• Byrne-ing down the house: David Byrne in Sydney, February 1 2009

    5. Feb. 2009, 12:53

    Sun 1 Feb – Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno

    David Byrne has always been quirky, but he's never been inaccessible. Coming to fame as the frontman of new wave outfit Talking Heads in the 70s, he's turned heads with his crazy wardrobe choices, guest starred on The Simpsons and appeared on every Windows XP user's computer by default.

    And it seems that age is only improving him – after the release of his most recent collaboration with producer Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, the eccentric white-haired funk veteran returned to Australian shores last weekend for the Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno Tour.

    Opening with the new record's lead single 'Strange Overtones', Byrne powered through a near 2 hour set including material ranging from early Heads to the most recent record, spanning his prolific partnership with leading experimental musician and producer Brian Eno. Accompanied on stage by backing singers, very flexible dancers and a band, dads and hipsters alike in the audience erupted with cheers as the Big Suit's familiar voice, not weakened with age, rang out through the Opera House concert hall. He shouted Dadaist poetry with 'I Zimbra'; he meditated on life with 'Once in a Lifetime'; he exploded on stage with a schizophrenic rendition of 'Crosseyed and Painless'. It seems that he's achieved the perfect balance between being a little crazy and a mature adult, though, with his melodic new numbers countering the old Heads groove – who would have ever thought he'd settle down like this?

    But it wasn't until the end that he proved that hey, he's really just the same as he ever was – when the lights came up for the second encore there he was, David Byrne, in a white tutu along with the rest of his band. Prancing in his little skirt whilst performing an ecstatic rendition of 'Burning Down the House', Byrne proved that he's still as nutty and relevant as ever – here's a gent who will continue to remain in light as long as he lives.
  • A poetic retelling of a wonderful concert: Conor Oberst in Sydney, October 4 2008

    11. Okt. 2008, 11:35

    Sat 4 Oct – Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, I Heart Hiroshima

    Whilst other kids his age were playing in the park and trading baseball cards, he was stirring up a legacy. He self-released his first full-length album at age 12 on what has evolved today into Saddle Creek Records, one of indie rock’s most respected labels. He had made three more records and taken part in four semi-successful bands, all before his 16th birthday.

    It’s clear that Conor Oberst was no ordinary child, and now, over a decade down the track, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

    After riding on the wave of his critically acclaimed outfit Bright Eyes for the past few years (and picking up a horde of finally-someone-who-understands-me angsty teenage fans), he released an album under his own name again this year with new bandmates The Mystic Valley Band, and brought his tight collection of new songs to Australia – his first visit since 2005’s Bright Eyes tour.

    Oberst is known for being temperamental at best, having made a name for himself as modern music’s most mopey patriot (take a glance at your wrists after listening to It's Cool, We Can Still Be Friends by Bright Eyes – chances are they were one step ahead of you and slit themselves). Like fellow alt-country musician Ryan Adams, going to a Conor Oberst concert is the equivalent of sticking your arm into a lion’s cage – you could get lucky and find that it’s friendly and quite willing to cooperate, or it could rip you to pieces – and so it was with a closely guarded arm that I ventured to the Enmore Theatre on this particular Saturday night.

    The crowd gathered outside the venue was, for the most part, what you’d expect them to be – trendy indie kids wearing flannelette, Ben Folds-esque glasses, tight jeans and apathetic expressions – but there were also older fans, rather content in their everyday casuals. Oberst has, after all, been compared to Bob Dylan time and time again – the type of music that appeals to people from all walks of life through its simple yet powerful poetics.

    In front of a room of people sitting down and some eager ones pressed against the barrier, Brisbane’s I Heart Hiroshima were the first to take the stage with their rather generic brand of power-pop. It’s fascinating how much difference etiquette makes to a performance – singer/drummer Susie Patten’s foul mouthed banter stood in stark contrast to the whimsically antique stage on which they were standing. It’s not that IHH are a terrible band – it’s just that they have nothing in common with Oberst, and sharing a stage with him seemed inappropriate. Though it’s always refreshing to watch a band genuinely enjoy themselves onstage, which IHH clearly did, it’s equally refreshing to see musicians hold up a certain level of personal integrity – something that was lacking. It felt a little too much like watching a high school band perform their first backyard show, and the music itself was not inspired enough to save them. They were met with raucous applause, however, so perhaps I’m just getting cynical in my old age.

    The cheering when the lights went down was thunderous. Decked out in a tight suit that made him look like a scruffy schoolboy at his first formal, Conor Oberst took to the stage with a bottle of Corona and the words “we’re very happy to be here” (wait, did you just say happy?!) before exploding into Sausalito, the second track from the new record. Live, Oberst’s voice has a ferocity that doesn’t come across recorded – not quite angry, but forceful and honest. The jaunty rhythms and slackjawed country slaps of the new record are sweltering, and the intimacy of the Enmore really brought them home.

    A slowed down version of Cape Canaveral was a highlight, really accentuating Oberst’s unique vocal talents. Other than the obvious choices from the new album, the Mystic Valley Band showcased new material too, with Oberst stepping back for the other band members to take lead vocals. It felt like a shared experience, a group of boys all proud of each other’s achievements – and what achievements they are. From the foot-stomping NYC – Gone, Gone to the folk shouts of Get-Well-Cards to the rousing folk-rock of Moab, Oberst showed the crowd a newfound confidence and diversity well beyond his Bright Eyes years.

    But whilst Oberst has matured, tunes such as Lenders In The Temple and Milk Thistle hold the same kind of personal anguish that defined his career. Seated with an acoustic guitar and accompanied by bassist Macey Taylor, he sang with an unbridled passion that felt like he undressed, bearing all of his scars for the enraptured audience to see. A heartwrenching rendition of ‘Milk Thistle’ closed the set before the encore, leaving punters with a lingering taste of Conor Oberst’s honest poetry.

