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[Review] Weezer @ John Cain Arena, Melbourne 06/09/2023

With PAX Aus and Weezer’s headline tour in the same week, it’s an absolutely showstopping few days in Melbourne for white guys aged 27 to 50. And showstopping perfectly describes what greeted me onstage at John Cain Arena, Friday night. Californian indie Golden-Boys Weezer need no introduction. A perfect combination of meme-culture, unbeatable musicianship and perfect pop-banger to rock-solo percentage; they really are the upper echelon for anyone who enjoys teen movies from the 90s (or was a teen in the 90s). And so, before I introduce the cheese, the steeze “The Weeze”, let me tell you about their support.

Regurgitator follow in the highly coveted Brisbane tradition of fuck-off punk rock. Their sound is somewhere between Kraftwerk and Limp Bizkit. The Smiths meets Grunge. Two entirely separate forces that shouldn’t come together, but when they do – musical nuclear fusion. The guitars are howling, the guys are bantering and we’re all completely enamoured by the Brisbane trio and their shit-eating grins. As is customary, they begin a chant immediately after their second song of; Oi! Oi! Oi! An Australian classic. A cultural must. “Are you guys ready to hear a song that goes faster than the last one?”  (Bong In My Eye – an absolute tune, of course) “Yeah this one goes so hard” One of them moans; “Uh! So hard!” And with a cackle that would make Jack and Jill run back up that hill, they throw us headfirst into Polyester Girl. After the guitars simmer a bit, ultimate Bass-dad Ben Ely asks us a question that really needs no answer; “We’re so excited. Are you excited?” We cheer, but clearly not enough. “It’s fucking Weezer, man!” Quan Yeomans, our ever-charismatic front man chimes in, “Weeeezer!” And so, of course, we cheer. And now that our excitement is excited enough, the show continues. Blubber Boy into Fat Cop into I Wanna Be A Nudist, it’s just out of control how many tracks these guys can deliver at full energy with no faults. Even when they are forced to restart on Blubber Boy, they’re still masters. The reason for the restart, is because the old adage that “White People Have No Rhythm”, was proven at John Cain that night. They get an entire crowd to clap along – no two of us had the same rhythm. The people of the Caucus Mountains were struggling to participate in the musical madness and wonder of Regurgitator. So, they get us to start. We clap, they follow; and they blow that stereotype back out of the water. After a really good bit “How many more songs do we have left? Are we out of time?” Runs it’s natural course, we are asked one final, tantalising question; “Should we do a naughty song?” But before they have time to deliver on this, Yeomans takes the mic. “My daughter should be here somewhere! She just moved to Melbourne! Where is she?” A sea of men shove their hands in the air. “You’re not her! You’re a fella!” when one of his Regurgitator brothers asks him, “Mate, are you even wearing your glasses?” And so, they give up. I hope she was there and had as good a time as the rest of us. The World of Sleaze and ! (The Song Formally Known As) take us perfectly into the World of Weeze. (These aren’t my words, I promise. Read on to find out who said that! Intrigue!)

Teal Album is one of Weezer’s more forgotten albums. A compendium of covers spanning 3 decades, it’s miss-able, but unforgettable. In what I like to consider an homage, they play us into the dimming lights, the unmistakable hush before a show, with Africa by Toto. An iconic song, an iconic cover, an iconic show is imminent.

To save you the read: I can, without a doubt, say Weezer’s Indie Rock Roadtrip is one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. Whether you’re a hardcore Weezer fan, a casual enjoyer or a Pinkerton defender – this tour has it all. These songs are so a part of the cultural zeitgeist that it’s impossible for the whole show to not feel nostalgic, treasured, and significant.

Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell and Scott Shriner are in an echelon all of their own. For the next two hours, we will be lovingly chauffeured through all of the bands biggest hits – and some of their smallest. With this foursome behind the wheel, you know it’s gonna be one hell of a trip.

Starting out strong with My Name Is Jonas, we are introduced to the vibe of the trip.

Picture this:

A cartoon, semi-idealistic version of America. We are Jonas, some kid living in the outer stretches of Los Angeles, completely lost in the world of our headphones. We jump in the car with some of our friends and start our long winding road North, and East. Turning the radio, The Good Life comes on. Out the window, we can see signs for American restaurants, but it’s all fantasy. “Jamie’s In The Box” “Bran Bell” “Up N Down Burger”. And the biggest fantasy of all, Weezer is on tour. Except that’s now. That’s us! This is fantastical. Immediately, we are on this trip with them through all these things that are impossible, fantastical, but oh-so real. Pinch me.

I will never understand what it is about hearing a singer mention the town their singing in that makes crowds go feral. But they go feral. Finishing Beverly Hills with “Living in Melbourne, Australia” set the crowd off. It’s like front-man Cuomos threw us gold pieces, we were loving it.

As In The Garage comes to a close, and 11,000 people sing-shout ‘No one hears me/ No one hears me’ Cumos speaks over us. “Have you guys heard? We’re opening for KISS tomorrow!” There’s some light applause. “HEY! WE’RE OPENING FOR KISS” and he hits a mean chord on his guitar. We respond with what Rivers decrees as a worthy level of cheer for the 1970s Rock-Gods. And, in their honour, they play a punky, high-energy, guitar-forward cover of Strutter. The way lead Guitarist Brian Bell moves his hands along the guitar is spellbinding. The fretboard is an extension of his arm, the sounds leave his hands and sit in the room in perfect harmony with all the other noise. It’s impossible to tell where that skilful ends and the hot-air of GA begins. Oh, and Bell whips out the double-necked electric in true KISS spirit – what an homage.

As a Green Album girlie until the bitter end, I swear I nearly popped a blood vessel when they launched into Photograph. This is the first full-band performance of the criminally underrated release since 2015. And it’s even better live. The insane visuals, Cuomos off-kilter vocals, and the pounding drums provided by Patrick Wilson bring this track to life. I feel like I’m in IMAX, but for sound.

Undone (The Sweater Song) is one of THE Weezer tracks. Starting out of nowhere, the melancholic, drifting, delayed opening notes are barely heard under the guttural screams of excitement for one of Blue Album’s most coveted. This song isn’t short, but it flies by. The foursome never seem to tire. They can just keep playing, perfectly, never easing up on themselves (or us). The energy never drops even for a moment. Cuomos and bassist Scott Shriner jump along the stage, one leg stretched in front of them, as Bell shreds the ultimate shred. Cuomos arms are a blur of strumming, he is absolutely caning his pale-green strat – but the pain is so worth the reward. The crowd is all hands, clapping predictably out of time, and people dance-shoving. As the music swells to its predicted finale – Cuomos puts his guitar to his mouth and starts playing with his teeth. Once he’s decided to give his enamel a break and the song finishes, he plants a big, loving kiss on the green body of The Little Guitar That Could.

Next up is an absolute highlight of the show. Rivers takes to the stage, alone. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, he starts to tell us a story of young love and heartbreak. The story goes something like this;

“I really liked this girl. She called me all the time, came to Christmases with my family- the whole thing. I thought she liked me too. One day, after we hung out she said she’s call me tomorrow. But she didn’t call. I waited by the phone the after that, too. And the next. By day 14 I realised she wasn’t going to call. So, on day 19 – I wrote this song.”

I didn’t recognise Waiting on You at first. Done just with an acoustic guitar, it sounded almost like a parody. Like Kill Me Please, from The Wedding Singer. It sounded like the very stereotype of sad 90’s Rock you’d expect. Where’s Matt Groening? Is this a Simpsons sketch?

Why? Haven’t you called me?

Did you forget me?

The Arena is alight with phone torches as Cuomos laments to us, fully aware of the comedy.

Mine, is the loneliest of numbers

Now, is the loneliest of times

You’re 19 days late

But still I sit and wait

The other three Weezer members come onstage and gather around the microphone. Barbershop quartet-style, they finish the lament. The house erupts with applause.

The next song is also a romantic lament of sorts. A ballad for Geffen Records Receptionist, Susanne hits even harder acoustic. Still gathered around the mic, it’s easy to see why Weezer disarmed and wooed this woman. They’re humble, talented, dressed in vans and baggy pants (Primo Skater Chic) at 55. Listen, Susanne, we get it,.Cuomos is beating out ‘Izzy, Slash and Axel Rose’ for her affections. This 5’6, hyperactive man is Geffen’s biggest Lover-Boy. As soon as they play, they transform. Roadies strap electric guitars onto Brian Bell, and we are treated to a wonderous ending of acoustic strums and electric licks. Suddenly they’re young again, somewhere else, and ultra-handsome.

We are showing them our appreciation. “Good on ya, Melbourne!” Some guy behind me, slurring and raspy screams back, “On ya, Rivers!”

“How is it? Chilling with The Weez at John Cain Arena.” The Weez. Said with such a tongue-in-cheek earnestness I can’t help but laugh. He’s an icom. The Master of The Shitpost.

Only In Dreams starts with River on acoustic for the first verse. Suddenly, they are all strapped with electrics again. And in a literal jump onstage – the tempo picks up. The visuals behind them are a waving red and purple. They are caning the shit out of their guitar strings. Shriner is a machine on bass. This song is so bass-heavy, and he has no issues being up to the task. Filling the room with warm, open, delicately layered bass with ease.

