Melvins, Helmet, Sixfthick – Hi-Fi Bar 08.12.2013

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They’ve been to Brisbane four times before tonight, which given that they are in their 30th year as a band means many folks have gotten off their ass to see this show. The Melvins are tonight’s headliner but only just. New York Nu-Metal pioneers Helmet are also an easy drawcard and so from not long after doors open, the cavernous Hi-Fi room is pretty much full.

Sixfthick are the local drawcard and it is a familiar deck they draw from. Given how much of tonight’s music is pulled from the past, the Hick do the same with plenty of classics off early albums and Eps. Tonight’s set is hard to watch for all the wrong reasons as during the second song singer Ben Corbett dislocates his right knee. Where most sane adults would wave the white flag and head to hospital, Ben finishes the whole set and in a display of blind idiocy just before they finish, even leaps from the stage down onto the concrete Hi-Fi floor. Brilliant or bat-shit crazy tonight is exactly what you’d expect from the Hick.

Helmet have been a relatively regular blip on the touring radar over the last decade and you would think being right in the middle of tonight’s proceedings would find them banging out the hits (like last time they hit the Hi-Fi) or maybe on this the first show of the co-headlining tour – try to upstage our godfathers of grunge. Alas nothing comes even close to that. Sure we get one or two “classics” in the form of  ‘Give It’ and ‘Wilma’s Rainbow’ but with a set heavy on new material the bar gets crowded and the smokers twitch at their lighters. It would be harsh to say that they’re bad but they’re not the band they once were – whereas the riffs once chopped and growled in an interlocking and perfect, almost magical unison, now the musicians on stage play over one another, settle for keeping time and really just make sure they don’t fuck anything up.

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The Melvins never broke up, never had a bone fide hit and somehow throughout managed to evolve their craft to the point where today, they’re as good as anytime in their 19-album career. The downside to all this is the expectation of what they’ll play – there has to be easily over 100 songs for them to choose from.

So opening with ‘Hag Me’ off Houdini instantly set’s the sludge bar high. Four songs in and ‘Sweet Willy Rollbar’ from Stoner Witch sounds huge, sounds great and is the first spark to really set off the already enthused crowd. And it’s not only the room who’s clearly having a good time as I discover Buzz has a big shiny gold tooth – easily visible through a big grin that regularly crosses his face. Thousands of shows later and this band doesn’t sound even remotely tired of what they do.

Buzz is sporting his (now stage uniform) muumuu, Bass player Jarrad is all Swami while drummers Cody and Dale could be wearing invisibility cloaks and you’d still have trouble taking your eyes off them. Two drummers like a mirror image flailing like a planes rotors make the Melvins such a visual treat – how could things get any better than this?

Now maybe it’s a faux pas to consider a cover to be one of the major highlights of the night but The Wiper’s ‘Youth Of America’ isn’t just The Wiper’s ‘Youth Of America’ but the Melvins 10-minute obliteration of The Wiper’s ‘Youth Of America’ – complete with extended solos, drum-breakdowns and one of the best riffs in underground rock overdriven to hell. It’s as close as any of us will ever get to seeing the Wipers live!

Tonight’s set covers 21 years in around an hour and a half and sounds better than their set at 2011’s Soundwave festival, is a better line-up than their 2002 slot supporting Tool at BEC and is a whole plane of reality away from three dudes in a dingy underground Crash N Burn bar back in 1997. Add to that newer songs which further highlight the dexterity and brilliance of Dale & Cody. Hell, just to see those two in action makes the $70 ticket seem like the best value in town.

Usually bands save the big hits until last but the Melvins close the set by leading us into a quagmire called Lysol – a groundbreaking show of distorted audacity that sets down the fact that anyone can dismantle guitar tone – but the Melvins are one of a very few who have built that back into entire genres of music for generations to learn, follow and be permanently damaged by.

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Melvins Set List Bris 09122013

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Publishing A Passion For Vinyl

Well add this to the great list of great things coming to fruition as the year comes to an end!

This is a new book that arrived at my doorstep today and is one that I can easily endorse and get behind. I’ve been loving and buying vinyl just about weekly since I first started around 20 years ago. As the title suggests it is a book about people who collect and produce vinyl. But not only the crate diggers but those folks who work away at making vinyl sound and look good!

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The first edition is stamped and numbered. Appealing to the record collector in all of us.

