Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Monday, February 19, 2007
The Empress

You can almost pinpoint the month in 1981 that it felt like you were stepping into, coming to see these acts tonight. Different styles yes, but the bonding attitude was one of the liberation that era embraced, and chopped rhythms, tight jeans, kraut keyboard get the picture. It's a good picture, in danger of being overexposed perhaps, but still exciting when featuring the right bands.

Nick Litzow (AKA Falling Star) from the very worthy Dolly Wilds was stepping in for the band, and did a wholly admirable job. Choice of cover (Marianne Faithfull's The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan) was inspired, as was the detached delivery - at once reminiscent of the aforementioned era without sounding like anyone but himself. Litzow's perfectly judged keyboard sounds, poignant melodies, Numan-cold rhythms and Teutonic vocal style were perfectly cast against the nature of his very human lyrics, particularly the track Industry Can Crumble.

World's End Press follow and surprise with their striking appearance, array of keyboards, quality gear and the-stage-is-crowded-but-I'm-still-rockin' moves. Here is a band that should fully expect to be reeling in the punters this time next year; they clearly have the look, the sound and, superficially, all the ingredients you'd expect for a Next Big Thing call. Thing is, at present they're almost bereft of memorable songs, have limited musical ability and little perceivable personality. Of this hasn't stopped many NBTs in the past, but watching their lack of communication, weak vocalising, lost lyrics and mannered formulism of the songs are things that hopefully time will sort out. Tonight though, there was little audience contact, too many rhythmic shifts to find a groove and minimal change in dynamics which undercut the atmosphere they sought to create.

By the time Tic Toc Tokyo arrive The Empress is packed in a way that indeed made you feel like you were seeing a gig there in 1981; before noise complaints, WoW, DVDs and when people weren't afraid to shake some action to a guitar band in front of a stage. TTT were, tonight, completely fantastic. From a blistering Action Time via the highlights I Am An Amateur, Like Blue Neon and Love Song this is a band tightly controlling their songs' many corners and working at the edge of their considerable talents. The treble-heavy, melodic bass worked wonderfully in tandem with the staccato drums, making jagged, contorted rhythms and seamless musical shifts; strengths which served to set these guys apart from so many of the other bands plowing this farrow. A lack of overall dynamics is overridden by this rhythmic impact and deservedly gets punters dancing. The brevity of their songs works well too, making each a karate-chop of icy rock which goes down particularly well with the chipper punters. Their upcoming gig with Red Riders should be a blinder.


Monday, February 19, 2007
Don't Tell Tom

Still seeming fresh compared to the other stalwart venues this city has to offer, the high-ceilings, long bar, low light and stage that has likely seen more bingo callers than microphone maulers, gives Don't Tell Tom a sense of "behave". This keeps a energetic and physical distance between the stage and audience which works against the performers tonight and you feel they're likely to do their best gigs elsewhere, despite both relating warmly to the audience.

First up, Rosie Burgess gives us a breezy, Byron-esque set of songs inspired by roadkill-guilt, maintaining focus in a digital age, kinesthetic power and environmental awareness. Like a burst of road-trip freedom, Burgess underpins her paeans to self and global awareness with a firmly stomped stompbox and exudes a winning confidence despite her rudimentary playing and basic slide guitar skills which hint at her tender years before the mic. She keeps the audience in her palm, especially during Too Young and the delicate ballad Beauty Queen both revealing an appealing personal side all indicating a bright future. "Peace out!" and she's gone.

Moments later Berlin-based Sydneysider Kat Frankie quietly takes to the stage. From the moment she blends tuning her guitar with the beginning of her first song, a spell is cast. Each song seems to be a little journey and is ended by a collective sigh from the audience. Second track, Everything Everything is magic, as is Fate from her forthcoming album Pocketknife. From there she loosens up enough to bestow us with a smile, which is good as the long sequence of vicarious-breakup songs that follow need her wry banter between them to stop them becoming lost on a plateau of angst. Tellingly, these are older songs and it's her newer ones that impress most. Her stage presence is undeniable; a swan-like neck, almost permanently closed eyes, strong jaw framed by a slicked-back Elvis-quiff and skinny-limbed writhing contortions give a stark picture of assured selflessness. From emotionally-heightened Etheridge-bellows to sweet Bic Runga-whispers - often in the same song, Frankie is unflinching in her delivery and lyrics - all fleeting images and conversations - "you carry your secrets like a pocketknife that might just bring us undone," she warns. The Fainthearted Ones, her whispered eulogy to a personal Berlin written for the forthcoming Uli M. Schuppel documentary "BerlinSong" in which she features, is gorgeous in it's frailty, indicating she'll be a striking screen presence. As a counterpoint in feel, though not subject matter, her final breakup song Happy is a glorious piece of pop music you could see turned into a smash hit in the hands of someone better known. As it is, it stands out, proving her versatility as a songstress, and reminding you that when she returns later this year, you'd be a fool to miss Kat Frankie.

Live Review: U2, KANYE WEST

Monday, February 05, 2007
Telstra Dome

A true modern-day superstar playing massively successful hits to a half full, largely disinterested stadium, with an otherwise impressive light show battling against the still daylit arena Is a massively underwhelming way to start a show. Kanye West, later described by Bono as "a great voice of America", plays his short set well (though performing the sanitized version of Gold Digger was an unusual choice), despite his busy songs falling victim to the unfortunate acoustics. An odd choice of support maybe, but politically they're soul mates, and politics turns out to play a major role in the evenings proceedings.

More a grandious cultural extension of a UN Goodwill operation than a gig at times, the U2 of tonight's show used their back catalogue as a backdrop to Bono's political visions and worthy maifestos, and to great effect. If the political side of the band had been interwoven with their music in the past, it was rammed home in 360-degree technicolour surround-sound glory tonight, songs stretched and deconstructed to let the issues shine...Entering stage left to the dying strains of Arcade Fire's Wake Up, The Edge lead the band into City Of Blinding Lights instantly making full use of the four monitors and massive transparent metallic screen that holds them against the crowd. Bono enters, draped in the Australian flag, grinning like he's found the fountain of youth, and doesn't waste time making full use of the curving walkways that set him out amongst 'his people', where he spends most of the rest of the evening. Vertigo, Elevation, Until The End Of The World, I Still Haven't Found... (dedicated to Cape Town's Archbishop Ndungane who is present) Beautiful Day (complete with a verse about Melbourne), follow.

