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[Review] Charley Crockett @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 13/02/2024

Tuesday saw just another classic Summer day in Melbourne – 37 degrees, damaging storms, torrential rain, flooding, gale force winds, power outages, all the usual stuff – however none of this deterred a bunch of keen music lovers who ventured out to see the talented Charley Crockett. The Texan country singer has been touring Australia with his band for the past few weeks, with his final show set for Perth on 14th February. 

Knowing very little about him and only a couple of his songs, I was interested to see the demographic of his fan base. Based on my last hectic country music experience at the Forum, I was well prepared for what potentially may lay ahead for me. If you’ve been reading my previous reviews then you’ll know I love people watching, especially at gigs. The fans that rolled out to this gig were a lot more sedate than my previous experience, and proved a solid point that you can’t always stereotype the fans a musician or band may attract. Given the thick, traditional country sound to his music, I was surprised to find only a handful of Stetson hats wandering through the crowd and a limited amount of plaid shirts and cowboy boots adorning the punters. From the ages of early 20’s to late 80’s and everything in between, it really was the ultimate mixed bag of people. 

As I settled into position in the historically beautiful Forum theatre, I managed to catch the last few songs of the first support act, Sweet Talk. The local Melbourne 6 piece outfit have got a damn fine sound, and I was disappointed I didn’t get to catch their full set(Thanks public transport delays). Country, soul, blues, with slight funk undertones and hint of honky tonk, these guys have got a dash of everything in their music, and lead singer Tane Walker’s voice has got an awesome soul quality to it. This is a band I’ll definitely be looking out for in the future – I need more of them in my life! 

Next up were Sydney country band Caitlin Harnett & the Pony Boys. With their solid country sound and Caitlin’s distinct soaring vocals, they proved to be a big hit with the crowd despite Caitlin joking at times “You don’t even know who we are”. Their recently released album All Night Long is sure to be a hit with fans old and new, and the song Sidelines – which Caitlin wrote for her sister- is definitely a stand-out track. 

There was an excited buzz travelling throughout the audience now, and I could tell everyone was gearing up for the main event. Well our appetites were about to be fed, as Charley’s band entered stage left followed by the man himself, decked out in his crisp Ten Gallon hat and acoustic guitar strapped firmly to his front. They opened the show with $10 Cowboy, and the crowd were absolutely thrilled! 

Charley then greeted us with a “good evening Melbourne”, which was met with a rowdy applause. Bass player Colin Colby then switched out his electric bass for a classic upright double bass which gave the next track, Black Sedan, a really deep and rich sound. 

Just Like Honey and Lies and Regret followed which the crowd really got into, and the latter was a real toe tappin’ boot scootin’ affair. Charley was flying through the songs back to back with minimal audience interaction in between, and amongst those were some James ‘Slim’ Hand covers including In The Corner. Into the mix he also threw in Hard Luck & Circumstances, Odessa and Look What You Done To Me, which had slight hints of New Orleans Jazz vibes with it’s arrangement. 

It was then we went to Welcome Hard Times, before it sounded like we were headed into a Mexican stand-off when the moody intro to The Man From Waco rang out and had the crowd singing along to the chorus. After a few more songs, including a Jerry Reed cover of I Feel For You, Charley then thanked and praised his wonderfully talented band and said that “they make a $10 cowboy look pretty good”. He then said he had to ask us something, and asked if we were having a good time? This was met with deafening cheers and applause, in which Charley then summoned a big Hallelujah from everyone in the room. 

It was then into another cover, this time Tom T. Hall’s That’s How I Got to Memphis, before we got down with the funky blues tune Travelin’ Blues. Charley then picked up his banjo for the first time that night and proceeded to play the bluegrass sounding track Darlin’ Six Months Ain’t Long, promptly followed up with Lily My Dear. Trinity River was a hit with the crowd, and once again this track with its upbeat jazz feel makes you feel like you’re marching down Bourbon Street in New Orleans in a Second Line Parade. 

It really amazes me how a song can make you feel an experience that you’ve never encountered before, and during Run Horse Run I truly felt like a cowboy in the Wild West riding in the saddle of my faithful steed. After finishing the ode to his home state Goin’ Back to Texas, he cheekily told us that because this was his second Melbourne show he was twice as good as he was the night before, money back guaranteed. His set then drew to a close with Midnight Run and a huge and thunderous applause from the crowd who were hungry for more. When I say the crowd were hungry, they were bloody starving for more once Charley had departed the stage. The cheering and stomping from the audience would’ve put the hyena stampede from The Lion King to shame, and the sound was deafening as the crowd were trying to summon him back to the stage for an encore. There was a long delay where it looked as if that was it and a few concert goers started to disperse, but their ravenous calls were met with Charley reappearing with his acoustic guitar and singing a solo version of Lonesome As a Shadow. It was then one last song with the full band before the night drew to a close and a lot of happy souls were left to venture out into the night for their journey home. 

