Letter from Australia
Western Australia has produced some of Australia's most talented and popular artists in recent times and it's not all Indie or Rock Riffage as tonight's WA showcase proved.
Opening the night were the bonkers 'Mink Mussel Creek' with their modern reinvention of prog-rock. Flutes, bagpipes, lengthy free-form rock outs, psychedelic influenced lyrics and attitude add to the bizarre spectacle and experience, oh, and a pixie-like singer who bounds around the stage with arms flailing and a T-shirt ten sizes too big for him is the icing on the cake. http://www.myspace.com/minkmusselcreek
Following swiftly were the schizophrenic sounds of 'Capital City', starting the set toying with Rock-a-Billy, ending up reminiscent of 'Primal Scream' and 'Jesus and the Mary Chain' via 'The Ramones'. Dark, aggressive and full of attitude, the band posses all the necessary ingredients for future greatness. http://www.myspace.com/capitalcityaus
Finishing the night, 'The Kill Devil Hills' and their (award winning) blend of Australian Country got the crowd simultaneously dancing, singing and crying into their beers with wild acoustic guitar led tunes, dark brooding lyrics of vengeance, hatred and forlorn. Conjuring images of hot sweaty nights in the Western Australian Outback with escape from hot sweaty days of struggle found at the bottom of a bottle or the end of a fist. http://www.myspace.com/thekilldevilhills
Shooting at Unarmed Men, Baseball @ Exile
Shooting at Unarmed Men (SAUM) strike me as band that have good nights and bad nights that drastically effect their performance, the last gig of theirs I attended was lacklustre and neither the band nor the audience seemed to enjoy it. Tonight however is a completely different story, the band are as tight as a gnat's arse, delivering biting, sardonic lyrics with venom and gusto, rumbling bass lines locked into a booming kick drum, jagged guitar and discordant counter riffs, the chemistry shinning thourgh as the bands' on stage banter revolves around in jokes about everyone's background, Welsh sheep, convict heritage and Gold rushes. http://www.myspace.com/shootingatunarmedmen
The venue is now full (later confirmed as sold out) as Baseball take to the stage and little did I realise we revisit our friend the nuts drummer from NinetyNine, this time on vocals and violin. Once again it's hard to take your eyes off of him as he takes up most of the front of the stage, legs wide apart, feverishly fiddling and screeching incomprehensibly into the microphone. The music is frantic, messy, chaotic and exciting, fusing elements of Punk Rock, gypsy swing and even some hints of Middle Eastern scales and melodies creeping in. Someone has decided to dowse everything with swathes of reverb which makes discerning what's going on a challenge, perhaps the band wanted it, perhaps the soundman just thought it would be a good idea, however it turns a lot of the songs into big balls of noise, lacking in clarity from each other, so whereas SAUM held the audiences attention, aside from the dedicated front row, a few start to mention that band have been playing too long, turning to the bar, the impact poor sound can have.http://www.myspace.com/baseballtheband
Teenager, Damn Arms @ Bootleg
Damn Arms take to the stage looking like component parts
of completely different bands, fey Indie, Garage Rockers and synth player
'Yama Indra' looks a little like he should be in Goldie Looking Chain.
Initially plagued by technical problems and disagreements about what
songs to play a solid set of electro rock gradually emerges with frantic
drumming, screeching vocals and plenty of heavy riffs. Unfortunately
whatever it is 'in the air' pervades throughout Damn Arms set and despite
some good tunes, the stage show is flat and uninspiring, the band finish
their set, no one seems to care a great deal, and normal nightclub activity
NinetyNine, Northcote Social Club
Any band who start their set with a ten minute under water puppet show
earn Brownie points in my book. Also possessing a drummer who acts like
a coiled spring the entire gig, sat staring intently on his drum stool
watching everything on stage, exploding into fits of frantic drumming
also earns points and I haven't even mentioned that NinetyNine write
damn fine songs to. The set is schizophrenic with soft mellow soundscapes,
loud raucous pop and even a track in Arabic. The songs are short, sparse
and basic, simple but well complimenting melodies, haunting, alluring
and completely captivating.
