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

Review By Nikki Eenink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review By Nikki Eenink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review By Nikki Eenink

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

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

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

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

NO STANDING. ALL THE HITS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Donna / I love you”.

His deep baritone voice is both shocking and impressive.

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

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

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

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

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[Review] Jungle Giants @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 23/06/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

I’m convinced that every Australian under 30 has been made to watch The Jungle Giants at least once. Except it’s less, “A Clockwork Orange” and more “oh noooo, please don’t make me watch one of Australia’s most iconic, musically sharp, banger-producing bands, play yet another festival oh noooo”. Like clockwork, every festival season, Sam Hales and his gang take to the stage and absolutely rock a sea of bucket-hat wearers. I have been this bucket-hat wearer, and always look forward to somehow ending up at The Jungle Giants stage and dancing in the beating sun. But something I’d never done, was see them play at an indoor venue, especially not one as intimate as Melbourne’s The Forum.

The Lazy Eyes, however, were a new treat for me. And treat is the right word. The band members are unassuming; lead singer Harvey Geraghty looks like a more relaxed Kurt Cobain, if Cobain ever decided to pursue the synth instead of the guitar. Itay Shachar shreds on lead guitar, and he looks like a missing member of notorious Loser-Rock band Weezer; big glasses frames hiding his face, white button up tucked into chinos – the whole ensemble. But these guys aren’t Loser-Rock, they’re cool, very cool. They have this laid-back air about them as they wind through tracks from their various releases, as if it’s no-big-deal that they are playing flawlessly. They easily match the quality of their recordings, and then blow it out of the water. Even as newcomers, they are a band that was born to play live. A highlight in their set was undeniably their cover of More Than A Woman by the BeeGees, it was the same disco-esque beat we all know and love, mixed with Lazy Eye’s own psych-rock sensibilities – and it was awesome. During personal fave; Where’s My Brain??, the fearsome foursome are playing so loud, I can feel the wall I’m leaning on wobble, pulsing with every slam Noah Martin delivers to the kick-drum. The venue is literally alive, Lazy Eyes it’s metronomic heartbeat. After blowing our minds, and nearly blowing the ceiling off The Forum, front-man Geraghty thanks us with a beaming grin; “Thanks! We’re going to play some piano songs now.” He says it as if that last track wasn’t anything special. What’s jaw-dropping for the rest of us, is just another day for The Lazy Eyes. Once the piano comes out we are treated to unreleased track; Better Off This Way. “We’re going to play you one more love song and then get outta here. This is the first-ever song we put out, and it’s called Cheesy Love Song”. I love Cheesy Love Song, it reminds me of going to highschool in New South Wales – just like The Lazy Eyes. For anyone who had crushes or romances in the suburbs of some satellite-city, this one’s for you. Enjoy your meal.

It’s easy to forget how young the four guys onstage are, with their ever-growing trail of releases, international festival slots and rave reviews. But when Geraghty takes the mic to say, “This is the last show of our tour with The Jungle Giants, and it’s been a massive pleasure. Thanks to them for inspiring us and putting up with our shit!” And I look at all their beaming smiles, it hits me. They’re still just four young men, unsure how they got to this stage, but they are damn well not going to lose it. They bring the support act to a close with Fuzz Jam. Gerahgty gets weird with the synth, playing with his voice “oooooh” becoming “oOOoOoOh”. I can see him giggling a little bit. But, somehow, even while they are having a mess-around – they’re flawless. Bassist Leon Karagic is absolutely ripping into his bass strings, giving us the solo of a lifetime. Dissatisfied with the crowd’s energy, Geraghty just says, “Can I get a little more movement?” and subtly waves his arm up, and the crowd goes for it. Girls who drink Somersbys and guys who drink GOAT beers throwing their arms in the air and shimmying and jostling. And then, they leave the stage, and no one moves – despite the 20-minute space between acts. All of our eyes are glued to the stage, desperately trying to make our main act appear.

In the gap between acts, jungle-esque techno is playing through the venue, just in case you’d forgotten you were here to see The Jungle Giants. The crowd is awash with people in cowboy hats. I’m confused, but rocking with the vibe nonetheless.

Then, the lights go dark and tendrils of light burst from the stage and make us squint to see the silhouettes of the Brisbane-icons take the stage. The room is holding it’s breath, you could hear a pin drop. Instead of a pin, we hear the voice of front-man Sam Hales, one we will hear a lot of through the night, say two simple words; “Let’s go” and we are thrown into Something Got Between Us. Normally, crowds need a bit of warming up, but we are sufficiently warm. So when Hales starts a call-and-response with us, we are immediately there with him, not a drop of hesitation. The iconic festival banger is one a lot of us had to miss last time The Jungle Giants were in town, Laneway ’23, due to The Great Jungle Giants / 100 gecs Timeslot Clash. So we are making up for it now. People are on each others shoulders, hats are being waved in the air, we are screaming back to the band onstage:

“Hey! Never gonna let you go! Not. This. Time.”