Of course, Island in The Sun gets a play. It’s so nostalgic, and wonderful. Everyone is out of their seats, swaying together, putting their arms up, singing. It’s like the final shot of a movie, where everything’s worked out. We’ve gotten into college, got the girl of our dreams and are watching fireworks on the beach. No notes, a perfect 10.

Growing up in Seattle, Washington. I am hard-wired to recognise Mount Rainier. And there it is. On the projection screen. We are driving through the cascades on this road-trip to the home of Grunge, of 90’s melancholia, of general antics and too-much noise. All My Favourite Songs gets Cuomos on keys. And he slaps them happily as we sing along. Lyrics that are so relevant, so painful. This 2021 release from Weezer shows that the band isn’t just a group of fossils peaking 30 years ago.

Cuomos openly hates Say it Aint So, so I was not expecting it to be played. But then that opening lick plays. And the sound that left my body was inhuman. He might hate it, but the song is one of the all-time greats. A Banger to End All Bangers. God-Tier. To save himself singing the chorus, he just stands – arms and legs spread, a starfish under 5 spotlights, as the pre-chorus lick goes and 11,000 of us, in perfect, ecstatic harmony scream:

“Say it aint so! Your drug is a heart breaker.

Say it aint so! My love is a life taker.

My personal favourite part of the song, the bridge, is magical. The lights turn red and then purple and blue, and swirl around the foursome.

“This bottle of Stevens, awakens ancient feelings”

They start to slam on their strings and build until it’s all noise and 3 simultaneous solos that wind and weave and become alive together. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. These songs I thought I knew, are so much more vivid in Weezer’s guiding hand.

“Are you guys enjoying the road trip?” Cuomos asks us. Does he even need to ask? He grins at the amount of noise we make in response. “It’s not a road trip ‘til dad takes a photo”. And he pulls out a polaroid. Referring to himself as Dad makes him even more likeable. If such a thing is possible. He snaps pics of all sides of the room and takes us into the end of the show.

Hash Pipe is such a phenomenal way to finish their main set. It’s aggressive, fast and punchy. The visuals of bats eyes, faded, bloodshot and spinning is such a great homage to the King’s of Stoner-Core. For the Guitar Hero friend next to me, it was a pretty huge closer.

Thank You and Good Night has our foursome standing on steps at the back of the stage, shredding together. I hate encores, but my fingers and toes are crossed for more.

And more is what we get.

The Waste Land is muddy, grungey and layered. They walk onstage and add to its layers one by one until we are carried on an almighty wave of perfect sound. Black Sabbath are pissing their pants a little with this one.

Surf Wax America is so quintessentially Weezer. It’s jumpy, fun and best shared at a barbeque. Blue Album remains one of the best in any genre, because of its versatility. This is not the same band they were just one song ago. But I am loving it. We all sing off-key, delighted and carefree.

A testament to the absolute mountain of songs Weezer has in their arsenal, is a major hit I had completely forgotten about in the fun and the fervour. Buddy Holly. Everyone’s favourite Spike Jonze music video. A staple in the Weezer canon. It’s amazing for one of a band’s major hits to have escaped my mind because I was so enraptured by everything they had going on. These guys could play one chord and I’d be spellbound. Another Blue Album staple, we are quick to show our adoration. The video in the background is of people roller-skating around. And while we can’t roller-skate, we can dance. And dance we do. With fun little licks, delightful harmonies and a beat that’s impossible not to move to – this song really has it all.

At this point, they’ve proven they’re an unbeatable unit with unbelievable, untranscribable skill. But it’s fucking ridiculous they played for 2 hours with no mistakes. Oh, what I’d give to bottle those 2 hours and live there.

Buddy Holly packs a punch, and so they leave us stunned, thrilled, desperate for another forgotten-hit. I’m in a daze, and this was 2 days ago. You could not ask for a better night.

If  Weezer have 1 fan it’s me if they have no fans I’m dead. I love you Weezer. And you would too. Buy tickets next time, I promise you’ll leave happier, bouncier and beachier.  And maybe just a little bit stoned.

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(Review) Morgan Evans @ Palais Theatre 14/09/2023

Walking into the iconic venue that is The Palais Theatre last Friday night, we were met with a sea of people, flashes of bright lights and waves of sound. Guitars, singing, gleeful screaming – the foyer was alive with the sounds of tonight’s support act, James Johnston. I had no idea what to expect from the night, I was asked whether I wanted to cover this gig because of my love for country and folk music. But this sounded more like stadium country than the melancholic yeehaw I frequent. I was intrigued, nervous and eager to hear more.

Australian Idol finalist, James Johnston has come a long way since 2009. He’s moved from the living rooms of Australian families and is playing to nearly 3,000 people. The Palais is at full capacity. All I see when I peak in, is a swath of bright-wide strobes. James Johnston is wearing a simple singlet and jeans and has the crowd going NUTS. People are standing and swinging their shirts around. “I’ll be out in the foyer signing anything you have and taking photos!” He exclaims happily as his band takes a bow and exits the stage. His backup vocalist’s amazing shiny silver cowboy boots glitter in the lights and dazzle the senses as she walks off. The usher turns to my housemate and I, who had left the heat to get a drink, “You’ll have to move to the foyer, sorry.” We’re confused, why are they so frantic to free up space? We were fine a minute ago. But almost instantly, I understand. We wind our way upstairs as a thousand people flood the foyer and grab a place in line to have their bags, books and arms signed by the Mid-Coast legend.

It’s a crowd of big hats, and bigger mullets. Some opt for cowboy hats, and others are adorned with large trucker hats. Boots of varying persuasions clink across the floor. One woman is wearing shimmery pink frills and knee-high pink cowboy boots, I love her. Someone is wearing a pink cowboy hat with an LED light trim. Three of the biggest mullets I’ve ever seen in my life walk past me. Mostly, the crowd is what you would expect from stadium-country fans, a far throw from the bluegrass enjoyers I surround myself with. But within the crowd, there are people dressed as if they’ve only listened to Joni Mitchell’s, Blue, and I feel a wave of calm. Tonight, will give everyone a little bit of something.

Armed with a Sprite and a Pepsi Max, we make our way into the theatre and take our seats. Without any warning, tonight’s headliner, fellow Novocastrian, Morgan Evans, takes the stage. After a flurry of frantic white strobes, there he is. Centre stage, he’s surrounded by one of the best backing bands in the country game right now. Let’s get to meet them, shall we?

 “All the way from upstate New York, he makes the best margarita this side of the Mexican border, and he plays drums alright too. Make some Big Melbourne Noise for Pete Wilson.”

“To my left, all the way from Knoxville, Tennessee. He’s a trained psychologist but he prefers to play on this thing (bass guitar), he’s on a mission to drink all the beer in Melbourne this week (of course, the crowd cheers), and he’s got a burgeoning love affair with Hungry Jacks (we cheer more). Make some noise for Andrew Brown!”

“And last but not least, on electric guitar, keyboards and more, the youngest member of the band. All the way from a little town outside Dallas, Texas. He’s taken such a liking to Australia, and he’s also single, might be looking for an Australian wife actually. Ian Bawley.” Ian, if you’re reading this, I’ll be your Australian wife.

And so, we have our guides for this evening’s journey through the Life Upside Down tour.

Morgan Evans might be from Newcastle, but he sings with a heavy southern drawl. Listening to the crowd drawl along with him as he opens with Young Again, I’m taken back to my time growing up in the US. This is like, the weirdest version of culture shock. It feels like a familiar culture to me, but in entirely the wrong venue. It’s all hoots and hollers, and I swear I can smell corn on the cob. This is the crowd who loves Monster Trucking, and who hold each other up when the going gets tough, and the tough gets going. Country music has become a global sensation, that much is clear to see. And the County Fair Community vibe belongs to no one nation, we’re adopting the colourful slang and drawn-out rhythms of our American brothers. Except his shoes are off. The dogs are out. Can’t take the Newcastle out of the boy. 

While this is not my genre of choice, I just lean into it. I embrace the cringe, and I sing along and whistle and cheer with the rest of them. Country Outta My Girl has me and my housemate singing along and grinning ear to ear. People are standing up, whipping their shirts around, fist’s pumping in the air and snapping photos, They’re a rowdy bunch for sure, but their energy is just too contagious. Evans seems so totally comfortable onstage. He radiates this effortless charisma, and we eat it up.

“Last night was good, but I can tell tonight is gonna get a little crazy.” Evans smirks into the mic. A sea of middle-aged women and mullets in caps cheers back at him. We launch into Kiss Somebody, and I just have to say it, what a banger. It’s still stuck in my head.

During his next song, I Do. My housemate says she’s going to make it her wedding song. And while it is a little Hallmark-y, it is undeniably lovely and oh-so romantic. The walls of The Palais are alight with projected roses, which swirl around the walls and dance over our heads as the lights onstage flicker from purple to orange to pink and back again.

Now, by this point, I’m completely onboard with whatever Mr Evans is serving. So when he suggests a competition, I’m immediately in. For Love Is Real, he divides the room down the middle, and we have a sing (scream) off to determine which side are the best and the brightest. East vs West, we dual to the death, to the glory. We sing,

I am Yours! You are Mine! Love is Real!

