New: Shining Bird – Helluva Lot

Shining Bird

Friends, comrades, lovers, enemies. Come together. Sit down, have a beer. Have two beers, you cheeky bastard. Chatter amongst yourselves – “How’s Suzie? She must be in primary school now, yeah?” – catch up, reminisce! But when I press play, you had all better shut up and focus every single one of your five senses on this new one I got for ya. Because this…this is a hit I tell ya, and if you’re not paying attention, then the only person who misses out is you.

This is a band removed from the Big Smoke, and you can hear it. There’s not a hint of the city smog in frontman Dane Taylor’s vocals that otherwise rattles throughout that throats of suburban bands. There’s a density in the music that recalls the thick of the Australian bush, a stronghold of eucalyptus guitars and synths that sparkle like the sun peeking over the Three Sisters. That’s an image that couldn’t possibly be perpetrated by some suit-clad city-slickers.

“Helluva Lot” gives you pause, as it sinks into your skin. It’s a refreshing blast of energy, but not like a manufactured caffeine hit – more like the graze of scorching dose of Vitamin D followed by a skinny dip in a secluded bath out in the middle of fuck knows. It’s a sound that hasn’t been this refined and powerful since The Triffids and The Church were doing it. Stoke the campfire, keep the laughs flowing, and hit repeat on this absolute gem.

Shining Bird play Newtown Social Club on June 8th, tix are here

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Gig Review: Fairgrounds Festival

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Saturday 5th December @ Berry Showgrounds

“Ryan, turn down that fucking death metal, I can barely think”. I’m on my way down to Berry with my Mum, for Fairgrounds Festival. Besides the obvious reasoning of using her as a diversion tactic to sneak in enough drugs to make a Mexican cartel leader feel the threat of competition, Mum had never been to a festival before in her whole life, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. A three hour drive and plenty of argument over what to play on the stereo later, and Mum had her notepad out and was ready to critique the shit out of her first festival experience.

Full disclosure: my Mum doesn’t know a lot about music – she loves Madonna, ABBA and Bruce Springsteen, and that’s about it. So, keep that in mind when reading her comments on the festival. 

The first thing you notice about Fairgrounds is how insanely beautiful the surroundings are. Maybe its because my experience with the festivals in Sydney have been reduced to whatever concrete structure the headliner can pack out, but going down to Berry was like seeing a whole new side of NSW that a lot of city dwellers like myself probably don’t get to see. Father John Misty aside, it’s definitely worth a day trip. What’s more, the audience at Fairgrounds is completely different to any other festival I’ve been to. Sure, you can argue that it ain’t too hard to beat out the three long day scream of “BROOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” that hangs over Falls and Splendour, but the air of complacency and relaxation that smothers Fairgrounds is unreal. There were more picnic blankets, sunshine and smiles than a Sunday arvo football game on the Hill at Brooky Oval when the Sea Eagles are up by 20.

Mum: It’s so beautiful down here – they’ve done a really great job with picking this site out. Do you know who picked it? I really like it here, Ryan. It’s so nice. I’m going to tell your Dad that I want to move here. 

Shining Bird, the Leisure Coast’s greatest treasure, opened up Fairgrounds with their assortment of lush, extended jams that blow apart the doors of what psychy dream pop can do. They’re the equivalent of being thrown into a bed with a thread count of infinity, over and over and over again. The addition of a saxophone to their crew has added a brand new element to the Shining Bird sound, adding a little more electricity and warmth to their hum. Watching them live has a certain mesmerising quality that puts them leagues ahead of their contemporaries.

Mum: I missed most of their set because I was parking the car, but I thought they were awesome. I really love their t-shirts [she bought one before the festival]. I think I’m in love with Dane. 

Following Shining Bird are Methyl Ethyl – the Perth trio have been getting all sorts of adulation for their debut album and their live show, but I just don’t see it. Having witnessed them a fair few times now, their set at Fairgrounds just cemented the fact that I don’t get this band, and it didn’t feel like anyone in the audience did either. They felt awkward, listless and disconnected on stage, and with the exception of “Twilight Driving”, nothing felt too memorable about Methyl Ethyl.