    It was interesting to note both Oberst’s newfound sense of humour and the complete lack of Bright Eyes material in the set. One particularly eager fan shouted out, during the encore, for the Bright Eyes classic Bowl of Oranges, to which Oberst replied “Bowl of Oranges? Okay, this song is called Bowl of Oranges” – and then grinned, ripping into Corrina, Corrina– “...it’s a remix.” The Dylan comparisons are not unfounded, either – hearing Oberst adopt that uncanny southern drawl for an upbeat rendition of the 1963 folk classic, before playing a note-perfect cover of Paul Simon’s Kodachrome, cemented his place as a 21st century incarnation of some of the musical world’s greatest talents whilst also showing where his roots lie.

    It’s clear that the Bright Eyes effect hasn’t faded, though – throughout the set, audience members passed flowers and bags of presents to the stage, an act strangely reminiscent of screaming Backstreet Boys fans, but not unexpected. Bright Eyes was, after all, the soundtrack to broken teenage hearts in the early 2000s – despite his evolution, Oberst remains the Nick Carter of indie, the pretty poster boy for heartbreak.

    And true to his original style, Oberst closed the set in a quietly profound manner with Breezy, a bittersweet ode to the late Bright Eyes contributor Sabrina Duim. It was a deeply personal and moving way to conclude what had been an unexpectedly bright and energetic show, showing that there really are two sides to every coin.

    Sausalito
    Get-Well-Cards
    Danny Callahan
    Central City
    Smoke Signals
    Cape Canaveral
    I Got A Reason #1
    Moab
    Ten Women
    I Got A Reason #2
    Sun Down
    NYC - Gone, Gone
    Souled Out!!!
    Milk Thistle

    ENCORE
    Lenders in the Temple
    Corinna, Corinna
    Kodachrome
    I Don't Want to Die (In The Hospital)
    Breezy
  • Interview: Chris #2 (Anti-Flag), August 14 2008

    19. Aug. 2008, 10:38

    Transcript of the phone interview I did for bombshellzine.com on August 14 with Chris #2, bassist of Anti-Flag, in support of latest album The Bright Lights of America and their upcoming Australian tour. Full article available here.

    Congratulations on your new album, The Bright Lights of America.
    Thanks, it’s been a good experience. We’ve been playing plenty of shows and people seem to be enjoying the songs, it’s been pretty cool.

    I noticed on the new album you’ve changed your sound a bit, adding strings and other things you haven’t done before. How have you been handling that live, have you actually been bringing the strings in?
    No, we haven’t experimented with that yet but we have been doing some cool things on this festival that we’re currently on right now. We had a couple of children’s choirs out on stage singing with us on songs, we have a couple extra drums on the stage that we bang on and throw about, so we’ve definitely tried to make the sound a little wider than it’s ever been before live. But as far as the strings and things like that are concerned, I really feel like the live experience and the album experience should be different so that there’s a reason for you to engage in both, and I’m not necessarily sure that I believe you need to recreate every sound that’s on your record live, I think you need to play that song in such a way that it translates and conveys the message of that song righteously. And I think that for us that’s what our live show is about. It’s about making a real connection and having people see that we care about these songs, we care about these ideas, and through our passion and our lack of ability to do anything but what we do, people seem to connect with that.

    What made you decide to bring in all these new elements after playing the same kind of stuff for the past 10 or so years?
    I think that with each record we’ve either expanded the sounds or the textures of the records, we introduced some things on our For Blood or Empire record which came out in 06, different guitar sounds, different vocal melodies, things like that, and this is just an extension of that, making it a challenge for us to make a record, making it a challenge for the people who think they know what Anti-Flag is. And I think that’s a really important thing, especially for a band like us. You can get comfortable and people can tell you, “oh, you’re great, this is fantastic what you’re doing”, and unless you start throwing some curveballs and making people scratch their heads and wonder what you’re doing as a band, you can become stagnant and stale, and people can lose interest. So this was just an extension of all of those things, trying to make a record that we would believe in, that we would be happy with, above everything else, and then going into the next aspect, which is making the people that have an understanding of what Anti-Flag is and blow their understanding and their definition out of the water.

    What was it like working with producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie, Moody Blues) on your album?
    That was actually a really great experience. He’s a tremendous human being and more than anything he kept us on task and he kept us having fun in the studio. He broke a lot of the bad habits that we have developed over the years as far as recording to perfection and over-utilising the technology that we have. Tony being a product of the tape era and bands just plugging it in and playing, and us sort of being a product of ProTools and editing things and doing things more digitally, he was able to chip away at our inability to let mistakes go and he said, “guys, this is more about how a record feels than how perfect it is, and this is more about how a song feels than how perfect it is”. And it’s interesting because very early on, one of the things that we’ll do is, because the four of us are so fucking crazy and anal, we will solo things on the board, so it’s like, if a song is playing I’d just listen to my bass and be like, “oh that’s not good, this isn’t right”. And he would say things like, “who will ever listen to just your bass? Why would you solo that and break it down to just one part? No one will ever hear it without the other instruments”. So I always thought that was something really interesting and it’s such a simple idea but it’s hard to let go, it’s hard to not be a perfectionist whenever it comes to something that you’ve created, and you have to have a lot of trust in somebody to let those things go, and that’s the kind of trust that we had in Tony.

    Did you ever feel overwhelmed that this was the guy that worked with Bowie for so long?
    Well that’s the other thing – he could be our dad (laughs). There’s this aura to him that’s really approachable and really loving and friendly that you often forget that this is a man who’s lived a life that we couldn’t believe. He talks about being in limousines with The Beatles and things and you’re just like “holy shit!”, you know? But when you’re with him and you’re working, it’s that separation that sort of infamy doesn’t exist.

