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[Review] Soccer Mommy @ Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne 18/02/2023

The opener of the night at the Croxton Bandroom are Garage Sale, they are a new Melbourne 4-piece whose new release Shimmer, has put them on the radar. Even though they’re a new band – everything about Garage Sale takes me back in time. Their bassist, wearing a white lace dress with gothic accessories, the guitarists and drummer with floppy hair, all of them bathed in red light. The year was 1993. They sound like this glorious mix between Sunnydale Real Estate, if SRE had released Nirvana’s Marigold, and had the sex-appeal of Hole. Maybe grunge isn’t dead after all? It’s been reborn, in the shape of Garage Sale. I felt like I’d heard these songs before, but they were so fresh and punchy – I couldn’t have. I was clearly not the only one excited about the Melbourne foursome’s homage to the Seattle Scene. Dripping with sex appeal, grit and reverb, Garage Sale have already amassed quite a number of fans, many of whom were in the room headbanging, slamming the table or unable to tear their eyes away.

You know the old expression: It was enough to make a grown man cry? Well, Phoebe Go does.

Coming back from smokers, we were met by the smooth voice of Phoebe Go. The band room was suddenly packed – 2 or 3 times the amount of people than were there 20 minutes ago, came out of nowhere. We were all fighting for a view of the stage, and the woman on it. Phoebe Go was desperate to hide behind her fringe, she would shuffle a little self-consciously between songs, but as soon as she started playing, she was someone else. I was almost shocked to hear her say “Thanks for having me, Soccer Mommy. You guys fucking rule.” It seemed so brash and off-kilter for the same person who wrote Hey, the person who made the grown man next to me well up with tears with her emotional closing ballad We Don’t Talk. How could I possibly have missed Go in my endless late-night searches for the Ultimate Sad Girl Ballad? Don’t make the same mistake I did. Go! Listen to (Phoebe) Go!

Sophia Allison is Soccer Mommy, but tonight she had a four-piece backing band. They were a rag-tag crew, from Rodrigo on keys and guitar, wearing a gaudy 80’s ski-jacket to Mick on the bass, his bald head, big-framed glasses, sea-glass bass all something out of a Spike Jonze video. And boy, were they tight. The songs went from soft, sparkly, wonderfully melancholic folk/pop, and turned into harder rock covers, with shredding solos, lots of echo and so much drum and bass I felt it in my feet.

To me, there has always been something so uniquely feminine about Soccer Mommy, but as I looked around the room, I saw so many young men. Her Spotify repertoire seems to be adjacent to similar artists Phoebe Bridgers and Indigo De Souza, but these are guys with shirts half-unbuttoned, beers in hand, I was intrigued: what did they get out of Soccer Mommy?

Her major hit circle the drain was the second song of the night. I listened to the people around me, slurred voices screaming the words back at her: things feel that low sometimes/even when everything is fine. We were entirely hers, the music flowed out of them, into us. When she asked us “How do you guys feel about the Devil down here?”, no one hesitated, no one questioned the absurdity of the question. Instead, they all cheered and threw up rock-and-roll hands or did their very best Devil-call, or they booed. If she had asked us to jump, we would have said “How high?” If she had asked us to bark, we would have scared off the neighbour’s cat. We were at church, and she was our preacher.

I realised that Soccer Mommy doesn’t just write songs about the feminine experience, she makes music about the youthful experience. She writes songs for our generation, all of us who were given unfettered access to the internet, and far too early exposure to Richard Siken poetry. Her music resonated with me, the drunk men going hard in the middle of the room, the quiet girl sitting alone at a table. She has taken our journals, our Tumblr blogs, our deepest fears, and greatest hopes and is performing them with unbelievable lighting, double-vocal reverb and many (many) guitar changes. Winding through two-albums worth of hits, a heartbreaking solo performance of Still Clean, and finishing with Your Dog, everyone who was at the Croxton that night, will leave with a bit of Soccer Mommy’s joyous, cathartic melancholy with them forever.

She understands every heartbreak I’ve ever had. She’s seen the ugliness I see sometimes when I look at myself a-little-too-late-at-night in the mirror. She’s punched that guy in the nose. She’s thrown up in an uber. She’s seen me, seen us. She takes all of those feelings which we think make us wretched, horrible, unseemly, and says “Do you want a backing band with that?” or “Jump on in! The reverb’s the perfect temperature!” And it is the perfect temperature; her music washes over me like waves on the sand, and I am washed ragged to smooth, right there, on the Croxton’s sticky floor. Seeing Soccer Mommy at such an intimate venue reminded me of why I love music, love being a hopeless romantic, love being a woman, love being a little bit ugly and a little bit messy. Soccer Mommy reminds us that total strangers will wrap their arms around each other to cry, and then, not even a song later, to dance and hold each other up.

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[Review] Icehouse @ Riverstage, Brisbane 18/02/2023

I suspect that the motivation behind any artist, but especially musicians perhaps, is to make the audience feel something. Feel anything. To feel differently for having experienced their art.  Well, Icehouse’s return to Brisbane on Saturday night certainly did that for me.  Though the band frequently tour Australia extensively, including just recently in 2022, this “Great Southern Land – The Concert Series show” was my first live encounter with them.  Being an eighties baby, I grew up knowing and loving their songs… but that was a long time ago.  What a relief and absolute joy to realise that this chart topping, platinum selling musical force can still hold their own, and then some.  Joining them as special guests on the RiverStage were Eskimo Joe and Karen Lee Andrews

Though traffic carnage brought about by another concert (cough: Ed Sheeran) meant I missed Karen’s set, there is no doubt her soulful, chilled vocals and guitar playing would have mixed well with pre-drinks on the lawn as the sun went down.  Her four-piece band are known as some of the hardest working in the industry and I will make it my business to seek out the Polynesian singer’s classical blues rock show in future.