Managing to stave off the 'dinosaur' tag better than most, U2 still shove their guitar necks around like they always have, and clearly know what's hip, as a result much of their new repertoire sounds metallic and harder-edged. Bono reliquishes many higher meoldies to the crowd and seems most passionate when speaking on personal/political themes, the motivations for the hits having moved on perhaps. A gentleness and powerful sense of melody seems absent from their newer music, the processed sheen clashing impressively with Bono's humanist yearnings. Predictably, war-themed songs get an airing; Bullet The Blue Sky (during which Bono seems to nearly set himelf alight with a rogue smoke flare) and Sunday Bloody Sunday ("tonight, it's a song turned into a prayer: May we not become a monster to defeat a monster") work well. Where The Streets Have No Name soundtracks a roll of African flags while Bono draws our attention to HIV and malaria statistics, before calling us to make a "Telstra galaxy" with our mobiles aloft, which looked lovely, though camera phones rarely left the hands of a large percentage of the audience tonight. Older tours are referenced too; Under A Blood Red Sky-era is represented with an unflashy and unexpected Party Girl, The Fly sees a return of Zoo TV's onslaught of images and words, while spotlights send long shadows across the stage in black and white for the Joshua Tree Tour's With Or Without You, with which they close their first encore. Singalong phone-wave-moment was during One, Bono-gets-ahead-of-himself-moments include his confused attempt to sing Kylie's Spinning Around, and the obligatory random-girl-pulled out-of-the-audience-for-a-brief-bond-with-Bono-moment occurs during Mysterious Ways.

Closing the second, and final encore, with Bad proves an inspired choice. The song they stole Live Aid with, an epic capsule of personal struggle against an unjust world, and a reminder of their simple strength; a trademark that sent or guided untold numbers of musicians on a path to form many of the bands dominating the airwaves today. The point everyone talks about the next day though, is Edge's closing, indeed only, words. "Goodnight Sydney. I mean goodnight Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, but mainly goodnight Melbourne!". Wonderful to know they're still human. Touchingly, The Go-Betweens' Streets Of Your Town starts as soon as they're gone.


Monday, February 05, 2007
The Corner

Tonight is a fascinating evening of music no question. A magical blend of personalities, sounds and genres, most of which could be found in opening act The Rise And Demise's set. A relatively new local band and one who spell out in big letters their potential with their unpretentious yet grandiose sound. Neither short on ambition, self-deprecating banter or musical ideas, their keyboard-led, cello-sporting rock veers between meandering blues, confessional folk and GSYBE! emotional epicness. Though some of their songs came across as a little confused and lyrics lost against the wall of slightly muddy keyboard and a lack of dynamics, it's clear that the songs, the sound and the general comfort with which they occupied the stage, make this a band to watch and one who would be more impressive on record.

Pre-empting the arrival on stage of Home Video, a projection of the title screen for the DVD of Koyaanisqatsi. Synchronising it's opening scene with their introduction of neo-gothic soundscape, it proves very difficult to separate image from the sound, so absorbing and rich is that film, every Cure/Factory/Interpol rip-off seemed perfectly blended and executed to update it. Home Video could have been so much given the musical pedigree of keyboardist David Gross, guitarist and vocalist Collin Raffino's attention to fashion and musical detail and often gloriously fragile lead guitar melodies, Jim Orso's sparseness and tightness of rhythm, but the utterly pathetic bass-playing, absymal snare sound and rather lame plea to "dance your ass off" after their "gigantic pop hit" failed to move peeps, was somewhat underwhelming.

That so few turned up for this gig was understandable given that the blinding reviews for the Glaswegian headliner's debut album Wolves hasn't really filtered through in Australia. A band like this perhaps need a few more months of word of mouth to get the red curtain at The Corner pulled back. Those that did come were surely gladdened to their hearts from the moment the five members took to the stage and kicked of a killer set with the beautiful The Ghost The Gutter and Pretty In A Panic which showcases their muscular and beautiful four-part harmonies to glorious effect. If they were to have a film projected over them Ken Loach's Sweet Sixteen springs to mind.

My Latest Novel ease into the show and the introduction of melodica and xylophone broadens their sound, which at times, like during the still-impressive When We Were Wolves, gets confused; with four-part harmonies, three guitars and violin all jostling for the hi-mid range and only a bass drum underpinning them. Despite the sparse drumming and an afterthought of occasional bass, several people manage an interpretive dance to their earlier songs, though after discovering they're from Edinburgh singer, Glaswegian singer Ryan kindly tells them to fuck off. The band launch also some new material tonight; a Christmas song and a stellar new track The Valour Still which is surely going to give reviewers cause for more hyperbole; one lyric being:"The Gates of heaven swung open to let him in/He uncrossed his fingers and allowed himself a grin". It's gigs like these that give you that rare "I was there when.." feeling.


Monday, February 05, 2007

How good is pop in this city, hey? HOW GOOD (shakes reader)?! Tonight is another revelation in that department from the glorious lack of pretentiousness and clumsy fumbling of The Whales, to the hilarious closing stains of Muscles We Love You.

In front of a projected episode of The Baby-Sitters Club, comes the shambolic thrill of local four-piece The Whales. A cover of Phantom Planet's Orange County in which four seasons of The O.C. are related in under three minutes, a slightly disturbingly enacted version of Sufjan Steven's John Wayne Gacy and originals like Truth Be Told highlight what a quality songwriter Joss Whales is. Personalities shine through in this band and between song narration from Kate Whales give gig a school production vibe that works wonderfully.

From The Baby-Sitters Club to Daria, and for their swansong The Motifs play a fittingly short and sweet set. The sound is sensitively handled and songs come a bit more alive though there is an air of finality about some which lend a poignancy perfectly served by Alexis' dulcet whisper. Every Way, Diagonals and Secret Address are gorgeous creations and shine tonight.

