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[Review] Michael Marcagi @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 17/07/2024

Move over Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers. Michael Marcagi is the new kid in town, and I have a feeling in my waters he’s going to do big things. 

Hump day in Melbourne and the streets are slicked with what feels like never ending rain, and despite my body adorning multiple thick layers of warmth it still wasn’t enough to combat the icy wind slicing its way through me. I head on down into the dark depths of 170 Russell and, my claustrophobic fears aside, this has fast become one of my favourite live music venues in Melbourne. I’m here to see Cincinnati-born singer-songwriter Michael Marcagi who is down under for the very first time, spreading the joy that is his music across our great country. 

To start the night and melt the icicles off our face with her warm tones was Tasmanian singer-songwriter, Maddy Jane. Maddy Jane hails from one of the most southern parts of the world before you hit Antarctica, and being an OG Tassie-born gal myself I couldn’t help but feel proud to have such a fabulous talent showcasing her gift around the country. With her melodic voice and guitar in hand, she blew us all away with a solo set which included the relatable June, Thylacine (TASSIE REPRESENT), and a stunning Paolo Nutini cover, Through the Echoes. Maddy Jane invited fellow singer Kaitlin Keegan on stage for a couple of numbers, and their voices were perfectly blended with flawless harmony. 

With a break in proceedings, the room was filling fast and there was an excited buzz around the place whilst the young crowd were awaiting the main event. Soon enough, the lights were lowered, and Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky played out as Michael Marcagi and his 5-piece band venture out on stage to a huge round of applause from a delighted crowd. The mandolin-heavy upbeat track American Romance – from the EP of the same name – opened the set and straight away I can tell we’re in for a great night. Next was Spend My Money which is a track from Marcagi’s former band that he used to front, The Heavy Hours. 

In the Light’s lyrics hit me hard and was definitely one of the standout songs for me, before we were treated to a ripping cover of Olivia Rodrigo’s Deja Vu. In between songs, it became quite evident that Michael was so genuinely thrilled, and perhaps even slightly overwhelmed to be here in Australia. He was continuously gushing at how much he loves it here and was even repping a green and gold ‘Australia’ t-shirt that he’d bought from the souvenir shop over the road for $17 bucks. Talk about dedicated to the cause! The up-tempo track Savannah was another one that I could see everyone appeared to be getting into, before it was time to test out some new music on us with Stick Around. Michael was then left to his own devices as his band vacated the stage to leave him to do another new track on his own, and man this one packed a punch. The raw and gritty emotion in his vocals, especially in the bridge of this song, was something else and definitely one of my favourite moments of the night. He told us a hilarious story about performing that song recently and after the show, a concert-goer approached him to tell him how unsettled she felt because he was staring at her the whole time he sang that song. In his defense he couldn’t actually see 3 feet in front of him due to the blinding stage lights, but this woman was convinced he was staring at her so now he has a serious complex about “being that creepy guy on stage”. 

It was time for another cover and this time it was in the form of the Harry Styles hit, Two Ghosts. The crowd loved this one too and were singing along, and jokes were made about how he only had 6 songs out in the world, but next time he comes back to Australia he promised to have more songs of his own to perform. The night was starting to draw to a close but not before Tear It All Apart, followed up by the popular, Scared to Start. It was a sea of iPhones and not a cigarette lighter in sight as the crowd sang along passionately to every word of this song, whilst capturing every moment for themselves to watch over and over again once they were home. It was goodnights all round as Michael and his band vacated the stage, but with the crowd’s feral reaction for more they had no other choice but to come back and give us one more song. The Other Side was our reward and the whole room erupted and once again provided back up vocals. It was then goodnight for good as Michael Marcagi and his band waved graciously as they headed off.

Marcagi’s beautiful vocals, songwriting prowess and musicianship make for a killer mix, and I think he’s going to do big things in the future! Add to this the fact he seems like such a genuine and humble guy who appears to be truly touched by his existing fans and their dedication. Throughout the show he kept raving about his newfound love of Australia and the surrealism that he’s here performing for crowds, and I can say we would love to have him back anytime! I can’t wait to see what Michael Marcagi delivers us next because guaranteed, it’ll be fantastic!

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[Review] Teddy Swims @ Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, 13/07/2024

The Melbourne weather let us down tonight, we almost had to swim to Margaret Court Arena, but the soggy trip was well worth it. Teddy Swims was amazing. The crowd were a mixture of mainly 20’s to well in their 60’s, all waiting patiently as the night opened with Meg Mac.

For those not in the know Meg Mac (Megan Sullivan McInerney) is an Australian singer/songwriter who tonight is backed by her sister Hannah and guitarist/keyboard player Pete. Meg appears on stage all dressed in goth black and shining silver space boots. She started to sing and I was surprised by her vocals. She has a clear and smokey sounding voice with a touch of country twang. Meg prowls up and down the stage while singing with her obviously well trained voice, but she is not afraid to share her spotlight with her sister Hannah who also processes a quality voice. The blend of the sisters’ voices is a joy to listen to. Meg needs no gimmicks in her stage performance as the quality of the lyrics and music are more than enough.

The crowd though here to see Teddy were very attentive and appreciative of the talented support act. Meg performed 8 songs and my favourite was a Bill Withers song Grandma’s Hands. It had a haunting vocal and was sung to a clapping beat with no guitar. Meg sang mainly originals that showed her strong songwriting talent. Hannah and Pete moved from one instrument to another and for a 3pce band they had a full Indi pop sound. Meg Mac was a great warm up for the main act. Jaten Collin Dimsdale AKA Teddy Swims is an American singer/songwriter. The Swims stands for Someone Who Isn’t Me Sometimes, which reportedly he doesn’t like anymore, but it’s too late to change.

The smoke-filled arena had the crowd singing to pre-recorded songs in anticipation for Teddy Swims and Freek Freely. Lights dim, stage is smokey and blue lit. Let Me Clear My Throat by DJ Kool starts playing, red pulsating lights, jump, jump, jump and then they appear, Teddy Swims and his 5 piece band. Before the first note is played Teddy kicks off his shoes and they start playing Good Bye’s Been Good To You to raputous applause.

