Category: reviews


Gig reviews!

So, I’ve been privileged enough to enjoy a few music gigs recently, with some big acts. So I thought I’d share my thoughts and experiences with you. Ready? Here we go…

Iggy and the Stooges

What do you think when you hear the name Iggy Pop? ‘Oh god, he’s still alive’? ‘Surely he’s not still touring’? ‘I bet his gig would be a trainwreck’?

I wasn’t quite sure what my expectations were for this gig. I was familiar with the Stooges’ music, of course, and Iggy is rightly (in)famous. I mean, the guy is a punk legend in his 60’s, who barely made it out alive.

I’m glad to report that he’s just as lithe, snake-hipped, and maniacal as ever. He still exudes charisma, as well as raw, brutal, sexual, energy. Age shall not weary him, nor the years condemn. Although his days of rolling in glass are long over, he still did whatever the fuck he wanted, much to the chagrin of both his handlers, and venue security. He barely made it through the first song before taking his first stage dive, of which he completed about five or six through the evening. In the third song he implored the audience to come up on stage with him, which they gleefully accepted. A seething mass of about 100 people stormed the stage, helping their friends up out of the pit like they were climbing out of the trenches. People swarming, moshing, sweaty, all wanting to touch him, be with him. It was hilarious and yet oddly powerful. And Iggy just didn’t care. He never missed a beat, he never blinked, he never hesitated. He would occasionally stick his microphone down his pants and strut across the stage, with beautiful blonde hair, owning his domain. I can honestly say it was the craziest gig I’ve ever been to.

Even more remarkable in their longevity were the rest of the Stooges. Completely separate to Iggy, who was in his own topless, leather-trousered world, the rest of the band were respectable-looking older men. They looked like accountants, teachers, grandfathers – people you wouldn’t look twice at. But they could still rock, and rock hard they did. They were happy to let Iggy do all the posturing, the strutting, the screaming, the full punk outfit – they just played, and they loved it. It was sad that we couldn’t experience the late, great, Ron Asheton, but no matter. It was still raw, visceral, and we still screamed.

My favourite part is that the drummer and the bassist were the last to leave. They jammed for about ten minutes after everyone had gone, until, at last, the bass player threw his guitar to a waiting roadie, nearly caving his head in. Then he bowed, waved, picked up his glasses, put them on, and went into the night, looking like an accountant working late, catching the bus home. It was brilliant.

They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants hadn’t played in Australia for 12 years, and we were very ready to have them back. My husband is a huge fan and I know a lot of their songs through pure osmosis. This gig was also on the eve of my birthday, and it seemed like a fun way to spend it.

It was an incredibly long, joyous, and fun gig, playing all their greatest songs, including very old favourites and some off their new album. I could list them for you, or…

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Yeah, I managed to get the last set list! But as I said, it was wonderful. I learned a lot. I’ve never seen a bass clarinet in real life before! We also had an appearance from The Avatars of They, with their own song, He’s Loco.

We managed to get a standing spot right up the front, amongst all the action. I had meaningful eye contact with John L. There was piano accordion. It was everything Giants is all about – funny, light, happy, silly, sweary, and smart. Songs were sung, games were played, and fun was had by all. I didn’t get too squashed, and the venue was nice and intimate. It was the happiest gig I’ve ever been at. I knew a lot more songs than I thought, and found myself eagerly anticipating what was being played next.

The energy in the room was reflected on stage. John F was literally leaping all over the stage throughout the whole show. There were lots of jokes (‘What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care’) and audience interaction (‘Hey you, dude at the front recording the whole show? Yeah, we heard backstage that everyone behind you? They all hate you’). You’d think that flying such a long way to tour, and the fact that they’ve been doing this for years, that they wouldn’t be so up and peppy, but they were. The two Johns put on a hell of a show, complete with two encores.

I also have to give a shoutout to the opening act – Australian electronic artist Pluto Jonze. He set the mood perfectly, complete with retro TVs and a theremin. His stuff is happy and whimsical in a Giants-like way, although not quite outright comedic. Look for his stuff on iTunes, highly recommended.