From Daria to Free Willy, the projector is spot on, though no one touches accuracy or overall brilliance tonight like Julian Nation. Despite frequently insensitive drumming and an odd lapse into mumbling, Julian Nation is without a doubt a name to buy shares in now because his lyrics, his look and his total naturalness are a unique and precious find, and nothing compared to his songs. Paper Mache, Appetite for Destruction, 1992, and Press Gang Kids all thrill with a delight that rarely comes from finding someone so good so early on. Watching his fingers still find the chords while hearing lyrics like: "I always meant to give you the best of me, not a greatest hits CD" and seeing the audience sit like meercats, not wanting to miss a word adds up to a magic night. The icing of which was the reluctant dragging back out of the audience to perform an ukulele-sporting encore (featuring Jamie of The Raylenes on percussion) of a song Meaningless which was breathtaking in it's concise selfless humour and poignancy, unlike anything I've seen before, and a different league to The Lucksmiths with whom he's been compared.

Back To The Baby-Sitters Club again for Muscles, who plays with twice the confidence to half the audience and an ace DIY light show. His voice sounds strained (though this could be a vocoder) but the overall sound is great ."I don't need a lover, I just want to dance with my shirt off. I don't need another, I just want to dance". You could take his songs and get all Postal Service on them, but Muscles is about beats, and lots of them. Perhaps he should have been at The Espy performing with Midnight Juggernauts, sooner or later he'll take off and we'll all be singing "Hey Muscles, I love you, I want to have your babies,". One Poptastic Night.


Monday, February 05, 2007
Northcote Social Club

A balmy night brings many folk out to the No So for what promises to be a fantastic lineup of rap and hip-hop-related largeness, dropping a hint at what Melbourne has to offer in this department. The onslaught of quality gigs (check other reviews on this page for evidence) around this time of year may have depleted bank accounts and a willingness to go out, but not tonight, and not for these talents.

While the name Dig Deep Sound Project didn't promise anything revolutionary on paper, on stage, it's a different story. What we get is Lady Lash, an amazingly talented - though somewhat bashful - vocalist, who opened by giving props to the (excellent) production of the music she began to rhyme and sing over. With a voice Idol-competitors would kill for, stellar lyrics (especially for the touching and tough Butterfly Baby Girl) and spot-on mic control - her songs are like sucker punches from lace gloves. When not rapping she tugged at her white t-shirt and stared at the stage, looking nervous and pacing. While she is singing though, Lash is in the moment, working the stage like a veteran and with a voice belying her years, the crowd clearly behind her all the way.

Following this revelation was RuC.L, a bling-toting Jamaican/Australian rapper who set about working the crowd like a pro with help from his DJ. A bit hip-hop, a bit dancehall, a lot of "when I say.../you say..." and a truckload of fun. Clearly unfazed by the quarter-filled room, RuC.L made the No So feel like the Rod Laver with his surestruck poses and "I can't HEAR you!"s. Tracks Fire, Let The World Know and a closing, cheer-spawning remix of Jamrock pushed the dancehall angle of his set, worked his true talents and got arms waving.

Before Macromantics herself arrived, DJ Amy was already cooking up quality beatage. With a vase of flowers fronting each deck, Amy flaunted her vocal and DJ skills throughout the night, never stopping the smoothness or missing a cue. A faultless performance matched by the queen of Australian rap herself. "Mic check 1, 2 let's do this...," and she's away. Energy and fun levels never dissipate, Moments In Movement is a killer, Scorch, and Bandwagon are blinding, and Apple Crumble leaves punters wanting more. The converted all agree: this Minotaur is on fire. Though she never gets the crowd pumping hip-hop stylee (given the absence of melody, rarely repeated lyric and spitfire speed this isn't really possible), this is more than made up for in free-flowing vehement fun. The underwear, masquerade mask, Groundies' singer and rubber bat that appear on stage throughout the evening all perfectly factor in to the unstoppable vibe she pushes and huge amount of energy she creates (Joe from The Groundies especially embodies this in his typically unhinged and physical way). Macro doesn't let the intensity drop for a second - even her acapellas are ferocious. Sometimes the rapid-fire images and wordplay blur, but the bravado sticks ("I leave the crowd with stiff nipples, boners and bruises" - no argument heard there) However it's her unscripted moments give the widest glimpses of this rising star ("There is a I don't's all ya doin'?!"). All in all, a hell of a way to kick off a summer tour.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Northcote Social Club

Given the distinct lack of any What Is Music?-type festivals in recent times, gigs like this are the type to be savoured by anyone tired of typical noises and scenes, setlists and predictability. Or rather, the potential meeting of minds, venue and audience of this type are to be savoured. Tonight's thinly populated gig both delivered more than most gigs hope to, and disappointed profoundly.

Opening with the highly random yet totally spot-on choices of tonight's DJ Oren Ambarchi, (free jazz with a heavy backbeat and some mad panning. Nice.) without really linking the acts, his choices seemed part of the illogical sense that governed the music tonight and, gave a hint of the history that none of the bands would be drawing from, complimenting them beautifully.

Francis Plagne - a perfectly judged choice of support - are first act up and prove again, Melbourne has it. Do you want a perfect balance between psychedelic-folk, C86 and extended bursts of soundscapery? Done. Francis and his three bandmates have evidently thought about narrative and pacing more than many film-makers, and it's clear that as much, or even more, thought has gone into the nature of the soundscapes than the vocalised, more conventional parts of his songs. Songs pull themselves from the experimental sections and dive back into them in a wonderfully affecting way, the members moving between instruments in the way AIH don't. Maybe it was the tired and vulnerable state of so many there that night, but there was an emotional edge to the music that carried in a way rare for people experimenting with sound in this way. Bowed cymbal has never mixed with warmly feedbacking bass and sine-wave processing in a more satisfying way.

Following this came an artist clearly pushing a different barrow. Robin Fox kills the lights, empties a tonne of dry ice and proceeds to take up all to Planet Thwop where squelchy bleepy warm sounds blast, accompanied by an occasionally synchronised green laser that treats us all like a bar code. Dehumanising yes, but sexy and probably amazing on the right drugs.

The headliners took their sweet time coming on and sweeter time between songs, feeding the palpable lethargy that bonded the room. Autistic Daughters travelled a fair number of collective miles to be here ("All the way from Austria motherfucker" as one punter put it), so, given their impressive pedigree, one would have thought that when they began a song it would go somewhere. But no. Astonishingly sensitive and effective drumming, subtle and precisely textured guitar work from the two Radian members weren't enough to save Dean Roberts' meandering directionless songs from slow-motion, sleep-inducing train wreck. Given the sounds he has made to work with and the potential of all involved, it's disappointing. The final song which was more shoegazer than any other, letting the sounds be sounds more than any other, and succeeded in creating an atmosphere, but, all in all, we've got it all already, and better.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Spoon Cafe

Coming into the Spoon Cafe, one is allowed to imagine what it must have been like visiting venues on Brunswick Street or Smith Street in the 1980s. Totally unpretentious, cheap food and beer, no stage and the thrill of not knowing what you were about to see, the potential for surprise still intact. Tonight Spoon had been taken over by that one-man-army of indie pop Dan Lewis (AKA Switchblade Sisters Touring), who threw together this dynamite lineup of gentle warmth and quiet intensity.