The 6-piece Freemantle act, Eskimo Joe are next on stage. It’s been several years since the ARIA award-winning band has released an album (their latest, a live recording in collaboration with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra), but their choice as support for Icehouse simply makes sense.  They burst on to stage, vocalist and front man Kavyen Temperley donning a white suit coat and slicked back hair, channelling Elvis perhaps. Initially, there are some sound issues making the lyrics and melodies less clear than punters may have liked. Their set is started with Sarah off the Black Fingernails, Red Wine album. This is followed by New York.  Despite being released as the third single from this same album, Temperley explains New York was really the first to result from their early planning of acoustic songs.  Understandably, bands must walk a fine line when touring, never wanting to sound exactly like the studio press, but the start of this one is almost unrecognisable. In Older Than You from the band’s second album, A Song Is a City, a disproportionate focus upon the heavy beats doesn’t quite allow the beauty of the melody to be captured. Indeed, given the unquestionable skill the band have as writers, I felt it wasn’t until quite late in the set that the sound properly represented this skill.  The haunting piano solo introduces Echo next,  before London Bombs continues the slower pace.  This one was written in Cairns Temperley tell us.  The unmistakeable sounds of (recorded) bagpipes welcome Foreign land from the album Inshalla.  It is obviously a favourite for the band, each clearly relishing the moment, but paying particular homage to drummer, Joel Quartermain. 

The band comically shout out to the ‘expensive plastic seat’ section at this point, hinting that- while they won’t force anyone up off their seats- this group have a strong responsibility to set the vibe for the evening.  Next up is Setting Sun which featured in the 2011 film The Last Song, rumoured to be the scene for the beginning of Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworths’ off-screen romance.  The band dedicate the song to Miley who is, they suggest, practically an Aussie citizen now. Like the lyrics in this one, the predominantly ‘older’ audience, clearly know and understand they’re “forever young”, partying in strong numbers at Brisbane’s Riverstage.  Who Sold Her Out follows next.  Temperley describes an intense pressure to produce a second song -one packageable as a single – for their debut album.  Determined not to ‘sell out’, the band explain this one was actually written far earlier but released in response to this pressure and to the threat of the label pulling the album.  Black Fingernails, Red Wine is up next – the song the band attributes to changing their lives forever.  Here too I perhaps would have liked the vocals and piano to been better accentuated but the powerful crescendos and cuts and unparalleled lyrics see the audience get amongst it. 

Like us, Temperley explains he is starting to get very excited to see Icehouse, an act they refer to as one of Australia’s best ever. He describes growing up listening to Icehouse, being mesmerised by their mysterious sound.  The set ends with From the Sea, undoubtedly their best adaptation of the night.  The near-incomprehensible skills of drummer, Joel Quartermain, are again showcased before From the Sea is extended.  Punters clap and sing along. All in all, this act has solidified its position as an Australian tour de force but should “the world repeat itself somehow”, and I get the chance to see them again, I hope the sound technicians can better present Eskimo Joe and all their talent.  There is a full 30-minute interlude between Eskimo Joe and Icehouse but watching the amazing roadies work, there is no doubt that every minute was required. 

Until Icehouse’s set, visuals were quite minimal, but the headliners start the show, fittingly, with a visual acknowledgement of country.  Let us hope this is a sign that this Great Southern Land continues to grow and learn. With the stage still otherwise dark, audiences are awoken first with the sounds of an isolated synthesiser, then single piano notes and finally, drums.  It is obvious immediately that any sound issues are now behind us ….. and that we are in for a night of astounding music. Icehouse start with their namesake track – ironically, released when they were instead known as The Flowers.  The crowd clap along and enjoy the stylistic and ultra-modern visuals.  Uniform from the Primitive Man album is up next before Fatman, both of which evoke (pleasing) New Order memories.  And then they played… Electric Blue, possibly their most successful song charting at number one in Australia, as well as in the top ten in both New Zealand and the United States.  While we all know the track, Icehouse cleverly accentuate both the guitar and sax solos within, allowing Paul Gildea (rhythm guitar) and Hugo Lee (saxophone) to stun with their exceptional talent. 

After four decades of music making, the band hold countless accolades. Beyond the official titles and awards though, one of their chief accomplishments has been as frontrunners in extending the use of the synthesiser beyond dance tracks. Hey Little Girl, their next song for the night, is one such example.  It is hauntingly beautiful and allows Iva to show off his voice – a voice that miraculously appears to have gone unchanged for forty years.  In Mr Big, off their 1986 Measure for Measure album, the instrumental and experimental bridge translates well to the big stage, and again reminds us just how ahead of their time this Australian band has always been. Soon enough, Iva looks to be introducing his band members – many of which have changed over the years- but he doesn’t, instead suggesting that “to the left of me… and to the right are …….humans. A little touched perhaps. A little mad”. Nice way to introduce Crazy, the next track and next most successful commercial tune for them – also hitting top ten in Oz, NZ and the states.  During Crazy, old footage of the original videoclip is run, including what has to be Australia’s best mullet and one that even I might forgive.  What an odd sensation for Iva and original crew, I remember thinking. But while they may look up and not recognise themselves, the punters certainly recognise and love this one- perfectly joining Iva in the vocals when encouraged.    Despite being a slow song, it is No Promises and the synthesiser specifically that gets me out of my seat for the first time.  Hugo Lee’s saxophone solo keeps me there and I find myself even involuntarily screaming for more. Michael Paynter next returns to the stage to lend vocals for Touch the Fire.