Teddy is all dressed in black complete with hat, sunglasses, big silver belt buckle and covered in tattoos. Teddy’s style does not give you any hint of the voice that lives inside. His background of heavy metal and influences of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Al Green have given him a voice which is full of power. Teddy has a cool tone and a voice full of emotion and soul, add in a touch of country and you have this amazing talent. He is a Southerner with swagger, but sounds like a raspy angel who’s powerful voice is capable of hitting the high notes.

He has a soft Southern drawl when he talks between songs, he is humorous, sweet and genuine. His love of Australia and his fans is evident when he speaks, and you feel like if he could, he would give every punter a big bear hug. Teddy’s band Freek Freely are filled with talented musicians, with Addy Maxwell and Jesse Hampton on guitar, Christian Griswald on bass, DeAndre Hemby on drums and Jaruis Hardge on keys and to quote Teddy “His best friends”. Each member is top class and we were treated to awesome solos on the drums, guitars and keys. Freek Freely is worth the ticket price and Teddy is the icing on the cake.

Teddy played an 18 song set, including 3 encore songs. In his 4th song of the night 911 he thanked the crowd for the reception he had received in Melbourne saying “no one at home loves me like you do”. Hands were in the air clapping and I have to mention two little girls (approximately 10 years old) in the seats on the side, they did not sit down, dancing with hands in the air all concert. Teddy even noticed and kept sending them love. Way too cute and great taste in music. All That Really Matters had huge cannon explosions which cover the standing crowd with streamers. Devil In A Dress has massive flame explosions and following song Simple Things, Teddy left stage for a beer, got a shoe from the crowd and did a shoey to chants of delight. “If I can’t sing tomorrow because of your foot fungus, it’s your fault” he joked with the crowd. Some Things I’ll Never Know were just Teddy on a stool and the keyboardist. Stripped back, his vulnerability and rawness gave me goosebumps. It was hauntingly beautiful. You’re Still The One by Shania Twain had the crowd in full voice and was dedicated to all mothers.

Teddy closed with his hits Lose Control and The Door with confetti explosions and a very satisfied crowd. Melbourne definitely gave Teddy Swims lots of love and a bear hug right back at him. Tonight was so much more than I was expecting, and I could have stayed all night listening to Teddy Swims and the Freek Freely.

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[Review] The Tea Party – Enmore Theatre, Sydney 21/06/2024

Enmore Theatre in Sydney was buzzing with excitement as The Tea Party arrived to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their album TRIPtych. The gentlemen from Windsor, Ontario, swiftly reminding everyone why they’ve remained a staple in the rock scene for so long and why Australia has an ever-growing affinity for their self proclaimed ‘Morrocan-roll’.

The packed show kicked off with The Halcyon Days, instantly pulling the crowd into a nostalgic trance. Jeff Martin, with his signature charisma, greeted us, “It’s been a long time between drinks, Sydney, and we have a lot to catch up on, but for now, let’s just play some rock and roll.”.

From the moment they launched into The Bazaar, the crowd was hooked. The seamless blend of Underground with Lou Reed’s Walk on The Wild Side put a lot of smiles on dials, showing off the band’s knack for mixing things up. A personal highlight was when Martin paid homage to Jeff Buckley with Last Goodbye before diving into The Messenger, a touching highlight that left us in awe. I am consistently blown away by the similarity of their live performance to recorded. A friend informed me after the show that the band refuses to practice; they just come out of the gate and play a show like this! Wow!

The middle of the set saw The Tea Party delivering intense performances of Gone and These Living Arms, while the medley of Save Me and Samsara mesmerized. And who could forget the mash-up of Heaven Coming Down and U2‘s With or Without You? The transition was much better received than in earlier performances, which had split fans down the middle and were heckled by some. This time, however, most fans sang along and enjoyed the moment.

Jeff Martin made reference to how talkative he can be at shows and joked that he was called out in a recent review about it. The fans quite obviously love it, as he is met with chants of support ‘speak up Jeff!’. Perhaps this comment got into his head, because if you didn’t know in advance, you would never know it was an anniversary tour as there was very little mention of the TRIPtych album itself. It’s especially odd considering this anniversary tactic has been the basis of their tours for the past half-decade, likely due to the lack of new albums.

While tracks from TRIPtych were performed, parts of the album were cut in favor of usual crowd-pleasing classics, it was a slight shame not to hear the full album. Similarly, fans of the band’s 2004 album Seven Circles, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, were left begging for a track or two.

Temptation wrapped up the main set with a burst of energy, Martin giving the audience a chance to take over vocals for a moment, before leaving the crowd hungry for more. The encore was pure magic. Kicking off with Winter Solstice on the actual winter solstice date was a perfect touch. But the real showstopper was Sister Awake, which they blended with covers of The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black and David Bowie’s Heroes. It was a powerful finale that had the entire theatre on their feet, singing along.

With only two shows left on this tour—June 23 in Thirroul and a sold-out performance at Fortitude Music Hall in Brisbane on June 25—the opportunities to see The Tea Party on this run are dwindling.

Tonight’s performance at the Enmore Theatre was more than just a concert; it felt like a reunion with old friends. The band took us on a journey through their hits, mixing in surprises that kept the night exciting and memorable. As the final notes rang out and the lights came up, it was clear that The Tea Party still holds a special place in the hearts of their Aussie fans, old and new.

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[Review] The Paper Kites – Forum Theatre, Melbourne 21/06/2024

Friday 21st June. The shortest day of the year and a full moon was illuminating the night sky, but thankfully it hadn’t brought the crazies out as I strolled through the city with my friend to catch The Paper Kites at The Forum. The five-piece outfit that originally hail from Melbourne have been touring Australia for the last month, off the back of their world tour which has had them taking their music far and wide around the globe. The theatre was slowly filling as we ventured in and settled into a standing position down toward the front of the stage. The crowd was made up of a specific age group, with majority of punters being loved up couples who were clearly there for date night. To kick the evening off and set the vibe for the night was Australian singer songwriter, Hannah Cameron. Hannah did a beautiful solo set, and with just her guitar in hand and 2 backing vocalists, she managed to hold the crowd at attention where you could’ve heard a pin drop. She navigated her set effortlessly, ensuring the audience were thoroughly entertained and now in the zone.

