EIGHT DAYS A WEEK: September 20th, 2013

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Another week of shake-ups in the local festival scene here in Australia with the cancellation of Harvest Festival and the probably not coincidental announcement that AJ Maddah (Soundwave, Harvest) had become a partner in Big Day Out with Ken West and US company C4. It seems a bit strange that one week Maddah is bemoaning the indie-centric BDO lineup as one reason for Harvest’s slow ticket sales and then the next week he cancels the Harvest dates and the BDO partnership is made public. Obviously the deal would have been in negotiation and discussion for a long period and Maddah would have been privy to the BDO line-up a long time ago. Regardless it could be a good thing in the long run. The BDO assimilates more indie type acts to balance the rock elements and Soundwave becomes the premier hard rock/metal touring festival. Laneway is growing every year and that too should benefit from Harvest being off the calendar. Speaking of Laneway, their first line-up announcement happens next Tuesday.

In terms of new releases this week there only a couple of notable ones that have caught my ear. The wonderful folk voice of Nathaniel Rateliff, Elvis Costello & The Roots’ LP sounds like it might deliver, Mark Lanegan’s covers album Imitations (he should be singing the Great American Songbook, not Rod) and Crystal Stilts maintain their quality output on Nature Noir.

In my daily trawl of the net and via the deluge of band, record company and publicist emails there are often bands that jump out as having something that catches your ear before you have a chance to hit delete or skip. Two in particular stood out this week in The Golden Awesome out of Wellington, NZ and The Grand Rapids from Melbourne, AU. Both deal in psychedelic flavoured rock and shoegaze but they’re coming at it from different angles. See what you think.

Next week Swervedriver kick off their Australian tour playing their seminal album Raise in full plus various other highlights from the back catalogue.

September
Thu 26th – Brisbane – The Zoo
+ support We All Want To / Mosman Alder
Fri 27th – Sydney – Metro Theatre
+ supports Charlie Horse / Greta Mob (Bom Aterg)
Sat 28th – Melbourne – Corner Hotel
+ supports Iowa / White Walls
Sun 29th – Melbourne – Northcote Social Club
+ supports Infinite Void / Lunaire
October
Wed 2nd – Adelaide – The Gov
+ supports Horror My Friend / No Action
Thu 3rd – Perth* – Rosemount Hotel

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EIGHT DAYS A WEEK: August 30th, 2013

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by Chris Familton

Welcome to the inaugural Eight Days A Week column where every Friday morning I’ll round up what caught my ears and eyes over the week, what is coming up in the near future in terms of gigs, new releases, news etc. plus any other goings on in my music dominated life.

This week much of the internet chatter surrounded the flatulence of the MTV VMA Awards where Miley Cyrus got down and dirty in her performance. For my mind it was just a poorly executed attempt at poking fun at the current state of commercial pop and r&b that relies for the most part on sexual imagery and a blatant disregard for intellect and the art of music. Yeah she didn’t pull it off but it was the logical (though unfortunately not the end-point) culmination of what the industry (artists, record companies, PR) has created, plus it probably got more people talking VMAs round the water cooler than recent years.

There have been a couple of new and recent releases that I’ve been hitting repeat on this week and really digging. Austin Lucas, who was in Australia earlier this year doing a solo tour, has released his excellent new LP Stay Reckless and it finds him really coming of age as an Americana songwriter and highlights his superb voice and guitar playing.

Zola Jesus is someone I’ve been a big fan of for a few years now and her new album Versions continues her evolution as an artist, constantly exploring new angles and possibilities in her music. Versions is a collaboration with JG Thirlwell (aka Foetus) who has scored strings beneath a collection of her previously released songs and it works magnificently, amplifying the drama that is always inherent to her work.

The summer festivals are only a season away now and the announcements are coming thick and fast. Big Day Out snared some big names but last week Soundwave Festival trumped it with its mega metal lineup that includes Green Day, Megadeth, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice In Chains, Rob Zombie, Placebo, Clutch, Baroness. Soundwave isn’t generally my cup of tea – I’ve only been once when Jane’s Addiction, Faith No More, Sunny Day Real Estate, Anthrax etc played – but it looks like they’ve got a pretty good balance this year between all the different strands of metal. Bluesfest also announced their first batch of acts this week and though it was great to see the likes of Iron & Wine, Devendra Banhardt there, it was outweighed by the beige blandness of John Mayer and Dave Matthews Band sitting on top as two (of what will be many) headliners. Personally I’m hanging to see what Laneway Festival can deliver in 2014…

Speaking of metal/rock I pondered the current state of it on the DS Facebook Page this week saying…

Where are all the great new rock bands?
Looking back at some Lollapalooza lineups (Jane’s Addiction, NIN, Rollins Band, Ministry, Soundgarden, Tool, Alice In Chains, QOTSA) got me thinking about the current state of rock, particularly that sweet spot where brutal riffs, swagger, melody and intelligent ideas all converge. For me the new(ish) bands nailing it are the likes of Baroness, Mastodon, METZ, Pissed Jeans, Protomartyr, Red Fang but it sure doesn’t feel like a deep playing field. Are there any bands of that ilk hitting the mark for you?

