Goodgod & Good Night: Remembering the Small Club

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Image stolen from Goodgod Facebook

I was 17, freezing to death, still donned in a school uniform, and desperate to go see King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, who were playing one of their first shows in Sydney at Goodgod Small Club, a subdued little bar down the road from where I was pretending to study for my HSC. I wasn’t let in, of course, (it’s really hard to find a fake ID for gingers with rampant acne) but I did get to peer down the stairs, and even at 7pm, the place looked compelling. As I threw my backpack back onto my shoulder, and slunk down Druitt Street, I had no idea that I’d be spending the vast majority of my weekends for the next three years in this place.

My debut attempt at sneaking into a show wasn’t the only ‘first’ experience I had. I put on my first real show there (Community Radio, Devotional, Noire), drank my first cocktail there (some crazy blue shit in a jug), and the first place where I’ve managed to stick around until 5am (cheers to the Astral People 3rd Birthday). Shit, Goodgod remains the first and only place that I’ve busted out the whitest of white boy dance moves to hip-hop (courtesy of Halfway Crooks), and I’m really sorry for anyone who had to witness that. Seriously, I am.

But mostly, Goodgod was the place that I managed to see some of my favourite bands for the first time: Alex Cameron, Total Giovanni, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, Scotdrakula, Client Liaison, Holy Fuck, Unity Floors, NO ZU, SURES, Rainbow Chan – the list is endless. In saying that, it’s made me realise the most important factor about Goodgod, and the specific reason why I loved it – the diversity. Look at those names – it’s a fucking smorgasbord, a buffet of A+ talent that has adorned the exact same tiny stage. The sheer wingspan of styles, genres, bodies and lives that have inhabited Goodgod is incredible, with everyone welcomed, and given the chance to prove what they had. The way that Goodgod could shape shift, flitting between atmospheres, from punk rock mosh to R&B orgy to a thrilling anything-goes deep house rave, is beyond trying to describe.

And although Goodgod’s atmosphere could be like a chameleon, there were certain aspects that have always stayed the same. Firstly, despite my initial experience, security, particularly the ever-grinning Tobie, have been probably the friendliest bouncers you could come across. Then, it was a matter of walking down those stairs, dimly lit by the bold Goodgod sign, surrounded on all sides by thick yellow cave walls, and amazing, hand-drawn pictures of rock stars. Descend into the front bar, and the noise hit you immediately – patrons yelling at each other over some delicious servings courtesy of The Dip/Jonkanoo/Belly Bao, and DJ’s like Yo Grito and the Friday Lite crew spinning music to get the heart thumping. A short walk to the Danceteria, a push through the slightly sticky double doors and into that spectacular, low-slung cavern. At last, it was on to enjoy whatever awesome treat the bookers had scheduled for that particular evening, whether that be METZ holding eardrums hostage, being sucked into the pure tornado of serenade that is Andras & Oscar, or one of the millions of other artists who crossed through the club.

The intimacy, friendliness and distinctiveness of Goodgod is not something that should be taken lightly. Although Plan B will take Goodgod’s place and likely make something new and fantastic there, there’s still going to be that hole where only all the crazy shit that went down at Goodgod could have occurred. The unique ability that Goodgod had to turn mundane nights into mornings with crushing hangovers and giddy grins was one that propped this small club into one of the best this city has had to offer punters. To Jimmy, Hana, their amazing puppy who constantly hung around but who I’ve forgotten the name of and the rest of the Goodgod crew – thanks for all the good times! You were all pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Goodgod Small Club has its final nights this week – there’s an insane show happening Wednesday night with Twerps, Straight Arrows & Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, as well as Star Wars trivia.  Thursday night sees Gordi, Anatole and Alex Lahey hit the stage, and on Friday, there will be a Pelvis party in the Front Bar and Cliques, Kowton, and EK Colective gig going down in the back. Saturday brings with it the biggest and most satisfying finale since The Wire: Milwaukee Banks, followed by a big ol’ dance off. All the details are here! See ya in the gutter!