There’s always something amazing about the last show of a tour, the band gives it everything they’ve got, but it isn’t without a slight air of mourning. Hales is an extraordinary vocalist at the best of times, but tonight he’s something else. He belts these incredibly long, high notes that aren’t even on the recording. He’s letting it all out. And the energy in the room is matching this. In between every song, he lets out; “The energy in here is fucking fantastic. It’s something else. It’s ethereal.” Send Me Ur Loving is their second track, and our energy only grows. The question is, how long can we last? (Spoiler: The energy only grows for the next 90 minutes, thanks to the masterful musicianship and audience connection that makes The Jungle Giants one of Australia’s best.)

You’re a great crowd, we can tell that already, so we are gonna treat you fucking right tonight.” And they do, literally. Treat You Right is the next cab off the rank, and just like the songs before it, it’s so good. The lighting team is absolutely crushing it with these big washes of purple, red and orange. Spotlights going crazy on the band, and on us. They are giving it everything they’ve got. You can tell The Jungle Giants play at festivals, they know what crowds want. This tiny space is alive. I can nearly feel the grass, and taste the canned water, and feel my pupils becoming dinner plates. They have created a nostalgia-pill, a yearning for summertime, a much-needed release from Melbourne’s unrelenting winter. And then, suddenly, silence. The stage lights are stopped, the band stops mid-song. The stage has lost power. Instead of being upset, Hales just laughs. “You know what this means? It means you’re seeing a live fucking rock show!” The crowd cheers and his band look relieved and let out held breaths. Hales is one of the best frontmen in the business, you immediately trust him. He’s disarming and funny and talented, he loves his band, he loves his crowds, he always wears fun outfits – he’s an Australian icon. He’s the perfect person to ease our minds. “I’ve always wanted to be a stand-up comedian, maybe this is my chance.” Before he can tell us a joke he spots some girls frantically waving fake candles in the crowd. “Are these candles?” he asks, he’s met with untranslatable screams, “You stole them?! Why?” The girls just shrug. “Fair enough, you look great!”. Hales then hits us with some of the worst dad-jokes you can imagine; yes, that bad. But he’s so confident with it, that we all have to laugh. He keeps the energy light. I’m standing by the tech-desk and see the chaos unfold right before me. A few men frantically pressing buttons and moving levers, seemingly to no avail. And then, like Moses parting the Red Sea, She arrives. Out of the crowd, a woman with a bleached mini mohawk, leather jacket, heeled boots steps up to the desk. I spot the lesbian-pride badge on her jacket. If I have to trust anyone to get the job done, it’s a lesbian with a buzz-cut. And within 30 seconds and barely a wiggle of a knob, we have power. She’s the underrated superstar of our evening.

“Let’s just start the next song, and you guys are gonna set the tempo. Start clapping to the same beat!” It’s been said that ‘White People Have No Rhythm’, never has that ever been truer than right now. We can’t find a beat to save ourselves. But somehow, we eventually find one, and it’s fast. The band doesn’t look perturbed at all. Drummer, Keelan Bijker (Dutch icon), picks up for us, and the band plays On Your Way Down, to a completely new tempo. Fuck me, it’s impressive. The music just flows out of them, effortlessly. This song is a personal fave, so I’m loving it. I love it so much I start a dance circle with my friend and this girl next to us. The crowd is going nuts, we are all swaying arms and reckless abandon, bathed in a sea of purple and blue.

Now, the hats, don’t worry, I didn’t forget. “I can see some of you know what The Hats are about, and for those of you who don’t let me explain,” begins Hales, “Throw those hats up on stage and we will auction them off to a charity; Support Act, it’s one primarily focused on music. If you can get your hat on my head, you get 50 free tickets to The Jungle Giants. A guy got it last night and I’m gonna call him later.” The crowd shrieks and a swarm of hats, all directly aimed at Hales’ head fly onto the stage. Someone nearly gets it, it knicks Hales in the ear. “You know what, that’s close… We’ll talk” and our frontman shoots off a finger gun to the owner of said blue bedazzled cowboy hat. Someone throws a feather boa onstage. “Oh shit! What is this? A feather boa? I’m just like Harry Styles.” Hales laughs, “I don’t know how he plays in this, so I’ll just wear it in between tracks.” And he does, for the rest of the show, while rotating through the hats so lovingly chucked at his head. Legend.

Feel The Way I Do is next. And this is where it dawns on me, I know every The Jungle Giants song. So does everybody. They have ingrained themselves into our subconscious, like U2 putting that album on everyone’s iTunes back in the day. But instead of thinking too much about why it is these guys seem like old friends, I throw my hands in the air and jump along to the silly synth beats and Andre Dooris’ unmatchable bass lines. As they swap cowboy hats, they wind through the rest of the set, each track keeping the energy high and the people overjoyed. Rakata, Monstertruck and others are all in store for us – the songs just keep coming. The Jungle Giants throw film cameras into the audience every time I’ve seen them, “Take some motherfucking pics!” is our only instruction. Our soundtrack is In Her Eyes, and soon those cameras are being thrown back onstage, stocked with photos of friends, couples, and strangers. Looking around, I see lads in bucket hats jokingly slow dancing with each other, young couples making out, and the girls behind me, fuelled on rose, screaming “Sam, you’re so SEXY!!! Sam!!!!” I’m also 99% sure recently reviewed Matt Maltese is in a booth here tonight. They finish with Trippin Up, before blowing us a kiss and walking offstage. The crowd isn’t having it, and they scream like how I’ve never heard people scream. And so, the band comes back on for their encore. Hales, somehow not out of breath, introduces us to his band. “I thought I’d lost my band, would’ve made it hard to give you one last song. But here they are: on drums, Keelan Bijker, on bass, Andrew Dooris and on lead guitar, the always sensational, Cesira Aitken.” Aitken is unassuming, as ever, acting as if it isn’t a big deal that a premiere-league Australian rock band has a female lead guitarist. She always gives a shy smile and returns her gaze to the guitar, as the crowd screams their love for her. “Let’s give a big cheer to our tech crew, say ‘Fuck yeah, Tech Crew!”