    Since your dispute with RCA Records, are you planning on going back to your own label A-F Records or signing with another major for your next release?
    Oh gosh...I didn’t know that we left (laughs). We have a two record deal and this is the end of the deal. But we haven’t had much of a dispute with them, I think that what you could be referring to is the fact that we were a bit unhappy with how things had been handled in America. But a lot of the countries around the world have done really great for this record and really great for our band. I think that in no way have we looked at our decision to sign with a major label for the last two albums as a detrimental experience, it’s actually been great for the band. The band is bigger than ever and reaching more people than ever, and gives us the ability to do things, like you’re saying, go back out on our own and take that energy and that steam that we’ve created through them spending their money on us, and try to do it a different way. But I really haven’t given much thought to labels or how we’ll do the next record. We’re still in this process of The Bright Lights and making sure that as many people hear it and see it as possible. So it hasn’t really crossed our minds yet.

    Speaking of major labels, how do you guys respond to being accused of being sellouts?
    That’s interesting. I think that people have been calling our band sellouts for a really long time. Whenever we were in Pittsburgh and we released a 7 inch on a local label and that 7 inch did well, we released another 7 inch on a non-local label, people were calling our band sellouts for not staying in Pittsburgh. And I think that any time that you step outside of someone else’s comfort zone, they’re going to call you a sellout and say that you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, because that’s something that they don’t understand, something they wouldn’t do. But for us we’ve really tried to make decisions that we can sleep with and we can, at the end of the day, realise is the right decision. It’s like, obviously, do I like working with a major label and aiding the capitalist system more than I have to? Not at all. But the reality is we’re a band that sells records, and we’d be selling records on A-F Records, on Fat Wreck Chords, on Smash Records – that’s the world that we live in these days, so we might as well get the most out of our records. One of the majors came to us and offered us a deal that was two records and we could do whatever we want with those two records, so we said “let’s consider this” and it ended up being a plan of action that we wanted to enact. I think it’s interesting now that some people are just finding out that we’re on a major label and this is our second record on it. It’s one of those things where people only care about it when they want to care about it. I don’t feel like we’ve changed any modus operanda because we’re on a major label. Maybe we’ve taken advantage of some things, we’ve certainly gotten more press and been pushed into a bigger spotlight than ever before because of the major label and because of the idea that AOL and CNN and some of these places that had never listened to or heard from our band before are taking note because it has some silly BMG label on the back.

    You guys were here earlier this year for the Big Day Out. How did you find the Australian crowds – do you think that they respond as well as Americans who might be closer to what you’re talking about?
    I think that the thing I love about our band is that our messages are not exclusively American, or Australian, or German, or anything. That is exactly what Anti-Flag means. It’s about breaking down the barriers between people and nationality, whether it be colour of skin, sexual orientation, straight or gay, rich or poor. Those ideas are something that all people can identify with and that’s the amazing thing about our band, that we can play anywhere and say these things and we find that most people are humanitarians and most people want to see their neighbours doing well, and their friends doing well, and themselves doing well. People want to see universal education. People want to see wars ended, and people especially want to see wars of aggression and illegal wars ended. And that’s why a lot of the messages of this band are resonating well with people. And at the Big Day Out it was an honour and a privilege every night to play for so many people, and I think that the respect that we were given was beyond believable and I couldn’t believe how big and how ferocious those rock shows were for us. It really reinstils my faith in humanity that people will a, like good music, but b, like good ideas. And I think that we’re looking forward to coming back and seeing the impact of doing the Big Day Out and playing for that many people and hopefully having it translate in a trickle down effect so that more people will not see the half hour Anti-Flag experience, they’ll see the club show Anti-Flag experience which is way more intricate and way more about the community experience.

    Lastly, with the upcoming election, what’s your stance on that? During the last election you were involved in Rock Against Bush, are you doing anything like that now?
    Well, not necessarily. We’re not as involved in the election process as before. I think that the same sort of movement is still out and the same people that put together the Rock Against Bush movement are still working diligently and we’re still friends and still partners with them on some events, but for me the election is not what’s important, what’s important is the mobilisation that has occurred because of George W Bush. And frankly John McCain is an extension of the Bush White House, and John McCain is four more years of Bush. So we are fighting against that, and do we think Barack Obama is a solution to all our problems? Absolutely not. But I believe that Barack Obama is the best candidate that we have right now.

    Thank you so much for your time.
    Thank you, will we see you at any of the shows coming up?

    Sydney in December, I’ll be there.
    Fantastic. Take care.
  • Interview: Nick Harmer (Death Cab for Cutie), July 14 2008

    3. Aug. 2008, 6:12

    Transcript of the phone interview I did for bombshellzine.com on July 14 with Nick Harmer, bassist of Death Cab for Cutie, in support of latest album Narrow Stairs and their upcoming Australian tour.

    Congratulations on the new album and getting to #1 on the Billboard charts. You went from #97 for Transatlanticism, to #4 for Plans, to #1. How’s that feel?
    Thanks. That feels pretty weird. I’m not sure exactly what to do with that information, it seems to be a pretty big deal for my parents but it’s hard for us to kind of really believe it’s true in some ways. I think we’ve always sort of felt like, “does that happen to our band? Doesn’t that happen to other bands?” It’s just kind of strange.

    It’s your second album on a major label as well, so did you feel that it was more or less stressful the second time around, reaching a wider audience?
    To be honest I think we were all very much less stressed making this album than the first one. I think we were more nervous and more unsure of what the future was going to bring before we made Plans, and during the making of Plans it seemed like a lot of question marks were hanging in the air, what was going to happen to our career – was this a good decision to make, was this a bad decision, were we going to be happy, were we going to be upset – I mean all these things, and we made Plans and it came out and it did really well for us and we were proud of that record and worked hard and toured behind it a lot, and at the end of it we kind of looked around and said “you know what? We’re fine, we’re still a band that we like”, and I think that really took a lot of pressure off the next album for sure, it gave us a lot of self confidence to kind of just settle back a little bit and concentrate on the music and not worry about how it was going to be received so much.