Though the night had many highlights, for me, it was the quiet acoustic version of A Man of Colours, the title track from their fifth studio album, that I will remember forever. I’m not an emotional person by nature. Not someone who cries a lot …but I can say without hyperbole that the song was so incredibly beautiful and powerful that I was choking back many tears.  Iva brings out the Oboe towards the end and saxophonist, Lee, takes us on another journey.  This really was something special.  Love in Motion comes on next quickening the pace and allowing me to get my boogie on. 

In a surprise move, Great Southern Land – Australia’s unofficial anthem is not last or even an encore but next on the set.  In introducing it, Gildea thanks Iva, suggesting none of them would ‘be here’, like all the songs, without him.  Despite turning 40 this year, Great Southern Land, continues to thrill audiences, as does the next one, I Can’t Help Myself. The band relish the ongoing applause enticing us to be louder again – louder perhaps than Ed Sheeran’s crowd just kilometres down the road?   The last song (or so they tell us) is We Can Get Together with Temperley from Eskimo Joe returning to join the band.

First encore is a cover of Marseilles by The Angels, a band we’re told Icehouse used to support for and for whom they continue to have great respect.  Here all members clearly rock out enjoying the moment and pay tribute to the pianist specifically.  It’s a pity at times – I recall thinking – that unlike Jazz gigs where solos are applauded mid song, often solos of this nature appear to go unnoticed. They certainly were not though and the pianist, like the drummer and saxophonist all deserve special mention here.  The band end the night with Nothing Too Serious, the lyrics of which can’t help but make me laugh.  While I was not wearing an Icehouse T-shirt on Saturday night, I swear one in five punters were.  Though the shirts, like the punters themselves perhaps, may be a little ‘warn around the edges’, they were certainly ready to party and not going home disappointed. Thank you Icehouse. Thank you for making me catch some feelings. 

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[Review] Arch Enemy @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 18/02/2023

In Thrash Metal there are the Big 4. Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax. Of the Big 4 in Melodic Death, Arch Enemy is clearly the Megadeth of their genre.

Heavy Metal is not merely a passion to its fans, it’s a religion, and in a religion – you do not turn up late to church. This was evident by how full The Forum was even before the opening act, Valhalore took to the stage.

Valhalore are described as an Epic Folk Metal band and Epic is the perfect adjective to describe how their set began. Sweeping orchestral arrangements gave way to thunderous drums that built to a crescendo of harmonized guitar melodies, complimented by the Celtic overtones courtesy of flutist, Sophie Grace.

Their music transcended the usual musical boundaries and managed to smoothly navigate its way between the violence of Black Metal and the earthy warmth of European Folk music. From the response of the crowd, you could see that they already have a strong presence and following in the local scene and frontman, Lachlan Neate had their full attention throughout the set. The rhythm section, comprised of Joseph Dipisa-Fiorenza (Bass) and Morgan Cox (Drums), was crushingly heavy and consistent.

A special (maybe slightly biased) mention has to be made to the guitar duo of Anthony Willis and Lucas Fisher. Both of whom I proudly recognise as brothers in the Ormsby guitar family. The guitars looked and sounded damn good and the finesse in which they played their instruments was the greatest endorsement one can give.

Europe might be the birthplace of Folk Metal but Valhalore showed that the Aussies are definitely on par with the big boys.

A massive banner covered the entire back of the stage and flags with Arch Enemy’s logo flanked the sides along with two Marshall stacks on each end. They began their set with Deceiver Deceiver off their latest album and man were they loud – very loud!

Alissa White-Gluz has such a presence about her that just oozes charisma and attitude as her voice tore its way through the songs and the audience. They followed this up with The World is Yours and the iconic, Ravenous from the legendary Wages of Sin album.

If there is a more sophisticated guitar duo than Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis in the metal scene today, I’m honestly hard-pressed to think of one. They play their guitars with a fiendish level of technicality that makes them appear more than mere mortals. There is no distinction between rhythm and lead roles, and absolutely no egos between them either. Riffs and solos cascaded flawlessly with a preternatural fluidity and together with bassist, Sharlee D’Angelo and drummer Daniel Erlandsson, they gave us a masterclass in showmanship and proficiency.

These days, any time a band shows up to a live gig with amps I always sit up and pay extra attention. Technology has now made it possible and much more cost-efficient for a band to omit amplifiers from their live shows. Therefore, those who choose to go the extra mile and use them, hold a special place in my heart. To the non-musicians this might seem like an insignificant detail but often it’s the sum of the most minute details that add up to make the largest impact.

The first time I heard Arch Enemy was 22 years ago when the album Wages of Sin (which has now gone on to be regarded as one of the cornerstones of melodic death metal) was released in 2001. The song Enemy Within captivated me and finally, after all this time, I got to see it performed live together in a mammoth 5-song encore that included, Burning Angel, Snowbound, Nemesis and Fields.

Sometimes we can hype things up in our mind and get disappointed by the result. However, on very rare occasions reality supersedes our imagination. Arch Enemy is one of those rare bands that has gone through various evolutions and has always come out the other side at the top of their game. This is just another beginning for them and I, along with legions of fans can’t wait to see what happens next.

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[Review] Bad Religion / Social Distortion @ Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne 19/02/2023

Punk. Punk Rock. A legendary device representing individuality and freedom, smiting inbreeds of hate and prejudice. What better way to celebrate punk rock than attending what was an unforgettable co-headline show delivered none other by the legendary Bad Religion and Social Distortion.