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…and what’s a book on vinyl without a piece of wax? If you’re going to do it – you do it right!

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This book is extra special to me because one of my photos is in the book. More so the photo is of one of my favourite bands Baroness. Or to be more accurate the always inspiring John Baizley!

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The section on John talks about his approach to creating art for vinyl and his thoughts on the medium.

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The photo of mine is from when Baroness played The Zoo in Brisbane. My shots from that night are still some of my favourite that I’ve taken of any band. You can check them out HERE.

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I’m stoked to have been asked by Record Industry in the Netherlands to be a part of this and to be in even the briefest company with John.

Now only 11 weeks to wait until I get to see Baroness again live in Brisbane!

More on the book can be found at: http://www.passionforvinyl.com/  and the book is available online now or better still, go to your local record store and get them to get a copy in for you!

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VIOLENT SOHO – HUNGRY GHOST (2013)

Violent-Soho-album-cover-Hungry-Ghost

There’s a brief scene in the Christian Slater teen flick Pump Up The Volume where the films main teenage protagonist leaves his home in the half-built, fledgling outer suburbs and strolls into more established streets and eventually onto the built-up sprawl of schools and cities – all the while sound-tracked to The Pixies surf mix of ‘Wave Of Mutilation’. This scene comes to mind more than once when listening to Hungry Ghost, somewhat due to the fact that most of the songs on this album are as good as any on Doolittle but more so because these 11 songs seem to spring from four fellows once themselves stranded in the outer urban wasteland but now using their music to help themselves and us successfully escape the drudgery of our daily urban drag.

The bands second album isn’t so much a step up from their last but a black and white photo turned into one of vivid colours. It’s easy when listening to music to get caught up in only the lyrical themes of the songs but the richness of the music here – be it all guitar-driven rock at its heart – is an overly addictive part of the whole experience. Songs such as the ‘Dope Calypso’ and ‘Covered In Chrome’ are just as dynamic and driving as older favourites like ‘Muscle Junky’ and ‘Love Is A Heavy Word’ but the hooks have been clearly refined to create a deeper ebb and flow of emotions. Rather than trying to capture the band “live” which with Soho is such a visceral experience, the band benefits from vastly expanding upon what has until now defined them. Just take the rough and the smooth of the guitars counter melodies, the stripped back drumming, the bottom end that lets the songs almost crowd-surf on themselves – these are all so gloriously jubilant that you’re likely to be caught out as that person rocking in their own world as they walk down the street.

But while ‘In The Aisle’ and in particular ‘Eighfold’ are amongst the best song the band has written to date, as the days and weeks pass, it’s those more subtle tunes that come into their own and end up owning the album. There’s something in the sound of ‘Lowbrow’, ‘Saramona Said’ and ‘Gold Coast’ that is like the best of 90s Dinosaur Jr. or Superchunk while never actually taking you away from wanting to listen to only Violent Soho. And just like every raging night-out has the morning after to chill and regroup, Hungry Ghost has ‘Ok Cathedral’ and ‘Fur Eyes’ that with any luck point to the future of Soho and the widening breath of their abilities.

The albums final song and title track look out into the world from a clearly personal place and end the album on a sombre note with a lilting guitar line that really does build that lump in your throat if you let it. I dare say it’s a greater challenge to detail the world you see in your head and the world you wish for yourself and your friends more so than the commonality of detailing love gone sour or a lingering adolescent memory. It is discovering the world the four guys in Violent Soho have made that is the most rewarding part of this 44 minute journey.

It’s wrong to pin perfection on music and it’s wrong to say something is ten out of ten because you think it’s better than anything else. What this album is perfect at is communicating that where you are going to is just as important as where you’ve come from and more than anything else the fact that you know there are kids out there hearing this album for the first time and it is bursting their world wide open – let’s hear it for the kid weaned on bad x-factor pop who might find this on the radio and it change everything for them forever!

A Discovery Named Brisbane

This is a post about a zine. But really it is only kind of about the zine. More so it is about catalysts that come into your life at the right time and tip everything upside down. It’s about wanting direction and going with the roadsigns that present themselves. You never really know what ‘that’ thing is that’s going to change your life – life changes every day and often they are small and miniscule changes. You often don’t know you are having a life changing experience even while it’s happening. It is only often upon looking back at the artifacts of your life that you see moments when the trajectory was violently altered never to return to how it was before.