    You recorded in drummer Jason McGerr’s new studio Two Sticks – would you say this made it a more personal album for you all?
    Definitely. I think there were more familiar spaces when we made this album than Plans, so that kind of allowed us to musically and lyrically open up a little bit more and be a little more, I guess, transparent with who we were and where we’re at in our lives. I’d say this album is a lot more personal in some ways, a little more honest and a little more intimate somehow with what we actually sound like playing music together. We tried to record most of the album live, the core tracks of every song live, the four of us tracking together going for that perfect take, at least a take we could all live with anyway. I think that it did end up making it a personal album for us, for sure.

    Do you usually record with analog tapes as you did on this album?
    We used tape all the way through Transatlanticism, and then all of Plans we started using more computer based stuff. We used this program that’s sort of like ProTools, it’s a program that Chris is really familiar with, during Plans but in some ways we sort of wanted to get back to the limits of analog recording, and recording on tape kind of forces you to make some decisions creatively, you don’t have infinite amounts of tape to record every idea that you want, you sort of have to pick and choose. It was a little bit more, like you said earlier, it’s a little more familiar, recording in a studio our drummer built. We know analog tape, we were friends with analog early on, so it’s nice to have that return to form.

    The ending of Pity and Fear, when your tape broke – why did you choose to keep that ending?
    I actually think it was a perfect kind of metaphor for the entire experience, actually, and where it comes in the album is really important in terms of the order of the songs. I like the idea that this record is a little more abrasive and outspoken at times, and I don’t mean outspoken in terms of lyrics, I mean kind of outspoken musically, it’s a little more loud somehow, it seems a little rough around the edges here and there, and I like the idea that a lot of the themes and a lot of the things we tried to explore on this album sort of all build and come to this big noisy head in “Pity and Fear” and then the tape breaks, and it sort of all just falls apart. It’s great that literally, the drums are falling apart, in that part of the song we told him to start messing up on purpose and just fall apart as a drummer, and as it all kind of culminates it was just perfect timing, actually, that the tape broke like that too. We were just like “oh man, that’s the sign – that’s the sign from the music’s spirit. We need to keep it like that”. It also encapsulated a lot of the spirit of the album, it’s not about making everything perfect – mistakes happen and you use those mistakes as intentional moments. And that was kind of nice to have that as what it is, and then we finished the album with The Ice Is Getting Thinner which adds a nice little pretty colour to everything I think.

    The four and a half minute intro to I Will Possess Your Heart isn’t like anything you’ve done before.
    That was very much an experiment for us to break with tradition in some ways and also push territory that we’ve never really done before. But I also think it works really thematically with the lyrics in that song. We really wanted to go for the repetitive, simmering, boiling kind of thing that happens in the beginning of the song. It really kind of sets up the obsessive, repetitive nature of the lyrics, this person is obsessing about someone that they see and dreaming about them being together and all of these other sorts of borderline creepy things.

    How do you feel about the radio edit, cutting the whole intro?
    We’re happy with the fact that the album version is the definitive version that we wanted in the world, I mean our album is home base. That’s our expression as musicians and as artists, and if radio stations and record labels and everything else need to cut and edit and shift and things like that after the fact; well, that’s them doing it, not us doing it. I don’t really care, to be honest; whatever helps get our music out is fine but we still get the fact that we got to make the song the way we wanted it at the beginning, and the fact that our record label believed in it as a single from the very beginning is really great.

    Did you have a say in it at all or did they just cut it?
    Not really – I mean we kind of knew all along there was going to be a radio edit and Chris, our producer, sort of mocked up at one point saying “well this is how it would work if you guys wanted to do it”, but at some point it kind of just happened – somebody makes it, and then mixes it, we just sort of knew that that was the eventuality of making an eight-minute song, there would have to be a short version of it.

    It was you that came up with the title Narrow Stairs, right?
    That’s true.

    Do you think that it encapsulates the feel of the entire album, or is it up to listener interpretation?
    It means certain things to me, certainly. I like the imagery of it more than I like the literal picture of it. I like the idea of it. As you travel through your life there are moments where you have to watch your footing and watch your steps. There’s times when everything’s great and it’s easy and everyone’s happy and there’s a lot of things like that that makes for some really easy moments in life, and there are times when things get a little more difficult, a little more complex, more confusing and you have the feeling that you’re on a narrow staircase, you’re kind of teetering on the age. I feel that lyrically a lot of songs on this album kind of deal with that sort of complexity and that confusion considering where you’re at and what’s going on and what’s next and who’s next, all that stuff.

    The album art is pretty ambiguous as well.
    It’s definitely more abstract and more symbolic as well. I like the patchwork feeling of the front cover, it feels like it could be a lot of different things. I just like the sort of open-ended symbolic nature of it and it definitely works as a representative piece more than it works as something literal and straightforward.

    I noticed that on Narrow Stairs you revert to a guitar-driven sound whereas on Transatlanticism and Plans you were very focused on the piano. Going back to the guitar reminds me of The Photo Album – would you say you’re looking back as well as looking forward?
    Yeah, I think we’ve got one foot firmly planted in what we’re good at and what we’ve done, and I think we’ve got the other foot searching forward in the dark, kind of on the edge of whatever we’re reaching into. I like to think that we’re bringing all of our influences and all of our history with us as we move through our careers. I like that we can kind of move between instruments and central focuses of instruments whether it’s guitar or piano or what have you, and still try to evolve and keep trying new things.

