Gig Review: Farmer & the Owl Festival

Saturday 14th March @ University of Wollongong

Wollongong is only an hour away from Sydney, and yet I have never been there. How Sydney is that? Staying in one’s own little bubble is as much as part of the Shitney lifestyle as overpriced coffee that you’ll insist is delicious, and getting coward punched in the Cross. Whether you live in Bondi, Newtown or the Northern Beaches, there’s an adverse reaction to leaving for anything more than a 15 minute bus ride away from your front door.

But with Farmer & the Owl Festival, now in its second iteration, the lineup was too good. A short ginger simply needed to sack up, brave the train ride and seek adventure down South, armed with only unconventional but nonetheless solid good looks and an iPod loaded with the latest Dead Farmers record.

Despite the train trip being pretty bluddy beautiful, that shit is longer than a turd after $2 taco night, and it forced a few unfortunate misses of fantastic acts. However, having bore witness to the pleasant pysch-pop sedation of Sunbeam Sound Machine and Richard in Your Mind many times before, for those who haven’t managed to catch them thusly, get off your thick backside, and buy a goddamn record. Spookyland was the first act to be ingested into the soul, and they were as good as any goddamn paleo diet that I’ve ever tried. Look past the sheer pop prowess of “The Silly Fucking Thing”, and stare on in wonder as Spookyland shred a potent mixture of The Birthday Party meeting Tom Verlaine and The Reid Brothers darkest fantasies. “Blood In the Rain” is particularly demented in the live setting, and when Marcus Gordon looses the shrill cry of “…with that gun in your hand!“, an eel of excitement involuntarily worms its way through your soul.

The Peep Tempel follow up on Spookyland’s brand of eschewed rock with a set that makes it feel like they could be the last real pub rock band in the world. It’s basic stuff, delivered with nonchalant snarls, stirling guitar veneer, and a glittering meanness that would make Scar from Lion King say, “Hey, woah fellas, chill out“. A tighter band couldn’t have been wrought from the slobbery floorboards of The Tote if they tried. A crowd slowly started to gather and build steam towards one of the standout sets of the day. But it still felt like punters didn’t deserve, or at the very least “get” the sheer greatness of a band like this. One dickhead went about his broken tape recorder routine of asking for “Carol” at the end of every single song in The Peep Tempel’s 40 minute set. Fuck, you know, this band has more than just one song, right? In fact, they have an entire catalogue of music, which they have kindly and strategically sorted into a setlist. If you shut the fuck up for a second, shit, you might even get to discover your new favourite song, like “Big Fish”, or “Vicki the Butcher”. God knows we don’t deserve The Peep Tempel already, and deadshits soured the experience.

Luckily, the deadshit factor was kept to a relative minimum, or at least, was herded into the DJ tent for the rest of the festival.  From herein, punters only lapped up the goodness that was served to them at a hurtling rate. There was Jeremy Neale (more like Jizzemy Neale, amirite), ever the showman, lashing up the love with his token mixture of 60’s pop reverie and an ability to make every audience member feel just a little bit loved. Combined with his throat-puncturing performance with Velociraptor (in its smallest form yet, a mere 5 piece), Nealemania is sure to become a hashtag of the future. Then there’s Hockey Dad, who are truly in the midst of their own lil’ Beatlemania replication. Sure, they were on hometurf, but this kind of horny reception was something that would make Ron Jeremy red with rage. Actually, it is understandable, because when you toss two good lookers up on a stage, and then allow them to blast through an EP of surf-rock nuggets that would make any self-respecting mammal with a working pair of ears wet between the knees.