I found this zine again last night. It was jammed between two art books on one of my bookshelves. The art books made me sneeze from the dust that had settled atop of them. I uncover this zine once every couple of years. From memory I last looked at it back in 2009 when working on an art project. Last night however I noticed that the cover stated “Sept/Oct”… that’s September / October 1993.

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Full disclosure on my bias should probably be stated from the outset. I consider this 28 page periodical to be the most important cultural and musical document that I own. Now I know that’s not really a quantifiable statement but as I think of how it is 20 years since I picked this up off the ground in the doorway of Rocking Horse records (and as much as I like a good anniversary to look back over my shoulder) I can’t help but see how sometimes what people do for short-term reasons can sometimes have seismic ramifications on the right person in the right place.

I was 16 and living in a medium sized coastal town when I discovered The Ramones, Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Bad Brains all in one week. Clean blew my head off, changed everything and probably had something to do with getting me kicked out of home around that time. Either way, the next year living far away in the big city of Brisbane, saving up my $20 a fortnight to go buy a new cassette album and really, discovering most of life for the first time – I chanced upon this copy of Scorch. It’s still the only copy of it that I ever found even though I’m sure there were plenty of volumes printed.

I knew nothing about the Brisbane music scene, I didn’t even really know there was such a thing in August 1993. I didn’t know anything about animal testing, vegetarianism or body piercing either to be honest but by October 1993 I was blagging my underage ass into gigs, making big life choices and experimenting with as much of life as I could get my hands on.

These pages did a lot to this young impressionable mind. Perusing through it now, here’s what I remember…

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Livid was the second music festival I ever went to (going and seeing the Ramones at the 93 Big Day out was my first festival adventure). I remember taking a running jump onto an eight foot barbed wire fence just off Montague road as the opening chords of Mr.Moon by The Headless Chickens rang out over West End. I was living off $130 a fortnight at the time so it really was the only way I was going to get in. Getting in was actually a bit too easy from memory. Either way I saw my first all nude band in the form of New Zealands Head Like A Hole, I saw the Beasts Of Bourbon make music out of pure bile and I thought Siouxsie was boring and for some unknown reason was too scared to exit via the gates and so left by scaling the same fence I entered over.

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I can’t help but chuckle at the ad for Powderfinger’s debut CD launch. I guess we all start small. I can confirm that Bolt Thrower were the first Death Metal band I had ever heard (with Carcass two weeks later following as the second). With a less than extensive understanding of the female species at the time, Babes In Toyland sounded like the sexiest most awesome band out there. In fact they out raged almost all of the male populated albums I owned at the time (still do as a matter of fact).

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My first Market Day was this one at Albert Park. I knew no one and none of the bands but I remember Mass Appeal and Hateman confusing me in the best way and also enjoyed seeing so many people spend the day constantly rolling down the hill and taking out other punters. 4ZZZ also entered my daily diet filling my head with more underground music than I could have imagined.

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It was a Sunday afternoon when I read this article on animal experimentation and vivisection. I’d never heard of anything being tested on animals before. In fact at the time I couldn’t even understand why other people would think it was a worthwhile practice. I do have a tendency to react strongly when something upsets me deeply and upon reading the this article I went to the fridge and pulled all the cheap sausage rolls out, got the tinned meat products from the cupboard and threw it all in the bin out the back. I knew that the article was not about eating animals but it was the first time in my life I had thought of them as equal entities in this world and the way humans treat then. Regardless of whatever bias might have been in that single article I decided that I wouldn’t support animal cruelty with as much reach as I had. 20 years later I still don’t eat other animals and I still have never once felt the desire to change my mind on that.

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The world’s a different place now and I’m not so sure you could have a one page scene report on Brisbane music that’s as definitive and comprehensive as this. Maybe it wasn’t as comprehensive as I thought it might have been. But thought I’d just about discovered every Brisbane band out there at that time. I made a point of going to see every band that was mentioned and written about in those two columns. It’s worth noting that I was 17 and it was an hour’s trip on the train into Brisbane city to get to a venue and most gigs were not all ages. I didn’t get into most of the gigs where I tried but still I tried each week.

It took me several goes and three months to see Acid World play after reading about them. An Anarchist bookstore in West End was the only place I could find their cd to buy. In West End at some street festival on Boundary St I saw them play at like two in the afternoon under the belting sun. I don’t think anyone was having a particularly good time on the burning bitumen but I was still pretty stoked to see them and experience underground punk rock that seemed pretty far removed from the Ramones styled stuff I knew up until then.