FUCK YEAH TECH CREW

Hales seems satisfied with that, “Thank you so much! This was out 17th and final show of tour, and we’ve made something special here tonight. Take all that energy you have and pour it out, leave it here, give this everything you’ve got!” Heavy Hearted is one hell of a closing number. And we get an extra-long version. Hales’ gives and gives, and so do we. It’s a battle of wills, and neither of us let that energy drop. It’s such a good song, so we clap and laugh and some of us cry. To cap off an already insane night, with a stacked setlist, the band plays us out with Used To Be In Love. It gets emotional; all of us excited for summer and romance and friends and picnics. And so, we pour all of ourselves out onto the dancefloor, strangers become friends, and The Jungle Giants become our anthem.

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[Review] Matt Maltese @ Northcote Social Club, Melbourne 02/06/2023

Review By Nikki Eenick

I’d been to the Northcote Social Club once before, and it was largely empty. The venue I walked into on Friday night, was basically unrecognisable. The room was already packed and hot inside, people between the ages of 18 and 60, some looking they were fresh from a footy match and others from an English Literature lecture. What brought them all here? The indie powerhouse duo that is support-act Ruby Gill and our headliner, ‘As-Heard-On-Tik-Tok’ darling, Matt Maltese.

Nominated for the Australian Music Prize in 2022, Ruby Gill’s debut album; I’m gonna die with this frown on my face is nothing short of a breakthrough hit. I can hear Gill before I can see her. She’s nestled under a microphone in the middle of stage, sitting with her feet off the edge, softly strumming a guitar or playing a portable piano. All I can see is the top of her brunette mullet-ed head, bobbing as she sings songs like You Should Do This For A Living, melancholic ballads that find their place nestled in between your heart and your lungs. Although she is Melbourne-based, Gill was born in Johannesburg and still has such a distant twang that she lets loose when she’s comfortable and joking – as opposed to when she sings and reveals to us caustic truths about being young, naïve, in love and existential. “On a lighter note, this next song is about falling in love with someone and not being afraid to admit it. It’s full of cliches, but that’s because it’s the only language I had to tell them.” The song in question is soon-to-be-released (hopefully), Imogen Creek. There’s a man in the middle of the crowd, easily over 60, and he is standing so still, his eyes welling up with tears. Within Gill’s work, there’s this power to move us, it’s an understanding of the human condition; all of our cringe, cliches, losses and loves. Regardless of age, she will find some part of you and shake it awake. Never have I ever been at a gig and seen the act stand, clear their throat, and read me a poem. But if any act was going to, it would be Ruby Gill. “I’ve been writing poetry since before I could play an instrument, or knew I had a voice to sing with. And I still, have not… honoured it, as a part of me for most of my life. And recently I’ve been trying to take it more seriously, just in my own body. I’ve had some poems that have meant a lot to me being published, and to see these words in writing means more to me than any song I’ve written. So, I feel like it’s something I have to lean into. I don’t know why I’m telling you all that” The crowd cheers and claps quietly, beckoning for her to go on. “I’m just um… taking you on the journey. *ahem* So this is a poem I wrote about being gay (Happy Pride!). It’s called I’m not exaggerating when I say.” Gill then proceeds to read us a beautiful poem about feeling lost within yourself, and so desperately wanting “a twin”, a soulmate, a wife. Watching her there, in front of the mic, I’m struck by how short she is. I can still barely see her. Her face is covered in massive glasses and her frame is hidden by a large t-shirt and shaky hands. She looks almost uncomfortable in her skin, until she starts to read us a poem, or sing us a song – then she is transformed. As soon as she’s finished reading, she sits and plays for us another unreleased track; jamie. “I hope you’re all excited to see Matt and his lovely band play!” Someone from the front of the crowd screams back, “We’re here for you!” Gill visibly blushes. “This last song is about being stuck in a house with someone during a pandemic who you really didn’t want to be. It’s called love space. Feel free to shout, “I want space!” When I sing it for about a minute too long.” No time to laugh, we are all immediately taken back to our own lockdown experiences, or our suffocating relationships – or in some cases, both. As the song plays, I see couples holding each other – the irony is not lost on me. As soon as Gill starts singing “I need space. I want space.” I hear screams from around the room of frantic voices all having a moment of catharsis together.