Charley’s voice is a deep, smooth salve for the soul and at times reminds me a lot of the late great Johnny Cash. I am far from a country music aficionado by any means, however I feel his style of country music is a lot different to what you hear commercially released these days. His old school country sound pulls from influences like Hank Williams and George Jones, and made me feel like I was back in the 1950’s sitting in some little honky tonk bar in the depths of the Deep South. Charley is certainly a talented performer, not just vocally, but musically and with his cute little dance moves and dashing cowboy looks, he really is the whole country meal deal. I really enjoyed my night with Charley, and can now officially call myself a fan! 

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[Review] Rise Against @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney 05/02/2024

Monday the 5th of February brought Sydney sweaty record breaking humidity and Chicago based rock band Rise Against playing at Sydney’s intimate Enmore Theatre. On their 25th year together, Rise Against are celebrating the occasion by joining Blink-182 on their Australian and New Zealand tour, but not before treating fans to a few special solo shows. One in Melbourne and one in Sydney.

The band, which was formed in 1999 and went by the name Transistor Revolt for a year before settling on Rise Against, which they have stuck with since then. The band is made up of Tim McIlrath on vocals and rhythm guitar, Zach Blair as lead guitarist, Joe Principe on bass, and Brandon Barnes on drums. They are well known for aggressive and catchy hooks, as well as their outspoken lyrics on social issues such as animal rights, political injustice and environmentalism. 


Setting the tone for the night was Redfern based punk rock band, Beerwolf. With a very similar sound to Rise Against, they were the perfect choice as opener for the night. The band chatted with the crowd between songs, and at 8:30pm the band played their last song for the night and cleared the stage. 

Sound checks were carried out and finally the lights went dark. As the band took the stage of the Enmore Theatre, I imagine they were reminded of the last time they walked out on the same stage on March 9th, 15 years earlier.

As the air conditioning of the intimate Theatre strains itself, the distinctive chord progression of Prayer of the Refugee begins to play and the crowd recognises it, pushing forward towards the stage. Rise Against absolutely fills the venue with their energy right from the start, an unmistakable characteristic of a Rise Against show. 

What follows is truly a set list for the fans. An ode to the early years of band. Taking the audience back through history, starting in 2003 with Like The Angel from their album Revolutions Per Minute and unraveling the set with some of the biggest hits from their early albums.

The set list featured the most tracks from the albums The Sufferer & the Witness and Appeal to Reason, such as Re-Education (Through Labor), Ready to Fall, Survive, The Good Left Undone and The Audience of One

The set also included the tracks Satellite and Make it Stop (September’s Children) from their 2011 album Endgame and was only sprinkled with tracks from 2017 onwards with the only tracks making an appearance being The Violence from their album Wolves and Nowhere Generation from their newest album of the same name. 

There were more than a few stand out parts of the night. One being the acoustic set before the encore. The first track Hero Of War was a treat only for Sydney, having been left off the setlist the night before in Melbourne. Following up with Swing Life Away, McIlrath dedicated the track to his late friend Chris Cornell, former member of Soundgarden and Audioslave. McIlrath seemingly takes a moment to reflect, speaking with the crowd about doing what you want to do today, in case tomorrow doesn’t come. 

The other absolute stand out moment of the night was the song Give It All. The energy put out by the band to the audience was reflected right back by the crowd. For the first time McIlrath was down off the stage, standing on the barricades and singing quite appropriately ‘I give it all

Now there’s a reason why I sing

So give it all

And it’s these reasons that belong to me’.

The mosh pit holds the energy after that for the last two songs, as the band close the set with one of their most well known songs, Savior

Even after being together for 25 years, Rise Against are still complete Punk-Rock powerhouses. It’s obvious that their passion for the music and the message are what keeps them releasing music and touring, with such intensity and vigor for so many years.

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[Review] Wednesday 13 plays Murderdolls, Max Watts, Melbourne 04/02/2024

Melbourne had delivered us our first scorcher of summer, the heat radiating from every building and footpath as I made my way to Max Watts Melbourne. The lines were in full force, the colours predominantly red and black, classic Gothic attire reigned supreme. The punters had been on the countdown to Wednesday 13 playing Murderdolls and of course in true Melbourne style it was a sold-out show. Paying tribute to former members Joey Jordison and Ben Graves, touring this show in their honour.

The merch line was at least 50 deep, stretching way back to the stage, everyone keen to nab a memento. So I took the chance to find some air conditioning in a prime position for the night ahead. Death of Art was our opener, and they got the fans well and truly warmed up. With a quickfire set of 30 minutes their dark electronic rock won over the floor. Singer Erin Blackie peppering each song with accessories including a neon whip, ropes, and even donning horns for the final song. Their Gothic costumes and feel suited the night and they were well received by the expanding crowd. If goth is your thing go check them out, you will be glad you did.