On a more personal note, some of you may know that I play bass in the band Charlie Horse. We’ve got a new album out in October with release shows lined up in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane as well as a trip across the Tasman to play a few dates in New Zealand so things are going to get busy with all things band and blogging. Last week we played two support slots for Irish band Ash who were playing their great album 1977 in full. Sydney and Brisbane were a blast and we rounded out the week by playing PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love LP in full at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Seeing as this column is intended to cover everything I encounter musically I figured there may be some interest in the occasional insight into recording, touring etc. so I’ll include some highlights every now and then in the Eight Days A Week dispatches.

If you are a fan of Americana music, whether it be alt-country, folk, rockabilly, blues (or like me, all of the above) you should check out my other blog Post To Wire which looks specifically at those musical forms with reviews, news, videos etc. There tends to be a focus on the Australian and New Zealand scenes but I try to cover everything good that I come across from mid century hillbilly boogie to the latest Texas troubadour.

Finally it was exciting to find out Doubtful Sounds (and also Post To Wire) have been included in the 20 finalists of the music blog category of the 2013 Pedestrian.TV Ultrabook Blogster Awards. This the second year running DS has been a finalist so we’re pretty happy just to be one of the blogs in the running for the award. Congrats to all the other finalists too. We’ll be reminding (hassling) you to throw a vote our way over the next 4 weeks and I’ll keep you informed about how we go.

PTW 2013

LIVE REVIEW: Big Day Out 2011, Sydney Showground 26/01/11

written by Chris Familton

As with last year’s Big Day Out the weather gods decided to test the endurance of the masses with another hot and sweaty day in the concrete sauna of the Sydney Showground. The event that is as much a rite of passage for teenagers as a music festival had this year gone with somewhat of a best-of lineup that glanced back at some of the festival’s more memorable acts like The Stooges, Tool, Rammstein and Aussie perennials like John Butler.

Naked and Famous are Kiwi kids making waves and they had the opening honours up in the smaller dual stage area. On the surface they are another electro-tinged pop group but beneath the shine they clearly also draw influence from less mainstream acts like My Bloody Valentine and New Order and they started the day off with a strong, well received set.

Down in the main arena The Vines were kicking things off and sounded remarkably together for a band that is notorious for erraticism, mostly from frontman Craig Nicholls. New songs showed he still has that magic touch with melodies as well as the bratty punk side that came out in the guitar smashing conclusion. The hits like Get Free all got aired and the first mass sing-a-long of the day came with their cover of Outkast’s Ms Jackson which suited the summer vibe perfectly.

Newer kids of grunge – Children Collide – did their best to whip up a storm of distortion and they certainly had the front rows bouncing along but they quickly showed the limitations of their form when Jim Jones Revue followed them with one of the highlight performances of the festival. Jones is a testifying frontman in the vein of Cave and Jagger and his dedication to the cause in a three piece suit was something to be admired. The band looked like South London thugs, po-faced and gritty while Jones sweated and hollered out blues-drenched exhortations of love, sex and revenge.

Rock of the hard kind was also echoing around back at the main stages with AC/DC replicants Airbourne taking things back to the solid and simple school. It was all about sex, rock n roll and highways as they chugged along in front of a wall of Marshall stacks. Joel O’Keeffe did his usual scaffolding climb, this time all the more spectacular with the sheer height of the climb and a guitar hanging from him.

Washington predictably drew a large crowd following on from her massive success in 2010 and she worked the outdoor vibe well for the Triple J demographic For those who found her pop songs a tad uninspiring there was always CSS over at the Boiler Room; whipping up a humid frenzy with their electronic funk and the relentless work from singer Lovefoxxx.

The Boiler Room soon became a chance to get out of the sun but not the heat, especially with the arrival of Die Antwoord, a band that probably puts more effort into their style and performance than they do their music – think Prodigy for a new generation. The buff boys and denim cutoff/bikini brigade loved them and there was no denying the fun aspect of what they do. Another pint-sized frontwoman followed when Crystal Castles brought industrial screes of digital noise to the room. The initial impact of their coruscating sound wore off quickly on some punters, especially with Alice Glass restricted to crutches after breaking her ankle in Japan.