At this point, old mates Big Dick and Brad had sat down with this ginger nutjob to enjoy the lush soak of Shining Bird. Y’all heard this band? Prepare to be casually buttfucked by brilliance. These guys know their way about a pop song, but what’s more, they can extend it past that radio friendly 3 minute mark, and still keep you interested. How many other bands can do that? Yo La Tengo? Stereolab? My Bloody Valentine? That’s about it right? Well, Shining Bird did their hometown proud, as “Stare Into the Sun”, “Keep Warm”, and a laced concoction of others spiralled through the lazy arvo. But that kind of melting haze can only last for so long, which is where a packed room of Los Tones fans made the difference. Do yaself a bloody favour, and go see this band. Strong fucking riffs delivered with an off-kilter craze from a couple of blokes that probably moonlight as whiskey connoisseurs between their day jobs as Lux Interior proteges. Their loud and vivacious brand of medicine bag garage took full-flight in the dingy sideline of the “Thrash Room”, a pleasure to watch, and a pleasure to boogie to. Pro Tip: bring earplugs. Step-Panther are as loud as they are awesome.

As mentioned before, the Raptors killed it. Straight up. You’d think that being stretched to a meagre, suffering 5 piece would dilute the mania that is so core to Velociraptor shows, but they remained pinnacles of party professionals, screaming and raving through keytar laden, guitar solo saturated, shout-along ready renditions of “Ramona”, “Cynthia”, “Sneakers” and more. This kind of party merely acted as a precursor for one of Wollongong’s ultimate treasures, Step-Panther. Fuck, what a band, what a treat. If you want yourself some garage-throttled goodness from a band that just happened to put out one of the best records of last year, then look no further than these guys.

Remember when it was mentioned that The Peep Tempel might be the only remaining pub rock band on the planet? Besides that being an obvious lie, Bad//Dreems ensured that any love for draught-soaked belters isn’t being abandoned in the near future. The crowd was thriving on the pounding anthems that seem to come so fluently to the Radelaide natives, jostling to get in the best position to shout “Caroliiiiiiiine, you do it to me eveeeerrrry tiiiiiiiime!” like it was a goddamn war cry. But who can blame them? Baddies slayed it, happily decapitating punters with scything riffs made from years of studying the bible of rock ‘n’ roll. Cold Chisel, AC/DC, Eddy Current Suppression Ring – any band with a riff, a beer, and a prerogative to unleash unholy rock and roll oblivion. That’s who Bad//Dreems remind you of, and there’s no one doing it quite as strongly as they are either right now either.

By this point, night has settled upon the ‘Gong, and the rambunctious are thirsty for some action. Luckily, the final four bands were in no state to dissapoint. There was Bass Drum of Death, from the USA, who combine the leather jacket cool of The Strokes with the fuzz of a Ty Segall record, and double down on the batshit insane, high velocity appeal of Evil Knievel. It’s hard to keep a single limb still during a set that includes “Bad Reputation”, “Crawling After You”, and “Get Found”. Shit, its hard to keep your limbs attached to your body – a set in the pit of a BDOD show is basically succumbing to the fact that you’re coming home minus a few fingers. That lunacy was abruptly followed by a rare performance by The Mess Hall. By this point a band that has reached “classic rock” status, it comes as a huge surprise that The Mess Hall don’t play more frequently, as they have punched through a tight set of hit rolling into hit. Their set was sufficiently stuck in the part zone, an onslaught of crowd-pleasers for a surprisingly small lawn of attendees. However, those who did make it along will be forced to admit that the rough-hewn blues rock of “Shake, Shake”, “Lock & Load”, and “Pills” were just as prime for as they were when they were served to us on a steaming platter all those years ago.

Watching DZ Deathrays, you can’t help but marvel at the fact that this has to be one of the most hard-working bands in existence, and yet they play as though they’re fucking Metallica. That’s meant as an adoring compliment, by the way. Three guys, onstage, prowling and growling with the kind of stage presence that no one has anymore. DZ have graduated beyond mere hometown heroes – they’re bonafide rock gods. They play as though they’re in Wembley Stadium, but they’re in the car park of the University of Wollongong. They treat each stage diving lunatic with a wry grin, and scuttle down their fret boards with the same enthusiasm as when they only had an EP to their name. Oh yeah, and they continue to lay down sicker riffs than an ebola quarantine camp. They’re mental, and the crowd reacts thusly. You’ve never seen kids mosh the way they do at a DZ Deathrays show, hurling themselves at each other with the kind of reckless abandon that can only be brought on from the thundering, lock jaw inducing, brain seizures of “Less Out of Sync”, or “The Mess Up”. There are plenty of bands worthy of seeing, but DZ Deathrays transcend that – they’re a band that you need to see.

