Lucie Thorne @ Smiths

Lucie Thorne @ Smiths. Wed 18th June
Review by James Kent

I’ll admit it, I came to this gig a little unprepared. After a brief facebook stalk and some skimmed reviews, I wandered into Smiths with only a vague idea of what to expect, and a mild scepticism as to wether solo guitarist lady (also known as Lucie Thorne) would turn out to be worth a quadrupling of the regular Wednesday night door fee.

Fortunately enough in this case, the answer is yes. Although the show was unusually short due to a disappointing lack of local support acts, Lucie had the audience in the palm of her hand from the get go, with barely a whisper from the audience for the duration. Although somewhat lacking in range and variety, Lucie smashes it out of the ballpark, with gorgeous smokey vocals and dreamy lyrics combining with a first class musical ability, filling Smiths with the imagined scents of blackberry moonshine and Aussie bushland and creating an atmosphere I would cheerfully pay to experience again.

Moochers (Inc.) and Flap!

Flap @ The Turner Bowls Club, Fri 13 June, 2014
with Moochers Inc. by Adam Salter

Something feels right when, feeling like a bit of a moocher for having hooked a couple of tickets in return for a potentially mediocrely-written review, the first act you are about to see at the Turner Bowls Club is Moochers Inc.

The Canberra boys, fresh from the Merimbula Jazz Festival, really know how to make you feel a part of the incorporated. From the beginning trumpet solo, through the dirty trombone, between the twanging guitar strings, over the wandering clarinet, around the astro boy beats of the drum and on to the fat ass tuba (I hope not to offend a euphonium player if I’ve misnomered)(I believe it’s a sousaphone – Ed.), the multi-tempo set had the crowd smiling and tapping throughout, with larger and larger numbers letting the rhythm take hold before jiving onto the dance floor.

Right when we were feeling the maximum mooch, these speak-easy entrepreneurs made way for the main act, Melbournite ‘tropical storm’, Flap!

This five-piece, having not long ago toured with a little band called The Cat Empire, were able to take the energy up another twelve notches, with a fast-paced and frenetic fever that only the most die-hard dancers would even attempt to keep time with. But try they did and the ball-busting beats thundered on. Every part – drums, banjo-uke, brass and double bass – was played well. These guys were a tight and polished ensemble, making for an absolute cracker of a night!

Only downside for the evening were some just-too-loud levels scattered throughout. However, every musician that appeared on stage all evening seemed to be enjoying the here and now and brought that out in the crowd.

If only the bar staff had had even a quarter of the energy of the bands and patrons. Or even an eighth… Otherwise – what a kick ass night!

Quarry Mountain Dead Rats – Canberra

Quarry Mountain Dead Rats @ Turner Bowlo, Friday 6th June, 2014
with The Burley Griffin. By Kandy A

Turning up a little late I missed the start of the Burley Griffin, but about 40-50 people had beat the cold and huddled up in the tables surrounding the dance floor to hear these Canberra stalwarts and await touring talents QMtDRs.

The Bowlo is something of a makeshift venue, with a good size room separated from the bistros sports screens and pool tables and…the actual bar from which drinkses are procured, which can be a pain, but does offer a sly glance at the footy scores (suck shit Carlton!) for the sadly sports obsessed. The well lit entry lighting shines off the white bench seats lining the green, reminding you of the clubs raison d’etre; I don’t know about you, but when I grew up the thought that a gig could be held at a bowling club was idle fantasy, but, here we are.

Perhaps punters were hunkering down or perhaps were helpfully protecting the unobstructed view of between band and sound desk, no one likes to be the ass that stands in front of everybody else, so perhaps it was some shy manners, but the dance floor’s emptiness radiated redundancy, like a social welfare program in a budget year, and it wasn’t a good look; thus is the lot of the warm up act.