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Gig Review: Bad//Dreems

Saturday 21st June @ GoodGod Small Club

I was 18 when I first saw Bad//Dreems. They played a house party in Redfern, and it was one of the best shows of my goddamn life. There was blood, sweat and enough beer to kill Boonie. The Modern History Exam I had the next day was a complete and utter write off. The examiner that looked through my answers was probably assuming that an illiterate Neanderthal with Parkinsons had adopted my name, and taken the assessment in my place. But it was worth it, oh so worth it, to see a band as good as Baddies play in such a corrupting environment.

Two years on, and Baddies have graduated to one of the most beloved rock acts in our fair country. They’ve got a little blue tick next to their name on Facebook and everything. Fuck, they’ve even got a Twitter account. Isn’t that the very definition of making it? They’ve got big things piling up, so before they crack the charts at No. 1 and play the Enmore Theatre to thousands of adoring fans, they gave the punters another go, and played a few intimate shows around the country to support their latest single “Cuffed and Collared”.

JODY opened proceedings with their brand of anthemic indie rock. These guys are young guns in the truest sense of the words. You can smell the hormones, wafting in tidal waves off their 19 year old bodies. Ladies and gents, please, contain yourselves. I believe a couple of them are single and rearing to go with all the youthful exuberance at their disposal, and that comes through their energy and constant streams of songs about girls. But I wouldn’t go near the frontman, Dom O’Connor. That human pleasure machine can play the fuck outta a guitar, move and hop around a show with the stage presence of Paul Westerberg on the third day of a two week binge, and knows his way around a melody. But he can’t finish a fucking Melbourne Bitter tinnie. No matter how many spot-on jams erupt from this beautiful man’s mouth, like “Never Change” (a spiritual successor to INXS if there ever was one) and “Codeine”, ya just can’t trust a bloke who can’t polish off one of Aus’ greatest gifts. Otherwise, fantastic show!

Mining Boom made the trek North for the Baddies show, and for that, I am forever grateful. Not only are they selling the best t-shirt in the music biz game, but they’ve got the choons to back it up. You know what type of fish Mining Boom would be if they were in the sea? A tune-a. Because they make music that good. It’s broken, fragile rock for the everyman, who owns a pair of dirty Redback’s, and a hi-vis that’s lost its sheen. Songs like “Telecom” and “PDA” are just as powerful gut punches as they were when they were released back in 2012, but the presence that frontman Paul French brings is more of a headspin than chowing down on a whole pack of Champion Ruby. New songs are stunning,  with the Mining Boom aesthetic of drenched, desperate romance remaining intact throughout. Apparently there’s an album in the works, but I don’t think the world is ready for that kind of brilliance. Regardless, you need to check out this band like a bloke from Chernobyl needs to check out that funny looking mark that’s recently developed on his collarbone.

But, look, this is all just pre-game. Bad//Dreems have let the kids have the oval, but it’s time to bring on the big guns. Mayhem erupts as Bad//Dreems launch into their heavy catalogue of top-notch tunes. One could go so far as to call them bangers. It’s pub rock, but delivered without the menace and overt masculinity that has restrained others, like Lubricated Goat and The Birthday Party, from reaching larger audiences. Some might say that’s a bad thing, but hey, different strokes for different folks. Some bands like to get in the nude on the ABC, others like to deliver muscular melodies. And the four flannel-clad guys thundering through hit after hit to the admiration of a few hundred fans were probably the only blokes capable of pulling off both feats.

Bad//Dreems are on fire. They plunder and pillage the room like they’re characters from Game of Thrones, and have a limited amount of time to connect with the audience and become their favourite figures before facing a brutal death at the hands of the Lannisters. The set swells, with excitement and energy being sprinkled through like a zealot chef making the recipe of their career. A heft portion of the a-spicy meatball, aka “Caroline”, swiftly complimented with a smidgen of “Too Old”. A dousing of “Dumb Ideas”, and an overdose of ocker riffs and frenzied headbanging via “Cuffed And Collared”. And to finish? Well, you just can’t leave a stage when the crowd so eagerly wants more, baying for music or blood with the enraged glare of the insane striding so radiantly from their eyes. So, you appease the appetite with a polite offering to the GODs, with the Australian classic of “My Pal” bringing the evening’ festivities to a glorious, sweaty, beer-soaked, suffocating end.