Farmer & the Owl Festival feels like what Big Day Out would be like if it were held in the real bush instead of Homebush. From the stage setups that were tiny replicas of the famous Orange and Blue stages, to the rock dog-centric lineup, it was a comfortably small throwback to what I’m sure BDO felt like. This was felt most strongly with the headliner of Jebediah, a band more 90’s than a love for Marilyn Manson that isn’t somehow ironic or attached to guilt. Despite playing to a lacklustre crowd, Jebediah still served up some meaty hits that were made when I was still shitting myself. Is there really any better way to click past midnight than with the powerful punches of “Harpoon”, “Leaving Home”, and “Fall Down”?

Look, the ‘Gong might be a little while away. But the place is loaded with royalties that you can’t get in Sydney. A coastline where the Southern Cross tattoos are minimal, cheap beer, and the great bands are just a few of the reasons to make the voyage. And when there’s a festival that can make a tiny, grumpy ginger loaded with cynicism travel an hour down the coast, and bust out white moves whiter than Bill Clinton eating gluten-free brunch, then that should be enough incentive to head down. Drop the act, Sydney, Wollongong is more than dreads and tye-dye t-shirts. It’s all a lil’ bit alright. Make sure you’re there whenever the next Farmer & the Owl fest goes down.

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New: Bass Drum of Death – Left For Dead

Yeah, uh-huh, alright! New Bass Drum of Death! Fuck, seriously, not since MC5 has there existed a band that have been so in your face and exciting! If every there were a How to Shred 101 lecture, the very first thing they would play from the modern age would be a Bass Drum of Death. Infectious and debilitatingly enjoyable, the latest single has me risking my health in an effort to rock the fuck out as hard as I possibly can. Really, there doesn’t exist a band that can ruthlessly pack such a punch in a 3 minute track.

New Garage Music: Bass Drum of Death + The Panduhs + Boy Germs + FFNORDZZ

I wrote this article about two weeks ago, then forgot to print it. Does that make me an asshole? Yes. Does it make these bands any less awesome, just because their music is technically not ‘new’? No, you elitist pig! So listen to the fuzz that killed Caesar.

Bass Drum of Death-Black Don’t Glow

Is there such a thing as too much Bass Drum of Death? No, because Bass Drum of Death never fail to be a riveting fucking band to listen to. They’re prepared to turn you into a nervous wreck that feeds off garage rock, a weird kind of drug addict that needs an overblown tower of fuzz and solos that make the Ramones look like a bad Bon Jovi cover act. Who knows why ‘Black Don’t Glow’ didn’t get onto their new-ish record, it’s a badass song and makes me want to go out and hang out on the docks of Boston and start a bickering argument with an Irish gangster.

 

The Panduhs-Rock N’ Roll

One of the main ingredients of Rock n Roll is simplicity. Elvis basically fucked the air, sold a billion records, and got to bang a 16 year old. Hunx and His Punx, Shannon and the Clams and NoBunny also follow that formula to a T, minus the billions of records and pedophilia. But at least their making damn cool rock n roll music! Another band to add to that list is The Panduhs, which still holds that weird croak that Hunx has, and the ramshackle, neon Lego building blocks of guitar melody that hold the song together. Damn, if you don’t think this is catchy, get your ass back to the demon cage in Sector 14. B of the Douchebag District.

 

Boy Germs-Teenage Hipster

I go on quite a bit about hipsters on this website, because I’m a dickhead that can’t turn his outward hatred into self-examination and come to terms with his obvious insecurities. HA! But anyway, look forward to some snotty, bratty Bleeding Knees Club-akin surf punk from Brisbanizers Boy Germs. It’s pretty cool track, and comes in at 2.22 minutes, which is exactly a third of 666. METAL! SLAYER! LET’S BURN A CORPSE!

FFNORDZZIt’s A Hit!