I first listened to Matt Maltese as I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I listened to nothing but As The World Caves In for about 8 hours, and now the mega “Made-Famous-By-TikTok” hit conjures up images of dystopian America and both Blade Runner movies. So, I think I expected Maltese to be moody or pensive, or something the opposite of what he was. Maltese is just delightful. He’s so fun, and funny and jovial. He loves his band, he loves the audience, he loves his music. He embodies the old adage; “Every musician wants to be a stand-up comic; every stand-up comic wants to be a musician” He has such an easy stage-presence that I couldn’t imagine him doing anything else. The 25-year-old British/Canadian indie-pop/chamber-pop artist fills a void left by people like Rex Orange County if he wasn’t an asshole, and King Krule if he saw an anger-management specialist. Maltese has a little bit of something for everyone.

Fittingly, we open with Good Morning and immediately transition into Rom-Com Gone Wrong. They’re both poppy, a little sad, painfully relatable and coupled with this gorgeous piano reverb and Maltese’s Better-Than-The-Recording vocals. Shoutout to the sound guy who looked like Steve Carrell, you did a great job man. I really can’t explain how beautifully the sound filled the room. Not a note off key, vocals and backing vocals and instrumentation all blending into each other flawlessly. “Excited” doesn’t really cover my feelings for the next hour. We are far from the dystopic landscapes I imagined; this is nothing short of heavenly. Maltese momentarily breaks our trance to give us some bassist/drummer jokes that “We’d been laughing about in the green room” Here’s a taster:

  1. What do you call a drummer with half a brain? Gifted.
  2. What do you call a drummer in a 3-piece suit? A defendant.

The crowd is laughing but Maltese goes “I know they seem mean, but those are the best drummer jokes – don’t worry I’ll pick on bassists in a second.”

  1. What’s the similarity between a bassist and a lawsuit? It’s great when the case is closed.

Maltese then goes into a story about how he was on a long-haul flight and just had to lay down some vocals for this song in his head. “And I feel so bad for the woman sitting next to me, because I knew she could hear me as I breathed into my phone; Cuuuurl up and Dieeeee. So, this next song is dedicated for you, plane lady, wherever you might be, I’m sorry.” Curl up & Die is, as expected, a flawlessly executed semi-melancholic banger. All of Maltese’s songs have this melancholic, heart-broken, love-sick undertone to them, and they are wonderous.

Matt Maltese is nothing if not a self-aware tease. “This is a song about a very happy, very sad, very sad, very happy conversation I had with my mum. It would be weird if I didn’t play Mother now, wouldn’t it? Imagine if I played When The World Caves In?” Playing the opening chord to WTWCI, he smirks and then fully launches into Mother. Winding through madhouse into Intolewd; “If I’d known Intolewd would’ve gotten as big as it’s gotten, I would’ve spelled it so much better”. As the band finishes Strange Time, Maltese launches into another anecdote. “Jamie (their sensational guitarist), was playing that main riff and someone went “oh fuck off!” and that’s how we knew we were in Australia.” And then the trio launch into a Bossanova cover of Strange Time. It is cut short, but we are all losing our minds, especially the lighting tech – I’ve never heard a grown man squeal with joy like that. “In another life, we’d be doing that every day on a cruise ship.” Next up is Everyone Adores You (At Least I Do), the whole crowd is singing along in the bridge. When You Wash Your Hair blesses us to an incredible piano solo from Maltese, who’s swapped anecdotes for arpeggios (they’re not really arpeggios, but it sounds good, sue me) and holds our undivided attention, the stage is bathed in red light. Krystal is stunning, it’s got this sort of 60’s hazy feel to it. Makes me feel like I’m in a coming-of-age story. “Makes me wonder if I ever loved anyone else”, reminding me of my first (and second) love, wherever they may be, Maltese holds those emotions and then helps us let them go. Our memories become fanciful, and how delightful it is to feel so light. Next song off the banger-roster, is personal favourite Hello Black Dog, raspy vocals and deep lighting really bring something to this song that the recording just can’t capture, it’s spellbinding. Studio 6 treats us to yet another Bossanova cover (it’s still not enough). “This next one’s about maybe the one or three times I’ve been to a nightclub. It’s As The World Cav- no.” Maltese is clearly having so much fun teasing us with what we know will be the finale. The real next-up special, is aptly named, Nightclub Love.

And, finally, it is time for THE Matt Maltese track: As The World Caves In. And fuck me, was it worth the wait. There’s this expectation that artists resent their #1 track, but Maltese seems genuinely surprised that the entire crowd is signing along with him. He gives it his all. Playing with tempo, with rhythm, showing off his incredible range and unmatchable piano skills. It’s the perfect way to end the absolute marathon of a show.

BUT WAIT I CAN’T WRITE THIS REVIEW AND NOT MENTION: Rowan and Isabelle.

They got engaged as Maltese was shredding keys to his biggest hit. CONGRATULATIONS! I’ve always wanted to be at a gig where someone gets engaged, and now I have. Maltese looks stunned; “Did you know she’d say yes?” And Rowan just laughs as Isabelle hugs him so tight I wouldn’t be surprised if his eyes bugged out. Congratulations guys, I hope the world doesn’t cave in anytime soon, but I’m glad you have each other – just in case.

