Monday, July 12, 2010

Jinja Safari Debut Headline Show

Spectrum 9/7/2010

Opening to the punctual kids, Lincoln Davis hummed folk niceties, neither attention-grabbing nor uninteresting but somewhere in between. His sharp classical guitar fretwork was notably commendable; his bizarre heavy metal moan/growl at the end of song Life was not.

Recently signed to Ivy League, Justin Wonsley Snowball aka Wons Phreely has taken to the road to share his enjoyable ‘good times’ music. Tracks like The World Has a Bank Account showed the group’s indie-pop prowess with its perky melody and witty lyrics. With a pocketful of charm and a handful of lollies, Wons won us over.

In the space of 5 months, cyclone Jinja has left a destructive path of fan adoration and industry attention. We’ve seen the birth and boom of Jinja Safari, their tumultuous live shows, the deserved winning of a spot opening Splendour in the Grass (cue euphoric screaming and hyper ventilating) and now this- their first headline show.

Bounding on stage with customary pep and exuberance, the venue now filled with a crowd braced for dancing, Hiccups’ frantic percussion and delectable melody ignited the sweaty celebrations. Picture this: a throng of animal-disguised, Jinja-crazed ruffians transformed into one gyrating motion of hip-shaking, hand-raising and feet-stomping. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Pepa Knight’s glorious sitar interlude beckoned the dreamy musical chimings of Peter Pan. Normally reserved for more established bands, the sing-along from the audience was remarkable; testament to the tunes lyrical irresistibility. The song delicately unwinds into the harmonies of “giant mysterious swell that rolls over the treetops it will sway” and the hypnotised crowd is left hazy, as if awakening from some magical musically-induced coma.

Following this was the playful pop-romp, Families complete with encouraged ‘ugly dancing’. Percussionist Alister Roach showed how it was done, bursting with untamed ferocity between djembe-jams (did you know that the djembe drum in its native tongue means ‘everyone gather together’? Incredibly fitting for a song titled Families don’t you think? Jinja Safari, uniting people since 2010.)

The band closed with two of their most explosive tracks, Forest Eyes (imagine Paul Simon and Ezra Koenig collaborating, and then imagine it being outdone by this beguiling wonder tune) and Mermaid; a song regarding the pains of unrequited love with these mythical sea babes. Both numbers spurred uncontrollable fits of ecstasy, both on and offstage. A suitable finish to a vigorous (vigorous is an understatement, lets just say if these guys were in the Olympics I’d check them for steroid use) and flawless performance.

No encore was met by a mixed response; personally I wished the show could have continued into the wee hours of forever but my aching body, teetering on the edge of exhaustion, welcomed the end with open arms.

Jinja Safari has a strange effect on me- with every listen, my thirst is left unsatisfied. However this is not due to a substandard performance but rather my appetite for their lavish joy-jives continuing to grow into an unquenchable monster. It’s a curse Jinja will have to live with but will inherently lead to their total and utter domination of the musical world’s brain space, playlists and airwaves. And if you think this sounds hyped, come to their next show and tell me otherwise.




Peter Pan




Forest Eyes


Richard in Your Mind Album Launch - My Volcano

Spectrum 3/7/2010

Richard in Your Mind launched their eagerly awaited (and from the crowd response, eagerly received) sophomore album My Volcano with an erupting showcase of old and new tunes. Spectrum was transformed into a mystical psych-space of sorts, complete with palm trees, peace symbol sculptures and parrots donned with leis (well, actually ducks painted as parrots. Richard couldn’t find parrots and he apologised for this.)

Blue Mountains act We Say BamboulĂ©e continue to conjure up soothing, poptimistic gems laced with hooks and amusement. It’s as if Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip) recorded his reverie only to melt it down to its elemental, short-attention-span-satisfying form. Their performance cavorted between endearingly amateur and exceptionally refined.

Closing with Funeral Social, lead singer Doug Wright belted out a trumpet number with no-easy-feat intensity that left satisfaction ringing in the crowd’s ears.

When I last saw Kyu I embarrassingly shrugged them off like an ill-fitting shirt. Well, the shirt actually fit and the egg on my face was supplied by an enthralling performance. Freya Berkhout and Alyx Dennison meld haunting melodies with thunderous vocals to create an all encompassing sound of animalistic energy and unleashed passion and on Saturday, we were the victims of its potent grip.

