Thursday, 29 October 2009

Gigs of the Week - October 29th

Thursday 29th:
Heinz Riegler, Microflora (Vic) @ Jamie's Espresso Bar (7:30pm) - Releasing a new cassette of various recordings from the past few years, limited to 60 copies (featuring hand-printed artwork from Alex Gillies).
Luluc (Vic), McKisko, Lion Island @ The Troubadour
Toy Balloon (Album Re-Launch), Tin Can Radio, Moon Jog, Doom Doom @ The Zoo

Friday 30th:
Gig-Antics: Skinny Jean (Album Re-Launch), Megastick Fanfare (NSW), The Parking Lot Experiments (Vic) @ Uber
The Estates, The Oyster Murders, Plastic Palace Alice @ The Troubadour

Saturday 31st:
Tigermoth, Sweet Dreams, Purity Device, Heart Flew Like An Arrow, Big Dead @ Lofly Hangar
Monday Heart, Grids/Units/Planes, Music For Slow Dancing @ Blackstar Coffee (West End)
Wind & Brackets, The James Wright Experience @ The Clubhouse
Finders Keepers Markets: Pikelet (Vic), Mr Rascal, Kate Jacobson, The Cardboard Kids, The Fox And The River, Erin-Louise @ Old Museum (12pm - 9pm)

Sunday 1st:
Finders Keepers Markets: The Bell Divers, Lion Island, JuliaWhy?, Edge of Colour @ Old Museum (10am - 5pm)


Monday, 26 October 2009

Fiesta Roundup

Three days of predominantly local music this past weekend made up the best Valley Fiesta I've had the pleasure of experiencing, bolstered by some fantastic sets from Japan's Limited Express (Has Gone?) along with Jack Ladder, Alex & The Ramps and more from interstate. Some prior years have featured lineups that haven't quite justified the bother of dealing with the crowds associated with the event; this year not only was the lineup pretty damn strong throughout the entire weekend (it was a rare moment when there was nothing of interest to see), but the crowds seemed to be more pleasurable to be a part of. I can barely think of a set that I didn't enjoy. The following gives some brief thoughts on most of the local acts I managed to catch.

Early on Friday evening, Monster Monster started the festivities with a set of his usual indie-rock inflected hip-hop. Joined by frequent collaborator Saint Surly, the two traded brief snippets of music back and forth throughout their half-hour set. It's an act that they've been performing for about 6months now, but this Fiesta slot was certainly the most natural they've made it sound. Previously they've had some difficulty pulling off the transitions between each act's turn in the spotlight, making their sets somewhat erratic at times (though the actual pieces of music they've played individually are usually pretty great). They must have been working hard on the flow of their set, as the changes generally seemed very natural on this particular evening. At times it was actually difficult to figure out which of the two artists was providing the basis of the track and which one was providing accents. This was probably furthered by the fact that neither act played many of their recognisable songs, which would indicate that the set contained mostly new material (perhaps from their upcoming collaborative record).

Lion Island have been building up a bit of a buzz over the past few months. Having recently released their debut EP, Berlin, the band have been expanding their sound from its somewhat Beirut aping beginnings. Many of the newer songs in their repertoire add an almost post-punk rhythmic quality to their gypsy folk, without turning the band into yet another Arcade Fire wannabe (so far). Some of their earlier songs hinted at this mixing of influences, most notably the EP's title track with its delayed electric guitar and soaring arrangement. Now the band is taking these ideas further, with more varied instrumentation and more complex arrangements. While you can still hear the band searching for their core sound, they seem to be getting closer with each show.