Maltese, guitarist Jamie and drummer Jacob come to the front of the stage and take their bows, glasses of water in hand – begging to be drunk. They are all wearing the same shirt, it’s very sweet. Maltese returns, alone, for a stripped back encore of Widows. And then the show is over.

My friend turns to me and says, “You know I don’t think I could name a single male artist in my ‘Most Listened To’s. I think that’s about to change.”

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[Review] Deafheaven @ Max Watts, Melbourne 01/06/2023

Review By Nikki Eenick

For any fans of post-metal, shoegaze (or more accurately, “blackgaze”) or screamo, Deafheaven’s “Infinite Granite” tour is a massive occasion. Performing as part of Dark Mofo and Rising festival, this is a unique experience for any fans. On this tour, they will be performing their 2014 album Sunbather, in full. When I tell you I nearly threw up from excitement – I’m not exaggerating.

Opening the first of two phenomenal shows at underground venue Max Watts, are Melbourne natives: Closure in Moscow. Closure in Moscow tow a weird line between prog-rock, pop-punk and general hardcore-esque tomfoolery. Tonight, they’re in great form. It’s strange walking into an underground venue with a grungy feel, on a typically freezing Melbourne night, and seeing a guy in glistening, Pauly Bleeker levels of skimpy, gold shorts dancing onstage. The dance is a cocktail of Mick Jagger, Jamie Foxx doing an impression of Mick Jagger and high energy bouncing. I love it. Front man Christopher de Clinique clearly knows how to have fun (I mean, with a name like that, I’d expect nothing less). His energy is matched by his band, although they all bring their own special brand of chaotic to the table. Bassist Duncan Miller is decked out in BCF overalls, a sunhat, and no shirt. Incredible. I came to this gig prepared to be transported to an ethereal plane of ambient hardcore, but here I was, grinning ear to ear watching a group of guys flawlessly nail face-melting guitar solo after face-melting guitar solo, as the room is bathed by the light of a disco ball. Next to me is an intimating-looking man with three (three?!) eyebrow piercings, leather jacket and a rats-tail-meets-mohawk. But he’s head-banging his way to happiness as this band of merry bandits takes us through tracks like, Neoprene Byzantine and A Night At the Spleen. God, even their song’s names are fun. Clinique takes the mic, not even remotely out of breath despite the before-mentioned dancing. Dripping with Australiana charm, he greets this crowd hyped up on good vibes and beer; “It’s so good to see so many of you cunts out on… what is it today? Wednesday?” The band kind of murmurs and shuffles their feet. “See none of you fucks have any idea either.” Before we can launch into any more bangers that would make Alex Gaskart weep with joy, guitarist Mansur Zennelli takes the mic. “Are there any Kendrick fans here?” One guy from the mosh whoops. “This one’s for you then.” And we are thrown into Deluge. As the set winds to a close, Clinique steps up, yet again, quietly shushing the crowd with a wave of his hands. “Cheers! This is a new song we released a couple months back. It’s not Pot of Green though.” The audience grumbles. “Anyway, this is Pot of Green” And the crowd goes feral. And I mean that, with the greatest of compliments. Transitioning suddenly into a momentary cover of Hotline Bling, the crowd is confused, and then immediately realises the genius of combining Closure in Moscow’s punk-emo sensibilities with hip-hop jams. Realising the crowd is eating, gobbling, out of his hands – Clinique brings out a voice modulator for their closing track. “Oh, shit yeah. This last one’s a new one. It’s called Primal Sinister” on ‘Sinister’ he modulates his voice to a distorted deep bass. They give this last one their all, heavy on the instrumentation, with voice modulations that border on a 100 gecs tribute – we are bathing in hyper-pop-goes-punk bliss. Finishing with a simple ‘thumbs-up’ from Zennelli and a fart sound into the mic from Clinique, the band saunters off. They move through the crowd, grab drinks, and push towards the front to see what all the fuss is about.

