Live Review: Children Collide – The Annandale (29.12.12)

Children Collide played an intimate show at The Annandale Hotel in Sydney to finish off an eventful and turbulent 2012.

The first time I saw Children Collide on their own headline tour was at The Annandale, in 2008. They’d supported many bands around Australia in the lead up to that show and managed to sell The Annandale out that night. Fast forward four years and things have changed. The band have released two studio albums since then, they’ve enlisted a new drummer and Johnny Mackay has relocated to New York City.

This gig didn’t sell out. It’s unclear whether the timing of the gig is wrong, being between Christmas and the New Year, or if the band haven’t won over many new fans with most recent album Monument. It’s bizarre to see them in such a small space and still be able to move to the front row easily.

Children Collide were late on stage, making the crowd unsettled. They opened with old track ‘Terrible Lizard’ and moved into new track ‘The Flat Earth’. There were a few problems with sound in the first few songs, there’s a bad mix and the bass is muddy. Although, this could be because I was standing right next to the bass amps, in front of bass player Heath Crawley.

Lead singer Johnny Mackay didn’t address the crowd between the first few songs and rushed through them; old favourite ‘Skeleton Dance’ was without its final solo and chorus, and newer single ‘Sword to A Gunfight’ was also cut short.

‘Across The Earth’ saw the crowd become a lot more aminated and Mackay crowd surfed, still playing the guitar solo. Things got a bit rough with ‘Prussian Blue’, but when you’ve seen them a few times, you come to expect these things to happen and no one was hurt.

Songs from Monument are generally well-received but it’s the tracks from The Long Now that really had people going crazy tonight. The singalong and crowd participation in ‘Farewell Rocketship’ is always the most fun and jumping around to ‘Chosen Armies’ and ‘Social Currency’ has become a standard at a Children Collide gig. We were finally introduced to new drummer Mitch McGregor – the drummer from Dardanelles, who replaced Ryan Caesar in early 2012 – within the last three songs of the set.

They finished up with an energetic version of ‘Jelly Legs’ and the usual set closer ‘Fire Engine’. There was no point waiting for an encore, they never play them, and everyone shuffles out after the band throw themselves and their instruments around and walk off stage.

They put on a great show at The Annandale, as they always do, but I can’t help being a little disappointed that this gig wasn’t sold out. They haven’t lost their talent or performing ability but they may be slowly starting to lose the ability to win new fans or wow their old ones.

Live Review: Deep Sea Arcade and The Preatures – The Metro (30.11.2012)

The Preatures come on stage to a welcoming all-ages crowd at The Metro. From the very start of their set, they show enthusiasm and appreciation to be supporting Deep Sea Arcade. They play to an almost full venue but most people are sitting down on the steps.

Despite their interaction with each other, evident ease while playing and a whole lot of talent and sexiness, their set drags a little because of the poor mix and problems with the sound. The bass is much too heavy for their music and it drowns the vocals out.

About halfway through the set, singer/guitarist Gideon Bensen puts down his guitar to strut around the stage and sing. He looks a little like Alex Turner from The Arctic Monkeys, both in hair-style and stage presence.
The Preatures finish their set with a slow song but the poor sound means that Isabella Manfredi‘s voice isn’t as loud as it should be and somewhat overshadowed by the guitars.

Deep Sea Arcade come on stage a little late and they too fall prey to dodgy sound. All through the first three or four songs, they have a roadie moving around on stage, checking cables and unplugging amps. Singer Nic McKenzie can’t be heard well and there is a bit of feedback coming from the guitars.

It is incredibly disappointing for this to happen to such a talented band. It’s not clear whether it’s because of the poor sound, or if there’s something else going on but they seem to move quickly through their set and only stop briefly between songs to take a photo of the crowd – asking them to look like zombies.

‘Steam’ gets a huge reception and the sound improves which is a huge relief. Things improve from here, the set no longer feels rushed and there’s no more feedback. ‘Lonely In Your Arms’ is also a success and has the front part of the crowd jumping around.

New song ‘Black Cat’ sounds great, a lot heavier than what we’ve heard from Outlands and it features a Wolfmother/Led Zeppelin-esque riff. The diehard fans at the front seem to know it but the rest of us nod our heads politely.

‘Girls’ sounds perfect and it’s such a relief that they managed to fix the sound up for at least half of the set. McKenzie invites everyone to the after party at Club 77 – perhaps not realising that at least 50% of the gig attendees are under age. Album-opener ‘Outlands’ closes the set and the band shuffle off.