The Burley Griffin boys, 4 of them, all with mikes and capable of bending the vocal chords together, or independently (even the drummer does a song) are clearly a talented bunch not just picked out because one of them has a banjo. Their gentle folk rock got a few toes tapping, melodic tunes well played, a few slightly off harmonies adding to their easy charm. The Burley Griffin finished strongly with a burly off tempo number and put plenty into it, showing they’ve got more to their range. A couple more of these numbers might’ve moved more than the toes of sedate spectators, I liked it a lot.

Quarry Mountain Dead Rats
Straight up, these guys blew us away. Great music, fun, gig. Hate banjos? You will love banjos. Don’t know about bluegrass? Don’t matter none, you will be jiggier than a bra-less boob at a ho’s hoe-down. Opening with “That’s alright” crowd drifts into the dance space; a mob seeming to have an inkling, wanting to do something but don’t know yet what or how. In a few minutes the void is filled, people start shuffling, toe tapping transmits to knees.

The husky young devils in the QMtDRs play Double bass and washboard behind banjo and mandolin. They play through “if not for you” and put in a smokin mouth harp for “where nobody knows your name” and the crowd have figured it out; jump around, jive about. It’s a good crowd of diverse ages, plenty of switched on youngsters to go with people of a more refined age. All are drawn to wave some body parts about; as the QMtDRs put their heads down, slip another gear and charge through “Hamilton County breakdown”

“Days like these” starts and ends slow but in the middle it’s all go, I suspect I am not alone in discovering how much fun flat out bluegrass is. “Kentucky mandolin” another instrumental keeps the crowd awrigglin, and, somewhat inevitably I feel, the QMtDRs show their colours; a nod to another musical tradition that flavours their sound in “Cactus head” citing Stooges and Motörhead they bring out both, the lyrics are pure Iggy, and I’m thinking of Lemmy in a flannel shirt chewin grass atop a hay bale approving of this rollicking number.

The set washes up with lots of harp, and a lot more fans for this Melbourne based band from the Mornington Peninsula. Since that entire area has practically been turned over to vin-yards can I substitute ‘Pinot-picking’ for ‘cotton-pickin’ ? (No.)

Quarry Mountain Dead Rats manage to exude some Aussie ockerness in this otherwise American genre, heavily flavoured by their rock sensibilities, and it tastes mighty fine.

Flannel shirts:6
Overalls: 2
Hipsters: within acceptable limits.
Good times: 100


Nyash Afrobeat Collective

Nyash Afrobeat Collective EP Launch. Turner Bowls. Friday 25th April, 2014
by F McDonald

The welcome at the door, the atmosphere, and friendly fellow music lovers added to a great gig at the Turner Bowlo last Friday night. Los Chavos opened up and got the dancing going with their diverse sounds. Tha Milmanator held the stage throughout the evening, having far too much fun playing in both bands. Nyash rocked the room with no apologies and a big brassy sound. It was impossible to resist moving to the ska-like pulse. The energy on stage and in the room was vibrant and playful.

A great night.

Thanks CMC.

JDSS Review 2

Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens, Turner Bowls, 4th Apr 2014
by JD Kent

I had scarcely finished buying my first lemonade of the night when the hauntingly beautiful sounds of a crotch punched Thom Yorke began to seep into my conscious. Cracked Actor had begun the nights festivities with their trademark pensive falsetto, rumoured to be so powerful it could bring Eminem to tears.

Minus a drummer, their newly stripped back sound was the perfect setup for Fossil Rabbit, solo guitarist and loop pedal artiste whose atmospheric instrumentals drifted seamlessly across my cochleae before punching my brain right in the pleasure centres (in a nice way, I promise).

After a markedly ethereal beginning, the arrival of Indian Red on the stage signalled a change in pace. A little loud to begin with, they soon settled into the room, with an upbeat mix of indie folk and Fleet Foxes style harmonies that were impossible not to sing along with.

When headliners Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens finally took to the stage it was to mark a milestone, the end of a successful nationwide tour that saw their musical skills honed to perfection, all in search of an answer to a single age old question, “Have you ever made love on a geological anomaly?” Yes, that old chestnut. Regardless of your answer,  Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens have a sound that could suck sadness out of a black hole and replace it with unicorns. Or at the very least, put you in a good mood after you imagine unicorns being crushed to a molecular singularity by a sad black hole.


