Gig Review: At First Sight Festival

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What kind of world do we live in that some fucking ginger kid with the social etiquette of Todd Carney on a handful of pingas can make out with a copy of Slayer’s Show No Mercy AND boogie to NO ZU in the space of a single day> It’s a truly  barbaric thought, and it’s one that came true just a few days ago. At First Sight Festival, curated by Marty Doyle of Dusty Fingers fame, happened over the weekend, and it was a truly glorious time for all involved.

Full disclosure – I was involved in some aspects of this festival, but not anything that could be considered important. Nope, Count Doyle did it all, from booking an incredible lineup which somehow deviated from the usual Tkay Maidza/Hilltop Hoods/Sticky Fingers combination, to the promotion, scheduling, and other organisational duties that no sane person should be willing to take on. Instead, I was tasked with trapping a member of Blank Realm in a car, and chewing his ear off for hours on end. It did mean missing the early portion of the festival, but according to multiple eye-witnesses, Rolling Blackouts and Royal Sitars were best on ground.

The first moments of At First Sight that were seared into my eyeballs belong to the explosive set of Palms. Seriously, if you haven’t listened to their new album Crazy Rack, then fuck off and do so. There’s no reason to continue reading, just plug yourself into this masterpiece for the next half hour and only return when you’re finished. Done? Fucking hell, so you’ve come to the realisation that these Palms dudes would sound alright blaring out from a fuck-off, huge mountain of speakers, yeah? Because that’s what happened; Palms ploughed through all the hits from their two records to date, smashing “This Last Year”, “Love”, “Bad Apple”, and “Beatdown” with the kind of howling ferocity that forces you to lift a fist (IF NOT BOTH) in the air with mashing glee.

TEESNicholas Allbrook and Lucy Cliche all swiftly followed with impressive sets. TEES provided a dreamy set that showcases that their dreamy pop material works just as gorgeously on a stage as it does in .mp3 form, and Nicholas Allbrook brought the weirdness in leaps and bounds. Literally, the man cannot stay still – although his set suffered from such sporadicalness, shifting manically and at an unpredictable whim, the POND frontman remained enjoyable. Lucy Cliche was a bevy of intensity, her thudding, sharp dance music transforming a small bunker at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon into a thriving hive of hungry gazes and shuffling feet. Do yourself a favour, and make yourself as familiar as possible with her work.

This next passage might seem hyperbolic, but it’s not. If anything, whatever words I type next will be under-representative of the insanity that is NO ZU. An eight piece hydra indebted to raising the heat of a room by several degrees, the Melbourne collective had pulses racing at an unhealthy rate. Folks should have been having heart attacks from all the exercise that was going down, but sheer joy and anticipation for what NO ZU would pull out next forced them to party on. They remain to be one of the funnest, strangest, most exotic things on this planet, a laboratory of thrilling genres mashed into a sweaty dance-floor filling experience. Forget heroin, NO ZU are the most addictive substances on the planet.

Still reeling from NO ZU, Nun continued the legacy of Melbourne acts putting on exhilarating performances. A member was wearing a Gutter Gods t-shirt and that wasn’t even the most punk thing on stage. Front woman Jenny Branagan is fucking mental to watch. She is the greatest thing to happen to a stage since our prayers were answered and Dave Growl fell off of one. She jumps, dives, sprawls, screams, thrashes and delivers shriek after shriek, her band’s domineering wall of synth punk throwing jabs from behind her. Incredible – if you haven’t picked up their debut album then fix this gaping mistake in your life with a little bit of this.

Following Nun are Brissy’s Blank Realm, who have been awarded the very prestigious honour of “BEST FARKIN BAND IN AUSTRALIA”. They get this award because they a) wear Pere Ubu t-shirts, b) rock keytars like Duran Duran didn’t fuck it up for everyone, c) are possibly the best songwriters in the country and d) because fuck, have you heard Blank Realm before? They’re amazing! Of course they rule live, how could they not? When you’re a band that owns a cache of tunes like “River of Longing”, “Falling Down the Stairs”, “Reach You on the Phone” and “Go Easy”, it’s hard to be anything less than “BEST FARKIN BAND IN AUSTRALIA”.