    You guys are touring next month – have the new songs translated well into a live performance?
    I think so. Because we tried to record most of the album live, I think that it really made preparing this material for our live show a lot easier in some ways. I think the songs are translating a lot more directly than maybe songs on Plans which we had to pick and choose which parts we wanted to bring forward when we played live. It seems like things have been going really well, the response has been pretty good at shows right now and hopefully it just continues to build over the album cycle and people get familiar with the material and they have their favourite songs and that kind of stuff. It seems to be going pretty well right now. It’s hard to tell, I can’t really step that far outside of our band to listen to how it’s going down but I hope it’s going well.

    Have you been playing much old material?
    I think it’s a pretty good balance, we probably play 23 songs maybe a night, and of those songs only about six of them are from the new album, if that. Maybe we play five or six, but the rest of it’s all older material.

    You took some of last year off the band to do your own stuff, so what were you doing?
    I was doing all kinds of things. I did a lot of traveling last year and a lot of writing, I’ve been working on a book recently, and some film projects, working with a few friends of mine who make films and videos and things like that. When we have down time from the band I try and take a break from music as much as I can and find some other interests and stuff like that. I took bass lessons last year, that was fun – and not electric bass but upright jazz bass lessons. I’ve never learned how to play jazz bass before so that was kinda fun, I’ve always wanted to really start learning how to play that and maybe someday when I’m really old I can be in a jazz band.

    Well, thanks for your time, Nick.
    Yeah, thank you, and I’ll see you in Sydney.
  • With a buzz in their ears they played endlessly: Sigur Rós in Sydney, August 2 2008

    3. Aug. 2008, 4:32

    Sat 2 Aug – Sigur Rós, Pivot

    It is a rare gift to be able to move an audience to tears when the language you speak is not theirs – or anybody else’s, for that matter. Anyone else singing in gibberish might be dismissed as a lunatic, but when it is done with such ardour, such passion, the voice ceases to be just a voice and becomes a vessel. Everything that is known about music is forgotten as a whole new world blossoms under the fingertips of Icelandic quartet Sigur Rós.

    Ranging from ghostly to apocalyptic, the band’s Hordern Pavilion performance last night was testament to the fact that there is no such thing as musical boundary. Opening with the stirring wraithlike Svefn-g-Englar, the four modest musicians invited the audience to revel in a two hour set, conjuring emotions soaring from elation to loneliness to a quaint mixture of both.

    Joined occasionally by four friends in white on brass, Sigur Rós and their companions showed an unprecedented level of creativity as they each showcased their abilities on multiple instruments, from piano to glockenspiel to the accompanying tuba. Singer Jónsi Birgisson’s voice performed acrobatics as he moved from sawing on the guitar with a cello bow, to tinkering away at a wooden toy piano; bassist Georg Hólm redefined slap bass on Hafsól, hammering at his instrument with a drumstick. The result of marrying such unlikely elements was dazzlingly surreal, a far cry from the perfunctory sounds of today’s chart music.

    Sigur Rós paid tribute to their early career, playing songs reaching back to 1997’s Von, as well as showcasing their latest effort, Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust. Hoppípolla, perhaps one of the band’s best known songs, resonated through the pavilion, the audience singing along to its hauntingly playful tones; six thousand voices rang out, singing words they did not understand, did not need to understand. When musicians this heartfelt share their stories, words are redundant.

    But the most enchanting moment came near the very end, when Jónsi told the audience that he would be needing their help with the next song. Enter Gobbledigook, the opener from the latest album – a mischievous tune complete with ‘la, la, la’ singalongs and childlike hand claps. When the instruments stopped at the song’s climax, confetti rained down into the crowd and it was a moment of infinity. Smiles bloomed like springtime from sullen faces, couples squeezed hands tighter and tears were sure to form in the eyes of even the most hardened cynics. Six thousand strangers stood in a room whilst eight musicians grinned on stage, and it felt, in those few seconds, like we had known each other all along.

    It is a rare gift to be blessed with to realise that despite being mortal, otherworldly experiences can still be claimed whilst alive. When it feels like the world is crashing down and being created all at once, when tears can roll freely down cheeks, when your heart feels bigger than it ever has – it is a rare gift to know that your life as you knew it has changed forever, and all it took was two hours.

    Setlist:
    Svefn-g-Englar
    Glosoli
    Se Lest
    Ny Batteri
    við spilum endalaust
    Hoppípolla
    Með Bloðnasir
    Festival
    Fljótavík
    saeglopur
    Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur
    Hafsól
    Gobbledigook
    ENCORE 1 popplagið
    ENCORE 2 All alright
  • Live list, 2003-present

    23. Feb. 2008, 0:39

    2003
    In The Grey
    New Found Glory
    Sum 41
    Tripod

    2004
    After the Fall
    Bagster
    Blink 182
    New Found Glory
    Reggie and the Full Effect
    Sparta

    2005
    After the Fall
    Alexisonfire
    Autumn Cries
    Bagster
    Breaking The Broken
    Brisk
    Behind Crimson Eyes
    The Butterfly Effect
    The Cadence Method
    Drive Like Reason
    Ethereal
    FALLSHORT
    Forgetting Yesterday
    Funeral for a Friend
    Goldfinger
    Green Day
    Irrelevant (3)
    Jesse McCartney
    Jimmy Eat World
    Killswitch Engage
    The Mayday Call
    My Chemical Romance
    Something With Numbers
    System of a Down
    Reel Big Fish
    Rise Against (2)
    Town Hall Steps
    The Used (2)

    2006
    Alkaline Trio
    Anberlin
    Ben Folds
    Buck The Trend
    Coheed and Cambria
    Eisley
    First and Foremost
    The Getaway Plan
    The Hot Lies
    Matchbook Romance
    The Pink Floyd Experience
    Rocket Dog
    Straylight Run
    Taking Back Sunday
    The Veld (2)