If this is the first you’ve heard of Bad//Dreems, then suck eggs, mate. This is a band bound for big things, and it looks like this GoodGod show might just be the final opportunity for punters to have caught them in intimate settings. But don’t get too offended – there will always be another chance to catch Baddies at a gig, and there’s a fair guarantee that you’ll be sorted for a good time. When a band can upend a crowd with as much joy and over-the-top rock ‘n’ roll perfection as Bad//Dreems accomplished at this show, there’s no doubt that they’ll be able to pull off this feat over and over again, only to bigger crowds and more adoring shitheads such as myself. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour, and get on board with this band.

Interview: NO ZU

NO ZU is an electronic project like no other electronic project. Formed by Nicoolas Oogjes in 2007, and spurred by the “Heat-Beat”, NO ZU is completely indefinable, a broad mixture of horns, beats and exotic vibrancy.

NO ZU are teaming up with Sal of the legendary 80’s group Liquid Liquid, and playing a very special show at Goodgod Small Club, this Friday, January 30th. I caught up with Nick and Sal ahead of the show to chat about influences, staying independent, and the “Heat-Beat”.

R: You have an electronic version of the project – why do you have multiple versions of the same music? 

N: Well, the boring answer is logistics. One of us might go on a holiday, and we can only do it with a couple people. The other answer is that I don’t see it as any completely set membership – it’s always comfortably evolving and mutating. Keeping it that way, changing all the time, and moving back to a big band, which we’re about to do in Sydney, that keeps it a great and exciting project.

R: There can be a lot of members in NO ZU. What’s the largest amount of members that you’ve had?

N: Well, this one with Sal involves nine members, and we’ve gone up to 11 before. So, we try to set a record each time.

R: In terms of bringing more members on, or less, which one do you prefer?

N: I don’t know, they’re like my children. (laughs) You’re ruining the band, you’re making me choose between them!

Not to sound really hippie sounding, but I do see NO ZU as a lifestyle, and that’s why I have that joke “Heat-Beat is lifestyle” –it’s tongue in cheek, but it’s really how everybody feels. There’s no set membership, or which version is better – it was the same when I started the project by myself in 2007. It’s exactly the same band, even when there’s 11 people.

R: You use “Heat-Beat” a lot – what does that mean?

S: [NO ZU] gets the heat going. There’s a lot of creative friction, which makes a fire, which creates heat.

R: One of the most impressive elements is the eclecticism of NO ZU’s sounds – where do you find the sources for these sounds?

N: I try not to intellectualize it at all. I never listen to a song and think, oh, we need to get that drop beat in there, or, let’s get a bass line like that. It’s more about mood, and how music and different art forms have resonated with me and the other guys.

S: Influences are best digested when they’re fully presented. In that, we can’t really tell where they’re coming from. When you can’t really tell where they’re coming from, that’s because you’ve totally digested it, as opposed to just appropriating it. You’re totally inserted in the music.

R: Melbourne is very much considered a home for producers, but NO ZU doesn’t really fit in this scene, and it’s hard to pigeonhole you as anything. Is that how you prefer it?

N: Of course. It’s never about joining a club, or look over and think that you’re part of some movement. I don’t see any excitement in being involved in that.

We were excited to be part of Cut Copy’s [Ocean’s Apart] Melbourne Music compilation. But the thing that’s brought us together on that is that everyone’s an outsider. We share a similar ethos – open-mindedness from different periods of time, groovy music from weird places, obscure music and popular music mixed together in an unpretentious way.

R: How would you describe you’re collaborators for the Sydney show, Liquid Liquid?

