BEASTS OF BOURBON / YOU AM I — Metropolis, Wednesday 15th December 1993
I hate Metropolis hugely, and even more tonight as I could predict that the crowd would consist of JJJ yobs — the people you saw a month later at the Big Day Out in INXS T-shirts and thongs. But, for what may prove to be the last Beasts show ever, I guessed I could cope.
You Am I now feature Sir Russell Hopkinson on drums. And what do you know, they caught my attention for the first time. Standard alternative fare and lots of power ballads, but I could tell the songs apart and liked quite a few of ’em. They scored a point with me here.
The Beasts Of Bourbon crossed the fine line between ‘independent’ and ‘alternative’ a while ago and have been running faster and faster. This was going through the motions like I’ve never seen. Crowds like this should not be played down/up to. The Beasts used to do this great trick of accessible strangeness ... the strangeness was entirely absent. It was a rawk band. 1988–1993; good riddance.
A special word about the bouncers, who determined it was their mission to wipe out all forms of crowd enthusiasm and particularly stage-diving. One bouncer decided to drag a girl off by the hair, hurting her quite a bit; she decided to call the police, and they proceeded to drag said bouncer away ... past the entire crowd out the front, all booing and catcalling and screaming, “HANG HIM! HANG HIM!” I don’t think the police have been that popular in Fremantle for quite a while.
TEX, DON AND CHARLIE / LOUIS TILLETT — Charles, Saturday 5th March
Louise ranted at me not to see Louis Tillett. “He sucks! He sucks!” I went anyway. She was one hundred and ten percent wrong. Louis Tillett is worth the years of waiting to see. He plays hell out of a piano — remember that the piano is a percussion instrument and has as much rock’n’roll in it as a whole band if it’s in the right hands — and I like his voice a whole lot. Louis did most of the playing, tho’ the song I came in on had Louis alone at the mike with Don Walker doing the keys. And his songs: he even did “Swimming In The Mirror” — originally a single by No Dance (a get-together of Louis, Damien Lovelock and someone from Died Pretty) and then on Ego-Tripping At The Gates Of Hell, both long-unavailable; the single is a slab of swirling shades-of-grey ’80s psychedelia, but tonight’s rendition was right in your face and kicked butt. “Sailor’s Dream” (Wet Taxis). All sortsa good stuff. I’m real happy I was here for this set.
Seeing the pleasant suburban folk trying to take in Louis was fun; it’s a pity they can’t get the records (is it true that everything is deleted, even the album on Festival?). I was next to a couple of bemused blonde girls in white and a serious-looking bogan lad with metal shirt, black jeans and white trainers who was straining his brain to comprehend this guy. If there’d been room, I’d have been wildly jumping around. We need more of this sort of piano-battering; guitars get dull after a while, and to rock certainly doesn’t require them. This set made my weekend.
The audience for Tex, Don and Charlie was the blonde girls in white who discovered Sex Perkins some time in 1993 (I want to strap them down and play Waste Sausage and Leather Donut at them) and the FM rock listeners who came to hear The Songwriter From Cold Chisel®™. (Whozis Charlie Owen dude?) Don Walker is doing okay for himself; having at least one song you wrote played every hour or two on every FM rock station in the country is a fair start on financial security. The Tex, Don and Charlie album is pretty good. The place was moderately full (I don’t know how a pub with a sardine capacity of a thousand gets away with having no large carpark) and pretty damn sweaty; we got to the pit, but there was no way we’d ever get out before the end. The three names are accompanied by Tillett on second keys, plus double bass, slide and drums. They played for an hour and a bit (encores including a brilliant “Play With Fire”). The music was sincere to proper standards, but way accessible to the somewhat thick crowd present — the trick the Beasts of Bourbon used to manage so well. No-one jumped around, but a lot swayed from side to side. I’m amazed how much Don Walker looks like Richard Lane.
If the rehabilitation of Cold Chisel does happen (and I hope it doesn’t; but look at how Neil Young snuck past for an example of what I mean), I hope we get it over with quickly. Punk rock dies a little bit every time we lose another musical demon. What’s left to rail against? ‘Grunge’?
