Tuesday, August 23, 2011



With stiff competition elsewhere in town, it’s a respectable crowd that gather to the warmth of the sounds of Full Ugly as they plough through another impressive and shambolic set. Hardly a band whose name is dropped frequently, there is a slow-expanding fondness through their frequent support slots, and it’s a safe bet that the album for sale ‘(‘let me know if you want one’ says their Myspace) will sell out eventually, that is if their members other bands (who include most of tonight’s bill) don’t sap their energies.

The Harpoons seemed to sneak onto the scene in 2009, vanish for a year then burst back a few months ago to ever increasing hyperbole. Few bands can be in possession of such a talent as singer Bec Rigby, who sings like a somnambulist possessed by Fontella Bass, nor songs as proficient and simple as theirs. Though beginning nervously, their 50s chop, casually deployed 3-part harmonies and bright, simple riffs (on instruments surely twice as old as their players) seem to embolden the band as they progress, matching the increasing volume of punters with each song. Tracks like I Want You Around, All of My Days and Be My Lover betray their full surf-rock/French pop base and at the same time leave enough space for Rigby’s voice to soar. This space in the songs belies their true gift, that of restraint, and a million bands trying to be the next DapTones could watch and learn - and then have their minds blown by Faith, the show-stopping, set-closer. It’s almost inconceivable that these songs aren’t covers.

After that slate-cleaning pop tightness, it’s nice to have Milk Teddy get everything messy and spread reverb and delay all over their sloppy rock. Fronted by Tom Mendelovits (who is filling in on bass for Love Connection’s forthcoming US tour and could seemingly start a career in stand-up comedy should he want to), the band is excitement in a can. It’s hard to predict which turns songs will take, and not be caught up in the fact that the band seem to see the gig as hilarious fun. Mendelovits has a rare talent for missing notes yet providing exactly the atmosphere-capping ululations needed to give the songs greater connection, as well as dropping comments like ‘structurally, that last song was alright, post-structurally however…’. The nimble bass of Rachel Stanyon and guitar of Bronny Potts drives them to places you most definitely want to go. Final song Dreambone is a highlight, as is Mendelovits’s introduction: ‘this next song is going to be released on a forthcoming split seven-inch with The Ancients,’ he announces to the visible and audible shock of the rest of the band, ‘nah, see that was a joke.’

Love Connection have undergone a reinvention since last year’s adulated and thrilling debut album. Despite this love and their imminent tour of the US, the band have written and nearly completed their new album, most of which gets an airing tonight. Gone is the superfluous floor tom, the keyboard chords and guitar slashing have beginnings and ends  now, and though the overwhelming feeling of songs as sonic explorations is still there, hand-drawn maps have been replaced by GPS. Songs like You Don’t Need Muscles to Get Love (signed off with a ‘take that Meredith!’ from singer Michael Caterer), The Sun is in Saturn and the dance-inducing Lost City of Gold are thrilling in their force and textures, getting the audience clearly on side from the outset. However, it’s the closing duo of Omni and Sex in the Cinema that blast away fears of difficulty following up that debut album and plant this band firmly in the small pool of ‘justifiably hyped’ Australian bands.



With the Kiwi contingent high, there was little question tonight’s show was going to be a big one. Quite how big, was something of a surprise.

Opening act Mulholland, is a Kiwi with a Lennon-esque bite to his voice. As at ease singing as chatting, comments like 'I'm serious when I say you guys are awesome,” to cheers and claps, before deadpanning 'but we're better' make him instantly likeable. It’s a conclusion you could draw from hearing his songs. Existence is Futile is a heartfelt ballad about resurrecting Elvis to celebrate the opening of a sandwich ("There are days you look up to see / A talking vagina with a 50 foot wingspan"), and Let’s Go Fishing a blinding power-pop salvo featuring Elroy Finn on bass. Bizarre humour is a welcome change from the typically deathly serious troubadour, even if songs like the staggeringly beautiful Meet Me In The Hallway are anything but funny.

As soon as Teeth & Tongue take to the stage, the three very stylish Melbournians making some very stylish music are at risk of seeming pretentious; no easy-going Kiwi-accented banter here. But their vocal-heavy, keyboard-driven urbane swagger disarms the room of Liam Finn fans with an unexpected charm. Singer Jess Cornelius seems born to perform and the band generates an interesting take on atmospheric pop. At times T&T linger on Kate Bush-via-Fitzroy quirkiness but as the set builds and the room reaches capacity, it’s safe to say many new fans are won.