By the end of the night, my feet were completely dead, my voice hoarse from singing, and it was a lovely kick-off to my birthday celebration, dancing with my husband and having a good time. There was another gig the next night and I seriously considered going along to that, but finances prevented it. I had that good a time. It was lots of fun. The only thing that could have made it more fun would be having a bouncy castle. Maybe next time?

Paul Sings

I have enjoyed the vocal stylings of Paul McDermott for many a year – I was obsessed with the Doug Anthony Allstars as a teenager and an avid watcher of Good News Week (the first time). So, when my husband surprised me with tickets to his gig, I was very surprised. As a bonus, I knew that an old school friend of mine, who introduced me to DAAS, would be there so it would be extra awesome.

The format of the show is that Paul would, well, sing with a full backing band, and in between tell stories. This seemed fair enough, but I had no idea what songs he would end up singing. And truth be told, I was slightly disappointed.

Paul explained that the songs he would be singing were ones that came from shows like Good News Week and The Sideshow, 3-minute long ‘filler’ (his word) songs. The songs did showcase his lovely voice well, and the band were very good, but I felt the songs themselves were a little bland. I didn’t engage with them, except maybe one, and I don’t remember it well enough to tell you what it was. Maybe it was because he wanted to sing something else; maybe there were too many copyright hurdles. Who knows.

His little stand-up bits in between were very good, and it was nice to see him carry a comedic show completely on his own, which is rare. He was warm and personable, but hasn’t lost his edge and bite. He berated hecklers and latecomers, and I’m sure that there were some people who felt very privileged to have him scream at them to shut the fuck up. The stories he told were new and unheard, and very funny, although it was frustrating when he spoke about creating and performing famous songs (and public reactions to them) and then he didn’t actually sing them. Most of the songs were nice ballads, so they felt incongruous with the comedic bits, which were more typical of Paul’s past work. It was perfectly enjoyable, but something about it wasn’t quite right.

At the theatre on the night there was another performance scheduled afterwards, so there was no dilly-dallying. After he was done onstage, Paul told us all to come to the lobby if we wanted more. Intrigued, we headed straight there. Paul proceeded to jump into the audience and shoo everyone out of the theatre to the lobby. We arrived in the lobby, where we were urged to sit, and Paul and his band proceeded to perform an acoustic encore. This was definitely the highlight of the night.

I knelt on the floor, sitting on my legs, within centimetres of Paul as he sang. He was singing without any amplification, and it was easy to see how accomplished a stage performer he was – he projected his beautiful voice like a pro, making sure to face different sections of the audience so we could all hear him. It was like watching busking – it was lovely and intimate, and everyone was enjoying the serenade. It was special and unique, and I felt very chuffed to experience it.

All too soon, it was over. Unfortunately my legs had gone numb so I couldn’t stand. Paul was swarmed by an overwhelming majority of middle-aged women wanting autographs, photos, hugs and kisses. I’ve never seen a huge crowd of people focused on one person before, but he handled it like a champ. He never showed any sign of impatience or annoyance, and he was incredibly gracious and accommodating. Me and my friend got our photo taken with him – the culmination of over a decade of singing his songs. The gig was very, very good fun, made all the sweeter by being shared with one of my oldest friends.

Tenacious D

Tenacious D were one of the names on my list of must-see bands, and have been for a very long time. Their music has played a surprisingly influential part of my life – their first album was released as I was finishing high school, and helped me laugh with friends through tough times. Their much-maligned second album/movie The Pick of Destiny is incredibly precious to me – not only is it a fucking hilarious movie (I don’t care what anyone says), but my husband and I saw it on our first date. Aww.

When I heard they were coming, I couldn’t resist. I was a little surprised to see that they’d chosen to play the Sydney Opera House – hardly the first place you’d think of when you thought of the D! This juxtaposition was brought into light by a merch van outside on the forecourt, by the water, under those mighty white sails, which was selling the official Tenacious D cumrags. Classy as fuck.

The gig started late, and I was worried that I would be too sleepy to enjoy it, but enjoy it I did. Jack and Kyle burst onto the stage, full of energy. They started off with a few songs from their third album, Rise of the Fenix, which I’m not as familiar with, but it sounded great on the stage. This tour is acoustic, which means that it’s just them and their guitars, and maybe a couple of extra vocalists (one of which was the amazing opening act Sasquatch – a guy in a Bigfoot suit who played great guitar, had a great voice, and managed to accompany himself on the bass drum at the same time. I’m a yeti for love). It sounds like something that could go wrong easily, especially on such a formidable stage as this – the Opera House, with the huge organ embedded in the ceiling high above us. But the D can still rock, and rock hard.