Mum: I think they’re boring. But I liked that one song. I really didn’t like that they didn’t say hello or goodbye, or even thank you. No one clapped, that’s how bad they were. 

Watching C.W. Stoneking is an experience that should be recommended to everyone. He’s weird, and feels like he doesn’t belong anywhere, which is great. He thumps along on his guitars and banjo charismatically, howling and groaning like he’s just come off a shift with a chain gang. Visually, the band are just as striking – Stoneking sways in an all-white suit that must cost a small-fortune to get dry cleaned before every gig, and he’s complemented with a booming double bass and a couple of astounding back up singers who sway like they’re late for their gig with The Temptations. Whilst the heat beats down, C.W. Stoneking splashes the crowd with a sound that feels cold and refreshing, a cocktail of genres, styles and accents that feels just as illegal and sought after as the Prohibition bar that it was ripped from.

Mum: Their sound is confused. It doesn’t work. The girls in the glitter dresses and the mixed moaning country sounds, its like urrrgghhh neeerrr nerrr. I don’t like it.

Time for a fun fact: excluding the five or so times we went and saw BJORN AGAIN, the world’s premier ABBA cover band, Unknown Mortal Orchestra were the first band Mum and I ever saw together. I was 17 and had a fake ID, but needed a responsible adult to complete the guise, so she came along with me. You can actually read a really poorly written review I wrote of that gig here.

Although my ability to string words together hasn’t increased, Unknown Mortal Orchestra have become one of the biggest bands on the planet. My personal opinion of them now is pretty “meh”, but their live show is still something to behold. Ruban Nielson has a voice of silky chocolate, a Valentine’s Day gift bursting forth 365 days a year. Meanwhile, the songs are transformed, shaking free of the psych-pop restraints and rolling into all sort of different musical territory, from hammering riff-rock to placid R&B-lite. Nielson is surprisingly energetic, far more of a frontman than last time we witnessed him, clamouring onto the PA stack to lounge and serenade from above. Whatever you think of the band themselves, if the opportunity arrives to catch them, seize it.

Mum: This isn’t the same band we saw ages ago, is it? Really? Well, I like the older stuff better than the new stuff, the stuff I recognised, my hips were swaying. I like the lead singers voice, it’s awesome and unusual. I thought they were really cool. 

Up until this point, the bands had mostly relied on their music to engage and entice the crowd. Not Royal Headache: Shogun is the centre of attention, a crooning, beloved and charismatic frontman who doesn’t so much capture attention as he does wrangle it like Paul Hogan and a crocodile.  Even when an amp fucks up, and a song goes by completely guitar-less, they can carry on off the back of pure charisma, and the error is completely forgiven and forgotten by the time guitarist Lawrence Hall is back to strumming. Fast forward to a sore and exhausted Ryan keeling over a barrier, trying to hold in the vomit post-“Down the Lane”, mosh pit marathon, and the memory of the band looking on frustrated has been completely replaced with joy and mild bruising.

Look, it’s hard to express what’s been said a million times over already, but I’ll just add my two cents and say that Royal Headache are the kind of band where every song makes you exclaim, “Fuck me, this is my favourite song”. Watching Royal Headache re-affirms why I like going to see live music: there’s an exhilaration, a thrill, a shot in the arm of ecstasy that’s impossible to find anywhere else but the front row of a rock show. Maybe it’s because my world-view is pretty limited to the bands that have hauled themselves through Sydney, but I still feel that Royal Headache are the best band on the planet.

Mum: He’s quite hyper! I don’t think he should have taken his shirt off though, that was maybe a bit OTT. I really loved it, the people were going crazy and I loved that he got everyone going. I really like the guitarist, he had a nice presence. 

Following the exhaustion, sweat and threat of sunburn that pervaded Royal Headache’s set, it was nice to sit down on one of the gazillion picnic rugs and soak up Mercury Rev‘s performance. Their set faded into one bombastic flood of guitars spilling over the Berry Showgrounds. It was a slow-burning avalanche, tumbling forever, mostly soft and buzzing, and then occasionally bursting at the seams like old school Marlon Brando trying to squeeze into skinny jeans.