Having recently gone through some fairly significant personnel changes, Mr Maps returned on Saturday from a few months' worth of downtime with a slightly different slant on their kaleidoscopic version of post-rock. Gone are unpredictable drummer Sangdae Yang and guitar effects guru Nick Smethurst, respectively replaced by Jacob Hicks (otherwise known as the frontman for Re:Enactment) and Shem Allen (of Skinny Jean, although his was apparently a one-off appearance, with Smethurst's full time replacement being cellist Briony Luttrell). The end result is a leaner, rockier sound - at least for this show, things might change again once the cello is introduced. Most significantly, Hicks is a more traditional and harder hitting drummer than Yang, although he shares the previous drummer's frenetic style. The band are every bit as entertaining as they used to be, and have thankfully used the downtime and lineup changes to introduce some new material into their set.

DZ earned a place on the Fiesta bill via TripleJ Unearthed (along with Drawn From Bees whom I missed because... well, I'm not really much of a fan). Having last played in Brisbane at the launch of their Ruined My Life EP last month, at Fiesta the two young men were in substantially more cohesive form (thanks to a 3pm start time at an alcohol free event). While they were still probably the most ragged band to grace any of the three Valley stages over the weekend they have their own form of tightness, careening along with their groove-punk riffs, threatening to fall apart but instead crashing back together when the big moments come. And boy, do those big moments come. Every single song has at least one point when that immense riff enters and the drums start pounding even harder than before. They're an incredibly entertaining live band, but the songs are catchy enough to remain in your head after the live spectacle has been forgotten.

Having recently released their debut full length Set Your Bones, Butcher Birds took to the SAE stage around the middle of Saturday's festivities. They started their set with the same one-two combo that opens their album, displaying their muscular 'sludge-pop'. I haven't seen the band very often since their new drummer, Donovan, joined their ranks, but it's clear that he gives the band an extra degree of punch. His brief cameo on lead vocals halfway through the set also helped to break up the rest of the sludgier material, providing a welcome blast of punk rock. The rest of Butcher Birds' slot was filled with their usual slow-burning riff rock, with Stacey Coleman's gruff, smokey vocals meandering around the edges. Most of the time their music isn't especially melodic or hooky, being mostly reliant on the physicality of raw volume and the sluggish mood that it all creates. As such, late-afternoon on a bitumen street probably isn't the most conducive of settings for the band to be performing. Still, they put on their standard solid performance.

Although they've been around for a decent amount of time I'd never actually seen White Mansions before, despite the fact that I'd heard a lot of positive things about the band. I figured I should remedy this, and so I made sure I was in attendance for at least part of their Fiesta set. I'm glad I did, as they're a good band - classic sounding songs that remind one of 70s AM radio, but played through distorted garage rock and with a vocalist (Dave Ross, ex-kt26ers) who splits the difference between John Darnielle's stand-and-deliver approach and Dave Grohl's recent full throated bellow. A friend of mine mentioned The Replacements as a possible reference point, and such a comparison makes as much sense as any other.

Disco Nap is the new vehicle for ex-Iron On co-frontman Ross Hope, and much like Kate Cooper's An Horse (and very much unlike Ian Roger's No Anchor) his new music sounds a lot like his old music, with a couple of minor tweaks. Where Cooper paired things back for her new project, Hope has gone in the opposite direction, adding a handful of new textures to his fairly comfortable indie-rock. I must admit that for the first few songs I wasn't really into Disco Nap, it felt like a less successful rehash of Iron On that kept many of that band's more annoying aspects but without the quality of songs. As the set went on this feeling gradually eased and I began to enjoy the music, though it's certainly true that Hope is yet to write anything for his new project that is as good as 'Playing Hard To Want' or 'Fifty-Four Equals Two Hundred' (though there were some songs that showed some promise). It's only early days for Disco Nap so we'll see how it all develops.

Returning that morning from a show in Sydney, Little Scout launched their new EP Different From A Distance as the sun set on the valley. It was an enviable time to be performing, with the low ambient light mixing with the colourful stage lighting to wondrous effect (although the possibility of rain threatened to cut things short at any moment). It suited the recent developments in the band's sound, with their old pseudo-folk pop gradually giving way to a slicker indie rock sound, positing them as the middle ground between twee-indie bands ala Belle & Sebastian and the stadium sized atmospherics of U2 (or, if you were inclined to be less kind, Snow Patrol). They played a largely laid back set that drew equally from both of their EPs, finishing with their JJJ hit (and still best song) 'Dead Loss'.

