Friday, 29 May 2009

Gigs of the Week - May 29th

There were some really good shows last night. Hope you weren't relying on this to tell you about them. In case you were, here's the rest of the weekend for you:

Friday 29th:
No Through Road (SA), Nova Scotia, Seaplane @ The Troubadour - This week's recommended gig.
SixFtHick @ Ric's Bar
Fans: Leader Cheetah (SA), Little Scout, Fergus Brown (NSW), Edward Guglielmino @ Alhambra Lounge
Mt Augustus, Lion Island @ Black Star Coffee - As with all Black Star shows, this will be finished by 10pm.
Ball Park Music, The Estates, The Kents, Princess Rodeo @ Clarence Corner Hotel

Saturday 30th:
McKisko, Kid Sam (Vic), Fergus Brown (NSW), Green Thief @ The Hangar
DZ @ The Troubadour (1am slot)
Def Radio, Velociraptor @ Ric's Bar

Sunday 31st:
Live Spark: Gladstone & Lochaber, The Cairos @ The Powerhouse


Thursday, 21 May 2009

BigStrongBrute, Ambitious Lovers @ Black Star (15.05.09)

Last Friday's show at Black Star Coffee in West End was perhaps the fourth time I'd been to the venue since it started featuring bands at the start of the year. It's a cool little cafe just near the Boundary St / Vulture St intersection, just off the main drag on the cusp of suburbia. All of the gigs I've attended at Black Star so far have been great fun, as there's something really enjoyable about sitting having a chat with some friends and drinking hot coffee / chocolate instead being in a hot, loud club drinking a beer. The layout of the cafe means that the band sets up essentially in the middle of the audience, providing an extremely intimate environment for musical performance.

Ambitious Lovers were the first band to play on this particular Friday night. Lead Lover Joel Saunders is no stranger to Black Star, having played the venue previously and also being the curator of the regular 'Foot Foot Foot' shows that take place there every few weeks. For this night he was joined by his two regular female vocals & percussion companions, Kel and Elise. The band has been playing as a three-piece for almost a year now, and it's helped them to become a more solid band. While Ambitious Lovers have been (and will most likely always be) a ramshackle act both live and on record, having a third member seems to have made the band somewhat tighter - no longer do most songs have a section where the different musicians seem to be completely out of sync with each other. They're still wonderfully shambolic, but no longer in a way that gets in the way of their, quite frankly, astoundingly beautiful songs.

Many people don't attempt to take Ambitious Lovers at more than face value. They hear Joel's cracked vocals and distorted ukulele, they see the percussion kit made from milk crates and bottle caps and fly swatters, they watch the band descending into a noisy freakout at the end of a beautiful outsider-folk song. They make up their minds that the musicians are being 'difficult' and that this is music that is too amateur to be worth trying to dissect. They never take the effort to hear the actual songs underneath the facade of 'experimentalism'. I don't think the band care in the slightest, but it's still a damn shame because there's actually very little to Ambitious Lovers that is all that difficult to enjoy. So many of their songs are wonderfully melodic and heartbreaking in their vulnerability. Their sets contain more emotion than any other Brisbane band I can think of.

BigStrongBrute haven't been a regular fixture on the Brisbane live scene for a while now, with their only semi-recent appearance being their support slot for Mt Eerie in October last year. Back then they showed off their rusted take on folk and Americana with a full 'rock' band lineup. On this particular night, however, they brought things right back, with the band featuring Paul Donoughue on vocals and guitar (since BigStrongBrute is essentially his solo act) plus a flautist and trumpet player. I found it to be the most effective lineup of the band I'd seen, allowing Paul to strip the songs down to their bare essentials while still allowing them to swell up when necessary. All of the BigStrongBrute shows I've seen in the last few years have engendered a great degree of goodwill towards the band - they just seem to be that sort of act, the sort where their enthusiasm for playing is easily transferred to the audience. This particular show had something more to it than that though, there was a palpable sense of sorrow mixed in with the usual celebratory feelings. Maybe it was just the affect of having the brass and wind instruments with no pounding percussion to provide a counterpoint. Whatever the reason, despite being only six songs long, it was one of the most beautiful sets I've seen in recent times. There were quite a few songs that I didn't recognise (although there were still some old favourites such as 'Everything All At Once') so hopefully this bodes well for an upcoming release from the band.