As everyone starts to move out of The Metro and on to George Street, I notice a girl chasing someone who grabbed one of the setlists. She slips over on someone’s spilled drink and goes flying – but shows no lack of determination and gets straight back up and starts running again.

Deep Sea Arcade played well together and managed to play all of their hits, it’s just a huge shame that the quality of the sound wasn’t up there with the quality of the band itself.

Live Review: Harvest Festival – Parramatta Park (17.11.2012)

Back for a second year, Harvest Festival took place at Parramatta Park on 17 November. Unlike other Australian music festivals that cram the same local artists onto the line up every year, Harvest books mainly international bands. The local bands played their sets early and left us to enjoy a festival of acts we might never see again.

The Dandy Warhols were on early at The Great Lawn stage. There were a few problems with their sound; the bass was drowning Courtney Taylor Taylor’s vocals and Zia McCabe’s keys. It isn’t until the hits ‘Bohemian Like You’ and ‘Get Off’ that the crowd started to pick up and show some enthusiasm but unfortunately, the set felt like a let down.

Cake played later on The Great Lawn stage and seemed to forget that people were there to see the hits, not their new stuff. The absence of ‘Short Skirt, Long Jacket’ was incredibly disappointing for many who were only watching their set to hear that song. Playing ‘Never There’ and ‘The Distance’ right at the end added to that frustration.

Ben Folds Five drew a huge crowd over on The Windmill Stage and rightly so. The poor sound that had tainted a couple of bands earlier had been fixed, and you could hear Ben Folds’ distinctive voice clearly for ‘Brick’ and ‘Dicks on the Wall’.

Back at The Great Lawn stage, it was time for Beck. He swaggered out with an impressive light show and a talented band. The best moment of the day was at sunset, singing: “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?” with thousands of other people. ‘Where It’s At’ had everyone moving and gave Beck the title of act of the day. The mixture of acoustic and electronic and of old and new tracks was just right.

Sigur Ros brought their atmospheric, mesmerising live show out to a huge crowd on The Great Lawn. Their music is not something I would usually listen to but paired with some amazing images on a huge screen behind them, it was very easy to get lost in it.

Santigold finished up the night on The Windmill Stage with a huge party. Everyone in the crowd was pulling out their best dance moves, trying to keep up with her dancers. The whole set was fun from start to finish and the perfect way to end a great festival.

Harvest brings something different to the Australian festival scene, friendly attendees and a relaxing atmosphere. You can tell you’ve attracted the best kind of people when the huge line snaking its way down the hill isn’t for the bar – but for the vegetarian Indian food stall. Well done Harvest, you were definitely my favourite festival of 2012.

Live Review: The Paper Kites and Art of Sleeping (12.10.2012)

Oxford Art Factory is jammed early, with their general well-dressed, impolite clientele.
All through this show, I am surprised by how many groups of people think it appropriate to have loud conversations, sit on stairs and use flash photography to take group shots while the bands are playing.

All of these factors distract people from whoever is on stage, an unfair part of playing a small venue.
Sydney band Art of Sleepingstart their set with strong vocals and good sound, a quality to be highly praised. The drummer pounds away at his kit, at times sounding similar to the drummer in band-of-the-moment Alt-J, driving the beat hard over the melodies.

Art of Sleeping give me a few of those “Oh they sound like…” moments throughout, ranging from Matt Corby to Mumford and Sons. This isn’t to say they’re unoriginal, rather their music is of that same quality and can evoke feeling and emotion from those listening.

A couple of unoriginal tracks filled up their set time – a Van She cover that the singer confesses he’s forgotten the words to a couple of times and a great cover of Neil Young‘s ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’.
Overall, Art of Sleeping were the perfect band to set the mood for the night.

The Paper Kites string up some lanterns on stage, to really set the scene for their music. I can’t help but be reminded of very early Angus and Julia Stone gigs by these decorations, and their influence can be heard when the music starts.

They amble through the first few songs, that get cheers with the opening chords. They start to tell a story about song ‘Leopold Street’, which is a sad song with a sad story to match. When the singer tells the crowd it’s a sad story, someone in the crowd yells “Woo!”. The singer replies with “No” and says it happened the last time they played too, something he doesn’t understand.

The band are very relaxed and play well with each other. They create a very meditative atmosphere – so much so I almost fall asleep standing up – but this is stopped by the large group of people behind me who decide it’s a good time to pose for a group photo. The music coming from the stage is quiet and requires attention to be able to appreciate it, as well as consderation from the crowd so they are heard. It’s unfair they don’t receive this consideration throughout their set, as they do deserve it.

