Saturday, August 16, 2008

Somethin' Somewhere Better

After what must have been a favourable review I wrote of a recent gig, I was lucky enough to be offered a pre-release copy of the debut album from Pinky Beecroft's latest project; The White Russians. Earlier this week, as promised, I received my very own copy of Somethin' Somewhere Better in the mail!

Listening to the album all the way through for the first time brought back a lot of great memories from the gig. Despite only having heard most of the songs for the first time that night, I was surprised at just how many I recalled when listening to the album. It certainly says something for the catchyness of the lyrics & music. The second listen gave me a feeling of being at an intimate show - such is the way the songs are recorded and produced on this album.

Lyrically, Beecroft tends to fall on the story-telling side of the song writing fence, capturing tales in the likes of Scarlett, Floor, and Someone For Everyone. There's also quirkiness in the words, not unlike David McCormack and early Whitlams, with gems such as:

'Woke up with nothing to do/thought that I'd try shoplifting' (Scarlett)
'I might not be so good in bed/but I'm alright on the floor' (Floor)
'This hangover brings the sunshine to the Goths' (This Hangover)

The album is nicely balanced out with the more serious/melancholy stylings of Sunflowers, Unsent Letter, and the beautiful Fabulous Driving.

Just as it was live, Nick Stewart's guitar sound is quite distinctive and recognisable throughout the album, while Christian McBride and Ben T provide a solid framework of drums and bass that the rest of the sound is built upon. The keyboards on the album add presence, even though they don't feature as much as I thought they might. However, if I'm not mistaken, I think that's guest keyboardist Cameron Bruce adding his flair to This Song Has Only Got Happy Words. There are also great full band jam outs at the end of Sunflowers and My Haircut Will Come Back Around.

It was great to hear Bernie Hayes again after such a long time. He and Athron and sing backing vocals on I Will Tear It Down To Make You Happy, with Hayes also featuring on Someone For Everyone, and Unsent Letter. Other guest appearances include Marc Malouf (guitar), Ken Folan (bass), and James Thornhill on bagpipes at the end of This Song Has Only Got Happy Words.

The album is due out in a week (August 23rd) on Gigpiglet Recordings, distributed by Inertia. There's also a south-east coast tour to support it, which sees the guys return to Brisbane on September 19th. Thanks to Will from heapsaflash for the CD!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gigs update 2008/08/10

It's been a while, but my upcoming gigs page has been updated. I'm very excited to hear that The Dandy Warhols will be touring in November. I haven't picked up their latest release yet, but I'm a big fan of their back catalog, and am looking forward to seeing them play live for the first time. Another band I haven't had the pleasure of experiencing live yet is Supergrass, who will be here in October. Tickets for both of these gigs go on sale this Thursday.

Also added is The Grates, Holly Throsby, and Jebediah. Three other acts whose music I've enjoyed for a while now but haven't got around to seeing yet. Unfortunately, Jebediah will have to wait another time for me, as I'm already booked that night.

Cold War Kids @ The Tivoli August 3rd

There was something about tonight's support band, Delta Spirit, that I just couldn't get into. The style of music, while not too far removed from Cold War Kids, was a little bit country for me (the flannel shirts didn't do anything to help this image). It was definitely on the rock side of country, but twangy none the less ('tractor rock' is probably the term I would use if pushed for a description). The yelling that was used to sing loudly in the upper registers was also a bit of turn off for me. Based on the crowd's enthusiastic response though, I was definitely in the minority, and whilst they certainly weren't my cup of tea, I felt happy for them to get that response on their first outing to Australia.

The Cold War Kids also suffered a bit in my book for the amount of yelling that seemed to be going on. I certainly don't remember Nathan Willet sounding like he was struggling reach those high notes when they were out here last year. I can't help but think about how unsustainable it would be in the long run. While I'm getting the criticisms out of the way, I also have to say that the drums sounded pretty dull and muffled tonight (nothing to do with how they were played, just how they were mixed).

Having said all that, the other aspects of the performance were great! They opened the set in hushed tones, playing all the way through Pregnant before the lights were turned up and they went into We Used To Vacation, much to the thrill of the crowd. A number of new songs were featured in the set, which received good responses. Played live, the songs were similar in the style of those off Robbers & Cowards, although I've heard that the recorded versions are a bit more produced. I'm looking forward to hearing for myself when the new album is released later this year.

During Robbers, the lights on stage went out again with Willet reversing the roles by shining a torch into the audience while singing the song. The set also featured Tell Me In The Morning and God, Make Up Your Mind before drawing near the end when Hang Me Out To Dry predictably set the crowd off. They closed the set with Hospital Beds, which also went down very well. The encore was short and sweet, and ended with the members from Delta Spirit joining the band on improvised percussion duties for Saint John.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Polyphonic Spree @ The Tivoli July 31st

Supporting the tour that finished up in Brisbane tonight was local six-piece, The John Steel Singers. Aside from recognising the name, I didn't know much else about them, but I was soon to be impressed with their catchy rhythms. Instrumentally, the band was quite polished and interesting throughout the set. The vocals were a bit hit and miss to start with and the sound technically wasn't as balanced as it could have been, however, I quickly put that down to the fact that their mix was probably set up for the main act tonight and not suitable for such a "relatively small" band. The line-up included two keyboards, two guitars, bass & drums with the keyboardists taking on trumpet, trombone, kazoo and guitar duties where necessary. I recognised their song Strawberry Wine from Triple J's play list, which has always reminded me a bit of Spoon's Sister Jack. I also love a band that plays songs involving their guitarists on the ground controlling the droning of their guitars with their effects pedals. I picked up their The Beagle And The Dove EP, which includes most, if not all, of the songs they featured in their set.

