Just as the long-hairs were preparing for the arrival of AC/DC in Sydney, party-goers of a more funky persuasion were leaving the city behind to spend 4 days at Del Rio Resort in Wisemans Ferry, where Playground Weekender took place for the 4th time over the weekend.
Getting there - anyone that went last year will remember the nightmare that was waiting in the ferry queue for hours in 40 degree heat. This year there were more ferries on and the whole process was a comparatively beautiful experience.
The Carnivale area - one of the best spots for watching all the crazies filter past. I hope the chair people from Thursday night came back to Earth at some point.
The Melody Wine Bar - new for this year and a great place to finish the night. As it was nicely tucked away at the back of the same field as the main stage it was a perfect alternative if you found the Big Top a touch on the hectic side.
The police/ security team - their presence was noticeable but not intrusive, and they behaved like they were there to make sure festival-goers were safe, rather than looking to catch people out. Small things like barrier staff at the main stage wearing Indian head dresses make all the difference.
ManChoir - 8 blokes in wife-beaters singing (near) cover versions of Bon Jovi songs, Queen songs, and even the Home & Away theme tune (which they introduced as the Australian National Anthem). Much funnier and more entertaining than it sounds.
Orbital - still one of the best festival bands around. Unbelievable. And to the girl who gave me torches to clip to my glasses as they started, I will love you forever.
Fancy dress - I salute everyone that put in so much effort. From the couple in tailored green shopping bag suits to the guy in the ball dress/ gimp mask combo, the Muppets, the Stormtroopers and the Hitcher from the Mighty Boosh, congratulations for helping make the Saturday so special.
The weather - couldn’t have been better. Whoever organised it is a genius.
The can fairies - offering 20/ 50c for every Tiger can returned to the recycling bins was a brilliant idea and a win-win-win. The army of can fairies that sprang up got enough free drinks to see them through the evening, made the festival a cleaner place for everyone and relieved pressure on the official cleaners.
The swimming pool - this qualifies a high and a low. Perfect area to be in during the day, and we are so lucky to have it at a music festival, but why do people need to shit in it? Not cool.
Pricey drinks - it makes it very hard to obey the rules and not sneak booze in when the going price for a small can of Tiger is $8. And a vodka & red bull for $12? Ouch.
Running out of cider - surely Festival organisers know by now that cider will be the drink of choice on a hot day. It was obvious, however, that the staff were working over time to bring more in. Maybe a Glastonbury-style cider bus would be a good idea.
The (Death Metal) Filth stage - great idea on paper, and a potentially great way of broadening the appeal of the Festival, but it just wasn’t that popular. A lot of the bands on there seemed pretty good, it just seemed that not many people were interested.
The comedy at the Shack - again, a good concept, but one that just didn’t fly with the punters. Tough gig though, I wouldn’t get up and tell jokes to a bunch of snarky pissheads who think they are funnier than the guy on stage.
Fancy dress - poor (= no) effort on my part. I will get involved in 2011 for sure. No excuses next time.
Playground Weekender is one of the few Festivals where you can have a great time no matter what the line-up. The music is important, but in no way essential. It has fully deserved the awards it has won for Best Crowd and Best Atmosphere, and will no doubt go on to win again. 2011 can’t come soon enough.
Last night the godfather of dub, Lee “Scratch” Perry and his band performed at the Sydney Opera House as part of Brian Eno’s Luminous festival. Perry has always been a mad bugger, and now at 73 years old, he’s a mad ancient bugger, complete with purple-dyed hair and beard, gold-sprayed shoes and loads of bling. His half-open eyes show the toll that years of ganja and other drugs have taken, but at least he is still alive, a fact that should give Iggy Pop hope for a long future ahead of him!
Perry’s band was a five piece, consisting of guitar, bass, drums and two keyboardists. Although not quite as advanced in years as Perry himself, the band were clearly experienced hands and looked very relaxed as delivered a very danceable dub groove for a solid two hours. Over recent years, the Opera House has become more expansive in its musical selections, which is great, but the fixed seating in the Opera Theatre does curtail the natural instinct to get up and boogie to danceable acts like this one. It was no surprise then, that the side aisles quickly filled up with groovers.
On the mixing desk was the legendary Adrian Sherwood and this must be the first time I’ve been to a gig where the mixer was almost as famous as the act on stage. Sherwood created the On-U Sound label back in 1979 and was a key figure in the UK reggae scene as well as being a driving force behind the dub-influenced industrial funk act Tackhead. Since then, Sherwood has dabbled in a wide range of styles as a producer and performed in his own right. He has been collaborating with Perry for over 10 years and clearly knows the material inside out. Given that dub music from its origins is fundamentally a studio creation, there are challenges recreating that in a live setting (although effects pedals, samplers and other technological developments do help). Fortunately, doing just that is the idea behind Sherwood’s creation of On-U Sound in the first place, and the years of experience shone through. This was perhaps the best mixed concert I have ever attended.