The stage was flooded with red and the Wednesday 13 banner firmly in place, it was as if Max Watts had grown its own pulse, the atmosphere was electric. The roar almost deafening as the lights dropped and the red runway lights flashed up and down the roof signalling the craziness was about to take flight.

With the force of 1000 cannons Wednesday 13 blasted onto the stage, an assault on every sense all at once, my adrenaline was instantly racing as Chapel of Blood rang out. It was all fishnet and leather and of course a bit of make-up here and there to complete the look, Wednesday 13 looking the epitome of cool as his gothic persona came to the forefront. Death Valley Superstars had the fans rabid, pulsing as one unit, the excitement at seeing Murderdolls brought to life in front of their eyes more than some could take. Wednesday worked the stage and the fans with vigour only coming up for breath on the briefest of occasion, 197666 took things up another notch and we were only three songs deep.

I knew it was going to be huge but the enormity of this show was only just hitting as Slit My Wrists and Love At First Fright whacked us in the face. Guitarist Roman Surman graced my side of the stage, and holy shit can he shred the shit our of his guitar! He was a pleasure to watch as he enveloped each and every song with every fibre of his being, so invested and so damn cool. She Was A Teenage Zombie, Die My Bride, Blood Stained Valentine, the songs kept coming as Wednesday and his cohorts smashed us from pillar to post, fists pumping on autopilot, clapping on command and the frenzied flipping of birds. This show had an energy force I have not felt at a gig for a long time, it was evident from the get-go the punters have been waiting for this one for a long long time. We came ready to rock and rock we did, as Pieces Of You, and Drug Me To Hell had the sweat dripping. Wednesday on his knees taking advantage of his strategically placed fan as Max Watts became a veritable melting pot, glasses of water hungrily grabbed as quick as the security could pass them out.

As the band left the stage it was time to be educated in the art of drumming as Mike Dupke took charge of the skins and showcased what was one of the finest drum solos I have witnessed. His sticks becoming an extension of his body as he entered beast mode for the duration. Flooded with red light as he played to whoops and cheers, leaving Max Watts in awe of his precision behind the kit. The song list kept coming but Nowhere was when things became emotional, it was dedicated to Joey and chants instantly erupted in his honour, Wednesday looking sky bound with pause for the loss of his dear friend. But this was not a time for sadness it was a time to celebrate Joey and his music so that is what we did. Summertime Suicide set the joint alight, our voices now as raspy as the man himself as we sang ourselves hoarse.  I must also give mention to guitarist Jack Tankersley, what an absolute legend, not only is he an A class musician but so engaging every time he visited my side of the stage. This band is a well-oiled machine and tight as fuck! Wednesday had us under his command from the minute he walked on stage, we were his congregation, he was our preacher, and we were all schooled in Murderdolls by the master himself.

With a quick detour off stage it was not long before the chants of ‘Wednesday’ began and we were rewarded with a return of the band. Wednesday sporting his trademark ‘encore’ hat and red leather jacket, offering us 1-3 songs depending on how loud we were, needless to say the roof was well and truly raised and 3 songs it was. Opening the final trifecta with the mind-blowing cover of Billy Idol’s White Wedding, Troy Doebbler was slapping his bass to within an inch of his life, this guy is a four-string assassin, and the hidden weapon of the band. With his ‘Fuck You’ Umbrella in hand Wednesday had us priming our middle fingers as I Love To Say Fuck blew our hair back and the war cry ‘fuck’ was thrown around with delight. The only way to finish out this mind-bending night was of course with Dead In Hollywood, everyone just hanging on by a thread but still bouncing not willing to relent for one minute. With thanks and waves goodbye it was over and the sore and spent bodies dragged themselves to the water jugs and made the hot sweaty pilgrimage back to the real world.

Joey and Ben would have smiles as wide as the stage after witnessing the show of a lifetime in Melbourne, Australia. If there was a place to forget the outside world existed it was Max Watts last night, thank you to Wednesday 13 for bringing us Murderdolls revisited, you came, you saw and you kicked out mother fucking arses!!

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[Review] The Darkness, Festival Hall Melbourne 03/02/2024

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album Permission to Land sees The Darkness back on Australian soil for an impressive string of dates. With singer Justin Hawkins going down with illness just before their arrival we have all been waiting with bated breath, but never fear The Darkness are here and ready to rock. They are no strangers to Australia being greedily lapped up with every visit, now it was my turn to see what all the fuss is about.