The Paper Kites‘ music can take you deep into thought and can make you travel through your own mind. Something that should be true of most acoustic, quiet bands’ music. They round out the night with a cover of Fleetwood Mac‘s ‘Dreams’ – unfortunately in the wrong key due to the misplacement of a capo.
The set was full of beautiful and relaxing moments and was very enjoyable for this reason. I can’t help but hope that next time, the crowd can appreciate the music they are there to see more.

Live Review: Velociraptor and Palms – Goodgod Small Club (04.10.2012)

Goodgod Small Club is packed early on and it’s great to see people watching the support acts. Even when the support act is Palms, who seem to be supporting everyone in Sydney. It’s the fourth time I’ve seen them this year and to their credit they are improving as a live act.

They engage with the crowd, they all play well and they’re incredibly enthusiastic. These are elements that should make a band enjoyable to watch, but for some reason they’re just not. Their set lags a little, especially when they sell one of their songs as ‘the depressing one’.

They throw in a cheeky snippet from ‘Farewell Rocketship’ by Children Collide at the end of one their songs, which livened it up a bit. On stage they’re natural performers, they joke with each other between songs and use the space they have to their advantage. I give credit where it’s due, there’s just something about them that I don’t enjoy.

Velociraptor come on stage while ‘Girls on Film’ by Duran Duran is playing and start dancing. When a band is having an awesome time together on stage before even picking up an instrument, you know you’re in for a good show.

They scream, jump and cause havoc from start to finish. They swap instruments, change positions and move around into the crowd so effortlessly and quickly that it’s hard to keep track of who has gone where. The tambourine player loves walking through the crowd and does so every chance he gets.

Single ‘Riot’, is the second song on the setlist and it brings the crowd to the edge of the stage. The people in the front don’t stop moving and dance with each member as they walk into the crowd.

Their non-stop energy is reminiscent of The Hives – the music is fast and heavy and each song is over in about two minutes. They’d almost pass as The Ramones, especially with their skinny black jeans and the drummer’s bowl cut hairdo.

‘Sleep With The Fishes’ and ‘Hey Suzanne’ are standout songs, mainly because they’re the only songs that are recognisable within the noise they create.

Velociraptor were chaotic, energetic and so much fun, it was hard not to smile when it was so obvious just how good a time they were having.

Live Review: Children Collide – The Metro Theatre (24.03.2012)

Children Collide returned to The Metro in Sydney for their ‘Sword to a Gunfight’ tour, showing us why they’re one of the best live bands doing the rounds in Australia.

From the moment ‘Chosen Armies’ kicked things off for the night, their energy was high and the sound was loud. Lead singer Johnny Mackay barely stopped moving around the stage and launched himself into the first rows of the crowd a number of times, causing a fan to caress the back of his head as he leaned over.

Children Collide mosh-pits are often dangerous places and Saturday night was no exception. Two girls started fighting about five songs into the set and it took three attempts from other crowd members to stop them before security stepped in.

It was a strangely excited Sydney crowd, with one guy taking his shirt off and swinging it around his head for most of the show and another getting over the barrier and jumping on stage.

Mackay and drummer, Ryan Caesar, appear to have a loveless relationship – with no mention of this being Caesar’s last tour with the band and his last show in Sydney. A devoted fan held up signs saying: “Farewell Ryan Caesar” during ‘Farewell Rocketship’ and “Ryan leaves me with Jelly Legs” during ‘Jelly Legs’, to show at least one person would miss him.

If anyone was looking forward to hearing new material, or even tracks from their last album ‘Theory of Everything’, they might have left disappointed. The set list was primarily from first album The Long Now and songs such as ‘We Live in Fear’ and ‘Fire Engine’ have become predictable. Single ‘My Eagle’ got the strongest response, with the crowd yelling: “Woo! Woo! Woo!” and fist-pumping with Mackay.

Technically, they are faultless and Mackay’s guitar playing is stronger than ever. He’s also becoming more comfortable on stage and has started to engage in banter with the crowd.

But you’d like to see more variety from their set-lists and the possibility of an encore every so often. Perhaps a tour and a new drummer after the album Monument is released in April will see them add some surprises to their shows.

Live Review: Hunting Grounds and Gung Ho – Goodgod Small Club (10.08.2012)

Gung Ho were on stage making the crowd do the awkward shuffle-dance. Their appreciation to be supporting Hunting Grounds was evident early on and their enthusiasm only grew throughout the set. The only thing that let them down was a disappointing mix in the last song – the bass was too loud for the small space – but they didn’t show any signs of being annoyed and just got on with delivering.