N: One thing that strikes me is the really good balance we have in the set now. NO ZU is well known for being maybe overly-bombastic, and crazy.

S: Let’s say excitable!

N: Yeah! We’ve learnt to pull back, and it’s definitely a more considered groove, and it’s a nice dynamic to have in this set we’re working on. For want of a better word, it offers an eclectic experience.

S: It shows a certain continuity…in different feelings, in different forms of groove music. Music that more addressed that body than the mind.

 

Catch NO ZU and Sal P playing this Friday 30th of Jan at GoodGod Small Club. Tix here.

Gig Review: Bloods + Scotdrakula

Friday 28th November @ Goodgod Small Club

It feels like there’s way too small a crowd assembled for Scotdrakula – these guys are gut-wrenching, heart-in-your-throat good, blasts of toxic garage fury blaring with the kind of ecstasy you can only find at Defqon. I mean, Scotdrakula don’t get up to Sydney much, and missing out on them is like missing out on the zeitgeist. The last time they were in the land of the Big Bridge was for a support slot with Mac DeMarco – which is far too long to wait for what occurred on stage.  They blast off at Apollo-13 levels of ramshackle brilliance, with ‘O’Clock’. Whilst it took a while for movement to flourish onstage, once tracks like “Shazon” and “I Ain’t Going to Sleep”, off their most recent record ‘Scotdrakula‘, pronounced themselves, the group were as fluid as an inflatable tube man out the front of a used car sales lot.

Frontman Matt Neumann was particularly impressive, as he managed to retain Scotdrakula’s signature howling yelp that makes their recording so much goddamn fun to listen to. He also had a weird shuffle manoeuvre that’s probably going to become the next fad, like the Jay Z “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”, or the Soulja Boy “Superman”. The set was just irrepressible energy, steeped in a love of dirty 60’s rock ‘n’ roll, and modern depravity. As the set progressed, things became even more unruly and riveting. The actions on stage were vitriolic and electric, with the final moments on stage being blaring noise, deranged bellowing and guitar thrashing that would make Dimebag Darrell ashamed. It’s almost too easy to headbang and shake ya rump along to Scotdrakula’s songs, and it makes you wonder what kind of deal with the devil these guys initiated to become so damn catchy. It was a mighty shame that the room wasn’t packed to capacity in order to experience one of the better garage bands our fair country has to offer.

Whilst Bloods warm up the stage, Al Grigg and Dion Ford of Palms fame pump a slew of all-female DJ classics (The Breeders, Madonna etc.). The song choices seem appropriate choices considering Bloods are renowned for their anthemic garage anthems led by the vocal powerhouse of Marihuzka Cornelius. Although the beginning of the set suffered through sound issues, Bloods soon had an attentive audience. One of the better aspects of their music is that, unlike most rock/garage/punk music, it doesn’t care to bludgeon, but rather to caress, working with you rather than forcing your attention. In the live setting, this characteristic becomes especially notable, as the bands sweeping melodies fill the room with good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll family values.

The thing about Bloods is that all three members, MC, Sweetie and Dirk, are so in tune and adept with each other, making for an incredibly tight set and well as allowing for each distinct voice to shine through. Sweetie’s bass lines are as thick as the best egg nog you’ve ever eaten too much of, the guitar riffs are as dirty as anything Joan Jett’s ever spat out. And Dirk Jonker’s pretty much re-enacting the Garth “I like to play” scene from Wayne’s World, Metallica t-shirt gradually seeing more sweat, but grin splashed permanently across his mug.

This kind of telepathic communication and simple desire to play loud rock music means that each single hits with a power and passion to rifle Peter Gaza’s feathers. “Penelope”, “Goodnight” and “Into My Arms” are all especially direct shocks of rock ‘n’ roll thrills.

