Saturday 31 December 2016

Best Live Gigs 2016

It's list time! So without further ado here is my favourite gigs of 2016

11 – Jeff Mills & Derrick May with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, VIC

10 – Weird Al Yankovic – Palace Theatre, St Kilda, VIC

9 – Sleater Kinney & US Girls – Croxton Hotel, Thornbury, VIC

8 – Black Cab  – Golden Plains, Supernatural Amphitheatre, Meredith VIC

7 – The Cure - Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay Parklands, Byron Bay NSW

6 – The Saints – Gasometer Hotel, Collingwood, VIC

5 – Eagles of Death Metal – Croxton Hotel, Thornbury, VIC

4 – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay Parklands, Byron Bay NSW

3 – Iron Maiden – Hi Sense Arena, Melbourne, VIC

2 – Stone Roses – Sydney Opera House, Sydney NSW

1 - Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Golden Plains, Supernatural Amphitheatre, Meredith VIC

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Golden Plains X: Day 2

Yeah, fuck I was tired. I fell asleep at about 5 when the music stopped and woke up at 9, which was actually later than I expected, so I got up, had a beer (hey, I'm on holiday!) and wandered down to the showers and waited for nearly an hour. As an aside, the facilities at the Nolan farm are phenomenal. The composting drop toilets aren't nearly as feral as portaloos, and they're often decorated. The showers have tokens which run for 3 minutes, which is more than enough time really.
This toilet was decorated with wedding notes from a couple who met at Meredith

This toilet print is beautifully 80s
As I lining up to get a coffee from Eric's Bar (which was amazing, particularly for a festival!) and some food (corn fritters and bacon and eggs - again amazing) Melbourne band HTRK were playing. They play some angsty dream pop, and it was quite nice for that time in the morning. Also quite nice was the Bloody Meredith which totally hit the spot. I never used to like tomato juice, but the combination of spice and vodka really does make it a great drink.
For the next few hours, Golden Plains reminded me of Womadelaide, my favourite festival in the world*. (*I've only been to festivals in Bali and New Zealand, so my "world" is pretty small). I wandered down into the Sup and found a good place to watch the Necks. Although it's certainly not to everyone's taste, the Sydney based jazzy three piece played a non-stop 45 minute piece of freeform tinkly piano music that built nicely. Many people commented they were the perfect music to wake up to.
The Necks: Perfect morning music.