    2007
    +44
    Angelas Dish
    Angus & Julia Stone
    Avalon Drive
    Bagster
    Ben Kweller
    Bloc Party
    Brand New
    Buck 65
    The Checks
    Deftones
    Fall Out Boy
    Ground Components
    Guttermouth
    Houston Calls
    I Killed the Prom Queen
    In Fiction
    Jose Gonzalez
    The Killers
    Less Than Jake
    Midnight Juggernauts (2)
    Muse (2)
    MxPx
    The Paper and The Plane
    Reel Big Fish (2)
    Ryan Adams and The Cardinals
    Spitalfield
    STARKY
    Streetlight Manifesto
    Teenagersintokyo
    Trial Kennedy
    Unwritten Law
    Wons Phreely

    2008
    Amanda Easton
    An Horse
    Arcade Fire (2)
    Backstreet Boys
    Blue King Brown
    Brand New (2)
    Brian McFadden
    British India
    City and Colour
    Conor Oberst
    Cuthbert and The Night Walkers
    Dappled Cities
    Death Cab for Cutie (2)
    Eluvium
    The Falls
    Fergus Brown
    Firekites
    Explosions in the Sky
    Hilltop Hoods
    Hot Hot Heat
    I Heart Hiroshima
    Incubus
    Jens Lekman
    Jesse Lacey
    Jim Ward
    Josh Pyke (2)
    Kevin Devine
    The Ladybug Transistor
    Leena
    Matt Corby
    Matt Tonks
    mewithoutYou
    Michael Azzopardi
    Modest Mouse
    My Brightest Diamond
    Nikki Kummerow
    Ohana
    Pivot
    Plastic Palace Alice
    The Presets
    Rage Against the Machine
    Regurgitator
    Rufus Wainwright
    Sarah Blasko
    Sigur Ros
    Silverchair
    Socratic
    Soft Tigers
    Spoon (2)
    Stars
    Sufjan Stevens
  • Riding an infinite high: Fall Out Boy in Sydney, 8 March 2007

    10. Mär. 2007, 7:28

    After years of waiting, it finally happened. Emo kids all over Australia cheered as Fall Out Boy finally graced our shores, playing sold-out shows around the country. The tour, in support of the band’s third full-length release Infinity on High – the single from which, This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race, has been rapidly climbing the Australian singles charts – kicked off in Melbourne on Wednesday night, followed by two consecutive nights in Sydney. The first night at the Hordern Pavilion was a night of rollicking good fun, good tunes and overpriced beer, but the show was good enough to cancel out the pain of the last fact.

    Openers Avalon Drive and Trial Kennedy ploughed through energetic sets but it was the Chicago quartet that had fans in a frenzy, and when they arrived onstage at 9:30pm the stadium erupted. It was interesting to note that more than half the songs performed were from the band’s 2005 sophomore effort From Under the Cork Tree, with only four songs from each of the two other albums. But in Fall Out Boy’s case, it was matter over mind – none of the audience seemed to care as the band ripped through emotionally and physically charged songs which had the crowd screaming along every word and eating right out of the band’s hand.

    The backdrop against the band read “the continuum, the rescued, the brilliant” – perhaps a little ambitious, but they didn’t fail to live up to it. You’d think that such a commercially successful group would do little to engage with the audience, but Fall Out Boy proved quite the opposite – in between songs, bassist Pete Wentz jokingly rambled about a number of things, comparing Australia to “the girl you never kissed in high school” and claiming need for a 15-year-old Australian “boo” – you’d think after we met mini-Pete last year he’d stop rolling out the dirties, but apparently not. All that was needed for the 12-year-old crowd to fall into a screaming heap was Wentz, and true – whenever he opened his mouth, least of all smiled, the room again became deafening. The high or lowlight, depending on how you look at it, was the band’s roadie, Dirty, coming out in cricket gear and asking for two volunteers from the audience to come wack him on the arse with a cricket bat – tasteless? Perhaps, but it was a clever way for the band to buy time between the end of their set and the encore.

    Though the set list was heavily Cork Tree-orientated, it was mixed up enough to please both old fans and new. The new songs deliver well in a live atmosphere, but for me at least, Take This to Your Grave songs were the highlight of the night. Many Australians have been listening to the boys since the release of TTTYG in 2003 and 2007 marked the band’s first tour in the country, meaning that it was the end of a long haul for many fans. And they weren’t disappointed.

    It’s easy to write Fall Out Boy out as money-hungry talentless hacks, but really, they know what they’re doing. Though their audience may have changed and though they might now be more airwave-friendly, the boys still know how to put on a good show and how to make an audience put on their dancing shoes. It wasn’t a night of brilliance, and it wasn’t groundbreaking, but it was good fun. And that’s what music is all about.
  • Punk as a subcultural style, Rethinking Culture paper, March 2007

    10. Mär. 2007, 6:57

    This is a paper I wrote for my culture class that I thought was interesting enough to share...

    ---

    What is a subculture? The Macquarie dictionary defines it as “a network of behaviour, beliefs and attitudes existing within and different from a larger culture”. From my experience subcultures are largely based around music – you have your punks, emos, gangsters, indie kids, Goths…the list goes on. This week’s readings focus around two main musical trends and their theoretical associations – punk and hip-hop, two infinitely different trends with different ideologies but very similar construction, with heavy emphasis on concepts such as homology, semiotics and subcultural style.