The iconic Melbourne stalwart Festival Hall is back up and running after a dubious period in no mans land, and I for one was glad to get back down to Dudley Street and rock out where so many music legends have graced the stage. The openers were plentiful giving punters great value for money, as Melbourne’s Cry Club and Brisbane’s DZ Deathrays got the party started. It was then up to Sydney lunatics You Am I to give the final warm up session. Treating us to a Spinal Tap set that opened up a world of nostalgic memories from the quintessential piece of fictional history. Tim Rogers was the perfect fit to pull off the The Majesty of Tap, he enveloped the role to perfection along with the perfect accompaniment in You Am I. Their musicianship and theatrics were the key to this set going next level, add to this Tim wearing silver flares and a black hooded cape it really set the tone. Stonehenge was delivered with faux stone appearing from the roof, keeping with the theme of the movie, it certainly enveloped the mocumentary with gusto. Hell Hole was another welcome additional and had the crowd up and about as Tim said “Open you cheeks to the sight and smell of the Tap!” as only he could. A wonderful addition to the show and a perfect fit for The Darkness.

The atmosphere was electric to say the least, green lights resembling a landing strip flashing down each side of the stage as The Darkness took full flight to an erupting Festival Hall. This show was their biggest in Australia to date and Melbourne music fans turned out in droves to witness this most prestigious celebration. Justin donning a red and black jumpsuit in his trademark fashion as they jumped into Black Shuck to get the party started. Working through the album in no particular order the fans were 100 per cent committed to making the show one for the memory banks with phones put away and everyone living in the moment. It felt like stepping back in time just people going nuts, hands in the air, clapping on command, dancing, singing and have a bloody awesome night.  Get Your Hands Of My Woman, Growing On Me, Givin’ Up were all slotted in as they worked through this cracker of an album. The punters singing the ‘oh, oh’s’ and ‘Givin Up, Givin Up Givin a Fuck’ with unabashed enthusiasm. Justin had now stripped the top half of his jumpsuit down saying “I didn’t think it would be this hot up here!”  But we all knew it wasn’t called ‘Festy Hall’ for nothing. Crowd engagement was second to none as Love Is Only A feeling and Stuck In A Rut played out, Rufus Tiger Taylor was smashing the skins to within an inch of their life and kept the set running like clockwork.

Dan Hawkins is really a jack of all trades when it comes to musical instruments, his guitar work is of the highest calibre as he strutted his stuff and worked the stage like a true professional.  Frankie Poullain kept pace with the bass, this four-string slayer did not miss a beat, so at home on the big stage as Friday Night saw the fans ready to sing. A sneaky little snippet of Led Zeps Immigrant Song was a worthy addition as super shredder Justin even noodled the intro of AC/Dc’s Thunderstruck before he launched into I Believe In A Thing Called Love. With Melbourne finally throwing up a summer day, good old Festy Hall started to really feel the heat, living up to its nickname in spades as the sweat drenched punters screamed for the one they had been waiting for. Arms aloft clapping in time it really was a sight to behold, Justin still hitting the high notes with faultless precision of a man many years his junior. With the roof well and truly raised the boys left the stage to cool their jets for five minutes but the Melbourne maniacs were having none of it as they stomped and clapped, and if you have been to Festival Hall before you would know those timber floor do love a good feet hammering. It was no surprise when The Darkness returned that Justin said he could hear the stomping from downstairs. With their outfits changed to bedroom attire, all four sporting silk robes or PJ’s of choice, even guitar tech extraordinaire Ian Norfolk sporting a robe. With Justin having more guitar changes than I have had hot dinners he was certainly kept on his toes, and he did not miss a beat. I can see why they call him the fifth member of the band.  Speaking of the band, Justin went on to do introductions to the tune of In The Air Tonight made famous by Phil Collins, with his brother Dan on the drums, mixing things up a bit. Once again I reiterate, super talented musicians!!

Justin launched into I Love You 5 Times, almost a cappella with the fans singing along until he strapped on his guitar and ramped it up a level or two.  Love On The Rocks With No Ice saw out the show and had the rabid crowd in a right frenzy as Justin took to the shoulders of one of his team and made his way in and around the floor of Festival Hall. All while shredding up a storm and not missing a single note, fans very respectful of him with the odd pat on the back as he made his way from one side to the other. After being delivered back on stage he showcased his skills again playing, jumping and even hopping on one leg as he played like his life depended on it.  Forever the showman and a moment forever etched in our hearts. The Darkness really are the complete package and if are yet to see them do not delay, with just a few shows left on this Australian tour it would be a cardinal sin to miss out.

Celebrating 20 years in the biz is no small feat but here’s hoping there will be many more years in the tank for The Darkness. Gauging on tonight’s performance Melbourne Airport will not just grant permission to land but dedicate a runway in their honour. Thanks for the thrills boys, here’s to seeing you back in Aus real soon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[Review] Froth and Fury Festival, Adelaide 18/11/2023

Leading up to this third instalment of the Froth and Fury Festival, I was certainly getting excited about the day leading up to it. Due to all kinds of circumstances, it hadn’t been since the last touring Soundwave Festival that I had attended a full day festival purely dedicated to music of the heavy variety. Looking at the schedule for the day it was apparent to me that I was going to be very busy getting myself around to all three stages to check out the line-up of local, interstate, and international bands on offer.