It wasn’t long between sets before The Paper Kites entered the stage to an excited round of applause from the intimate crowd, and then took their seated positions. Between the Houses was the first cab off the rank, and the quiet acoustic sound with the subtle pedal steel layer instantly put the audience into a trance-like state. Till The Flame Turns Blue would have you believing that the band were from the likes of Nashville or Texas with their unique sound that appears to be heavily influenced by bands that hail from these areas. Lead vocalist Sam Bentley then greeted the room and let us know how thrilled the band were to be playing in their hometown. This was the second last night of the tour before it wraps up, and they were equally as stoked to be playing in one of their favourite venues in the world. To be fair, The Forum is an absolutely incredible theatre and I think any musician would be honoured to grace its stage, with the walls soaked with the music of the legends that have played their previously, the building certainly has a story to tell.

Bentley explained that this tour came about after the band set up camp in a little town called Campbell’s Creek at the local roadhouse which they managed to turn into a bar. The first gig they played there attracted 5 people, until word finally got around town that the band were in residence in which they were then playing to a packed house. When we were told the next song was Hurts So Good, my friend Anna and I looked at one another with sheer excitement thinking were being treated to the John Cougar Mellencamp track. But our bogan dreams were shattered when we were told that in fact, no, this song wasn’t to be confused with Mellencamp’s hit. We definitely weren’t disappointed with this track though. I had to laugh that every thought I had and shared with Anna was then completely validated by the band. Looking around the room you could see the loved-up couples feeling each song, and then others that had that look on their face that this music was the soundtrack to a breakup where they laid in bed eating ice cream listening to The Paper Kites on repeat. The band were then joking around saying that their music is for sad people and couples and has the ability to have couples thinking they’re safe, until they leave their show then questioning if they’re with the right person. A sense of humour goes a long way when you’re the frontperson of a band, and Bentley certainly ticks all those boxes. He then cheekily dedicated the next song, Nothing More Than That, to all the sad folk and the doubting couples. The crowd absolutely loved this, and when bandmate Christina Lacy took over on vocals during the song, the crowd well and truly showed their appreciation.

Green Valleys kept up the melancholy mood, whilst Tenenbaum had drummer, Josh Bently picking up the harmonica to contribute another beautiful layer to the track. Another song from their latest album At The RoadhouseI Don’t Want to Go That Way – had the crowd conjure up a collective sway as we were all still completely hypnotised by this magical musical fog that had infiltrated all our bodies and minds simultaneously. The band then all rose from their seats and gathered around an old school ear trumpet Delphina microphone, and the whole vibe had us all placed at the Ryman Auditorium in 1950’s Nashville watching the Grand Ole Opry. They then kicked off with their massive hit Bloom, and the crowd went absolutely wild when the plucked guitar intro rang out. This was such a special, intimate and moving moment as the crowd sang along to every word, and the look of pure joy and appreciation emanated from the band.  

June’s Stolen Car then picked up the pace with its electric guitar intro, and when guitarist David Powys hit us up with his vocals, this sent everyone into an excited spin. This song was undoubtedly one of my personal favourites of the night. The band kept up the musical adventure with Without Your Love, Good Nights Gone, and then Black & Thunder kicked in with its funky beat and almost sultry blues feel that had my body moving before I could even realise. The band then hit us up with an Adrienne Lenker cover, Anything, in which Bentley acknowledged that she is one of the best lyricists around and that they hoped to do the song justice. I can guarantee that that’s indeed what they did. For the last song of the night, Paint, the group once again came to the forefront of the stage and gathered around the Delphina. There was a collective happy sigh in perfect unison from the audience once the intro started, and this song was another crowd favourite.

We were then wished good night before the stage was emptied and the audience were left wanting and weren’t going to budge an inch until they got a bit more magic. The stage lights faded up so the band could deliver the encore goods, and the moving sound of By My Side placated the audience whilst also providing ALL the goosebumps. Electric Indigo closed off the show beautifully and by the look on everyone’s faces, not a single a person had a bad time.

The Paper Kites have achieved something very clever – whether its consciously or not – but their band name describes their musical style perfectly. Their songs sneak into your brain bringing an overwhelming sense of calm, before making you feel like you are in fact a paper kite, floating aimlessly in the sky with the warm sun on your face and not a care in the world. Their music is honestly just what your soul needs sometimes, no matter the mood you’re in or your usual musical preferences. At the end of the gig, I passed a poor distraught lady who thought she may have popped her knee out. Whilst this obviously wasn’t funny, I couldn’t help but be amused at the irony of the fact that of all the gigs in the world you could sustain an injury at in hectic moshpits or otherwise, it was at the most mellow gig imaginable. The band had joked earlier in the evening that they had attracted a crowd surfer once when they were in Salt Lake City, but despite this funny anecdote I don’t think this woman had tried to give it a go. With flawless harmonies, and instruments that sing and appear to be an extension of the human playing them, this was certainly a show for the books and a wonderfully unique experience.

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Cancer Bats @ Stay Gold, Melbourne 19/06/2024

It’s a cold night in Melbourne, there is a chill in the air, but that is soon to disappear because tonight Cancer Bats are heating things up at Stay Gold, a relatively small venue, which means things will be up close and personal, hot and sweaty, chaotic… fun!

I love a good underground punk/hardcore gig, no bands hiding, everyone interacting, everyone setting up, how often are you seeing the headlining bands out and hanging at the merch desk just chatting away and watching the openers? How often are you seeing that international headliner setting up and sound checking their own gear? Straight off the bat tonight had a great feeling to it, just from these simple sightings.

