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[Review] Australian Open Finals Festival, John Cain Arena, Melbourne 28/01/2024

While Sunday’s sweltering heat may have deterred some, it certainly didn’t put a damper on spirits at the final day of the Australian Open’s dynamic music event, Finals Festival. Three full days of local music, international stars, and DJ sets – guaranteed to leave your head moving and your feet tapping at this sporty-summer-ending-bash. This is going to be an electrifying finish to the Australian Open festivities.

As soon as I step through the gates of the Australian Open, I am met with an immediate wave of music. A trio of guys armed with a trumpet, saxophone and trombone are tearing through a rendition of Mambo No. 5. As tennis skirts, white visors and wedge heels move past me; I really start to drink it all in. Walking through this Mecca To Sport, I pass tall green muscled men on stilts, more free sunscreen samples than I can carry, and a really convincing Mike Posner cover act. Jamming out to Cooler Than Me, I find the entrance to John Cain Arena and the open-air spectacular that is Finals Festival.

Before I go inside and join the swarms of people inside a de-roofed John Cain, I lounge on the grass listening to the electro-pop tunes of Latifa Tee. A triple j radio host and DJ, she is a summer day with friends and strangers. An exclusive, new remix of Cupid is the perfect pairing with a cold drink, hot chips and prescription sunglasses to people watch. Latifa is so beautiful, completely smooth and in her element onstage. The heat seems to roll off her and she stays upbeat, hair curls perfect and unbothered as she works her magic on the decks.

Next up to the literal hot seat, is Melbourne’s own, Sunshine & Disco Faith Choir. They self-describe themselves as: A true ode to dancefloor salvation, Sunshine and Disco Faith Choir serve to share the gospel of disco faith with those whose enthusiasm lives in the hands of the music. These genre-benders feel almost too cerebral for so early in the day, but regardless I am completely enamoured by them. A disco lover to my very core; this is music for anyone who loves Nu-Disco, Fleetwood Mac, and an unbridled feminine ecstasy. This is a huge group. I’m talking, 12-piece choir big. From the opening minute of Welcome to the Dancefloor, one of the biggest earworms of the last 5 years, I knew these guys were going to be a grand slam. The sounds washing over the crowd are just incredible. There are moments that feel identical to a musical sermon. 10,000 people all holding their breath as Dreams floats over us, until an EDM beat rises inconspicuously into airspace. Then it’s a mess of swishing hair, rolling wrists and fan-flapping. Sunshine is dressed in these long flowing sleeves, with lace and feathers and a hat – of course. They are aesthetically and musically a marvel, and if they were taking on groupies – I’d have found my calling.

British drum and bass heavyweights Rudimental are the penultimate act at the Australian Open on this fine day. Festival staples, the three-piece are playing to a revved up crowd. 10,000 of us fight for the half of the arena that has shade. My years of training (going to emo and hardcore shows) have meant I have a great spot with view of the stage. While Rudimental are known for some Rhythm and Blues softness, today it’s time for daylight depravity. An extra heavy version of 2024 release Alibi is a highlight for me. The screens behind the stage are bright yellow, and red and pulsating. Smoke billows out onto the crowd and lights shine down onto us as we let loose into the sound. We are truly dancing the day away. As quick as they start, they’re off. They’ve even curated a great section of ‘hold music’ – including an EDM remix of 1965 The Temptations hit, My Girl. An entire crowd is screaming along to the words; My girl! / My giiirl for at least 3 minutes. And it’s beautiful. There is such a lively, upbeat and energetic vibe in John Cain this Grand Final.

Groove Armada come on and the arena is suddenly packed to the brim. So, I stand off to the side and watch Andy Cato and Tom Findlay run through a super high-energy DJ set. The two have such a great comradery with each other. They smile as though they’re making a joke none of us are in on. And to be honest? They could be laughing at us. We don’t care. As long as they keep the beats going. Personal favourite, reggae/ska infused electronica banger, Superstylin’ is one of the first cabs off the rank. Even though it’s still so sunny outside, it suddenly feels like night-time. Bright lights flash and I can feel the bass in my fingers. My bones are shaking with every rhythm change and beat drop. It’s awesome. There is something late-night about Groove Armada. They feel timeless, placeless – like if oblivion was a new club that we were all dying to be on the waitlist for. They’re effortlessly cool, low-stakes and perfect for grooving. You could not ask for a better closing act.