There's very little to say about SixFtHick that hasn't already been said. The twin vocal attack of the Corbett brothers generally makes a strong initial impression, but it's the music behind them that holds your attention. The label they've given themselves, 'cane punk', is as apt a description as any, appropriately conjuring thoughts of Queensland's deep north. The music has a rough, brutish post-punk edge, calling to mind bands like The Birthday Party and The Jesus Lizard. The Corbett's don't have that same tortured howl of those bands' Nick Cave and David Yow, but they certainly attempt to create the same level of on stage intensity of the aforementioned frontmen (or at least as close as they can get at an outdoor, family event).

As the night closed on the outdoor stages, inside The Troubadour newly formed folk group Epithets provided a bit of a comedown for those present. Rising out of frontman Nick Smethurst's solo act Let's Not (But Say We Did), the new band presents the singer's songs in a more fully fleshed form. The added strength of the band suits Smethurst's music, as the restrictions placed on him by having to interact with three other musicians seem to give him direction and confidence. No longer are songs interrupted by apologies, while both the guitarwork and singing are stronger. The intricately finger-picked folk is given more weight and a clearer structure by the addition of bass guitar, Simon Reynolds' drumming finds the perfect blend of complexity and understatedness, and the violin fills in any remaining sonic gaps.

Playing under the Sunday midday sun (and wind), Carry Nation perform their threadbare folk to a small crowd who are mostly standing in the shade provided on the sidewalks. Starting out as the solo project of Jessie Warren, they've gone through a couple of incarnations before arriving at their current point of a second guitarist and two doo-wop style female backing singers. It's about as minimalist a sound as you can get from four musicians, leaving the songs as the central focus. Jessie's songs are memorable enough to be able to withstand this spotlight, with her voice coming across as a blend of the breathy Holly Throsby and the 'quirky' sultriness of Beth Gibbons.

Texas Tea are probably Brisbane's most recognisable country act and genuine local favourites, and so returned to a similar slot as the one they played at last year's Fiesta. They mostly stuck to their more upbeat numbers, such as 'Billy' and single 'Macy & Me', ignoring more introspective tracks like 'The Daredevil's Lament' and 'Cane Farmer's Song'. Generally I prefer their darker songs so I was slightly disappointed, but I can understand why they chose to do such a set when large portions of the audience would have been unfamiliar with their music. Still, a few more downbeat songs might have helped to provide a little bit more variety to their performance, which was a little bit monotone. Despite that, their songs are always strong and Kate Jacobson's voice is always a joy to listen to.

Dot.AY was certainly one of the more 'out there' acts performing at Fiesta this year, with his Gameboy created chiptune music. I was looking forward to hearing Alex Yabsley's 8-bit beats blasting through a sizable PA, and for the first half of the set this is what the crowd was treated to. It was effective and the gathering crowd seemed to be enjoying it, with a healthy amount of dancing occurring in front of stage. Unfortunately in the second half of the set things started to fall apart, with the penultimate song featuring vocals that were mixed at about double the level of the backing track, robbing the song of its energy. This was followed by a long break caused by both of Yabsley's Gameboys crashing when trying to load the sequence for the final song. By this stage a good percentage of the crowd had lost interest, resulting in a frustratingly lopsided set from one of Brisbane's more interesting musicians.

Playing the final slot of the Fiesta, Brisbane's garage soul supergroup The Horrortones brought an appropriately fun filled close to the weekend. By this stage I was almost dead on my feet, and I was likely not the only one. Something special was needed to get the crowd's attention at the end of Sunday evening, and The Horrortones did as good a job as any at providing it. With a set consisting solely of covers, the band ploughed through the songs with infectious enthusiasm. At that point of the weekend their music was the perfect blend of familiarity and celebratory energy.

