2 May

Simon Taylor: Spectacular-ish // Enmore Theatre // 30/04/17

There’s something about Simon Taylor. For one thing, he looks nothing like his Instagram DP. He’s also quite funny. And in a country where the very idea of a millennial buying a house is laughable, his comedy works better than you might expect.

From his magic tricks, hilariously making a Dove appear and disappear, to his singing and dancing, which goes some way to explaining how he flirts in the digital age, Simon Taylor showcases his multi-talented approach to comedy with style.

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25 Apr


Every stadium-stuffing band has to start somewhere, and even the most revered of the alt scene’s icons kicked their careers off with a shitty demo or two. Novocastrian emo-punks Introvert, on the other hand, have skipped that teeth-cutting period entirely – the quartet have only five tracks to their name, but each of them sear with the unrelenting talent and scalding passion that only those decades deep in their songwriting typically unearth. All of that ardous spirit is translated flawlessly to the stage, too, every filthy bend, glassy snare and piercing wail coarsing through the venue like an emotional tsunami leaving its crowd thoroughly perished. We’ll be surprised if Introvert aren’t selling out their own headline tours within a year.

The Brave have an aesthetic reminiscent of the old Parkway Drive posters we used to froth over in every other month’s Blunt. It’s industrious, bursting at the seams with volume and dripping with emphatic black-hoodie angst – enough to get crowds moving, as illustrated by the manic pits they spur, but not enough to leave any lasting impact once their set ends. They dole out standard, run-of-the-mill metalcore with virtually no depth or sonic authenticity: song starts, song ends, song is immediately forgotten. It’s safe, and when paired with Hellions – a band who consistently disrupt and dismantle the rules of ‘genre’ – safe is boring. The Brave are boring. Next.

For those of us that hit Hellions’ Quality Of Life tour last August, shoegaze-via-hardcore unit Endless Heights will be familiar. Limbs fly and throats strain from the second the local fivesome hit the stage, cuts new and old striking with an equal balance of soft, somber melody and blistering guitar-driven fury. Joel Martorana is a frontman more in his comfort zone onstage than most; seldom does he break an intimate connection made early in the mix with his ardent devotees, mic grabs and crowdsurfs aplenty. A highlight comes in “Drain”, Martorana’s hazy deadpan verses melding like melted butter into bread with guitarist Jem Siow‘s soaring leads and drummer Julian Diaz‘s uneasy batters.

By this point, manuevering the Oxford Art Factory requires strategic analysis and strong elbows – Hellions‘ titular mosh fiends are all squirreled around the stage, every short-haired sweatlord eager for their own shot at a mic grab. An atmospheric hum bleeds out from the speakers while smoke slowly fills the stage, tension building anxiously before a vicious blowout of ragged melodies turns that bleed into a gush with the stately “24”. The jam does the same tonight as it did opening last year’s acclaimed Opera Oblivia: it imparts a restless sense of grandeur both immediate and impending – as if we’re pulled tenderly up the rollercoaster’s climb, our weightless drop just a clattering breakdown away. The goosebump-spurring energy unfurls further with Oblivia cuts “Bad Way” and “Nightliner Rhapsody”, the crowd a stinging, sweaty mess by the end of it.

Fueling the fire as much as their music is the unrestrained fervour and spry charisma of Hellions themselves. The band seem genuinely stunned by the response from their hometown crowd, swapping looks of amazement and dorky, totally un-punk smiles while they give absolute hell to their instruments. Drenched in sweat only a few songs in, frontman Dre Faivre embraces the chaos with open arms: he makes the stage his playground, welcomes fan interaction and pours every ounce of his energy into every sour, scratchy verse between hype-building speeches. Shoeys, stage-dives and circle pits are all mandatory inclusions. Co-vocalist and guitarist Matthew Gravolin is an absolute anomaly, too, his ravenous shredding consistently powerful and his rough, acidic bellows stealing the show wherever they may pop up – notably, on the angsty emo-pop scorcher “Thresher” and eruptive punk closer “Quality Of Life”.