This was a day of sweat, icy drinks and teeth chattering levels of bass. An electric finish is putting it mildly. This was a trip through so many genres, people, drinks, laughs, songs, sets – I’m sad to have landed back on the tarmac. I still haven’t undone my seatbelt though, I’ll be here, hoping for one more lap around the court, just to get a fraction of those vibes again.

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[Review] Lord Huron @ The Forum, Melbourne 27/01/2024

Trying to find the words to describe Lord Huron is so difficult. They’re so much more than ‘indie-folk outfit’, ‘country sensation’ or any other combination of words rattling around in my brain. The show at The Forum proved to me that Lord Huron are so much bigger than a little box. I haven’t been able to get them out of my head, and that’s exactly what they were going for.

Support act, Asha Jefferies, should be a household name already. Her lyrics are beautifully understated, melancholic, and yearning. Her vocals aren’t like anything else I’ve ever heard. This is the last day of the tour, and yet Asha still soars to these breathtaking heights. If there is a ‘calling’ – this is hers. I stop before the main floor of The Forum, spellbound. She’s like sirens, harpies, or something else that would sink unsuspecting music writers. She feels like something out of a fantasy book. “The sound guys here are like the coolest, funniest guys ever! Give them a round of applause!” There’s just a moment of hesitation from the crowd, we are shaking off a musical spell. But then we cheer and clap and hoot and holler before she launches into one last song. “I have a new album coming out in April, check it out if you can!” I have marked April in my calendar with a big ugly red circle as a reminder, and you should to. “This last song is about loving your friends. I’m dedicating this one to Genie and Isaac, who are here tonight. It’s called Spinning.” I might gasp, or cry, or shuffle off this mortal coil for a minute. Spinning is stunning, it’s angelic and mysterious. How does Jefferies manage to capture nostalgia and aching so well in a 3-minute song? I feel like my heart strings have just strung her guitar. Listen to Asha Jefferies, remember to lie down somewhere soft, and let her take your hand and guide you into a part of yourself long neglected.

After a 30-minute break, admiring the beautiful interior of The Forum, the lights go dim. We know what that means; Lord Huron making their way onto the stage. They’re all wearing suits, in earthy fabrics like tweed or linen or suede. Two of them have bolo-ties, the bassist has a neck scarf. I see two big, black-brimmed hats. They look like relics from a bygone American era. I don’t think the cowboy aesthetic is an act for them, it feels natural. I could be convinced they bought those hats in 1879 from Ye Olde Hat Emporium. There is something timeless, powerful, and enigmatic oozing from the band.  Front man Ben Schneider seems aware of the folkloric, mythic quality the band has. After a haunting opening of Time’s Blur and Love Like Ghosts, Schneider takes the mic gently between his hands – and you could hear a pen drop in a sold-out Forum.

“We’re going to try to sort of take you on a musical journey. There’ll be ups and downs and twists and turns. Heartbreak and redemption, laughter, tears, high-fives, pats on the butt, making out – everything in between, ok? So, if you find yourself bored, or thinking ‘This isn’t for me.’ Just wait a little bit. Something your flavour will come up.”

Immediately, the band comes to life again. The lights on the forum stage dance in sunset reds and oranges and golds. Meet Me in the Woods, Mine Forever and Dead Man’s Hand, all perfectly flow into each other as I am spellbound by those lights. The instrumentals are flawless, they’re better than the album. Intricate guitar work, mesmerising vocals and a perfect dance of drums and bass in the background – it’s musical bliss. There are moments in the songs that follow that feel like homages to Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and countless other classics. Every song is Lord Huron listening, growing, and incorporating. Their entire setlist, their whole discography is a love letter to music. It’s written for those who came before then, and ferociously studied by those coming after them.