My notes from this point get a bit hazy. The next hour and a half are beautiful, bordering on spiritual. Deafheaven have this incredible stage presence. It’s sort of macabre, sort of beachy… You can tell they’re sad and from San Francisco. Singer/Screamer George Clarke doesn’t say much at all to us, outside of a few shy “Thank you’s”. He’s somewhere else, and somewhere we all end up. Clarke has an incredible voice. He goes from violent screaming to soft shoe-gaze vocals like it’s nothing. And it is not, nothing. I turn my head and see people with their mouths wide-open, eyes almost popping out of their head; he’s amazing. We are all holding our breath, barely moving, in the hopes that we don’t break this spell Deafheaven have cast over us. This voice coupled with the unbelievable dual-guitar work from Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra, they are heavenly, spellbinding. Mehra also sings backing vocals and is able to perfectly match Clarke’s intense energy and leather pants, while he wears a button-up over a white singlet. McCoy’s guitar work has been compared to My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and Johnny Marr of The Smiths – he cites both as influences. For any fans of screamo, the first half of their set is going to be for you. It’s insanely loud and Clarke screams in a way that is so cathartically wonderful it feels like he is pulling all of the things that make you feel hideous or heavy out of your throat with his bare hands. But the second half is where they really shine, if you ask me (You didn’t, but yet, here you are, reading my review). I think I ascended as tracks bled into tracks bled into tracks, the room bathed first in blue light, then white, then red and purple and then back again. Desperately, I wait to hear The Pecan Tree. And then, it arrives, handed to me on a beautiful, gothic, silver platter. Please, even if you think you don’t like screamo, or hardcore, listen to this track. Skip to 4:19 and just let the rest of it wash over you. Every time I listen to it I feel like I was drowning in a tank, and Deafheaven have just pulled me out, and I can breathe again. A musical baptism, of sorts. Live, it’s even better. I wasn’t even sure I was still here on earth if it wasn’t for the glass in my hand. The band is so in tune with each other – a single organism, and their musicianship, skill and bond are what allows the audience to be carried on such a flawless wave of sound. I might have stopped breathing for those 15 minutes, but I am resuscitated in that room. Even the folks working the merch stand turn to the stage. No one buys anything, everyone is deathly still. And then, Clarke softly places the microphone in its stand and addresses us, unfazed that he might have caused 850 simultaneous cardiac arrests. “Thank you so much. We’re going to watch a DJ tonight at uh… cherry?” The band nods. “Cherry. Everyone should come to cherry.” Then we are into the final few songs, including ambient-emo perfection; Great Mass of Colour. Someone in the crowd pre-emptively screams for an encore. “I can’t actually hear you” Clarke says with a smirk, a twinkle in his eye that wasn’t there before – almost as if he’s surprised people want them to continue after such a long set. “We’ve been Deafheaven. Take care of each other.” And then we get the punching duo of Brought to Water into Dream House. All without missing a beat. As the band shreds their last shreds, and casts their last spells, people pile down into the lower part of the Max Watts dancefloor, and we watch them mosh so hard I’m sure their bones still ache. But despite the fact they look like gladiators in the coliseum, they all take care of each other. And that’s what tonight was all about. Music and Us, it’s community. And I am so happy to be a part of this one.

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[Review] Mallrat @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 20/05/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

The Forum was host to one of the best girl-pop line-ups in recent Australian musical memory; Mallrat’s The Butterfly Blue tour.

 While we’re all here to see Mallrat, Brisbane-native Grace Shaw, opening duo Cat & Calmell get the crowd going so well you’d think they were the headliner. Relative newcomers to the Australian pop scene, this mini-skirt, fluffy-boot adorned duo released their debut single in 2020. Tonight, they are supported by their “sexy, hot, DJ, Asia” – who is so short you can barely make out the top of their bleached-blonde head as they mix track after tracks, perfectly complimenting C&C’s vocals. Describing themselves as “a charismatically, asthmatic pop duo”, I can only half agree. Charismatic? Without a doubt. Asthmatic? The jury’s still out. Their vocals are incredible; they effortlessly harmonise with each other, performing versions of their songs that completely outshine the recording. They never seem out of breath, even with their high energy dancing and unbelievable high notes.

“Does anyone else in here tonight like to cry?” A massive storm of noise comes from the crowd – they clearly know their audience. With a wink they launch into, Cry. As the song comes to an end Cat, all giddy, addresses the crowd; “I see some of you singing along and eee! So cool!”, Calmell adds to her statement; “You guys fucking rock!” After some applause, Calmell takes the mic again; “Our next song is about how sometimes you feel something and want to die”, Cat, constantly full of giddy energy, “Let’s talk about that!”, and we are blessed with a stripped-down version of life of mine. One particular member of the crowd is absolutely losing their mind, the duo stop and look at them – “That dude right there, you’re fucking awesome. This one’s for you.” Imagine having this performance of dramatic dedicated to you? We all wish we were that guy. Cat & Calmell should run a masterclass in audience engagement. When they ask us, “Who’s excited for Mallrat”, despite the enslaught of noise, they aren’t impressed. “I feel like you could be more excited for Mallrat!” And the Forum is filled with hoots and hollers. Now that they have us, they are going to keep us. And so, begins a game of call-and-response, C&C sing a harmony for us, and we sing it back – and all of a sudden we are active participants in get old. To close out the set, they free us from our harmonic trance and let us dance with reckless abandon to a soon-to-be-released track, tell me that you love me.

Our sadness at seeing them skip offstage is mellowed by the dimming of lights, and the knowledge that Mallrat is about to be hitting us with upbeat summertime party hit after hit. I’ve seen Shaw perform many times, and still I am surprised by how small her stature is. You can barely see her over the sea of heads and arms in the crowd – but then she sings, and she is everywhere I look. Opening with Wish on an Eyelash, Pt. 2, she is so captivating, even as she lounges on the stage. “These are the first big shows we’ve done since the album (Butterfly Blue) came out – so here’s a song from that.” The song in question is To You, heartbreaking, nostalgic – like a summer just gone by. Her voice is something beyond ethereal; it is gorgeous, spellbinding.