And the music itself? Some of the classics made an appearance, including “Blackboard Jungle Dub (version 2)”, which is one of the all-time dub classics and probably my favourite Lee “Scratch” Perry track. It is also a great example of a dub track that was very much a studio creation, but the band’s rendition was superb. Like so much dub, the original was an instrumental and for the live performance Perry, somewhat bizarrely, chose to sing lines from “Where-ever I lay my hat, that’s my home”. A strange choice, but it almost worked. Perry was first and foremost a producer, a creator of a distinctive sound. He was never a great singer (witness this track from 1982 for example) and age has not really improved his sound. His timing and sound was often uneven, his words largely imprehensible, but sometimes the eccentricity faded to the background and the singing and music blended perfectly. The uplifting “Kilimanjaro” was a case in point: fueled with the rather bizarre Rastafarian imagery that is so much a part of reggae, it was a triumph.
There were some disappointing omissions, I’d have loved to hear Disco Devil to name just one, but that really reflects the volume of Perry’s output over the years.
In all it was an extremely enjoyable concert, with an excellent sound fronted by one of the crazier giants of music history. It was an opportunity I was glad I didn’t miss.
You don’t get many people going to Nine Inch Nails gigs that are ‘kind of in to them’, or that have picked up a spare ticket from a mate at the last minute so pop along just to see what all the fuss is about. In many people’s eyes (including my own) Trent doesn’t put a foot wrong, not just when producing and performing but also in taking a stance against the traditional music industry and its inflexible distribution model.
My expectations for this event were stratospheric as soon as it was announced. Either because of the superlative reputation it had in the UK for being a grown-up, chilled out festival, the involvement of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the venue itself or, more likely, a combination of all three. Read the full story
The OAF is a great venue. It feels like Fabric in 2001/ 2002 and not just because of the industrial set up with open brick- and metal-work. As with (nu skool) breaks 7 or 8 years ago, there was a genuine feeling that we were about to see something a bit new and different.
The boys from the Blue Mountains, Hermitude, warmed it up with some jazz, reggae, dancehall and dub-influenced tunes, and looking around, it was interesting to see the audience watching the DJs like we were at a gig. Everyone was watching the stage, watching the guys perform.
The performance continued when a young scallywag took to the stage, with an air of awkwardness reminiscent of Ian Curtis. Skream was followed quickly by Benga who came out hollering in to his mic, keen to get the crowd pumped while his partner played the opening few tunes.
The set started off with frenetic pace. This was in spite of serious technical issues that plagued the first half, and which threatened to turn sections of the crowd nasty. The boys dealt with it all with supreme professionalism (Benga even started to sing ‘Night’ at one point) and once they had moved to a second set of decks it was all go.
About 10 minutes in things slowed down to a more dubstep speed, the bass started taking over and we knew things were about to get ‘fucking messy’. The sort of dubstep these guys play is fierce, dark, and unrelenting. The bass is raw and aggressive and makes you feel like you are at the centre of a thunderstorm. But in a good way.
It is also high energy, and Benga kept reminding us of that by shouting in to the mic. They were playing back-to-back, and were helped out on mic duties about half way in to the set when N-Type barrelled on to the stage having finished his set up at the Gaff (why these guys were booked for the same night I have no idea).
At times it seemed like we were watching 3 lads muck about in their bedroom, but it was amazing to see such passion for the music they were playing. By the time they had all had a crowdsurf (Benga looked like he got dumped on the floor, but I am sure he is alright), and yelling at everyone to ‘get fucking alien’ (still not sure what that means), the night was won.
Skream pointedly asked us who was at his gig in 2006 (of course, everyone was there), and it made me realise that whilst this all feels fresh and new in Australia, these boys have been around for a long time in the UK. Going on last night, we should see dubstep go from strength to strength in these parts in 2009.
Last Sunday evening as I sat in a bar in Elwood, a pint of beer in hand, listening to a good friend of mine sing the weekend away I noticed a woman at the table next to me. Gillespie’s music often has that effect.
Yet it was another band that attracted me to her.
Many years ago (sometime after O.J. got off but before the towers came down) I was a journalism student at Griffith University when I became friends with a girl named Emma. Hello to Emma if she’s watching at home.
Emma, like me, also worked in a Record Store and we both shared a fondness for the music of Jeff Buckley. It was Emma who would put me on to the then unknown Ballarat band Epicure.
I say ‘then unknown’ but, short of one semi-hit single (‘Armies Against Me’ from 2002), Epicure are still not a household act in this country and I am at a loss to know why. I am hoping their latest record changes all that.
Postcards From A Ghost is the band’s fourth long player (not counting the 2001 B-Side collection Airmail - yes I own that as well) and it is certainly their most well rounded release, comprising the various styles they have dabbled in over the years. Whilst they continue to trade in the sort of bluesy piano numbers that typified 2005s Main Street like the gorgeous ‘Landslide’, the lads also show an urgency not heard in their songs for some time.