Now, for the final nail in the coffin of all terrible music everywhere, it’s FFNORDZZ Himself. How the fuck is this shit not on Burger Records? The summer-time pop that sounds like it was ripped from Gorburger’s asshole is right up their ally. It’s simplicity rings like early Ty Segall, right around the period he was pining on tracks like ‘The Drag’. FUCK YEAH!

 

Top 10 International Albums of 2013

 

Yes, it has come that time of year where every website dedicated to some form of culture has a round up of all the good shit of the year. Well, because I’m susceptible to trends, I’ve decided to weigh in as well. With the power of hindsight, I’m going to give my Top 10 records of the year, from overseas. Now, believe me, that’s a hard fucking job, more of a curse. There’s been some great records, some average records (Black Angels, Mudhoney, The Strokes) and some very disappointing records (Arctic Monkeys, Sebadoh, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). And now comes the time to rank them.

Special mentions to the records that were awesome but not super, amazing awesome: Ty Segall, FUZZ, Diarrhea Planet, Death Grips, Cage the Elephant, MGMT, My Bloody Valentine, Deerhunter, Mikal Cronin, Majical Cloudz.

ALSO: Parquet Courts would have most definitely been included in here, but although it was released locally this year, it was officially released last year.

SUPER SPECIAL ULTRA BONUS METAL INCLUSION: Kvelertak-Meir: 

Kvelertak wouldn’t really fit in anywhere else on the list, but their sophomore record ‘Meir’ needed to be included. Just super thrashy, fucking mental to the bone, and more hair-raising than an orgy with horror movie characters, ‘Meir’ is one hell of a record. Kvelertak certainly do justice to their Norwegian metal roots and blast our minds out of our skull on this record.

10. Thee Oh Sees-Floating Coffin

Sure, Thee Oh Sees didn’t do anything super different on their latest album. There wasn’t the psychedelic smorgasbord of ‘Warm Slime’ or the freaky ecstasy of ‘Help’. But ‘Floating Coffin’ certainly ticked all the boxes for a diverse and entertaining listen. Really, John Dwyer can’t do anything wrong when it comes to music, and ‘Floating Coffin’ is evidence of that.

9. Deerhunter-Monomania

Deerhunter make nocturnal-pop music, light enough to chat along to, but dark enough to put you in an existential mood if you listen hard enough. Shrouded in voodoo and jangly guitars, ‘Monomania’ is absolutely fucking awesome to listen to, and will probably never cease to be. Who knows what was happening to Bradford Cox when he was making this album, but his pain has become our pleasure. How very schadenfreude.

8. Savages-Silence Yourself

Not since The Slits has there been such a ferocious, dedicated and focused female-led band. Yes, I’m well aware of Sleater-Kinney and L7, and I do love both those bands. But Savages brought a rawness to their post-punk that is rarely seen in any music nowadays, let alone feminist affliction. The vicious and tantalising nature of every song on their debut record is refreshing and brutal, and I am fucking stoked to be able to see them next year at Laneway.

7. Wavves- Afraid of Heights

I was so excited for this album to come out, I actually counted down the days until it was out so that I could feverishly jam pack all the songs into my brain. I was so worried that the album wouldn’t be good, I actually lost sleep over it. Luckily, Wavves didn’t chuck a Rise Against, and made a fucking belter of an album right on the cusp of mainstream appeal. A complete distancing from their noise-rock roots and stoner fuzz, Wavves presented themselves with a new-grunge outlook. Angst-ridden and self-deprecating to the core, as well as being loaded to the brim with catchy as fuck tunes, ‘Afraid of Heights’ is definitely a worthy successor of 2010’s ‘King of the Beach’.

6. Washed Out-Paracosm

For 2013, Washed Out were my pick of the bunch of electro wonders (?) of the year. CHVRCHES? Shit. Disclosure? Pretty shit. Youth Lagoon? His new album is so terrible mediocre. And the rest aren’t really worth mentioning. But Washed Out added a whole new layer to chillwave, adding naturalistic textures to his already spread-eagled tunes. ‘Paracosm’ simply let itself flow, flow and flow some more, barely even trying to give the most relaxing sensations this side of ancient Nicaraguan healing medicine.