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I was living on my own and attempting to finish high school during this time. Pulling a sewing needle out of an eraser that had been in someone’s pencil case and piercing my eyebrow during art class didn’t help my prospects of staying on the teachers’ good side. Of course the piercing didn’t work so few weeks later I tried again at home and almost passed out from the pain. Either way after three failed attempts I went and got it professionally done because it seemed so cool and after reading this I really wanted a piercing. A few ears, nose and eyebrows and nipples later I finally went and got a tattoo.

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It’s not because I’m much older and out of the loop that I say all ages gigs don’t happen like they used to… it’s because they just don’t happen as much as they used to! Venue owners aren’t prepared to lose money putting on all ages shows in 2013. I don’t know how it was done every other week back in 1993 but it meant one Saturday afternoon I got to safely see Bolt Thrower. I don’t remember much more than looking at their hands and wondering how on earth they played music like that!

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I bought every release reviewed here although the only ones I can still find in the music room are Acid World, The Breeders and Bad Brains. I don’t think it is so much remembering a time when you trusted what someone wrote about an album – I think it was more so that I knew nothing and wanted to believe that an album was as good as someone said it was. I bought In Utero the day it came out from Skinny’s. I bought Carcass and Jesus Lizard from Kent and when in the shop pawed over most of the titles listed here wondering what one earth they must sound like. A trip to Kent usually took a couple of hours and I always just bought one thing cause that’s all I could afford.

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Boulder Lodge. I can’t remember a thing about the place. About all I can remember are the fuzzy memories in the back of my mind of seeing Fugazi in early November. I heard them on 4ZZZ the week before the show and simply because the person on the radio said this would be a life changing concert I figured I needed to go! It was a life changing concert and still today Fugazi are one of the most important bands to have ever existed!

Maybe all of this is just nostalgic ramblings but really I do enjoy remembering when just about everything was new. When all concerts felt like the first time I was experiencing a type of music. When decisions were made with little to no life experience and notions like the past and the future were measured in days and weeks instead of years and decades. I love that upon looking back, this was the catalyst to shaping many things and ideas that I now don’t know how to live without.

If for no other reason, it is great to look at Brisbane music through this prism – kind of like a time capsule of a place vaguely familar but now long buried under 20 years of evolution and change. I do lament though at how people see local music and what shapes a community mind in Brisbane today. Brisbane’s the same as everywhere else in the world with the same internet, the same online social platforms and so there’s no point in being nostalgic about a time that’s long gone – even if that was a time when you’d go to a local gig and there would commonly be 500 to a thousand people there just to see local bands. Brisbane was like Mars to me in 1993 and this mag inadvertently turned into an an atlas which I used to explore the whole terrain, to upturn every rock and 20-years later I’m still glad I get to be in amongst this town’s creative topography. I believe that there’s still something great to be discovered if you just turn off the tv/computer and venture out of your house and explore.

What happens when you find the perfect song?

I spend a lot of my time talking to people about creative pursuits, be it favourite novels, bands and albums, paintings, visual art and I always enjoy exchanging opinions on what is good and bad, liked and disliked. The one thing however that I realised many years ago is that what you like is an accumulation (or an articulation of a specific sub-set) of your personal experiences and emotions projected back at you. If a piece of art or music doesn’t ‘speak to you’ then it’s not that it has less worth, it’s just that you don’t see in it the things you want to know and understand about yourself. I really do think that it can be that simple.

I look at a lot of visual art because I want to see an idea that’s vague to me, expressed in piercing clarity – because when I do see that, I’m often amazed, dumbfounded and moved by the experience. Likewise when I find a song or album that wipes away the fog that shrouds a thought or a memory then I’m drawn to listen to it and make it my own. To hear in a piece of music or to see in a painting something deeply personal something you could never get out of your mouth is a wonderful thing – that sense of connection to another person or a wider idea. Go to a concert and listen to hundreds if not thousands of people all singing the same song. That shared emotional experience is so wonderful and life affirming. It’s the greatest thing about art (as far as I’m concerned).