Hellions are arguably the most unique band to ever rise from Australia’s hardcore scene, and their intense, sprawling live shows reflect that unequivocally. This is history in the making, and goddamn, is it incredible to experience.

Ellie Robinson

11 Apr

Illy + Paces + Spit Syndicate + Maribelle // Enmore Theatre // 07/04/17

Right off the bat, we’ve an internal conflict: Melbourne singer-songwriter Maribelle opens the bill – a sold out four-act Enmore Theatre frothfest – with somewhat of an underwhelming showcase. Her backing tracks sit too quietly in the mix and sound muffled – as if her DJ couldn’t afford the Spotify bill and ripped them from YouTube in a pinch. Speaking of her DJ, he’s the epitome of unnecessary; he spends most of the set dancing and standing around, and on the few occasions he actually touches his deck, he tweaks single knobs to no audible effect. On the other hand, Maribelle herself is phenomenal. Her voice outright demands attention, rippling through the hall with a bite as venomous as it is tender. She makes the stage her playground, spits every rhyme with precision and crushes every high note like an empty Sprite can under a boot.

Hometown heroes Spit Syndicate are up next, and from the second they snap into their first tooth-ratting anthem, have the whole goddamn venue in the palms of their hands. Nick Lupi and Jimmy Nice command the stage, firing out slick sung choruses and harsh rapped verses with a fierce confidence – as if they were playing to a crowd 500,000 and not 500. Lupi in particular is a spectacle, his oversized kimono dancing behind him like a cape when he darts from one side of the stage to the other. The pair are backed live with keyboards and guitar, which adds to their set a vivid personality that would be lost in the hands of a DJ. The set itself is jam-packed with surprises, too, cameos from Maribelle (“Inhibitions”) and Thelma Plum (“Hold Me Down”) standing out alongside choices cuts from the duo’s forthcoming fifth LP, One Good Shirt Had Us All Fly.

Though his set comes nowhere close to matching the sheer intensity of Spit Syndicate’s, Gold Coast producer Paces takes the stage with a sunny slew of boisterous and tropical-fused dancehall. Sans an occasional Launchpad riff or live-triggered drop via drum pad, Paces brings little to the table in terms of his own performance. As such, drawcards come courtesy of his dancers, Sarah and Hannah, and recurring drop-ins from vocalists Esther Sparkes and NYNE who both completely steal the show with their jaw-dropping melodies. Sure, it’s hard to fuck up your songs when all you’re doing is playing them through a MacBook, but with enough visual twists and turns to keep us engaged, we feel confident in saying that Paces puts on a decent show.

Not one to be shown up by his openers, though, Illy busts out with a full light and video production that spans the entirety of the Enmore’s liberal stage. The lyrics to “Forget It” beam above a dwarfed Alasdair Murray, the Melbourne rapper thoroughly emersed in his own deluge as every boastfully tight line flows from the PA like waves on a Tahitian island. He’s so cocky about the precision of those introductive bars that we almost want him to fuck up – but alas, it never happens. The ego is warranted. Fucking hell.

Ensuing cuts from Two Degrees – the ARIA #1-debuting fifth album on which Illy is touring – fly by in bursts of pop-driven elation. “Swear Jar” is an easy highlight later in the set, while in its anticipation, “Hazard To Myself” and “Looks Could Kill” bring the now-squishy venue off its collective feet. Punters fawn passionately over his early matierial, too – even a passing mention of The Chase (2010) is enough to elicit deafening cheers. Second only to closing number “Papercuts” (the last of a sprawling four-track encore), breakout hit “Cigarettes” draws the loudest singalong – one so emphatic it comes close to eclipsing Illy himself. Similarly hailed is the now-iconic “Ausmusic Month Medley” from his 2014 Like A Version sesh, and a slightly more recent flip of Peking Duk‘s “High”.