With no aplomb and loud cheers Liam Finn and Eliza-Jane Barnes amble on stage and launch into a set which lives up to Finn’s opening pledge: “We will play songs we find fun, we hope you do too. In fact we fucking promise you!” Tonight, there is a prominent use of electronics. Songs are reborn through a Line 6 delay pedal, allowing Finn to smash a drum kit while niftily triggering loops with his left foot. It’s not until mid-set and Fire In Your Belly that a folkie side emerges. To The Chapel follows and things get decidedly mellow for a few minutes before Finn is back looping heavy fuzz-saturated riffs and beating the kit.

Mulholland and Elroy then join for a mesmerising and blistering take on Cold Feet and we’re given the caveat: “We’re doing things differently tonight. We’re playing tomorrow and don’t want to double up.” More than a reinterpretation of songs, tonight is an example of loudly and lovingly articulated charisma, and it’s very hard not to be caught up.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Live Review: DJ SHADOW


With talk leading up to this gig focusing exclusively about the visual aspect of the show, there was little sense of impact when walking into the Palace and seeing a massive white orb on the stage. This is the Shadowsphere? Regardless of this, as soon as it stops being a weird Dr Who prop and begins functioning as a spherical screen, minds are blown. The crowd, mostly comprised of a lot of guys with short hair who don't look like they get out much, lose their minds when Shadow walks out. Dressed in baggy jeans and an orange t-shirt he waves, then ambles into the orb-capsule as seismic rumbles fill the venue and the opening beats of This Time (I’m Gonna Dub It My Way) ring out.

Within a few minutes the crowd explodes all over again with the instantly identifiable introduction to Endtroducing whose songs are pillaged for samples before being deftly dropped then burying amidst a blur of hard beats and fading cheers of recognition.

As great as the music is, and as many songs as the man can taunt us with, it’s the spectacle of the show that impresses, and that stays with you after the show.
Clearly Shadow has raised the bar for DJs and any musician who doesn’t act in a visually interesting way, and, just as unusual are the moments he steps out of the capsule to talk directly to us, thanking us for spending money on his art and for loving music. It’s all pretty unusual for a man rarely photographed not loitering behind towers of vinyl and a cap yanked over his face, and seems particularly powerful given the sonic overload of his show.
There’s no hiding or turning up and pressing play going on here, it’s as much a gig as whatever was happening at the Tote tonight.

The visuals do not always follow the music, often venturing into kaleidoscopic flights with the capsule becoming a multi-purpose sphere against the back-screen. The orb becomes a bowling ball making a strike, the Death Star, it flies down a microscope, through flash-lit forests, drifting over anonymous suburbia, through encyclopedias, by animated statues and courses its way through city streets filled with zombie-faced pedestrians, while Shadow within plays fast and loose with his back catalogue. Most commonly, though, we’re fittingly treated to cut-up shots of equipment, computer chips and geometric patterns, matching the sounds impeccably, every shot and edit in synch with the theme and every-shifting beats.

Shadow’s new take on Six Days, What Does Your Soul Look Like?, Stem, The Number Song, in fact, most tracks get very electro, almost into drill and bass at times with hip-hop samples sliding in and out and live electronic drumming keeping things fresh though still sounding incredibly 90s.

Midway through the show, the capsule spins around to allow Shadow to be seen and banter with us. We learn that he’s been coming to Melbourne for the last 16 years and that it’s 'definitely my favourite city to play’; which, of course, we love. He suggests we pay respect to Mike Durrie, and for those unfamiliar with his music (?) he reminds us that he’s ‘not the sort of DJ who plays weddings’ before dropping his new track, the bangin’ I Gotta Rokk. However, it’s his brief messing with Organ Donor that sends us truly mental.

After some more heartfelt thanks we’re treated to an encore of Blood on the Motorway, You Can Never Go Home Again (in which the orb becomes a snow globe rolling through what seems like Citizen Kane’s Xanadu), and the ever-glorious High Noon in which we’re sent reeling back through galaxies and left to ponder the universe. More than you could ask for from a gig really.