Previous duties withheld experiencing My Disco, Broadway Sounds, and most of Andras’ set, but hey, we all know these acts are national treasures, so build a Spotify playlist, and get over it, y’know? Let’s move onto Oscar Key Sung: draped in cloth, the man is pure beauty constructed around eyes of steel and a voice of cotton. His beats switch from lush and textured to the occasional pummel, however, it did feel like he could have benefitted from someone else onstage to help him. It’s hard to fully enjoy a crooner like Key Sung, who is so concentrated on flipping between production, singing and entertaining. He worked best when he was joined by Amrita, who danced their way into all of our adoring hearts, and freed Key Sung up into a party mode.

Moving onward to Total Giovanni – now they’re a band that could give Blank Realm a run for their money. The tagline for this band is “Fun. Incarnate”. With enough energy to power the LargeHadron Collider,  Total Giovanni are Italo-disco superstars, bestowers of the silky sensual. This is a group with only a handful of singles to their name, but every single beating heart in the cavern of Carriageworks was thumping along meticulously to the party that Total Giovanni were delivering. What was the greatest moment? “When We Break” churning a few hundred people into  a sea of flailing bodies? The over-the-top, pelvis-shattering thrusts that took place during “Human Animal? Or the batshit crazy cover of Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s “Precious Rose”? Trying to decide the answer to that question is aneurysm-inducing.

By some miracle, the best moment of At First Sight didn’t belong to any one of the bands mentioned above, but rather, a combination of them via Uncle Donny’s Rotating Sideshow of Stellar Performance aka the Donny Benet Showband’s Tribute to Nile Rodgers. Bringing out all the day’s superstars, including Becky Sui Zhen and Daphne Camf of NO ZU, Oscar Key Sung and Vachel Spirason of Total Giovanni, Donny and co. re-introduced some of the past century’s biggest hits, resulting in an all-out dance bloodbath. The sea was angry that day, my friends. Oh, it was an angry mosh of people screaming, “OH FUCK, I LOVE THIS SONG!” as DB and his merry band played the best version of “Original Sin” since Hutcho called it quits. Special mention goes to Nicholas Allbrook for a very special performance of Mick Jagger’s “Just Another Night”, and in turn, transforming a so-bad-it’s-good song into something so-good-it’s-brilliant.

It’s worth reminding everyone that, whilst all of this amazing music was happening, people were record shopping. Two of the greatest habits, combined into one day! How can someone like me be lucky enough to get The Saint’s I’m (Stranded) and get the opportunity to witness a one-of-a-kind musical experience courtesy of Donny? It cannot be overstated how much of a miracle it is that all of this could happen under one roof: the bands of tomorrow shredding minds and expectations to tatters mere metres away from where some of the most important records are being sold. That’s the dream, ladies and gentlemen. That’s the fucking dream. See you at Carriageworks next year.

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Gig Review: FBI Turns 10

Sunday 8th of September @ The Carriageworks, Redfern

FBi Radio has been a stalwart of promoting forward thinking music for approximately the past 10 years. Try to think of another Australian radio station that has it’s finger to the pulse of music more so than FBi. It is impossible. Because FBi is committed to carving out delicious hunks of flesh that the Australian music scene has to offer. If you’re underground and independent, but you have the music that should send you skyrocketing to stardom, FBi can probably help you out. Just ask some of the alumni that have graduated from the grainy speakers of beat up automobiles the country over, to giant stadiums. The Presets, Hermitude, Cloud Control, and Urthboy are just a few of the massive acts that can thank FBi for that helping hand. And on FBi’s 10th Birthday spectacular at the Carriageworks, all of these acts and more were there to give back to the best of their ability. And by fuck-knizzles was it a good show.