Of the Boiler Room acts, the one that seemed to best master the human/machine connection in their music was LCD Soundsystem. Drunk Girls in some ways typified the day and when the whole room sang along to the line ‘where are my friends tonight’ during All My Friends you knew that many were actually asking that question in the haze of the festival.

The inclusion of the Annandale Stage provided the opportunity for a couple of much loved Sydney bands to return to the Big Day Out. 90s indie popsters Knievel showed they still know their way around a light and artful melody with a few new songs. The same stage was also graced by the 30 year old Hard-ons who sounded like a tornado touching down as they sped through a set of characteristic thrashing punk pop. Rounding out the resurrected locals was Smudge who played to a pitifully small crowd including a few who chose their set to have a quick nap. Regardless, the band seemed to enjoy themselves, playing classics like Outdoor Type to the rewarded few.

Also playing to a small crowd at the seemingly always sparse Hot Produce stage were The Greenhornes who impressed many when they played the BDO in the early 2000s. Featuring the rhythm section from The Raconteurs they didn’t let a dead keyboard deter them as they cranked out  their bluesy garage rock with ease and a precision unmatched at the festival.

As the evening descended the big names took to the main stages. John Butler capitalised on a busy and successful 2010 with a set that showed the full extent of his musical abilities – from folk to funk to roots and rock he was a perfect choice to farewell the sun before bands more akin to the darkside appeared.

Iggy Pop has been doing the same show for decades now but for first timers it must always surely be a thrill to see an aging legend of punk rock still giving his all. With James Williamson back on guitar they felt like a tighter and more adventurous band and songs like Raw Power and Kill City’s Beyond The Law provided a more diverse setlist this time. The obligatory stage invasion is a tad contrived when you know it happens every show and it backfired when some of the fans were manhandled from the stage once the song was over. Iggy though was in fine form, giving the crowd a taste of why he is so special.

In stark contrast to The Stooges’ down to earth rock, Rammstein used every trick in the stadium/rock opera book – employing fireworks, breathing fire, treadmills and make-up in their set. They really were ridiculous though hilarious and highly entertaining and probably a necessary injection of drama to the festival. Tool followed and they too were high on visual enhancements with massive screens overpowering any sense of a band playing live. Maynard James Keenan has always played in the shadows but his lack of interaction added to the distance between band and audience. While the bulk of their set explored their last album and its more wandering, prog sound they did remind us why they are one of the great art metal bands with a closing cluster of songs that included Forty Six & 2 and the crowning glory of AEnima.

Those that chose Grinderman over M.I.A. to round out their day were treated to a truly wired and unhinged Nick Cave. Flailing limbs, flying mic stands and ventures into the audience were all part of a brutally primal performance and now they have two albums to draw from and who they are they were simply astonishing. One of the definite highlights of what was another well organised and successful Big Day Out.