During the break, we took up a better position near the sound desk. I remember looking over and thinking that this must be one of the rare occasions that most of the 48 channels of the The Tivoli's mixing desk were being utilised for a single band! While I was distracted with watching the sound guy prepare, the venue opened up the upstairs balcony, which was good to see given how sparse the crowd looked at the start of the night.

I'd been told before hand to keep an eye out for the special opening scene. The band were setup behind a two metre high red cloth that spanned the width of the stage. To the sound of plucking harp strings, a pair of scissors started making their way from behind, through the centre of the cloth in the shape of a large heart. The scissors then cut closer and closer to the top until the last snip cut the cloth in two, signaling the twenty-two piece group to blast in to the opening bars of Running Away as the vision of bright white lights pointed towards the audience brought the show to life. This display of theatrics set the scene for what was an amazing musical experience.

All of the band members, including vocalists, strings, horns, guitars, keyboards, drums, percussion, flute, and front man, Tim Delaughter, were dressed in the black uniform featured on their latest album, The Fragile Army. The main set list included mainly songs from that album plus a couple from their first, including Hanging Around The Day, Get Up And Go, It's The Sun. They also threw in a brilliant cover of Paul McCartney's Live And Let Die, complete with the shrieking piccolo part in the instrumental section. They finished the main set with the closing track, The Championship, which literally faded out as band members gradually left the stage while Tim got the crowd singing along to the outro of the song. Once all the band except Tim and the harpist had left the stage, Tim said good night and left us singing along with the harp player, who kept us going for another half a minute or so before leaving the stage himself.

Through the applause of the crowd cheering for more, the band now dressed in their more familiar robes reappeared at the side entrance of The Tivoli, and weaved their way through the crowd back towards the stage. Accompanied by the sounds of Together We're Heavy, each member picked up their part in the song as they got to the stage and found their position. Then they proceeded to play an encore that was almost as long as the main set! The encore was made up of songs mostly from the first two albums, including Hold Me Now, Light And Day and Soldier Girl, and also featured a cover of Nirvana's Lithium. During When The Fool Becomes A King, the theatrics continued, with the band completely freezing in position at one point in the song. The keyboards kept a few notes going, but the rest of the band remained frozen in position while Tim walked around the stage, occasionally tapping the odd instrument and just generally leaving the audience wondering what he was going to do next. He finally brought the band back to life (after what must have been five minutes) and started to draw the night to a close after that.

After one or two more songs, the band remained on stage for the curtain call at the end. Tim had spent a lot of the evening interacting with the crowd and it seemed that he didn't want to stop! This included his farewell speech that encouraged all of us to go to the merch stand in order to fund their visit. You can understand why a band this size would need all the help they can get when you consider that the cost of the tickets for this gig was the same as you would normally pay for to see a four piece band at the same venue.

In all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining night, and I would recommend anyone who hasn't seen them yet to do so if they get the opportunity.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Angie Hart and David McCormack @ The Troubadour 25th July

Another night back at The Troubadour. By all the Custard t-shirt sightings, it looked like there was one guy that most of the crowd were here to see tonight. But first up was local singer/guitarist Kristy London, playing one of her last gigs before heading off to London. Backed by another acoustic guitarist, Kristy played a great warm up set of folk/pop songs. My memory of her set is fading a week on, but I remember thinking at the time that it was well suited to the venue and the evening.

Playing in the surprising position of second tonight was home-town favourite, David 'Davo' McCormack on the acoustic guitar. Accompanied by a foot-controlled electronic hand clapper, he opened the set with a cover of Since She Started To Ride, a song I fondly remember hearing Custard cover on Super Request many years ago. David used the clapper at the end of most of his songs to help the crowd with their round of applause, to great comedic effect :-)

After a couple of early Custard favourites in the form of If Yr Famous And You Know It Sack Yr Band (based on a true story he leads us to believe!) and Alone, he treated us with three new songs including, Text Book and AVO off his new Cassingle EP. The songs were a great taste of what some of us have been waiting to hear in the four years since his last release.

After the 'new' section of the set, it was back to The New Matthew and Girls Like That Don't Go For Guys Like Us. David put Geoff, the sound guy, on the spot a bit with the request for a bit of flange and reverb heading into the guitar solo in Girls Like That, which he didn't quite get to in time. After that, David failed to disappoint one audience member, taking up the request to play I Could Never Be Your Woman, despite needing some time to remember the chords again (which comes as a great surprise to anyone who followed him between about 1998 & 2003, where this song would almost always make an appearance!). With a bit more warning this time, Geoff chimed in perfectly with the flange and reverb during the 'guitar solo part of the song'. David then finished the relatively short set with I'm Going To Execute Your Ex Boyfriend, unfortunately leaving many of tonight's crowd wanting more.

Angie Hart was last up tonight, once again in vocal mode accompanied by acoustic guitar. She started off the set with a number of slower and quieter songs, which put her in a bit of a difficult position. Still, she soldiered on through it, and everyone close enough to listen above the crowd were well rewarded. Her set consisted of songs from her last album interspersed with some of Frente's back catalogue. David was invited back on stage at the close of the set for a cover (whose name escapes me now). Unfortunately for some of the crowd tonight, it was only Angie who came back for the brief encore.

Whilst I enjoyed the night, I couldn't help but feel that it would have been better if David and Angie's sets were swapped around and if they played a couple more songs together during the encore. Here's hoping there'll be a few more headlining gigs in store for David on the release of his album later on in the year.