5. Bass Drum of Death-Bass Drum of Death

I never understood why bands self-title shit after their first EP or album, but as long as its Bass Drum of Death as opposed to Birds of Tokyo, I couldn’t really give a shit. This album encapsulates awesome rock n roll. Its a scuzz overload, way-over-the-top and totally brain dead. It sounds as though John Barrett went into the studio and created the most deranged but beautiful collection of tracks he could. That being said, the album is chock full of catchy tracks that will have you gleefully headbanging into the sunset, like some sort of leather-jacket snotty cowboy.

4. Kurt Vile-Walking on a Pretty Daze

If you’ve ever listened to Kurt Vile before, you’ll know that he exceeds the description of chilled. The guy is like the most relaxed person on the entire planet, a combination of Ghandi with Mathew McConaughey’s character from Dazed and Confused. On his latest record, which is more like a magnum opus, Vile stretches the limits of his imagination, nailing his forlorn sound and breaking hearts one bar at a time. Fuck, this is such a good record, and Vile doesn’t even have to try.

3. Future of the Left-How to Stop Your Brain in An Accident

Future of the Left and Falco are probably the last real ‘punk’ entities left on the globe. There is no other act with the political rigour and viciousness of this band. In every song on ‘How to Stop Your Brain in An Accident’, Future of the Left are committed to waging war against all factions of contemporary society, whether it be bullshit pop culture, religion, false idols or sexuality. This record will tear your fucking head off, shit in the bloody cavity that remains, and still call you a bitch for not moshing to its glorious tunes.

2. Fuck Buttons-Slow Focus

The double-LP extravaganza of Fuck Buttons’ third record is enough to floor the casual listener. If you walk into its abrasive trappings unprepared on a physical, mental, or existential level, this album will decapitate you and leave you for dead. However, for those that can handle the challenging nature of the tracks, oh, how you will reap its prosperous rewards. Every song swings into a new galaxy of sci-fi, tribal beatings, engaging every sense and making you a better person from it. ‘Slow Focus’ is just one fucking brain-basher of an album, in all the right ways.

1. FIDLAR-FIDLAR

My love affair with FIDLAR is an unhealthy one to say the least. Every time someone asks for an album recommendation, I claw their face, grapple their shoulders and scream, ‘FIDLAR! GET THE FIDLAR RECORD!’ until I can scream no more. Needless to say, I don’t have heaps of friends left. But that’s OK (?) because I have the FIDLAR record. Its a loose and reckless thing, the record that lurks at the back of the skate park, covered in tattoos, drinking something awful, and smoking a cigarette that doesn’t smell like a cigarette at all. The songs are full-paced, thrashing pieces of raw garage rock, inspired from everyone from Black Flag, to The Stooges, to Nirvana. This is a perfect album in every way, and will never die in the hearts of those that enjoy the best garage rock this globe has to offer.

Free Garage Rock Compilation from Adult Swim

Free Garage Rock Compilation from Adult Swim

Adult Swim, that lock of cartoons that has bred shows such as Metalocalypse, Tim and Eric and the almighty Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and games like Robot Unicorn Attack and Pot Farm, has just released perhaps the greatest garage rock playlist of all time. If you even remotely like garage, or something with an uptempo beat, fucking get this. It’s freer than a Scientology pamphlet. It features awesome tracks by some of my personal favourites JEFF the Brotherhood, Bass Drum of Death, Mikal Cronin and The Black Lips. Seriously, get on this, it’s better than a cat that can unicycle!

Video-Bass Drum of Death-Shattered Me

In traditional Bass Drum of Death style, we are presented with a pulsating, shattering, mind blowing track of garage goodness. It’s relaxed but still has enough oomph to melt the brain, and oozing pus will be leaking out of your ears by the time it’s short but fatal time is up. It’s bloody good stuff from the duo who sound like Wavves in a chain gang. The video is a nice little story of ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ and involves making it rain!!!! (albeit with 1 dollar notes). GOD BLESS SIN CITY!