Setting the scene with meandering, hypnotic piano and snapshot narratives, comes Jessica Says. "I haven't played a gig in hands are still shaky" she confesses into the piano keyboard. And shame on her for leaving such a gap between shows. At three songs and half an hour in length, Jessica Says never flirts with boredom, her voice floating like a bee, gaining confidence and nourishment from one bright destination to the next. So Gladly and All The Day were particular high points.

Light Music Club, who are tonight, a club of one, are disarming in the extreme. Zoe Jackson took a firm grasp of the mood; switching on a low light and as eyes became accustomed to dusk, so too did ears to her Doris Day-sings-Kurt Weill languid eyelash-flutter of a sound. From opener The Midas Touch to sparse yet decidedly up In And Out My Head, by way of aptly titled Music For The Tiny Hours, LMC renders attempts at doing anything other than ordering a gin and tonic or Frangelico and lime futile.

In their first (and sadly near last) Melbourne gig, The Motifs enthrall with their sub-minute songs coming across more like haikus of intimate pop. The audience almost perceptibly lean forward to listen, as if at a keyhole, to hear some whispered secret. Alexis has expanded her one-woman show to form a wonderfully complimentary band featuring members of Low Rise Estate and The Crayon Fields. The sight of diminutive keyboardist May, leaning over her mini-Casio to play a tiny melody on a tiny keyboard with tiny fingers, followed by an upward glance almost had me on the floor in stitches while simultaneously pointing and shouting: "did you see that Guinness Book Of Records? Tiniest. Melody. Ever!". Scatted harmonies and hand-claps link most songs, and the upbeat and catchy as hell Backwards closes the set and ensures that their imminent move to Japan is our loss.

Finally, with all the fanfare of a well-scrubbed backpacker at an open-mic night, arrives the international star of the evening, Bridget Martin. Before her pure and piercing voice fills the room, she had already won most over with stories of trying to blend in in Melbourne by shopping at Target, and a great joke about cheese, this was a woman at ease. Opening with a song you've written that day would be a brave move in most performers' book, but with a shy laugh she does it. The Christmas Song and Mandy are wonderful examples of her confessional writing style, and the Dan Lewis-dedicated Frozen Heart seals the deal that Montana has given us a lot more than backgrounds to old cigarette ads. Her swooning closer The Dreamers Of Lost Causes sends all back into the night, richer for this glimpse into American folk - a timely reminder that there is a lot beautiful about that country too. Acoustic singer/songwriters may be a dime-a-dozen, but this one has something special.


Monday, January 08, 2007
Northcote Social Club

With his arched eyebrows, rubbery face, lolling tongue, spit, sweat, lyrics like "I'm like Nine Inch Nails without the machinery" and a blinding cover of Folsom Prison Blues dedicated to those inmates who cheered following the line "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die", there really isn't anyone else like Ed Hamell. With a T-shirt stating in small capitals "Listen To Bill Hicks" and immediately indicating he shares the comedian's "If you don't like me fuck off" attitude, Hamell On Trial made a meal of the mincing platitudes of the support band. If you're not watching them support The Waifs or seeing them at a festival, The Go-Set - whose show veered between tolerable Aussie folk (though sung with a Vedderish chewing of words) and squirm-inducing embarrassment at the cloying earnestness of the songs' subjects, fleshed out as they were with some accomplished violin and mandolin playing from the stripped down band, and a Billy Bragg cover which only served to throw the paucity of ideas into sharp relief. There was total lack of authority in the delivery and an alienating righteousness of the subject matter, still give them time.

Tonight though, belonged in no uncertain terms to one man and his savaged 1937 Gibson guitar (we know his guitar was made then because he sings A Love Song about it). Part stand-up comedy routine, part audience needling, part bluegrass-style guitar picker, part exploitation of characters from his incredibly colourful past and all at a New York million-miles-an-hour, Hamell brought all of this and so much more to the No So that I don't mind guaranteeing that word of mouth following this show will see it sell out next time he's in town.

Amid and between songs Hamell spins yarns about the characters who populate his songs, people you really feel like you know by the end of the gig. He also fills gaps with one liners ("Why didn't Hitler drink tequila? It made him mean"), autobiography, social commentary ("Why do Australians always say "No worries"? I mean, you guys SHOULD WORRY") and the occasional headbutting of the microphone ("They make them better in Melbourne, the mic in Sydney went down in a second"). Hamell played several songs off each of his albums with the tracks of his cult classic Choochtown ("My Pulp Fiction or Rashomon if you will"); When Bobby Comes Down, Hamell's Ramble, the title track and a touching Bill Hicks as an encore, which prove to be the audience favourites. The emotional depth he brings to his songs and stories carried them beyond his obvious ability as a slick and and supremely confident entertainer, especially Open Up The Gates, a song about his mother's funeral, Values where he rants about his impossibly clever and mouthy 2 year old, and most effectively John Lennon. Reviewing these songs would be spoiling them, suffice to say a gig hasn't been this funny and moving since a Daniel Johnson show, though he shares more in common musically with Chuck Berry. That Ani DiFranco produced his last album makes sense too.

Sometimes lyrics get lost in the flurry of imagistic words and sly one-liners so desperate is he to spit out a song. The energy that courses from his body, beginning with manic dancing and culminating in a "face solo" gave another dimension to the songs and empasized that when Hamell On Trial plays, it's unmissable and wholly entertaining brilliance.


Monday, January 08, 2007
Lorne, Victoria

Leading up to this festival there was a lot of talk about the lack of big names, an increasing reliance upon acts who had previously played and a consensus that festival programmers were getting lazy, safe in the knowledge that a festival will sell out with barely an act announced. There is no doubt that Falls is a rite-of-passage event in the way only well-established festivals can be, and, as with any long-standing annual Australian event, the reason becomes an excuse to down piss. Falls seems to have inadvertently taken it upon itself to cross schoolies' week with Meredith and, in almost every way, it succeeds wildly. Most impressive were the security - no, really - they were great; amping up the crowd, singing, dancing, starting waves, taking photos for crushed punters, starting ball games and generally having as much fun as the kids.

