Entries Tagged as 'Music'

Mother Jack @ Smith’s

Mother Jack @ Smith’s, 15th Dec, 2015
by James Kent

After a self-imposed sojourn from the glitz and glamour of the music review industry I should have known it was only a matter of time before she lured me back with her siren song. In this particular instance though, the siren was Mother Jack conducting a pre-set sound check, and I steered myself to the nearest couch (which was decidedly unrocky) so that I could write a Homerically epic review. First though, Fossil Rabbit hippity-hopped his way onto the stage for a short set of atmospheric guitar looping. Now, reviewing instrumental atmospherics and not sounding like a twat is rather difficult, but if soaring loops and musical journeys in a similar vein to Ruben Ingall or The Books is your thing, then Fossil Rabbit is your guy.

After a somewhat intriguing sound check I was looking forward to Mother Jack; and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Clearly influenced by the likes of Björk and Emiliana Torrini, Mother Jack practically ooze Scandinavian cool, with vocal gymnastics that would put Björk to shame and a unique mix of loops and vocal effects creating a remarkably full sound for two musicians and a loop pedal well worth a download.

State of the Local Music Venues Report 2015

Fifteen years of participating in the local music scene has been a frequently dispiriting vocation, with decent venues coming and going with a frequency quite unseemly and bands leaving for greener pastures with depressing regularity. So it is a rare and great pleasure to relate that, in my humble opinion, the local music scene has seldom been in ruder health, at least in terms of number and diversity of venues to play in.

The City

The Phoenix, which has always been my personal favourite, has been having a rough patch what with the fire and all, but has maintained its status as Canberra’s best and most interesting small venue and will soon redouble itself with the promise of expanding their program of entertainment to far more than the current three nights of music, a weekly quiz and monthly poetry slam. Natural tendency: non-judgemental (28) (booking policy)

Transit Bar, after trying and failing to be a decent venue for many years, finally put some effort into a well proportioned stage and ameliorating some of the extraordinary echoes a concrete cavern will commonly produce and now makes the list. Good on them, though I still hear complaints from musos and punters alike about less than perfect, more than ear splitting sorta mixes. Still, some local bands are playing there and having an alright time so long may they continue. Natural tendency: JJJ (22)

Magpies has been a thing about to happen for a long time but now seems to be achieving the regularity of activity and consistency of organisation and promotion required to make the grade. Joel Cabban is doing well at the helm and has a good pair of ears which helps a lot. Magpies may well become that mid-to-large size room Canberra has been lacking for quite a while. Natural tendency: heavy (23)

Smith’s? Well we’ll see. Hopefully it’ll fill an important niche in the boutique cafe/venue/hotbed of revolution space. Natural tendency: Cabaret Voltaire (35)

Hippo Bar is tiny and doesn’t really prioritise live music but is doing regular jazz gigs on Wednesdays these days. Natural tendency: pretentious (25)

The ANU Food Co-op is what a sound guy would kindly call a ‘difficult room’, but the dozens of scruffy cross-legged pastafarian naifs that crowd in monthly for a bowl of vegie soup and an eclectic Acoustic Soup line-up don’t seem to mind. Natural tendency: flour power (19)

ANU Bar has been a good venue in the past and is useful for some large touring gigs, but it’s value to the local scene has been low to zero for many years. Recently introduced, however, is Groovin’ the ANU (actually on tonight), a monthly local music night where the bar (and erstwhile Greenroom proprietor Garry Peadon) waive all fees, entry is free, beers are $3 and four local acts can play for nothing. Better than nuthin’ I guess. Natural tendency: various (?)

The Inner North

With the demise of Tilley’s as a venue, the Front has been the only commercial venue of note in the inner north for a while, and that only by the skin of its tooth, it being tiny, cramped and with barely adequate audio reinforcement. Now supplying real food, it’s got character, lots of comfortable lounges and a nice sunny veranda. Natural tendency: quinoa (29)

For many years a bikie blues bar, the Old Canberra Inn has recently changed hands and the new owners are taking steps to relaunch the joint for a broader demographic. Where will all the bogans go now? I heard a rumour they’re going to soundproof the games room and equip it for bands which makes sense. Another birdy told me they were quite happy to pay reasonable money for bands and production at their relaunch a few weeks ago, which went very well by all accounts. Natural tendency: we shall see (?)