Thanks must go to the organiser's of this year's Valley Fiesta. It was without a doubt one the most enjoyable event of its type that I've attended. With any luck they'll be able to reproduce it next year.


Friday, 23 October 2009

Gigs of the FIESTA

So it's Valley Fiesta weekend, and this year they've actually put together a pretty fantastic lineup. Check out the full lineup at

Friday 23rd:
Valley Fiesta: Limited Express (Has Gone) (Japan), Shrewms, Aleks & The Ramps (Vic), Lion Island, Monster Monster and MORE @ Brunswick St Mall
Mr Maps, Idle Cranes, Hailer @ The Club House
The Cairos, Last Dinosaurs, Vasy Mollo, The Parties of Interzone @ The Troubadour
The Moses Gunn Collective @ The Troubadour (1am, FREE)
Grand Atlantic, Killed Two Birds, The Travelling So And Sos, The Estates, Felinedown @ The Globe

Saturday 24th:
Valley Fiesta: Vegas Kings, SixFtHick, Butcher Birds, Little Scout, DZ, Hungry Kids of Hungary, Mr Maps and MANY MORE @ Brunswick St Mall
Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side, Denim Owl (Vic), Extreme Weeze(Vic), Epithets @ The Troubadour (FREE)
Live Spark: Steve Grady, Popalicious @ The Powerhouse
The Gonzo Show, Mexico City @ X&Y
Wind & Brackets (Single Launch), Velociraptor @ The Club House
Occult Blood (Vic), Ivans (Vic), Panel Van Halen (Vic), Secret Birds, White Cop @ Step Inn (Front Bar)

Sunday 25th:
The Horrortones, Texas Tea, Dot.AY, Drawn From Bees, Carry Nation and MANY MORE @ Brunswick St Mall

Tuesday 27th:
Brutal Hate Mosh @ Ric's Bar


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Gigs of the Week - October 14th

There's a ridiculous amount of great stuff on this weekend.

Wednesday 14th:
In Sepia, Gladstone & Lochaber @ Ric's Bar

Thursday 15th:
No Anchor, The Sips, Undead Apes, D.Black (Secret Birds) @ The Zoo
Mapletons, Oh Ye Denver Birds @ Ric's Bar
Dead Riot, Biff Co @ The Clubhouse

Friday 16th:
I Heart Hiroshima (Album Launch), We All Want To, Heinz Riegler @ The Zoo
Open Air: Videomatics, Big Strong Brute, Carry Nation, Mt Augustus, Your Hand In Mine, The Liar's Chair @ Queensland College of Arts (226 Grey St Southbank, 4pm-9pm)
Lion Island (EP Launch), Epithets @ Ric's Bar
Drawn From Bees (EP Launch), Ball Park Music, Oh Ye Denver Birds @ The Troubadour
Halfway @ The Powerhouse
Mr Rascal @ Queens St Mall (6pm, 7pm, 8pm)

Saturday 17th:
The Sips, Sweet Dreams, Bloody Roo, Geese, Triple Dragon @ Legion's Club (7pm)
Hazards of Swimming Naked (Album Launch), Arcane, Red Medicine, Restream
@ The Zoo
Jamie Hutchings (NSW), The Honey Month, Ichabod's Crane @ Lofly Hangar
The Quickening, Willows, The Here And The Elsewhere, We Set Sail @ Fat Louie's Pool Hall

Tuesday 20th:
Sleepwalks, The Peel St Band @ Ric's Bar


Review: To The North - To Work And Not Feed 12" EP

To The North are, and have been for some time, probably the best so-called 'post-hardcore' band in Brisbane. Other dubious hyphenated terms that could be (and have been) used to categorise their music would be 'math-rock', 'jazz-hardcore' and 'tech-punk', all terms that might turn various people off of their music. Such labels might seem to paint their music in an over intellectualised, bloodless light, but anyone who has seen the band live knows that this would be a huge mistake, as the band are a hugely passionate, emotive force. In fact, an equally as apt term to describe their music might actually be 'emo', but in the original use of the term from when it described various bands from the early days of Washington DC's hardcore scene that grew around the Dischord label.