Mum: Oh my God, Ryan, I love this band! I was having a nap, and I heard them, and had to come and check them out. They’re my favourite band so far, they were mesmerising, what a bunch of incredible sounds. What instruments do they use to get those sounds? What genre is this?

Le Pie was in full swing by the time we arrived, playing to a packed out shed of enthralled bodies. Most lay on the floor, sprawled out with grins flicking up whenever Le Pie kicked into another one of her dazzling tunes. Today, she plays with a stripped-back version of  her band, just a quiet bass, an acoustic guitar and a tambourine, which actually put a bold emphasis on that enthralling voice of hers. Things go into a much more pop direction, closer to Taylor Swift than Kim Deal, and that’s not too bad, is it?

Mum: I remember you showing me Le Pie ages ago, right? She’s awesome, I love her. She’s got a real Taylor Swift vibe, no?

One of the only teething problems Fairgrounds Festival had in its first year was a lack of food. By the time the sun wasn’t trying to actively kill us all, most food stalls either had a 45 minute waiting period, or had sold out entirely, leaving the only option available to be the wonderful Berry pub – $5.20 for schooey and the biggest goddamn slices of calamari you’ve seen in your life, no fucking dramas. Worth missing Meg Mac over, for sure.

The sun’s going down, and it’s time for Father John Misty. Similarly to Unknown Mortal Orchestra, his music is a bit hey-how-ya-goin, but his live show is essential. The man is all over it, a religious figure and a cult leader who happened to choose the guitar instead of the Kool Aid. As the sun bleeds into the sky, the bearded maestro bounds around, committing to his performance with a strange enthusiasm that defies his morose lyrics and tempered music. The crowd is in his hands, and even when the set begins to drag at the 40 minute mark, their eyes stay fixated. But credit to his abilities as a performer, Papa John sees out his hour of power with a triumphant melody, including “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” (aka The Aubrey Plaza song), joined by an equally brilliant and theatrical live show. Even though he looks like a Surry Hills barista, Father John Misty can stay.

Mum: What is it with these beards, Ryan? I don’t get it, they’re so rank! They’re disgusting! Is this a new thing? But I really, really like this guy, he’s fun and he’s got a lovely voice. 

By this time night has settled upon Berry, the show ground now more closely resembles a glen from A MidSummer Nights Dream, with trees lit up like rainbows and fairy lights adorning every spare centimetre. Finishing out the night are Ratatat, who seem like a strange choice for a festival closer. They do a decent job, aided by some severe visuals and a laser show that wouldn’t be out of place at Burning Man, but it feels slightly flat. It also looks weird to see two blokes absolutely throwing themselves into a keyboard and shredding guitars like they’re auditioning for Jeff Hanneman’s spot in Slayer, when the music that’s emerging is relatively middling. Comparatively, the visuals seemed to fuse with the music far more than their strutting figures, a psychedelic mixture of birds of prey, multi-limbed toddlers and lots of explosions.

Mum: I don’t like this doof doof stuff. They’re very talented, but this is terrible. The lasers are good, but the visuals are shit.

 

Overall, Fairgrounds provided that “something” in the festival calendar that has been missing for so long. In an environment that can be fairly predictable and void of genuine headliners, Fairgrounds found multiple acts of first-class calibre, and sought to create NSW’s very own version of Meredith. Although it did see a share of teething problems, the way these impacted the day were minimal. Furthermore, the range of small treats on hand – bands getting to the stage on time, the sack and three-legged races raging in the haystacks, the record fair, the swimming pool – didn’t go unnoticed. The dickheads were non-existent, and the general atmosphere was completely different to anything else that exists on the festival radar. Having experienced Fairgrounds and its bevy of little wonders, you come to realise how essential it is, and how much you’re looking forward to going next year. As for my Mum, well, she had the time of her goddamn life, and is now a festival junkie – she’s already booked her tickets for Psyfari and is starting a strict shredding regime for Stereo. So yeah, thanks for that Fairgrounds.