In Turner, through the agency of the CMC, there are the four members of the Westbank Cultural Precinct:

*The newly re-opened Polish Club, about to crank out regular Friday nights for locals and touring acts. Natural tendency: Zywiec! (32)

*The Croatian Club available for acts able to fill a 500+ room. Natural tendency: beer barn

*Le Alliance Francaise, which is almost always overlooked but is quite a nice room for a small show: Natural tendency: BCBG

*The Turner Bowls is still open to gigs if bands want to use it. A good 150 room with a noisy kitchen behind the stage but soon to be remodelled. Natural tendency: rugger bugger

The inner north is also blessed by our house which hosts regular Backanalias, Bang! Bang! Bangs! and house concerts throughout the year. Natural tendency: boozy (33)

And in the near future, inner northians will be able to see what a couple of million in renovations has produced at the recently dubbed Music Hub at the Ainslie Arts Centre. With renovations of the Ralph Wilson and Bogong Theatres also nearly complete, AGAC, as it’s becoming affectionately known, could, just maybe, become a useful venue for local music. Natural tendency: hopefully not snooty


Belco now has two venues, with a possible third on the horizon. The Basement, long the natural habitat of the heavy/metal/punk end of Canberra’s music jungle, has had a fairly recent change of management and may be attempting a transition of clientele, a la the OCI. I do hear they’ve put thought and energy into making it a better venue with appropriate p.a. equipment and a second more intimate band room. Natural tendency: in transition (29)

And self-described ‘cocktail bar’ La De Da seems to have successfully staked a claim on Emu Bank, putting on fairly regular nights with a few bands/dj’s and attracting a presumably local crowd of young things. Natural tendency: aspirational (22)

The recent acquisition of the Pot Belly Bar by a quartet of youngish Canberran professionals lends itself to Belconnen having an almost unprecedented (at least in this century) three music venues at the one time. Personally I think they should give the place a good once over, lighten it up, reduce the size of the bar and forty or so other things I thought of while considering whether to buy the Pot. Natural tendency: TBA

Northside also has The Abbey, of which I have written recently, and whose hopes of being a useful part of the local venue scene lie chiefly with the chance of the tramline going right past, in which case, whole new ballgame. Natural tendency: wedding bells


Beyond Q is an odd but loveable little venue in a 2nd hand bookshop in a basement under the Curtin Shops. Approximately 12 people can squeeze into its ornate little music room. They seem to have something on most Saturdays and Sundays at various times of the day and night and have a cafe, often with liquor permit. Natural tendency: intimate

The Harmonie German Club in Narrabundah might be the Southside’s Polish Club (capacity 300/65). Home to the Blues Society’s monthly jam, they have regular Friday gigs, with a strong tendency towards country and blues, and a smattering of other events, Oktobfest of course, a choir and market day (not unlike the Polo’s Polish Sausage Sale).

A Bite to Eat is largely just a suburban eatery but they used to regularly run a Sunday afternoon (5-7) gig every week for quite a few years (a bit intermittent at present) and it seemed to draw a reasonable crowd. I believe bands had to bring and operate their own p.a. Natural tendency: family outing

Ojo’s Cafe at the Hyperdome seems to do music occasionally. I have no real data.

PJ’s Tuggeranong finally got rid of the bikies but has yet to live up to the occasional promise of it becoming a venue of any note. The main infrastructure, excluding a ready audience, is in place however.

So in total we are talking 20+ venues throughout town, each with their own character, each sprinkling their particular ordure into Canberra’s collective musical cesspit. We may have overlooked some places. Apologies if so. Please let us know if there’s a venue for original contemporary music we’re unaware of.

The Kristabelle’s Review

Kristabelle and The Southern Jubilee Ringers @ Turner Bowls. 6th Mar, 2015
by Chenoeh Miller

Her smooth deep vocals are highlighted by a killer ensemble and a knock out pair of boots, but the crowd is small and the sound is low.

The Turner Bowls club is a favourite local venue. No, really, what’s not to like? There’s a pool table, cheap drinks, a dollhouse stage, the gorgeous CMC welcoming committee and a regular line up of some of the best bands in town. So I was stunned on this particular evening upon my 9pm arrival, to find a mere 23 people scattered around the rounded tables. Perhaps there was another party that night that I didn’t know of. But I wasn’t about to let the vacant space deter me from enjoying a rare parenting free night, toe tapping to one of my favourite recent musical finds. As self nominated die hard fans, my friends and I quickly nicknamed them ‘The Kristabelle’s’.

Within minutes they arrive on stage, each with a sunshine gaze and singin’ of springtime on the range today. I am instantly reminded of the UK band Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. Only these folk are less dirty, less rockabilly and more the pure country sound that I love. Like Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton.