Not only was I excited about the line-up, I was also pretty happy with the venue. It’s hard not to love the idea of bringing together the fury of metal music with the frothy goodness of a cold beer, especially at Pirate Life Brewery in Port Adelaide, one of my personal favourites!

Having been to Pirate Life on quite a few occasions, I was very interested to see how they would have it set up for such a big event. I knew there was a big outdoor area for socialising already but was sure this wouldn’t quite be enough for this event.

Entering the venue in the late morning after opening time, I could see that the usual set up of the brewery was still operational for the general public, with an additional entrance behind for ticket holders to access the live music stages. Not only was the usual Pirate Life bar and shop open (including the regular barbershop parlour), but there was also the addition of a tattoo studio inside for the day’s event!

Once inside the Froth and Fury entrance, it became clear how they would fit everyone in for the day. Not only was there the main brewery area to accommodate, it seemed that all of the adjoining streets were closed off and being utilised to good advantage. Directly behind the main brewery building was the main stage (the Froth Stage). Looking straight ahead down the street I could see the stage that would accommodate the majority of the local bands (the Explosive Stage). Right in the middle, down a side street running parallel with the main stage was the third stage, the Fury Stage! These three stages were all far away enough from each other to allow all three to be running simultaneously without the sound overlapping, yet they were all close enough to make it easy to access all three without long walks between them.

Throughout this set up, there were long, shaded tables for eating, drinking, and socialising, a large merch shed, eateries, and plenty of accessible toilets. It seemed apparent right from the start that this event was very well set up and that I was going to be reviewing the day more as an experience than picking apart the individual performances of the bands in detail.

Not long after arriving, more than one person had described this set up as being like the schützenfest of metal!

As soon as I had surveyed the scene of the event, I attempted to plan my day, using my printed timetable which I used constantly throughout the day to remind myself of where I wanted to be and which band I needed to see. This planning exercise, however, proved to be difficult at times, thanks to the beautiful nature of the metal community. I found that I couldn’t walk more than a few steps without running into somebody I knew who wanted to stop for a chat. I personally love that about this community, it is seriously like one big family and it made this event even more special.

First up for me, was the Froth stage to catch my first Adelaide band for the day, Emergency Rule. Their set was suitably rocking and as they certainly weren’t the heaviest band on the line-up, it seemed like a great way to ease into things. Despite a couple of technical sound issues which were quickly rectified, they had the growing crowd interested and were a great warm up for a long day ahead. From here I headed to the Fury stage for the first time. Here I caught my next local band Descend to Acheron and their much heavier death metal set. For much of the day, it appeared that this stage was the place to be for the heaviest of metal. Although it was barely past morning, it was obvious that the punters were keen for a whole day of hardcore music as the ever-growing crowd were lapping up this wall of sound right from the start. From here, it was back to the Froth stage for me to catch my first international band for the day. New Zealand’s Devilskin hit the stage with a lot of energy and had the crowd worked up in no time at all. Jennie Skulander’s vocals were fantastic as they went from powerful and clean to a growl and back again with ease while guitarist Tony ‘Nail’ Vincent stalked the stage and interacted well with the crowd. As soon as this set was over, it was time for me to rush off to the Explosive Stage for another Adelaide band Chainsaw Preachers. I spoke to members of the band not long before their set and they wondered if their set was not heavy enough for this event. They certainly had nothing to worry about. Their brand of punk n’ roll was well suited to the occasion. There were definitely heavier bands on the line-up but the variety of heavy music that was featured throughout the day was what made it great. There were certainly enough people at this stage enjoying the performance and this did seem to be the stage to feature more of a punk sound that any other throughout the day.

I did somehow manage during this time to grab some lunch and some merch without missing out on too much live music. Thanks to the aforementioned great set up of the show, it was easy enough to get in and out without having to suffer the long queues usually found at music festivals. Worth mentioning also (and huge praise to the organisers) there appeared to be great access to everything that was available on the day for the punters with mobility issues. Accessibility and inclusivity sure looked to be covered.

From here I really had to get organised to catch all the bands I wanted to as there were a few sets overlapping. The rest of my day seemed to be all about sampling all of the great bands in smaller doses than I usually would. Despite wanted to see the entire sets from all of the bands, I actually really enjoy this aspect of festivals in some ways. It certainly makes a twelve-hour day fly by, and I sure don’t get bored for a second! Within this next hour I managed to get to all three stages, seeing more local punk n’ roll from Cull-The Band, local thrash metal from Hidden Intent and some emo-metalcore from Melbourne’s Windwaker. It was fantastic being able to see such different sub-genres of metal so close to each other. Hidden Intent, having not long returned from playing the huge metal Wacken Open-Air Festival in Germany, had the crowd fired up, getting into circle pits and enthusiastically flashing their metal horns to the stage, while Windwaker had their crowd bouncing up and down in a less raucous manner.

