Apr 21, 2017

Strand Of Oaks @ Newtown Social Club

Thursday night was to be a bittersweet one. It was a total pleasure to see Strand of Oaks for the first time. But it was also sadly my last gig at the soon closing Newtown Social Club. It was so exciting a couple of years ago when the old Sandringham Hotel was transformed into a brand new venue with local and international acts. I had the pleasure of seeing Thee Oh Sees, Stephen Malkmus, Daniel Rossen and many others there. And even though the small venue was often sold out it could never make a profit. So the bottom line won and live music in Sydney lost out. Sadly.

But last night was a good way to go out as the soulful, boisterous rock of Philadelphia's Strand of Oaks filled the room with joyous effect. It was a short set to be sure, but Timothy Showalter's beast of a voice boomed out loud, ably supported by his very tight four piece band. The set was divided between tracks from their last two albums in 'Heal' and this year's 'Hard Love'. I was able to spot the set list before the show and the the encore song was going to be the wonderful 'JM', a tribute to the late great Jason Molina. Sadly for some reason they didn't play it as there was to be no encore. Still it was a night to be savoured as I lamented the loss of a wonderful Sydney venue.

Set List
Plymouth
Shut In
For Me
Kraut Rock
Radio Kids
On The Hill
Everything
Rest Of It
Goshen '97

Apr 14, 2017

The Mountain Goats @ Factory Theatre

The Mountain Goats are like beautiful old friends who every time they visit they are most welcome. Their wit, heart and humanity are self evident and warmly received. Such was the case again last Sunday night in Sydney. A sold out crowd enjoyed every second and it was certainly a room full of love and warmth. The Mountain Goats have a huge catalogue so naturally there won't always be songs you wish you could hear but there will also be surprises and delights. I do believe their recent albums have lacked greatness but it was still a great night. They actually played a couple of tunes from their upcoming release in 'Goths'. One song was a bit average but I really enjoyed 'Shelved'. I also learned its slang meaning later which added a different perspective to the song.

John Darnielle, their fearless leader, is an extremely erudite and intelligent front man and it's always a treat to hear his mid section of the set when he goes solo. He delivered an old unrecorded song in 'Shower' which was definitely the highlight of the night. Of course the classics came late in the set too, culminating in another spectacular version of 'This Year ', with every single person singing along in full voice. I first saw this band back in 2007 and I stated then that seeing them live was like an old school revival meeting. This opinion still holds true to this day. It's always a pleasure and a great experience to see them live. Always and forever.

Set List
In the Craters on the Moon
Harlem Roulette
Damn These Vampires
Animal Mask
Heel Turn 2
Steal Smoked Fish
Shower (John solo)
The Alphonse Mambo (John solo)
Thank You Mario But Our Princess is in Another Castle (John solo)
We Do It Different on the West Coast
The Diaz Brothers
Shelved
New Zion
Oceanographer's Choice
Broom People
Song for Dennis Brown
Up the Wolves
This Year

Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1
No Children
Spent Gladiator 2

Mar 25, 2017

Spoon @ Metro Theatre

You could easily make a strong argument that Spoon are the greatest rock band of the last two decades. Their music has achieved a consistent greatness that is committed to songs of bursting rhythm and impeccable melody. Their music has a certain swagger that is intoxicating. Their music is beautifully arranged with hooks that last for days. Thursday night was the first show after releasing their brand new ninth album in 'Hot Thoughts'. In a brief listening time I have become hooked on the new album so I was pretty excited to see them again and hear the new songs live. Plus of course a selection from their impeccable back catalogue.