One of the great pleasures of being a Tenacious D fan is watching both Jack and Kyle evolve as musicians over the years. Their first album was awesome, but you could tell how much better Jack’s voice was on Pick of Destiny (no one does vocal noodling quite like Jack). Jack’s voice was a finely tuned instrument on the night – I was truly surprised by how strong and smooth it was, and he can still hit those high notes. Kyle’s playing is constantly getting better, and it was a real privilege to see him work it up close. They are wonderful to watch on stage – they engage with the crowd, and Jack is surprisingly graceful in his movements, high kicks and all.

The Concert Hall is full, and is actually pretty intimate for something that seats a few hundred people. The perfect acoustics meant that we could all hear each other singing along, and the D heard us as well. The songs were still skilfully crafted and wonderfully obscene and fun as hell to sing along to. They indulged us with a couple of songs from Pick of Destiny, even though they are still tied to the context of the film. As the night wore on, they played more songs from their first album, which went down nicely with the crowd. I’m not afraid to admit that I squealed rather loudly when I heard the opening notes of Double Team. The house was united as one when we heard the opening riff of Tribute and we all screamed along.

I can say that one of the more surreal but happy moments of my life was hearing (and participating in) the crowd crooning the words of Fuck Her Gently to each other, and then shouting, in this revered place of hallowed performance, the perfectly resonating cry of ‘THAT’S FUCKIN’ TEAMWORK!’

I have been waiting for over 10 years to finally see the D, and it was everything I hoped for and more. I laughed, sang, laughed more, screamed and applauded, and felt uplifted all over again. I know that some people are of the opinion that obscenity is neither big nor clever, but when it sounds as good as this, and performed by exceptional musicians, it totally is.

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Local spotlight: The Infinite Everything

So, at the beginning of this year, I moved from the thriving inner city where I’d been living off and on for six years, to a suburban centre 30kms away. Each location has its advantages and disadvantages, of course, but the thing I really hate about being away from the city is missing out on all the incredible art and cultural events that I used to attend regularly. So, I decided to find out what was available to me in my local area.

My nearest hub is the city of Parramatta. Parramatta is as old as Sydney city, and it’s large enough to be exciting, but small enough to be convenient. It has some beautiful historic houses and gardens, a thriving and diverse ethnic community (best Indian/Chinese food ever) and lovely walkable suburban streets. The council seem to be pretty interested in cultural and arts events, and they’ve given artists the means to start their own pop-up shops. The scheme is in its early days and has a few teething problems, but it has let me meet and make friends with some amazing people and galleries. So, here’s my favourite, with a heavy dash of bias.

The Infinite Everything is the brainchild of two wonderful artists: Delia Puiatti, aka Unknown Quantity, and Nam Nguyen. Delia is a designer who specialises in vintage textiles, and Nam does beautiful paintings in inks. Both of them try to work sustainably, including upcycling, and using recycled and found objects. The gallery is imbued with a deep sense of philosophy, which comes across in the pieces themselves. They also have a very interactive approach – collaboration and participation from everyone is highly encouraged and welcomed. The Infinite Everything runs events and workshops, including a colouring-in club on Thursday nights! What’s not to love?

They were kind enough to let me photograph some pieces in the shop, so here we go!

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A skirt upcycled from a vintage jumper.

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Here’s the front and back of the tag.

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Bracelets and pencil cases, all hand made and embellished.

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Handmade scarves on the centrepiece of the gallery – the staircase.

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Jewellery made from upcycled computer parts, by Carl Noonan.

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Hangings made from wonderful vintage fabrics.

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Zines!

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The staircase’s central column is made entirely from old books. Each step going around is labelled with the name of a virtue.

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This is Nam’s beautiful series, Day Dream. Nam also runs a monthly raffle on his blog where you can win one of his gorgeous pieces for yourself.

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And here’s an original Nam piece on an unusual canvas – me!