The layout, organisation, band order, setting and weather were near perfect too; a little rain mid-Sunday, but all those who hadn't braved the shower queues (and those who had) needed a clean anyway. The toilets took a typically festival-worthy battering and were ready to be declared a viable chemical weapon by Sunday evening with no Kenny in sight. Last year's addition The Village – a bohemian sideshow of music, theatre, comedy, art and food which peaked between 1 and 5am - was a welcome break from the ever-present schoolie-factor. Special mention must also be made of the cloud that descended every dusk, enhancing the sound and light, adding to the sense that we were somewhere far stranger and otherworldly than a bit north of Lorne.

More noticeable than anything else was an overwhelming sense of positivity that imbued every show, interaction and acquaintance. Each artist had a wildly enthusiastic crowd. Whether it was 50-odd at Melbourne's finest Asian-dwarf pop-pushers The Punisherz (who drew the midnight NYE time-slot against Wolfmother) or Hilltop Hoods who packed the entire Valley and held punters in their palm, people LOVED The Falls. This culminated in a massive show of respect as the organiser and his parents who own the site welcomed in the new year. Every Fallsie took to their feet, noisily gave thanks, and were rewarded with a combination of You Am I and Wolfmother covering (what - a 70s rock anthem?) The Who's Baba O'Reilly.

Musically, one key presence was The Evelyn. Take any band with a 2005/06 residency, put them at Falls and you're onto a winner. Illzilla, Labjacd, Custom Kings and Blue King Brown all pursued a rootsy fusion of polished folk, funk, hip-hop and blues which pushed the right buttons for the festival crowd. In fact, you could pencil them in every year and get the same reaction so good are they at what they do. Blue King Brown had a choice mid-afternoon slot and several thousand drunk teenagers dug their uninspired percussion-heavy Wailers-ripoff sounds. Figurehead - indeed God - of this carefree, gently political and Marleyesque hippiness, Michael Franti, managed no less than three sets over the weekend. That they were largely the same bothered no one. His version as Michael Franti and Friends was more an acoustic ravedown to Spearhead's propulsive rhythms, and one which set his cliche-ridden and wordplay-heavy polemics to the fore. Franti's impeccable political pedigree, consistent requests for audience participation and willingness to wander the festival meeting and greeting fitted in perfectly with the festival vibe.

It was this idea of an act's vibe that, in some cases, proved to be more important than the songs, especially with less familiar international acts like The Bees, Cansei De Ser Sexy and Jamie Lidell. The Bees put in a wonderful set with balmy English-summer, organ heavy, music hall-influenced daftness, a set which included their ace version of Os Mutantes' A Minha Minena and "hit" Chicken Payback. Their new songs were more guitar-based and allowed them to get a bit heavier - which went down a treat with the 10 000 odd punters who had packed in to see Wolfmother, who were up next.

At once visually stunning and with a energy that exuded pure fun, pop and sex, Cansei De Ser Sexy (CSS) were an exciting revelation and a pick of the fest. Why they played at 12:55pm after a lovely Josh Pyke set is a question best left to the programmers. Though all were transfixed by singer Lovefoxxx and her skin tight violet body-suit (indeed, security rarely took their eyes off her) it was their songs and inimitable style that got the crowd on side - especially JJJ fave Let's Make Love (And Listen To Death From Above). Choruses like "Hey, do you want to drink some AL-cohol?" and "Music is My Hot Hot Sex" ensured CSS were in a league of their own. Another act who seemed to have won a tentful of new fans was Jamie Lidell - a smooth and decidedly memorable performer. His supreme style, sparkly trousers and perfectly executed white-boy soul gave the punters something different that stood out from the safe bets.

Epitomising a different sort of class and a Festival highlight for all who made Fabulous Friday were Basement Jaxx, the only act who made the two huge garish fluro motifs of Australian animals that graced either side of The Valley Stage work. Costume changes, a great light show, neon pom-pom dancing, killer beats, a horn section in kilts and songs that most people knew were all factors which made them a class act and a revelation live. Seeing dazzlingly dressed and uninhibited performers, free from the confines of guitars and mic stands, reinventing their songs in a way that the audience loved was a real thrill. As was their blistering and in every respect "large" encore of Where's Your Head At, which surely caused the ground itself to be stamped several feet lower.

Dexter followed and pulled out his usual dynamite combination of hip-hop, reggae, funk and pop which kept most of the punters in the Valley til the wee hours, a trick also pulled off the following night by Death Of A Disco Dancer. Their mix of electronica, indie, general dark grooves and a seemingly limitless supply of inflatable balls resulted in a stellar set. Sunday night saw DJs Jennifer Tutty and Katie Drover play an equally killer set. Banging tracks and shameless on-stage dancing abounded, which ensured that when Purple Sneakers took over at 4:30am to close the festival, every punter in the house was in it for the long haul. A notable minus was the lack of between-set music, something Meredith does brilliantly. Playing Bob Marley's Legend for the third time while roadies moved gear smacked of a missed opportunity.

What us punters DID get more of was the Woodstock-style vibe that epitomised Falls. John Butler Trio got a massive reception and saw the girls-on-shoulders quotient increase dramatically. Even the camera crane operator - who seemed to know most of the words and wasn't averse to dancing while going in for the close-up - was down with JBT. Something's Gotta Give opened their show followed by Better Man, a new song Better Than That and an extended guitar instrumental that saw Butler noisy-up a crowd by simply kicking a mic and subtly use a volume pedal - more than most managed in sets twice as loud. His closing acapella had EVERYONE in the place singing Peaches And Cream in a dusk that felt totally free of cynicism and self-consciousness (you had to leave Melbourne and be at a festival where more than half were from interstate to make this happen, but happen it did).

Another exponent of this funkified balladry was Matt Costa, a man who comes across as a forgettable sub-Jack Johnson folkie in print but showcasing a wonderful line in Buckley/Nick Drake/70s AM radio smoothness and who provided the perfect soundtrack to a wet afternoon. Tracks like Sunshine, Miss Magnolia and Don't Break My Heart were everything Pete Yorn would love to be. His successful efforts to get a wave going and inability to scull a can of VB while every male in the place chanted "scull, scull etc" only made him more adorable, even before his golden voice silenced them. Looking and performing like a man twice his youthful years, Dan Sultan also pushed this easy-listening-for-the-young barrow and is a name to remember as he is likely to be as safe a bet for an ARIA in the future as he was for Falls organisers.