Sydney's Sampa the Great kicked this off with an amazing performance. She's a tiny thing, and I'm not sure if she's really small or really young, but either way her voice is incredible, and her lyrics are amazing. Her backing group were funky as hell, and this is definitely someone who should be in the limelight over the other hiphop pretenders in the world.
Sampa the Great: Bona fide hiphop queen!
The next band to play were Songhoy Blues from Mali. They appeared in my Spotify playlist just last week and after hearing just one song, I wasn't going to miss them. Starting off with a slower blues track, the lead singer asked if Meredith wanted to dance, and when a resounding "yes!" followed he smiled and said let's dance. And boy did he dance! With moves like Michael Jackson meets the Soweto Choir, he bounded around on stage as the band rocked out with some sweet funky bluesy rock. A sea of boots went up (When you like a band at Golden Plains, you take a shoe off and hold it aloft... it's a Meredith thing).
Songhoy Blues: He can dance!
The odd one out was the Tyrannamen, who were very non-womad and very aussie pub rock. Although they are very much a band I should like, as they have great songs, great energy and great stage presence, I felt it was a little jarring to be honest, and just couldn't get into the groove of their songs. But they're definitely a band I would see in a pub or similar. Speaking of odd, there was this door. It made its way around the site. I'm still not sure if it was an art installation or if someone just brought along a door. Why not? People bring couches...
The door to the heaven or hell?
Someone who thought he was clearly the odd one out was gangsta hiphop artist Freddie Gibbs. And before I go on, can I just say something? Fucking around like most hiphop artists seem to do nowadays and spending 15 minutes listening to a DJ playing shit music tell you the artist you've paid to see is about to come out isn't fucking cool any more, alright guys? So you can stop - bring your 40 / dope / crack out on stage and share it with us! With that rant out of the way, when he finally did get out, Gibbs was pretty damn entertaining. His banter with the audience was really great, commenting on the sea of white people, the actions of the "cops", the skankiest sprite he's ever tasted, and worried people were going to throw their shoes at him. His music isn't too flash, (too electronic, overproduced and souless for my tastes) but it's almost as if he recognises it and kills the music and raps acapella, and fuck me, he's good at it.
Freddie Gibbs: Needs a clock around his neck so he can arrive on time
Returning to day to the Womad vibe were Koi Child. Hailing from Perth, they're a laid back funky hiphop group. Their cover of Breath by the Prodigy was pretty poor, but otherwise they weren't too bad. Following on from them were Suen Kuti and Egypt 80. Another of Fela Kuti's sons, he started in homage to his late father with a cover of a Fela track, and then went on to give us a decent performance of Afrobeat. It wasn't the most electric of sets I've seen, even with the backup singers shaking their asses in that oh so fabulous manner of Afrobeat singer way, but it was still enjoyable.
Koi Child: Not that coy.
Suen Kuti & Egypt 80: Bad viewing position
As the sun started to dip, I went and grabbed more food and beer and wandered back to see Built to Spill. Here was another band I'd not heard of, but they seemed very at home playing to a crowd in the middle of nowhere. They reminded me of a modern Eagles or Neil Young, but more interesting maybe because I haven't heard them a billion times before. 
It was probably right at the end of their set I decided to take a walk and noticed a large number of people moving towards the valley overlook. This is a tradition as thousands of people go watch the sunset over the valley. It was at this point I felt connected to the millions around the world and throughout history who have partaken in such a ritual of simply enjoying the great ball of gas which gives us life vanish over the horizon, bringing twilight to the world.
The Nolans were also there, so I thanked them for letting us be there and facilitating such a great weekend. Mrs Nolan replied to me "Continue to work at making it great", which was just perfect. It's a festival about US, the people who go, and we have to contribute by cleaning up, respecting the lands and each other, and not being dickheads.
Sunset is truly magical here. And I hate saying this hippy shit.
Although I'm sure I've dismissed them in the distant past, Sleater Kinney were amazing on Friday night and were amazing again tonight. I don't understand why I could have ever though badly of them to be honest - it's four amazing women playing amazing music. There were a few issues with their set at the beginning, but they quickly got past it and rocked out. I wish the screens were on for their performance, but whatever.
Sleater Kinney: I can admit I was wrong.
I don't understand the hate for Violent Femmes. They're weird, funny, you can easily sing along, and they're very talented multi-instrumentalists. I loved every minute of their set, sang along to nearly every word, and the crowd around me enjoyed them too. The other reviews where people are saying they're old hasbeens are stupid jaded cunts who were probably picked on at school. (Incidentally, this is how someone responded to my negative review of a band once...)
Violent Femmes: I'll punch you in the face if you say they're crap.
But the main reason I decided to go to Golden Plains rather than Womad was just about to come on. A band I had been wanting to see for over half a decade. A band who epitomises modern Aussie rock. And boy, Eddy Current Suppression Ring did not disappoint! From the get go they were electric, just playing how they wanted to play and not giving a fuck. The lead singer is fearless, walking out onto the audience who hold him aloft for an entire song. They made me think of how it would have been to see the Saints play back in the late 70s, with a pure punk mentality and energy and excitement.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring: Achievement Unlocked. Mind blown.
 The night wasn't over, and I saw and heard some of the DJs playing throughout the night, but slept incredibly uncomfortably and for an incredibly small amount of time. But still, I had a fucking awesome time, and now am faced with the decision of Golden Plains versus Womad.