Among the next few bands I caught were Sydney’s Red Hook, Melbourne’s Mannequin Death Squad and Germany’s Beyond the Black…all three female-fronted bands with powerful vocals clearly demonstrating that heavy music is not as male-dominated as it once was. All three bands put on an entertaining high-energy show with memorable songs that will stick with you for days. I was especially impressed with how big Mannequin Death Squad’s sound was despite being a two-piece act. It sure sounded bigger than one guitar and drums!

New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry were up shortly after and were one of the highlights of the day. Their thrash metal with lyrics in the native indigenous language, te reo Māori seems to really set them apart from many other bands on the scene. They had the huge crowd enthralled for the duration of their set.

Following them on this stage was the Gold Coast’s Sunk Loto, performing their album Between Birth and Death in its entirety for its 20th anniversary. They were yet another band today performing a high-energy set and they had the crowd singing along to the majority of it. Everything Everywhere was one song in particular that had everybody in full voice.

Since this event was held at Pirate Life Brewery, it only seemed fitting to have two pirate themed bands on the line up. On the Explosive Stage was Adelaide’s Captain Hellfire and the Wretched Brethren while on the Fury stage was Queensland’s Lagerstein. Both bands brought the party atmosphere to their sets and added some light-hearted entertainment to a fairly serious day of metal.  Not long after the sun had set, it was time for California’s Suicidal Tendencies to hit the stage. This was one of the bands that I was really looking forward to seeing. They certainly did not disappoint! Right from the start, they were manic on stage! Front-man Mike Muir may be in his 60s now, but he still moves non-stop like he always has, like an angry teenager. The entire band, including Metallica’s (and ex-ST bassist) Robert Trujillo’s teenage son Ty on bass, all spent a lot of the set running the length of the stage, jumping on and off amp cabinets, rarely slowing down to take a breath. When they closed the set with their hit song Institutionalised, Mike Muir jumped into the packed crowd and sang the entire thing as he worked his way throughout the enthusiastic punters before the set was over.

Closing out the show was Brisbane’s The Butterfly Effect on the Froth Stage while Sweden’s The Halo Effect took care of the heavier end of things on the Fury Stage.
I started with the lighter side of things with The Butterfly Effect before I moved over to check out The Halo Effect. My plan was to return to The Butterfly Effect for the remainder of the night but although the band sounded tight and had the crowd singing along and enjoying the show, after Suicidal Tendencies, I needed my night to finish off with something heavier so returned to the Fury Stage to end my night with the melodic death metal on offer. The Halo Effect, despite having a very heavy sound with Mikael Stanne’s vocals being typically angry sounding, the band seemed to be having fun and had the crowd at this stage also in good spirits. It seemed to sum up the day really. Heavy but happy and great fun!

To sum up such a huge outdoor gig…the team from Disruptive Productions who have presented Froth and Fury, describe themselves as ‘three crazy music fans who never really grew up who want to being music to Adelaide. To give young Adelaide bands a chance to play alongside big acts to show promotors that Adelaide is worth the effort!’

This is clearly an event made by people with a massive passion for heavy music who have done a phenomenal job! I get the impression that this event will continue to grow and could truly become a destination gig for heavy music fans all over the world! Regardless of which bands may be on the line-up for future Froth and Fury Festivals, if you love heavy music, I highly recommend attending just for the great experience and for the love of metal!

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[Review] Bloc Party / Interpol @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne 16/11/2023

In what can only be described as A Y2K indie rockers wet dream, Manhattan force, Interpol, and London legends, Bloc Party team up for an epic amphitheatre takedown. Both groups soundtracked the early noughties with masterful debut albums and their sets on this cool November evening were showcases of their longstanding double decade careers.

Having just returned from a two-week European and UK tour,  Awabakal Land / Newcastle post-punk five-piece, dust settled the crowd with playful power-hits Joy (Guilt) and Ward 52

“We’re dust from Newcastle. This is a lifetime experience.”

As tight and energetic as these young guns were, notably, the rolling green hill of the Bowl was met by ill panning and compression issues on the sound, an unfortunate error that slid into the first half of Interpol’s set and reappeared throughout Bloc Party’s set, seeing the larger-than-life stylings of both indie greatest fractured. Muffled and muddied, the guitars stuck together like chewing gum and vocals were drowned. Gut-punches from the heavy set drumming celebrated throughout both artists’ discographies were non-existent in this fader faux pas but both bands made up for the production problems with intense delivery and enthusiasm.  

Paul Banks strides to the stage mic, his look coming straight out of Don Henley’s ‘Boys of Summer’ – “that hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on baby”. He is joined on-stage by Daniel Kessler, and Sam Fogarino, and touring members Brandon Curtis and Brad Truax all donning head to toe black ensembles and a New York coolness. 