Richard Cartwright, the lovably gawkish front man, seems to be the crux of the band’s popularity with his amiable presence and engaging hi-jinks. This was no different on Saturday as I, like many others I presume, could not take my eyes of this psychedelic magician and his musical antics.

Beguiling new tracks Birds and Tiny Colossus Face opened the night, introducing a more tropical sound (see marriage of steel drums and Caribbean beats with distorted riffs on My Volcano opening track.) The audience takes this in its stride; if there’s one thing you can expect from a RIYM performance it’s the myriad of sounds, genres and influences the band holds on their pallet.

A faulty mike only allows Richard to spur bizarre stage banter as he introduces his roadie friend Henry the ‘lucky magic man’ before a brief rant on how good sticky tape is. A taste of familiarity with The Valley as the sluggish melody drips from the speakers. Richard quickly snaps back to crowd engagement with his reggaesq-rap Cause we gotta fight / for our right / to not be uptight, right?

Crowd-pleaser The New Sun takes full advantage of the plethora of pedals and effects on offer and everyone loosens up that one extra bit. Little pockets of dancing break out and Richard spreads some confetti love.

I’m not sure what the turn of events were, I swear I turned away for only half a second and then all of a sudden Richard had his shirt off and was painting himself. While the band continued it’s extended jamming on what might have been Mongrowlia, Richard dressed himself in a beaming blood-eyed yeti beast costume and rocked out the only way he knows how- with distorted flare and canny tenacity.

In my opinion, the music isn’t that amazing but it’s interesting. While the performance failed to melt my face into a watery puddle of awe (as most psychedelic rockers aim to do) it made up for it with its distinct creativity. A-Grade freak out music, could you ask for more?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

#26 Little Red

I’m convinced that drummer, Taka Honda, is unable to frown. I’m also convinced that Little Red has somehow tapped into his joy and put lyrics to it. On first listen, obvious Beach Boys similarities are drawn from their 60’s sounding delights- the sunshine popness, the brevity and the four-piece harmonies. New stuff like single Rock It is being pushed as Spaghetti Reggae (whatever that is) and I’m quite curious to see the more soulful Little Red live show.

Looking forward to a good jive and shake to tracks-

Coca Cola. As irresistible as the drink itself? 2:22 of hip swinging and finger clicking.

Fight Song

Witchdoctor. While the band shares vocal responsibilities, this lavish stunner of a track confirms that Quang Dinh does it best.

Actually, come to think of it, pretty much all of Listen to Little Red

#27 We Are Scientists

Fun and catchy fairy-floss rock that tastes good but rapidly disintegrates in your mouth. Musically, there is nothing remarkably groundbreaking or breathtaking about their acute hook n roll, but it could be argued that the punchy tracks were never made to be the foundations of a substantial musical diet. It’s never going to fill you up but sometimes you just feel like eating fairy floss. They grab the #27 spot due to pure nostalgia; like many of us With Love and Squalor evokes pungent early high school memories. A chance to see them at splendour would dose me up with my fix of cheap indie-pop thrills that I so sorely crave.

Listen to: (I haven’t checked out Barbara yet so I’m only going off their other two albums)

Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt. There’s something quite satisfying about that chorus. If you want to use my body / Go for it. Thanks Keith, I’ll keep that in mind.

The Great Escape.

That’s What Counts. Dastardly good melody. And those horns! Oh my!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

#28 The Temper Trap

You might be asking why the highest Australian placed act on the splendour bill is coming in at a humble 28, well personal taste can’t be justified and I’ve also heard that their live show is dull and lacklustre. So I approach these prodigal children (do they still call Australia home?) with curiosity and caution. In saying that, surely 500,000 worldwide album sales can’t be wrong (right?) and Conditions is brimming with sharp, indie-rock irresistibility.

Live priorities include-

Sweet Disposition. If you haven’t heard it, see a doctor. That or listen to it and go “oh this song, yeah I’ve heard this song- who hasn’t?” Credit where credit is due and this is a pretty stellar track, the opening riff, the falsetto, the thunderous drums, the building, the chant, the climatic chorus- no wonder it won APRA single of the year.