I'm glad the festival is only two days, and I've learned what I need to do for next year:
- Go with friends. Although I hung out with a few people over the weekend, camping alone was a silly choice. I need to make sure if I go again next year (or head to Meredith Music Festival in October) that I camp with a big group of people. A base of operations seemed great, somewhere to hang out and chill with others more intimately.
- Take a car. Although I don't drive, I'll be willing to pay for a car, or even a campervan for the weekend. It's the convenience of having a car for your stuff mostly, but also to get out of the weather.
- Take a big tent. Even if I do go alone, I want a tent. To be able to stand up and change clothes, or sit and chill by myself or with another.
- Take a chair and / or rug. Find a decent spot in the Sup and make that a go to place for the weekend.
- Take less food. The food there is good and not too expensive. I took food to share, but didn't really find anyone near me who was in a state to eat.
- Take more beer. I went craft beers, but I should have just grabbed a slab of Dr Tims for half the price, that way I could buy more cocktails and T-shirts.
- Get a Telstra sim. Just for the weekend. Phone reception is terrible for all the other carriers.
- Take thongs. They say not to wear thongs, but having to put my shoes on at 3am in the dark just to take a piss was annoying.

Golden Plains: Festival of the boot.
Read Day One

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Golden Plains X: Day One

2016 and my first Golden Plains is the 10th anniversary of the festival. Normally on the March long weekend I head back to Adelaide for Womad, but this year I decided I wanted to go to Golden Plains because Eddy Current Suppression Ring were headlining. ECSR are a Melbourne punk band who played at the first Golden Plains 10 years ago, and haven't played for over six years.
First of all, I had to get tickets. Golden Plains only offers a certain amount of tickets per year in a ballot and I missed out. Fortunately, my old flatmate Brad got them, and unfortunately he couldn't go.
As usual I asked anyone on Facebook if they wanted tickets, and as usual no one responded in time. So, as usual, I went by myself. Thanks to The Equipment Library, I hired a swag and sleeping bag, got a cooler bag filled with cheeses, olives, stickmeat and Pirate Life and Jack Hammer pales, and caught the Supernatural Express to the Nolan Farm in Meredith, Victoria.
Map of the venue. I was camped in "Elwood".
From the moment I got there, I knew this festival was something special. As I was strolling along people came up to me and offered to look after or help carry my gear. One British guy actually insisted on helping, and walked me about the camp, explaining this at that feature. When I discovered there was a street called Highway To Hell, I knew I found my camping spot.

