LIVE REVIEW: The Mess Hall, Regular John, Kill City Creeps @ Annandale Hotel (13/07/12)

by C. Familton

The Mess Hall were only playing one show in 2012 and it was nice to see them raising their heads to honour the Annandale on its birthday and its new lease of life care of the imaginative ‘Buy A Brick’ campaign. Kill City Creeps were up first and their frequent live shows are paying dividends with a confident set of loose-hipped swaggering garage rock. They play base level rock n roll and they know when to sit on a two note groove and when to hit the distorted accelerator. I Got A Letter summed up their sound perfectly with its swirling organ and rockabilly surf rock.

Regular John used to be a fairly straight up punk-tinged rock band but when Brock Tengstrom departed two years ago they welcomed Miles Devine into the fold and on tonight’s performance that has played a big part in expanding and improving their sound. It was thunderingly loud with many reaching for their earplugs as Caleb Gorman’s bass attempted to separate the Annandale’s bricks and mortar. They played some impressive sounding tracks from their forthcoming album ranging from sonic overload psych rock to darker post punk passages not dissimilar to Jane’s Addiction. Devine’s voice was arresting and magnetic as he slipped chameleon-like between Bowie affectations and metallic screams.

The sold out crowd were packed in tightly for The Mess Hall who proceeded to put on a stellar show of hypno-glam riffing and disco krautrock drumming, superglued together by blues rock. The duo have certainly managed to overcome any limitations placed on them as a two piece and they seemed to be having a blast with frequent smiles and shared laughter at mistakes none of the rest of us picked up on. They played a range of songs from their releases with highlights being the slow build of Pulse, the maximalist Keep Walking, the infectious riffing of Bare and Shake Shake which took us back to their earlier, more primitive sound. They concluded with the perennial Lock and Load which as Jed Kurzel explained, they always play at The Annandale and never rehearse. It sounded as taut and wired as ever with drummer Cec Condon’s yelps and percussive storm driving the song home. The Mess Hall showed they still have the fire burning ahead of a return to the studio to record a new album.

this review was first published in Drum Media


LIVE REVIEW: Abbe May @ Annandale Hotel, Sydney 25/08/11

written by Chris Familton

Oh Willy Dear! are singer Daniele Marando and guitarist Dan Babekuhl playing predominately bluegrass styled country music – a departure of sorts from the swampy rock n roll blues of their other band The Maladies. They played a mighty impressive set of covers and originals with some quite stunning guitar work from Babekuhl and a reminder of how outstanding Marando’s voice is. His range ran from a tender, almost feminine croon to a strained and crackling howl. Their final song, an original, was one of the highlights and marks them as the prefect support act for Gillian Welch if and when she returns to Australia.

Hootenanny are also a duo but quite a different kettle of fish. Two rabble rousing girls from Perth, they alternated between guitar and drums but by far and away the best combination was when the gravel voiced Nan Hunt was behind the kit and Jennifer Aslett was out front on guitar. There the songs were harder, tighter and way more cohesive as they ground out riff-heavy, bluesy rock n roll with a healthy dose of humour and spunk thrown into the mix. Once they get some more songs to match their best like Fire In The Belly they’ll be unstoppable.

Abbe May straddles generic rock and something a lot more artful and clever with her sound but on on this night she leaned more toward the former. Arriving on stage with bottles of hard liquor raised high she seemed to flip between the ‘live it up’ rock chick persona and someone deeply into her music and with a humble attitude. It probably didn’t help having a band of three lads with the hair and clothes and rock moves down pat – or perhaps it did if that is the vibe May is going for. Too often they descended into rock cliches and extended riffing that didn’t really reach great heights. When the music worked the best on songs like the quiet/loud Taurus Chorus and the slow motion mood of Disney On Acid her exquisite voice became apparent. Her guitar playing was effortless in style with some unique phrasings which often saved songs from becoming generic workouts. Mention should be made of the brilliant sound on the night – everything was crystal clear and loud without killing the eardrums – something that doesn’t happen as often as it should and that certainly enhanced May’s good but not great performance.

this review was first published in The Drum Media.

LIVE REVIEW: Sing Along 2011 @ Annandale Hotel, Sydney 16/07/11

Photo | Chris Familton

written by Chris Familton

Under the banner Sing Along 2011 this was a night that celebrated a bunch of musicians who for the most part began creating music in the 90s. Duncan Mitchell, one half of Grand Tango Fandango opened the night with a solo acoustic set of songs that fell somewhere amidst the sound of Paul Kelly and Evan Dando. They were high on pop melodicism yet had a muscularity about them that begged for a full band setting.