KITTY MAGIC / DAYZSA / O! — Orient, Saturday 26th March
I remember the Orient from youthful Fremantle pub crawls, and I do mean stagger. You’d go into this bar full of middle-aged TAB goers; there’d be a guy doing top-forty with guitar and programmable keyboard, and he’d be really bad at it. And the drinks’d be real cheap. No expectations ... it was perfect.
Now the drinks have gone up and the Orient has real bands. Saw ten minutes of O! Dayzsa (not “Day 25A” as the gig guide had it) are into Swervedriver and the Smashing Pumpkins and this was their first show, and it all showed. But that’s fine, y’know. Turn up the guitars, though. Points to the middle-aged couple who wandered in and decided to dance.
Kitty Magic did a fine job. Danny shouldn’t wear tight clothes ’cos he’s living too comfortably. I was in a version of this band, many years ago (and still know those bass lines) ... I love ’em. They overplay hugely and unapologetically (Danny’s perpetual soloing; Steve’s completely gratuitous double kick — which he has apparently gotten rid of ... thank God) but they have the songs (so they can get away with a lot) and the rock. And that’s the bottom line. Danny is into Zappa and New York noise bands, and it shows. (He was into Sonic Youth when they were just another of those fuckin’ New York noise bands he raved on about all the time. Man. Got ’ny Rat-At-Rat-R? Got ’ny Live Skull? Got ’ny Glenn Branca? Can you discuss Lydia Lunch’s guitar work for hours on end?) Good songs overplayed hugely are fine with me. Danny can’t ‘sing’, but he uses his voice effectively in his stuff. I’ve thought a second guitar would be good for those moments when Danny overplays into space, but I think they could actually live without it. They even had someone dancing for “Red Dream”.
INTERZONE club, second night (sixteenth April). Well, I was there for four hours and had a good and sociable time, seeing a huge number of people I knew. The place has an excellent set-up — black wooden (not plastic! No plastic visible!) boards all over the place, creating semi-inaccessible nooks and crannies throughout; ideal for being a loser loner in, and no doubt some over-hormoned goth couple will try surreptitiously bonking somewhere ... By the way, we don’t have goths or nerds any more — they’re cyberpunks now. (That’s a nerd with a Skinny Puppy CD or a goth with a Nintendo.) Yes.
The place sells Jolt Cola (all the sugar, twice the caffeine! Three bucks a pop, but it’s damn fine) and Zone 3/Interzone are the only place selling it in WA. (Now bottled in South Australia, so it may spread. Don’t you know that unhealthy pursuits are a Generation X watchword?) We advise you to bring a hip flask (it’s BYO) and buy mixers there. (I lugged six stubbies half an hour before queueing a year. Jesus.) Zillions of hyper-caffeinated kids in black. The music is sucky techno-industrial pop, but they did play a few actual songs.
There are sufficient girls’ toilets, which I think is a first. (They actually marked a male toilet ‘Women Only’ and put porta-loos out the back for the boys in order to meet regs for three hundred people. The boys’ were quite sufficient for everyone in the outside ‘chill-out’ zone and the girls’ were apparently crowded but adequate.)
The other fun thing was being asked for ID when I’m sure that door guy was five years younger than either me or my companion. Carded for the first time in my life at twenty-seven.
The other other great thing was being told of a drink called Red Bull from Thailand, apparently available in Asian supermarkets — one thousand milligrams of caffeine in every bottle. That’s thirteen cups of coffee. Must check this out.
KISS MY JACUZZI — MUSTANG! / FEENDS / O! / BLUE TILE LOUNGE / CHRIS HANN — Shenton Park, Friday 22nd April
Party at Club 96, then down to the rock awards show where everyone’s a winner, baby.
Chris Hann of the Wooden Fische gave a short solo set to start, and it worked fine. Blue Tile Lounge are a band I’ve never gotten into a whole lot. Actually, I can’t stand ’em. REM as slackers. Not my scene. I was in the front bar. (Let’s just pause for a moment and thank the front bars of this world.) Lots of people I know disagree, though lots of people I know agree.
