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Scenic Roots

Beth ‘n’ Ben CD Launch @ The Polish White Eagle Club, Fri 11th Oct, 2013
by Anon

Last Friday night at the Polish club was the EP launch for one of the Canberra music scene’s most cherished musical acts, Beth n Ben, pushing their latest material out from the recording studio nest, willing it to take flight up into the quickly chilling Canberra night sky.

Brother Be opened the night fantastically, serenading the Canberra rabble ambling in through the Polish Club’s welcoming foyer. Those unfortunate enough not to arrive early enough to catch the first act missed a great up and coming, fun and folky rock band; complete with an instrument swapping bassist, a dreamy uke-playing frontman and a swag of generally infectious foot-stomp-inducing tunes. The band’s final hand-clapping number finally got the constantly swelling crowd off the back wall and on to the dance floor, a place which, once found, was only briefly left throughout the rest of the night, to pop next door to check on the perogi or to procure another half-litre bottle of that fine polish ale. Brother Be were a great way to kick off a night of warm roots- and funk-driven tunes.

Beth n Ben were what the punters came for though and right from the start they proved why they area one of the mainstays of the Canberra music scene. The duelling guitars and wholesome harmonies drifted in and through the crowd, at times setting a swell of sways to the back of the hall and at others imploring even the more leaden-footed of those assembled to do their best to move. Complete with keys and a two-man brass section (not to mention a bass player replete in a Totoro onesy), Beth n Ben progressed through the full range of their melodic and energetic hits, from folksy ballads to the funk-fuelled heaving rockers. There were salutes to the past, winks to the future and a warm smile left on the faces nestled under the twinkling fairy lights.

After Beth n Ben had left all in attendance with the warm earthy glow that they are so well-loved for, it was time to shake off whatever was left of the crowd’s collective inhibitions and soak in a little Party Gravy before being released on to the waiting night. Party Gravy had those keen to dance pouring to the front of the stage to immerse themselves in the soulful brassy vibes. The full-body shuffling was contagious and the pulsing energy made it a vastly enjoyable way to round off another great night at the Polo. As the sweat continued to pour out, it quickly became time to stumble a retreat homewards, or off in to the night.

The Burn

Burning Seed Festival, Matong State Forest, 2-8 Oct, 2013

Travelling west from Canberra out towards Matong State Forest, one cannot but be impressed by what must be a bumper cropping season in the Riverina. Mile after identical mile of gently rolling canola and grain oceans, waving in the breeze, incredibly uniform in growth habit, plush green and yellow carpet tiles from one horizon to the next.

And all of it destined for processing in the enormous granaries that are the other remarkable feature of the landscape. Massive cylindrical silos and improbably gargantuan tin sheds loom above every little burg along the train line. This is the infrastructure of industrial agriculture that, in years like these, must produce untold wealth for some (as well as feeding millions of people), but which, if casual observations are anything to go by, seems to impoverish the region in most of the ways that matter. Admittedly it was a school holiday weekend, but crikey, these places are like ghost towns. Scarily tidy, spartan gardens and well kempt houses betray no signs of actual habitation. Matong itself, the gateway to the eponymous State Forest, could easily have been the set for The Last Picture Show, as eerie as the neutron bomb, as lonely as a junk yard dog.

And nature, and any sign of the original, Aboriginal inhabitants, have both been seemingly erased, extinguished, bulldozed under monocultures of crops, cars, cows, footy, Indian Mynas… There isn’t even any roadkill out there. The local lad we met, when we eventually made it to Burning Seed, said he was just happy to be out and having nobody pick him for a fight, a first apparently. He was probably also happy with the occasional casual nudity, a rare enough occurrence for him I’m sure. The contrast with sleepy Matong could hardly be more pronounced.

Yes, nudity was casual, sometimes provocative, there was some random public sex, a couple of kissing booths, a ‘feel me’ box, a vagazzling (and cockazzling?) workshop, there was, in short, a general sense of licentiousness and freedom to express your sexhibitionist tendencies, but that would hardly be the dominant aspect of Burning Seed. That would have to be electronic music, which blared almost incessantly, at not quite ear-splitting levels, from all 17 or so ‘venues’ dotted around the circular festival site. There were, to be sure, many other activities, and occasional glimpses of other types of music. But the doof/oonst won in the end.

Besides the price of the ticket, the cost of food we took, and one $4 bag of ice, which was the only thing you could legitimately buy there, we spent no money throughout the four or so days, and received freely given: home made beer, a glass of punch, um, a bunch of stuff I forget, and we could have enjoyed a lot more free stuff if we’d bothered to get the right time/place thing happening. Our neighbours offered free burritos every morning for example. But we were happy sleeping in or tooling around on the three-wheeler at random.

It was great to be at a festival and have no responsibilities whatsoever. We slept quite well, despite the incessant howling din of multiple sound systems. We had a bit of a jam at the Irish people’s camp. Those lads did Ireland proud in the heavy drinking and carousing stakes. The toilets occasionally got backed up but municipal services were generally ok. And milling about naked around the still fiery remains of the Burning Woman, in a glorious evening breeze, with maybe 600 others, naked and clothed, was exhilarating indeed.

To sum up, Burning Seed was fun and diverting for a few days. It could do with one venue dedicated to non-electronic music. It is not for the easily offended, for the sensitive-eared, for people who need to bathe daily (tho one morning a young girl in the adjacent camp-site enjoyed a sponge bath from a young man so it can be done) nor for those who hate hippies. At 1,000 participants, it had some critical mass without being a hassle. And, if you’re thinking of going next year, put some thought into having something, food, beverage, performance, event, artwork or whatever to contribute.

 

Canberra Punk and Beyond

Electric Eighties @ The Croatian Club. Sat 28th Sep, 2013
by Stephen Harrison

Let me preface this with the fact that I was one of the Canberra punks of old, so my perspective may or may not be more relevant than someone new to these bands. I don’t know.. The old punk times were the times of bands like The Triffids, at the Uni Bar (when it was upstairs), The Ramones at the Hellenic Club (of all places) and many more iconic acts that graced Canberra shores. But there were also the Rock Against Boredoms, mainly at the Griffin Centre: these were mainstay events in the Canberra Punk scene and a chance to see the bands that have reformed and replayed the other night at the Croatian club.

Vacant Lot were fun and boppy still, lotsa talent there: sort of reminded me of Sham 69. There were intermittent words scattered throughout their set. Words like scum, fuck this and that etc. Good to see them maintaining the rage. They finished up on a high with a song that had the chorus ‘Up Shit Creek’.

Hell Yes had a great Radio Birdman feel (then they played one of their songs): good solid, catchy, guitar-driven rock n roll. They finished with Now I Wanna Be Your Dog: classic Iggy Pop. Even Iggy didn’t play this one when I saw him and the Stooges several months back.

Lastly, the headline act, The Young Docteurs (they used to be the Young Doctors, when we used to sit around watching them rehearse in various garages around Canberra: then that TV series came out and hence the name change.) Like most of this year (for us old punks) there’s a real sense of nostalgia that goes on with the Docs. One song they played we were told they hadn’t played since 1979, and there were more I recognised than I thought I would. Again, fantastic band, fast and clever paying. Good to see Chris and his troops again, and loads of familiar faces, albeit us all a bit wider and greyer.