The mosh pits never wavered from the moment the quintessential logo of Bad Religion was raised to the final note of 21st Century Digital Boy, as a band who’s years couldn’t keep up with them blew the roof off an enclosed but packed arena. Opening surprisingly with none other than American Jesus, Greg Graffin and his posse of fellow LA misfits showed us demonstrated no intention of fooling around short of putting on an unforgettable show, to the extend where you would forget that this staple of punk rock have been delivering unforgettable shows for 43 years.

There was almost not time to relax between hit after hit of pure energy that could be felt throughout the entire crowd, with all of us belting the lyrics of You, Los Angeles is Burning, and the iconic Generator in which my voice could not last through the opening lyrics that deserve to be screamed, or not sung at all. The banter with the crowd was a fun experience, especially with Greg’s clever quips leading involving song titles which included boldly stating that both the bassist and the crowd had “No Control” over the night’s setlist. Even during a second viewing of this iconic group, my breath never failed to be ripped away by such a force, as I have never quite seen such finesse and precision amongst tunes so electric and fast in tempo. 

Social Distortion closely followed the first half of this incredible act, however they were certainly not least in their performance. Right after a pleasantly welcoming introduction with Muddy Water’s Mannish Boy howling through the speakers, Mike Ness made his godly presence known, rocking a beret, hunched over his Les Paul, and his wildly engaging eccentricity and poses. Bad Luck as one of the opening tracks set up the vibe of Social Distortions heavily electric set influenced by many punk greats such as The Clash, Ramones, and Iggy and the Stooges, as stated by Ness himself. 

Suddenly, my ears caught attention to the familiar introductory guitar lick of Wicked Game by Chris Isaak, and relished in such an impressive cover of a legendary recognisable track mixed with a more heavier recital known to Distortion, which was in itself a set up for an incredible second half of their set built on the foundations of such powerful and touching stories and political messages, with Ball and Chain delivering a melancholic tale of heartbreak and addiction, and the clear hatred towards racism through Don’t Drag Me Down, and with this tune alone, Mike’s words leading into the track couldn’t ring truer even in today’s society:

White. White…..is not superior. It never has been, and never will be

The encore in itself was a highlight, opening with Born to Kill followed closely by Story of my Life, a touchingly nostalgic story about the old days, when times were simpler, when high school was a bore and when you always wished to court that one individual a few desks away from you, concluding with the hope of similar happiness and pursuit of success in the future of your life. The show concluded with a cover of Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash, featured famously on Social Distortion’s self-titled 1990 album that, with of course an explosive link twist, still captured the essence of Cash’s legend that seeped through Mike’s vocals.

The unforgettably powerful aspect of this tour is not just a nostalgic trip back to Bad Religion’s early days touring with Social Distortion, but also the fact that both frontmen, Greg Graffin and Mike Ness, share such iconic individual vocals that never alter in any way throughout the years, whether they’re listened through records, or heard live. Such a gig will surely not be forgotten anytime soon, and seeing these two legendary bands once more would be, if I can put this explicitly, an absolute fucking delight.

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[Review] Architects @ Adelaide Entertainment, Adelaide 17/02/2023

It’s been two albums (For Those That Wish To Exist and the classic symptoms of a broken spirit) and a pandemic since Architect’s graced our shores. Friday night saw them play in Adelaide with Canadian outfit Counterparts and local lads Thornhill.

Outside the venue the vibe was high and judging from the chatter amongst punters this was a post covid gig they had been patiently waiting for. Upon entering there are lots of early punters enjoying a beer in the foyer, but I made a beeline for the stage as to not miss a moment.

It's been a crappy few weeks for Thornhill, and I was happy to see them still on this lineup. For those unaware Thornhill was left devastated recently when close to $100,000 worth of gear was stolen from their rehearsal rooms, leaving the band unsure if they would be able to fulfill their tour commitments. The metal community jumped into action. Fellow musicians offered the use of their gear and music lovers supported a Go-Fund-Me campaign to the tune of 62K.

The talented Melbournians have a huge first half of the year, heading overseas in April so this may be the last time we see them for a while. The opening song pulled the punters in from the bar and the crowd grew considerably. There was no doubt that we were in for a belter of a performance from them. Asking the crowd to step closer we hear the tell-tale riff of Coven; cheers erupt from the crowd. This is a treat because as Jacob tells us, they don’t play this one often and he expects us to move! Prowling the catwalk, getting down low to the crowd Jacob exudes the aura of a superstar. Jacob dedicates Raw to the crowd with a heartfelt thank you “I want to thank every single person that has put any money into saving this band. It’s the only reason that we are here. This song is for you.”

Thornhill never fail to disappoint but tonight, knowing that they are playing with borrowed gear, their musicianship shines.  Drummer Ben Maida moves between hard hits and harder hits! Meticulous in the way he drums I found myself forgetting at times to watch the other guys!!!  Lily and the Moon, Hellfire Club and Where We Go When We Die are loudly welcomed by the fans as bodies sway and heave to guitars that impeccably screech and wail. We get our groove on to the hypnotic trance-like beat of Casanova which is Muse=esque like in its sound. Thornhill’s job is done as not only are we warmed up, we are burning.