Gigs of the Week - May 21st

Thursday 21st:
Lee Memorial (Vic), McKisko @ The Troubadour
Ball Park Music, Snow White @ Ric's Bar
Sarah Haigh, The Bloodpoets, Son of Sea @ The Zoo

Friday 22nd:
Swampland: The Stabs (Vic), Deaf Wish (Vic), Slug Guts, The Seizures @ Rosie's Upstairs
Black Mustang, High Noon Heat, Sonic Porno @ Club 299
Hunz, Sirinival, River Peppermint From Whence It Come @ The Globe

Saturday 23rd:
Brisbane Sounds: Screamfeeder, Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side, Blackwater Fever, Vegas Kings, New Jack Rubies, The Mercy Beat @ The Zoo
The Gimmies (Japan), Sweet Dreams, Dangermen, Sulphur Lights @ Step Inn
The Stabs (Vic), Deaf Wish (Vic), No Anchor, Loomer @ Browning St Studios
Mexico City (Album launch), The Rocketsmiths, The Heels @ The Troubadour
Potential Falcon (Vic), Mr Rascal @ Ric's Bar


Monday, 18 May 2009

The Rational Academy, Secret Birds, Triad, Marl Carx @ Step Inn (09.05.09)

I have no excuse for having not seen Marl Carx previously. I remember getting a myspace request from them right when they started out and finding the rough recordings on their site to be interesting, and yet it's taken me a good year or so to finally check them out. I guess part of the reason for that is that they tend to mostly play houseparties, so I was pretty keen to catch them as part of this great lineup at the Step Inn. Consisting of drums and guitar with a smattering of off-key / squealing vocals, they're an easy band to dismiss (see this Rave review). The playing is rudimentary, and they sound pretty similar to every other house party noise-rock band put together by a bunch of teenagers. That is, of course, if you don't actually give any of your attention to them. For those who DO put a few minutes of effort into understanding the band and trying to decipher the music behind the noise (and, admittedly, are amongst those who already have a predilection towards rough, feedback drenched rock music with a heavy early Sonic Youth influence), it's somewhat surprising to find that there are surprising adept riffs buried in there, and that the rhythms are not so boneheaded as they might first appear. There was one song in particular where I spent the whole song marvelling at the genius drum part, trying to figure out how it was put together. I found myself surprised at the level of songcraft that initially seemed like two kids randomly bashing at their instruments. Marl Carx are not a band who are going to impress a large number of people purely because of the style of music they've chosen to pursue, but they're not without their merits.

I knew pretty much nothing about Triad coming into this show; the only information I had was that it featured Tom Hall (of Brisbane acts AxxOnn and Secret Birds, as well as his solo ventures) and two dudes from Tasmania. When the trio began their set with various drones and delayed guitar I thought to myself 'right, so this is what we're going to get - nice synthy ambience'. I'm sure a good portion of the crowd thought this as well. For the first part of the set this is indeed what we got, with various tones and drones being melded together into a gradually rising wall of sound. At about the 1/3 mark, however, things started to change - Hall threw some bellowed vocals into the mix, twisting them via various laptop effects, and within minutes one of the three musicians had switched to drums and suddenly we were being bathed in waves of distorted doom guitar while Tom Hall ran around the room screaming like a young Henry Rollins. It was one of the few times in recent memory where a set has truly surprised me, as it seemed to do for everyone else in the room. For such dark, violent music there seemed to be a lot of smiles and laughing going on in the audience, but I don't think that anyone was laughing AT the band, instead it seemed that everyone was simply shocked by what they were seeing and truly enjoying the spectacle (though others have disagreed). What a surprising show.

Secret Birds had the job of following up Triad, and did so by putting on one of their best shows. The band doesn't seem to be morphing from one gig to another as much anymore, having settled into a fairly steady lineup of two guitars, bass, drums and keys/ambience. It's difficult to explain the difference between a good Secret Birds show and a poor one - they all tend to consist of two or three lengthy jams based on a handful of heavy guitar riffs. I suppose it all comes down to the effectiveness of the riff and the aptitude of the guitar noodling around it. For this show the riffs were at the higher end of the quality scale, and the band seemed to be really well in sync. In fact, for once it seemed as though Secret Birds weren't just jamming on a riff, instead playing actual compositions that were stretched out over extended periods of time. Maybe the songs that they played at this show were no less structured than previously, but the differences between sections were less subtle and the band moved between them more tightly. Whatever the reasons, the general consensus seemed to be that The Rational Academy had their work cut out for them to meet the standards that had been displayed up until that point in the evening.