A bunch of locals where the first of many amazing musical treasures to be caught that day. Opening with Movement, the recent Future Classic signees, was a pleasure to see. They were warm and receptive of the minimum attention from hungover crowd that had come down early to catch their set. Although not wild in any sense, Movement were still engaging, and their amazeballs cover of ‘Ms Jackson’ by Outkast didn’t just go down a treat…it was a festival highlight. The day then progressed to a bunker, in which some serious noise was gargled forcibly down your throat. Zeahorse played an electrifying set. I didn’t know what to expect from the band, other than that their song ‘Pool’ is badass, but instead I got a truly ferocious feat of punk. The bass lines that this band can muster could go head to head with any Sabbath track, and the unadulterated rage that the band brought to the stage was mind blowing. I came to that show a cautious spectator, and left an undying fan. Straight Arrows had the job of following this belying dumbbell to the kidneys of a show, but they only raised the bar. Owen Penglis proved himself to be the Lux Interior of contemporary society, stalking the stage with retarded glee. He’s both taking the piss of himself and exuding over-the-top enthusiasm for his craft of creating the best garage rock n roll this side of the universe. Not to be outdone, guitarist Alex Grigg was equally captivating, jumping around like a frog on meth. Songs with full on, tidal choruses  like ‘Bad Temper‘ and the new single ‘Never Enough’ went down the best, the crowd frothing to the best of their ability at 2 o clock on a Sunday arvo. Following these two high energy performance was the inimitable Kirin J Callinan. Not about to be overshadowed by a couple punks, watching the weirdo was like a Sydney re-invention of Kraftwerk. Dressed in a zebra meets Doppler Effect jumpsuit, and followed by two similarly robed henchmen, Kirin J Callinan put on a mesmerising and disturbing performace. Guitar feedback, loops and a general fuckery of the senses was the call of duty from the performance. From the get-go, Mr. Callinan indulged the crowd in their most fucked-up desires in only the way a guy that thinks onstage epilepsy is be a good idea could. An overall  electrifying start to the day.

Let it be said that Deep Sea Arcade cannot do a bad show. They are the Australian version of the UK arena rock spectacular bands like Kasabian. They take the crowd into the palm of their hand from the beginning of the show, using the age old tricks of rock n roll (loud guitars, onstage prancing, a sound that allows the crowd to sway with happy detachment from normalcy) to transform their small stage in Bay 20 of the Carriagworks into a full throttle rock show. Showing off songs new and old, Deep Sea Arcade had a thronging, adoring crowd lapping up every second of their performance. ‘Black Cat’, ‘Girls’, and ‘Steam’ were all particularly explosive points of the set, but the band have encapsulated a riotous spirit onstage that would make The Rolling Stones fart storms of dust in jealousy. Unfortunately, Naysayer & Gilsun didn’t make their scheduled appearance. A disappointment permeated my soul like I haven’t felt since earlier that day, when I ran out of drink tokens within half an hour of being at the event. Still, there was a silver lining-I got to catch the end of The Preatures set. After way too much repetitive doof doof in Bay 17, The Preatures afforded some much needed laid-back soul infused rock. ‘Is This How You Feel?’ has warmed up to me exponentially since I first heard it a couple months ago, so hearing it live was like dousing my head in the mythical waters of Babylon.