She then runs us through the members of her sensational backing-band; Gab Strong, on bass, Stella, on guitar and Frances Hong on drums. Mallrat is single-handedly trying to even the gender imbalance in Australian music with her bandmates, as well as her support acts. Speaking of her supports, she invites them all onto stage. “Can I get you guys all up here onstage with me? I want to show everyone how much I love you!” and they all embrace tightly, not letting go for many seconds. It’s such a beautiful display of friendship, admiration, and love. This is the final show of the tour, and you can tell they aren’t ready for it to end – the hug is bittersweet.

The crowd is so supportive, friendly, and happy to be there – and it doesn’t go unnoticed. “I fucking love you guys! I think you deserve a hit”, and what a hit we get. Groceries is one of the It-Girls of Australian Gen-Z pop. The Forum is lit up with purple and blue swirls that cover the walls, the ceiling and the sea of bodies letting loose and sinking into the track. As fast as Groceries is over, Mallrat says one quick thing before continuing; “Let’s keep dancing”. Such a simple line, and exactly the encouragement the crowd needs. R U HIGH, is a song by Electronic band The Knocks, which features Shaw. But tonight, we just get her and her band. This version is less electronic, more beach-pop – but she has absolutely nailed the vibe. Turning to the crowd again; “Is everyone still feeling good?” And she is met with a sea of heart-shaped hands and thumbs-ups.

Taking a minute to get personal with us, Shaw takes a seat on stage. “This time last year, I released my debut album. But I feel like I’ve been making music a lot longer than that… I’m glad to have had that time to include all the things I love and reference all the artists I love,” she laughs, “It’s really hard to combine your love of Dolly Parton with your love of Yung Lean and Charli XCX.” It’s true that Mallrat’s discography spans many genres, even within a single release. She’s clearly used her time wisely to truly embrace her diverse musical upbringing. “I only have a few songs left but thank you for coming on this journey with me”. This is the journey of the night, the journey of supporting her releases – it’s her journey, and we are just happy to be along for the ride.

It’s only fitting that on the Butterfly Blue tour, she plays Butterfly Blue. Turning to my right, I see a mom and dad huddled around a phone, reading off the lyrics so they can sing along with their, clearly mega-fan, child. I start to get teary. I see couples kiss, friends embrace and sway, people who are there solo put their drinks to the side and stand next to a stranger. We are all brought together by music, in this wonderful space. Community is illuminated by panning white beams in a pink misty haze.

Mallrat finishes strong, with For Real. The lightboard behind her flashing aggressively with blues and whites as she slowly walks across the stage – effortlessly captivating. She finishes sat in front of the crowd, cradling the cheeks of devoted fans in her hands. 

And then, it’s done. The Forum lights are up, and the crowd starts exiting swiftly, immediately freed from their trance. All anyone can talk about on their exit is how much they wish there was an encore.

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[Review] Fatboy Slim @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne 28/04/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

Somehow, everyone knows Fatboy Slim. He’s a household name for 12-year old footy kids, classic-rock listening Dads and mums in sparkly pants. Are we all born knowing him? Where do we find him? I have so many questions, and even more after his absolute smash-hit sold out show at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl. There is no one more deserving of the term; cultural icon.

Despite the heavy rain which left Melbourne covered in mud and dew (just for something different), the team organising the absolute sensory extravaganza waiting for us at Sidney Myer Music Bowl were not perturbed. Everything went on exactly at their start time, with maybe 10 minutes max in between each act. This was one well-oiled machine.

I find electronica hard to write about in general, it’s not a

They played (song) and then (song).

It has such a vibe to it. So let me paint you a picture.

First up was Anna Lunoe, originally born in Sydney, she now lives in Los Angeles doing DJ stints at major festivals like, Coachella and Lollapalooza. As I waited in the rain for my friend, her music started washing over us – courtesy of the venue’s incredible speakers. It was slow, reverby, almost boozy. It was so understated, but she controls sound so magically each song bled into the next and the next until you were in a trance. Completely under a spell. Whether you were out the front scanning tickets, inside eating tacos (they were A++) or dancing, you were taken to Lunoe’s world. It’s a place I imagine is a lot like a club in some movie. Orange light and heavy shadows, as you walk towards the dancefloor behind a waiter with a drinks tray. Listen to Cotton Candy Lemonade and tell me you don’t see it? Unbelievably good vibes. She was the perfect opener, she didn’t leave us drained, she left us soothed – suddenly unbothered by the rain and the cold. Her stage presence is so gentle and she almost becomes her music, as do we.

Second openers were Confidence Man, a band who I have seen live a few times and always loved, are doing a rare DJ set. Now, even though I love Confidence Man’s normal goofy dancing and chemistry – seeing them DJ, you really get an appreciation of how deep that chemistry runs. Janet Planet (Grace Stephenson) and Sugar Bones (Aidan Moore) have swapped out their shiny 60s space-age dresses and suit, and are now in all black, crouched over the table and pumping out banger after banger. They describe themselves as “a portable party”, and it’s undeniably true. My friend once used Confidence Man to convince a car-full of Frenchmen into giving them a ride to their AirBNB in Paris. No matter how tired, no matter what native language, no matter how sore you are – Planet and Bones will have you on your feet and feeling as good as new in no time. Having collaborated with people like Dj Boring you can expect some super lowkey, vibey tracks which will get into your veins and keep you going all night. The lights start to pick up at the end of their set and the tempo starts to go up. A remix of Does it Make You Feel Good? Leads us into our headliner. We are already on a high.