Evans high-fives some kids, sings back to us, smiles, and laughs and it feels like we’re hanging out with old friends. Speaking of old friends, it’s his guitar-swapping roadies’ birthday. And while we’re fired up, he gets us to shout, “Happy Birthday Jeff!” Into the wings. And so, of course, we do. And we do it loud.

Over For You is a change of pace. Slow, sad and beautifully played on the keys. “This is the part of the show where I can do whatever the fuck I want, because it’s just me and you.” Full of heartbreak, Evans really shows us just how good his vocals really are, without the strobes and the over-the-top drawl. He has beautiful control. And the entire crowd is still, for the first time that night. The stage is ablaze with individual lights, he is playing piano in front of a sea of stars. For any Didirri fans, this could be worth checking out.

Determined to never let us get bored, Evans changes pace yet again. And we jump along into maybe the most iconic heartbreak banger I’ve heard this month. It’s an unreleased track, but when I tell you, he’s SO REAL for this one. “This is a new song for everyone who has an ex they can’t stop talking shit about.” Absolutely feral shrieks leave people’s mouths. And the lyrics on this thing, scathing, funny and oh-so good to sing along with.

You’re fingerpainting, and thinking they’re Picassos / Say what you want about me / But what does that say about you?

My ex was working the bar upstairs, but I hope he put his ear to the door for this. I hope very bad ex ever puts their ear to the metaphorical door for this. Because it’s brutal, it’s sobering, it’s funny. Get ready for this release.

Out of nowhere, Evans pulls out a guitar and starts playing the instrumental opening to Waltzing Matilda. At first, I think it’s just a segue into another song. But oh-no, I’ve underestimated just how Okka this crowd is. Without missing a beat, the entire crowd is singing Waltzing Matilda – without Evans. He just strums as we sing so loud, and so out of tune.


Voices crack, people whoop, people stifle laughs. It’s an experience I literally can’t describe to you. It feels like something out of a book. It was wild.

And after a rousing cover of the Slim Dusty classic, his band comes back onstage. By this point, I have a full-blown crush on his guitarist, Ian. So, to that handsome, southern Cowboy with a moustache, I yet again sexily wave my Australian Citizenship. He sits down on a stool, with a fully steel guitar, a resonator, in his hands. “Take us on a little trip to Texas.” And he starts to play something so southern, so sexy, it immediately makes me think of Tumbleweeds and oil drilling. A guttural “Yeaaaahhhh!” leaves my housemates mouth and everyone whistles. “I think that only took us halfway to Texas, how about you take us all the way?” And everyone cheers. Next is the most insane display of instrumental talent. He absolutely rides that resonator to Dallas and takes us with him. Painting incredible landscapes with his strums, Evans sneaks up behind him and places a cowboy hat on his head. The lights turn orange, with gorgeous sunset-yellow spotlights illuminating our iconic 4-some. Andrew Brown joins in on bass and starts to dance his signature two-step. This is southern bluegrass cowboy realness at its finest.

The rest of the night continued this trajectory of outrageous fun, big whoops and hollers and lickin’ guitar solos. Apparently two people vomited in the foyer from too much booze. So, the staff may not have been having that much fun, but I sure was. The sound mixing was incredible, the energy unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, and I was so enraptured by Evans’ performance that I forgot he wasn’t wearing shoes.

So try something new. Go to that gig you think you might hate. Stick it out. And I promise, the Music will reward you.

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[Review] Neck Deep @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 05/09/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

As I left to see Welsh emo heavyweights Neck Deep rock the house at The Forum, my housemate said to me, shocked; “You’re going to a gig? On a Tuesday?” I shrugged. If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s that the emo, punk and hardcore community will come out in full force any day of the week. This midweek feast for the senses was no exception.

Hailing from the tiny town of Wrexham, in Wales. Neck Deep have been a staple in any emo playlist since their foundation in 2012. Front-man Ben Barlow’s energy is the stuff of legend. He’s known for big jumps, shooeys and general shenanigans. The videos of him performing are insane; whole stadiums alive with energy, screaming and crowd surfing and ready to riot. I had measured my expectations, there’s no way he can do that every time. But when I tell you, it was all of that and more – it was all of that and more.

From the literal jump, Barlow leaps onstage and is a whirling dervish of limbs and sweat drops. His energy is infectious. Instantly, there is so much space at the back of the room as everyone lunges forward, hands held high, drinks sloshing onto the shortest of us. It’s mayhem. The definition of organised chaos. Never disrespectful, we happily collide and tangle ourselves in the bodies of strangers as we are thrown into Sonderland. The lights on the stage are amazing. Swinging spotlights in brilliant blues and purple flash into our eyes and reflect off the fearsome foursome onstage. It’s magical.

As their first number draws to a close, Barlow pulls the microphone in close. “What’s up my fucking low lives? Oh it’s been too long” We show our approval by wolf calling and a chorus of happy screams. And instantly, we are thrown back into the frenzy with Low Life. And what a bunch of degenerates we are. “Something is cooking, I smell some kush!” Barlow chuckles into the mic. And he’s right. The room smells of beer and weed and a little sweat. But looking around, everyone’s beaming stretched ear to stretched ear. There’s nowhere we’d rather be. “We never thought we’d come to the other side of the world and play for all these people”. And what an eclectic bunch we are. Skater chic, goths, guys in denim jackets. All of us move together as we push forward and give ourselves over to Kali Ma, screaming the lyrics that hit extra hard in this brutal Melbourne winter.

Count my blessings on one hand and my curses on the other / Let you slip between my fingers, hide away until the summer.

As this number draws to a close, Barlow addresses us again, in a speech that highlights the band’s blue-collar origins. “I don’t know much about Australian politics, but I do know you have a billionaire problem. You have the spawn of Satan himself, Rupert fucking Murdoch.” The entire crowd let’s out an animalistic: BOOOO. He winds on, commenting on capitalism and sexism and the issues facing us as a society. “Women have been talking about this shit for ages, and now it’s finally coming to a head. Things back on our Little Piece of Shit Island (couldn’t have described the UK better myself if I tried) are bleak. We’re fucking over it. If you’re fucking over it, I wanna feel that for this next song.” The next song, Citizens of Earth, goes off. We feel his words, and his rage, and we lean into that – letting it all out. Even as the crowd gets rougher, we take care of each other. Yelling “heads!” when the next person got up to crowd surf (seriously – so much crowd surfing), or holding the back of someone’s head so they don’t hit anything while they headbang. Right before the high energy bridge, Barlow screams into the mic:


And we all cheer for the brief moment we can, before launching back into the song.

As it ends, Barlow is back. We hang on his every word, rapt. “I can see you’re pretty pissed off, that’s good.” We are all red-faced, with heaving chests and throats already raspy from singing (shouting) along. Pissed off, but ecstatic. “It’s important to remember; the billionaires might be out to get you, but life is not.” It’s then I notice the couple’s holding hands, the guy next to me with full neck and arms tattooed wiping away tears. This is joy. Life must be alright, because life’s got Neck Deep.

They wind through some more of the set, playing old and new songs. Teasing that there’s a new album to be released imminently. It just finished recording. I REPEAT, THERE IS A NEW ALBUM COMING.

Guitarists Sam Bowden and original member Matt West are unbelievable. These tracks have a newfound depth when you hear them live. The guitar zips around the room, perfectly nesting in my ears. Never too loud, or too soft. They play in perfect harmony. Nailing intricate riffs, unconventional time signatures, and the road-bumps that can come from playing live – they must be some of the best out there. Truly they never falter. On top of playing stunning melodies, and heavenly rhythm sections, they also manage to completely match Barlow’s energy. Jumping and swinging their guitars. They often motion for us to get more hyped up. It seems like they don’t even break a sweat. It’s absolutely spellbinding.

Of course, there’s the obligatory shooey. It’s an artist touring Australia right of passage. But I’m nervous for Barlow – this is very early in the set to be offering up a shooey. He’s opening Pandora’s Box.

“Are there any heartbroken people out there?” I scream, but I can’t hear myself. Everyone’s yelling. Even those with a partner next to them. Heartbreak takes many forms. Heartbreak of the Century is fresh off the press. A 2023 release, one half of their Take Me With You EP. “This one’s fresh out of the oven. We’re talking March 2023. But don’t worry, I have a gorgeous fiancé, I’m fine.” Barlow smirks. A girl behind me let’s out a guttural, devastated “Nooo!!!!!” This song could have been an earlier release, we know every word. It just rolls of the tongue. Lines like

“But my love aint enough. Maybe that’s ok. I was thinking about fucking myself anyway.”

Demand to be screamed. We all think we’ve gone through The World’s Worst Heartbreak. And even as we scream along, there isn’t a bad vibe in the room. We’re all just so happy to be here together. Heartbreak is a distant memory.

We hit some technical difficulties, so as they try to go into the second half of their Take Me With You EP – aptly named, Take Me With You. There’s an issue with the sound and lighting. Something techy. I was honestly too caught up in the vibe to realise. Barlow goes into, as he calls it, “A stand-up routine”. “This song is about aliens coming down, and wanting to go with them. I for one welcome our new alien overlords. But they don’t want us to play.” Turning to their drummer, Barlow says. “Take it away! Give us a drum solo!” Turning back to us, “This will be his first ever drum solo”.  We are treated to a delightful 30 seconds of bass and snare, and for the first time, we’re all quiet. Once he’s done, we all cheer and hoot and holler. The new addition to the band blushes. Barlow has been shifting foot to foot, looking down. “One of my fucking shoes is wet, I might do another shooey.” He immediately regrets teasing us with that. The crowd is ablaze with frantic cheers of “SHOOEY SHOOEY SHOOEY”.

