for something else interesting was happening.
Fox and Sui

are adorable

The first act I caught was Fox and Sui, a boy girl duo. The girl plays bass, and the boy plays synth and beats. They both look about 16, they've got delightfully innocent sounding vocals and are a really pleasurable act to witness.

Absolute Boys

Have only one drummer

Absolute Boys features reverby vocals and tinny, noisy guitar, from where I was sitting - the front row. Moving up to the top of the summit, it's a more coherent sounding act. Sparse vocals, tribal beats but the tinny guitar works so much better from afar.
Straight Arrows

Straight Arrows are out of tune, really loud and very messy and it all works in the right ways. That's because they're playing garage punk, and this slots into the line up well due to the contrast.  The grit is refreshing amongst the sublime beauty of the place.

Julianna Barwick loops her vocals live using just her voice or some instruments, her parts are layered. It's like listening to madrigals ; but the 2012 version. It's high brow indie art.  Worlds End Press are an all out gay dance party in Sydney in the 1980's dressed in 1990's gear from where I'm standing and it looks and sounds like a whole lot of fun.
I couldn't catch Tune-Yards but I could catch the projection
Oakland's Tune yards are doing their own thing with what sounds like many instruments at once. But there's only 2 people on stage. One of them is playing bass and the other is reaching into the greater depths and singing with all her might. More loop users. They're later joined by  2 squealing saxophonists who provide sparse, jerkish sounds. Listening to Tune-Yards is what I imagine it was like listening to jazz for the first time, thinking what the fuck? but still digging it.
Striking projections during Sun Araw & installation artist stage left.
  Sun Araw: I see sax, I hear identifiable instruments, I sense drum machine, I see installation artist. My brain doesn't quite compute. All I can tell is that there seems to be some experimenting afoot.
San Francisco's Thee Oh Sees are not spring chickens
Thee Oh Sees has 2 drummers, 2 guitars, and 1 lady playing the Nord and singing. They're an irrepressably good, teen styled, adrenaline fueled garage band with musicians that can really play. So it sounds awesome at The Forum. A really tight outfit with some impressive guitar sounds blazing through their songs.

Prince Rama go from this

To this
To this
Singing about trust and crowd surfing, Prince Rama feels like a spiritual self help group. There's two women, sisters I hear. One is playing drums, and the other one keys. They both sing. They borrow from world sounds, such as vocal from Indian traditions, and they invited the crowd to get up on stage for a dance party. Later, they're told the crowd must exit - stage left of course. Lost Animal  - People Love this guy, they say he had the best album of 2011 and so on. I should listen to the record a few times and let the songs grow on me because I don't understand the love affair from merely winessing the live performance. I mean it was intense, but does that qualify for best of?  Deerhoof are a San Franciscan noise like indie pop troupe who do things cute, quirky, unusually and arty. This makes them a band that at first seem accessible, but as the set wears on it's clear they're not for everyone.
Some installation art
Projections during Shabazz Palaces
Projections behind Shabazz Palaces
Shabbazz Palaces are a hip hop duo who had a highly celebrated album in 2011. Live Bongo, computer sounds, unison dance movements, these guys are cool. I made the mistake of going up the front and having the bass move every ounce of muscle and fat on my body through vibrations alone. Having never heard of most of the acts on Sugar Mountain, I walk away feeling that it was a spectacular festival, and I left highly impressed. It's different, the line up is diverse, the bands are very now, and mostly very original. The projections and installations make it visually arresting and out of the ordinary. Well done to everyone involved with such a great event that makes Melbourne seem like a far more interesting place.

And now, a short break from the predominately white world of seeing bands in a pub, venue... These were live music performances at a community festival celebrating the lunar new year.

Lunar New Year Nicholson Street Stage feat some poppy singer with Michael Jackson moves
The audience
A singing duo
A man plays guitar but makes it sound like some ancient stringed instrument
A colourful afternoon to celebrate Year of the Dragon 2012

13. Spencer P Jones and The Escape Committee, Labour In Vain 15/1/2012
It's unbelievable to think someone as good as SPJ plays free gigs in the front bar
But he does

Spencer P Jones and The Escape Committee do it again: deliver really good pub rock songs with plenty of vinegar.

14. Dad Horse Experience, The Retreat 15/1/2012

German Banjo playing, pedal stomping[what looks like a Moog Taurus], singing one man band. Later 2 of 3 the Puta Madre Brothers joined him, and they became a 3 man band. Funny, dry banter in between songs.

15. Keith! Party Mesa Cosa, Workers Club, 16/1/2012
Keith! Party are a real life party act and they are over the top with their ridiculous rapping, streamer throwing, party popper popping, 90's club outfits, dancing members,  singlets that say "I'd rather be wearing lace"....  High energy, lots of audience involvement, loads of fun if you like like the worst of 1990's. Mesa Cosa also played another good set but in my mind, they were upstaged by unabashed exhuberence of Keith! Party.

16.Fraser A Gorman, The Murlocs, The Tote 17/1/2012
Fraser A Gorman is a country-ish singer with a Bob Dylan look, accompanied by twangin' guitar and fiddle/backing vocals. Good, young front bar music. The Murlocs seem to be heat affected, but that guy still has got a great voice, and it's exciting to see a good young band. Note to singer: keep your shirt on or wear singlet.