Bang, Bang Aids! Young Lovers, Children Collide
A Guitarist / Vocalist, two drummers, a Tambourine / Trumpet player and a Tambourine player, initially 'Bang Bang Aids' line up seems extraneous, the drummers are just playing in unison and one of the Tambourine players doesn't actually seem to do anything. As the band progress through their set the songs start to take on a looser feel, the drummers counteracting each other, even the tambourine player's incessant chip eating and the band's banter adds an element of charm to the jagged and (I suspect) partly improvised noise. The band don't care the venue is half full and those fortunate enough to be present love them for it. http://www.myspace.com/bangbangaids
Following in Melbourne's tradition of varied line-ups, 'Young Lovers' are a slick but ultimately uninspiring rock band combining a lot of generic fashionable rock tricks such as disco beats, synths and new wave style guitar and after several similar sounding songs I lose interest. After a lengthy stage set up filled by Streetparty DJ's, 'Children Collide' take to the stage resplendent in a sea of cacophony. Following in the footsteps of many classic Three-pieces the band create a tremendous amount of noise for their number, thrashing and crashing their way through a sucession of crowd favourites and into a series of well received new songs, the audience reaction surprising and delighting the band. http://www.myspace.com/wearetheyounglovers
'Children Collide' (above) are a delight and a thrill to watch, bass player Heath bounds around the stage pounding thumping licks and riffs, Johnny's guitar awash in waves of reverb and distortion, screeching and howling into the microphone, sometimes (and I suspect a trick he learnt recently) combining the two by screaming into his guitar pick up. As the set reaches it's all too soon and unwelcomingly premature end, Johnny announces "Encores are stupid, so we're just going to play the songs now" and crash into their sets conclusion even achieving the unattainable, a dancing Melbourne Audience.http://www.myspace.com/childrencollide
The Kill Devil Hills (again)
When I hear the phrase 'country music' I can't help but imagine either American cowboys scowling through tales of the dustbowl deep south, old English men supping real ale and singing in impenetrable accents or the new breed of wiry alt-country stars who never have a good word for anyone or anything, however it seems that Australian Country artists fall into their own unique sub-genre.
The Kill Devil Hills have achieved a remarkable amount in the brief four years of their existence, speedily chalking up two albums, prestigious gig dates, a rapidly expanding fan base and industry recognition with 4 WAMi awards and Triple J approval.
As a six piece, filling the large stage at The Spanish club holds no challenge for The Kill Devil Hills, the world worn band members resplendent in denim, checked shirts and of course, ample beards. All that is except the drummer, who aside from possessing his own unique look and intense gravel voice, plays drums in the oddest fashion, standing, with the bass drum several feet away from him un yet somehow maintaining a solid beat. The remainder of the band work their way through a succession of traditional acoustic instruments such as banjo's, mandolins, Ukeles and low strung guitars producing dark layers of brooding but hauntingly catchy melodies. The crowd are in the band's hands, slowly gyrating to the music, lighters held aloft in the appropriate places, rousing choruses joined with aplomb and copious amounts of alcohol consumed in tribute.
Initially described to me as 'Bush men with lots of facial hair and a few years in prison under their belts' I'm unsure as to the accuracy and libellous nature of that statement but this group of mysterious Bush men do little to dismiss or contradict that image. 'The Kill Devil Hills' are a perfect summation of 200 hundred years of Australian culture and history right up to the present day. Music that conjures images of hot, sweaty days of toil, struggle and oppression in a dry and dusty land, culminating in hot sweaty nights of drinking, aggression and tension, tales of forlorn hearts, failed romance and vengeance, in short Rock & Roll at its purest.http://www.myspace.com/thekilldevilhills