Interview: Shining Bird

Shining Bird

A deep voice that makes the velvet vocals of James Earl Jones quiver in jealousy. Shimmering arrangements that stretch further than the Nullarbor. A video clip that features Steve Irwin-defying snake-wrangling. Who could compile such a completely incredible resume? You bet your arse that I’m talking about Shining Bird.

If all that wasn’t enough, The Bird have been kicking goals elsewhere. They’ve nabbed a FBi Radio Song of the Year nomination for their new track “Rivermouth” (vote here), played a killer show at The Union in Newtown over the weekend, and are going to be heading up two shows over the next two weeks: The Heritage Hotel in Bulli on Thursday, 26th November (w/ Tiny Ruins and Flowertruck, tix here) and Fairgrounds Festival in Berry on the 5th of December (w/ Father John Misty, Royal Headache, Unknown Mortal Orchestra + more, tix here).

Before all this goes down, I got the opportunity to pry open the skull of frontman Dane Taylor, Ray Liotta in Hannibal style, and ask about lengthy tunes, Footrot Flats,

R: Your new song “Rivermouth” is one of the shorter singles you guys have released, even though it comes in at four and a half minutes. Are you working on compressing your songs, or is that just a coincidence?

D: I think it’s just a coincidence on this occasion. Generally our songs take a long time to unfold. We don’t really ever know until the last mix, exactly how long the song will be.

R: What attracts you to writing those longer songs?

D: It just seems to work out that way. We like to cover a lot of different terrain during a song.

R: Longer songs seem to be having a renaissance, with Gang of Youths and Roland Tings being two of the standouts bands of 2015. Why do you think audiences are turning back to the longer, in depth songs, especially at a time where everything feels like it needs to be compact and short to keep people’s attention.

D: I feel like I must be pretty out of touch with what audiences are into at present. I would have thought attention spans were still at an all time low. That’s nice to hear; perhaps people are starting to crave those deeper experiences again.

R: The song sees a return to that classic lush Shining Bird sound. With the upcoming album, are there any surprises for fans of the usual Shining Bird sound? 

D: There will be quite a few surprises but it’s unmistakably a Shining Bird record.

R: “Rivermouth” packs in a lot of unconventional instruments, including that string section. Are there any other sounds and instruments you look forward to bringing into the Shining Bird fold?

D: We have definitely expanded the palette. Lots of orchestral instruments and didgeridoo

R: You guys also released an awesome t-shirt in conjunction with the single, with Dog from Footrot Flats on the cover. What’s your history with that comic?

D: We loved the comics as kids, and were inspired after a recent revisit of the film to do our own spin on that classic character. We gave ‘Dog’ wings as we knew he’d be a bird fan.

R: Did you have to get permission from Murray Ball?

D: All he wanted was a t-shirt!

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R: Triple J have been doing a thing called Aus Band T-Shirt Day, where they encourage people to wear Australian Band T-Shirts. What are your thoughts on that?

D: It’s a great way to promote and support Australian music! Such a good idea. ..Did we mention we have some new shirts for sale? [Interjection: You can buy ’em here if you so desire]

R: You’ll be finishing up the single launches for Rivermouth at Fairgrounds Festival. What do you reckon about a big festival coming to a regional town like Berry?

D: I think it can be really good for those small towns, just as long as the festival-goers clean up after themselves. Lets keep Australia beautiful! The more quality boutique festivals outta the big cities the better!

R: It’s looking like you’ll have quite a big stage to play on. Is that a relief from the days where you’d have all six of you jammed onstage?

D: Make that seven! We just welcomed the sax maestro Michael Slater to the bird, so yes – im sure we will be loving that bit of extra room on stage. Although Al (guitar) always seems to make the most of any sized stage, usually by climbing all over the PA or jumping into the crowd.

R: Finally, Fairgrounds has got such a crazy lineup. Is there anyone on there you’re particularly excited to see?

D: The lineup is quality! Really excited to see Father John Misty & Royal Headache just to name a few..