Hardcore kids to the front thanks… I think it was 6 years ago I first saw Counterparts play at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne. Looking back, they may well have been my first taste of live hardcore music. If I was impressed back then future me was in for a whole new level of impressed second time around!!! Counterparts have aged like a fine wine.  Slamming us sonically from the get-go I think it took the crowd a few songs to remember to breath and move. Shouting out a thank you to the crowd for being there, vocalist Brendan Murphy stated, “We have a couple more left, hopefully you dig it, if not my fucking bad!’ before the band launched into Monument. I think there was a collective exhale as bodies started to flay around the pit. Down tuned guitars smashing against blasting beats made it impossible for your body to remain still. And the breakdown…. I wish I was young enough that a pit injury didn’t mean bed rest for a week!!! A quick glance around the crowd confirmed I was not the only person feeling this as we were aurally assaulted again and again. Vocally Brendan’s performance was downright mesmerizing, from the lowest of guttural growls to some insanely powerful screams, the man’s voice is an emotional rollercoaster. Having also released a new album (A Eulogy for Those Still Here) we were treated to a good mix of old and new with tunes like Love Me, Flesh to fill your Wounds, Unwavering Vow, No Servant of Mine and Your Own Knife. Counterparts’ fans are in for a massive treat this tour so don’t miss out.

There is a shift in the vibe of the room as faces scan the stage, searching for any sign of movement. Sam Carter bursts onto the stage amid a deafening roar as the band takes their positions. For the next two hours it’s hard to tell where the band stops, and the fans begin. Being at an Architect gig is like wrapping yourself in your favourite blanket. The connection and interaction the band has with their fans is like nothing I have witnessed before. In a room of thousands, they have a way of making it personal.

From the opening note of Black Lungs, Sam and the crowd become one vocally, such is the volume of the crowd they at times drown him out. Using every inch of the stage the crowd lap up every word they hear, so when Sam tells them to drop to their knees during be very afraid they don’t need to be asked twice.

We are Architects it is our pleasure to be here in Adelaide, or should I say fucking Radelaide, we travelled 45 hours to be here.” says Sam. After a few technical issues we are pelted with the opening drum beat of Modern Misery. The first notes of These Colours Don’t Run ring out before the band suddenly stops the show and they leave the stage. Confusion as to what is happening only lasts a minute before security guards come running from all directions. The stage side curtain starts to move violently before collapsing to the ground. By this time someone has told me that a guy has stormed the stage, and we watch as he is ejected by security. Concerned, we wait as we are unsure if anyone has been hurt or if the band will take the stage again. Sam returns to the stage visibly shaken to address the crowd. He is angry and rightly so. “We give our energy and our lives and work so fucking hard to turn around and see someone fucking run on stage and run at Josh. That is fucking insane. This isn’t a game this is our fucking lives.” Sam went on to say, “When the guy was screaming in my face, telling me to respect Tom (Searle) and play some old songs we were playing the oldest song in the set you stupid fuck. We respect Tom every single fucking day of our lives” He went on to say that we need to understand the way people talk to each other is not on and that there is no need for violence. He got us to shake that bad vibe off because he was not going to let a piece of shit ruin our night. This is how Kings handle shit, what could have been our night over seemed to fuel the band to give us a once in a lifetime show.

Dedicating the song to Tom, the band began again, and throw everything they have at it. For the next two hours we are given the very best that Architects can give and then some. Royal Beggars, A Match Made In Heaven, Doomsday and Nihilist played alongside when we were young, tear gas and a new moral low ground. You can’t witness Architects live without becoming emotional and tonight was no exception. The intensity of the kaleidoscope of sounds being sent out into the space that we held for the band was mind blowing.  The night was the release that we all needed, and we are forever grateful to Architects for providing us with the music to do just that.

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[Review] The Superjesus @ The Gov, Adelaide 17/02/2023

The last time I saw The SuperJesus live was when they were given the fantastic opportunity to open for Kiss at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre last year. Although they did nail that performance and were a great warm-up act on that particular night, any band going on before a huge Kiss show are going to be somewhat dwarfed by what was to follow on the stage.

I was certainly keen to see The SuperJesus again but was looking forward to seeing them in a more intimate hometown setting, in a room full of people who were specifically there to see them.

Not only was this gig at The Gov the perfect sized venue for the band, but I was very happy to see that Melbourne’s Dallas Crane were opening the show as I’ve always found them to be a great live act in a rock club setting.

When I arrived at the venue, The Gov’s beer garden at the back of the big room was already full of people out enjoying the warm summer night and looking like they were ready for the perfect way to start the weekend.

When Dallas Crane made their appearance not long before the sun went down, they very quickly had the crowd moving from the back of the space to the front of the stage. Right from the opening number, the band blasted through a very upbeat list of songs that kicked off the night perfectly. Front-man Dave Larkin did a great job of interacting with the crowd and keeping everyone pumped up during their performance. His vocals sounded spot-on and between his trading of lead guitar- work with other founding member Pete Satchell, there wasn’t a dull moment during their slot. Throughout the set, the band sounded very tight, with bassist Chris Brodie and drummer Steve Pinkerton providing a very solid rhythm section.

The band covered a good mix of songs from their repertoire including Ladybird, Curiosity and two of their biggest hits Dirty Hearts, and of course, Sit on my Knee, which finished off the set.

Despite having plenty of their own songs to include in this one-hour set, Dallas Crane also managed to play a couple of classic rock covers which slotted in nicely and had the busy room singing along loudly. Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll and AC/DC’s Let There be Rock were both fun additions. By the time this opening set was over, the room had really filled up and Dallas Crane had warmed the Friday night crowd up for a big night.

After a thirty minute beer break, it was time for The SuperJesus to make their headlining appearance. As soon as they began their set, the squeeze at the front of the stage was complete as everyone jostled to the front of the room. It was great to see that this Adelaide band can still play to such an enthusiastic hometown crowd after so many years of success around the country, despite not having released a new album of original songs in twenty years. This was in stark contrast to the first SuperJesus gig I attended around 1994, at The Crown and Anchor Hotel, with a crowd of about twenty or thirty people at best.