Love Lost

Fader. When do woo-hoo-hoo-hoo’s not work?

Resurrection. The second half in particular, you know when all the time you invested in the song starts to pay dividends.

#29 Oh Mercy

I saw these guys support The Veils last year (one of the best shows of 2009) and I was initially hesitant to praise. They seemed to tread a fine line between Bob Dylan influenced and a Bob Dylan tribute band (band name, musical and lyrical style, harmonica). But they just reeked talent and put on the kind of wholesome performance that erases all cynicism. Oh Mercy indeed, or more appropriately, oh merci, because that’s how tracks like Get You Back make me feel. Quite thankful. The aforementioned standout track grabs you by the earlobes and sweet talks the living daylights out of you.

You should also really listen to:
Seemed Like A Good Idea

Cant Fight It. Caffeinated melodies and Luke Steelesq vocals (Sleepy Jackson Steele, not Empire of the Sun) paint dreamy affairs.

Lay Everything On Me. I am at the mercy of this song’s seduction. It conjures up images of someone sauntering into a dimly lit room, all nervous charm and smooth beats. This is one of the most potent pick-up lines Oh Mercy delivers, and it works a treat. They’re my new band crush.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

#30 - Surfer Blood

They sound like summer which currently, in this bitch-slap of a winter (my showers are way too hard to get out of and my bones are sore) is gospel news to my chippy little ears. These surfers aren’t afraid of riffs (sorry, that’s just horrible) and there’s something really satisfying about the clean, twangy fretwork from this Florida five-piece. Busy drums and reckless hooks, I’m a sucker for it. If their live set is as volatile as the recording we’re in for a treat. Oh and lead singer J.P. Pitts is also in the running for best name ever.

Tracks to check out before you see them:
(If you haven’t already) Swim. the lead single and killer catchy number. Undeniably Weezer sounding, critically astounding and manically fun.

Twin Peaks

Slow Jabroni. Surfer Blood at their best. 3 minutes in and everything clicks; really worth a listen.

Splendour Countdown

One month from now, thousands will embark on a musical pilgrimage like no other in Australia’s history. To my memory, the greatest line-up ever to grace this land, Splendour in the Grass 2010 will take place and lives will be made complete. Embrace the hysteria and euphoria- this is our generations Woodstock baby. To celebrate, us pop criminals are going to be counting down the 30 days remaining by previewing the acts we're most excited for.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cloud Control Bliss Release Tour, Annandale Hotel 25/6/2010

Ten years on and the Annandale continues to champion local talent, showcasing some of Sydney’s finest bands. As apart of the iconic venue’s 10th birthday celebrations Cloud Control served up a jovial romp with a side of delight. And we all had seconds.

First up Jinja Safari spoilt us with their lavish melodies and intricate afro-beats. Live these guys are the embodiment of energy and fun with their ‘ugly dancing’ and bizarre animal noise harmonies. Mr. Safari, please give us an EP or album soon so I can listen to you on repeat, infinitely. Regards, Jinja zealot.

Synth laden three-piece We Say BamboulĂ©e create remarkably original and entertaining bites of helium-pop. A highlight of the night was their song Party Punch, a triumphant number that held its audience in Hitchcock-like suspense, building and building, drummer Russell Fitzgibbon’s eyes rolling further back into his head before culminating in glorious synchronised jumping. Truly grand.

Kyu returned to the live music scene with an unfortunately disjointed set, still shaking off the recent sabbatical and suffering from some sound difficulties. The band’s sound is a mix of messy, experimental folktronica and some finely layered vocals. I wasn’t that into it and was consequently chastised by my friends who likened them to Bjork and Fever Ray. Their closing number showed the band at their most animated with tribal bellowing, looping tings of a xylophone and distorted rainforest noises.

For a long time now Cloud Control has been slowly simmering, marinating in their own genius. I mean, when you look at the quality on their self-titled EP their inevitable success was never a question of if but only a question of when.

They bound onstage as playful as usual; the friendly faces you know so well but have never met. Jeremy Kelshaw (bassist) still attempts uncomfortable banter, Vintage Books still gets a raucous response and the band still plays with a peppy eagerness tantamount to Cloud Control of old. But the band is significantly different.