Going by the grimaces on the faces of the band members throughout their set, you wouldn't have thought that The Rational Academy were playing a great set. And sure, it wasn't a GREAT set. Maybe, by Rat Acad standards, it wasn't even a GOOD set. But by that same token it certainly wasn't a POOR set. Given the fact that the band played no previously released songs at all the fact that they were able to hold my interest through the entire show would indicate to me that they were still doing a pretty passable job. Some of the more familiar new songs were performed on the night, but the majority of the set seemed pretty new to my ears. I know that I'm certainly eagerly looking forward to hearing the two new records that the band are supposedly releasing within the year. Anyway, yeah there were lots of feedback issues etc, but it wasn't anywhere near the trainwreck that the band seemed to think it was. Plus, any set that finishes with such an abrasively deconstructed cover of Bowie's 'Life On Mars' has to be at least a little bit good.


Friday, 15 May 2009

Gigs of the Week - May 15th

Friday 15th:
Ambitious Lovers, BigStrongBrute @ Black Star Coffee (Thomas St, West End)
Re:Enactment, Toy Balloon, Moon Jog @ The Zoo

Saturday 16th:
The Quickening (Album Launch), Dick Nasty, No Anchor, Nova Scotia @ Step Inn - Recommendation of the week.
Vegas Kings, Hits, Sulphur Lights @ Clarence Corner Hotel
Nikko, Monster Monster @ Ric's Bar
The Cairos (EP Launch), DZ, Stature::Statue @ The Zoo
Drawn From Bees, Calvara, Moses Gunn Collective, The Empty Quarter @ The Hangar
Wagons (Vic), Texas Tea, Felicity Groom @ The Troubadour
Moses Gunn Collective @ The Troubadour (1am)
Women In Docs, Little Creatures @ The Powerhouse

Sunday 17th:
Live Spark: Little Scout, Skinny Jean @ The Powerhouse


Monday, 11 May 2009

4ZzZ FM's Modern Love: Hungry Kids of Hungary, Rocketsmiths, Nikko, Mass Migration @ The Zoo (30.05.09)

(This has been sitting on the server in a mostly complete draft form for about a week, so apologies for my tardiness in releasing it.)

4ZzZ FM have been striving to improve the services that they offer recently, and as part of this push we've started to see a wider range of 4ZzZ presents shows being organised. Branching out from the usual Zeds staple of punk/ska/dub, 'Modern Love' showcased two relatively high profile local indie pop groups (Hungry Kids, Rocketsmiths) and two more reflective, artier groups (Nikko, Mass Migration).

Mass Migration started the evening in front of a still sparse audience, playing their final ever show. When I first saw Mass Migration back in 2007 I thought that their take on guitar-based post-rock (of the Mogwai / Explosions In The Sky variety) was occasionally a bit one dimensional. Over the intervening years they've improved their songwriting considerably, becoming a more layered musical act in the process. Songs like 'Green' and 'Sepia' showed a band that had gained an understanding of dynamics, and also of the power of utilising traditional song structures to move a song along ('Sepia' is pretty much a pop song, despite being instrumental). At times their live shows have been a bit inconsistent, often due to effects settings that seemed to suck the power out of the guitars when things really needed to take off - this show had few of these issues, and as a result the inherent power of the songs was allowed to come through. The two new songs the band showcased indicated that things would have improved further, with one song in the middle of the set gradually swelling in a psychedelic haze before falling away and building up to even greater heights (and volume) than before. As far as final shows go, this wasn't at all a bad one to go out on, and the gradually swelling crowd seemed to agree.

are a band that I've enjoyed live a few times, but from whom I'd not yet seen a set where everything had gelled together to provide the kind of performance I've thought them capable of. Sometimes their guitars have gone way out of tune, sometimes the vocals have been gratingly off key, and sometimes their setlists have been uneven, resulting in the set dragging by its end. This show was the first I'd experienced where everything fell into place - the guitars were all locked in together and sounding suitably immense when necessary, the set was well paced and, crucially, singer Ryan Potter's voice was sounding good (although still far from pitch-perfect, but that's part of its character). Nikko fall somewhere in between a fairly straight-up post rock band (such as Mass Migration) and more atmospheric indie rock/pop bands (like Seaplane or The Rational Academy), with songs that are usually quite stretched out but that often still contain recognisable structures and vocals. I find them to be at their best when they mix these two sides of the band together in fairly equal amounts, with Potter's drunken baritone providing a steady emotional centre while the rest of the band rises and falls around him.

Oh, and the bass player is lots of fun to watch.