Well, it a great show. Slightly briefer than their last Sydney show but packed full of all the signature Spoon moments. Jim Eno's subtle drum fills, Rob Pope's pounding bass and Alex Fischl's dramatic keyboards. Then of course there is Britt Daniel. The swaggering laconic frontman with the soulful voice and stylish moves. He is the ultimate in coolness and startling style. They played six songs off the new record. All came at us with clarity and purpose. Especially the title track and the delicate 'I Ain't the One'. But of course there was much jubilation for their many great tunes. 'The Underdog' had the whole place jumping whilst the back to back sledgehammer of 'The Beast and Dragon, Adored' and 'I Saw the Light' was untouchable. As in reality this band is. I am sure when I am long gone from this world the music of Spoon will live on. As a testament to one of the greatest bands in the history of music. No doubt.

Set List
Do I Have to Talk You Into It
Hot Thoughts
Inside Out
I Turn My Camera On
WhisperI'lllistentohearit
The Beast and Dragon, Adored
I Saw the Light
Don't You Evah
Rainy Taxi
First Caress
The Underdog
Can I Sit Next To You
Do You
Got Nuffin
Rent I Pay

I Ain't the One
My Mathematical Mind

Mar 11, 2017

Frightened Rabbit @ Oxford Art Factory

Frightened Rabbit are just one of those special bands that you tend to fall hard for. We have seen them several times now and each time has been a thrillingly great experience. And I'm not alone as Friday night was the first of two sold out shows at the Oxford Art Factory. Frightened Rabbit are a hearts out, emotions high sort of band. Their songs are about life lived and love lost, but they are anthemic and rich in pageantry. So even though in theory it is 'sad bastard music' it is really a joyous live experience. One that is shared equally by the devoted fans who see them live.

Frightened Rabbit were touring off the back of 2016's 'Painting of a Panic Attack', which even though I do enjoy I believe it is not their best work. But naturally the show was stacked with songs from the new album which meant that a potentially amazing show was just merely great. To be sure it was great but songs like 'Get Out' and 'Lump Street' don't stack up to their earlier work. Having said that songs like 'Little Drum' and 'I Wish I Was Sober' were fully effective live. And the crowd were fully into the new material so for most present the show never sagged. But for me it hit peak powers with cracking numbers like 'The Modern Leper' and 'Head Rolls Off'. And then that encore. New song 'Death Dream' was shattering and then there was the one two punch of 'The Woodpile' and 'The Loneliness and the Scream' to finish the night with the crowd whipped into a frenzy. By a band much loved for their passion, effort and unyielding humanity.

Set List
Get Out
Holy
The Modern Leper
Woke Up Hurting
I Wish I Was Sober
Living in Colour
Head Rolls Off
Fast Blood
Little Drum
Blood Under the Bridge
Nothing Like You
Old Old Fashioned
The Oil Slick
Lump Street

Death Dream
The Woodpile
The Loneliness and the Scream

Mar 4, 2017

Kurt Vile @ Twilight At Taronga

Kurt Vile is definitely one of my modern day heroes. For good reason, his music his complex and yet simply beautiful. And I have had the good fortune to see him quite a few times now as he has become a regular visitor to our shores. But this night didn't work out as planned. Not that any of that was the fault of Kurt.

Firstly when it was announced he was playing at Taronga Zoo as part of their 'Twilight' series I wasn't exactly thrilled. Geographically the Zoo is a little awkward to get to, plus I was a little dubious of the whole outdoor concert idea. But I plunged in and bought a ticket. But the night started badly when I kept missing transport connections and by the time I got there I had missed the first half hour or so of his show, something I never do. Then it was also raining so it was hard to get comfortable. And I had missed the chance to get a really good spot down the front, so I had to stand on the fringes of the crowd. Which meant I was stuck with so many people talking around me it was hard to concentrate on Kurt. My mood was quickly going downhill and I was feeling rather gloomy. Again not the fault of Kurt. This was actually truly Kurt in solo mode. No Violators just a few acoustics and sometimes electric. I arrived just in time to hear 'Pretty Pimpin', followed by 'Wakin On a Pretty Daze'. He sounded great as he applied his considerable skills to his wonderful songs. But I guess I just wasn't in the right mindset to receive what he was giving. I moved around a bit to get a comfortable spot. After about an hour and half set Kurt left the stage before returning to encore with 'Peeping Tomboy'. Then I caught the ferry back across Sydney Harbour with a mixed mind. Feeling sad I wasn't able to fully appreciate the greatness of Kurt Vile but knowing that one day soon I would see him again. Hopefully not in a Zoo. 