Wait by the River feels like a sermon. Schneider’s hands go above his head and he calls for us to do the same. Without thinking, my body obeys. But it isn’t just for this song, it’s the whole night. Every time they say clap, I slam my hands together involuntarily. They control every hair on my head, every muscle in my body. I’m not resisting the spell Lord Huron are casting. The band have themselves under a spell at times, like they’re mere vessels for something greater. The three guitarists in the back left drop their heads and sway, but somehow still play these beautifully intricate melodies. My jaw is still on the floor, if someone could pick it up as they passed – that would be great.

Towards the end of the night, is where we hit our high. Schneider leaves for a minute, and comes back wearing a comically large skeleton mask – el Día de los Muertos style. The World Ender and Ancient Names are both sung, played and demolished by skeleton-led Lord Huron. The mask adds to the feeling that these guys might be reincarnated, straight out of the Wild West. That they are mythical and mysterious and not of this world. The guitars are screaming, Schneider is strumming so fast his hands a blur. The vocals are the strongest they’ve ever been. I really struggled to describe this momento. It was so unexpected, so spooky, so perfect. A live-music best-of reel momento, for sure.

Something I never thought I’d see, was a theremín being played live. The stage goes black as Schneider changes out of his skeleton mask, and a single spotlight illuminates the neck-scarf wearing bassist; Miguel Briseño. He stands perfectly still, moving his hands into the instrument, and playing the most heartbreaking introduction to Way Out There. My heart almost can’t take it. I thought it would just get this solo at the beginning – oh, how wrong was I. For 4 beautiful minutes, we are treated to haunting theremin. His hands move with precision, melancholy, and appreciation for the strange instrument. He is a master. My friend keeps whispering “omg a theremin.” Over and over. Words can’t do the moment justice, yet again.

And of course, The Night We Met. One of the biggest songs of recent memory. This song is beautiful. It’s perfect, really. It’s so heartbreaking, so hopeful, so hopeless, so human. Listen to it. It makes my heart feel like it’s been chewed up, spat out, reinflated, and sent to find me. Everyone is singing at the top of their lungs. For that final chorus.

I had all and then most of you. Some and now none of you. Take me back to the night we met.

We sing and we scream, and we cry a little, and so do they. This was a special, intimate moment for everyone there that night. No notes, perfection. Now excuse me while I go cry and yearn in peace.

Schneider leaves us with some closing words, and a promise to come back soon. I’ll leave you with them, too.

See you next time, folks. Until then, live until you die.

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[Review] Among The Restless @ The Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne 11/11/2023

There is nothing quite as sexy, quite as quintessentially Melbourne, quite as refreshing as a good live gig. Among The Restless wasn’t just a good gig, but a great one. They perfectly captured the Aus-Rock culture many of us love. Never have I seen an intimate mosh go off so hard, both of my glasses now sit on the Evelyn Hotel’s floor, in pieces.

And what was the glorious, sexy, punchy occasion? Me and a swarm of fans of all ages were gathered in the Evelyn’s fantastic band room to celebrate Among The Restless’ new single; PIXEL JUNKIES. Supported by several other small Melbourne bands; Tudor Club, Mathilde Anne and SCUD. Tonight was an absolute feast for the indie-music senses. I don’t have time to go over every band on this list, as Among the Restless put on one hell of a show and we’d be here for 3 hours (easily), but I highly recommend every single one of these bands. They created an atmosphere perfectly amplified by the purple stage lights, and air thick with the smell of Moon Dog Fizzers. There was something for everyone, from the occasional sad, lyrically wrenching Radiohead-esque moments to high energy tracks reminiscent of contemporaries Ocean Alley, Lime Cordiale or Wallows. I understand why Among the Restless has such a large, dedicated, diverse fan-base. Metal mum’s, Mitski die-hards and Punk teens were all standing shoulder to shoulder, spellbound by the 5-piece’s musical magic.

Torn is such a tasty opener. As a massive 90’s post-Rock fan, I can feel the influence of bands like Sunnydale Real Estate, several Grunge heavyweights, and Pavement. They really have a little bit of everything, and tasty is the perfect word. The bass, the guitars, the driving drums and vocals, all of it fuses together and it melts on my tongue. After opening up with Torn, powerfully enigmatic front-man Rhett James takes to the mic. Dripping with charisma, he spends a lot of the night talking directly to this crowd of hungry fans. We eat up every word, and he knows it. “Stay restless!” He barks the order at us, and we completely obey. Back-to-back bangers No Sense // No Feeling and Ego push the night to an impossibly high level. These songs have a definite ‘kick’ to them, elevating from just tasty to fuelling. I’m nervous – how will they go keeping up this level of energy? But I shouldn’t have had any fear, Among The Restless have the attitude and bite of musicians 20 years their veterans.