With a clever two stage setup at opposite ends of the Annandale there was no waiting between sets, all one had to do was turn around as the next act kicked off. The appropriately named Bosom were first up on the smaller stage and played a fun set of playful punk, garage and electro-rock songs. Front-woman Wiz is the undeniable focal point of the band with her shock of platinum hair and larger than life stage presence. The first reaction to Bosom was amusement but their energy and urgent riffing soon became infectiously irresistible.

Sounds Like Sunset brought the 90s post rock and shoegaze vibe to the evening with a wall of sound that at first felt like an assault but once the sound guy wrestled the sonics into submission it was an all-enveloping, surging wave of frequencies and rhythms that got right inside your body. The band seemed downbeat, even apologetic – perhaps as their guitarist was leaving the band to relocate to India the following day. In stark contrast Greg Atkinson (Big Heavy Stuff) returned us to the acoustic world with a solid but uninspiring set of songs. After the joyous overload of Sounds Like Sunset it may have been an adjustment issue but the quiet, stark songs drifted up towards the Annandale’s flaky ceiling rather than into your head. A tender version of Hibernate did highlight Atkinson’s impressive way with a song though.

Further took things up another notch with a defiant set that showed the evolution from noiseniks to sound sculptors. The Fugazi like aggression is still there but their palette has been expanded to take in all kinds of influences from Sonic Youth to power pop surges. Further are still one of the best live bands in Sydney. Jamie Hutchings has some mic issues to battle before starting his set but he more than made up for it with his distinctive storytelling in songs that blended dissonance with traditional songwriting. His guitar playing stood out with some ragged soloing harking back to his Bluebottle Kiss days. The crowd responded enthusiastically to Hutchings set, acknowledging one of Australia’s great unheralded songwriters.

David McCormack knows how to lighten up a room full of serious music with his playful and casual approach that is nearly as much about the humour as it is about the music. With the impressive Polaroids around him his sharp pop songs like Living Under the Flight Path… sounded fantastic. It would have been wrong to follow with another acoustic act so instead things were accelerated with Peabody laying waste at the other end of the room. Unashamedly rock n roll and defiantly confident they cut a swathe through their set amid a sea of flailing arms and guitars.  Small stage, killer band and a crowd imbibing beer made for a Peabody set that felt like one of their best you’ll see and hear.

The final honours went to Screamfeeder – headliners of a sort – who played a professional set of songs from across their career. Their brand of indie rock felt strangely familiar even when some of the songs were fresh to these ears. It felt a tad nostalgic, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but after six hours of constant music it was hard to drum up energy – especially after Peabody’s set. Credit should go to the organiser John Ferrinda for an exceptional night of music showcasing some of Australia’s indie acts.

this review was first published in The Drum Media.

Click HERE to see more photos from the show.


LIVE REVIEW: Matt Purcell & The Blessed Curse/Knievel/ Sam Shinazzi @ Annandale Hotel, Sydney (24/02/10)

written by Chris Familton

Sam Shinazzi performed as a duo with guitarist Barry Adamson, even though their drummer was in attendance but opted out as he was playing with Matt Purcell later. The minimal framework for the songs served to highlight Shinazzi’s forlorn and love-lost lyrics while at the same time leaving the songs feel somewhat exposed and fragile. A closing cover of Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark transformed it from a rousing anthem to a tender tale. Their set was often interrupted by a mischievous guitar but the quality of the songs (many from a forthcoming new album) kept things afloat making it a most satisfying start the evening.

Knievel recently came out of hibernation and have been writing and recording new material – always a good sign for a band reappearing on the scene. Since their time in the 90s music has wandered off down multi-genre paths but ‘indie’ as an umbrella form has gone from strength to strength. That must be why Knievel sound so effortlessly contemporary without a whiff of nostalgia. They sprinkled a couple of the new tracks amongst their back catalogue and they sounded fantastic. The guitar lines still sparkled and chimed while Tracey Ellis’ bass playing held everything together like glue, allowing Wayne Connolly’s vocals to drift in and out with ease. The mix was great, allowing all the elements of their architectural sound to come through and their good spirits showed that the low turnout was of no concern.

Matt Purcell has been celebrating the release of his self-titled album (mixed by Connolly) and taking those songs to the stage breathed even more energy and life into them. Apparently their second guitarist departed abruptly so Purcell was left with the task of replicating as much of the playing as two hands allowed. He did an admirable job bringing a real sense of urgency and hard work to the set. The songs like Hollywood, Who Do You Love and Rock Kids were big bold indie rock efforts, overflowing with Big Star-like melodies that, coming from a three-piece, filled the room with ease. Purcell’s sound is glorious power pop with a nice guitar edginess that deserves wider attention.

this review first appeared in Drum Media