Rufino and the Coconuts, Mikelangelo @ the Turner Bowls, 22nd Mar, 2014
by Jasmina Atanasievska

After Paradise Island, a Hawaiian-themed concert at Turner Bowls Club on Saturday March 22, I noticed I was drawn to listen to the music of Lana Del Ray and Croatian rock musician Neno Belan – they reminded me of that night on Paradise Island.

Rufino & the Coconuts and special guest Mikelangelo took me to an interesting holiday destination. My favourite Rufino & the Coconuts song from that evening was their second, ‘Teeth, Teeth’ (‘Zubi, Zubi’), about a dentist, or ‘zubar’. I don’t think I will ever forget the refrain; it slices into your mind and stays there.

Because I come from what used to be Yugoslavia, and therefore understand 99% of the Croatian words Rufino used that night (like the ones related to teeth and dentistry), I will take the liberty of comparing this group’s style of music to that of Neno Belan, a great Croatian musician and singer from the ’80s.

Croatia largely borders the Adriatic Sea, and most good pop music in ex-Yugoslavia came from groups and singers who originated on those shores. The music (and the accompanying videos) would bring you to the sea: beaches, summer, dreaming by the water, ocean life, falling in love with strangers (read: tourists), islands … beauty, generally speaking. So you can spot some common influences here. To top it all off, Rufino & the Coconuts write and play all their songs for dancing. When Rufino said to the crowd, “Now, all sit down,” everybody laughed uproariously – nice.

Such an atmosphere fitted well with the other performer, Mikelangelo. He had Elvis Presley hair and songs reminiscent of Elvis-era rock ‘n’ roll and Beach Boys surf rock. Mikelangelo (is he Italian or from somewhere around the Adriatic coast, I again feel that style?) also communicated well with the crowd, and they cheerfully responded.

Deep Sea Sirens

Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens, Turner Bowls, 4th Apr 2014
by Crazybrave

Apparently the Turner Bowls Cub is called the RUC now. I’d never been to the place before, under any of its guises, but the CMC had made it into a cosy grotto with a gorgeous stage and more fairy lights than you could reasonably hope for on a Friday night. From my place curled up on the couches, it was very easy to appreciate Seb and Matt’s beautiful guitars/hats ensemble. Amelia Filmer-Sankey warmed our bliss with poetry between sets. Fossil Rabbit made me feel all right about being out in so much rainy dreary wetness, and then the sweet rhythms of Indian Red infused me with quiet charm as if Melbourne had tiptoed north and kissed me on the cheek while my eyes were closed.

Julia Johnson’s dry humour had the night flowing beautifully. I particularly enjoyed the little bits of background she gave for each song, allowing us to more fully appreciate the superb storytelling in their music.

The RUC is a large, centrally located and above all relaxed venue which was pretty full by the end of the night. Unfortunately the kitchen was behind the stage, and wait staff were coming and going through the audience most of the night. But maybe you’ve just got to embrace it – along with the pokies and TV screens at the bar – as part of the ambiance, like everyone walking past the stage to the bathrooms at the Phoenix.

This is the kind of night every Canberren should experience, where there is so much talent in the room, so much chilled out happy, pretty, lovely stuff. Sure it’s raining outside, but Chris is here with his loop pedal, and Amelia wrote another poem, Julia has a banjo, Indian Red bought a saxophonist with them especially and there are all these fairy lights.

Peter Rowan at the Bowlo – Review

The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Trio and The Blackberry Conspiracy Friday March 7 at the Turner Bowlo
By Eileen Newmarch

When I first saw this show advertised I was torn –off to a camping weekend at Numeralla or go to a gig – the weather forecast on Friday and the chance for free tickets in return for a review tipped the scales – camping could wait till Saturday.