I was not prepared for the over two-hour long, absolute extravaganza I was about to experience at the hands of Norman Quentin Cook – better known as Fatboy Slim. Most of the crowd there is over the age of 40, but when I tell you I have never smelled so much weed at a concert – I’m not exaggerating. Everyone there, is getting rowdy. Everyone is young again. Let’s. Fucking. Go.

I was a little nervous when I saw the projection screens at either side of the “bowl” turn off and on, the Mac rainbow wheel of death staring us all down. But then all three screens went black, and when they game back on, red velvet curtains started opening up all those screens. Backed by the sounds of electricity and a sharp white light on stage, Fatboy is in the building. And he is wearing khaki pants and a Keith Haring shirt. He looks like someone’s cool dad at a Barbeque. The first track starts with some UK DNB-style techno, the distorted lyrics go;

When they said the music was too loud/ We kept dancing

And the suddenly.

I’m in Melbourne/ Bitch

And the crowd goes nuts. Everywhere I look all I can see is a sea of bobbing heads and thrown-up hands, we are an ocean of 11,000, it’s intensely beautiful.

What surprised me most about Cook’s set, is how visual it is. Everything from celebrity-face morphs, into Slim repeatedly swallowing his own head, to his body changing from fat to slim (Fatboy Slim, get it?), Keith Haring-esque men dancing – you name it, he’s got it going on.

Obviously, Praise You, The Rockerfeller Skank and Right Here, Right Now are his biggest hits. And he is such an absolute pro at this that he manages to play each song 3 or 4 times, each in an entirely new way. He remixes Can’t Get No (Satisfaction) with The Rockerfeller Skank and uses DeepFake technology to have Obama deliver a speech to himself behind the presidential podium, but the speech is the lyrics to Right Here, Right Now.

There were a few highlight moments for me. In one instance of his DeepFakery, we get “Bill Murray” delivering a speech by American Preacher Jack Van Impe – which has been at the front of Sex on the Streets, a highly underrated Slim track. It’s so silly, so unbelievably goofy. At the end of the song, we get a black and white photo of Slim outside a house, facedown, on the ground. Two sentences flash up. The first; Drive Safely. The second, and most important; Don’t be a Racist. Also including the iconic Big Lebowski scene where The Dude is at the Bowling Alley in his dream floating through the legs of sexy women, and then there are some guys in red with scissors (Good thing this isn’t a Big Lebowski review).

I Just Came For The Music has some great wisdom; “I ain’t here to fuck girls/ I ain’t here to take drugs/ I ain’t here to start fights/ I just came for the music”

Unfortunately, at the beat drop, when confetti, strobe and fucking fire come out of the stage. Literal flames. My caveman brain can’t handle it. This is absolutely bananas. The crowd is going to take absolutely none of this advice. But it’s true, we are all here for the music. It is so hard to keep the attention of a crowd fighting to stay upright on the mud (some people lost), but he manages to do it. We are literally eating out of his hand, we can’t get enough. And he loves it.

I’ve never seen a man who loves what he is doing as much as I did watching Fatboy Slim. Running into the crowd, demanding high-fives, old-man dancing on stage, swinging around his headphones around – he is soaking it all in, and he is just clearly genuinely thrilled to be up there doing this. Not a shred of narcissism in it, he looks genuinely so happy when people will bounce with him when he tells us to and he just wants to boogie with us all. His energy and zest for life have stayed with me since the concert.

Not only is he insanely fun, the skill on this man. His set is like a winding tour through 90s, through to 2010s electronic subgenres. The precise timing of his visuals to his set, is insane. We are talking he has to be beat perfect, every time. And every time, he is. I was so lucky to be able to see Fatboy Slim the night after this as well, and my friend with me just kept whispering “he’s so good. Nikki, he’s so fucking good you weren’t kidding.” I’d never joke about that. I feel insanely blessed to have seen this man’s talent in the flesh. Do yourself a favour, add Fatboy Slim to your bucket list, because his set is something that is going to live with me forever. He perfectly balances having fun, goofing around and not taking yourself too seriously, while also taking his craft incredibly seriously, and he is a master.

I could (and will) go on and on and on about this until the day I die. And when that day comes, you better play Fatboy Slim at my funeral.

I could not have named a single Fatboy Slim “fan” (someone who rides and dies by the Slim). I couldn’t have told you anyone I know who would have fought for those last-minute Tixel tickets and fought through the mud to see him. But as all 11,000 of us poured out from the venue, it hit me. How can you not be a Fatboy Slim fan. Consider me fanned. A mega-fan. An obsessive follower to his cult of 90s DNB, insane visuals and Regular Joe Charm. Imagine not loving Fatboy Slim? It’s actually not possible.

Weren’t you listening to Slim?

Eat! Sleep! Rave! Repeat!

Let’s go people, the night is young!

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