And so, due to this train of thought, I look for new art, new music all the time. I buy records almost every week. I scour through art books almost daily looking for that mirror that will tell me something more about who I am and maybe why? I’ll tell you that, at least on the music side of things, I’ve discovered so much about what I love and hate through music. And I think that the more you understand why you are the closer you can get to being happy with the person you’ve become.

All of this though does lead me to one piece of music. One I came across by pure chance some eleven years ago. At the time I thought it was nice, pleasant even and nothing more than that. But over the years and with what must now be literally hundreds of listens has come to be the only (and I stress the use of the word only) piece of music that has embodied perfection. I know it’s my perfection and so I don’t expect that to be the case for anyone else.

Domenico De Clario is the artist/musician in question here. The album is called ‘Shaker Road’ . In the most biographical sense it is seven tracks on a cd of improvised solo piano recorded in June of 1996. There is a background story of sorts detailed in liner notes inside the albums sleeve. I don’t remember the specifics because I haven’t read them in years and have since made the decision to not re-read them. Sure they will tell me when and where, possibly how and even one person’s perspective on why but I know it won’t be the why that I’m looking for.

I’ve never tried to articulate this before but you see, there is music here but it’s not song. We’re not talking some free-jazz exploration of sound or anything. It is the other properties of this music that keeps me coming back. Apart from the first few keys that open the album, I can’t remember a single note of the whole 72 minutes of music. Not one. I’ve listened so many times but somehow the music only exists when the album is playing. As soon as it ends or I hit stop the music no longer exists in my mind or my memory. I own thousands of albums and can probably hum or sing hundreds of them without hesitation but this one album refuses to adhere to such traditional parameters. Do you know what it’s like to listen to music that you will never remember? Confusing at the worst. Siren-like at best.

There are two main factors here, the memory aspect above and the aspect of time. Music accentuates time. The verse, chorus, solo, outro or whatever jigsawed part you wish to elaborate on is a measured piece of time that you can follow like a guide. The people playing the music rely on ‘time’ to play in harmony with one another. When music has structure it inherently has time. Domenico De Clario has fully removed time from the music here and so when listening to Shaker Road I never know how far into the album I am, how close to the end I might be and when I program it to play on repeat I am left with such a wonderful sense of inertia that I don’t feel with any other music or art.

There to seems to be so little to the music on this album but if it’s that concept of finding clarity and holding the mirror up to ourselves – I can only assume that this album is the single most effective tool that allows me to completely stop everything that runs chaotically around my head and forces me to be still, to be at peace with myself. It is the closest thing to perfect that I’ve ever heard in music.

On the back of the album the subtitle to Shaker Road is ‘quit existing’ and with that exclamation I’d have to say that De Clario has achieved (at least with me) the ultimate goal of the music. It may not be the most valuable album I own in my collection but it’s without doubt the most precious album I have and I just wanted you to know that on the off chance that you go, listen and also find something beautiful within it.

Nonplace (who released the album)

Shellac – The HiFi (Melbourne) 20.10.12

This was the second of two Shellac shows in Melbourne. The first one was brilliant so I brought my camera to the second one…

You probably know this guy… his name is Steve Albini.

Todd Trainer on drums and Bob Weston on bass.

“what do I do with this?”

Everyone’s a drummer!

…until it becomes some kind of synchronised swimming type affair.

And then Todd went for a wander around to declare the end of radio.

You would think the whole show would be about the guy on the guitar but Todd took the rock star role and made it some of the nights true highlights.

To finish the set in a tidy and timely manner, Steve and Bob decided to down tools and then help todd remove his kit from the stage… while he was still playing it!

…and with one swift steal of the snare, the show was over!

After waiting 19 years, this show was so worth it. 11 out of 10 rock show! My next stop, Brisbane. Below on the left is the poster from their last Brisbane show… 19 years ago!

You Can Check Out More Photos HERE

Keeping Busy

It’s been a bit quiet here on this blog over the last month or so. But that doesn’t mean that I have been bored or lazy. In fact I’ve been busier than ever with my other creative past times.

You should head over to my printmaking blog and see the art show I’ve been a part of, the t-shirts and other art I’ve been making lately…       http://againstthewoodgrain.wordpress.com/

 

Also the band I drum in is releasing a new 7-inch vinyl in a few weeks. I’m currently making the covers and sleeves for them. You can check it out at http://noanchorband.blogspot.com.au/

I’m not complaining but I do hope I find the time soon to pick up the camera again.

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