Any show that Donal Baylor agrees to play in the opening act is bound to be a good one, and this was no exception. We arrived well in time for the start of the show and the room was already full – we managed a small table up the back, possibly the last table. This was the first outing for The Blackberry Conspiracy but it certainly did not show. The line-up brought us some of Canberra’s finest musicians, Donal Baylor, John Taylor (JT), Jim Sharrock and Simon Milman. The music presented ranged from pure Bill Monroe bluegrass to blues and some Jim Sharrock originals. Jim provided fine vocals and his excellent feel for rhythm kept the music driving. Donal Baylor’s fiddle playing was a treat – he is a master of Bill Monroe style fiddling. He also showed his versatility by switching between fiddle, hammer claw banjo and guitar – all of which he excels in. JT treated us to a fine rolling bluegrass banjo and Simon’s double bass was rock solid.

I first saw legendary US Bluegrass singer-songwriter and Grammy award winner, Peter Rowan, “the voice of Bluegrass” at the National Folk Festival a couple of years ago and queued for a CD for ages only to miss out. On his return to Australia he has a new album and a hot new trio, featuring Chris Henry on mandolin and vocals, and George Jackson on fiddle, banjo and vocals.

Peter Rowan is a true legend of American Bluegrass, with a history dating from 1964 and his role as lead-singer/guitarist with the father of Bluegrass, the late Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys. Chris Henry, one of the most highly regarded young musicians on the American Bluegrass scene and the premiere Monroe-style mandolinist of his generation. New Zealand-born Melbourne-based, George Jackson, is a brilliant young fiddle and banjo-player, winner of many awards, including the 2012 Tamworth Golden Fiddle Award, and the Banjo Competition at the 2013 Rockygrass Festival in Colorado – a bluegrass festival founded by Bill Monroe and the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society.

They presented two sets of bluegrass at its finest. Classics such as Leadbelly’s ‘In the Pines’ and a powerful bluegrass version of the civil rights song Oh Freedom sat beside Peter Rowan originals and we were also treated to original tunes of Chris and George. We were treated to songs of mountains, moonlight and memories, lost love and salvation.

This was tight, driven bluegrass. Peter Rowan’s singing was sublime, and was enhanced by Chris and George joining in sweet harmonies. Chris Henry is possibly the best bluegrass mandolin player around – he was amazing. His parents are Bluegrass musicians and he made his first public appearance on mandolin at age 4.

This is the bluegrass that so many groups seek to emulate. In the words of Peter Rowan himself – “pick it clean, play it true – you know that’s the rule of the old school”- and you wouldn’t get finer picking and playing than this.

A great night put on by CMC. The only downside – This was my first night at the Bowlo since the Merry Muse moved. With the loss of the Burmese bistro, the food was very ordinary and more expensive and the behaviour of the people in the bar was a bit over the top.

Review West Bank

The West Bank Festival, 14-16 Feb 2014
by Jeremy Woodhill

What a wet soggy weekend it was at the West Bank Cultural Precinct. It dampened the revellers that attended and drove away those that didn’t. But we give thanks to buildings and tents that supplied enough shelter from soggy Mother Nature to get down to the business of getting down. Much dancing and merriment, drink swilling and laughter despite the wet weather.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get to the opening night but I heard it was fantastic.

Saturday morning brought more rain and Joe on acoustic guitar with David on chair drums in the soggy pingpong tent with a somewhat impotent microphone stand! Never-the-less busting out some improv lyrical magic and creating a warm friendly vibe.

If you wandered down to the Turner Bowlo you would have caught Pete n Ali of the Cashews bringing the house down with a “house on fire”. Kids kids everywhere!

Followed next by some clowning around with Pablo. Ab fab intro and pop ball tricks, hidden sumo suit with tennis racket, juggling and slinky bat trickery crazy times!

On with the show. Woohoo Revue next on the bill. Crazy gypsy grooves. A new violinist I notice sporting a floral arrangement hat thingy. Great stuff.

Dr Stovepipe unplugged as per always produced a fine concoction of ye olde cures for the blues from the nether regions of the States and originals too. Hosted some fun games with games master Jez including tunnel ball, indoor bowls, a newspaper dance competition, kids kids everywhere. Much giggling and running and giggling.