Bloods finish their euphoric set, and the crowd stands with cheers on their tongues, begging for more. The dance floor holds itself with baited breath, pleading to get their boogie on once more. Unfortunately, old mates Bloods are all out of songs to play. We sucked ’em dry, but they tore us apart as well, with all the fun and fury that we love them for. That’s what happens when Bloods play, and here’s to hoping it won’t be too long before we all get to do it again.

Gig Review: Step-Panther & Bearhug

Friday, 21st November @ Goodgod Small Club

For two of my favourite local bands, 2014 has been a career-affirming year. Both Step-Panther and Bearhug have released the best material of their lives, solid,  cohesive sophomore records that accentuate their past tendencies, and showcase their abilities to write fucking great songs. Step-Panther’s ‘Strange But Nice’ has to be one of the albums of the year, with it’s raw, slicing honesty, and Bearhug are most definitely in the Top Tier, with a record that never puts a foot wrong, only engaging in the best walls of guitar haze. Tonight, the two bands shared a stage, and threw down the gauntlet to show that their more than just a bunch of pretty faces.

Point Being, a band with about five gigs under their belt, opened with a set of crushing rock. What’s cooler than being cool? Not ice-cold, but rather this fucking band. Their set was a looming cache of forthright guitars set to their most primitive. On record, Point Being can come across as almost friendly, despite their dry delivery. On stage, even after their frontman had only landed down after running the fucking New York Marathon a mere few hours before, the engaged with the sort of white-knuckle, bared teeth rabid look you’d get from one of the re-born creatures of Pet Semetary. They’re a weird breed of a band that everyone knows but can’t remember, an amalgamation of all the best punk acts of the 1980’s – Mission of Burma injected with a bit more underdog aroma, the kind that’s bred out of the suburbs of Sydney.

Bearhug had their original lineup on stage, and there was a certain extra to the way they played on the night. Their music just seemed to thrive that much harder, and although it took a few songs for their warm fuzz to waft around the room, by the time “Habit Wave” crash landed, the room was effectively enraptured. There was a new energy in the way Bearhug play, whether it be the blur their hands make when thrashing over “Animal”, or the loping romantic elope of “Over the Hill”. Or maybe it was just the fact one of their guitarists, Jesse Bayley’s imitation of Joey Belladona of Anthrax-impression, heaving black hair whipping across the stage like Willow Smith was in the building. Whatever it was, their music, mostly compromised from the gorgeous ‘So Gone’ made for a sincerely gripping show, thrilling even. The guitar blanket that descended made for a calming, zen-like state, like the Dalai Llama formed a band with J Mascis. Some might be cynical as to whether Bearhug would be able to pull off their cocooning sound in a live format, but trapped in the small room of Goodgod with the five gents made for a rewarding show.

Finally, Step-Panther blasted their way onstage with “User Friendly”, “It Came From the Heart” and “Nowhere”. The trio of Zach, Steve and Dan made for one of the loudest sets seen in Goodgod since METZ. They were a flurry of lambasting guitars, shooting chords and cymbal crashes into your ears with the velocity of the Millennium Falcon at light speed. Steve’s guitar is blaring at 11, but the resulting wash of sound is less Spinal Tap and more medieval wasteland out of Evil Dead 3 – cartoonish, bloody and fucking good. One only has to headbang along to “Nowhere”s two solos to see that the band have made a rock equivalent to Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s “Get Up Morning”.

Step-Panther’s set borders on epic, but is injected with too much normal personality to be some bullshit swords ‘n’ sandals saga that Dragonforce might pull together. Almost entirely built upon their fantastic new album, besides a brief, pummelling edition of “Fight Like a Knight”, the band proves that not only have they matured in their song-writing and musical ability, but they’ve also increased their performance. Their drummer, Daniel Radburn, is particularly impressive, showcasing what has to be one of the most batshit crazy drumming skillz seen since Pantera – the man’s arms are like Doctor Octopus’ appendages, a destructive force in eight different directions.

It’s a night to fucking remember. All three bands are excellent, but what’s more, they’re even better live. In considering that these are two of the best local releases of the year, saying that going to see any of these bands is essential to your life is a bit of understatement.