The six members of Hunting Grounds crammed onto the small stage, among them a drum kit with an extra snare, two guitars, a bass and a keyboard. They swap the lead vocals around between the guitarists and the keyboardist, who provides great harmonies in the rest of the songs in the set. They interact well with the crowd throughout the show, and the lead singer even plays with someone’s phone mid-song between stage diving.

Choice banter: “This is pretty heavy, feel free to move your legs. Move closer to the stage. This is when the party starts. It’s a rock time. It’s a mosh tune. It’s gonna rain blood. I’m gonna rain blood all over you. Get ready for my man period,” and (while crowd-surfing) “I’m like Spiderman!”

They’ve matured as a live band, something that’s evident from the fun they create from start to finish and the way they interact with each other on stage. The way they’re able to swap between vocalists and play each other’s instruments at different times is a true indication of their talent.

While they did play on old song by “a band called Howl”, the rest of the set was made up of songs from their new album In Hindsight. ‘Flaws’ and ‘Kill My Friends’ were standouts of the night, both had the moshpit thriving.

Among the new songs, Hunting Grounds pulled out a couple of covers – Gorillaz’s ‘Clint Eastwood’ and No Doubt’s ‘Hella Good’. I don’t know if it’s acceptable to say that six Aussie guys are just as sexy as Gwen Stefani singing that song, but I’m going to say it anyway. The addition of the line “come over here!” to the bridge added an edge to the song and, at the danger of sounding like a talent show judge, made it their own.

Their set was well-received, judging by the moshpit keen on helping the lead singer crowd surf, and they displayed their maturity as performers and song writers for the whole night.

Live Review: Splendour in the Grass Festival – Byron Bay (27 – 29.07.2017)

The site was muddy when punters walked in and despite the sun shining; we were later hit by a storm. Rain came out of nowhere, followed by 20 minutes of hail. The sun was back as quickly as it had left, leaving most confused and some drenched by what happened.

Howler won new fans in the Super Top, possibly because of the very “happy” girl who joined them on stage and managed to escape security by dancing away.

Spiderbait played all the hits we were dying to hear, including ‘Old Man Sam’, ‘Calypso’ and ‘Buy Me A Pony’.
The Shins wowed everyone with their harmonies and lyrics, before At The Drive-In impressed the fans that had traveled long and far to see their only Australian show.

But Jack White was the real star. The set featured sing-along goodness with ‘Hotel Yorba’, a romantic moment with ‘Love Interruption’ and rocking riffs with the closer ‘Seven Nation Army’. The crowd chanted the famous bass line long after Jack White and his band walked off stage. His male band, Los Buzzardos, played the first half and then left to make way for his female band The Peacocks.

Day two saw the site a little less muddy but just as crowded as the day before. Band of Skulls played a rocking set and drew a huge crowd that yelled every word of ‘The Devil Takes Care of His Own’ along with them.

Miike Snow played their complicated arrangements with such enthusiasm it was hard not to smile. Everything sounded great until the microphone stopped working during ‘Paddling Out’. This was forgiven when they played ‘Animal’.

Bloc Party jumped on stage with new track ‘3×3’ but it was old hits ‘Positive Tension’, ‘Helicopter’ and ‘Banquet’ that had the crowd moving to end the night.

Sunday brought more bands to choose from and less energy to use.
Father John Misty played an electrifying set and was very under-appreciated over on the GW McLennan stage. His eccentricity and passion made the set my surprise highlight of the weekend.

The Kooks were disturbed later in the night, when a guy climbed up the pole in the Super Top and then stayed there until security forced him to get down three songs into their set.

The Smashing Pumpkins arrived on stage early. Their hits came loud and fast but the best moment was hearing thousands of people scream: “Justine never knew the rules,” in ‘1979’. The guitar solos in ‘Cherub Rock’ and ‘Ava Adore’ were face-melting and just when we thought they were finished, they played a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’.

Splendour in the Grass would benefit from going to back to basics in the Belongil site. There simply wasn’t enough room for the shops and food stalls that were added. The festival’s saving grace was the music, which is exactly how it should be.

Live Review: The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Raveonettes – Metro Theatre (17.05.2012)

The somewhat androgynous and Sonic Youth-esque Ravonettes played a set that showcased all of their albums and diversity. Ranging between melancholy at the start and rocking at the end, they were successful in getting everyone’s attention.