The festival only got better and better from that point, as we made our way to the barrier for the remaining four acts. Seekae were there almost straight away to prove what it meant to be a main contender for the crown of ‘best producers in the history of ever’. These Sydney post-dubstep, ambient heroes showered an adoring crowd with cult favourites from their previous two albums, as well as a couple selections from their upcoming record. The beautiful new song ‘Another’ opened the set, but the transcendental sounds of ‘Blood Bank’, and the major hit ‘Void’ were so good, it felt like the crowd was moving like a singular piece of jelly in a light wind to Seekae’s music. It’s important to note that this third record sees Seekae experimenting with live vocals, a move that can only be lauded. It sounded fucking amazing. The whizzing beats combined with the immersing tonal melodies of Seekae’s music was amazing enough, and with the vocals layering on top of that, I can only imagine that Seekae will become one of Australia’s next big exports. After defying the logic of goodness with Seekae, Midnight Juggernauts took the stage. Initially, I was pretty pissed, because seeing Midnight Juggernauts meant missing Bleeding Knees Club, who are better than a gallon of cough syrup when your not actually sick (PURP DRANK!). Initially, I was committed to not having a good time, and to send a disapproving message to Midnight Juggernauts that they would leave FBi’s 10th Birthday having had to stare at a frowning ginger in their front row for the entire duration of their set. However, I was the fool in this situation. When three guys rock the stage in tribal robes, and jam so theatrically your ears bleed from the carnivorous carnival of fun on display, then it’s kinda hard to remain a cynical dick about the whole thing. The energy on stage was at an overwhelming extreme, and Midnight Juggernauts bigger hits such as ‘Into the Galaxy’ caused near-riotous levels of ecstasy in the audience. Closing the set with a striptease from their ‘Uncanny Valley’ tour buds Kirin j Callinan and his astronaut-in-training accomplices, set to screeching electronica, mental drumming and a jungle bass like only Midnight Juggernauts can deliver was a fucking insane and grin exuding experience that no one could be capable of shying away from.

Next to hit the main stage was Hermitude, and let me confirm that everything you’ve ever heard about them is true. Yes, they are one of the best production teams in recent history. Yes, they blaze up the stage like a Cypress Hill blunt. And yes, you should skip a loved one’s Bar Mitzvah to go see them live. Hermitude are fucking awesome. There’s not much more to say than that. Until you’ve been swept up into a thronging crowd all jumping in unison to ‘Get in My Life’, watched African animals spiral in duality on six different TV screens to ‘HyperParadise’, or watched in awe as Chaos Emerald dances the fuck out of a stage whilst ‘Speak of the Devil’ booms in fiery agreement, you have not lived. Hermitude are performers like no other, and they were the winners of FBi’s 10th Birthday, by a long fucking way. Now, although they didn’t have the advantage of enthusiasm incarnate like their predecessors Hermitude, The Presets closed the absolute fuck out of this festival. With a battalion of party starters at their finger tips, Kim and Julian laid down the gauntlet with a strong mix of new and old. Although they leaned a little too heavily on the newest album ‘Pacifica’, it provided much needed relief for when perennial crowd favourites such as ‘This Boy’s In Love’,My People’ and festival closer ‘Talk Like That‘ turned a dancing crowd into a moshing frenzy. The neon tunes of The Presets are loved the world over, but in that moment of ‘talk-talk-talk, like-like-like, that-that-that *electronic music sounds*’, Sydney showed their passion for these hometown heros through a sea of sweat and smiles.

To say that FBi’s 10th Birthday was a success is an understatement. There was not a single point in time in which there wasn’t a band on that wasn’t worth seeing. I’m still kicking myself for the fact that I missed Fishing, The Laurels, Sampology and Decoder Ring, a few of the amazing acts that went ungraced by my presence. And if you weren’t down for having your earholes pleasured, then there was always the buffet of Sydney delicacies, the artworks and installations, a spectator controlled boxing match (fucking awesome), or even a quick wander around would reveal some of your favourite artists of the day. To leave Redfern unsmiling that day was to lie to yourself. There’s only hope that this festival tries to repeat the overwhelming success next year.

If you like any or all of the artists, you should really think about becoming a sponsor of FBi. They are probably one of the best things to happen to Australian music since The Scientists formed.