To Work And Not Feed is not the debut release from To The North, but it's the most substantial in a while (they released a split 7" with the similarly minded Ohana last year, and an EP called Landscapes before that). The record features four songs spread over two sides of vinyl (with a download code included), and was recorded almost 18months ago by a friend of the band (Dave Williams) and mixed by the ever present Bryce Moorhead. The record captures the band with a raw honesty; there are very few overdubs, the sounds are left without a huge deal of polish, and as such the band's musicality is left as the sole focus. It's a sound that is unadorned and uncluttered. This is probably the best presentation for the band as their songs are complex and non-linear, and would probably become impenetrable with a more dense mix. If a song like 'If Knowledge Were A Right Of Passage You Would Be A Fucking Genius' was filled with more instrumentation it would likely collapse under its own weight, as it's already stuffed with more riffs and chord progressions than a lot of bands put together throughout an entire album. As an aside, it's probably also the best track on the record.

The star instrument here is certainly Errol Hoffman's guitar. It winds its way around all of the other instruments, alternating between extremely intricate melodic runs and dynamic chordal work. Almost stealing the show at times is the muscular yet dexterous drum work from Simon, while Josh's bass provides a solid foundation for the music (also displaying its own inventiveness from time to time). The instrumental base is likely strong enough to invoke interest even in those who are not particular partial to this style of indie rock, but the vocals might be a turnoff to any who are averse to the genre's somewhat ubiquitous speak-singing. Singer Cam Gillard's style is fairly common amongst post-hardcore bands, and those who don't particularly like other vocalists of his ilk probably won't be won over by his efforts. That said, he's a particularly passionate, anthemic vocalist who provides a needed centrepoint in the middle of his bandmates' controlled chaos. Lyrically he seems to mostly deal with conflicts and relationships (though not necessarily of the romantic variety), and does so with an inclusive, non-accusatory tone - there are a lot more 'we's on this record than 'you's.

For a band who have for a long time been fairly irregular in their gigging and releases, it's encouraging to see To The North playing out more consistently. In recent times they've become a more constant presence in gig guides, and have been on multiple tours with another one about to begin in support of this release. With any luck they'll become more than the highly respected but inconsistently seen heads of a local scene. With a bit more luck we'll get another record from them soon.


Friday, 2 October 2009

Gigs of the Week - October 2nd

Friday October 2nd:
Open Frame @ Powerhouse - Room 40's annual two-day experimental music festival.
The Parties of Interzone, Scarletto @ Ric's Bar

Saturday October 3rd:
Butcher Birds (Album Launch), SixFtHick, Loomer, Dirty Bird @ The Zoo
Tiny Vipers (USA), McKisko, BigStrongBrute, Lion Island @ The Troubadour
Oh Ye Denver Birds @ The Troubadour (1am Slot)
Open Frame @ Powerhouse - Room 40's annual two-day experimental music festival.
West End Live: McKisko, Timothy Carroll, Andrew Morris, Kate Bradley & The Goodbye Horses, Mt Augustus, Paste @ Boundary St
Love of Diagrams (Vic), Kitchen's Floor, Sleepwalks @ The Clubhouse
Teleprompter, Villains of Wilhelm @ Ric's Bar

Sunday October 4th:
Bats Magazine Launch: Stature::Statue, Stemford Hiss, Swamplords, Oh Ye Denver Birds, Charlie Why, The Arc @ The Fort (1-6pm, All Ages)