    The important thing to understand about the styles associated with subcultures is that, to quote Barthes, “the signification of the image is certainly intentional” – that is, the rebellion is fabricated so as to be able to make a radical point. The concept of bricolage is closely linked to this phenomenon – that is, the rearrangement of socially “normal” symbols into different contexts, ultimately altering their meanings, or as John Clarke puts it, constituting a new discourse and conveying an altogether different message. There are a couple of examples of this in the punk movement, such as The Clash’s album London Calling, the cover of which shows bassist Paul Simonon smashing his guitar against the stage in a pose similar to that of trade workers – this juxtaposition of images, or indeed what Breton referred to as “collage aesthetic”, allowed the cover to successfully convey the Clash’s purpose – the need for social uprising. Another example is the Sex Pistols’ portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, who became the centre of the Pistols’ social revolt when the single God Save the Queen was released in 1977, with its lead image being one of a heavily edited and dehumanised Queen. The song, a direct play on the British national anthem, featured anarchic lyrics labelling the monarchy as a “fascist regime”, referring to the Queen as “no human being” and the song’s refrain, “no future”, became somewhat of a punk rock mantra, representing the crux of the movement’s purpose – the idea that society was at a dead end.

    Shock value was one of the defining features of the punk movement. Characterisation was often achieved through dressing alternatively, with designers such as Vivien Westwood taking everyday objects such as safety pins and Union Jacks and, again through the process of bricolage, altering their context and meaning to fit their anti-establishmentarian agendas. Though superficial, this serves to prove that the punk movement was largely one of resistance to the mainstream – as quoted in the reading, “the rule would seem to be, if the cap doesn’t fit, wear it”.

    Social disdain was also expressed through music, not marked by skill but rather the rawness of which allowed these bands to give the proverbial finger to authority. Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten is quoted as saying “we’re into chaos, not music”, signifying that in most cases, punk’s main purpose was simply to revert authority and cause mayhem. However, social change was also born from punk music – famously, Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye spawned great social change with the song Straight Edge, from which sprung an entire new subculture of the same name, participants of which made a positive lifestyle change by choosing to refrain from illicit substance consumption. Punk musician J Robbins told Spin magazine that Mackaye’s song caused people to “rethink their politics”; in the book Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers and Emo, author Andy Greenwald states that “after the rage dissipates, the possibility for real change begins” – and indeed, Minor Threat influenced jaded teenagers such as Guy Picciotto, frontman of hardcore band Rites of Spring, to take action and create their own change in the world – and this is what subcultures do at best. Through engaging with similarly-minded people, whether it be at our own level or, in Picciotto’s case, our idols, we are able to find our niche within a certain subculture – the concept of homology is evident here – and we read the signs in a personal way and create our own meaning out of it, which is a prime example of the power of polysemy – symbols, or in this case, music, can be interpreted in a myriad of ways and it is ultimately up to the user to decide what it signifies.

    Semiotics and homology are so closely linked in subcultural style – the objects chosen to represent punk were those, as Hall stated, “in which members could see their central values held and reflected”. My past examples somewhat reflect this and further, through the dress code of punks – tartan, safety pins, chains,= and obnoxiously coloured hair – we can see through these examples, as well as Hebdige’s deconstruction of the punk subculture, that the feeling of social unrest and need for uprising is communicated through clothing and that homology is achieved through the feeling of unity that is made operational through the process. In this way, the movement allowed youths to express their social unrest through their clothing and music and, as quoted in the reading, “restate their opposition to dominant values and institutions”. However the punk movement was somewhat decadent when the meaning of certain items is closely examined, such as the swastika – originally a symbol of racism, the reading states that in punk usage the symbol lost its “natural” meaning and was used merely as an item of shock value and thus its meaning, in the punk context, was that it meant nothing. Hebdige describes it as the evaporation of meaning, and that the central value communicated in such symbols is that there was an absence of value. Herein lies the flaw of the punk movement – that emphasis is sometimes so heavily put on shock that instead of pushing meaning, an empty nihilistic view is instead adopted.

    As a “version of reality”, it is impossible to pin the meaning of the punk movement to an exact definition, and hence it is important to look at it from a polysemic perspective. The reading suggests that there is no distinction between the form and content of a “work of art”, should we choose to view the punk movement as such a commodity, and that the important practice is to recognise the way in which things are said. By viewing the punk movement from a number of different angles, and by studying the process of the construction of meaning rather than the outcome itself, we are able to better understand the subculture and its purpose.

    Females were not heavily prominent in the punk movement with the exception of Siouxsie Sioux and, in the new wave punk revival of the 80s, Debbie Harry. It was often regarded as a “sexist” movement. In the early 90s however, females became more dominant in the emergence of such movements as “riot grrrl” – its most famous member, Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna, said “I feel completely left out of the realm of everything that is so important to me. And I know that this is partly because punk rock is for and by boys mostly”, and took this as her opportunity to promote third wave feminist ideals through her music. Sleater-Kinney singer Corin Tucker describes her music as feminism rewritten for the 21st century, and both of these examples serve to show that within music, least of all within the world of subcultures, there do exist female-charged cultures, which, like punk, promote their own ideals through symbols and music.

    These same theories still manifest themselves within modern offshoots of punk, such as emo and indie. However the original rebellion is nowhere to be found in the present, as it seems that the commercialisation of the original movement has cancelled out the initial sense of wrongdoing that injected the spark into punk rock, but the semiotic side of things – the dress code, although more universally accepted, still exists, and the prophets – the modern day Ian Mackayes, such as internet idol Chris Gutierrez – still spread the word on straight edge and on original punk rock ethics, and that’s what subculture is all about – finding our own personal place in society and finding sense in what is presented to us.
  • SOUNDWAVE @ SYDNEY PARK, 26/02/07.

    2. Mär. 2007, 10:22

    Long-fringed, black-eyelinered kids from all over Sydney pretty much had all their prayers answered at once on Sunday February 26, when Soundwave hit Sydney Park with a dynamic lineup boasting greats such as Deftones and Unwritten Law, as well as new emo favourites +44 and a barrage of other loved, sometimes slightly obscure bands.

    The crowds poured into St Peters in droves, battling the fierce winds and showers to secure front-row positions for local acts such as Something With Numbers and Angelas Dish, who delivered brief yet convincing sets showcasing just a small part of the myriad of local talent which Sydney is so lucky to boast.