17. Full Ugly, Lower Plenty, Pop Singles Bar Open18/1/2012
Full Ugly are four boy tweens who play primitive indie pop. Lower Plenty shares the same name as one hell of a suburb. The band play introspective, gentle indie pop, with really good melodic guitar moments. A usually four piece band [but tonight there were only three] it features one guy from Deaf Wish and another guy from the UV Race/Total Control/North Wheel/Dick Diver, etc, they sell casettes for $5. Pop Singles are another sweet to listen to indie band with short songs.

18. Rich Davies The Old Bar 18/1/2012
Scottish sounding Rich Davies gives his all when singing his country-folkish songs.

19.Judy Small and Peggy Seeger, Caravan Music Club 21/1/2012
One week ago I was smack bang in the middle of a youthful cutting edge festival in town. Tonight I'm smack bang in the middle of suburbia, at The Caravan Music Club; a gorgeous intimate venue in Oakleigh, that's an RSL with RSL drink prices. Tonight, it's hosting two women folk singers, one Australian, the other from England.
Judy Small at Caravan

Almost 60 and a Lesbian Judy Small performs mother songs, working songs, feminist songs, soldier songs, environmental songs.... All the time telling stories, it's folk music. Honest lyricism with poignant sentiments. Judy has school teacher pronunciation, and insists on Audience Participation. She's got an old lady voice, and plays the guitar. In between she regales us with funny banter.It's not generally my bag, but if you don't like the music, surely you'll like the person.
Peggy reading poetry

Peggy Seeger is a would be legend in folk music. So why is she playing the Caravan Club[a gorgeous, but small venue]? Well perhaps people aren't old enough to know who she is, or what she's about. Peggy Seeger from Washington DC via England, is a folk singer/songwriter and poet, comes from a family of respected musicians. Peggy Seeger is a folkie from the 1950's and 1960's, and performs songs to tell stories, or deliver a message, usually radical or socially conscientious.
Peggy plays guitar

She opened her set, with a traditional song The Mountaineers Courtship playing clawhammer Banjo. The crowd sangalong, and learned the punchline.  This was followed by a union song that she played on guitar. The third song was an accapella song about unemployment by Aunt Molly Jackson. Next up was John Gilbert is the Boat, a deep singalong. Then she entered the realm of  love song starting with the twang ladden traditional version of Henry Lee, Peggy played banjo. This was followed  by the sweet love song with a punch:  You Don't Know How Lucky You Are, taken from the Almost Commercially Viable album.

She performed classic Feminist-Mother song, Lady, What do You Do All Day? followed by a song she wrote for her son when she was angry, but proud of the person he was. Then we heard about a perception of progress in song. Vignettes, a death song treating life as a journey, songs about friends, it went on and Peggy switched instruments between piano, banjo and guitar. Throughout the set, Peggy told us about her  life, touring with her husband, her civil union with her partner Irene later in life, her mother who died when she was 18, and at age 60 she wrote songs for the mother she never knew.  She told us that "all humans have one basic job, save the planet".  Graciously, she thanked her support, the sound guy and the audience, and finished the set with a small piece by Malcom X.

Peggy is a generous peformer that views the world a certain way, and shares her perceptions through song, and she educates and passes traditions on through song.  Although she may have been formally educated in music, she possesses the ability to feel a song the way the uneducated music fan may  feel it. So she relates musically and it's gives not a stuffy performance but a down to earth -relatable experience. Lyrically and ideologically, she is a radical, but that's simply because we live in conservative times. Folk music is music of the people; their stories. And for Peggy, well her songs could have been written 40 years ago or yesterday but they're relevant to today.  Peggy may be 77, but she's living proof that just because you're old, doesn't mean you're past it, nor does it mean to stop caring.  Peggy is an authentic folk singer, and has all the spirit and conviction that anyone can hope for, and this made for a highly memorable performance. 

Come back to Melbourne again Peggy, the youth of today needs you to help teach and enrich our tomorrow. She said she wasn't coming back but the youth of today can read her website:

20. Total Control, Thee Oh Sees, The Corner Hotel, 24/1/2012
 It was a week ago since I saw this, and Thee Oh Sees are pretty good and fun. That's all I can say.

21. Gonesville, The Gem 27/1/2012
Kate Jacobson of Texas Tea joins Ben Salter to play cover songs from the catalogue of Magic 1278 in the front bar. Apt act for the situation.

21.5 Kitty Daisy and Lewis, PBS radio station, 28/1/2012 
22. Sun God Replica 28/1/2012
Photo by Greg Tippett 2012

23. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Big Day Out 29/1/2012.
It was the 20th year anniversary of the Big Day Out, and the line up didn't seem to appeal to me. I am possibly too old, or too urban. I just wanted to see how King Gizzard would be recieved by the kids. Due to the heat [35 degrees], the tent was like a sauna, but some kids dug it. And why shouldn't they? Although it's mindless fun, it's still fun. Plus it's really energetic. KGLW are an exciting act to witness.

 24. Unknown Vietnamese singer and band at Footscray Lunar celebrations 29/1/2012.

Music is everywhere in Melbourne