Barlow relaxes into the technical difficulties; the band is confident in their ability to just keep playing. “Sometimes fan’s hear us play our more emotional stuff, or a love song, and go ‘waa waa, you guys have gone soft.’ Motherfuckers, we’ve always been soft. You guys remember Part of Me? That was maybe our first big hit, and it’s soft as fuck. We won’t be playing it. It’s had its time. Sorry guys. But we will play these next two for you.” And they don’t just play, they demolish Smooth Seas Don’t Make Good Sailors and then, personal fave, She’s a God.

For the latter, I move my way back into the middle of the crowd to scream along and happily bounce as I catch glimpses of Barlow and his merry misery crew, my vision obstructed by old-skool vans floating over people’s heads as 3 or 4 people at once crowd surf. The people clamber over themselves to grab Barlow as he sings into the crowd, or if he gets close. He smiles at them. “Let’s get this going! Let’s spin a little.” And the middle of the floor turns into a whirlwind. If a mosh pit could be loving, this one sure was.

Finally, the guys can play Take Me With You. And it was so worth the wait. It’s fun and sounds unreal over The Forum’s speaker system.

As the night is drawing to a close, Barlow says into the mic, “This is our last song.” We all try to get our breath, but don’t give him the reaction he wants. “If only there was some kind of performative bullshit you could do to get us to come back out, if only.” We laugh and humour him, a sea of “Nooo!” “One more song!” Smirking back at us. “I told you you’d get one more, easy.” And what better song to “finish” with than December (Again). It’s a Neck Deep classic. “This song is about being really sad in winter, but I guess here you’ll just be miserable on the beach.” And we all cheer. I think I ascended during this song. I’ve never had so much fun. I make friends, I nearly cry, I let it out. Un-fucking-believable.

They walk offstage, and we launch into a heavy chorus of “Noo!!” “One more!!” And, of course, as promised, they come right back.

“Alright! Let’s end this properly!” And we are thrown into Motion Sickness. I don’t know where we all suddenly got the energy, but it’s like the night is starting again. We all move with a renewed vigour, determined to make this night last. “Firstly a few thank-you’s. Thank you to our fucking unbelievable crew. We’re just some idiots who show up and play, they’re the reason this is all possible, all the hard work is them. They’re our best friends. They’re amazing. Thank you to all of you. Who came when we started touring down here, God, maybe a decade ago?” A few cheers. “We love Melbourne! We have so many friends here. The only person I know for sure who was here was a very young John Floreani.” As a good Novocastrian, I cheer until my vocal cords rip. I love you, Trophy Eyes. “And a special thank you to our all-round tech, Danny. It was his birthday yesterday.” Danny comes out and offers himself willingly to do a Shooey. He sacrifices himself on the Altar of Australian Tradition for his birthday. And we are so grateful. We go mental. “What a fucking legend!!!”

Then, they really do have two songs left. “This one’s for all the small-town heroes. But you can all get involved.” I cheer, the guys in front of me cheer, and the whole crowd starts to headbang as Can’t Kick Up the Roots pummels through the speakers. “We’re so grateful to have been from a small town, and to have never forgotten that, and not changed too much. But even more than that, we are so grateful we were given the opportunity to perform for, what? A couple thousand of you? It just doesn’t seem possible. Thank you. If you’re going to buy merch tonight, buy merch from our support act; Yours Truly. Give those smaller, local bands some love. It means more than you know.”

Yours Truly are a Sydney pop-punk band, keeping up with the OG-greats. If you’re a fan of Avril Lavigne, Paramore, or any of those 2000s gems – they’ll be right up your alley. The way High Hopes absolutely rocked the crowd at The Forum is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Female-led and unbelievably tight, they are taking that baton and running with it. Barlow puts it best. “Put them on during your next car ride, you just might find your new favourite band.” Even only catching the tail end of their set was other worldly. It just makes you want to dance, to let loose, to live the sort of teenager-dom they show in the movies. Let’s go, Australia, you’ve got something good here, let’s show them the love they so deserve.

Finishing with In Bloom, is just perfection. Not only is it one of my favourite, not just Neck Deep songs, but emo songs in general, it winds us down perfectly. It’s walked me down from my worst breakups, and it’s hyped me up on bus rides, keen for whatever comes next in life.

“I can try, but sometimes that is not enough. No, that is not enough.”

A singular chorus of screams, tangled bodies. Trying on our own is not enough, we need to lean on each other.

“You’re the only voice I want to hear in my head.”

All I want to hear, forever and ever, is Barlow’s insane vocals, the squeals of joy from the pop-punkers next to me, and our Anthems of Perseverance.

This song offers some of the best breakup advice there is.

“We’re never going to put the pieces back together, if you won’t let me get better.”

We need the time to heal, from life, from Rupert Murdoch, from being hit in the back of the head by some girl in platform Doc’s who just tried her hand at crowd surfing. We heal better together. We heal better moshing. We heal better screaming. We heal better with Neck Deep.

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[Review] La Dispute @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 27/08/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

Towards the end of their show at The Forum, La Dispute vocalist Jordan Dreyer gives us a speech that sums up why I love emo music, emo shows and the Emo Community at large. “There isn’t a hand coming from the sky to fix the issues that befall all of us, especially the marginalised who have no safety net protecting them from a fall. What we do have, is each other. We have the ability to build a better world, Neighbourhood to neighbourhood, street to street, community to community. Looking out for our friends, looking out for each other, looking out for our Trans, LGBTQ, Indigenous friends. Genuinely fighting for each other. Whatever this subculture is; punk, emo, hardcore, whatever – we all found it looking for somewhere to belong. Life is really fucking hard, and the world is shitty. But it doesn’t have to be. When we come to these shows it reminds us that we can make it better, together. That we are in this together. You can save somebody’s life, man. Do that, save each other, because we need you here right now. We will never let each other lose hope for the better things.” No crowd, no show, no band has ever made that statement feel more real than La Dispute did on Sunday night. This was one of those once-in-a-lifetime shows.

La Dispute’s 2011 album, Wildlife, has to be one of the most highly acclaimed and widely loved emo albums of the century. And tonight, 12 years after its release, the Michigan 5-piece are performing it in its entirety for a sold-out show. The house is packed. Goths, tattooed 30-something’s and Prozac teens in baggy pants move between each other, all jostling for a place in the middle of the ever-growing sea of people packed onto The Forum’s main floor.

Punching out the first 4 tracks of their knockout album without breaking a sweat, the energy from this band is just incredible. “We’re La Dispute, from Michigan.” Hell fucking yeah they are. The crowd is going fucking nuts. By the second song I think I’ve seen 2 people crowd surf. Hoots and hollers and a seat of heads and hands and cups are amped up and ready to go. Often, Dreyer will point his microphone at the crowd for a while, and just smile as 2,000 people scream until their vocal cords hurt back at him. As Edit Your Hometown draws to a close, he takes a moment to address us all.

“We’ve been making the long trek to Australia for 14 years. The last time we were here it was… 2009? We got hit up on MySpace. MySpace! It was a powerful tool, which sounds crazy to say. We got asked by a guy from Brisbane whether we wanted to make the trek down here. I want to say it was dumb and irresponsible, but at the time we didn’t care if we lost money or it took months, we just wanted to get to as many places as we could and perform for different people. We toured and we played practice spaces and an abandoned house, community halls… I’ll never forget those shows. And to come back and still be greeted that way… Thank you. It’s insane. This is the biggest venue we’ve ever headlined in our history as a band so… Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. This is fun. This is so much fucking fun. We wouldn’t be here without those guys who brought us over in 2009, so all of these songs tonight are dedicated to them. To Simon, Josh and for Errol. For all the friends that we’ve made. For all of you. Thank you. This song is called A Letter.” And we are sucked back into the Wildlife tour.

Every song is just incredible. Guitarists Chad Morgan-Sterenberg and Corey Stroffolino get this unbelievable tone with their guitars. Their playing mirrors each other, notes and strums melting together like butter. It’s luscious, rich and lingers in the room, it’s completely captivating. The bass work from Adam Vass is subtle, but adds a thickness to the sounds, bolstering those guitars so their instrumentals sit thick in the air like treacle. I can feel those bass runs in my legs, and Brad Vander Lugt’s drumming in my feet. The foursome are some of the best in the game, I’m certain. They’re never ego-driven, never wanting to detract from the others, but they all shine under the heavy red and purple spotlights which wash over the band. Dreyer’s distinctive scream pierces over the top of these intricate instrumentals, his brutalist poetry awakening something powerful within me. Dreyer is a master of combining a hardcore “scream” with wonderful singing voice, soft but sure of itself. He has an incredible range. He really feels his songs. He screams like someone is reaching down his throat and pulling out those ugly feelings, and he sings with the gentle assuredness of a lullaby. La Dispute, in every way, captures the duality of the world through their musicianship.