Tonight, Illy isn’t his usual overhyped and script-sticking self. A 90-minute runtime means he has the chance to pace himself and really connect with fans, which he does whenever at all possible. There are a few moments where he crouches down to personally address some of the punters on the barrier: a fourth-wall break that feels refreshing in a usual slew of shows where artists won’t break character unless it looks like someone’s dying. Between clusters of cuts are motivational speeches and uplifting quips: Illy is all about optimism, and the resultant is a vibe more welcoming than most hip hop shows.

Not to mention, the man is fucking talented: he whips around the stage and leaves not an inch without a footprint, all the while pouring every ounce of his energy into smashing out hard and honest verses without a hiccup in sight. In all, one only needs to witness his live show in person to see why Illy is reeling in new fans by the second.

– Ellie Robinson

30 Mar

Balance and Composure + Oslow // Factory Theatre // 28/03/17

With apologies to Dear Seattle and Introvert.

Although still not quite in their mid-20s, Oslow already feel like veterans of Sydney’s independent music scene. Their mathy, emo-tinged blend of indie-rock and post-hardcore has brought them a myriad of fans and a steady run of shows. Their immediate surrounds this evening are not unfamiliar whatsoever – the band performed a headliner in The Fusebox next door; and have played their fair share of shows downstairs at the Factory Floor. Tonight marks their second time performing in the main room following a Title Fight support awhile back; and is easily their most confident and assured time performing at the venue. It’s partly to do with the release of their impressive debut album, but it’s also worth noting how far Oslow have come in just a couple of years. They are now frontrunners in their scene and the pride of Western Sydney. They deserve every last bit of their success.

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20 Mar

Spiderbait + The Meanies + Screamfeeder // Enmore Theatre // 18/03/17

“Mighty” is a word that comes to mind when attempting to describe Brisbane stalwarts Screamfeeder. For something like 20 years now, the band have put the emphasis on “power” in both power trio and power-pop. They get their hooks in early and they don’t budge for the entire time they’re on stage – and even in the waking moments after they’ve finished for good measure. Truly, when one talks of Screamfeeder one talks of one of the most underrated bands this country has ever produced. In a just world, these merchants of garage-dwelling indie exuberance would be receiving Enmore-sized elation entirely on their own merit. For now, however, it’s just great to see them charging purposefully through both some beloved classics and hugely-promising new material.

The Meanies, meanwhile, are fish out of water – a pub-friendly punk band in the surrounds of one of the oldest theatres in the whole country. Still, the Melbourne band have been outsiders their entire lives. Fearless frontman Link Meanie makes like the proverbial fish and splashes about the place as if his life depended on it – and although he’s not bleeding profusely or stagediving onto some unsuspecting punters, he’s still injecting the room with as much punk energy as he’s able to muster. To his left, Wally Meanie thunders through buzzsaw bass-lines and cracks wise in-between songs, refusing to let the spectacle of their surroundings change the fact that – at the end of the day – it’s still a bloody Meanies gig.

By 1996, Spiderbait were well on their way to becoming the most sought-after rock band on the Australian circuit. The album that got them there was their third, Ivy and the Big Apples. 2017 marks its 21st birthday – and, true to their rural upbringing, Ivy has decided to have a night on the town for her 21st with 2000 of her closest mates. The album’s singles set the dancefloor alight – Hottest 100 winner “Buy Me a Pony,” the double-sided pop joy of “Calypso” and the mane-thrashing sugar rush of “Hot Water & Milk.” The album’s deeper cuts, meanwhile, complement the hits on behalf of the more dedicated fans – “Joyce’s Hut,” for instance, features a scarce rarity of guitarist Damien “Whitt” Whitty performing lead vocals; while instrumental “When Fusion Ruled the Earth” has bassist/vocalist Janet English switching over to guitar to further layer Whitt’s thick fuzz.