O! were bound to be interesting, seeing as Nick seemed to have been alcoholically transported to another world prior to this show (you shoulda seen him on the verandah of 96) and Bill was on his way there ... they kept it together fine ... ish. “Outskirts” (first on the tape) is my favourite O! song, by the way.
The Feends are not quite the greatest band in the world, but they know it so that’s okay. Cheat-markers-on-the-keyboard rock’n’roll is the new apocalypse. Remember: it’s just a thin line between ninety-nine percent pose on stage and the full one hundred. I’ve thought Samantha Wilson was a natural-born pop babe star since I’ve known her, so it’s good to see it coming true.
Mustang! played their second show since John Campbell rejoined and they were a lot more together. Took till the third song or so (second was one of John’s anal one-chord art-rock numbers that requires absolute precision timing and probably sheet music ... but you could tell it was a great song), but they cooked from then on. The new songs are killers. Three working vocalists is great too. The performance wasn’t one hundred per cent, but it was certainly at least ninety and that’s enough when the songs are this good.
MARK OF CAIN / BOTTICELLI’S ANGEL — Orient, Sunday 29th May
As we walked down High Street in the cold and the rain, we heard the sound of a loud band cutting through the weather. I love that, y’know. Botticelli’s Angel weren’t that good — too much metal pomp in there — but they were good for hearing off in the distance as we approached, still not knowing who the mystery support was. Due credit once more to Declan as Perth’s most active front man.
The one and only Mark Of Cain pub show was on a cold and rainy Sunday night at the wrong end of town; the people there were those who wanted to be there. This always results in an excellent environment if there’s enough of ’em. (Although the band’s exceedingly short hair attracted a number of the skinhead crowd — yep, they’re still around — which I’m sure the players found somewhat weird.)
“Uh, this song’s about alienation and isolation,” went the intro, which summed it all up. The music clearly marks the band as a mid-’80s relic (specifically that it’s only the first step advanced from hardcore), but that’s fine. Bass-line doodles during guitar string changes included “From Safety To Where?” by Joy Division and “New Dawn Fades” by Joy Division. I liked this show so much I sent off fifty dollars for the ten-cassette box set later that week.
VROOM 5 — MUSTANG! / BENJI / STUMP MITTENS / BENNY GELARE / PSYCHODRAMA — Old Boans Warehouse, Friday 24th June
RTR got the hire of the old Boans warehouse on the cheap courtesy of the East Perth Raze, Rebuild and Yuppify Development Authority, who proved amenable to the idea of ‘culture’ showing its face in their theme-park suburb. Good thing we had Guy and Richard in the right place at the right time, hey? The place is large, draughty and freezing cold, though not as cold as it was outside. Obtaining a food permit proved too much hassle, but they did call the guy with the hot dog van (who probably sold the most vegie-dogs of his career) and were pretty slack about people taking food inside. Nick the doorman (not a ‘bouncer’, but a doorman.) was a welcome sight. Three dollars’ entry, a door list as long as your arm and a three-hundred-person limit, but RTR managed not only to pay the bands but make a buck or two on top.
Missed Psychodrama, though having heard them on the radio a few days before I can’t say I was real cut up about it. Benny Gelare is Bill from O! and his housemate, where he plays guitar and she sings. They weren’t riveting, but they were pretty nice. Did a Eurythmics song in there somewhere.
The Stump Mittens continue to suck. They could actually prove to contain the sort of talents that came from the last band I thought were this completely shite, the Stool Pigeons (who gave us Hamish from Mustang!, Miles from Baked and Cameron from Worm Farm), lots of other people think they’re good and I might be wrong ... but I fear that any band that gets a good review in Green Left has problems only Dr. Jack Kevorkian could help. (The drummer was great, though.) The audience were applauding due to a bad case of Wenner’s Syndrome: respect for musicians.