Breaking up this wholesome goodness was Saul Williams. A fearlessly powerful performer, one who professes the same politics as Franti and most other performers at Falls , but who chooses harsh industrial sounds and in-yr-face soundbite rap ("Every being has the ability to uplift the entire fucking world") which pushed most of the crowd away. Those who stayed were sucked in, no cigarette lighters or mobile phones held aloft (a la the Franti show), just a small forest of fists and hands. The sound was (unusually for this festival) a little too compressed and some impact was lost, but there was no missing the message.

The band who stole much of Williams' crowd, The Audreys, played most of their recent CD and the sunnie-sporting, sunbaked crowd, flopped down amongst tinnies and empty water bottles, returned a listlessly positive reception. Singer Taasha Coates came across like a geisha's ghost; with her pale face, wispy arms, red and white dress and distinctively fragile voice. Their take on Moon River and the CDs opening track You And Steve McQueen were clear highlights, as was Tristan Goodall's distinctive guitar and banjo work.

Distinctive stringwork also came from Fourplay, who amped the crowd in a way it's doubtful any other group wielding just violins, a cello and a viola could. Genreless and with a great line in melody and dynamics, Fourplay succeeded in being both familiar and original with their take on Jeff Buckley's Grace, wringing even more emotion out of it's themes with each glissando and pizzicato stab. But it was their own pieces that really impressed, and their recent "environmentally neutral" CD kept them in line with the overall reduce-reuse-recycle vibe that the Falls love to push.

The parallel opposite of Fourplay then was the success story of 2006 and the reason for more screaming and crowd surfing than any other band, the bringers-in of 2007 and the latest proponents of big hair: Wolfmother. If only ripping off Pete Townshend high-kicks and windmills, Angus Young duck-walks, Jimmy Page's guitar collection and being rough with an organ equalled a good show. Something those 70s sounds had that was missing tonight however, was warmth. Surely with walls of amps and authentically dated gear you'd think it would make it's way through, but tonight all we got were the songs, in all their familiar bombastic glory. The crowd bought every second and the sound was huge, but the boys looked a little tired (for good reason, too) and the songs lacked guts. Instrumental breaks were lacklustre and showed up how little time they've had with their instruments, though their effects pedals seemed to be working fine.

Modest Mouse, on the other hand, used their armory of sounds and dynamics well and sung quality songs about things that are actually real, PLUS, they had Johnny Marr. This set was a cracker. As Isaac Brock belted out catchy tune after crowd-pleasing fave, each song seemed to make you miss the Pixies just a little less. Float On and Ocean Breathes Salty were deafeningly received as were OC-featured Paper Thin Walls and The World At Large. The band seemed unfazed by the small pack of devoted fans positioned in front of Marr who screamed his name, pointed, and generally paid their "respect" to the guitar god he again proved himself to be. He actually smiled, too!

Also pushing quality tunage to rowdy fans were the authors of what is already considered one of the most misunderstood albums of 2006, The Sleepy Jackson. Luke Steele, perhaps making the most of this "misunderstood" factor, looked astonishingly like Bob Dylan circa-Newport. Words were mostly, and unfortunately, lost amidst the busy and harsh sound the band are now a smartly dressed 6-piece, and sound nothing like the record; far more darkly melodic and cold. The quality of songs still shone through though, especially those not reliant upon grand pianos, orchestras and choirs: Bucket Of Love, and Come To This on particular.

One band who once again proved themselves beyond reproach were You Am I. Whether fueled by youthful exuberance or an assured cockiness Oasis would bicker over, Tim Rogers never gave less than 100%, from Last Gunslinger In Town to set closer Berlin Chair. Whether he remembers any of this blinder of a gig it's hard to say, but he was on form; sculling wine, narrowly missing the spit he shot regularly into the air, tearing off his shirt, grabbing another gorgeous Rickenbacker semi-acoustic and launching into what he rightfully called "another classic". Purple Sneakers, With Friends Like You, New Pompeii, Adam's Rib, She Got Soul and The Damage We Done were all totally compelling.

Bringing a sense of Americana to Falls was M Ward; sporting two drummers, strong and low-key delivery, bluegrass guitar breaks and a great line in trucker caps. Ward covered Daniel Johnson's To Go Home to great effect, but it's his own down-home songs which allowed him to shine, and his band to stretch out, bringing Tennessee to Lorne. Set closer Big Boat sounds far bigger and better live than on last year's Spunk sampler CD.

Midnight Juggernauts were blessed with an ace light show and great sound as they reeled off what must be their 50th gig this year. Not quite at the energy levels that their songs inspire, they came across a little static, confined to precisely working with 4/4 beats. Ultimately their sounds did lift them and, naturally, the punters loved them, especially during their airplay hit Shadows.

Hip hop was a uniting force at Falls. Hilltop Hoods played a brilliant set that showcased their rapport with each other and the crowd, highlighting their confidence as performers and arrangers. Scribe threw a house party on stage that was the hottest ticket of the festival. Quite how he sounds like he's from The Bronx when he sings a song like Christchurch about his hometown is a mystery, but you can forgive him for anything once he starts rhyming. So. Damn. Smooth. Local duo 2 Up though, were derivative, tedious and, mercifully, almost entirely forgettable. Kid Kenobi and MC Sureshock dealt some warm and welcome electronic squelches which held a late night chill at bay, seeming right at home with the decks a welcome hearth. Murph And Plutonic closed the Valley Stage on the last night and held the crowd where they wanted them with their strong and sure rhymes and tight live drumming.

For the punk contingent Mach Pelican gave us punk-pop for virgins and Ramones fans. Spot on playing and perfect for festivals like this, She's A Mod and Here We Go Again were energetic bursts of fun that helped dispose of the early casualties of the festival. The Exploders were adrenaline incarnate and an unhealthy reminder of The Tote on a good night. Oddly mid-paced and malevolent tunes, loaded with sneering and smelling of danger. That smell lingered long on the stage after The Bedroom Philosopher pleased another crowd with his comedic tunesmithery, too. Happy pooglets were made still happier by his and Charlie Pickering's set that slotted in well, just before crowd favourites the Mountain Goats. Quality all round.