Eminem’s “Stan” has to be one of the most talked-about, highly regarded, incredibly intricate narrative rap songs of all time. In the same way that Stan is seminal to rap, and a light in Eminem’s career, King Park is one of emo’s golden children. From the weeks before the concert, to the train ride there, I was listening to it. I have blasted King Park since I was like, 14, and riding the school bus home, brooding. It’s been insanely influential. As soon as a Poem finishes, and the irratic, jumpings drums of King Park is upon us. If the crowd was jostling before, now they are rioting. Three people get lifted up to crowd surf and reach fpr Dreyer’s hand. He is more than happy to grab them at the wrist and share a moment of understanding with them. Fuck me these guys are slick. It sounds just as good as the recording, if not better. And this baby is intricate. Constantly changing time signatures, amazingly interwoven guitars, vocal control – it has it all, and they can do it all. The bridge in King Park has been memed to death, but is a genuine hallmark of Emo-tude. I see hands and phones go up. I take a big breath in, and scream with the army of people around me. Dreyer helps us out the first time.


BEAT. He just holds the mic to us. My voice gives out.


He waves his arm for us to get even louder. The walls shake.


This is catharsis.

A room full of people who would’ve been lobotomised 70 years ago hug each other and scream until they cry and cry until they scream. The greatest cure to our ills, is each other. The band head towards each other and wrap their arms around each other, like a knitted jumper. The two guys in front of me move their hips off their respective girlfriends and squeeze each other. One guy gives another his hat. The girl next to me wipes tears from her eyes, her friend yells “Thank you!” with a raspy voice. It doesn’t matter if we’ll go to heaven. We aren’t going to kill ourselves. Not now. Not with each other. There is so much love in this room. Strangers pass water around, lift shorter members of the mosh to the front. Solidarity. Community. It’s emotional and wonderous.

The main set draws to a close. I screamed, I cried, I laughed. As Dreyer gave the speech I quoted at the start of this review, some bloke behind me heckles; “Just play the songs fuckwit!” and he is booed. We are a politically aware bunch. It is the hardcore way to be against injustice, to be about self-betterment and community activism. I always say it’s funny that many emo followers are straight edge. A crowd of little stinkers losing their minds and never easing up for over an hour are powered by nothing but Coke Zero and a black nose ring.

The guitar work on I See Everything is gorgeous. It soars around the room, settling in our ears and making me out-loud groan when the song ends because of how spectacular those notes are. Dreyer never runs out of steam. His Ian Curtis-esque dancing becomes only more erratic and fuels the energy in that room. He kneels above the crowd, and they reach for him. The red lights make him look like Christ, saving the damned. Every time a song ends he pulls the microphone up, and in a whisper just says “Thanks”.

I proudly and openly hate encores. But this encore is a separate show. It’s 5 songs long, and next level. Andria is insane. The guitars are so beautiful, yet again. “Fuck transphobes!” Dreyer screams before leading the band into Said the King to the River, a masterpiece of a song. I am a ball of fury, all limbs. The drumwork is perfectly controlled chaos. It mirrors our body movements. It’s impossible to tell where the music ends, and the sound of our feet hitting concrete begins.

And finally, we finish with Such Small Hands. I had given up hope that they’d play this absolutely miserable, undeniable banger. It’s spiritual. I am herded to the back, desperate to de-sweat, when I hear those twinkling guitar notes. An animalistic noise comes from the crowd. Dreyer isn’t going to let us go without a bang. Immediately, we all push forward again. The people in the seats are screaming, too. The song is barely 90 seconds long, but I wish I could bottle them and live there forever.


Dreyer points the mic at us;


We yell and scramble over each other. Washing ourselves clean of all our heartbreak.

And then it’s done.

A girl on my train cries with her headphones on, donned head-to-toe in La Dispute merch. We smile at each other.

I love emo music. I love this community. I. Love. La. Dispute.

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[Review] Rockwiz: A 50th Celebration of Mushroom Records @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 02/08/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

RocKwiz is an Australian institution. First airing in 2005, most Australian’s would be familiar with hosts Brian Nankervis, Julia Zemiro and, fan-favourite, Dugald McAndrew. Well, don’t worry, all three will be gracing the Palais Theatre. And tonight it is a sold out venue. We are all here to celebrate 50 years of Mushroom Records, and to honour its founder Michael Gudinski, the “Godfather of Aussie Music”, who passed in 2021. Mushroom Group is the largest independent music and entertainment company in Australia and New Zealand, and it got its start right here, in Melbourne.

“Ladies and Gentlemen!

It’s music! It’s madness! It’s Mushroom!”

To say I was unprepared for the energy Brian Nankervis was going to bring to the Palais Theatre this Wednesday night, is an understatement. The RocKwiz host is an Australian icon, a heavy hitter in my childhood memories, and then, there he was, in the flesh. Dancing like Mick Jagger in tight black pants to Soul Kind Of Feeling, by 80’s Australian bop-masters, Dynamic Hepnotics. Immediately the crowd is laughing, clapping, and singing along. Honestly, this could’ve been the entire show, and I still would’ve had an absolutely phenomenal time. Nankervis’ energy is just fantastic. He’s goofy, nonchalant, but an absolutely pro at getting us magnetised to his every move.

Tonight, 12 lucky players will be facing off, rapid-fire, to see who makes it to the final 4. Nankervis brings them all onstage while Praise You plays, and everyone claps. (Everyone’s a Fatboy Slim fan! I told you!) The 12 music-nerds aren’t quite as comfortable as Nankervis, and while he throws his body weight into the dance, they follow behind, doing a timid two-step, albeit with a big grin on their face. “Ah, nothing like dancing with a bunch of people who just can’t dance.” The crowd gives a supportive, woo!. “Let’s give it up for your potential future RocKwizzers” The crowd gives a massive round of applause. And we really don’t stop.

Two rapid fire rounds of questions find us our marvelous Final Four…


  1. Leanne:

Leanne is sporting a very fashionable Mushroom Records top, big curly red hair and a kickass-but-softspoken attitude. Her first concert was at the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre and it was Howard Jones. She went with her cousin, who left halfway through. “James!” She curses.

  1. James:

Maybe this James will cleanse the sins of James’ past. The youngest of our four finalists, he’s dressed rather chic with a denim jacket and shiny RM Williams shoes. His first concert was Red Hot Chilli Peppers in the Telstra Dome. He was “king of the quadrangle” the following day.


  1. Gerald:

Now, THIS is a piece of history. Gerald was on the very first ever episode of RocKwiz, way back in 2005. He is such a music nerd he can remember his first Mushroom concert. In 1971, he saw Spectrum (not Mushroom), supported by MacKenzie Theory (Mushroom). Whose encore was them playing the beginning of their set again, until the audience was satisfied.

  1. Michael:

Coming for Leanne’s brand, Michael is also sporting a Mushroom t-shirt. His first concert was AC-DC, supported by The Living End. Don’t let his rock-origins fool you, he is a major Kylie Minogue fan.

The RocKwiz Orchestra starts, and we take a brief intermission. There isn’t a back against their seat in the house, we are all waiting for the show to begin. That’s when Nankervis peeks out from behind a curtain. He’s changed into a dashing little plaid suit. The magic of theatre. He introduces us to our fucking unbelievable band for the night, who are continuing to play a medley of all of Mushroom’s greatest hits.

On drums, and musical direction –“He always keeps cool, when the shitake hits the pan” Peter “Lucky” Lunstone. On the bass guitar, “a real portobello fellow”, Bill McDonald. On guitar, and heavenly harmonies, “The world is her oyster (mushroom)”, Olympia. On guitar and backing vocals, “cute as a button (mushroom)” Ash Naylor. And on keys and harmonies, “She’s diced! She’s sliced! She’s hot tonight!” Cleo Renner. They are, the RocKwiz Orchestra.

“You know him! You love him! The human scoreboard, Dugald!” We cheer, and Dugald walks across the stage in cargo shorts and a singlet. Australian excellence.

And then, “The queen of the Kwiz! The one, the only! Julia Zemiro!”

I can’t remember what her entry music was, only that everyone is cheering, and my friend keeps whispering “She’s so hot, she’s so hot, she’s so hot”, in my ear. And she is looking like an absolute snack tonight in a leopard blazer and little black heels. She’s timeless, I swear she looks the same age as she always has. I’m giddy. This is like watching TV except it’s LIVE. Unreal.

And then the show begins, and from here it’s a whirlwind of musical acts, trivia tension and history lessons. But let me try and give you a highlights reel.

Our first celebrity guest is going to Team 2. It’s an Aussie-rock God, Hunter’s and Collector’s own Mark Seymour. He comes in smoking hot with a performance of Say Goodbye. The stage is covered with smoke and he really looks the part of Rock God. Seymour’s first concert was Little River Band. As all of the Mushroom talents will be asked tonight, he’s asked to recall a memory of Mushroom Record’s founder; Michael Gudinski. A story he could tell, “Legally”, Nankervis winks. The two were fairly close, and it’s already clear that Gudinski’s loss is felt heavily in the Australian music community.