Benji were okay. Something missing from the sound. New bass (Rod ex-Rust, thus meaning Benji are now Rust with a different guitarist) fitting in fine. Mustang! kicked a large degree of butt tonight, warming our frozen buns nicely. You could hear the songs and lyrics. And I had Hamish’s “William Holden Casual” and Mike’s “T-O-B-O-B-O-Y” stuck in my head for ages afterwards. If ‘grunge’ was a 1994–95 thing, Mustang! would’ve been signed and fucked over by Geffen wonderfully by now. I went home happy.
MOLASSES — Guy’s house-warming party, Sunday 17th July
Newest and brightest young things, showing how to be pretty shambolic and not so slick on those instruments and still be great: have lots of wonderful songs. Played an hour and a half which was fifty minutes of music and forty minutes of swapping instruments, tuning up and trying to get things to work. They’re rank amateurs, except of course that they have record collections at least as good as yours and have worked out quite a few things about how to string notes and chords and words together.
BING — Grosvenor, Saturday 13th August
The last show I saw before skipping town: the three members of Baked who got back together on their second show after six months in rehearsal. The first was the afternoon before at the Campus Bands Competition (requisite student being upcoming man of the arts Myles Durham), which they didn’t win, probably for not being funk-metal or at least a JJJ pop band.
The songs are all about ten years long. It sounds like Baked with the Jonny songs missing (funny, that), but maybe it’s just me. Nothing wrong with it at all ... it wasn’t the immense quality head-kick that seeing the first Baked show was, but standards have gone up since then, to no small degree due to the lads themselves. (Examination question: discuss the influence of Jon Campbell as Perth scene quality catalyst.) Mark, Lorne and Myles all have their own individual star quality. I went home happy ... before Favourite Game played. Hey! Bing along with Bing! Bing everybody! Bing all your friends!
Popped up to Sydney to visit Louise and the dogs and have a rest from house-hunting. I got into Sydney a lot more this time around. Access to a car and a Macintosh (cheers to Tim and Linda) were a real help. Car was a Cortina six and was just perfect for taking off from lights and avoiding death at the hands of psychotic Sydney taxi drivers. (“... but you had to stop for diesel?” “Yes, I know somewhere you can get it cheap.” “And where is that?” “Paris.”) Ran out of petrol (duh) ... forgot these big mothers are thirsty. But there’s nothin’ like a hunk of Geelong iron at your command when you really need it.
So if the Sydney band scene has died in the arse, how did I see all these bands in one two-week timespan?
NEW CHRISTS / BROTHER BRICK — Feedback, Newtown, Saturday 3rd September
Feedback is a nightclub that’s started having bands on. It’s about as effective as having bands in the Firm or Limbo/Fruition/Amnesia was — it’s bloody obvious it isn’t set up for them, and they still don’t understand the concept of oxygen. Bouncers with white shirts and bow ties create an instant bad vibe because their main interest is looking for a drunk to beat up.
Brother Brick’s fourth show with new (second) guitarist, who doesn’t look like a rock pig but plays like heck. The bassist plays chords most of the time, but it’s not excessive. They’re all excellent musicians who know why they’re there. Straight-up rock action that hit the spot every time.
The New Christs were okay (I can’t imagine a Rob Younger band ever being terminally bad) and I’d been waiting years to see them, but I couldn’t breathe and was ready to collapse (arrived in Sydney two hours before show time), so see you later. If they’d been great I’d have stayed. But they sounded like a Red Eye rock band sounds. Sorry.
ASTEROID B–612 / SEMINAL RATS — Annandale, Thursday 8th September
Seminal Rats did what they do. Not as shit-hot as the New Year show, but fine.
Asteroid launched their CD tonight (if I’d been quicker-witted I’d have caught the one Stuart threw into the crowd). The huge guy on the left (John) is the boss. Two guitarists (Stuart from Brother Brick on effects rack and John on plain feedback screech) playing noise and swapping lead and rhythm. Another one that Lou says was not as good as usual, which just leaves me hanging out to see more. Real long set, too.