Video: Shining Bird – Rivermouth

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Species of Australian aviary crossfaded over our natural fauna. Alastair Webster jamming on a guitar in faded black and white. Dramatic irony involving a wife waiting for her husband to come home, unaware the he’s neck deep in his steering wheel. Yeah, you’re watching a Shining Bird video clip, all right.

However, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll guess the ending to the clip. Seriously, it has to be one of the greatest, most inspiring tales committed to screen, an Australian story that beckons an in-depth journalist feature from Mr. Stefanovic himself. Sorry, ‘Shine’ – you’re no longer the most beautiful ‘Strayan story ever. Say hello to “Rivermouth”.

Shining Bird are playing for free at The Union Hotel on the 20th of this month (supported by Wild Honey and Bearhug), and then they’ll be at the Heritage Hotel in Bulli on the 26th (supported by FLOWERTRUCK). Oh, and if you live in Melbourne and want to hear some decent music for once in your pitiful lives, head to the Shadow Electric on the 6th – Ali Barter and Cool Sounds will be along for the ride as well.

New: Shining Bird – Rivermouth

Shining BirdFun fact: I was hanging out with my good friend Sean Connery (of James Bond fame), and I saw that Shining Bird had a new single out. After playing it to him, he leaned back into his throne, took a sip from his chalice and smirked: “Thash a tashty birrrd. Are they from the leshure coasht?”, to which I replied, “Yes, Sean. Yes they are”. Staring off into the distance, blue eyes glazing over, he murmurs to himself “Thish ish the besht band I’ve ever heard”. Never have truer words been spoken.

After waiting two long years for more material after their stunning ‘Leisure Coast’ album, Shining Bird have unveiled the shimmering beauty of “Rivermouth”. It’s got all the usual delights that the South Coast legends have become well-known for: a wide range of delicate instrumentation, immersive soundscapes, and, of course, the voice that’s broken a thousand hearts – the voice of one Dane Taylor. Jesus, every time he opens his mouth, you can hear the swish of heads turning and jaws hitting the floor. In a climate where Tony Abbott can enact the same policies as that of Nazi Germany, it’s nice to sit back and submerge yourself in some objectively beautiful music. 

Gig Review: Volumes Festival 2015

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Saturday, August 29th @ Brighton Up Bar, Oxford Art Factory, Cliff Dive

It’s rare to walk into a venue at 3 o’clock in the arvo and see anything more than a few winos having a quiet beer. Maybe a couple of #ridiculouslydressed folks on a pub crawl for someone’s birthday. There’s certainly no expectation of seeing a packed house of clamouring music fans singing along to an album that hasn’t even been released yet. But, in the first incarnation of what’s sure to be a celebrated annual occurrence, VOLUMES Festival brought Sydney’s music fans out of their share houses and into venues, catering a fantastically eclectic showcase of Australian music.

VOLUMES Festival sure seemed like a gamble – for a local nerd like myself, the lineup was a wet dream. Relatively speaking, it was like a Star Wars geek getting to have lunch with a pre-sequels Lucas at Skywalker Ranch. Just viewing the bands playing, delight was being compressed into my brain at an unhealthy rate. The lineup was stocked with incredible acts, from the bigger names Jack Ladder & the Dreamlanders and Blank Realm, to sturdy up and comers such as FLOWERTRUCK, Low Lux and Gold Class. However, statistically speaking, these aren’t your typical headlining bands. In anticipated excitement over the festival, I would sputter and slobber about all these awesome names and would often be greeted with blank, occasionally hostile, stares. “Oi, can you fucking not spit in my face…and I don’t know who the fucking Laurels are, mate!” was a common response. It felt like this beautiful new thing that was taking over three of the most celebrated venues in Sydney – Oxford Art Factory, Cliff Dive and Brighton Up Bar – could be attended solely by music nerds with nothing better to do with their time (read: this ginger piece of shit with a keyboard).