Starting off with a “Thanks for coming out early, we have an anxious start cause of a gear muck up before the show, but the guitarist got back in here in 20mins!” Melbourne’s opening band Sidesplitter said they started with angst, but you can’t tell there aren’t any nerves at all with their tight, upbeat punked outset. Stay Gold starts off slow, but luckily in a venue like this it doesn’t take many people to make it look full. These guys smash through their set, which only goes for about 20 – 25 mins but it’s completely stacked full of songs, I guess that’s the perks of being a punk band. Sidesplitter pack plenty of melody and killer riffs played by one hell of a guitarist, most riffs and I’m talking like 95% of them were played all down picking, now any guitarist having a read of this will and should be impressed, especially for single note up-tempo punk riffs!  That’s a fair effort by any standard! They have great stage banter, ending their set with a bit of a laugh with a crowd member with the last line of conversation being “The sound guy said one, maybe he doesn’t like us Gaz, I don’t know”. These guys were a great opener for tonight and would go out of my way to see them play again.

Threats, straight outta Frankston. These guys looked and sounded exactly as the name suggests, threatening. Their brand of hardcore was a hell of lot rougher around the edges than Sidesplitter before them, straight from the streets. These guys had a mid-2000’s two step sound to them and they played it well, even covering an old 50 Lions track, that’s a name I haven’t heard of in a very long time! They kept the energy of the room high and getting people to come up closer to the stage with each song. They utilized their full band well, bringing out tons of gang vocals and guitar riff trade-offs, it had a great effect! Yet again, 25 – 30 min set but goddamn! These guys jammed a lot of tightly played chugging two stepping in. This was their singers first show with them and he put in 110% effort! He nailed it! If you’re into that style of Aussie hardcore, go and check them out!

Next up was Sydney’s Fangz, I didn’t know what to think when they were setting up, each band has looked and played different so far, the only thing I did know was that these guys had to bring the same energy that the 2 bands before them had. Queue the intro music, which sounded like some 80’s style rock riff and the band walk on stage in black overalls waving and the singers wearing this hot pink bucket hat, yeah ok, I think we are gonna be fine here. Fangz absolutely smashed their set! They had the energy, they had the banter, their frontman was part Canadian, it was probably criteria for getting main support, they had it all! Straight off the bat, the frontman had the crowd charmed, he scored some sunnies off a punter and was sporting those whilst jumping straight into the pit and joining the mosh. Fangz had the banter to match their energy, they were funny, witty and entertaining as hell. The singer sounded a little like a Wednesday 13 kind of style at times and the music was catchy riff after catchy riff, it was melodic, they kept the gang vocals going, their drummer was unreal, such a good snare sound, it would cut straight thru the mix every time. They had all the right things in all the right places.

All the supports tonight were exactly what was needed for tonight, all energy, all 0 – 10 attitude and all about having a good time.

As I said at the start of the review, how often do you see an international headlining act out and about? Especially doing their own set up and sound check? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it, or doing it during a show? Like a support band? Like the rest of us!? It’s mad! It’s incredibly humble to see, that’s what it is! Cancer Bats are there on stage setting up their gear, they shake a few hands along the way of people up the front then they go to the side for their pre-show huddle and chuck on Metallica’s Whom the Bell Tolls, what a killer track! They stand there, headbang, sing, stretch and get ready to come out.

Cancer Bats kick straight into Gatekeeper and the entire venue erupts, all the energy built up from the last 3 bands just explodes into a mass of bodies jumping and moshing. I was standing at the side of the venue, with a great view of the stage and of the crowd and I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire gig, it was an incredible sight! Somehow the drummer has the sunnies from the Fangz singer and he is grinning ear to ear while smashing the kit, 1 minute into their set and they are already having a blast. Liam gives the safety speech and then looks to the camera guys to the side of stage “I’m sorry, I was meant to catch up with you guys before the show, we won’t be having professional shoots tonight, just phone footage with terrible voiceovers please. Everyone have fun. I WANT CHAOS!” Then they kick into Lucifer’s Rocking Chair, well he got what he asked for, it was chaos! I have been waiting to see these guys play for some time now and they did not disappoint! They were tight, they were all energy and they were down to earth. Liam stopped for a chat and said that they have been coming to Australia for 17 years now and that they had Deez Nuts support way back when, he then thanked the supports but not only just saying thank you “Insert Band Name” like every usual headline act on these shows, he brought up things that they did and said during their sets, showing that he actually watched and took notice! That to me says a lot! I would be so stoked to support a band where they actually watched your set. They smash out some killer tracks throughout the night, Radiate, Lonely Bong and Trust No One, to name a couple. We get to Bricks and Mortar, and not that the energy was lacking at any point, it steps up another notch, people know what’s coming up next, Cancer Bats killer cover of Sabotage, it’s absolutely unreal! Getting to hear this live the crowd goes nuts, and the singer from Sidesplitter jumps up on stage and screams along with them, how he must have been feeling to get up and do that! And then I finally get to hear their set closer, Hail Destroyer! My night was complete, screaming this along with them and everyone else in the venue! What a time! Ever since first coming across that album, I have been hanging to catch these guys live!

If you get a chance to catch them, go do it, you will not regret that choice. If you haven’t listened to their music yet, go and have a listen, it is heavy, groovy, it’s catchy as hell and just wait till you get to see them live!

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Missy Higgins @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 3/05/2024

Never in my young life could I imagine getting to a point where I would start a story with “20 years ago…” and actually have a living adult memory from that time, rather than it just being a blurred childhood recollection. So, when some of your favourite bands and artists start embarking on their ‘20th Anniversary Tours’ for albums you could swear to god were only released a year ago, the reality check hits you like a tonne of bricks. The latest artist to embark on such a tour is our very own and incredibly talented, Missy Higgins. Her debut album The Sound of White turns the big 2-0 this year, and she is currently touring the country far and wide to commemorate the hit album and its success.

Friday night my friend and I headed toward the ocean and landed in St Kilda at one of its most iconic landmarks, the historic and beautiful Palais theatre. This night she was lit up tastefully in a purple and red glow and commanded the attention of every passerby with her dominant presence on the St Kilda foreshore. As my friend and I approached, the crowd were gathering outside the doors and the icy sea breeze cut straight through us as we stood out the front finishing our traveller cans like a pair of naughty 16 year olds. With no support act and an early start time, there was just enough time to rehydrate at the bar and head in to settle into our seats ready for the night to begin.