Joining Team 1 is goth heartthrob Adalita. And she comes out with an absolute bang singing a cover of Alone With You by the Sunny Boyz. Accompanied by founding member Richard Burgman, her vocals and general vibe have us in shock, it’s a grittier cover, her voice is thick like treacle, and I’m loving every second of it. Despite appearances, she is a true-blue Aussie goddess. With a delightful bogan twang, she tells us her first concert was Concrete Blonde, who performed at her University’s O-Week. Her defining memory of Michael is that he would throw these “rager parties”, with weird cocktails, just begging to be drunk (and so, they always were).

And so the questions begin, Adalita is the first to answer a question about a 2000 movie staring Eric Bana. The movie is ‘Chopper’, however a man in the audience let’s out the most Australian, the most guttural “CHOPPA”. To which, Adalita, hand already on the buzzer, echoes “CHOPPA”. Somehow even crunchier. It’s barely even one syllable, it’s just a barking noise. She’s amped up the Ozploitation factor on her accent to match his excitement. And we are pissing ourselves. If there’s one thing Australian’s are good at – it’s laughing at ourselves. Zemiro swoops in. “Listen, I know you know the answers. But if you answer them, it gives these guys (The Teams) fuck all to do. So why don’t you just… think the answer, instead of saying it. Let’s try that for this question.” We all laugh, but her scolding works. And the game continues with only whispers coming from Choppa Man.

Tagging in for Mark Seymour on Team 2 is Wilson singing Pain and Misery by Melbourne’s own, The Teskey Brothers. And her voice is big, I mean, almost too big for the mic. She came out almost sheepish, but babygirl has pipes. (The goosebumps up and down my arms agree.) Unsurprisingly, she reveals her first concert to be Alicia Keys, supported by John Legend – so clearly, she’s had soul in her for a long time. 

AND THEN WE HAVE, THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE EVENING, Vika and Linda Bull. I’ve seen Vika and Linda before, but every time they smash it. They’re RocKwiz royalty too, in their own way. In complimenting blue and white suits, the sisters absolutely demolish a live performance of When Will You Fall For Me? It’s an age-old question, and a timeless dance tune. I really admire a song that toes the line between yearnability and danceability. And Vika and Linda’s classic 1994 hit, really does that for me.

Our next musical darling is Shannon J, who, dressed in nothing but leather pants and a simple blue top, nails a cover of On A Night Like This. She sings KYLIE, like it’s no big deal. Consider me impressed. Resident Kylie fan, Team 2’s Michael dances happily in his chair. He and I really do have so much in common. Shannon is so delightfully soft-spoken, and her first ever concert was, “The biggest band in the world – The Wiggles.”

And then we have another interval. We get up, stretch our legs, pee, smoke, cry, sing – whatever you need to do. But all we really want, is more, more, more.

To usher us back in, the band starts playing (or we start singing, I don’t remember which one came first), Don’t Fall in Love. And then, suddenly, Billy Miller is there. The lead singer of the The Ferrets is on that stage, singing to us. What the fuck?! Insane.

Coming back we are hit with a medley of songs; From Adalita’s rock-powered vocals to Vika and Lindas Tongan sisterhood bond to Mark Seymour’s pub-Rock sensibilities – it’s an absolute delight in every way.  The RocKwiz Orchestra plays this sensational mashup of Mushroom songs old and new. Everything from an absolutely spine-tingling version The Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition to Split Enz – they’re some of the best in the business for a reason. And they aren’t about to let us forget it.

Some more trivia back and forth, with Billy Miller and Michael “You can ask me whatever you want, just no sex or drugs” Chugg (Chuggy), coming onstage for a round purely about Michael and his shenanigans. It’s like watching old friends reminisce. Did you know Michael sold watermelon by the slice to make their festivals a financially viable option? Did you know his middle name was Solomon? Did you know he paced when he was thinking? Now you now!

After a serious of ‘Million Dollar Riffs’, most of whom were by Skyhooks. Nankervis knows how to get a room full of music nerds fired up, “Skyhooks are just the intelligent version of KISS, discuss.” He smirks as the crowd grumbles, or cheers, or argues to no one in particular.

Skyhooks, Masters of the Memorable Riff. Now, let’s hear a cover of Living in the Seventies by the hardest working sisters in showbusiness –“Before he can finish, the crowd roars for Vika and Linda to come back. And come back they do. The stage lights up red, with gold flecks of light falling down onto them as they belt out and dance to the 1974 hit. They really never miss. Their energy is infectious, they feed off of each other, and off of us. They’re just masterful.

And then, and then… Didirri comes onstage. I remember the first time I saw Didirri, he was opening for Hozier, at the Palais Theatre no less. That was over 4 years ago, and I think about it all the time. His voice was so haunting, his lyrics saw through me. I’ve actually been lucky enough to meet him since then, and he’s delightful. Shy and soft, with big kind eyes. Really, I can’t sell him enough, do yourself a favour and go sit by a river and listen to Didirri while you think about heartbreak – and thank me (or don’t) later. Begin Again, performed nearly completely acoustic in a full auditorium is chilling. He stands perfectly still, while a piano plays the odd chord behind him. And he is captivating. I think I need to check my pulse again.

Zemiro is also a big fan. “That’s so beautiful that song.”

Didirri chrips into the mic, “I thought you were going to say ‘that’s DISGUSTING’”.

“No! Men and women holding eachother is my favourite thing.”

Speaking of men holding eachother, Didirri and Miller swap out, but as they do, they give eachother a big warm embrace and a kiss on the cheek. There’s clearly a lot of love there, and it’s beautiful. Didirri was the last person Michael signed to the label, and the only time they spoke, I think Gudinski said it best; “I’m fucked… Is that Didirri? You’re young, you’re talented, your songs are beautiful – let’s make something happen.” And his first concert? It was The Waifs at Port Fairy Folk Festival.

And so the night draws to a close, with the scores as follows…. Drum roll PLEASE!!! Will it be the underdogs, the scrappy Team 1, or will it be level-headed, traditionally nerdy Team 2?

With 150 points – Team 2 narrowly takes it!! Team 1 coming in slightly behind on 130.

Another incredible series of performances follows, “Long live Australian Rock and Roll!” Nankervis takes over the mic to say. “This was a tribute to absent friends.” The whole group, all the acts, all the contestants dance together in a kick line.

“I remember Michael Gudinski. We remember Mushroom.”

Here’s to 50 more years.

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[Review] Slowdive @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 22/07/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

 A hipster in the World’s Smallest Beanie, a middle-aged couple with tattoos peeking out from under their jumpers and a leather-jacket clad goth walk into a venue. You ask them who they’re there to see. As a chorus they say, Slowdive. This was the exact situation I was faced with one freezing Friday night at Melbourne’s The Forum. And it was absolutely packed. Long before the opening riffs of support act Flyying Colours, the Forum is overflowing with swaying heads, bodies clothed in all black and the smells of uniquely spicy, floral perfumes. The anticipation hangs in the air, it mixes with impatience, and we all crane our heads, desperately waiting for the lights to dim. Slowdive has been sold out for a long time, and tickets were literally impossible to nab second-hand, so to say I was excited to be there, is an understatement. Clearly, everyone else is too. Two days after turning 24, I was ready to watch a band which defines a search for identity in your 20s. As the mothers of one of the Melancholic Youth’s favourite genres, shoegaze, the British 5-piece have been spitting out top-of-the-line, sad ambience since 1989.

Opening is Australia’s own, Flyying Colours. Who, despite having no bassist, create one of the most beautiful musical experiences I could ever imagine. Using backing tracks, the three vocalists create wonderous layers of loud. Songs like Ok sound better in the open spaces of The Forum, they linger in the air and taper off in such a delightful way. It is perfect harmony all the way through, the three voices melting together like butter, the guitars and the drums never fighting for dominance – instead sharing the sound equally. Flyying Colours really can’t be defined by genre. They have mastered shoegaze; with some tracks throwing it back to the 90’s – sad oozing chords, low voices which spit out lines of lovesick poetry. But equally, they can do poppier tracks, sort of Australian-picnic vibes. Either side of the coin, they are the perfect band to listen to on a car ride, they are a walking film soundtrack, they are the perfect opener for Slowdive. They don’t spend much time speaking to us, aside from the odd, profuse “thank you”, instead they take us from song to song. Their setlist is so heart wrenchingly gorgeous I don’t want the songs to end, and they know that. We are eating out of their hands, never wanting the spell to break. And then, they’re done, and we are left wanting more – and aching for tonight’s main act.

I find shoegaze especially hard to write about, the songs are wonderfully atmospheric, they take you on a journey that it can be hard to tell when one ends and when one begins. But Slowdive, masterful as always, have found the perfect way to punctuate their show. Behind the band is the biggest projection screen I’ve ever seen at a concert like this. Insane visuals dance across the screen throughout the show – Out-of-Body experience is putting it lightly.

Slowdive walk on stage so suddenly, softly, so without fuss. Rachel Goswell is wearing the most fabulous pink-and-red feathered cape. She takes the microphone with gentle hands, looking down at the floor before taking a big breath in – and we begin. Opening so strong with Slomo, the screen behind them wiggles and morphs, the graphic looking like oil on water. The insane rainbow acid-trip of colours cover the band, they look like silhouettes, peacefully strumming, plucking, and drumming. The song ends, and it’s clear Goswell is our spokesperson for the night. Between every song she just leans into the microphone and says, “Thank you”. In return, there is an endless sea of “We love you, Rachel!” being shrieked from the crowd. To this, again, she just says; “Thank you”, this time with a blushing side-smile.