A victory lap arrives upon the album’s completion: “Old Man Sam,” “Fucken Awesome” and, yes, “Black Betty,” which sends the party to the next level thanks to their extensive jamming, along with drummer/vocalist Mark “Kram” Maher’s expert call-and-response. Tonight may have been such a 90s bill that one was half-expecting Dylan Llewis to host the thing, but there’s a lot to be said for how vital all three of these bands still sound and how greatly they deliver in the live setting after all these years. To borrow from their lyrical arsenal, Spiderbait are a big-time entity with their place in history.

– David James Young

Featured image – Peter Dovgan

15 Mar

Martha Wainwright + Oh Pep! // Oxford Art Factory // 12/03/17

Olivia (Oh) Hally and Pepita (Pep!) Emmerichs are an alt-country/folk duo that have been turning heads since the release of their debut LP, Stadium Cake, last year. Watching the two of them in action is a validation of the momentum the Melbourne outfit have gained of late; a perfectly charming and entertaining viewing experience that raises quite a few smiles and eases the already-packed venue gently into their Sunday evening. They blend sorrowful tales and minor-chord melancholy with some unique flourishes in the arrangement, care of Emmerichs’ use of both fiddle and mandolin. Their voices also intertwine with warm, gentle harmony; which blends in beautifully with their immediate musical surrounds. It’s not the kind of music to set the world alight, but one quickly ascertains that this is not Oh Pep!’s intention. They’re perfectly content to keep spinning their stories and keeping to their humble little world. Join them sometime.

The extended Wainwright-McGarrigle family have been entertaining Australian audiences for decades now; and a young Martha Wainwright was able to take full advantage of that on her very first visit here all those years ago. Now in her 40s with two children, the chanteuse has more or less grown up in front of our eyes. Her return to Australia brings along a new backing band – special mention to phenomenal drummer Phil Melanson for his exceptional work behind the kit – and a plethora of new songs care of 2016’s Goodnight City. “Around the Bend” and “Before the Children Came Along” are playful and swaying; “Traveller” and “Window” are tender and heartfelt. There’s also a throwback to her early days, a cabaret-style Leonard Cohen cover (“Chelsea Hotel,” naturally) and a few anecdotes to tide over between songs. In fact, the only sore spot of the entire evening is that perhaps her signature song, 2005’s “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole,” is circumvented entirely. One would understand why this was done for the family-friendly Taronga Zoo performance the night before, but we’re all adults here. Still, a night in her company is always one that is well spent – Wainwright, much like the rest of her family, is a gifted and natural performer, well worth staying up late on a Sunday night for.

– David James Young

11 Mar

The Living End + The Bennies // Waves // 09/03/17

The concept of opening for your childhood heroes is one that most bands would argue sit amongst the most daunting. Not once did that faze The Bennies, though, as the Melbourne dance-punks shattered through a set pillared on all of their most corrosive party anthems. Darting often between his mic and a microKORG, frontman Anty Horgan played at equal lengths messy and meteoric, his smoke-strained voice and twangy synth filling every of their raucous choruses with an inescapable sprightliness. Between cuts from their still-epic Rainbows In Space (2014) and older fan faves like “My Bike”, we found it painfully hard not to sing along.

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11 Mar

The Living End + The Bennies // Waves // 09/03/17

The concept of opening for your childhood heroes is one that most bands would argue sit amongst the most daunting. Not once did that faze The Bennies, though, as the Melbourne dance-punks shattered through a set pillared on all of their most corrosive party anthems. Darting often between his mic and a microKORG, frontman Anty Horgan played at equal lengths messy and meteoric, his smoke-strained voice and twangy synth filling every of their raucous choruses with an inescapable sprightliness. Between cuts from their still-epic Rainbows In Space (2014) and older fan faves like “My Bike”, we found it painfully hard not to sing along.

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