We didn’t need to wait long until the lights went down, and Missy Higgins entered the stage to sit at her grand piano, to cheers and a huge round of applause from a very excited 2000-strong crowd. To start the set, she kicked off with one of her early songs Falling, and went on to explain that she’d put out a message on her socials asking fans to request songs for this set. The first half of the show was to be a mixed bag of old and new songs, before we revisited The Sound of White album. Halfway through singing The Battle, Missy had a temporary mind blank and hilariously said “Fuck, what are the words? This is what happens when I’m asked to play songs that are 20 years old”. We were then treated to a new song, Story for the Ages, which is on her new album due to be released later this year. Missy explained she wrote the song about coming to terms with her separation from her husband, and having to rewrite her story because it didn’t go the way she had originally planned. Despite her cheery demeanor and her reassurance that she is moving forward with her life, the raw emotion and grief is still clearly evident when Missy discusses this particular phase of her life. Being privy to that open emotion feels like a privilege and makes someone’s story and their music dive deeper into your soul.

The Broken Ones is another new release, and the relatable and emotionally charged lyrics really hit me for six. Throughout this entire set, Missy was alone on stage(bar a couple of numbers that included her backing vocalists), and she seamlessly floated between her piano and guitar, so the acoustic nature of each song gave it an additional layer of depth and feel. The Cactus That Found the Beat was a fun, upbeat jazz-inspired song that Missy wrote for her Year 12 end of year performance and had the crowd grooving and clapping along to the funky beat and her nifty scatting. We then got a huge surprise when Aussie singer Angie McMahon joined Missy on stage, and together they sang Where I Stood. The combination of Missy’s heavenly smooth tones and Angie’s ethereal vocals made this song other worldly, and the collective goosebumps in the theatre were palpable. This was a truly incredible moment, and one that I feel lucky to have witnessed first-hand. Missy made a joke about selling tissues at the merch stand, given the sad content of a lot of her songs, and I found this comment quite appropriate as she sang another new release in which there’s a line she sings about crying in the kitchen once the kids have gone to bed. It’s easy to forget that artists in the public eye are just as human as anyone else, and this particular lyric was really quite poignant and a stark reminder of this.

It was time for an interval so the crowd could grab a drink and emotionally reset, in anticipation of ‘The Second Act’. All For Believing opened the second set with a haunting arrangement with just keys and a cello, before the 6-piece band entered the stage appropriately dressed in white, to perform Katie. Missy flaunted her custom-made short suit for the tour with an accompanying white tasselled jacket, with different meaningful symbols embroidered on it to represent different lyrics from her debut album. The River prompted Missy to recall how she used to freak out her teachers at school with her fucked up stories, but it’s fair to say it seems to have worked out pretty well for her career-wise.

Nightminds brought a solid lump to my throat and had the nostalgia flooding right back into my bones, before Ten Days had me reminiscing about all the boys I wasted hours crying over in my younger years. Missy Higgins and her tunes of heartache were on high rotation on my broken heart playlist and despite the time that has apparently passed, she has the power to evoke all those feelings again making them bubble to the surface. This is How It Goes had Missy showcasing her incredible vocal ability where in one instance in the bridge her voice was doing things I didn’t think humanly possible, and the crowd agreed with their enthusiastic response. We kept moving through the album (not in track order) before landing on The Special Two. You could feel the physical energy of everyone in the room during this iconic track, and the audience couldn’t help but sing along (at a respectful level). Missy thanked her fans for riding this journey with her and for sticking around for the last 20 years, before leading into her first huge hit Scar that had the room singing along to every word and up dancing in the aisles. The Sound of White appropriately finished off the show, and the room completely erupted at its conclusion with raucous cheers and a well-deserved standing ovation.

Missy Higgins is one of our greatest talents in this country, and her songwriting and musical ability is second to none. Her incredible voice is a soothing salve for the soul, that has the extraordinary ability to heal even the most broken of hearts. This was a truly magical night of emotion inducing nostalgia, and I’m so thrilled that I got to experience it in the flesh for myself. Those that have been to this show will know exactly what I’m talking about, and will understand that sometimes there just aren’t enough words that will do this night and the whole entire tour justice.

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[Review] Pandemonium Rocks Fesitval @ Caribbean Gardens, Melbourne 20/04/2024

Now it’s no secret that there has been a LOT of negative talk in the months leading up to the Pandemonium Rocks Festival, and not without good reason. What was initially marketed as a ‘too good to be true’ line up, turned out in fact, to be just that. 13 bands with multiple stages were eventually dwindled down to one stage housing just 7 bands for the day, and then throw in the extremely poor handling of refunding of tickets (or lack thereof) which understandably left an extremely bitter taste in the mouth of some punters. It was going to be an interesting day indeed, and I was intrigued to see what the day would have in store for me in terms of the organisation, crowd numbers and overall vibe. 

The festival was held at the Caribbean Gardens in Scoresby, which after exploring my transportation options, dawned on me that the this wasn’t an ideal location for a festival, and it was going to be a pain in the proverbial just to get there. There was limited onsite parking available for an additional fee, which was sold out prior to the day. Bookings for the designated shuttle buses closed a couple of weeks before the festival, and public transport was a couple of trains and then some bus hopping – forget it. I thought it a bit unfair to cut transport booking options off so early in advance to the event, as I’m sure there weren’t any refunds given for those cancellations. Not knowing the area, I took my chances and drove and ended up in a side residential street not too far from the site. With the site being tucked into the back of a big industrial estate, it was still a hike to get in there and I felt for those unable to physically walk that far. 

The sun was out and the temperature was comfortable, but I knew that the cold would be fast-approaching once the sun packed it in for the day. As I wandered through the gates, The Cosmic Psychos – donning wifebeater singlets, hard yakka and footy shorts – were in the midst of their set belting out some of their songs including Nice Day to Go to the PubFuckwit City and Dead in a Ditch. Before me a sea of camping chairs and picnic rugs were laid out with people mulling about and setting up their camp for the day, with others wandering around checking out the merch and their surrounds. An abundance of portaloos – tick. A good variety of food options – tick. So far so good. I ventured toward the bar area and noticed a HUGE line of thirsty patrons waiting patiently, and it was then I was thankful that I was my own designated driver and wouldn’t have to line up for years to get a drink. 