Rhett beams at us, “This is the saddest song from our second EP. Written by yours truly, our guitarist Seamus, it’s called Star Crossed.” Magician on the strings, Seamus Glenn coyly smiles and in a shy little voice just says, “stop it.” The love between them is clear, and it’s wonderful. Star Crossed is without a doubt, a crowd favourite. Everyone around me is lost in reckless abandon, and all I can hear is a chorus of “How low! How low!” Faces are red and screaming, the band room is entirely under a spell. It must be an absolute treat for Rhett’s family, who are up visiting from Brisbane. His brother is wading through the crowd taking photos and videos of twenty-somethings losing their fucking minds. “It’s quite emotional actually” and I hear James’ voice crack a little. But immediately he has to lift the mood, “Josh’s bass is fucked and Lachie’s guitar has fallen off, so now I’ve gotta stall. I’ll tell you a story I guess. One time Seamus and I got into Berghain, and we learned how to dance the proper, European way. And then kissed some German guy.” For the uninitiated, Berghain is maybe the most exclusive club in the world, with online simulator games to test if you’re “cool” enough for Berlin’s upper-echelon of club rats. Among the Restless are cool enough for Berghain, confirmed.

Slave Within the Change has to be another crowd favourite, this is the song where the first of my two glasses got smashed. I understood. One can’t not move to the 5-piece powerhouse of masculine love, energy and musical ecstasy.

“We’re gonna play a song we finished like last week, so it’s probably the only time you’re gonna hear it in a long time. One of us wrote this song about an ex-girlfriend who really liked the movies. So, yeah. Stay tuned, it’ll probably come out in a year.”  The unreleased track is aptly named Cinema, and I can’t wait for its release. As the ex who really likes the movies, the lyrics are a perfect cocktail of funny, aching, and catchy – the Among the Restless specialty.

For a song no one’s heard, it gets rowdy. People are getting so down and so dirty. Rhett seems genuinely surprised, “This turnout’s fucked hey.” And people cheer, jump in the air and knock over yet another one of my glasses. “I saw someone do a bump before, that shit was lit. Keep it up.” And the drums kick us into Missing Pieces. The instrumentals in this band are fucking ridiculous, shimmery guitars, pounding bass and drums that dance around each other – it’s such a delight.

The 5 piece move offstage to grab stools, and I was very confused. Stool break? That’s a first. But when they come back, the fellas sit down and dish up an acoustic cover of Underground. It’s so beautiful. So beautiful. Rhett’s vocals really shine here. The pipes on this kid are next level, ethereal shit. I’m spellbound, and every inch of me has goosebumps.

The Screaming Jets are Aus-Rock royalty, and as a fellow Novocastrian, my ears immediately perked up hearing their name. In a tribute to James’ close family friend, Paul, they lose themselves in a neck-breakingly good cover of Needle. It’s bittersweet, powerful and shows the importance of community and musical brotherhood. Rest in Peace, Paul.

Wastecase into Someone Else leads us to the absolute showstopping finale of Lucy and, of course, PIXEL JUNKIES. Rhett comes out in full drag, “THIS IS FOR THE MILF’s”, is what I’m 99% sure he said. And god I hope it is. MILF Supremacy. Sporting his outfit from the recently released film clip, the stage littered with props from the same, it dawns on me as they shred through their final number and brand new single; these guys are the embodiment of the Wheatus song Teenage Dirtbag. They’re sweaty, messy with bleached buzzcuts and mullets, but they’re so much fun. They get the girl, they lose the girl, they write an amazing track. Honestly, they capture something so uniquely Australian, so nostalgic and outrageous. Stream this shit, I’m being dead serious. It’s so, so good.