So I go camp on my own, leave on my own, go home and want to die... due to lack of sleep
It was the British guy (whose name I have forgotten) who suggested I go to the opening ceremony. He said it was very special. And it is.You see, the Nolans, who own the farm, have a son Chris. In 1997 he suffered multiple organ collapse. He is fully cognisant of all around him but now is confined to a wheelchair and can only communicate in blinks, vocalisations and facial gestures. Along with the traditional acknowledgement of Aboriginal ownership of the land, "The Long Blink" signifies that Chris is happy to have people on the farm, and kicks off the festival.
I wanted to get closer, but you can see, the Opening Ceremony is very popular.
Kicking off the music was Melbourne band Gold Class. Most people who know me know that I love the Smiths but hate Morressey; however don't get the wrong idea when I say this - singer Adam Curley sounds like the Morressey (or possibly Ian Curtis), and it sounds great! The rest of the band is great too. I strongly recommend all of my friends go listen to them right now!
Gold Class: In this case, I'm not using Morressy pejoratively.
Wandering back to camp to get a beer, I realised I had chosen the perfect spot. It was 10 minutes away from the stage, so during the band change over I could wander back, fuel up, and then hit the stage again. However, this would turn out to be a problem, as I'll explain later... Getting back to the stage I got to see the incredible Emma Donovan and the Putbacks. I saw this funk / soul outfit led by the Queen of Australian soul music at Womad and they were spectacular once again. 
Emma Donovan and the Putbacks: Because sometimes you need a little soul.
Even though I only ever heard of them just the night before, the U.S. Girls were now a major draw card for GP and were as amazing as the night before. Meg Remy is the creative force behind this music, one of these "DIY" pop maestros with an extraordinary stage presence along the lines of St Vincent. Her colleague whose name I don't know was also a dynamo! So much sass on stage, a punkish "fuck you" attitude backed up with solid talent. 
US Girls: Who's that girl? No, seriously, can anybody help me out?
After US Girls I decided to go back and loiter around camp for a while, eat some food, and do some exploring. In the background Natalie Prass played some nice pop/country/blues stuff. Not my thing really, but I did discover she's done a tune with Matthew E White, who I am a fan of. And that's what is really good about the one stage set up at Golden Plains - you discover music you might not normally listen to. 
One act such as this was John Grant. I'd never heard of him before, but I endeavour to listen to more now. Like the aforementioned Matthew E White, John Grant doesn't look like he should sound like he does. When he started, my friend asked if they were playing Bowie, and when we realised it was John Grant, we were just drawn to the stage. My word, he was phenomenal! Singing live, he's reminiscent of Bowie or perhaps David Byrne, and hits the deep, long notes in his songs seamlessly. 
John Grant: A case study in not judging a book by it's cover
Until this point, I was of the opinion that Golden Plains might be pretty tame, along the lines of Womad. I thought the whole "no dickheads" thing prevent people from doing what others might refer to as dickish things, like mosh and crowd surf. For the record, I don't think moshing or crowd surfing is dickheaded at all - I've partaken in the past, and it's a lot of fun and on the whole people people are nice in the pit. But the Buzzcocks put that theory to bed with a boisterous display of perfect British punk. The band were having it, the crowd were having it, it was frenetic and fabulous for a band who are fourty!
The Buzzcocks: Old but still fucking rocking!

I've wanted to see Royal Headache for a while now, since they released their first album in 2012 in fact. However, for whatever reason, I've missed all of their shows until now. But funnily enough, I've now seen them every month of this year! And they're as great as I expected. Shogun, the lead singer, has an intense energy on stage, prowling back and forth like a caged animal, just waiting to get out of the cage and rip your throat out. 
Royal Headache: Like a tiger. Reow!
After going to see the Jesus and Mary Chain on Monday night, and Sleater Kinney on Friday night, as well as being up early to pack and travel, it was at about this time I started to feel a little tired. I wanted to push on through though, as CW Stoneking's swampy throwback sound is always an interesting and fun set to listen to. I think this was probably the first time I was disappointed in the sound as his voice when talking wasn't all that loud, and he loves to talk on stage, but it was fine when he was singing. 
CW Stoneking: How does a suit stay so white in a swamp so dank?
Unfortunately I hit the wall hard during his set, and wandered back to camp. I wanted to stay awake, but also wanted to see how comfortable my swag would be. I laid down and was up for a bit listening to the beautiful sounds of offtap people talking shit and they "pwssshfar" of nitrous canisters and laughter. I drifted on and off for about an hour or so, waking up to what I think was No Zu's cover of Hunters and Collectors Talking to a Stranger. It could have just been the interstitial DJ, but it was very loud.

However, with music sounding like Joy Division and Sisters of Mercy met in a (black) cab on the way to see Kraftwerk, it was another Melbourne band I had not heard before, Black Cab, which got me out of the sack and down to the Sup dancing again. And boy am I glad I did - these guys were incredible and I hope I get to see them again soon.
Black Cab: Catch an Uber to their next set!
I wandered back to camp where I laid down and discovered one negative thing about my spot at about 4am - the bass of the main stage where the DJs play late night sets is still as ridiculously loud as it is during the day, and carried directly up the hill. And it will wake even someone who has spent the week at gigs and even fallen asleep at a rave before... Which means tomorrow I will be even more tired... or will I?!

To be continued!