For some reason I when I think of Rocketsmiths (no 'The' anymore) I tend to think of them as a band that I like well enough but of whom I'm not really a huge fan. However, when I see them live I oftentimes reconsider this opinion. On their night they really are one of the most entertaining bands in Brisbane, and their songs are packed with so many turns and hooks that it seems unfair to deny them their kudos in the songwriting department. I'm not sure what makes me continually revert to my previously mentioned stance towards them, but perhaps this show will be the one that convinces me to permanently recognise that they're damn good at what they do (that being pumping out rockabilly influenced bar-room rock suitable for getting really really drunk to). Dom Miller is an unlikely rock frontman, but by the end of a show he tends to have the vast majority of the crowd paying attention to his every drunken between-song rant. Oh, and is it just me or have Rocketsmiths really ramped up the heaviness in their songs? It seemed as though 3/4 of their set was surging ahead at full pace, with guitars swathed in masses of distortion and playing some deceptively evil sounding riffs? Many of of their songs sounded like some soundtrack to a B-grade vampire movie set in the south of the USA. That's a good thing.

For a few songs it seemed as though Hungry Kids of Hungary were going to convince me to reconsider my opinion of them, much as Rocketsmiths had done. I've not really seen the appeal of this band previously (I've generally found them to be quite bland), but with many people whose opinions I respect singing their praises it seemed as though maybe I'd missed something. Certainly, for maybe three songs I was fully ready to change my thoughts on the band - their songs were bouncy, melodic and enjoyable. I began to think that maybe these people were right, and that they really were a great indie-pop band who were (at least somewhat) deserving of the hype being thrown their way. But then... they lost me. The songs started to blur into one another, and I found myself getting bored of the band. Ultimately I left the venue thinking that while they may have a handful of quality tracks they're also not the band that certain press clips would have you believe. For now I'll lump them in with Yves Klein Blue as a well regarded pop band whom I personally don't feel have justified themselves, as opposed to vaguely similar bands like The John Steel Singers and (as of this night) Rocketsmiths.


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Gigs of the Week - May 6th

After a bit of a quiet one last weekened things are a bit busier over the upcoming days. Most significantly, Screamfeeder are playing their local classic Kitten Licks in full at the Troubadour this Saturday in support of their upcoming re-release of said record, supported by another classic local (kind of) band Midget. The band has sent us some download links to a couple of their songs from that era: firstly the single Dart, and secondly the B-Side Summertime. Enjoy!

Wednesday 6th:
Velociraptor, Suborbital Spaceflight @ Ric's Bar

Thursday 7th:
Daniel Striped Tiger (USA), All My Circuits (Vic), To The North, No Anchor @ Step Inn
Last Dinosaurs, Scott Spark @ Ric's Bar

Friday 8th:
Richard In Your Mind (NSW), McKisko, Mt Augustus, Sweet Fawn @ Top Floor (Elizabeth St, above Govindas)
Daniel Striped Tiger (USA), All My Circuits (Vic), Quiet Steps, Tear Gas @ The Hangar
Rollerball, Sonic Porno, Black Mustang, To The Hilt @ Step Inn
Tara Simmons, Edward Guglielmino, McArtney, Simon Kelly, Coby Grant @ The Troubadour

Saturday 9th:
Screamfeeder, Midget, Butcher Birds @ The Troubadour
The Rational Academy, Triad, Secret Birds, Marl Carx @ Step Inn (Front Bar / Upstairs?)
Mr Maps, Richard In Your Mind (NSW), Skinny Jean, Sierra Finn (NSW), Villains of Wilhelm, Idle Cranes @ The Old Museum (6pm)
Rocketsmiths, DZ, Drawn From Bees, Numbers Radio, Velociraptor @ Step Inn (main room) - Last minute lineup change.
Grand Atlantic @ The Troubadour (1am)
Sweet Dreams, Army of Champions, The Ordinarys, Not Ok @ Fat Louie's Pool Hall - first gig from new punk band 'Sweet Dreams' featuring three members of Eat Laser Scumbag.

Sunday 10th:
Sonic Boom: Luke Henery, Scot Cotterell (Tas), Mumble Speak (Tas), Kitchen's Floor @ 101 Merthyr Road, New Farm
Live Spark: Disco Nap, Scott Spark
@ The Powerhouse (3pm)
Steve Grady, Andrew Swift, Cyrus @ The Troubadour

Monday 11th:
Violent Soho, Boondall Boys @ Zoo Carpark (7pm) - This is a birthday bash for Tym's Guitars (whose new store will be celebrating its first year at the new location). It starts early, you might be best arriving earlier than the time I've listed here.