Among The Restless are keeping the traditions of Aus-Rock alive. They don’t take themselves too seriously, they have such loving energy between them. They embody the community, the comradery and the love of music. And god can they play. With a setlist nearly 90 minutes long, they never get sloppy. All of them were born to play their instrument, it seems as natural as breathing. Keep an eye on these guys; I just know they’ll be big.

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[Review] Earl Sweatshirt @ Northcote Theatre 17/10/2023

Thebe Neruda Kgositsile has been in the rap game since 2007. At only 29 years old, he’s a veteran, and his show at Northcote Theatre proves just how much he’s a master of his craft. Kgositsile, or as he is better known, Earl Sweatshirt, rose to prominence as the prodigé of fellow rapper, Tyler, The Creator. Sweatshirt’s early days were spent as part of powerhouse rap collective, Odd Future, under the sculpting gaze of his contemporaries, including both Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean. It’s easy to see the lasting impact on his live work, bur dare I say that the student has become the master? Or, at the very least, the student has become a wicked good-time and unrivalled craftsman.

Despite his support cancelling due to illness, Sweatshirt is determined to give us our money’s worth. He comes on early, energised and with a drive I’ve never seen in another artist. I’ve seen Sweatshirt perform before, but it was outside at a large festival. Here, in such an intimate venue, you can really see that hunger in his eyes up-close. These are the venues he was born to play.

The projector screen behind him scrolls through everything from abstract, pulsating shapes, to Keith Haring style animations to old films, in a sketchbook style. Every song is a different visual track, each of them more beautiful and more alive than the last. The lights at the front of the stage face outwards, shades of orange, purple, blue and white, wash over us. It’s visually stunning, and borderline genre-bending, rivalling bands like Slowdive for visual prowess.

For hardcore fans and casual listeners alike, this current tour boasts some delicious treats from the LA-native. Within the first half an hour, Sweatshirt spits out two unreleased tracks. But you wouldn’t know that. His crowd is eating every crumb out of his hand, and whether or not they know the words is irrelevant. He’s filled the room with so much energy that no matter what, we’re going to be loving it.

But it’s not just the unreleased. I’m at the back of the room, groups of guys with cross-body bags and girls in tall platform sneakers crash into each other and cheer louder and louder for each song Sweatshirt pulls out. And, he pulls out a lot. His setlist for the night is nearly 30-songs long, and never does he let the energy drop. It’s an unbelievable display of musicianship, showmanship and self-discipline – I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  But no two songs go harder than the back-to-back combo that is Geb into Sirius Blac. The crowd is already going nuts after Geb, with cheering and applause so loud I feel it in my feet. But Sirius Blac is next level. All I can see are hands, heads and drinks held up above the crush of people. It’s a tidal wave of energy, clinging onto every word.

Tabula Rasa is beautiful, the sound mixing bringing out the soulful vocals in a way that’s so sublime. A very different vibe comes over the room, it’s a crackling, electric stillness. Time stops passing as we focus on nothing except Sweatshirt. As it comes to an end, he addresses us directly. “Put your hands up if you’re having a good time!” We put our hands up. “Y’all up the top, looking like John Wilkes Booth, put those motherfucking hands up so I know you aren’t about to shoot me like y’all shot Abe Lincoln.” The mezzanine puts their hands up. “There you go.” And then he throws us into EAST. Our hands start moving in unplanned synchronous harmony, and it’s magical.

We follow him on a winding journey through his discography, and when we hit 2010 he takes to the mic; “If I don’t play this, everyone’s like Play it! So you all better keep the same energy.” We don’t even need to think about it, and yet again come crashing back together. We are a ferocious wave of energy, and Sweatshirt smiles as he raps – he’s loving it just as much as we are.

By the tail-end of his set, he’s clearly letting his guard down. He’s shown us what he can do, so he eases up and talks to us again. The way he addresses the crowd, it feels like we’re old-friends hanging out in someone’s garage after the party’s ended. “Do you remember when that one girl (Katy Perry) was like

Do you ever feel? / Like a plastic bag?

We start singing the rest of the cultural icon that is, Fireworks.

“No don’t keep singing! Just process that. Like that’s crazy. That’s a lot. Do you ever feel like a plastic bag? We’re gonna talk about that in a second.”