Gig Review: At First Sight Festival

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Saturday, 20th July @ Carriageworks, Redfern

At First Sight Festival, a festival made up of local talent and co-presented by FBI Radio and the venue, was a good idea on paper, and an even better idea when seen in execution. Equal parts record fair and music festival, set in Redfern’s Carriageworks, it was an absolute awesome spectacle to take part in. It succeeded in an environment that has seen so many festivals fail. In the pst 12 months, OutsideIn Festival and At First Sight Festival are the only debut festivals in the Australian market that haven’t folded or completely fucked up. Movement, Parklife, Supafest-these are just some of the few that have been fucked. But At First Sight completely exceeded expectations and even managed to sell out it’s series of concerts, in it’s debut year nonetheless. It could’ve been the bands, made up of local acts either from Melbourne or Sydney, that gave a very communal and Australian feel to the festival. It could’ve been the relaxed and take-it-as-it-comes vibes that flowed the entire time, turning the crowd into a consistently respectful and appreciative audience. For example, when Marty from Twerps broke a string, a guitar from another band was instantly fed up to him, regardless of the fact that they had a back-up ready. It could’ve been the awesome unearthing atmosphere that surrounded the entire event, as in both the record fair, and festival, music fans of all persuasions dug up incredibly rare treasures. Or it could’ve been a culmination of all these things. Yeah, it was probably a culmination.

Unfortunately, I missed the first part of the festival, and although I’m kicking myself about that, I can’t continue without at least mentioning the great contingent of acts that swept past my gaze. Day Ravies, Holy Balm, Client Liaison, and Shining Bird are all awesome acts worthy of checking out, and I’m sure they all put on killer performances. However, I was too busy indulging in being a dickhead and eating brunch/scoring Pussy Galore’s ‘Dial M For Motherfucker’ for $20 to see them, and for that I am sorry, awesome Sydney/Melbourne bands.

So, for the first act of the day, Straight Arrows had to suffice. I say suffice, but in reality, they were a kick-arse, bruised balls start to a festival that no average coffee from a breakfast spot in Redfern could hope to replicate. Although the crowd was slightly sparse, Straight Arrows’ frontman Owen Penglis gave it his absolute all, shouting and screaming his raucous garage-punk with the tenacity of a stubborn Velociraptor, between half-retarded gimmicks to get the attendees to buy their shit…it worked. The set mostly veered towards the material off their debut ‘It’s Happening’, with ‘Bad Temper’, ‘Haunted Out’ and “Something Happens‘ standouts. However, new song ‘Never Enough’ did make an appearance, which was fuggin’ awesome.

Next was Songs, also from Sydney. They’ll be playing Splendour in the Grass next weekend, and one of their members used to be in Youth Group, who had that song/cover ‘Forever Young’ (don’t even fucking pretend you don’t know every word). However, the un-Google-able Songs don’t really play the pop-centric la-di-da of Youth Group (but then again, WHO DOES AMIRITE?). Songs are shoegaze with a cohesive edge, with slurred, rhythmic pulses shooting out from the band constantly. Live, songs like ‘Boy/Girl’ develop personality, with the body of the song shifting into overdriven waves that hit the audience with undeiniable energy. Although Songs hit a few bumps early on, with their opener conking out due to a lack of sound from singer Ela Stiles’ bass, their set steadily built into a highly enjoyable tale of purist sound.

After Songs came Super Wild Horses, from Melbun. Although the members Amy Franz and Hayley McKee started out with the premise of forming a band, and then learning instruments, their bare-bones rock n roll was something that would make Jack White drop his guts. Despite being pretty exposed, and sporting a case of bronchitis, Super Wild Horses were on top of their game. They shifted instruments, they were entertaining and friendly and their stage banter reflected a very down-to-earth band. Musically upbeat, and bluesy in the happiest way possible, recent hit ‘Alligators’ off their 2013 album ‘Crosswords’ proved to be a crowd favourite. Oh yeah, and they had the world’s tightest snare onstage. That thing could shatter glass it was so taught.