They continued to thank us for watching and commented on how much they love being in Sydney, before playing their last song. The long guitar solo and heavy bass in their last song created an atmosphere just right for headliners.

All eight members of The Brian Jonestown Massacre shuffled out on stage and arranged themselves behind their instruments, some take more time than others. Joel Gion picks up a tambourine and stands in front of a microphone while Matt Hollywood and Anton Newcombe take a few minutes to set up their guitars.

They kick off with ‘Stairway To The Best Party In The Universe’ from new album Aufheben and then move quickly into older song ‘Vacuum Boots’. They don’t leave much room between songs for stage banter except for a few quick thank yous.

The whole room smells of weed but it’s unclear if it’s coming from the stage or the crowd before a security guard spots someone with a joint in the first few rows, takes it off them and throws it on the ground. The same security guard is on his game later when he tackles a girl who jumped over the barrier before she reaches the stage.

A crowd member requests a song and Anton replies: “I’m 44 years old, I don’t take requests! Go to Hungry Jacks or something. Do you do everything Tony Abbott tells you to do?” Old songs ‘Anenome’, ‘This is Why You Love Me’ and ‘Super-Sonic’ unsurprisingly get the best reception from the crowd, but then ‘Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth’ and the rare ‘Open Heart Surgery’ raise the reactions.

The last songs in the set sound perfect, every instrument is balanced, everyone can be heard and the feedback has stopped. Hollywood and Newcombe jam together and Gion mills around hitting his tambourine and shaking maracas.

The highlight comes when Hollywood takes over on lead vocals to sing ‘Oh Lord’ and gets everyone moving. Though everyone on stage is talented and capable, it’s Newcombe that makes everything happen. No one plays a note until he gives the signal.

They finish with an extended version of Boardwalk Empire theme song ‘Straight Up and Down’ with a sample of The Rolling Stones’ song ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ and keep the stage in complete darkness with guitars resonating while they walk off.

Live Review: Husky and The Trouble With Templeton – Oxford Art Factory (03.05.2012)

Brisbane-based The Trouble With Templeton are on stage at Oxford Art Factory, enchanting the audience with their laidback acoustic style. The lead singer is quite the conversationalist, as is evident between each song when he addresses the crowd.

He said he’s enjoyed his stay in Sydney so far and thanks us for having him but it would have been great to see more appreciation for the band – people stand in a semi-circle around the stage and leave a huge gap at the front, instead of moving right up to the barrier. Conversations can be heard over the lead singer and this is a trend that unfortunately continues for the rest of the night.

Towards the end of the set, the lead singer, playing an acoustic guitar and the keyboard player are joined by an electric guitarist. It’s what their sound needed from the start of the set, at times the singer’s voice was too loud for the quiet instruments on stage. The keyboard player provides some beautiful harmonies when she sings and the last three songs of the set are definitely the
strongest. They leave the stage after thanking the crowd many times, a band obviously in love with performing and sharing their music with new people.

Husky walk out to applause and jump into their beautiful keyboard-driven melodies. They don’t just play music, they create a surreal atmosphere that can take you within their lyrics and the imagery they give you.

‘Forever So’ builds its intensity with a driving drum beat and the melody on the keyboards. At times the music is so overwhelming I find myself with goosebumps and tears in my eyes, unable to take notes about what’s happening on stage.

‘Hundred Dollar Suit’ and ‘The Woods’ have long intros and are both deceiving – they sound as though they’ll be slow ballads but both pick up tempo towards the end.

Lead singer Husky Gawenda banters with the crowd, saying they love being in Sydney which prompts an audience member to say “Yeah, it’s fucking sick!”. He mentions walking back to the hotel after sound-check which prompts a female audience member to ask “Which one?”. He replies “I’ll tell you later,” and makes everyone laugh.

Their cover of INXS’s ‘Need You Tonight’ sounded amazing on triple j’s ‘Like A Version’ a couple of weeks ago but seeing them play it live is almost an experience in itself. The slowed-down tempo, the soulful harmonies and beautiful keyboard melody make this song tonight’s stand out, that is, until they cover Leonard Cohen.

They engage the audience and encourage them to sing the chorus of ‘Lover Lover Lover’ back to them, something that would probably work better when your audience aren’t too cool for school. It’s disappointing to still have people talking over the music and to see people starting to shuffle out before the encore.

For those of us who stayed, we were rewarded with more of the same melodies, imagery and harmonies that made this gig so special. Husky have found their strength in emotionally attaching with their audience and there’s no doubt this gig will be remembered as one of the highlights of 2012.