‘Snakes & Foxes’ is hands down one of the best opening salvos you’ll hear this year and certainly contains one of my favourite first lines: “When we first met you were dancing in some guys lap peering out beneath your cowboy hat going by another name.” Tell me you don’t have the visual in your head.
‘Blood On My Hands’, ‘Loves Me Not’ and first single ‘Cobra Kisses’ also bristle with the same energy and fervour. Vocalist Juan Alban sounds at home on these heavier tracks as he also does on songs like the introspective album closer ‘How This Will End’. I’m sure Juan is sick of the Ed Kowalczyk/Michael Stipe comparisons by now but it is worth noting this: I gave up buying Live and R.E.M. albums a while ago, I still wait in anticipation for Epicure releases.
Finally, an alt.country flourish (see: ‘One Last Chance To Reach You’ and ‘Soft Place To Fall’) courtesy of new guitarist Mick Hubbard (ex Jen Cloher And The Endless Sea – another great act) adds another dimension to the band’s overall sound.
Epicure are primed for the success they so richly deserve with the release of Postcards From A Ghost. I can only hope it comes their way.
Postscript: As it turned out, the woman in the bar looked a lot like Emma but it wasn’t her. I thankfully worked that out for myself without having to embarrassingly ask. Besides, if she had said no what was my reply to be without it sounding like I was trying to pick her up? I guess: “Buy the new Epicure album” would’ve worked.
First of all a big thanks to Jye for inviting me to contribute to The Music Blogs and it’s been awesome to see how popular the blog has been since being formally launched only a few weeks ago.
My name is Nathanael and I’m a 25-year-old Canberra musician. Well, my main job is as a web designer and team leader in government but you’re probably not really interested in that. I play the drums, percussion, keyboard/piano and bass guitar.
Tastes in music range from Darkane, Static-X and Disturbed, Trivium, Dream Theater and Tool through Metalheadz, Goldie / Rufige Kru, Andy C and Limewax through to Nick Warren, John Digweed, Basement Jaxx, Juno Reactor, Daft Punk, Francois K, Paul Mac and to Living End, Coheed and Cambria, The Mars Volta, The Prodigy, Cog, Pendulum, Moloko, The Presets, Muse, Massive Attack … and heaps more. So pretty diverse.
I toyed with solo house music production for a little while but that just didn’t work for me so I’m sticking with instruments for now and my latest band I joined only 4 weeks ago as drummer had their first gig on Saturday evening 4.5 hours away down in Genoa near Mallacoota across the NSW/VIC border.
Nothing overly big – just a 50th birthday party that half the town was invited to attend. Big bonfire, lots of drinking and dancing. I ended up getting roped into playing with two other bands during the night. Really good time – absolutely loved the gig and enjoyed the evening.
Luckily it ended up I didn’t have to take my drumkit all the way down to Mallacoota for the gig as a kit was provided by one of the other bands; but one thing I learned some years ago is that it always helps if you at least have your own cymbals. It’s like taking your own pillow when you travel … if you do that (I don’t but I understand why you might). So I took my cymbals including a Pearl PPS-37 clamp bracket for mounting my splash off the cymbal stand, rubber bands, key and obviously drum sticks. Also can’t hurt to take tape – my old “Hondo” drumkit was held together with nothing but sticky tape! At the very least it can come in handy to tape snares to the resonant skin of a snare drum when the snare clamp fails as they inevitably do with age.
Also another tip is make sure you get a foldback! You need it just as much as the guys up the front and you’re probably going to need your own dedicated wedge. Speaking of which, you really do trust the sound engineer with your life or at least your health. I had a cable or connection go bad on a foldback I had on a gig once and the sound nearly deafened me. I couldn’t hear out of my left ear for the rest of the performance.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to learn more than just how to play your instrument if you want to get into live performances and recording or get into a band. You need to learn how to play with other people, to fit in and complement … and if you’re a drummer then how to set the pace and feel. Understand music theory so you can explain what’s wrong when you realise something isn’t working. Know microphones, leads, connections, speakers, amplification, effects, sound theory, mixing and equalisation. Expand your repertoire beyond your signature beat or riff and learn how to play ideas rather than notes. Understand what it means to make a beat more “airy” or make a riff feel “reggae”.
Anyway – that was my weekend; hopefully some useful advice too.
City and Colour is an acoustic side-project fronted by Dallas Green, rhythm guitarist and singer for the Canadian post-hardcore band Alexisonfire. The current line-up also consists of Spencer Burton, Daniel Tavis Romano and Matt Sullivan.
Its clarity, brilliance and rich sound of the acoustic guitars you’ll notice only before being completely drawn into Green’s delicate yet powerful vocal tones.