Up the track at the Croatian Club was Alex Flamenco with new flamenco style Spanish guitar. A complete shredder, what can I say? Probably (if I may be so bold) the festival’s most virtuosic performer; tone, rhythm, style, technical ability – amazing. And a smoke machine to boot!

Trumpet club next door at Alliance Francoise belting out some fusion with a nice groove section – bass, keys, drums and 8 trumpets no less!! Very loud but very cool. Cam got his first super ‘g’ which for non wind players means super hard to get very high note. Second song was an original and both a very technical and warm song with great chordal melodies and technical lead trumpet jumping octaves great stuff.

Jorge Bontes in the pingpong tent with his sexy Latin ballads. Croon n swoon lovely set. I had no idea he was good at pingpong either. Watch-out!

The Fuelers down the road at the bowlo on Saturday night got the crowd up and dancing to some 50s style rock n roll with “she liked to drive” (I think those were the words!) and the president on the beach with little green aliens surfing¿? Weird but cool yeehah!!

Caught the last dulcet tones of Alice Cottee at the Croat hmmmm ahh.

Then the Perch Creek family jug band.  Banjo, vox/stand kit drums/ washboard, vox/Acc guitar, harmonica/ saw (yes u read right) upright bass. Quintet harmonies with a deep country feel. Brothers and sisters (some) who’ve grew up playing with their dad. Great band heaps of fun.

Woohoo revue up next at the Croatian Club on Saturday with a super grunty set. They let out a heavy gipsy swagger mixed with a theatrical dose of cabaret. The most noticeable change to the Woohoo lineup was the change of violinists.

Sunday morning brought the secular gathering of Sunday Assembly. A heartfelt dedication to creativity and community. Well pitched and a great turnout. Packed to the rafters. Perch Creek Jug Band had the honours of providing music and some guest speakers read well. An early morning inspiration created by one of the speakers – that morning – was amazing. I didn’t stay for morning tea (prepared by volunteers) but it looked delicious.

A hop up the street and Burrows was on at the Croatian Club on Sunday arvo.  Some sweet vox harmonies with a great diversity of melodic lines made for interesting listening.

Julia and the Deep-sea Sirens were on Sunday’s bill at the Croatian. Easy listening heart break songs and a confident and polished performance as always.

All in all the inaugural West Bank Festival kicked. Great mix of music and venues both. Wandering up and down between the venues was a great way to bump into old friends, food, good coffee, booze and friendly volunteers. This all made the festy fun! Well done again CMC.

Drumfest Canberra

Drumfest Canberra @ The Turner Bowls. 25th Jan 2014
by Jeremy Woodhill 

The tribute to Matty Sykes – Drumfest Canberra @ The Turner Bowling Club had a fantastic turn out evinced by a packed car park full of cars and revelers both. There were friendly faces at every turn with the usual CMC suspects amongst the crowd. My personal endeavor to get there at the beginning of the gig was fraught with domestic administrivial and logistical shenanigans and so alas I didn’t quite make it to the first few on the bill i.e. Bef Jolly, Alice Cottee and the Brass Knuckle Brass Band. I have heard Alice and Brass knuckles play a dozen times and can thoroughly vouch for their great sounding music but alas I have not heard Bef (I’m thinking this is Aussie for Beth) so I missed out there.

Brass Knuckle Brass Band

Brass Knuckle Brass Band

Dub Dub Goose, our much loved Fat 8 piece band with 4 piece brass ensemble, guitar/vox, base, lead guitar, drums was cracking as usual. Soulful melodic lines from the horns and Beth Monzo’s beautiful ‘Macy Grey-esk” female vox with ska sounding rhythms certainly got the peeps on their feet. Next up was Nyash. The Fela Kuti inspired African dub was a nice progression. The 10 piece squeezed on to the stage with a 4 PC brass ensemble, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass, drums, percussion and keys. Band leader Simon on the bass was keeping the crew in check landing some soulful Afro-dub that kept the peeps dancing. The jazzy nord electro-piano added a great touch of ‘ultra-cool’ to the upbeat lounge-bar 10 piece-to-12 piece with guest conga players Jim and Dan!