FEEDTIME / PHLEGM — Vulcan, Ultimo, Friday 9th September
Excellent people here — nicely dressed, lots of coloured hair, you can smell their bodily odour as they walk past and you can overhear snippets of conversation about their Prozac. And they got into the bands in a big way, which is the most important thing. Lou said there wouldn’t be many people there, which probably has more to do with the place being the size of a shoebox than competition or popularity.
Primed ourselves on the Phlegm CD all through early evening. Get it. “Hello. We’re Club Hoy, we have a new album out on DGC called In Utero and this is a song from it called ‘Rape Me’.” Oh dear. (Lou says she didn’t blush, but ...) All the falsetto screams are courtesy Nick (bass), who takes a few deep breaths before launching into each bout. Samples and clinky keyboard bits are triggered by the drummer. Nick has a great attitude to busted bass strings: leave ’em hanging there! Fell just this side of art-school disaster show at times, but it did fall this side and was pretty okay all-up. See the band, though get the CD first.
My favourite hangover record is Shovel by feedtime. It’s the one you play when the headache’s gone but your internal organs are still an amorphous seedy stew. Resolves ’em like nothing else and leaves you fit and roaring for an excellent late afternoon or so. (And an evening sipping water.)
The elements are simple, but it’s the way they’re put together that makes for class stuff. Slide on guitar and bass. Rick sings through phlegm and cigarette. Tom knows that drumsticks exist for the fat end. Mid-gut rock’n’roll blues: simple, but effective. You never saw so much silly and spastic but sincere dancing in all your life as that front row, particularly during “Shovel”. (I include myself here.)
This wasn’t the greatest show on Earth, but the high points (about two-thirds) sure were. I’d been waiting years for this and have no complaints. I was hugely disappointed when I heard they’d split, but Rick says the band is fully back together and rolling (new album some time), so don’t miss it this time. Had their version of “Fun Fun Fun” (Beach Boys ... sort of) stuck in my head all the way home and into my dreams.
ASTEROID B–612 / SEMINAL RATS / BEARD / PANADOL — Brookvale, Saturday 10th September
I actually found my way there and back (didn’t get too lost — and King Street is actually navigable by 1:30am) ... Missed the first band. Panadols do ’80s pub hard rock; hope they have trademark problems real soon. Beard were pretty average, but picked up by the end. Nice version of “Personality Crisis”. The Seminal Rats were better than Thursday. They hit it tonight, but I think I’ve seen them enough times now. Asteroid hit it and I want more. I see now. People finally came up the front for them. Johnny knocked over everything at the end. Piked out before New Christs again, but that’s what you get for running an eight-hour show.
KIM SALMON’S S.T.M. — Annandale, Thursday 15th September
First set was Kim solo. Kim can do the solo thing well enough to pace three sets, so it’s a pretty safe option for a great night out. Lots of stuff I didn’t recognise, which is the other great thing about Kim. S.T.M. are a couple of the Dirty Three and someone else with Kim, and it’s a whole ’nother angle on the Salmon thing. It’s looser (as in less-defined) and rocks with a less deterministic feel to it. (There’s that feel to the Surrealists that what’s gonna happen is gonna happen to you ... Hmm, I used to compare the Scientists to the Surrealists this way.) Best song was the second song of the encore, where Warren took the guitar and Kim just sang and performed. Don’t miss them, whatever you do.
BROTHER BRICK / LAWNSMELL — Sandringham, Newtown, Friday 16th September
Lawnsmell are one guitar, two basses (swapping lead and rhythm) and drums with four voices, one female. They play melodic punk rock and fuck, they’re good. And fun. Great performance value — I really wish I’d had film in the camera. The girl jumped up onto the bar for their version of “Birthday” by the Sugarcubes (I was trying to figure out what it was at the time and thought it was “Regina”). If I see them again and they’re this good, expect a PF article to follow.