In the early hours of Monday morning, as the final song of the festival (Jackson 5's frankly untoppable I Want You Back) closed Purple Sneakers' set, Falls turned into a wasteland of empty water bottles, crushed cans, spilled food and several hundred mad punters dancing to nothing. Daftness reigned ("Where is satisfaction made? A satisfactory!") and initial drunken thrills wore off with daylight. 2007 was sleepily embraced to the sound of inboxes filling, as cars and buses crept back to the very non-Falls world of hung-tyrants and yacht races. Mad.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The Butterfly Club

Benn Bennett is a performer who looks so comfortable in front of a sold out Butterfly Club it's hard to believe this is his first ever headline show. Already given a slot at next year's Comedy Festival, Bennett's wonderfully expressive voice and face, his musical ability, atypical subject matter and the tight narrative connection between them really impresses and makes him a great performer; something the crowd heartily affirm tonight. The wonderfully iconic Butterfly Club promotes an intimacy that really serves the warmth of Bennett's delivery and intimacy of his material well. Presented as part lecture, part holiday story, and part surreal musical, Bennett's show The Baltic State is held together by his love of his subject matter and a selfless delivery which allows him to slip between a multitude of musically-linked characters.

Beginning with an authoritative introduction in Russian, he removes his fez, pushes on the reading glasses and begins his map-notated journey from Estonia, through Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine among other countries through to Croatia, each stop providing a musical cue, a new character and story to set it. It's the quality of songs that really allow Bennett to stand out from other musical comedians, so unlike any other performer's as they are. Variously adding elements of Euro-Disco, traditional Caucasian, ambient and classical to flesh out his journey, Bennett is equally adept at each and this combined with his genuine and genuinely funny cultural insights and experiences make for a fantastic show.

Songs like Cinderella's Booties, Tallulah Bankhead, his Croatian version of Tomorrow from the musical Annie - Sutra, and his version of Kate Bush's Babooshka are all stand out songs and show an inspired use of his Roland Fantom X7 and willingness to draw on various styles, languages and accents to enhance his show. Perhaps there could be a knock on effect from Borat sparking people's interest in this part of the world as being ripe for comedic exploration, though Baron-Cohen could never be this warm. Bennett has this base well and truly covered in his uniquely charming way. Na zdorovje!


Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The Forum

Who knew you could take so many genres and make them all so fucking boring? All while packing out The Forum? Amazing. No, seriously, hats off. The heaving mass of happily intoxicated fans; guys with short haircuts and white t-shirts with their shorter, dressed up girlfriends all got their money's worth though. Cat Empire were always a band that you could count on for a decent night's dancing, and that quality hasn't changed since they played for $5 at The Night Cat. Not much has when it comes to their performance, behind that though, a business has mushroomed, albums have sold and people have been converted, mainly through relentless touring, something that would lead you to believe they can put on a show.

Their musicianship is supreme, their confidence and performances are all top notch and seeing someone doing something they're passionate about is always a great thing. However, tonight's performance came across like a product showcase for their brilliantly conducted business; they didn't look like they were having fun, more like they were working. Live, their songs are really in their element; smooth and effortless professionalism shines through and the crowd adore it, safe in the knowledge that their $50 will guarantee them a risk-free night of fun. Which is what Cat Empire deliver. Jazz, rock, Latino, funk, ska, dub it's all there in one giant pick-and-mix furrball. Songs begin with a different solo, sooner or later a groove appears, another takes over, then another, then a breakdown, another solo, some rousing choruses and we're home. Noticeably no groove lasts longer than 30 seconds, possibly indicating their attention span and ability to simply ride a groove - something their idols do handsomely, but then their idols aren't playing to mainstream Australia (and this audience was mainstream Australia even when loudly proclaiming "we will never yield to conformity" with fists aloft during Chariot). Their use of dynamics and playful rhythms (thanks to drummer Will Hull-Brown) kept every song kicking on. All this slick style-appropriation does prompt the question, what are THEY actually like being themselves?

This fusion of genre and rhythm can be truly amazing in the hands of people like The Avalanches, Manu Chau or Os Mutantes, but tonight, with all their good taste, "right" notes and faultless rhythms, it just felt like a conservatorium school band having fun, which is essentially all they're trying to do, and on that level they deservedly succeed. The hard yards have been put in no question, though Felix's lyrics are still juvenile at best, his voice dire and stage presence hopelessly pretentious he is an entertainer par excellence and no lame Blues Brothers slapstick dance routine with fellow vocalist Harry Angus will change it. Angus however does sing melodies, but only with a Bob Marley-voice and while conducting himself with his spare hand. Guest sitar player and rent-a-Santana-lick guitarist Kumer Shome brightens proceedings and his interplay with Angus is a highlight. As was Felix's call for us to switch to Origin Energy in an effort to slow climate change, before dedicating Sly to Melbourne. Tracks like that, Two Shoes, Cities, The Car Song and extended encore Hello Hello all deliver their spot-on horn blasts and singalong outros the tightest and rouse the loudest responses. Three-piece Tortured Soul, who opened the evening play forgettable smooth Jamiroquai-lite soul/house music to a disinterested mingling crowd. Quite why they came from America to do this is an as yet unanswered and fair question, but apparently Barry Manilow likes them.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Hi-Fi Bar

While it may be rash yet somewhat accurate to say that Datarock are yet another in the field of ironic-grab-bag-of-early-80s-influenced studied Scandacool, bearing songs with simple programmed beats, simpler keyboard riffs, catchy shouty lyrics and are thereby stylish while being empty of integrity or lasting value, this would be missing the point. The point of which is to dig them for what they are: 80s-style fun, and this gig was possibly one of the most fun gigs of recent months, being the last gig on their world tour and one infused with joyous relief and the odd stage invasion.

The use of the word ironic to describe Datarock is rendered redundant by their B-Boy poses and synchronised moves, matching red tracksuits over hirsute chests, metrosexual theatrical prancing and an opening track that states:"What we do is for real/We think you don't care/How Datarockers feel". The packed Hi-Fi Bar must have had the doormen working overtime checking for fake ID with the average age seeming to be about 20, while the energy levels were high as the temperature outside.