They launch into the mammoth opener of‘Untitled with the first half of the set topped with classic cannonballs including C’mere, My Desire, Roland, and crowd favourite Obstacle 1

The lighting techs excelled in elevating the show. Interpol lived in red lighting states throughout majority of their set with pops of blinding whites and reflections from the low-hanging mirror-ball behind Fogarino, echoing their 2002 debut Turn On The Bright Lights album title and cover art, and a palette that has been threaded through their entire discography of artwork. 

The screen relay was set to black and white, making use of delays, fading transitions and slow mo effects for a real rock and roll vibe.

To a shifting blue light, Rest My Chemistry from the 2007 Our Love To Admire was a Pixies delight at the time of release. Live, the drifting melody of Kesslers guitar with Banks’ prosaic vocals is transportative.  

Sitting largely in their first three albums, Interpol catered to their mostly middle-aged audience, offering only two recent tracks from last year’s The Other Side of Make-Believe, Into The Night and Toni. They closed out with a chorus of “Rosemary”’s for the highlight Evil, rounding out a quality set with The New and Slow Hands.

The impact of this monumental co-headline tour was not lost on either Banks or Bloc Party’s energetic frontman, Kele Okereke

“It’s amazing being back in Australia. It’s been a while so it’s nice to be back with you after so long and sharing the stage with Bloc Party,” Banks acknowledged.

“Good evening Melbournia. We are Bloc Party from London and we are heaps excited to be here tonight. That’s the true,” Okereke quipped as a lead into You Should Know The Truth after slamming in with last year’s Alpha Games hit In Situ. Later in the set, the euphoric This Modern Love was also dedicated to their co-headliners; “They took us on our first ever tour so this song is for them.” 

Kele Okereke’s vibrant green and black cardi, paired with a cream headband, only lasted three songs before being discarded. Bloc Party were here for one reason only. 

“Let’s get this party started,” Okereke exclaimed as the eerie descending notes of Hunting For Witches launched.

Okereke kept the set lively with his contagious stage presence and general hype-attitude. From some cheeky quips to the stage crew “Thank you John that’s enough. He wants his own spin-off show. Now get out of here”, to pumping up the crowd with lines like “Let’s keep it rolling”, his infectious energy rolled into the crowd. 

Offering epileptic strobing, Kettling from the 2013 FOUR brought some pop punk power whilst Song For Clay (Disappear Here) was prefaced by Paul Kelly classic Dumb Things

The middle aged crowd of indie rock ‘n’ rollers were blessed back in 2018 with hearing the game changing debut Silent Album in full on Bloc Party’s last tour and it shows that the album is still as beloved. While only four songs made the bill this time around they were all met with explosive sing-alongs. Banquet was the first in the set with drummer Louise Bartle elevating the track with a smashing tempo building to a huge “I’m on fire” screaming match.

Okereke’s energy did not dwindle, incorporating fancy footwork into Different Drugs and playing with the vocal pedals on the ground. He also never missed a beat with the banter.

Ahead of the latest track from The High Life EP, Blue was introduced with a dig at our weather, “If I wanted a cold summer evening I may as well have stayed in London”.

The final leg of the set was one of epic proportions, not just for the song choices but for the audience’s liveliness, which had thus far ebbed and flowed throughout the evening, spiking for nostalgic songs. The brooding So Here We Are saw Bartle back on the fire, a hard task considering Matt Tong’s original drumming was intense and dynamic. Guitarist Russell Lissack came to the party in this section. Whilst a bit of an enigma on stage, he makes the guitar sing the heavenly builds, catapulting the revelatory, “I figured it out”.  

Swapping to cutting guitar lines, Lissack led in a crowd chorus for Helicopter. There is nothing quite like 13,000 people singing the line “As if to say he doesn’t like chocolate”. Flux followed for a dance floor epic. Okereke hugs his guitar to his chest during the second verse before leading a clapping army from front to the back of the hill, leading perfectly into The Prayer.

Revealed as a song about a boy from St Kilda, the Interpol dedicated This Modern Love started off on a high note. A favourite all round, the build in the recorded version is monumental but live it fell flat in the crescendo. The pummelling “This modern love, breaks me” repetitive bridge lacked guts with Okereke singing down an octave. Not quite the euphoric moment experience of their last Australian tour but still the ultimate Bloc Party belter.

Ending on a high note was what Okereke referred to as a certified banger. “We have one more rocket in our pocket. Back home we call this one a banger but I don’t know what you call it in these parts. Do you like a banger Melbourne?”, he questioned, going out with the rambunctious Ratchet.

Whilst both Interpol and Bloc Party sets suffered sound-wise, both 2000’s giants both put on a show set to invigorate the indie dream and the crowd lapped it up.