He’s so funny, in this casual, laid-back, deprecating way. And before we get time to talk about it more, “Y’all would open up a pit for anything, so open up.” And I have to quell my laughter as I prepare to wrestle for my patch of ground again.

NOWHERE2GO is an absolute crowd favourite. And honestly, we kind of look like plastic bags, drifting through the wind. Erratically moving, making waving patterns with our bodies. I didn’t think such a left-field gag would be so fitting for this crowd of rowdy misfits, but it was.

We’re out of breath, sweat running down our faces, but Sweatshirt doesn’t look any different, he’s not even out of breath. “Honestly, bars! Like, do you ever feel like a plastic bag? Bars, man. I could never write something that good.” And, to prove how very tongue-in-cheek that point is, we get treated to, Shattered Dreams. God, this song is delightful. It showcases Sweatshirt’s past as a poet, shows he’s his father’s son, show’s he’s everything to us.

The rest of the set is a blur. Finishing with his encore, a Mac Miller cover, an emotional tribute to the late rapper. New Faces V2, isn’t what I expected, but it’s an amazing finish. It’s vibey, it’s got this driving beat live. Immaculate.

Grinning, sweaty, with aching feet, I am desperate for the cold night air. But already, I’m aching for more Earl Sweatshirt.

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[Review] Peach Pit @ Northcote Theatre 11/10/2023

For me, no band, ever, has better captured the feeling of nostalgia, of warm summer days, of platonic love and the happy-go-lucky experience of solo travel quite like Vancouver indie-rock powerhouse, Peach Pit.

During the depths of COVID lockdowns, I’d seen them play a “live” show through zoom. But I’d given up hope they’d ever travel down under. But then, on some glorious weekday – they announced their tour. Instantly, I scarfed up tickets. Since then, it’s been an exhilarating wait, that honestly made me a bit nauseous with excitement. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one. Their first show sold out so quickly, even with a venue upgrade. And their second show was essentially sold out as well, with a mere straggler of tickets left. We were certainly showing the 5-piece our appreciation.

The energy at Northcote Theatre was absolutely infectious. There was a buzz in the air that made the hairs on my arm stand up straight. Australian up-and-comers Eliza and The Delusionals played an ultra-short, ultra-punchy set. Ripping through some excellent tracks from their new album; Now and Then, as well as their superb collection of singles. We were in the mood and absolutely ready to rumble.

The next hour and a half have made writing a review nearly impossible. It’s rare you see a perfect set. But there is no better word for it than, perfect. Neil Smith on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Chris Vanderkooy on lead guitars, bassist Peter Wilton and drummer Mikey Pascuzzi have come such a long way, even in three years. They are not the same band now as the band I watched, cooped up in my room, playing thousands of kilometres away. The addition of multi-instrumentalist Dougal Bain McClean (some people have all the luck), has undeniably helped push them into new heights of “chewed bubble-gum pop” perfection.

As the stage turns red, and spotlights flicker over the crowd, I see Smith’s bouncing mane of hair before anything else. Quickly, he’s followed by Vanderkooy, The Moustached Maestro as I affectionately call him. The rest of the band appears onstage, and we are faced with 5 dudes, in t-shirts and jeans. Not too baggy, not too tight. They’re Just Some Guys. But don’t let looks fool you. These averages Joe’s are about to do something crazy to my brain chemistry.

For context, Peach Pit have a melancholic take on surf pop. Their songs are heavy with slow, soulful vocals and driving lead guitar breaks. So, I was a little shocked when the fellas launch into a cover of Slayer’s Raining Blood. Smith steps up to the microphone and in his best metal voice growls for us to “get the fuck up motherfuckers”. He is a whirling dervish of curly hair and devil-hands as the instrumental cover rages. Suddenly, it stops, and we are taken into Being So Normal. There are perhaps no two songs less compatible. But god does it work. Instantly, I’m taken somewhere else. “Show ‘em Chris!” Neil moves over to let his high school friend work his magic on that fretboard.