Come 3pm, and bands that don’t even have full records out are busting out their jams to enthralled audiences. Big White serenaded with their off-kilter guitar pop, Death Bells shot daggers with their dark, infiltrating gaze of post-punk inflected dream pop, and The Pinheads engaged in all-out debauchery. Three bands in, and the senses have been driven into overdrive, particularly by The Pinheads, who make it their mission to risk their lives for the sake of our entertainment. Draped in thrift shop rock star outfits, shimmering with a Straight-Outta-Spotlight glamour, The Pinheads brand of overwhelming rock ‘n’ roll continually invades the audience and challenges the status quo of standing with your arms folded *nodding in solemn appreciation*. Bertolt Brecht would be proud.

It’s been said before, by folks much more eloquent/intelligible/handsome than myself, but FLOWERTRUCK are fucking sick, hey. Go-Betweens/Triffids meets Talking Heads with a dash of Factory Records pop aesthetic. Winner winner, chicken dinner. Although they’re usually a first-song-in-capture-the-whole-crowd group, the sound in the Gallery Bar seemed to irk the set towards the beginning – however, FLOWERTRUCK still commanded their half hour with the most impressive pop to come out of Sydney in a long time. Don’t get us wrong – the crowd was grooving hard, especially when cynic-evaporators “I Wanna Be With You” and “Sunshower” upended naysayers right in the pleasure gland. As their time stretched thin, the dance floor grew more heated, and sweat poured. This band is essential – don’t miss them next week, when they play the Junkyard-curated leg of King Street Crawl at the Botany View Hotel.

Holy Balm made a rare appearance, and quickly reminded why they’re one of Sydney’s favourites. They are a truly un-pigeonhole-able group, a threesome who’s influences stretch far, unveiling a sound that is equally at home in a nightclub as it is in the bedroom of a lonely soul. In the intimate Cliff Dive, Holy Balm quietly shone with dance music that’s unrivalled, beautifully delivered monologues bubbling over the top of incredible live production – whenever Holy Balm decide to next grace a stage, ensure that you are front and centre. Switch over to World Champion in the OAF main stage, where a very different kind of noise is being produced. BritPop sheen collides with skilful production, and bolstered by vivid visuals, the lean team of Julian Sudek and Will Campion make for a bustling performance reminiscent of Jagwar Ma’s live shows.

ONWARDS! A cinematic double-team of Shining Bird and Jack Ladder. Although both faced technical problems, the South Coast and Blue Mountains ensembles triumphed in their own way. Shining Bird are impossible to tear away from, and once they float into their groove of slow-burning psych pop hauled from a conk shell in Thirroul, there’s no backing away from the gems of the South Coast. Much like interrupting a sleepwalker, it’s better to just look on in bewilderment at the dream-cloaked happenings that city slickers would never be capable of pulling off. Meanwhile, Jack Ladder and co. simply pushed through the difficulty with brute force. Typically dressed to impress, Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders played admirably, but hardly at their most memorable. Whereas previous performances have left attendees in complete awe, sound issues plagued early portions, and the band didn’t seem to throw themselves in as much as they have previously. There isn’t much too complain about – any chance to witness “Cold Feet” and “Hurtsville” is always a pleasure that should be experienced by everyone, but tonight felt slightly crooked.

Segue into Brighton Up Bar, and the room is fixated on Melbourne’s Gold Class and their urgent post-punk. It’s a paradox, hearing such a confessional and committed singer, running around the stage, wrapped in his microphone, strapped to snarling, drenched music. It’s bleak stuff curdling upon sharp and searing punches of music that unwraps spectacularly. Seeing them made for a satisfying prequel to their debut album, which drops soon.