The drinks lines by now were crazy – quite big and quite slowww, but I managed to get an actual pint (they ran out of glasses) while playing pool with a few too many balls on the table (they obviously didn’t run out of those!).

Next up was Southerly Change, with again horns galore (mostly on stage) and big fat groove. I lost count of how many people were onstage and how many drinks I had had by this stage! I made 12 at my last count with keys, bass, drums, guitars but throw in a blues harp and two backup vocals including Alice Cottee and others – sporting a fine blend of hand percussion, you can imagine how truly schweet this line up sounded. Blasting tenor sax solos, fat ska groove with male vox/guitar truly added another big number to the bill. The groove train steamed along sometimes not all in the same direction! But with a few more shovelfuls of dancing and persistence, the tour chuffed on its merry way like dominos down the rails of a sometimes bluesy sometimes funky groove.


The Perch Creek Family Jugband @ The White Eagle Polish Club. Fri 25 Oct, 2013
With special guests Moochers Inc.
by zenmeyang

I’ve seen the PCFJB a few times now but this is probably the most excited I’ve been to see them again.

It must’ve been 5 or more years ago when I was wandering around the Channon Markets on the north coast of NSW and happened to catch part of their act for the first time. It seemed like a cute idea; a family band from northern rural NSW with old timey instruments (inc banjo, jug, saw, harmonica, washboard) and sweet vocal harmonies, led by their eccentric old man (since retired) doing the markets circuit and busking the Gold Coast.

I don’t think I expected how far they would come and how much their music and performances would develop. Apparently they have charmed the pants off the Melbourne music scene they now call home, and I don’t think these are easily charmed pants wearers. Not that I really know what I’m talking about.

But first; local dixieland purveyors Moochers Inc started the night in suspenseful style with Cameron Smith in the back corner of the room treating the hushed room to a slow and rousing trumpet opening to The Battle Hymn of the Republic (Glory, glory, hallelujah). By the time he crossed the floor and joined his bandmates on stage the pace and energy (and number of instruments playing) had increased and the room had started moving along with it.

As usual the swing dancers were the first to get down and proper on the dance floor as the MI boys treated us to a selection of faster trad jazz songs and slower bluesy stuff. Highlights included their take on the Astroboy theme song (this got more peeps dancing, or flying through space), Mark Levers delicious drum solo in Human Too*, and some spontaneous speaker booboo (mixing desk blew up – Ed) during At Last that surprised people on and off stage but seemed to pump everyone up even more.

After their encores, everyone took a break to freshen their pints of Zywiec Porter or precious glasses of golden delicious honey vodka, and recharge for the main attraction. By the time the PCFJB opened the room was ready to go, and they kicked in real fast, nice and lively straight-out with Party*. Soon the dance floor was full and frequent audience whoops and yips punctuated the night’s set of old-timey, bluegrass staples, and soulful, bluesy newer compositions.

Crowd faves seemed to be Woman (and why not with those sassy and soulful sisters!), Good Old Mountain Dew (this inspired a lot of drunken male excited yipping), and basically any time younger brother Christi had a harmonica solo. His singing voice is on the sweeter side of youth but the boy plays a mean harp.

For more than half of their main set I was afeared that the sassy Eileen wouldn’t break into the beloved spunky tap dancing I had been looking forward to all night, but when she finally did I breathed a sign of relief – ‘and the crowd went wild’. Bonus points for the group’s command of the room to have us whooping in one moment and hushed the next, like for their beautiful rendition of Paul Kelly’s gospel acapella Meet Me in the Middle of the Air.

I was really impressed with this gig by the family band. I am by no means a musical aficionado but it seems to my layperson ears and eyes that they have matured a lot in their sound, their voices and harmonies, and their proficiency in their multiple instruments. And they were already pretty darn good to begin with.