The set opened with the song Ashes from their debut album, 1998’s Sumo, and with singer/guitarist Sarah McLeod hobbling out onto the stage in a moon-boot as a result of having a broken foot. This initially seemed to slow down her stage movements but as the show went on and the crowd got more responsive, Sarah seemed to get more and more fearless and even ended getting up on the drum-riser a few times throughout the show.

There were some big changes in the band’s line-up this time around. Not long after the Kiss support slot, a new guitarist and drummer were brought into the fold to join Sarah McLeod and original bassist Stuart Rudd. Cam Blokland was now on lead guitar and on drums, Murray Sheridan, who is also the band’s producer as they have begun work on a new album set for release later in the year. Next up was Secret Agent Man from the band’s second album Jet Age. After a couple more songs from earlier albums, the band then launched into their first of the new songs that will soon be featured on their aforementioned new album. Money (We’re Only in it for Love) is the latest SuperJesus single and this one went down very well. Not only is the song super catchy, but Sarah had the crowd singing along to it without too much effort at all. Another new track Lights Out was also instantly memorable, making me think this new album might actually do alright.

As the band ploughed through some of biggest songs from their catalogue including Gravity (complete with a huge audience-participation singalong), and Down Again, it was apparent that Sarah’s voice is stronger than ever, and the band were gelling together perfectly. You wouldn’t have known that half of the band were new additions.

After the set closer Saturation, it was clear that the band would be back onstage for an encore. The crowd demanded it! Also, the fact that the band members walked off stage without a big announcement that it was the end of the set…made it obvious that they had more to go.

When they did return to the stage, they kicked off the remaining songs with the beautifully mellow Second Sun. This, to me, was more proof that Sarah’s voice has become stronger over the years. There’s nothing wrong with the original recording at all but this live performance certainly seemed to have more feeling and grit to my ears.

After this momentary chill-out in proceedings, it was time for the band to crank it back up again  to finish the night off. Stick Together from the Rock Music album was next, before the band said their final farewells, thanked the hometown crowd, and ended the set with a cover of The Gin Blossoms’ Hey Jealousy.

Dallas Crane and The SuperJesus both seemed to be genuinely enjoying playing in Adelaide on this stop on the tour and thanked the crowd on numerous occasions during their sets. This appreciation most definitely went both ways as both bands left a lot of smiles on faces in the venue. When the lights came on, it looked like there were a lot of people who were very pleased with this start to the weekend and looked to be in no hurry to go home at all.

Your last chance to see them on their MONEY tour. 

March 3rd 2023 @ The Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Tickets Here

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[Review] nothing, nowhere. @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 12/02/2023

February twelfth marked American hardcore emo rap band nothing,nowhere’s debut Melbourne concert; a room not just sold out, but filled to the brink with diehard fans ready for a night of musical mayhem. As the air filled with booze and whiffs of fruity vapour reminiscent of a grungy dive-bar, there was a growing buzz of built-up energy that was set to explode.

Touring Australia with his most recent self-produced album Trauma Factory (2021), front man Joseph Mulherin’s lyrics deal with personal issues of mental health, a highly relatable topic for his young audience. With such personal connection to the music, it’s no wonder fans of nothing,nowhere were so eagerly awaiting to share the night with their idol.

Warming up the crowd was New Zealander, indie singer-songwriter, Lontalius (Eddie Johnston). Wondering onto the stage, well dressed in ironed pants and leather shoes, the alt-pop musician plugged in his MacBook and began to tune his guitar. Appearing relaxed and nonchalant, this felt like the beginning of a street performance, a one-man busking style show – this was until a heavy humming electronic bass kicked in, paired with a single spotlight shadowing across his face. The first track Comfortable boasted a gorgeous oceanic aesthetic, playing relaxed guitar chords, and singing out emotional crackling vocals ‘I said I loved you and I’ve never meant it more’.

Lontalius’ set felt exceptionally human, all his lyrics so raw, and almost intrusive. It’s a strange feeling to be let into someone’s life on such a personal level without previously knowing them. The velvety chords continued, the bass kicking in without warning – such sounds forcing the heart to jump so uniquely.

 Someone Will Be There For You showcased a more layered style of music, where if you closed your eyes, a one-man band would not be what you’d imagine. With the crowd repeating ‘someone will be there for you’, a beautiful shadow cast across his face giving us a glimpse, but not providing the full picture – a metaphor for the music which let us see hints of such raw emotion, but leaves gaps for the imagination to conclude.

I Walked Right Into It was another highlight, with a stunningly moving guitar solo during the bridge which left the once lively room in silence, the tension building throughout the song. Lontalius’ performance was minimalistic, yet so well rounded. The heavy buzz of the electronic bass playing through from start to end rattled the bones of the venue, preparing the crowd for what was to come.

The room grew silent as an ambient hum suffocated the room, the sound increasing in intensity, and so too did the heartrates of the crowd. The band emerged from the darkness and before you could take a breath and soak it all in, the music had begun. Hurtling into the first track with a heavy kickdrum and lightning-speed metal guitar, CYAN1DE did not hold back. Front man and singer/rapper Joe providing his signature style of screamo vocals – it was unimaginable that he was going to maintain such power and angst for the entire set. From the first track it was clear the fans of nothing,nowhere were not the regular emo crowd, but a heavy cult-following of young people who impressively knew each and every word of the hard-hitting, emotion filled raps.  