Unsurprisingly, Blank Realm were the highlight of VOLUMES. This band is easily the greatest band in Australia, firmly tied with Royal Headache. Do whatever is in your possible power to see this band, or buy their record…fuck it, do both. Their music is incredible, and just keep getting better. The festival provided an opportunity for Blank Realm to unleash a few songs from their upcoming masterpiece “Illegals in Heaven“. Not only is this album perfect in recorded form, but live, it does to the heart what a volcanic explosion would do to butter. “River of Longing”, “Palace of Love”, “No Views” – these are some goddamn hits! Sprinkle these amongst some bonafide classics from the Brisbanites back catalogue, you’ve got the best thing that’s happened to Oxford Street since the first Mardis Gras. How Blank Realm haven’t been scooped up by a multi-national corporation to be the face of contemporary music, showered in unruly decadence and a royal declaration of excellence, is beyond me. Maybe it’s because the subject matter is Schindler’s List-crossed-with-Lassie levels of heartbreak…but cut with the band’s wonky serving of pop and the group’s irrepressible live show ensure that anyone in hearing distance is cutting shapes and sweating harder than a 17 year old at their first Stereosonic. Seriously, Sarah Spencer is the coolest person in live music – her keytar moves are more inspiring than hearing Nelson Mandela and Ghandi swap stories. I’ll say it again – DO WHATEVER IT IS NECESSARY TO WITNESS THIS BAND! IT IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR SURVIVAL AS A HUMAN BEING! YOU WILL BE BETTER OFF FOR IT! BLANK REALM ARE THE MCDONALDS SALADS OF BANDS – SURROUNDED BY FAKE BILE, THEY ARE GOOD AND GOOD FOR YOU! 🙂

Concluding the night are a couple of rock “elder” statesmen – Wollongong’s finest shredders Step-Panther and Sydney’s The Laurels. The former are criminally underrated, a South Coast three piece who drenched an adoring audience in fits of fuzz, and sporadic solos that should have splintered the fingers of frontman Steve Bourke. Although some wankstain, twat-faced ginger who probably runs a blog decided to ruin their otherwise spot on rendition of King Tuff’s “Headbanger”, the set was otherwise an encapsulation of everything there is to love about Step-Panther: unstoppable garage rock paired with a heads-down, lets-fucking-rock performance. It was enough to warrant abundant crowd surfing, which at Brighton Up Bar is a cock tease to Death, considering the giant hole in the middle of the room. People are actually willing to plunge to their execution at a Step-Panther show, what have you done lately? The Laurels finished the VOLUMES marathon with a tight set drawing from tracks off their legendary psych rock debut ‘Plains’, as well as material from their upcoming record. Paired with throbbing visuals, The Laurels went into shred territory, running the gauntlet of rock from the squealing charge of “Changing the Timeline” to the hypnotic “Tidal Wave”, and new jam “Zodiac K”.

It really can’t be overstated how important a festival like VOLUMES is – in the void of the incredible Sound Summit, it is instrumental that there is a festival that showcases everything there is to love about Sydney and Australian music. The lineup was extraordinarily well put together by music lovers for music lovers, covering far more bases than this review was capable of representing; for example, the electronic masterminds of friendships, Null and Lower Spectrum went unseen, as did the brutal Zeahorse. But the fact that it catered to more than just a guitar loving Aus music nerd, and managed to consistently serve up some of Sydney’s favourite rooms with punters itching to dance is proof that, even though it occasionally might not seem like it, people do care about Australian music. And why shouldn’t they – when the bands that played brought such great performances it’s hard not to pat Aussie music on the back, grin and say…fuck, we’re pretty alright.

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.

Video: Shining Bird-You Won’t Feel A Thing

 

It’s been a fair while since Shining Bird released their mind-expanding universe of a debut album, but they’ve just dropped another clip from it, the warm but morbid ‘You Won’t Feel A Thing’. Intercut with clips of the universe, greater meaning, and green men wearing speed-dealers, this song wraps you up in the kind of embrace you’d preferably want to feel just before you eloped with the afterlife. A supreme tune with a strange, otherworldly clip. Neil DeGrasse Tyson would fucking love this clip, and that means you will as well.