Cary Grant and Beatie Bow on guitars, Clint Eastwood (circa 1965) on double bass and the divine sunshine that is Alice in Wonderland* on violin and banjo with her enviable blue boots. Alice and Beatie wear classic country matchy dresses. They are all heart and poise; their harmony and teeth exquisite in every way.

Cary is smooth with his supportive and constant presence. His winning smile tells me that he loves being here. And his upward facing steel string clangs superb as he expertly manoeuvres central focus from himself to his adoring Belles.

Clint’s relentless energy keeps us enthralled despite the empty space in the room. His legitimate banditry reaches lovely peaks when he tells inter song tales with Beatie.

I want to hear them more. Alas the sound is low. My friend and I discuss who will ask the sound guy to turn it up. She does, to not much avail. The instruments and vocals remain low. The few of us there would have taken a cue from the volume to dance but the softness kept us in our seats.

I first saw this group at a Backyard Bachanalia some weeks before when their energy was much bigger – perhaps incurred by the bigger crowd. Evidently these still sitting few were given a lesser joy on this round.

I love this group, but I crave their possibility and a more consistent energy. Still, they are my favourite local band at the moment and I can’t wait to see them again.

*names changed for no particular reason.
They are in fact: Cary – Kevin Bradley; Beatie – Jacqueline Bradley; Clint – Ed Radclyffe
And Alice – Krista Schmeling
Together they are Kristabelle and the Southern Jubilee Ringers

The Muse

Cassidy’s Ceili, Andy Irvine, Rens van der Zalm at the very welcoming Merry Muse, Friday 18th March, 2011.
by Jim Williams.

Unfortunately the preceding day of St Patrick’s day events left Cassidy without a voice and unable to front the band. This unfortunate event, however, gave us the opportunity to enjoy the great talents of the musicians in the band. We are indeed very lucky that Canberra is the home to so many fine musicians.

Sandy Gibney showed his skill and versatility on the violin taking us from traditional Irish and Scottish tunes through to ragtime, tango and even a czardas (a Hungarian folk dance).

Sandy was complimented by the playing of Ian (bass, saxophone and stylophone), Jon (percussion) and Pete (guitar). Together they showed the joy and humour of playing excellent music at a level which does not pale when compared to better known overseas acts. [Read more →]


CC Thornley

Present: Jim Boots, John Griffiths, Sharkie

Our guest is CC Thornley of the Black Swans of Trespass.

Click Play Audio to play podcast. Click here to download

If you’d like to download the podcast, tap this URL: http://the-riotact.com/~john/insban/pod131.mp3 into iTunes or your media player or whatever.

There is a facebook fan page for people to marvel at here.

This link is for people who have podcasting software which you can find here.

Recorded on Tuesday 14th Se[tember.

Click read more for the track list.

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Super Best Friends at McGregor Hall

Pics by qedqed

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Spencer B Lonely

Spencer P. Jones, The Basement, 26 June, 2010
by Amy Dowler

In case you didn’t know, Spencer P. Jones played in Canberra last Saturday night. I’m guessing, unless you were that guy playing pool at the back, or in one of the other bands on the bill, you were blissfully unaware. It’s great that the Canberra Musicians Club exists and the regularly strong crowds to be seen at the many local gigs it promotes is phenomenal. This success is only made more stark when seen in relief – that is, in contrast to the woe that is a good gig not properly promoted in Canberra.

Spencer P. Jones is a wonderful guitarist, song writer and performer. He put on a great gig at the Basement. He reacted to the pathos of the scene facing him with a Crazy Heart style disheartened countenance which served only to enhance the regret-laden, booze-addled, downtrodden blues in which he specialises. But no one this good should make a loss from bothering to come to our small, cold city and the door takings on Saturday would not have covered the petrol as far as Euroa.

It’s good that Canberra, and the CMC, supports its own. Getting bands from beyond the territory line to come here of their own volition is pretty rare and it would be great to encourage those that make the effort to keep coming back. Surely there are enough music lovers in Canberra to muster that?


Full Moon Fever @ McGregor Hall, Sat 26th June, 2010
by J. James Montgomery Fahy. Pics by Richard Barker (more pics here)

An eclipse will presage oddities and wonder on the most quotidian of winter nights. Full Moon Fever gripped the brows of a hundred people at MacGregor Hall, and the unusual was unleashed from the very first act. Remarkable for their hats alone, Gravy Tram filled the hall with rocking guitar and ironing board beats, their vocals intertwining pleasingly. Listening to their EP after the gig sets the air alight with unusual song structures and constant melody, trading off chilled lead guitar with twinned boy and girl vocals – the lyrics alone were worth the purchase of the EP, a presage to the complete album that we are eagerly expecting from these guys, though starting with exhortations for the audience not to listen is an interesting editorial decision.