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[Review] Steve Vai @Hindley St Music Hall, Adelaide 8/11/2023

As a serious music fan, I became obsessed with rock music as a kid, thanks to the likes of Kiss and Alice Cooper and their theatrical brand of rock and roll. This, in turn led to my love of Van Halen and the ‘hair bands’ that followed, so, of course I first discovered Steve Vai through his work with David Lee Roth. The way Steve’s guitar ‘talked’ in DLR’s Yankee Rose to open 1986’s Eat ‘em and Smile album, his flamboyant style and moves, his triple-necked heart shaped guitar in DLR’s Just Like Paradise video…clearly my tastes were more about the entertainment factor rather than the technical wizardry of a guitar virtuoso.

Despite me never seeking out instrumental technical music to add to my music collection, one of the first CDs I owned was Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare. After attending an information session at a high-end hi-fi store in Adelaide many years ago, to promote the latest trend in audio (the CD), I got to choose a bonus CD with the purchase of my first player. I randomly chose that particular CD. It’s the only instrumental rock album I’ve ever owned, and I loved the way the guitar was able to take care of the melodies you would usually expect from the vocals.

Heading to Adelaide’s Hindley Street Music Hall, I had no idea what to expect from this gig and I suspected it could be challenging to write a review for such a show without being overly well-versed in all things technical. If you’re here to read a report on Steve Vai’s techniques and musical hardware, you have come to the wrong place!

As there was no support act, I arrived shortly before the headliner’s two-and-a-half-hour set began. Straight away, I noticed that the crowd was predominantly male and seemed to be lacking the usual drunken rowdiness before a typical rock show. I suspected many were here to see a master at work and wanted to focus, rather than to stage-dive and sing along.  

The set started with Avalancha from Steve’s latest album Inviolate. This was a great groove-driven tune that showed off the famous Steve Vai signature sound perfectly. Joining Steve on stage was his new side-guitarist Dante Frisiello. Initially Dante appeared to be here to simply lay down some basic rhythm guitar behind Steve’s dynamic leads, but as the night went on, Dante was given more space and time to showcase his own incredible lead playing (‘Dante Unchained’ as Steve put it). On bass was Philip Bynoe. Like Dante, Philip was a solid backing for Steve’s leadwork but was also given plenty of opportunity to showcase his own incredible bass skills with solo stage time later in the set. Completing the rhythm section, and the band, was drummer Jeremy Colson, proving that every member of Steve Vai’s band is a top shelf musician. Jeremy’s double-kick drum solo during the set was as incredible as the guitar work shown throughout the show by the other members of the band.

I did notice when the band started the set that there were no mic stands to be seen. There were obviously no singing vocals to be heard tonight but I hoped to hear some interaction between Steve and the crowd. Thankfully, after a few songs Steve was handed a microphone and was able to converse with the crowd. This continued every now and again. He mentioned how long the tour had been and told everyone that when they played the Brisbane show before this one, Steve had been mixed up and greeted the Queensland crowd by saying ‘Hello Adelaide!’ (at the end of this set Steve finished the show by jokingly saying, ‘Goodnight Melbourne!’).

Following the opening number was the heavier Giant Balls of Gold which really brought the whole band in to create a bigger sound and get the crowd moving. Having said that, for most of the night I noticed a difference between this gig and a regular rock show with vocals. The crowd watched the stage intently and nodded their heads along in appreciation rather than really moving in time to the music. Nobody seemed to want to miss their view of Steve Vai’s fingers on his fretboard.

The set went on with a mix of tunes from Steve’s solo albums, all with accompanying visuals on the big screen behind the band, to compliment the audio. There were psychedelic images, dramatic images…whatever suited the song at the time. My personal favourite was the very detailed and mesmerising video of the conception of a child from the wiggling sperm, to the growing foetus, to childbirth, ending hilariously with the close-up image of a very young Steve Vai’s face. Another highlight of the use of the screen was when some of the film Crossroads was shown before Steve launched into some of his music from his appearance in the film.

Later in the set, Steve revealed his 3 neck Ibanez guitar on which he played his track Teeth of the Hydra from his latest album. This involved Steve playing twelve-string, six-string AND bass guitar, all in the one song! This is just one of the reasons to see Steve Vai live!

As the set drew to an end, there were a couple of tracks from Passion and Warfare covered. For the Love of God covered more laid back and soulful territory, while Liberty was more Epic in vibe. As Steve launched into these closing tracks, he said, ‘If you know the melodies, sing along!’ Despite this show being instrumental in nature, it was this comment that sums up Steve Vai for me. He plays the guitar as though he is singing through his instrument. Not only is it possible to sing along to his guitar melodies as though they were vocals, but watching Steve’s face and his mouth move, as he plays guitar, it’s clear that his very expressive playing is his way of singing. 

 Despite playing for over two hours, when the band left the stage they were recalled loudly for an encore, which they quickly returned for before the house lights came on and everybody filed out of the venue onto Hindley Street again.

I’m certain a lot of the crowd at this gig were aspiring guitar heroes who wanted to see one of the world’s best rock guitarists in action but even for those who weren’t, Steve Vai and his band certainly had enough charisma and talent to keep the entire room entertained for the duration of this show.

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