The volume of songs Peach Pit have in their repertoire, is unbelievable. For a band less than a decade old, the setlist is 22 songs long, and there isn’t a weak link amongst them. Having released their third album, From 2 to 3, last year, I was expecting that to be the track list for the evening. I was wrong. “Because this is our first time here, we’re going to be playing lots of older stuff! For all of you who’ve bought our merch and waited so patiently. Thanks, so much guys! We love you!”

The next hour is a blur. From driving drums and twinkling guitars of 17-year-old Nikki’s favourite song, aptly named Seventeen, to the shredding guitars of Psychics in LA – this set has it all. Old fans, new fans, stragglers off the street – everyone is jumping around, waving their hands in the air, transported to another plane of musical ecstasy. Go with your friends! That was when Smith says “This song is for when your best friend really pisses you off” you can share a look and laugh through the opening notes of Vicky. Go with your heartbroken friend, so you can scream the permanently-stuck-in-my-head hook of Shampoo Bottles. Go with your stoner friends so you can sway to the stoned lullaby that is Tommy’s Party arm-in-arm. Remember the better times. Be like the two guys in front of me, hugging and looking into each other’s eyes.

I’m so glad you’re alive!

I’m glad I’m alive too!

Fuck yeah, dudes. It’s hard not to be with Peach Pit as your soundtrack.

Private Presley has been in my top 5 favourite songs since its release. Wedged between the melancholic love-song that is Figure 8, and the summer picnic banger to end all summer picnic banger’s, Up Granville, it’s a surprise. Those early, gentle guitar notes slide over my eardrums, and I’m spellbound. Vanderkooy’s guitarwork and Smith’s pitch-perfect, dulcet vocals lull me into a dream. McClean comes out on fiddle, and the way he plays is so mournful, so beautiful, so heavenly it makes me want to scream. As we hit the climax of the song; all messy guitars, feedback, and flying hair, I realise this show is going to be one for the ages. Peach Pit is many people’s first introduction to the band, it’s slow, it’s sad, it’s iconic. Smith barely has to sing as the crowd carries us from verse to verse, chorus to chorus. A high school anthem for some, breakup song for others, and something else entirely for most – it’s an absolute showstopper.

Undeniably, and unsurprisingly, one of the highlights for the evening is Alrighty Aphrodite. The lights go orange, Smith abandons his guitar for his iconic, stoic dancing and I pick my jaw up off the floor. This song is So. Fucking. Sexy. It starts slow, with delayed guitar so it sounds like it’s wafting through fog. It’s gentle drumming feels like footsteps. The bass is present and driving. Smith’s vocals are haunting, gentle and sturdy. Exactly like the goddess for which it’s named; it’s magical, mysterious, thalassic, beautiful, and hot as hell. It infects my arms and legs, and my body is no longer mine, I follow where Peach Pit take me, and I happily resign myself to my fate.

As our penultimate finale, Chagu’s Sideturn is so high-energy, so fun, that the ache in my legs from standing is gone, and all I can think about is summertime. It’s so quintessentially Peach Pit. It reminds me of growing up in Seattle. I taste the ocean air of the Pacific Northwest; I stand under those blue skies. I want to curl up in a lawn chair with a Carlton Dry. Chris is an absolute God on the guitar. A force of nature. These guys are proof that simple, skilful musicianship can never be beaten. They dance together, hug while playing and are grinning ear to ear. They might be more stoked to be here than us.

We do a cheer for their Aussie guitar tech, Adam, and with another laugh and lick of the guitar strings, they’re off. Immediately, I’m aching for more. Luckily for me, I had bought tickets to experience the joy, the mystique and the indescribable resonance that is Peach Pit. Whatever it is, these guys have it. Go on and get a taste for yourself. But be warned, once you try some, it’ll become your favourite meal.

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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.

YOU’LL COME A WALTZING MATILDA WITH MEEEEEE

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] 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.

CAN I STILL GET INTO HEAVEN IF I KILL MYSELF?

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

CAN I STILL GET INTO HEAVEN IF I KILL MYSELF?

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

CAN I EVER BE FORGIVEN?

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.

I THINK I SAW YOU IN MY SLEEP

Dreyer points the mic at us;

L O V E R

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…

ON TEAM 1:

  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.

ON TEAM 2:

  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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