Gravy Tram

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Ze Peeg Ees Blind

The Blind Pig. Sat June 26, QL2 Theatre, Gorman House
by Claudia Caton

The Blind Pig immediately had two things going for it – the timing, that of the partial lunar eclipse, which put on a good show, and the setting of that particular venue.  I’ve always loved the feel of that approach from the “gate keepers” down the stairs, looking down to the foyer, which in this case was almost the main stage of the event.  Here were sets of lounges where people milled; Min Mae had a peep booth where volunteers were encouraged to be ‘victims’ of sumptuous fondling while other audience members peeped through holes cut in the surrounding draped cloth.  Various beverages were being sold, but none as sumptuously as the absinthe.  This was served by a well-moustached gentleman – almost a circus director – armed with a lavish antique water fountain which mixed the liquor.  At $8 a pop, I was sad to have a fresh one knocked over into a plant while watching the lunar entertainment outside, until the door folk pointed out one that had been abandoned on their bench and would I like it?… That’s probably how I achieved a sudden skill in speaking hieroglyphics later on… but not before enjoying the dancing girls assimilating with the crowd, including Fifi Noir and her very adept belly dancing isolations. [Read more →]

Best School Band Concert Eva

So the story goes something like this. Lenny Kravitz is wandering through New Orleans and hears a school band playing one of his songs. Then this happens…

James Fahy/Joe Oppenheimer CD Launch Pics

Pics by qedqed

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I Viaggiatori – Review

I Viaggiatori and Dante Musica Viva Choir @ The Merry Muse. Saturday 5 June, 2010
By ComedyGoatee

Arriving at the Merry Muse a little late, the Bistro cum auditorium of the Turner Bowling Club was already at capacity. Organisers seemed pleasantly surprised by the turnout and with a little moving of tables and adding chairs squeezed everyone in the room.

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The Dante Musica Choir, backed by three members of the Canberra Mandolin Orchestra, was in full voice as I arrived –clearly enjoying the performance as much as the audience was. Well executed songs were interspersed with potted translations and invitations to dance or join the choir.

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Anonymous Smiles

Songs to Make you Smile: Rafe and the well dressed with cabaret shenanigans directed by Hadley. Tuggeranong Arts Centre, Thurs 27 May, 2010
by Anon

The location was the Tuggeranong Arts Centre, in a small top-floor bar with tables, chairs and a cosy stage. I attended the opening night Thursday performance. The setting was intimate, and as the audience entered, there were strange characters roving the room – all decked out with whacky costumes sporting new york accents. The format mostly consisted of song-skit-song, but occasionally there was hilarity from the non-musician-performers who acted out skits during the songs themselves.

The “well dressed” band (trumpet, clarinet, double-bass, drums and keys) were highly accomplished, with Bec Taylor stunningly keeping everyone together even when Rafe’s characteristically charming looseness revealed his opening night nerves. The songs were a mixture of Rafe’s new and old material (I think) including a guest cameo from the one and only Drew Walky for a spot of Soctor Deuss – this was the first time I’ve heard Rafe perform a set since his return from overseas, and his new material was a happy addition to his existing catalogue – more light and amusing, tuneful observations on people and places. Tops.

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Lifting Lily

Heath Cullen CD Launch – Anonymous Review

Heath Cullen and the 45 CD Launch @ McGregor Hall, Sat 22nd May, 2010, with Chanel Cole, Fire on the Hill and Jackie Marshall.
by anon.

8pm on a chilly Saturday night and McGregor Hall was slowly filling with souls braving the weather, while outside even braver souls warmed themselves, inside and out, with lit objects, large and small.

The divine voice of Chanel Cole began the evening, as she sweetly sung a collection of self-confessed sad songs. Any nervous quiver evident in the unease she felt from performing her originals was sweetened by her charm and wistfully naive piano.

Next up was that fire on the hill who brought harmonies to the jeff-buckly-esque rock of a four-piece outfit ahead of their time.

Heath Cullen and the 45 brought the dancing girls out. After an intimate start, they moved from gentle melodic acoustic through to an epic moody centre to a joyful tuneful end. So many guitars could never be enough, and the diverse musical experience of the set made for an engaging journey.

Finally the thoroughly rollicking, wild, divine, unpredictable and volatile passion of Jackie Marshall provided a suitably rocking finale.  Aided once more by the 45, it was rock and roll for the thinking woman or man.