I decided to grab a bite to eat before the next set and with only a small handful of tables and chairs available for use, some kind strangers at a table were very accommodating to this girl who just wanted to sit down for 5 minutes and chow down on her burrito bowl, because I was going to need my stamina for the night ahead. I ventured on down toward the front of the stage to get a prime position for Aussie rockers, Wolfmother. One elderly music lover had walked down to the front of the stage with her zimmer frame, and I marveled at her dedication to the cause. Wolfmother hit the stage, and the crowd were pretty damn excited. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve seen them live, and they’re a band that I forget how much I love and miss them and their sound until I hear them again. They’re just a great, no bullshit Aussie rock band, and their playing was sublime. They played through a number of their hits including Woman, Dimension and Joker and the Thief. A select few people around me were getting into it, however I feel the band didn’t get the reaction they deserved due to their early time slot and probably the sobriety levels of the crowd at that time of day. Singer Andrew Stockdale declared “Rock and roll ain’t dead yet, and we’re living proof”, before rounding out their set and departing the stage. 

Chatting to a few concert goers and even a fellow reviewer whilst waiting in line for the portaloos, it seemed apparent that a lot of the crowd there had purchased their tickets in anticipation of seeing the bands on the original line-up who had eventually pulled out. Wheatus were next to hit the stage, and even though I’m old enough to remember them hitting the big time and owning their CD single (go ask your parents, kids), I couldn’t remember them releasing any other songs during that time, so I wondered if they were going to fill their set with a 40 minute extended version of Teenage Dirtbag. Surprisingly, they filled their set well with songs like Fourteen, Leroy & Hey, Mr. Brown and although I didn’t know them, I did recognise a cover of AC/DC’s Rock and Roll Damnation before they finished off with the only song anyone cared about, Teenage Dirtbag. The crowd were loving it sick and singing along to every word of the early 2000’s anthem. 

Dusk was upon us, and it was at this point that I got led toward the front of the stage by a friend of mine, when my intention had been to watch from afar without people breathing down my neck. It was more of an opt-in situation rather than opt-out, so this is where I realised I would stay for the remainder of the evening. English rock band The Psychedelic Furs hit the stage, and their fans seemed to be getting into them. Unfortunately, the mix was off which meant the sound wasn’t great from my vantage point. It also seemed to be affecting the band as numerous times singer Richard Butler asked to have the levels changed, and even had to stop a song halfway through because he couldn’t hear himself. They played one of their most famous tracks, Love My Way, as well as a number of other tracks like Wrong Train, The Ghost in You and Pretty in Pink. 

We were now getting to the business end of the night with the 2 bands I was most looking forward to. A police siren soundtrack rang out from the stage and 70’s rockers Blondie entered, with lead singer Debbie Harry rocking a green pant suit and black Zorro-like mask. They opened with X Offender and then led into Hanging on the Telephone. One Way or Another and Call Me really got the crowd amped up and singing along. Once again, the sound was a bit of a letdown and with Harry’s vocals not being overly strong anyway, they were completely lost amongst the music at times. I did wonder if it was because I was so close to the stage, but in my experience the sound should still be decent whether you’re 10 metres or 100 metres from the stage. Blondie still put on a great and entertaining show, and when the stage was drenched in neon green lighting, Atomic blew us away with the addition of guitarist Tommy Kessler’s ripping solo on his Flying V. Blondie played for over an hour and included In the Flesh, Rapture and The Tide is High in their set. Heart of Glass had Harry donning a mirrored cape with a hood, before they finished off with Dreaming.

Darkness was well and truly upon us now, the air was chilled, and as I looked up to the sky in amongst the dark clouds was a near-full moon shining through. I couldn’t help but think how eerily cool and appropriate it was, given the act we were about to see next. There had been a little movement in the crowd which now mean I was about 6 people deep from the stage, and in a prime position to see shock rocker, Alice Cooper. The props were rolled on stage and a huge double drum kit was lugged on in 2 parts. My excitement was growing as it had been 19 years since I’d seen Alice Cooper, and I’d been front row squished on the barriers for that show. More movement on stage and a black curtain was in place, shielding us from the happenings behind it. The lights go down and 2 characters in creepy old fashioned plague masks with a long beak cross the stage ringing a bell. The intro plays out and Alice Cooper busts through a banner in all this black, leather-clad glory. The crowd were going mental by this point as he opened the show with Lock Me Up which was followed by Welcome to the Show. No More Mr. Nice Guy had the crowd singing along, as did I’m Eighteen. Billion Dollar Babies had green confetti guns going off, before Hey Stoopid and iconic anthem Department of Youth kept the crowd singing along. His band would have to be some the fittest people in the business, as their energy was off-tap and didn’t waver at all. Snakebite had Alice wrapped in a REAL LIVE snake (That’s a big no bloody thanks for me!!) and I was impressed that he could still perform so comfortably with that slimy thing wrapped around his body. 

It was then feeding time and I had the urge to start screaming “We’re Not Worthy” (Wayne’s World style) as the intro to Feed My Frankenstein played out. One of my favourites and I couldn’t help but scream along to the lyrics. Next on the list was my ALL-TIME favourite Poison, and the crowd were going sick for this classic hit. Throughout the song Alice was walking around pointing at audience members asking if they were poison, and I swear to absolute god he pointed directly at me and eyeballed me as he asked, “Are your lips venomous poison?” I wondered who he’d been talking to that had been telling stories about me…

A few more tracks followed including Black Widow Jam, Elected and Ballad of Dwight Fry, in which he was locked into a strait jacket, before ending the set with an awesome version of School’s Out that sampled Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall. His songs are played with such passion and energy that every single song could be a finale because they’re so epically huge. The crowd was left absolutely buzzing as he left the stage, and his impressive and engaging stage show was just as brilliant as I remembered it nearly 20 years ago.

In what was a day that many went into with disappointment, Alice Cooper was definitely the redeeming factor and saving grace of this festival. Without being bias, I definitely think it would’ve been a pretty mediocre line-up without him. I did have a great day all round, but I went in without any pre-conceived ideas or opinion, so I understand that others may not have felt the same. I don’t think I’ll be hurrying back to this venue for another event given its location, but the layout of the grounds were easy and straightforward to get around. Once I was home my body was telling me that I’m probably a bit too old to be down in the moshpit, however you know you’ve had a good night when your whole body is aching, and you have to go to bed with a big dose of Nurofen and a hot water bottle. Just another day spent listening to great live music, to fill my little music-nerd heart. 

