Gig Review: Rice Is Nice Does 5 Years

Sunday 27 April @ The Roller Den

Rice Is Nice is, hands down one of the best Australian labels. Ever. Next to R.I.P Society, Chapter Music, Anti-Fade and Bedroom Suck, Rice Is Nice has one of the best label rosters imaginable. They have not released a bad album. Ever. I can’t even go a day without fucking up on something major, let alone five years of goddamn perfection. Do you want proof of how much I love Rice Is Nice? Here you go:

I’m actually holding a water, I just wanted to look like on of the cool kids

So when they announced they were chucking a 5th Birthday Party, my entire being exploded in excitement. Pretty much the whole  roster, with the notable exceptions of The Laurels, Good Heavens and Seekae, were going to all be in one place, playing the songs they made and recorded and released on an amazing label. How could this not be a better night than the climactic point of any teen ‘comedy’ of the 1990’s?

Unfortunately, I missed the first two bands, Polographics and Shatter Brain because I’ve literally been constructed of dickhead material. I missed this:

You can probably tell that kicking myself in the balls for eternity won’t even scrape the pain I feel about missing these bands.

However, the night had to start somewhere, and it began with Angie, which rules because Angie rules, and she rules fucking hard. She’s a shredder of the highest order, commanding her guitar like she’s Clint Eastwood smacking down justice on some hapless punk. She oozes so much cool, it’s like she ingested the beating heart of Kim Gordon. If Coco Chanel bottled her coolness to make a scent, they’d be selling ‘Cooler Than You’ by Angie for a million bucks a spray. How else do you explain ripper tunes like ‘Stars And Dust’ and ‘Parallels’? These strutting, leather-jacket-clad songs are dripping in swaggering, sweaty cool. I was also drenched in sweat by the end of her set, a cast of awe struck upon my face. Needless to say, I fucking love Angie.

Next was Summer Flake, who travelled all the way from Adelaide to ensure that the party was complete with some interstate flavour. Armed with some of Sydney’s finest musos (Matt Banham, Craig Lyons, Sam Wilkinson, Chris Yates) Steph Crase built herself into a confident force of swelling guitars and frankly beautiful music. Her album is a sonic treat, but in live format, she’s unstoppable.

Forever 21 legend and SPOD followed swiftly, ensuring that the ‘party’ portion of the night was well and truly taken care of. A self-decribed ‘…national treasure…’, SPOD makes dance music which you don’t know whether to laugh at or contort your entire existence to. Dressed in a cap and a tucked in grey polo, SPOD prowled around the stage, wetting ears with a variety of songs, including his heavily acclaimed decade-old debut’Taste the Radness’ , (I use this phrase all the time, please don’t sue me SPOD, I love you). Basically, SPOD takes the best parts of Regurgitator and Andrew W.K, and then makes really good music around it. Case in point: opening the set with a song called ‘Deadshits’.  He’s also got a self-deprecating charisma blast that provides more knee-slappers and tummy ticklers than an episode of  How I Met Your Mother. Because setting the bar high in similes is what I do best.

Side-note of regret No. 2: I missed Donny Benet’s set. Sacrilege, I know, the man is a god, and no one makes panty-soaking music quite like he. But I’ve seen him enough times to give a rough estimate of what his show was probably like. His gorgeous, paisley-suit clad figure makes his way on stage, he pumps through synth-wave after synth-wave, and electrocutes the audience with a love making aura not seen or heard since the first time Morgan Freeman narrated something. Instantly, women want him, and men want to be him. ‘Sophisticated Lover’ comes on, and tsunamis of love juice erupt from every crotch in the nearby vicinity. At least, that’s been my experience the last few times I’ve caught him, and I can’t see how he would disappoint this time round. If you have the chance, don’t follow my stead, and go see Donny Benet.

Richard in Your Mind then took the ‘Happy Birthday’ bannered stage to wreak psych-pop havok. They are such a fun band to watch live, simply because their songs are so intrinsically weird, and they pull them off with flair and love. If garden gnomes found a batch of mushrooms growing in the ‘special’ part of the garden,  and happened upon a storage bin of instruments, they would create something like Richard in Your Mind. There’s a shitload of things happening on stage, from Eastern instruments to electronic shenanigans, even a tambourine makes an appearance. The last band to successfully pull of the tambourine was late 90’s era Brian Jonestown Massacre. Overall, Richard in Your Mind got in my mind, twirled and twisted it apart, and then took it o an acid-tinged trip down Happy Street, with occasional stops off at Awesome Street, and Stoked Avenue.

The last act of the night was Straight Arrows, which is around the same level of awesome as getting to have a personal sit down with Han Solo to talk about how badass he is. A few songs in, and the entire set fell into debauchery. Actually, as soon as the first chords of opener ‘Never Enough’ cracked the skulls of the front row, pandemonium reigned supreme. The songs became vehicles for thriving energy, Owen Penglis casting an impossible-to-match enthusiasm and recklessness that made a night on the town with Charlie Sheen look like a Senate meeting. Al Grigg was his partner in crime, screaming and shouting along every lyric and pointing his sparkly red guitar at the crowd and thrusting like he was trying to literally fuck us with his music.

Around the halfway point, things took a turn for the truly memorable. Out came an abundance of party-poppers, streamers and toilet paper, around the ‘It Happens Again’ mark. Soon the stage, band and crowd alike were covered in more coloured paper than a Mardis Gras ejaculation. Owen looked like he  had been draped in the finale of a Sesame Street porno.

Yet Straight Arrows persevered in turning the Roller Den into a broiling mass of throwback 60’s pop funded by a modern partying ethos. The band went so fucking hard on stage, it was like watching a tornado of garage rock brilliance, each track an atomic bomb of awesome. ‘Running Wild’, ‘Something Happens’, and ‘Bad Temper’ were all exceptional standouts, but  in saying that, picking a favourite Straight Arrows track is like trying to pick your favourite Ninja Turtle-they’re all amazing.

After a sweaty rendition of ‘Make Up Your Mind’, the Imperial Hotel will now forever be ingrained in my mind as the time when Straight Arrows completely fucked up my perceptions of what a good performance should entail. But really, every band that night ruled the stage, albeit in their own way. Angie with her confident shredding, Summer Flake with her alluring shoegaze, SPOD with his prowling, addictive personality, and Richard in Your Mind with their psych-pop extravaganza. It was a fantastically diverse lineup, but really that’s just a testament to Rice Is Nice. May Rice Is Nice continue for another 5000 years, and may its firstborn be a healthy child.

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