An ongoing structure of the band’s music is the lower intensity, controlled rap verses, in the lead up to viscous metal choruses. The three-piece band consisting of a drummer and two electric guitarists was so incredibly tight, not missing a beat the entire show. It was also abundantly clear that the drumer lead the tracks, with the volume and velocity being unlike anything I had heard before.

pretend did not stray from the structure of rap verses in the lead up to a huge chorus, the crowd chanting ‘tell me you need me even if you don’t’ as heavy strobe filled the room, lighting up the sold-out audience to see them moving in unison, the music acting as a puppeteer. The next song nightmare marked the first time the band addressed the crowd – not to say ‘hello’ or to make small talk but ordering them to ‘fucking jump’. Not a soul disobeyed. nothing,nowehere’s live shows are built upon the energy of their audience, the collaborative effort making for an experience that cannot be replicated on a studio album.

The night played out like a rollercoaster of adrenaline, the highs exceeding levels I once thought possible, and the contrasting lows leaving the crowd wanting more. Part way through the emo hit love or chemistry, the music abruptly came to a stop, Joe yelling ‘Melbourne are you still with us? I want you to prove it right now!’ This was a call to action for the crowd to take their energy to the next level – and they did not hold back. lights (4444), one of their slower-paced tracks filled the room with an ethereal feel, being backed by the sound of water droplets. However, the lyrics did not follow suit, providing the signature sound and grunge sentiment screaming ‘I don’t give a fuck if you hate me’.

The night so far had been highly performative and based on the emo-hardcore persona of the band; so, when Joe bought his girlfriend Hillary on stage and asked the crowd to sing Happy Birthday, it was a beautiful, human moment that I’m sure the fans feel so honoured to have shared. Even within all the chaos and commotion, it was clear this group of individuals shared a lot of love for one another.

If pulled apart and digested as intended, there are many nothing,nowhere songs that are filled with positive themes. Pieces of you and fake friend were a break from the darkness, anthems about letting go of your worries about what others think of you. It was at this stage that the band became more a part of the crowd, jumping taped sections of the stage, and climbing up barricades to be fully emersed in the tail-end of the show.

Clarity in Kerosene was clearly a fan favourite, everyone with their phones in the air trying to capture the moment on video, the crowd singing the agonising lyrics in unison ‘I hope you choke in your sleep, while you’re dreaming of me’. Hopes Up was performed beautifully in compete darkness, being lit up only by the speckles of smartphone flashlights – replicating stars in a night sky. Joe’s movement across the stage remained so seamless, it is clear these are his songs and his words.

It was at this point of the night that the band had the room’s actions at their fingertips – and they were about to cause some havoc. Their newest single M1SERY_SYNDROME, is rife with gorgeous repetitive guitar riffs hiding behind the violent chaos of the drums and bass. The heat of the music physically manifested its way into the crowd, with the force of a thousand bodies surging forward. A wall of death formed in the middle of the crowd, and at that point all control was lost. It is a rare occurrence to see such uninhibited, 90s-style moshing in today’s music scene, but this concert saw bodies flying through space – a sense of bliss in delirium.

As quickly as they took to the stage, the band was off. But from the wings you could hear Joe murmur ‘one more song you say?’, hammer was an invitation for the crowd to give off every last ounce of energy they had; the crowd soaked with sweat and short of breath. nothing,nowhere departed the stage for the last time in the blink of an eye, the whole event feeling like a dream – or rather a gorgeous nightmare.

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[Review] Vengaboys @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 11/02/2023

An ocean of sequins, glitter and maritime-themed sailor outfits greeted me as I entered The Forum. It’s been 25 years since the Vengaboys exploded onto the scene and a quarter of a century later, it’s evidently clear that people – still love to party.

DJ Nick Skitz

The dance floor was already close to capacity when DJ Nick Skitz took to the stage. The Forum, a venue usually home to live bands had now been transformed into a massive night club. No time was wasted and DJ Nick Skitz came out strong with hard-hitting bass beats that reached deep into the chest cavity of every patron in the venue. He paced his set brilliantly and continually built the momentum throughout the night. There was never a lull in the energy and that is always highly commendable when well executed by a DJ.

Reel 2 Real

I was completely caught of guard by the next artist that came out. The Mad Stuntman of Madagascar fame himself! His larger than life personality and tremendous presence instantly brought the energy levels way up and goddamn – did we move it, move it. In a single song he captivated every person in the crowd and had them eating out of his hands.

N-Trance

Up next were the UK’s electronic sensation, N-Trance. Once again we felt ourselves lifted to another level. Their set was so infectious that I found myself dancing against my will. Those who know me, know that I never dance (my wife can vouch for that). However when the beats are this good, the body reacts without consulting the mind. Electronic Pleasure is more than just a song, it’s the perfect description of what seeing N-Trance live feels like.

Alice DJ

Leaving the UK we crossed the ocean with the next act coming all the way from Holland. The Eurodance chart toppers, Alice DJ. With every new artist that came on stage the venue seemed to keep getting fuller and fuller, with an endless stream of patrons pouring in. They had the audience singing at the top of their lungs along to the smash hit, Better Off Alone and had us all moving in unison with simple yet effective dance moves that the crowd, including myself, was happy to comply with.

Whigfield

I realise I’m repeating myself by this point but once again the energy in the room rose as the crowd roared as Whigfield aka Sannie Charlotte Carlson took to the stage. With songs like Sexy Eyes and Saturday Night the crowd was enthralled. These songs have been around for nearly 3 decades and in that time, they have lost absolutely none of their appeal to an audience that loved them just as much today as they did back in the 90’s.