I have their last studio album – Tall Tales – and it is great, fun and very tight but doesn’t seem to quite capture the richness of their voices and harmonies live, or the spirit of their live performances. And they’ve also clearly grown since it was released in 2011 and their move to Melbourne. From the taste we got at the Polo of some of their more recent compositions, I think we can expect a richer, even more soulful, energetic and yes, ‘grown-up’, next album to come (set to be released in early 2014).

They are also ridiculously attractive to look at (the ladies in particular) and this is also getting better with age (the gentlemen in particular). In addition to their purdy music and faces, their on-stage banter is effortless, cheerful and sincere, and they are also plenty friendly and approachable offstage. Fingers crossed they play the National Folk Festival next year, especially as this family band proved at the National 2012 they can pull off a super fun and inclusive music and singing workshop – check ’em out if you can!

Thank you Moochers Inc and the Perch Creek siblings (and stray partner) for an awesome night of music! And of course thanks also goes to the CMC for putting on another great local gig, the White Eagle Club for your usual lovely venue and genial service, and of course, Polish honey vodka for being you.

(*Please excuse me Culturazi readers if I got any song names/factoids not quite right)

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.


Fine Young Animals

The CMC presents Fine Young Animals @ The White Eagle Polish Club. Friday 20th Sep, 2013
with Hayley Shone, Bubbles and Yeti, Chrissy Higgins, Bacon Cakes, Alex Richens and Joel Davey, Dylan Hekimian, Lucy Nelson, Buck et al.
by Geoff Dunn

I arrive late and unannounced. Nigel and Beth inform me I have to pay as they already have a reviewer for the night. This is a first(!) and there’s an awkward moment as it’s eventually revealed that the night’s allocated reviewer has in fact just left at this, the half-way mark, with 4and a half acts remaining. I offer to take the reins and you my reader may get not one but two reviews this week… a part one and a part two if you like. This is Part Two. Beth stamps me gently and I offer to pay my way for half the door charge seeing as I got there late… late like I do just about every gig anyways … it’s a strange introduction to the gig.

There’s a function on in the restaurant and the tables are full and generating happy noises … I grab a Zhiv-ee-yetz and have a quick chat to Ania whose Polish Punk band’s album ‘Where the Wild Buffalo Roam’ I purchased recently. It’s a very tidy EP with some respectably tight tracks and as I’m talking I hope I’m not gushing too much.

I head into the hall. Oh … there’s hardly anybody here! I suddenly feel a little guilty for getting in free but that’s pretty much all I do about it. I take a couch, Bacon Cakes are on and I’m back in the 90’s with shoe gazing introspection… dressed in slack, dark street wear with a Mod-roundrel kick drum, there must be something terribly interesting on the floor because that’s all anyone in the band is looking at. The exception to the drab fashion (I hear someone refer to it as ‘understated’ but I think she’s being terribly kind) is a slight girl dressed in fine black and white polka dot dress with the whole straight fringe thing going on… She’s playing the tambourine with a lazy, melancholy sway which would be fine except the tambourine is to be found nowhere in the mix.

Tonight’s house music is by The Doors and while Jim writhes away in spirit Lucy Nelson takes to the stage with a ukulele. Red floral print dress over bright red tights and black boots, the uke looks at once demure and purposed. Lucy puts it to good use with nicely crafted ballads with ‘a beginning, a middle and an end’ unlike the DJ she’s decrying in the first number. After lulling us with upbeat, Lucy launches into reflective and here something nasty happens to the tuning. It’s as though I’ve had a go at tuning the instrument… it’s almost there but noticeably off and a quick call to her friendly professional tuner puts everything to rights again. Lucy’s show is quiet but her songs fill the room. A few people come in and sit respectfully down, lifting their chairs so as not to scrape. I hear the Polo’s air-conditioning for the first time ever… (It’s that quiet!)… And its gentle white-noise hum serves as a pillowy doona to Lucy’s gentle songs.

John Lennon’s ‘We All Shine On’ booms out and Buck plays along on the piano, warming up behind the curtain… I feel perhaps I was a little unkind to Buck last time I reviewed him (spoiler … it doesn’t last). The unseen playing works.