Opening with There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight, the refinement is ridiculously obvious. The band is tighter, tidier, trimmed, cleaned, cropped cut and in their element. This Is What I Said reminds us of the deadly amount of crowd-pleasing tracks the band now has to call from (see set-list, and then for further reference see tracks omitted from set-list).

Cloud Control gave a generous and almost perfect set-list (is anyone else crushed over the absence of Into the Line from recent shows?) with some unexpected charmers sneaking through such as In Your World and Beast of Love. When Alister Wright’s (Guitar and Vocals) stunning falsetto sings “You were all I needed/You are all I need still” the crowd is completely transfixed. Heidi Lenffer (Keyboard and Vocals.) announced that “this next song is for Triple J listeners” to which the hum of Gold Canary began, as did the sing-along.

Encoring with Ghost Story, its rolling drums and echoed vocals stirred hand-clapping and seeing who could sing ‘I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up’ the loudest. A deceptive interlude almost had us fooled, but when the familiar intro to Death Cloud began, rapturous smiles were prevalent. Cloud Control delivered a lucid tapestry of folk perfections; it’s no wonder why we’ve fallen so hard for them when they perform this brilliantly.

There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight
This Is What I Said
Vintage Books
The Rolling Stone
In Your World
Meditation Song #2 (Why, Oh Why)
My Fear #2
Beast Of Love
Gold Canary
Buffalo Country

Ghost Story
Death Cloud

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Russell Brand, Sydney Entertainment Centre 10/6/2010

Russell Brand


Sydney Entertainment Centre

After the annunciation of Australian tour dates Russell Brand fans and freaks everywhere grabbed their tickets and awaited a show we all knew would encompass his signature elements of grit, intelligence and awkwardness. Brand's flair for language and effective craft work over speech has certainly proved him to be a one man show. An impressive portrayal of various characters comes through in his efforts to draw his audience into his past, in which he struggled with years of heroin, alcohol and sexual addiction. (A bizarre sex appeal it would seem, although the screaming girls amongst each row in the auditorium may have said otherwise).

Recent years have been quite eventful for Brand with opportunities multiplying along with the count of his fan base. Russell has fulfilled his dreams of appearing in Hollywood films along with touring sold out stand up shows internationally. Events which offer Brand the opportunity to completely show off. And why deny him that? He is marvelously good at it. His controversial comments on both celebrities and those unfortunate enough to be targeted in audiences have only added to his unique style as a performer. His best-selling autobiography provided fans with a vivid recount of a strangely melancholic history, dwelling into his drug habits, sexual abuse and painful efforts to maintain a presence on stage and camera. With these events acting as a guideline for most performances Brand has demonstrated how a transition in perception can become a comedic art.

The audience of The Sydney Entertainment Centre on July 10th seemed to be under a false sense of security. Given all the recent coverage of Brand over the past year, we seemed to have a grasp on what we were about to witness, although we had no idea. But then Russell had no idea that at some point a cross dressing-blue haired fan would approach him and ask for a hug, a fan which Brand described as a "transvestite Katy Perry". Judging by the laughs that proceeded, I think the audience had deemed that statement an accurate description... It was obvious that the beginning 15 minutes of the show (during which Brand walked amongst the audience), everyone's ideas about the direction of the performance were shattered. The nature of unpredictability is definitely an element that Brand thrives off. Preying on the Twilight cast and some random guys dad during a prank call, Brand had some audience members literally gasping and wide mouthed. His ability to improvise a large percentage of his material in front of 7000 people is not only hilarious, but incredibly impressive. Commenting on the ridiculous Sydney-Melbourne rivalry and Australia's early relocation of English convicts - he had certainly captured his Australian audience.

It was everything an audience could ask for and more. Except perhaps for those token people who are dragged along to an event with no previous knowledge of the performer.. Before entering the auditorium I distinctly heard some older guy in suit ask, "He's English isn't he?". I wondered what his reaction was when a grown man began fornicating with a plastic chair on stage in tight clothing. Brand's uncontrollable antics were certainly the highlight of his performance. It is difficult to leave a show disappointed and without a few more words blended into your vocabulary. His professional history and recent accomplishments have been a dream come true. He has captivated audiences with behaviour that has often mirrored the essence of a rockstar. Most attempts at describing Brand's act would simply feel like an understatement. It would be more beneficial to just experience it.