Then we are thrown into it again. An absolutely unreal line-up of songs pours out of the band. From self-titled Slowdive, into Avalyn – with the visuals turning into something that looks like a sci-fi highway. Swirling lights, and long lines invite us to jump into a super-fast car – TRON style. Catch the Breeze into Star Roving are stunning, the lights on the band are just white, with a grey wash covering the stage. The visuals are insane, they only grow in complexity with each passing song. This time, there is a pill, moving and spinning – leaving trails of itself across the screen. On one side it says “SD” and the other “1-989”. I can’t look away. I feel my head moving from side to side as I follow it on its journey. It’s hard to say exactly where I went, but I couldn’t think about much of anything, except that I needed more of this music. Every bad feeling I’d ever had, every doubt, every moment of self-loathing was bandaged by the masterful drumming’s of Simon Scott, Nick Chaplin’s warm, moody bass playing and the indescribable guitar work of Christian Savill and main songwriter, Neil

Halstead. It’s all nearly too-much. The visuals and the sounds are a complete consumption of the senses, it’s easy to lose yourself, but it is just right.

It's during Souvlaki Space Station, that something special happens. At the end of the song, the screen becomes a wild place – harsh lights quickly pulling away, like we are being sucked into a black hole. And then I notice that someone is screaming. Or is it part of the song? I stand there, transfixed. I’m still not sure. But it is a guttural, primal scream from deep inside someone. Slowdive reached into their gut and pulled out all the shameful, painful shit inside. And in a fit of catharsis, they scream. And I realise, we all want to. I imagine myself screaming, throwing all of that shit against the projection screen, and letting the music of Slowdive suck me into the black hole – ready to be born anew.

Sugar for the Pill and Alison are such strong personal favourites. These songs have rescued me from dark pits with no end. I touch my cheek and realise I’m crying. And I’m not alone.

I think I’ve tried every anti-depressant on the market in an attempt to ease my daily melancholia. None of them put a dent in the physical and mental relief When The Sun Hits provides. This song has to be in the arsenal of every gently aged music-lover in a genuinely vintage concert shirt for some band we’ve heard a million times at a family friend’s barbeque, and every emerging adult, eyeliner laid on thick, peering at the stage through heavy eyelids. A lattice of projected lights shifts around the projection screen, lines all moving together; I can nearly hear its heartbeat. Everything Slowdive touches, turns to life. The soundwaves sit so thick in the air I breathe them in with every inhale and swear I can nearly touch the perfectly played melody. An entire audience does something between a sing, a yell, and a scream. “It matters where you are!” It feels like we sing it over and over, until it becomes a mantra. This crowd cares about each other, as weird and diverse as we might be, there is such an incredible community between us.

If you know me, you know I fucking hate encores. So, when Slowdive was gearing up for theirs, I was very humdrum. But then, they play Dagger and 40 Days. One is the closer of their cult-classic album, Souvlaki and is never given the praise it deserves, and the other is a cult-classic in its own right. They have absolutely smashed it. I almost like encores now.

The visuals turn off, and the band walks off again, Halstead holds his baseball cap in his hands. But we don’t want to leave. My legs ache, but my feet feel like lead. It takes everything in me to turn my back on the stage and head into the night.

I know I’ve just written 1400 words on it, but I still don’t have the right words to describe my experience at The Forum. I’ve been into the Slowdive black-hole, and I’m never coming back.

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[Review] King Stingray @ The Forum, Melbourne 01/07/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

Never has it felt more appropriate to recognise the People’s whose land I work and write on; the Wurrundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. Australia is home to the longest living culture on Earth, whose tradition of oral storytelling often involved song. As a music-writer, gig-goer, and story-lover – It’s important to recognise and honour that tradition, and the many ways it is carried on throughout our country. This always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

Australia is a country that is unbelievably diverse, in landscape, in people and in sound. On Saturday night, I was treated to three acts from all across the country: from the small-town shores of Kojonup to sleepy Adelaide and then all the way north to Arnhem land. I’ve never seen The Forum so full. Doors were at 7, and by the time the clock struck 8 – it was full. Strangers standing shoulder to shoulder, filling the walkways and the floor. We ourselves were so diverse. I saw two twenty-somethings in bright pink coats and red leather pants, a middle-aged man fresh from BCF rocking a cap and boardies, and everything in between.

First act of the night were WA’s own, Old Mervs. To say this duo are “up-and-comers”, is putting it lightly. With over 200,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, I’d be expecting them to become a household name tossed around along with snags at a barbeque. Major hit Cellphone absolutely rocks the crowd at The Forum. It combines King Krule-esque vocal stylings with Ocean Alley’s Aus-Rock sensibilities. Wearing baggy shirts, partially unbuttoned and jeans, these are two guys I could’ve gone to highschool with. Unbelievably chill, but undeniably polished, Henry and David are bringing surf rock back, baby. Childhood friends since they were 5, they innately understand the other, moving like a single organism. The surf-rock renaissance is back, bring it on, bruh.

Although a tough act to follow, we completely shift gears with second support, George Alice. We’ve swapped shaggy blonde hair and a slacker attitude for feminine melancholy and RnB vocals. Australia needs more women in its music scene, and Georgia Mannion took matters into her own hands. At only 20 years old, she’s already quickly soaring through the charts and quickly cementing herself as a newcomer not to be messed with. Long bleached blonde waves cascade over her shoulders as she places two hands lightly on the mic stand. The voice that comes out of her is incredible. Strong, with a gorgeous vibrato and a self-assured gentleness – she has us wrapped around her little finger. Hold On is where her voice really shines. The crowd that was letting loose and dancing is now deathly still, not wanting to break the spell she’s cast on us. My arms are covered in goosebumps. But it’s not all achingly gorgeous semi-ballads, songs like Stuck in a Bubble do an amazing job prepping us for the high-energy main act that’s about to come onstage.

It’s hard to describe the hold King Stingray had over us that night. From the moment it seems like the house lights might dim, people go ballistic. Boys jump in the air, someone screams an ungodly scream, hands are thrown into the air. The anticipation is killer. And not long after, King Stingray comes onstage. This 6-piece, absolute weapon of a band are dressed so casually, it’s almost humorous. They really look like they just stumbled onstage at first. But then they play. And my God, can they play. It’s just banger after banger. The nervous shuffling is replaced with ripper guitar solos, multi-instrument changes and powerful vocals. King Stingray are a delight, in every sense of the word. The room is buzzing, nay, pulsing with energy. Constant heckles of “Yeah!” or, better yet, “Fuck yeah!”, “Deadly!” all fill the room. I moved further to the back of the room as the dancefloor became too hot for my winter getup, and The Forum looked like an ocean. Waves of sound created a sea of hands and bodies and heads, all moving together.

There are many parallels between King Stingray and another iconic Indigenous band, Yothu Yindi. Lead singer Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu is the nephew of Dr. M. Yunupiŋu. and guitarist Roy Kellaway is the son of Stuart Kellaway, who were both founding members of Yothu Yindi. The pair have known each other since childhood. The band is already heavily enmeshed in Australian music culture, King Stingray signed to The Chats’ ‘Bargain Bin Records’, after Yunupiŋu and Kellaway released the band’s first single, Hey Wanhaka. Hey Wanhaka gets a feature tonight, to thunderous applause, jumping and stamping feet. The standout of the night for me, is Dimathaya Burarrwanga’s absolutely unreal didgeridoo playing. It melts perfectly among their 6-voices, adding a layer of depth musically unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. King Stingray are clearly very connected to their Indigeneity, and it surrounds all of their songs in a way that is so beautiful and profoundly fulfilling. We are watching more than a concert, we are watching thousands of years of cultural tradition, of community building, of brotherhood.

I want to stay true to my roots / I want to stay here with you

For Australian cultural icon, Triple J’s; Like A Version, King Stingray performed a cover of Yellow by Coldplay. I didn’t ever imagine I’d see The Forum filled with perfectly in-tune clapping hands.

“We’re going to need some help with this one”, before everyone launches into Yellow. Band and audience, we’re all screaming those lyrics at the top of our lungs. They play an extended version, to give each instrumentalist the chance to leave their mark on us, and the stage. Their energy is insane, never dipping, even for a moment.

Obviously, mega-hit Milkumana goes off. People are scrambling on top of their friends shoulders to make room for more bodies on the ever eager dancefloor. The guy to my left is jumping so high he nearly touches the ceiling, and I see a lad in a bucket hat ushering his band of merry bandits onto the dancefloor. The lighting is incredible here too. Black, yellow and red circles dance around the band. They’re bathed in the colour of the Aboriginal flag, and we are bathed in blissful sound. I remember the first time I heard Milkumana, I was 25 minutes late to an appointment because of traffic, but honestly, I didn’t care. If you want the vibes of an easy summers day, this is a guaranteed serotonin-booster.