Feb 25, 2017

Explosions In The Sky @ Sydney Opera House

Glorious, magnificent, sumptuous. Five men from Texas totally and utterly immersed in the making of music. Epic sounds and huge emotions. Explosions in the Sky can summon thoughts and emotions without uttering a single word. Thursday night at the Opera House was my third time seeing them and each second of each show was a thrilling ride. There is quite simply no one like them in the live arena.

Guitars rise and fall, drums crash. They are totally in sync with each other and you can physically see them feeling each and every note. And they take the audience with them, in joyous symphony. I still can't quite figure out how they make their guitars sound like they do. They speak to them and they speak back. It's a beautiful sight and they truly stir up inside anyone who has the privilege of seeing them. Everything was near perfect, the set list was a feast for all. By the time they closed with the epic mountain that is 'The Only Moment We Were Alone' it was clear to all that we had again witnessed something extremely special.

Set List
Wilderness
Catastrophe and the Cure
Logic of a Dream
Greet Death
First Breath After Coma
The Birth and Death of the Day
With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept
Colors in Space
Your Hand in Mine
Disintegration Anxiety
The Only Moment We Were Alone

Feb 5, 2017

Sydney Laneway Festival 2017

The Laneway Festival has always been on the cutting edge. It has grown in size but still managed to be at or near the forefront of modern music. I will say however that in recent years it has veered more into the territory of electro and pop with 2015 reaching its zenith. So much so that I didn't go. 2016 I had to skip as well as I had work commitments on that day. But 2017 I was back and even though the headliners didn't really interest me there were several acts I was very excited to see. Overall I had a great day despite it being very hot. Crowds weren't over bearing and easy to navigate. Food options were outstanding (Belle's Hot Chicken being a huge winner) and the Callan Park venue is nice and pleasant. Some of the acts I enjoyed (beside the three standouts below) were White Lung, who were fierce and hard. Their music isn't really in my wheelhouse but I enjoyed them live. I also enjoyed the beautiful stylings of Julia Jacklin. She has a wonderful choice. One act I wanted to see were Gang of Youths. But they overlapped with Car Seat Headrest so I only saw their last two songs. The crowd was loving them but I have to say the vocals were mixed way too low which was a disappointment.  Then there were three acts I loved in huge amounts.

Car Seat Headrest were easily the biggest talent on display on the day. Will Toledo is a musical prodigy and they really connect with their audience. Their songs have everything. They are epic, anthemic, thoughtful and emotionally and intellectually powerful. They are already great and really needed to be given a later slot than the one they enjoyed.

Set List
Fill in the Blank
Vincent
Shivers (The Birthday Party cover)
Destroyed by Hippie Powers
Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
Unforgiving Girl (She's Not An)
Motorway to Roswell (Pixies cover)

Whitney are just makers of beautiful music. Their songs are just laced with gorgeous melodies. The band fit in so well together. Guitar work is sublime and the trumpet tops off everything nicely.

Set List
Dave's Song
No Matter Where We Go
Polly
Red Moon
Golden Days
On My Own
The Falls
Follow
Magnet (NRBQ cover)
No Woman

Camp Cope are from Melbourne. Camp Cope are extremely talented. The three piece write songs of stark emotion and hit you hard in the head and the heart. Lead singer Georgia has a voice to move mountains. Whilst bassist Kelly-Dawn is outstanding. They really deserved a later slot than 12 noon. So much talent.

Set List
Done
Jet Fuel Can't Melt Steel Beams
Keep Growing
West Side Story
Trepidation
Flesh and Electricity
Stove Lighter
Lost (Season One)