New: Hand Games Mixtape #14 (free download)

New: Hand Games Mixtape #14 (free download)

Fuck to the yes to the fuck yes. There is a new Hand Games mixtape, and for now, everything is right in the world. For those that don’t know, Hand Games is a mixtape service. Every month, a new playlist shows up like the hologram of Eazy-E at Rock the Bells. This month’s playlist has a host of goodness that would cause envy to Mother Teresa. There’s new shit from the schmoovest R&B thang in the world, Black Vanilla, as well as some light and immersing electronica from Hayden James, Ta-ku, Moses MacRae and Lower Spectrum. In terms of the gorgeously gargantuan, there’s the newest of new from Palms (<3), Peter Bibby, Shining Bird. ‘C of O’ from The Native Cats ‘Dallas’ album makes a most welcome appearance. Rounding out the eye-popping goodness are Summer Flake, Brothers Hand Mirror, Rainbow Chan and Naughty Rappers Collective. Overall, this shit is going to pound you into oblivion with the sheer greatness of the music. The fact that is completely free of charge will send your brain into a paradoxical descent of insanity. 

Album Review: Shining Bird-Leisure Coast

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Shining Bird are nothing but interesting. From their first few singles, I expected a psychedelic slide into deep-seeded unciousness. What I got was instead a complex and well spaced exploration of Australian music. Unpredictable in the best sense of the word, Shining Bird play a whole range of brooding music that strays from introspective storytelling, to bush swagger bragging, and everything in between. If there’s one thing to keep in mind whilst listening to ‘Leisure Coast’, its to expect the unexpected.

The twisting maze of plaintive tunes that Shining Bird throw up like a juggler in a ball pit most resembles The Flaming Lips or Beck’s most recent work. Not in sound of course, but definitely in style. Shining Bird compose a vague narrative that is concocted through lush scenery and tantalising mystery. The sounds are experimental in an accessible way, if that makes sense. They’re weird and challenging, but they don’t push you into a territory you wouldn’t be comfortable with. Every song cascades with a continuous and comforting energy, that is both inviting and refreshing. Songs like ‘Distant Dreaming’ and ‘You Won’t Feel A Thing’ resound with a holy energy that wraps a cushioned arm against your shoulders and gently pushes you off the cliff of your senses. Now if that last sentence wasn’t nearly trippy enough for you, you need to get onto ‘Stare Into the Sun’. It’s a bamboozled track that mashes sexy saxophone (I can only assume there was a conversation during the recording of ‘Leisure Coast’ that went along the lines ‘Kenny G? Fuck Yeah!’) and nourishingly layered melodies. Although, I’m picking on these weird and wacky songs in particular, the whole album is like walking around the rock pools at your local beach, overturning every rock you find, and peering into every crevice, to discover a whole esplanade of strange and wonderful natural delights.

If I could only say one more positive thing about ‘Leisure Coast’, it would be that it thankfully  harkens back to the days during which albums where supposed to be enjoyed in their full forms, as solid bodies of work, and not a collection of singles. Each track flows into one another. ‘Must Have Been Dreaming’ presents a timeless spiralling 80’s album, but then perfectly flows into the click-clacking, bass laden, bush sunset territory of ‘Keep Warm’. This is just one of many examples of how Shining Bird can take two pretty different tracks, and turn them into wholesome songs that compliment each other extensively, like a good meal. In fact, ‘Leisure Coast’ is like the greatest 8 course meal you could ever have. And like a meal of such extent, you can’t just bail out halfway through-you gotta stick that shit through to the end to fully enjoy the entire capacity of the thing. And if you do, you’ll be glad as fuck, because ‘Leisure Coast’ is an enormous beast of pleasure.

‘Leisure Coast’ comes out two days before my birthday, on the 6th of September, through Spunk. If you don’t know when my birthday is, then fuck you. Shining Bird are gonna follow up a hell of an album with a hell of a tour that will be stopping at Good God in Sydney on the 12th of October. Also, if you’re at Big Sound next week, I highly recommend going to check out the unofficial Spunk/Hand Games party. It features the aforementioned Shining Bird, as well as legends of legendary(ness) Bored Nothing, Bad//Dreems, Fascinator, and Mining Boom amongst others. It’s happening on the 10th of September.

If you want a couple free tracks, Shining Bird’s debut EP ‘Shades of the Sea’ is available here, and the track ‘Distant Dreaming’ is available here.