Even sound problems that left the keyboards impotent for the first four songs couldn't dampen spirits or the energy coursing through the four members as they pushed out party anthem after party anthem. Night Flight To Uranus, New Song, Molly Ringwald tribute Molly, Laurie and that's even before they get to the radio hits I Used To Dance With My Daddy and Computer Camp Love which lift the roof off the place.
"I've worn this for 80 shows in 16's been a while since I washed it..." says singer Fredrik before launching his red tracksuit jacket into a crowd that set upon it like feral animals.

Several stage invasions from repeat offenders enliven an already kicking end of set Fa Fa Fa, their new UK single and a high point of the night. After returning to spray the front few rows with champagne and delivering a more punk set they then finish on what could only be described as a higher point which is all coming to the front of the stage and singing I've Had The Time Of My Life, while leaving and returning to the stage several more times to ensure maximum fun is being had. Awesome.

Fun and banging riffs were the common ground shared with capable and ubiquitous support band The Groundies, who bash out their warmly received hyped-up pub-rock sounds to a near capacity crowd. Singer Joe McGuigan's shirt removal and addition of long-time roadie Bobby on guitar free up Joe to get more Iggy/Cobain on us which, while being entertaining, didn't push anything new out of the band and still made for a fairly samey-sounding gig. Great riffs and boundless energy are their strong suits and a killer live combination, and with the Groundies, the smaller the venue the bigger the rock.


Thursday, November 30, 2006
Northcote Social Club

With the sky still a rich blue outside, The NSC plays home to a spillover from Brisbane's Ladyfest, which tonight hosts Portland, Oregon's multi-talented and very busy, Sarah Dougher.

Whether it was the clashing final episode of Glasshouse, the cool weather, the paucity of advertising or the general lack of genre into which to slot Miss Dougher, people stay away in droves. Even Dougher's heartfelt thank you 'to the complete lack of assholes working at NSC' went out to an untended bar. It was a little embarrassing, but the audience there was, were there for the music, or, more accurately, the personality and the finely-honed words of Sarah Dougher.

Brisbane's The Rational Academy open the evening with a lackadasical and somewhat lacklustre set peppered with self-depreciating but charming between-song chat. It's unlikely they'll give up their day jobs to further work this exercise in celebrating the initial exciting spark of mid-90s melodic chaos they so successfully evoke, and less likely there will be an audience for it. For those that were around for 1995's Summersault Festival, dug the Chapel Hill scene or attended any Fauves or Screamfeeder gig circa 1996, the Rational Academy are a marvelous thing, even if the energy is lacking.

Shortly following their exit, Sarah Dougher took to the stage, bereft of any fanfare or audience hysterics, more befitting the Greco-Roman History Professor she is back home than a feminist vanguard, poet, activist, and inspirational veteran of a multitude of grrl rock bands from the Pacific Northwest scene; roles she also fulfills in her daily life. Instantly coming across as being up for a friendly chit-chat and some tunes, and after wanting a definition of the difference between a "sit down" and "workshop", Dougher launched into Turn Myself; "I turned myself to tinder and I waited there for you/ Beside the wide river, beside the wild wood/ Dry and unforgiving, the sap had ceased to run/ Cut in the green of summer and cured of every love..,". Yes sir she can write. It was lyrics like this that - when heard above her very rudimentary chording - that was clearly what had brought her to Melbourne and us to her. More glorious lyrics followed, especially on songs like The Doctor With The Sham Degree ("a series of secret surgeries") bringing backyard abortionists to justice, and the wonderfully subtle and clever Indio; "most of my songs are about me, which is convenient". Her conversational lyrical style flowed into the warm stage banter; though the audience, best described as a little shy given the closeness, gave little in return....ah Melbourne, we're so spoilt. Another high point is her wonderfully affecting reinterpretation of The Crabs' Three Days showing just how much her style and subject matter has changed, even if her gift of vibrant and concise wordplay hasn't.

A mere 45 minutes later and she's gone, the warm applause quickly fading as the audience drift toward the merch desk. An odd but affecting night, all the more so for being such a shared secret.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The Corner

It's not often that a crowd this stylish, with such sharp profiles, neat hair and great skin pack out The Corner. Plainly these people know what they were coming for, and it's not to hear a couple of regurgitated well-known soundtracks. Yann Tiersen is evidently far more comfortable and even more adored, for returning to his Euro-rock roots than getting all tinkly with piano and projector as many may expect.

Kicking off the evening in fine style is Qua who got a bit tinkly with a xylophone and used a projector very well - constantly referring to the images behind him as he triggered, tweaked, scrolled and strummed his warm melodic tones, skittery beats and occasional vibratoed Danelectro guitar. The visuals are a combination of storybook imagery, exciting 50s musical TV and retro sci-fi which matched his sounds really well. At once hyperkinetic and poignant (a rare feat indeed), his songs promote warm intimacy and never sound too familiar. Though not one of his most engaging sets, he is still a great choice as opener.

Familiar could also describe the occasional riff as it turned up amidst Yann Tiersen's post-Euro-rock-punk set which is, in part, a reworking and expanding of his music known from films interspersed with the odd vocal and new song. These latter stand out as sounding more like a rock band writing together than reinterpreting music written for other instruments, particularly on new track La Rade. High points for many it seemed were the songs where the band left the stage to Tiersen, or pared down to just he and guitarist Marco, and out came the violin which he proceeded to play in a frentic, obviously schooled, but totally un-showy way. Often droning an open string or playing fifths, a violin has rarely sounded so full and alive. These times when atmosphere took precendence over sonic force was where Tiersen's abilities as a performer and composer really shine. Though his rock songs really are the odd equation of French rock + hints of Sonic Youth, The Brodsky Quartet and The Cult. It is really all about melody and a having a hard, energetic backing for it.

His songs are performed using a cellist/violinist (who played the latter as the former), a steadily sweating guitarist (equally adept at making melody from a power drill as a plectrum), a drummer, a very rock and hirsuit bassist and himself (playing variously: toy piano, accordian, guitar and violin). Songs frequently end in a repeated riff and two chord backing for a minute followed by an abrupt halt. No mistake, this band are tight, and their instrumentals rarely flag, again due to that nice line in orchestrated melody he possesses, something the audience love. Screaming for an encore they were rewarded with a ten minute epic We Thank You Once Again(?) and some more inspired violin-playing from the man who showed that even the sharpest Francophiles can rock out, when it's played this well.