Alex Richens, Joel Davey and Nick Churchill come on … three-piece drums, cello, guitar and voice. Southern blues feel with a voice that sounds to me like a call across a wide river – strong, curled and mellowed by the moister air over the water’s surface. I rack my brain for the reference. It’s just there… Oh it’s so fluid and watery, only a cello can do that… that watery swirl… that suck of life toward an inevitable dark. I have it! It comes to me in a flash… I’m listening to the love-child of Gomez and Ed Kuepper. There’s even Mark Dawson on drums, well not him obviously but someone who sounds a lot like him. Ed Kuepper… I know who I’ll be listening to in the morning :-) The trio weave rich landscapes of hope, power and above all… love. Breaking rains and sandstone escarpment lit by the golden storm light that comes with a setting sun. Most enjoyable and I am so taken by the music I take no notice of what the trio are wearing.

Dylan Hekimian takes the stage… There are lots of acts tonight in keeping with the theme ‘Young Animals’ and everyone’s playing four or five tracks… kind of like a degustation… it’s a lot for a reviewer to take in and I suddenly suspect the first reviewer simply became overwhelmed like I’m suddenly feeling … but I digress.

Dylan… solo… faded red t-shirt, long dreads and acoustic guitar, fresh from the rainforest… well, after a shower perhaps and healthy food. Songs delivered with punch and conviction but the in-between dialogue incongruous and softly spoken as though he lacked the conviction of the beliefs expressed in song. He’s young at heart too… with the expressed beliefs of the young in love… perhaps I’m simply jaded and cynical (I am as it happens rather aware of this)… Perhaps it’s Dylan’s song for his girlfriend where he doesn’t care what she thinks of him but he wants her to look at him like a hero… I literally say WTF? My friend who has chosen this moment to pretend to be less cynical and jaded than I challenges me to, for just a moment, remember what it was like to be so young, in love and enraptured (and I suppose actively seeking hero-worship) but I find it hard. In fact I find Dylan’s well crafted guitar songs and ingenious percussive interludes (methinks for a moment he has swallowed a drummer’s soul) lightly mismatched to the person delivering them. I ponder for a moment the nature of artistic delivery… that as artists we temporarily inhabit the person of those we wish to be.

Oh and here’s Buck! I have a flush of doubt. I wonder if my first review of Buck, skewered as it was by his leather half-tights, was perhaps a little judgemental of Buck and his inspired songwriting and piercing observations. He’s talented, there’s no doubt. He’s impossibly slender and he’s lost the leather half-tights tonight and of that I’m glad… I can focus on the man and his music. Wow, he really is a bitch. What last time I could forgive or pass off as a nervous ironic understatement is demonstrated this week as quite intentional. OK… I’m wandering along in a funny space of watching someone I’ve previously reviewed… I’m wondering whether my review is an accurate portrayal or whether I got it all wrong… I have this benefit of the doubt thing happening for Buck… maybe I was a bit harsh? Buck’s got this great Ben Folds thing happening… piano driven commentary and then Buck says… “I was on Community Radio this morning, it was sooo mediocre”… he lost his audience there. It‘s the wrong thing to say not only because it offends his audience; Not only because it’s rude because well for fuck’s sake he was the radio station’s guest. It was rude because it totally lacks any sense of retrospective irony. Perhaps if he’s being self-effacing and labelling himself mediocre as humour … maybe then? I thought, at that precise moment that everything I had written previously was spot-on. That Buck, uncannily brilliant as he is, lacks the compassion of his audience.

Mixing tonight was someone I didn’t recognise and while he performed splendidly given the variety of acts and changing instrumentation, I thought there were highlights missing from the drum brasswork particularly during the rich soundscapes produced by Alex, Joel & Nick … I could see the complexity but I couldn’t hear it and I really wanted to. The aforementioned tambourine was lost. Regular mixer Dave Howe was mixing it up over at In Canberra at Gorman House which is where, I suspect, many of the CMC’s usual Polo crowd were tonight.

Thanks to Nigel and Beth and the Polo for the opportunity to bring this to you.