The Sando is a gorgeous little dive (of the fall-in-love-with kind), though tonight’s mixer, Paul (a dude), complained of the zero effort they put into maintaining the place. It’s on the King Street shopping strip, most shows are free and the people and place are lovely — stop in.
Brother Brick were pin-sharp rock action once more. There isn’t much else to say, except that it was fantastic and you need to see it.
Followed Bro’ Brick to a party ... in a warehouse loft in Surry Hills. I mean, that sounds like something off telly: a party in a warehouse loft in Surry Hills. Looked like something off telly too — lots of the Sydney Quasi-Art-Babe stereotype (long straight bleached-blonde hair — whether it was originally blonde or not — high-quality clothes, ’tude as a weapon) in attendance. I kept looking around for the cameras. Brother Brick played a considerably longer, looser and sloppier set but still rocked. Too much Brother Brick is never enough.
CANNANES / SWEETLIPS — Sandringham, Newtown, Saturday 17th September
Sweetlips apparently have John Fenton from Crow and a pile of people from other bands. It’s pop, it’s rockin’ and it’s got tunes. I don’t have a handy two-sentence descriptor (“wank in a box” — Louise), but I liked ’em.
The Cannanes are another on the waiting-years-to-see list. The current lineup is Francesca Bussey on bass and vocals, Frances Gibson on vocals and bass, Stephen O’Neil on guitar and vocals and Ivor Moulds (from the Sydney version of Hot Water Music) on drums. (David Nichols is taking a year off to study.) Stephen was quite ill tonight, but rock’n’roll sustained him. The Cannanes used to be really sloppy on record, but were pin-sharp tonight. I was so goddamned happy. Still up and playing up and down the eastern seaboard — don’t miss ’em.
CUP DAY KAOS — Punter’s Club and Evelyn, Tuesday 1st November
If I spend eight bucks I can ill afford, I’m not after the chance to assess a series of bands on their technical competence in songwriting and playing. Fuck that. I’m after some magic. There’s no other reason to leave the house; boredom at home will become boredom at the pub.
Womnal were the day’s winners. Two basses, two drummers, guitar and fuzz-cello, with male and female vocals; visually interesting, lots of performance value and real evil-looking. Excellent music and excellent playing. The record is middling, but the live band are even great in the Evelyn. Don’t miss ’em.
Christbait are a non-stupid metal band and would be great somewhere larger than the Evelyn.
I missed Pray TV, Blue Devil, Tlot Tlot and Chris Wilson.
Objectively versus subjectively: The Family (middling hardcore you don’t need), Mace (as proficient and tedious as they were in January, but the guitarist now moves on stage), Hoss, Snout and the Dead Salesmen.
Nude Rain are four female vocalists and a touch of percussion, and hearing them felt like the soothing, healing flow of quality always does after a huge load of dreadful shite. Good songs, lovely sound. And music doesn’t come more DIY than four vocals and a bit of percussion. I enjoyed this a lot.
Satellite is Mia Stone of Stone Circus on her quest for rawk stardom. The music is overpolished mid-’80s corporate hard rock with slickness and no songs. This band and its music must stay out of any venue decent people might go to and fuck off back to the suburbs and die. I won’t describe the performance, except to say that a shoot for Black & White (“No, no, they’re art shots.”) will follow hot on the heels of the major signing.
This Digital Ocean finished the day (clearing Satellite’s audience, which gets them a lot of points from me). For people who think industrial music starts with Depeche Mode. Good tunes, but. Not better than missing Denton, however.
Competence is a poor substitute for magic. Competence is the curse on Melbourne music.
May I say that the Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream is one of the most completely bad pieces of shit I’ve heard in the last year. Two minutes of sub-sub-metal smoke reflected to a goddamn hour’s length in the mirrors. Hook on the ‘hit’ is the cheesy bell sound-effect. That and James Iha’s bleached hair are the only things the Smashing Pumpkins ever had going for them, and Iha’s let the hair grow out now. This record is an entirely unsuitable influence upon the young. Fuck ’em. Fuck ’em.
OK, OK, Broadmeadows. But “Geelong iron” is such a cool phrase.