 

It’s not just me paying attention, though. A couple of weeks ago Delia was profiled in the local paper, showcasing her sustainable work and the ideas behind it. Plus, it’s a great photo!

If you want more:

The Infinite Everything

Delia’s website

Nam’s blog

Delia and Nam also have a joint exhibition, Magnitude, at Mars Hill Café, Parramatta, until the 3rd of February. I highly recommend you go to it. Beautiful inks! Space collages! Beer! There’s truly something for everyone.

The Problem With Boybands

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the NKOTBSB concert with my elder sister. I didn’t pay for my ticket so my conscience is clear. It was enjoyable, but I couldn’t help thinking that somehow, somewhere, in whatever little slice of paradise he’s currently making better, Bill Hicks is very disappointed in me.

I listened to boybands growing up, because that was just what was in the house at the time, but as I got older and discovered bands who could play instruments (with chords and everything!), I grew out of it. I didn’t know what to expect from the gig. The production was very nice, slick. The best bits came from the unscripted, genuine moments. The bands worked well in the one or two songs they had together, but when they were separate, the differences were very plain to see. I liked the Backstreet Boys. They were funny, flirty, ran into the crowd several times to kiss girls, touched hands, waved, played with fans’ signs, were very sincere and loving towards their fans and what they were doing. There was a marked contrast between them and New Kids On The Block.

NKOTB seemed a little, well, strange. I don’t have much memory of them, to be sure, but there wasn’t that life, that playfulness that BSB had in their performance. One or two members of NKOTB had that life, and were playing around and kidding, but the whole wasn’t so cohesive. (I will exclude Donnie Wahlberg from all this, he’s pretty awesome.) Some band members looked uncomfortable. Some took it way too seriously, or maybe not seriously enough. There were two massive ballads and at the end of each of them both singers dropped to their knees, both looking like they wanted to burst into tears, moved by the sheer emotion of the insipid, syrupy mess they just belted out. I thought it was insincere, melodramatic trickery, them brutally utilising the stage techniques they learned over 25 years ago to best incite the hysteria of a teenage audience. Then, I realised it was something more sinister – they were believing their own bullshit.

BSB don’t believe their own bullshit. They are doing something they genuinely love, but they know that the songs they’re singing are silly, and they change them up, change the music, rock out and play. They play their hits, but also obscure songs from earlier albums. They still do their dance routines, but regularly stop to reach out for the hands of their fans or even surprise them with a quick kiss. They never stopped, because they love what they do, they know their fans do as well, and they love their fans.

NKOTB were rigid, not nearly so interactive. They played mostly ballads so sickly I thought I was going to go into a hyperglycaemic attack, mostly songs from their earlier teenage albums, and not the later, more adult ones. There was so much falsetto I thought their microphones were going to blow. The dry ice machine was working overtime. One or two of them rebelled and had a great time working out of the routine, but the others stuck to it. I have no doubt they also love what they do, but they believe in their own bullshit. They believe in every single song, most of which contains the words ‘baby’ or ‘girl’ or even ‘baby girl’. BSB know they’re a pop group. NKOTB think they’re serious artists, and that’s where the problem lies. Even while I was watching them, Bill Hicks’ description of NKOTB and various now-faded 80s pop stars sucking Satan’s multi-headed Hydra-like cock was running through my head.

Look, I know I had a point in here somewhere. It’s not to disparage NKOTB’s performance, which was perfectly adequate, but I guess it left me unsettled. As I said, I listened to boybands growing up, but even then I could see through the insincerity of pop music, the formulaic blandness designed to attract young girls like me, to give them a perfect idol to fall in love with. I grew up, explored on my own, found rock music and other music, music that comes from the hearts and brains of the musicians and not those of the popstar makers. BSB have thrown the deadly seriousness out the door, given a knowing wink to the fourth wall and do it for the fun and love of their fanbase. NKOTB still think it’s 1989, and that they have to seriously convince and win over those teenage girls again, make them like them. Those girls have grown up, gotten married, had children and moved on, NKOTB a loving memory from their younger days. NKOTB are still trying to make those days real again, and that’s what bothers me.

So, what do you think? Have you seen NKOTBSB perform? I’d be really interested in hearing your thoughts.

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