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[Review] Bring Me The Horizon @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 18/04/2024

Walking up to Rod Laver Arena on a freezing cold Thursday night, I had to double check my tickets.

“Rod Laver Arena? Surely, they aren’t selling out a venue that big?” I whispered to myself as I triple checked the venue.

They, are Bring Me The Horizon. I remember them as one of the many sculptors of my mid-teens. My memories are me sitting on the bus, sullen because all my friends went to Sydney to see them. I probably gave myself tinnitus on that bus ride. Or sitting in woodwork and a group of girls I desperately wanted to be friends with told me to, “Go and talk to Jess, she likes that emo shit too.” And becoming her partner in home-ec that year. Bring Me The Horizon were an intimate band for me, the cause of friendships falling apart and coming together. They weren’t an arena rock band. They were mine, they were for the kids like me. But, clearly, they were ours. And we were all here tonight.

A swarm of platform black boots, fishnets and black lipstick pour passed me, as the hyper pop anthems of Daine pierce the freezing air. I love Daine. They were one of the artists who defined lockdown bonfires with my housemates for me. Tonight is a night dedicated to making the best out of a bad situation, clearly. SALT, I want the light to swallow me whole and a far-too short list of songs later, the set is finished. I can feel the applause from outside. Daine is an absolute machine, the powerhouse to end all powerhouses.

I finally manage to make my way inside, shoulder to shoulder with the coolest people I’ve ever seen. I love ex-emo kids. I’m now much more of a corduroy-and-American-Traditional-tattoo emo enthusiast, but here I am with the upper echelon of emo kid. And I’m thrilled. As I take my seat, the lights dim again and Make Them Suffer takes to the stage. Going from goth-rock meets hyper pop to Australian metalcore might seem strange, but this crowd is absolutely on board for the weirdness. I watch as a half-filled GA area throws themselves against each other, the smacks of their arms audible from my seat. Opening with Ghost of Me and winding up seven songs later, I wish the Perth band had stayed on earlier, but tonight is about celebrating lots of bands, and so they make their way offstage after a thunderous finish with Doomswitch.

Now, my relationship with Sleep Token, is a little bit…. Strange. The London progressive-metal band are famous for making a TikTok edit song for a hot video game vampire. I didn’t know it was a Sleep Token track, until I was sitting down and as The Summoning started playing, I was surrounded by videos of this pale hottie. Certainly, one for the ol’ bucket list.

Sleep Token have this awesome stage presence. White masks with red and black paint splatters cover the faces of the entire group, their anonymity is their power. The crowd is almost possessed with the slow, melodic drops and the ultra-high screaming peaks. The band plays in a way that makes them seem blank-faced, but their musicianship is evocative, powerful and an absolute feast for the senses. The red lights spray into the crowd as our screams mix with theirs. An outstanding final opening act for the absolute chaos I was about to experience with Bring Me The Horizon.

Bring Me The Horizon are mythic. Formed in 2004 in Sheffield, they’ve released 8 albums and have sold over 5 million records. They sold out 3 shows in Melbourne alone, on this Australian tour. To say they’re popular, would be an understatement. They’re revolutionary. And my God, do they know it.

The show opens with Eve, an AI woman doing “audience analysis” on us. The screens of the arena are filled with her uncanny face movements as she asks us to scream in excitement, only to be met with; “Performance analysis: Weak as fuck”. The antsy crowd on the floor takes that as a challenge, and immediately open up a Circle Pit. Before the band’s even come on. It’s insanity.

Then, the backdrops project the walls and windows of a church, with beautiful sunlight streaming through. The British 4-piece come onstage, taking their own pillars, except front man Oli Sykes, who is on the lowest level in a velvet top and these amazing loafers. All of the band take to their human-spine mic-stands and let it rip for the next nearly 2 hours. “Bang your fucking heads, pussies!” Sykes screams into the crowd as he lets out a vocal-chord tearing scream and his guitarists jump what feels like 20-feet into the air.

I am completely swept up into the story they’re telling. Project angeldust has gone awry, Eve’s systems are corrupted and her fanatic cultists are dying. Project angeldust arrives, and the church windows aren’t filled with snow or rain or sun anymore, they’re torn down by a body-horror baby with wings, and everyone loses it. Matt Nichols on drums is an absolute mad-man, he is incredible. Every song, he’s making the beat and then outperforming himself as the song goes on, legendary. All of the musicians are killing it, they’re note-perfect, and even better than I can describe.

There’s fire, sparklers, smoke, lights – it’s a feast.

As the circle pit continues, and the crowd keeps splitting itself into walls of death, Sykes smirks that smirk we all know, “You guys are fucking mad for it! But can you jump?” And yes they can. He insults us, he lifts us up – anything he barks at us, with that killer smile, we are all too eager to oblige.

At first, I thought he was kidding with the repeated; “I’m a little bit poorly, seeing double. Hot sweats, cold sweats.” Because we launched into Kingslayer, and he smiled up at us before spitting into the mic, “1-2-fuck you!” and let out another spine crunching scream. God, he’s good. But he did need to take a 3 minute break in the middle to get himself feeling better. Even being clearly very unwell, he was the frontman to end all frontmen. Like so spellbinding, his skill is unmatched, his synergy with the band was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. As he returns from break he’s smiling again, “Fuck me you guys are fucking mental!” And we are, it’s true, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. What he considered a 4/10, was most concerts 11/10, and we just kept going. “Peng crowd!” His band coos in agreement to eachother.

Pulling up Sam, a random audience member in a bucket hat, and laden with the most Australian accent ever, was so genius. Performing Antivist together, Sam was throwing in improv lines, screaming and barking orders at us. “Pull the finger out of your fucking asses! Make a wall of death! Let’s go, let’s go!” And we are all too happy to oblige. Sykes grins at his newest prodigee, and they absolutely crush their unplanned duet.