Check out some more photos from the day HERE

this review first appeared in Drum Media

REVIEW: BIG DAY OUT – SYDNEY 2010

A brutally hot Sydney day greeted 55,000 people as they made their way to the Showgrounds for what was the 99th Big Day Out show. As expected the dress code was plenty of skin, tiny denim shorts, bikinis and a lot of surf shorts and dodgy tattoos. If anything the BDO seems to attract a younger audience each year, as much there for the rite of passage experience as the music. Many were derisive of the 2010 lineup but the day proved that the organisers still know how to cater to the masses and put on a well organised event.
Over on the Essential Stage the opening honours went to Miami Horror who showed the firmly have both feet planted in the past, more specifically the mid 80s. They are pretty much a second rate synth band like Dead Or Alive masquerading as a guitar band. They had the confidence but not the songs and it felt like the second wave of synth drivel that was kicked off by bands like The Presets has begun to seep through.
Venturing over to the near empty Boiler Room (it was only 11.20am) I was impressed that the hall/pavilion they housed it in could accommodate a full size ferris wheel. Seekae were down the other end, ant-like until I finally reached the stage. They were creating sub sonic levels of bass and some lovely tripped out glitch-pop that was deserved of a larger audience.
The first trip to the Hot Produce stage was to catch the much hyped Danimals, back from a recording venture to the USA. In the few months since I last saw them at the Hopetoun they seem a lot more confident and sure of the music they are creating. The singer was still hesitant and shy between songs but his singing has improved immensely. They are the closest thing to Animal Collective in Australia right now, yet they are slowly carving out their own niche.
Back to the Blue Stage on the far side of the grounds to see the last few songs of Tame Impala. The crowd was huge for the Perth lads and they delivered with a rousing Remember Me and Half Full Glass Of Wine that saw the first big crowd euphoria moment of the day.
Cautiously I descended into the main stadium to check out Mastodon and after being blown away by them the previous night I was as impressed in the harsh sunlight by their monstrous no holds barred technical metal assault. They were truly the heaviest and most rocking band on the bill.
Of the other bands on the Hot Produce stage, Regular John was one of the heaviest, showing they have inherited Shihad’s searing intensity and married it with some 60s melodicism. Wagons brought the americana and country vibe to the BDO and showed there could be more of it added next year. It contrasted nicely with the main stage bombast and Henry Wagons again showed his wicked wit between songs. I only caught the final song of The Scare and despite playing to a criminally small crowd they held nothing back in the heat of the day with singer Kiss Reid ending up amongst the punters.
Back in the stadium Kasabian were doing their best Oasis meets Led Zep impression with their cartoon swagger and riffs that just seemed irrelevant and of no substance. They did little to show they deserved their main stage billing. Eskimo Joe followed and though they have a long list of great songs they too seemed to struggle to ignite any true magic with the massive crowd. Dizzee Rascal on the other hand was a revelation. Though I only caught the last few songs of his set from up in the stands it was a sight to behold with what must have been at least 40,000 sweating fans dancing and bouncing in unison to Rascal’s unique take on hip-hop. With only a DJ and a second MC he was able to command the stage and create mass crowd participation last seen with Rage Against The Machine in the 90s.
While waiting for The Horrors I caught the end of The Decemberists, a band I have never ‘got’. They have obsessive fans but their indie songs just lacked a connection and with the dry humour and nasal voice of singer Colin Meloy taking any emotional weight away from the songs they felt like the indie They Might Be Giants. The Horrors were one band I was looking forward to the most and though they impressed musically I was left with a feeling that playing in the heat of the sun wasn’t the best way to experience them. They had the most stylish fans of the day and they worked their krautrock influenced songs into some dark and hypnotic places but one imagines that the Laneway Festival would have been a much more suitable event for them.
Devendra Banhart was another that I had high expectations for and he turned out to be the highlight of the day with his band The Grogs. With Banhart it is all about the music and he delivered much of his recent album with a tropicalia twist. The grooves were infectious and the melodies were sweet and sassy. Banhart is a captivating performer, always looking for ways to circumvent conventional stage presence but without wanton wackiness. Highlights were 16th & Valencia, Roxy Music, Baby and Chinese Children.
Back in the cauldron The Mars Volta were churning out their polyrhythmic and complex music to the main stage crowd. The problem with them playing on that stage was that their subtleties were lost in the large space and the crowd only reacted to the straighter rock sounds, showing they were there for the volume and energy rather than the mere appreciation of the music.
Powderfinger have played the BDO innumerable times and they have a slick handle on how to entertain and involve an audience that size. Their recent album got a good airing and they played the obligatory sing a long anthems like My Happiness, These Days and (Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind. Bernard Fanning was in fine voice but there was a sense of ‘been here done this before’ with his between songs comments.
Avoiding the bombast and Queen pomposity of Muse I headed back to the trusty smaller stages to round out the night with a back to basics Grinspoon and the flamboyantly theatrical Peaches. The Grinners also aired their new songs but also played the massive tunes that took them to the top of the Aussie rock heap. Phil Jamieson was as cocky and entertaining as ever and it felt like they had fresh wind in their sails and were enjoying the more intimate stage experience. Peaches was the most entertaining set of the BDO with multiple costume changes, attitude, spunk and humour. Unfortunately her music doesn’t back up her visual efforts but for a good part of her show she was a breath of fresh air from the rock posturing of the day. Dressing as a giant penis and literally walking on the crowd were impressive feats.
Another year, another BDO, the 99th in this case and it showed that the line-up is becoming a byline to the experience of the event itself. Musically there were more highlights than expected, from Dizzee Rascal to Devendra Banhart. The organisers catered exceptionally well to the needs of the crowd both in terms of entertainment and security. With 2 sold out shows in Sydney the question is now where do they go from here.
Main Stages | photo by Chris Familton
Danimals | photo by Chris Familton
Wagons | photo by Chris Familton
Lily Pad | photo by Chris Familton
The Horrors | photo by Chris Familton

Devendra Banhart | photo by Chris Familton
Amusement Rides | photo by Chris Familton