Yunupiŋu poses a question to us; “Melbourne, why is it so cold down here? We gotta leave fast, it’s fucking freezing.” Kellaway jumps in, “Western Gapuwiyak, where the sun goes down – that’s what this song is about. Getting out of the city.” Campbell Messer, their phenomenal bassist, takes to the mic; “Thank you so much for coming out tonight. Everybody raise their hands up, facing your palms towards us.” A tidal wave of hands find their way to fresh air. “Look at all those colours. Beautiful. This song is to Strangers. You and me. Brothers and sisters. We bleed together.”  Yunupiŋu reiterates, “Nah, but seriously, get me out of the city.” With a laugh and a wink they launch into the penultimate track of the night; Get me Out.

Coming on for their encore, drummer Lewis Stiles does a SOMERSAULT (an honest-to-god somersault) onstage, leaping high in the air to take his seat behind the set. Let’s Go is such a mammoth way to finish. Everyone’s dancing and the band is pulling out all the stops. The tearing vocals, the unbelievable didgeridoo playing, the elegant bass-lines – not a hair out of place. It’s absolutely perfect. I see people going to leave, trying to beat the crush, but they can’t. They stand at the top of the stairs, frozen, unable to look away.

And then, it’s over, and I’m gutted. We all have more in us. It was such an unbelievable night. No other band does it quite like King Stingray. If you haven’t seen them, what are you doing? I won’t be able to get this night out of my head for a very, very long time.

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[Review] 10CC @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 25/06/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

My dad and I often argue about music; Are The Beatles overrated? Is Lola the best pop song? These things are unknowable. The one thing we don’t argue about: 10cc. They have to be the most underrated rock band of their era (and beyond), and I was lucky enough to have the best night in a long time when “The Worst Band in The World” took the Palais Theatre stage this Sunday.

Belgian-born but Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Romanie is the opener for the night. She played a snappy 30-minute set to eager ears, and it was a delightful start to a super fun night. 10cc didn’t have support acts for many of their concerts this tour, so I feel very blessed to have been treated to the angelic vocals and gorgeous guitar strummings of Romanie, complimented gorgeously by the Palais’ epic acoustics. Her set wasn’t long enough, and yet somehow she managed to cram in a string of heavy-hitters; Changing, Little Big Steps, Anthony and I’m Anything (But Myself Around You) were all part of this gut-wrenchingly wonderful entrée. Romanie reminds me of when I would roll down the sun-roof and windows of my family’s old Rav4 and drive as fast as I (legally) could down the hills of my hometown. These musical musings are the perfect soundtrack for an indie movie, they have a timeless, nostalgic appeal about them that is really hard to capture in words. Romanticise your life, and relive memories to Romanie this week –she’s something special.

Like clockwork, at 8pm sharp the lights go dim and 5 shadows take the stage. When the lights come up, the 5 shadows have faces – and Hawaiian shirts, a floral blazer and a row of instruments behind them. They have the energy of 5 dads at a barbeque, not rock Gods. Let’s meet the crew who will be steering this one way cruise to Good Vibe Island, shall we? On keyboards, vocals, bass guitar and electric guitar; Keith Hayman. On vocals, keyboards, bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, (the fact that the list keeps going beyond this point is ridiculous) percussion, mandolin (ok, now you’re just bragging) and synth, Iain Hornel. These two are newly-welcomed, touring members of the 10cc band – and their talent elevates this already insanely musically talented bunch onstage to new heights. On lead guitar, vocals and acoustic guitar is someone who’s been part of 10cc since the very early days, Rick Fenn. The strong and silent type, Paul Burgess, is their sensational drummer. “He’s been with us since the very beginning, and I’m happy to say he’s still with us”, quips original guitarist and prolific songwriter, Graham Gouldman. I can’t say any one of them was “a front man” or anything like that – they’re an ensemble, and a tight one at that. They all have so much fun together throughout the night, but good god are they unbelievably skilled musicians. During mega-hit Rubber Bullets, I catch Gouldman bashing Hayman’s keyboard with the side of his guitar – all while shredding an intricate riff in perfect harmony with the rest of the guys.

We were promised a night of nostalgia and hits. To quote the Facebook event:


And they stayed true to their end of the bargain – we did not.

To quote Smash Mouth; The hits start coming, and they don’t stop coming. Starting off with personal favourite, The Dean and I we are thrown into an ocean of bangers. I mean, seriously, it’s fucking ridiculous. They could fill a 2-hour set with iconic hit after iconic hit, and the audience still had space in our bellies for more. As they moved into The Wall Street Shuffle, it hit me; I’m surrounded by middle-aged women and barbeque dads… and I’ve never fit in so well. Someone pass me a hat and a lawn chair, It’s time to have a beer and listen to 10cc like the retiree I was always meant to be. There’s no other band like them, and there never will be. Known for songs heavy in goof-factor, like Life Is A Minestrone, I was taken aback by how insanely stellar their instrumentation is. Virtuosos, the lot of them. They wind through hits and play different arrangements to keep us on our toes, adding a prog-Rock factor to many of them that isn’t there on the albums. Sometimes, just for a moment, Fenn’s floral blazer, Gouldman’s Hawaiian shirt and the grey hairs fade away, and I can see them as young men, at the top of their game, making their musical mark on the world. There is undeniably a rockstar spirit about them, they capture the duality between comradery, silliness and shenanigan with diligence, creativity, and originality better than any other band I’ve had the privilege of seeing. The way Gouldman speaks about former 10cc members, specifically illustrious songwriters Kevin Godley and Lol Crème, is with such respect, love and care. There seems to be no bad blood between them. When talking about Fenn, Burgess and Hayman, it’s clear that Gouldman seems them as musical brothers. They are a family, where bad blood is bad blood but there’s no one else you’d rather share blood with. This respect for each other, and for their music, shines through. There is such an air of love and nostalgia tonight, and it’s delightful.

It’s not all common hits, we are treated to new song Floating in Heaven, about Gouldman’s love for the James Webb Space Telescope. “I wrote this and sent it to my record company, and they said ‘It’s absolutely fantastic’. Obviously. But it would be even better if you could get Brian May on it. Not only is he an exceptional guitarist, but he’s also a passionate astronomer and astrophysicist. So he said ‘Ok, I love it’, and he sings on it and plays guitar and he” Gouldman gestures side-stage, “is not here tonight.” We all laugh. “But Rick Fenn is!” We all cheer. Floating in Heaven is lovely. It’s simple, it’s gorgeous, and the three-way layered vocals which reverberate so wonderfully, thanks in-part to the Palais’ acoustics, give me goosebumps.

Then we head into two songs where I feel they really shine. I’m Not in Love is first. My dad has this memory of when he was 13 and would listen to the radio in The Netherlands, and when this song came on – it blew his mind. He didn’t know music could sound that way, and he was hooked. My dad is now a music junkie (seriously, someone should stage an intervention), and this song takes some credit for that. I thought the complex vocal and instrumental layers which feature on the track wouldn’t be achievable live, but you should never doubt 10cc. They pull it off. Hornel changes instruments about 6 times, and all four vocalists are working together, and it’s spellbinding. I am washed clean by a river of sound. A musical baptism if you will. Next, is The Things We Do For Love, I’m Not in Love’s poppier big sister. Live it sounds almost melancholic, with Hornel’s vocals hitting insane notes and with those lyrics… perfection. For anyone who’s ever had their heart broken, broken their own heart or been in a complicated Situationship – this one’s for you, us, me. It’s also for the teenage daughter and her dad next to me, he’s holding back tears and she’s grooving – love these guys, great vibes from seat 34 and 35.

Now, here’s the thing about that whole: NO STANDING, thing. I think we will be standing, actually, and not just standing – dancing. As soon as Dreadlock Holiday plays, everyone’s up. Groups of women twirl with each other, teens sidestep, and uncles tap their feet. The song just goes stupidly hard, every time you hear it. I get genuinely sad when it ends. It’s the perfect road-trip song, perfect party beat, hell, I might even have the first dance at my Elvis chapel wedding to it. My daydreams are cut short by the squeals of delight from the crowd when our ship-captains change the lyrics to,

I don’t like Melbourne/ oh no! / I love it!

Insane. They love us?! We love them!! What a dream come true!!

Then, the encore. “This is going to be an acapella version of Donna.” They really don’t run out of ideas, do they? So, they gather around the mic, and in true barbershop quartet fashion, belt out an insane version of the 1972 hit. It seems appropriate to end on one of the band’s first releases. Drummer Paul Burgess comes up to the mic for the final,

“Donna / I love you”.

His deep baritone voice is both shocking and impressive.

“That was Donna by Paul Burgess, ladies and gentlemen.” We go nuts. The most Australian man in history is sitting behind me and nearly rips his vocal cords screaming; “ONYA PAUL” Legend.

But wait! It’s not over! How could it be? We haven’t heard Rubber Bullets yet!

If you haven’t heard them live, you still haven’t really heard Rubber Bullets. The flashing red and blue lights, the hilarious lyricism delivered with the perfect wit and in perfect harmony, the absolute descent into madness onstage – it’s an experience all on its own. To watch them relax into this last number after delivering a set I couldn’t criticise if I tried is so lovely. Even when they’re mucking around; dancing together, kicking their legs, play fighting using their guitars as swords; they’re on the same wavelength.

And then, it’s over. Their enduring bond and passion for music bring everyone to their feet. A standing ovation. I think someone threw their bra. Rock and Roll is back baby, and 10cc is making sure of it.

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