Parasite Eve is, of course, spellbinding. Rave lights illuminate the arena. Spectacular rays of green and yellow and white. Sykes’ voice is unbelievable. His screams are… Better than recorded. His vocal control is criminally underrated, it’s fucking awesome. As their platinum hit rides to a close, the stage turns red, rose petals fall. Sykes lies on the ground. “I have a question, can you… can you…. Can You Feel My Heart?” He jumps to his feet, clearly ready to punch out this last number with everything he has “If you don’t jump to this song, you are a certified dickhead!” And they go into Can You Feel My Heart. A studded sacred heart lights them from behind, the arena is bathed in light, and I am 14 again, in home-ec, on the back of the bus. I feel like I could burst.

The encore goes off without a hit, and I am still lost in nostalgia. Please, treat your inner-teen. I promise they’re desperate to scream along with Bring Me The Horizon and leave arm in arm with other cry-laughing adults as we go from being swallowed by Sykes poetic screams, to being swallowed by the Melbourne cold.

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[Review] James Taylor @ Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne 16/04/2024

It’s a cold and rainy winter night. You’re lounging on the living room floor with a glass of wine in front of the heater, turntable crackling in the background, and the sweet, mellow smoothness of James Taylor is absorbing your ear drums as well as your soul. Life is content. This is the exact vibe that washes over me whenever I hear his voice…

Tuesday night in the city and it was baby boomer central at Margaret Court Arena, as a few thousand punters ventured in to see legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor. Taylor is currently touring the country on what has been dubbed as his last Australian tour. 

As my friend and I were standing in line waiting to stuff our faces with Mr Miyagi’s pork baos, I could’ve sworn I saw James Taylor walking through the crowd. In fact, there were about 30 James Taylor’s strolling by me on their way to the bar. At first I thought my hunger was making me hallucinate, I soon realised that in actual fact there were just a lot of men sporting their flat caps, paying homage to the man of the hour who is known to have one as permanent fixture to his head. For those spring chickens less acquainted with the style, think Peaky Blinders hat. 

Given there were no support acts, it didn’t take long to dive straight into proceedings once we’d taken our seats amongst the hoards. The house lights were killed off, and Mr James Taylor walked out on stage (yes, wearing his iconic hat), under a single spotlight and was met with a huge applause. His hat was removed, and he took a bow before settling into his position for the night. He let us know that he was so glad to FINALLY be back in Australia and that it’s such a long trip to get here. The show was opened with Something in the Way She Moves, in which Taylor revealed that this was the first song that he played for Paul McCartney and George Harrison in 1968. The Beatles had just started Apple Records and after hearing that song, Taylor was the first artist to be signed to their label. There’s nothing I love more than listening to an artist give a backstory on their music and creating this whole bigger picture than what you initially realise. 

Rainy Day Man followed before we were led into That’s Why I’m Here, which was written after the death of his good friend and partner in crime John Belushi, which was then a catalyst towards Taylor’s own recovery. A song about our own beloved Australia, Yellow and Rose played out, until we were a “long way from anywhere” with Anywhere Like Heaven. Throughout the first half of the show I was having a good laugh at the female cohort of the crowd, yelling out that they loved him in which he awkwardly and cheekily reciprocated, however I did think it was going to get all Tom Jones there at one point and I was going to see underwear being thrown at the stage. Before getting into Never Die Young, James told us “That’s actually great life advice and if you’re young enough then don’t die. It’s too late for me but save yourselves!” His dry sense of humour was present throughout the entire show and had everyone laughing along the whole night. 

After Country Road, in which I couldn’t take my eyes off drummer Dean Parks with his killer drum part, there seemed to be an issue with James’ inner ear monitors and he hilariously told us he had the footy game running through them, and it kept cutting out which was annoying him. Sweet Baby James was a huge hit with crowd, until the wacky tune Sun on the Moon rounded out his first set. When Taylor held up a comical-sized board of his set list that looked like a wobble board, he mentioned an intermission and I thought this was his humour coming into play again. 

“Now I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain” … but never in all my years of going to concerts have I been to one with an intermission!

 The house lights went up and for 20 minutes the crowd had a stretch and restocked their snacks and beverages before settling back in for the second half of the show. We were then taken on a bit of a journey around the world, with the beautiful Carolina in My Mind opening up the second set. We then jetted off to Mexico, and with its slight Caribbean undertones which I found interesting, it had the crowd moving along. The crowd went wild as he traded in his acoustic guitar for an electric for the first time that night, and there was a cheeky joke made about how far guitars had come since the old gas and steam guitars, but that horse drawn guitars were still being used in Pennsylvania. This led into the blues tune Steamroller in which I felt my body involuntarily moving to the beat. It also further solidified the fact that I need to learn how to play the harmonica (you’re welcome, neighbours) after a ripping harmonica solo from Taylor. 

The iconic intro to his heartbreaking classic Fire and Rain had the crowd going mad and had them also singing along at a respectable volume throughout the entire song. Up on the Roof – written by the legendary Carole King – got the crowd even more excited, as did Shower the People where James’ wife joined the band onstage on backing vocals. We were then told “I’m gonna sing that other Carole King song for ya” which raised a huge response from the crowd as he led into the absolute classic You’ve Got a Friend. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) seemed to draw the night to a close and attracted a huge reaction with a standing ovation from the crowd. 

After James and the band left the stage, I was contemplating whether we would get an encore given the intermission we had. But I needn’t contemplate for long because James was back in no time, much to the pure delight of his fans and went on to Shed A Little Light on us, which had everyone up and dancing. Smiling Face had that exact affect on the crowd, and they reciprocated with another standing ovation at its conclusion. They still weren’t quite done so to finish off the night completely, it was the mellow You Can Close Your Eyes and the beautifully blended harmonies resonated throughout the arena which was the perfect end to such a relaxed evening. 

James Taylor is one of the original singer-songwriter masters of our time, and his melodious music and soulful lyrics have the power to impact and survive throughout the generations. This was a night that was throughly enjoyed by all, and I know that everyone present are secretly hoping that he’ll change his mind about this being his last Australian tour. Until (hopefully) next time, James!

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