    By the time pop-punk veterans MxPx graced the stage, the heavens had opened up and it was steadily pouring down. The fans lucky enough to be 18 watched from inside the booze tent, while the poor youngens braved the downpour to watch the trio rip through a solid set spanning their decade-long career. Crowd favourites included the classic Chick Magnet as well as teenage anthems such as Punk Rawk Show. The rain did not prevent Mike, Tom and Yuri from satisfying eager fans with their well-picked selection and explosive delivery.

    Californian outfit Unwritten Law took to the stage just as the weather cleared up somewhat permanently, and it was death circles ahoy as the crowd broke into a frenzy to the familiar tunes. Frontman Scott Russo’s energy could be seen and heard in his strong voice and beetroot-esque complexion as the show raged on, with a set studded with gems such as Lonesome, Up All Night and the obvious choice, Cailin.

    Over on the hardcore stage, bodies were fiercely flung left, right and centre to the roaring sounds of such acts as Suicidal Tendencies, Hatebreed and Terror. Though I didn’t personally experience any of the action, I hear through the grapevine that it was pretty dope…if you’re into that kinda stuff.

    One of the most-anticipated acts of the night was new pop rock outfit +44, featuring none other than Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker (who was, yet again, missing in action). Sadly enough, +44’s set was rather uninspired – their set list was the debut album When Your Heart Stops Beating verbatim, without even bothering to mix it up a bit, and I found myself thinking I would have been better off staying at home with the album – same experience, less sweat. Further, the power went out a few songs into the set but the band was ignorant to this fact, continuing to play and talk to the now-deaf audience. Hoppus dedicated Make You Smile to the ladies present, claiming “it’s pretty” – pretty it may have been, but in general +44’s set lacked so much that one song’s prettiness hardly made up for it. The vigour and youthful energy that came with Blink 182’s stage shows was nowhere to be found, and instead I found myself looking at a somewhat tired and old rock star – the salad days are over and it’s just not enough any more. Perhaps as the band continues to tour their live show will begin to pick up the pace – we can only hope.

    The band most people had come for, Deftones, played an 75 minute set with a good mix of the band’s extensive material. Frontman Chino Moreno delivered a strong vocal set which sent long-time fans into crazed stupors. Knowing little about the band myself, there’s not much I can say to critique them, but watching the reaction of those around me, I know it was a job well done.

    One of the main attractions for many a screaming fan was the signing tents – a perfect opportunity for them to meet their idols. Crazy and crowded as it was, many emerged from the area grinning from ear to ear – a good indication of why music festivals are so very great, the happiness they generate is comparable to nothing else.

    The flyers for the event boasted “good food and affordable drinks” – if by “good food” they meant caravans festering with overpriced processed meat, and by “affordable drinks” they meant $10 beers, they were spot on. At least there was no pussyfooting around the fact that there was a delightful line of port-a-bogs, perfect places to drop the kids off at the pool if the need ever did arise. Personally I was doing nothing but fighting the urge to push the end one down and create some kind of sick faecal domino effect.

    Overall Soundwave was just that – sound. An enjoyable day only slightly soured by poor facilities and Mother Nature’s heartless wench nature, and +44’s sub par performance. It’ll be interesting to see how subsequent festivals turn out.
  • THE ARCADE FIRE - NEON BIBLE.

    16. Feb. 2007, 11:52

    Canadian orchestral indie outfit The Arcade Fire blew audiences away in 2004 with their stellar debut Funeral, receiving critical acclaim worldwide from critics and music greats alike. They return with Neon Bible which, although good, falls short of expectations.

    A spectacular debut such as Funeral is arguably difficult to top, but Neon Bible is certainly an admirable effort. Win Butler’s vocals soar over layered guitars, organs and synthesisers, attempting to mimic the same ethereal effect that earned the band such a cult following. The first single and album opener, Black Mirror, is a good indication of the quality of the album – solid indie rock with pop sensibilities and clever, cultural lyrics.

    Butler’s vocals alternate between twee pop (on Black Mirror) and deep country croon (Ocean of Noise), and my personal pick for best track, Building Downtown (Antichrist Television Blues), could well be something from Born in the USA with its Springsteen-esque vocals, twanged guitar sounds and typical third-fifth chord progressions. Musical integration does not go astray on this album, nor does experimental noise – the opening of Ocean of Noise features seaside sounds, really setting the scene for the desired ambience of the song. The heightened inclusion of the organ also sends the album to great heights, adding an extra layer of texture.

    However, ambitious as Neon Bible is, the magic of Funeral – the goosebumps and smiles – is nowhere to be found here. Sure, it’s a strong album which delivers quite well, but the perfection of the first, whether it be the newness of the sound, the honest lyrics or the combination of unlikely instruments to create a masterpiece, seem to have been lost amongst the hype. Where strings featured heavily in the first, their inclusion in the follow-up is sparse and scattered, somewhat destroying the romantic and atmospheric mood that The Arcade Fire has become famed for. Furthermore, Neon Bible’s material is simply too predictable. Where Funeral’s pieces were haphazardly structured, mysteriously titled and an intense journey to listen to, the new pieces are conventional, sometimes repetitive and hardly groundbreaking. In particular I refer to the title track, Neon Bible, which really just seems like a filler track, with its trite repetition and ostinato. This album requires little independent thought to deconstruct – really, Butler and friends have laid it all out.

    Overall Neon Bible is a solid album, but had it been by someone other than The Arcade Fire, perhaps it would have received stronger acclaim, from myself at least. Unfair as it may be to compare this to Funeral, that’s really just a reviewer’s instinct – in comparison to its predecessor, after seeing what the band is capable of, this album fades. It’s not awful, but it’s not revolutionary either.