When Super WIld Horses finished up, Beaches took the stage. Beaches is a group of five ordinary girls who make amazing reverb-saturated shoegaze. If Songs were the shoegaze band that brought everything together in a body of music, then Beaches were the band that exploded that apart. Every member would shoot off a tendril with their own musical direction, creating a very complex and layered musical experience. Although it took them a while to hit the stage, due to one of the amps being blown, when they did, minds were blown. Beaches set mostly showed off a range of tracks from their recent album ‘She Beats’, including the amaze-balls ‘Send Them Away’ and ‘Distance’, and it was a blasphemously great experience. Although the mix was slightly fucked up, Beaches still delivered a killer performance, that see’s them out savaging Savages. Bonus points are awarded because one of the girls was wearing a Drown Under t-shirt.

After Beaches blistering set came Sydney pysch-garage band The Laurels. Having seen them previously in support of The Black Angels a month or so ago, I knew that we were in for a treat. Still, they brought more than the usual ragamuffin behaviour, with the band being everywhere at once on the small stage. Headbanging, pedals and washed out machinations of sound were the calling cards of the performance, as well as a stellar ‘Changing the Timeline’. It looked pretty fuggin’ brutal and exactly how I imagined a Burnt Ones show might go. Fuck me, I was very proud that a band of such awesome magnitude called Sydney home.

So, what better way to follow The Laurels psychedelic masterpiece than Twerps, the painfully original slacker pop band from Melbourne. Fun Fact: Twerps are Jessica Alba’s favourite band. Does that matter for anything? No, no it does not. Well, maybe it raises Jessica Alba from soul-sucking scum to mildly annoying piece of shit. Anyway, Twerps are a band that everyone who isn’t terrible should love. They sound like they don’t try, but end up up coming up as a better version of Camper van Beethoven, or the Australian Neutral Milk Hotel. Yes, they are better than Jeff Magnum. Maybe it’s because they’re uniquely Australian and it feels good to hear Australians sing about Australian shit, but it goes further than that, as every bit of material Twerps have put out in their very, very short career is absolutely amazing. They proved that straight away with both tracks off their Work It Out 7″ being amongst the first songs they played that night, as well as the closest thing Twerps would call a hit, ‘Dreamin’. All these tracks are supremely different: ‘Work it Out’ is the break-up anthem to end all break-up anthems (Morrissey can shut the hell up), ‘He’s In Stock’ a drug deal ode, and ‘Dreamin’ a modern, morbid Aussie fairytale. However, they all kick considerable butthole. There was even a trio of new songs, most of which remained un-named except for one with a ‘working title’ known as ‘something something something Bondi Junction’ (it was really fucking long, I couldn’t remember most of it). As for the band, well, cheap sweaters and plastic heart necklaces, goofy smiles and goofier cliche rock manoeuvres are all the standard in a Twerps performance. It was an actually an honour to witness the greatness of Twerps in live format, and blew my mind of all expectations, my brain littering the various expanses of the Carriageworks. Their closer of ‘Who Are You’, performed with the help of the ladies of Super Wild Horses and Beaches was a spectacular finish that was completely unexpected and very well received, the 3 bands rocking Sydney like only Melbournites could.

To finish out the night were headliners HTRK (pronounced Haterock, I guarantee you’ll feel like a twat once someone inevitably corrects you). Their doomy ‘n gloomy disco was highly divisive in my mind. Whilst at some points it seemed to muddle and drone on unnecessarily, the rest of HTRK’s set was composed of incredibly intoxicating electronica. There were a few moments, such as the gothy and drained ‘Synthetik’, in which my face involuntarily twisted into a shocked o-face. HTRK’s creepy loops and spine-tingling darkness shrouded their music in intrigue, but as a performance it was mediocre, and I checked the time a couple times extra than usual. Still, a HTRK performance was still a moment of triumph in a day’s worth of extraordinary and diverse music.

I’ll reiterate what I said in the introduction: At First Sight was a crowd-pleaser and was especially awesome at succeeding in the same area that so many others, with arguably much bigger and better lineups, had drastically failed. Then again, who needs Nas or 50 Cent when you’ve got Twerps on the lineup?