VENGABOYS

 The lights dimmed and a video played across the screen as a loud commanding voice narrated the words appearing on-screen. In what can only be described as an unreasonably epic intro, we were being hyped up for the headliners. The one, the only, Vengaboys. Bursting on to the stage in flamboyant and fluorescent attire they made their grand entrance, heralded by a flash of pyrotechnics. They went straight into Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom and the crowd sang louder than the sound system could keep up with.

The set wasn’t just their hits, but a non stop collection of some of the biggest dance songs and remixes of all time.

The set was closed with, We Like to Party and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that each and everyone of us was aboard the Venga Bus, as massive inflatable balloons descended from the ceiling of the Forum Theatre. The word nostalgia is defined as; a feeling evocative of a longed-for past time or condition – and that is exactly what seeing the Vengaboys made us feel.

Years ago when many of the artists I saw tonight first emerged, a lot of people, including myself thought that they might be a passing fad or even a little gimmicky. Maybe Eurodance and Techno was nothing more than a trend. However, no gimmick or trend can endure for 25 years, and then proceed to sell out two shows in a row.

What is it that makes an act like Vengaboys not just endure but thrive for as long as they have? Having witnessed it for myself I think I know the answer. This music makes you feel good. It brings people together and for a moment your problems go away and you are all united in the same warm, fuzzy emotion. And that my friends, is something that will never go out of style.

This review is dedicated in loving memory to my dear friend and brother, Jacob Ngahere. Let us always remember the party.

VENGABOYS

​25TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR

​WITH WHIGFIELD, N-TRANCE, REEL 2 REAL FEAT. THE MAD STUNTMAN + NICK SKITZ ​

​Remaining Dates: 

Thursday 16 February
​Big Top | Sydney, NSW

​18+
ticketmaster.com.au

Friday 17 February
​Waves | Wollongong, NSW

​18+
​On sale: Wednesday 14 December (2pm AEDT)
moshtix.com.au

Saturday 18 February
​Hindley Street Music Hall | Adelaide, SA

​18+
moshtix.com.au

Sunday 19 February
​Metro City | Perth, WA

​18+
megatix.com.au

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[Review] Darkest Hour @ Max Watts, Melbourne 09/02/2023

The hardcore and metal scene has to be one of the most dedicated group of people in the world, people showing up on a school night is great commitment to live music, overhearing in the line up outside “I just come from work straight down” or even the band commenting on how they are playing tonight then going home to get up and go to work, it just shows that we all do what we do for the love of the music and scene.

Starting off this intimate night are Melbourne’s RUN, a heavy hardcore act that came out swinging from the get-go even though there were minimal people at the very start. I feel like dedication and heart is the theme for tonight, for these guys, they had a banner playing behind them of a brain scan, this was in fact an actual scan of the singer’s brain from a couple of years ago after being diagnosed with brain cancer. It was a touching story that gives light into the reasons he does what he does. Back story aside, these guys played their hearts out with one of the guitarists first shows with the band, you wouldn’t have been able to tell, showing off their tight riffs and melodies giving their drummer plenty of room to be a highlight of their set with some unreal drum fills and great energy.

Following up was Primitive, an up-and-coming metal band with the style like Machine Head or Chimaira, heavy and melodic, great twin lead work and solid precision! Yet again with a slow filling room, these guys came out and played like it was a full house, getting people to move in closer and enjoy the show. Primitive played the stage like they owned it and the front man getting down to fist bump crowd in between riffs is a humbling sight, it’s always a good idea to interact with the people who show up and support. The band looked like they had a blast playing off each other’s energies and even from the middle of the venue you could see that the drummer had a massive grin on his face loving every moment.

Finishing up the local supports are The Ascended, bringing in their brand of melodic death influenced syncopated riffage. These guys make great use of their 3 completely different vocal styles with a clean and a more typical death growl style as opposed to the metalcore scream of the other supports. Following along in the melodic sense of the night, The Ascended show off their musical prowess with some unreal leadwork and big sounding choruses with some of the crowd singing along, they’ve got some killer songs. The thing about metalheads is that they are pretty damn humble, “Thank you for coming out and spending your Thursday night with us, we appreciate it!”. They appreciate the chance to support and play live, all bands playing tonight have shown that being humble is also apart of the scene lifestyle, we appreciate the chances we have to play live music once again and have international bands back.

All of these bands have shown aspects of a Darkest Hour influence or at least the scene they represent. Its unreal to see how bands influence a play style throughout generations. 10 years since Darkest Hour have been to Australia, and while their fanbase maybe smaller tonight they make up for in energy and heart for seeing these guys do what they do! From the beginning of the intro music to the final chords the crowds energy is relentless and feeding the band, showing it’s always worth while and amazing to be apart of the live music scene.

Darkest Hour come out showing why they are still doing what they do twenty odd years later, with incredible energy and clearly enjoying how excited the crowd are. The guitarists are fantastic to watch as they bounce of each other’s melodies and solos and I couldn’t help but notice the drummer having an ambidextrous looking set up of his drum kit, it was nearly identical for each hand, watching how he played was unreal. Playing songs that cover their career, the singer stops about midway to ask if anyone was at their tour 10 years ago to a fair few of the crowd responding and then asking if anyone’s got their first record, a couple of people go berserk and the singer is just stoked that there are people here that have been listening for so long “This song is for you few”. 

I love seeing these types of shows, the bands that have only been here once or twice and finding that there are still fans around the world that get into their music and from seeing the age difference in this crowd, its covered a generation of Hardcore/Metal fans! That’s incredible. What is also incredible to see and hear is how bands unconsciously help shape a sound and in the Metalcore world, Darkest Hour would have to be one of them! If they come back on the next album cycle, get out and catch these guys!

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