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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Two Months Off

Hmmm… not for as good reasons as Brandon Block in the story that inspired this track, but hey, still two months.

There have been many reasons to wish to restart, not least the abomination that the Grace Darling has become since its wanky takeover, but in the end it was this incredible piece of local Melbourne art that stepped up as muse:

RAEtothamuthafuckinD – we salute thee

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Rare are the times Bruce or Fran spend more than a minute on Smith Street without raising a smile or being stopped in their tracks by the extremes of humanity that parade there every day. They even know people who will travel there under the pretense that they’ve come for coffee when actually it’s just to be reminded how far the species has evolved (mutated) since crawling from the primordial gloop to the strains of Manu Chao.

Still, for every man carrying spray-painted rats on his shoulders, every dazzling old Mustang, every loon walking backwards while abusing the air in front of them, every member of the angry Village People tribute band that seems to call Collingwood home, it’s never coughed up a woman with a goatee, at least not in front of Bruce or Fran. So all praise to the East Brunswick Club, which last night presented them with a woman with not just a goatee, but a mightily impressive one too. In fact, she reminded them of an old American colleague of Bruce’s who liked to sport a rather thick version himself.

Truth be told, last night was a learning experience all round. Having got to know a couple of lesbians over the past few months – and forming a quiz team with them – they were invited to the Rosie Burgess Trio’s final Aussie gig before heading to tour the States. Being very openly lesbian and vegan (the band, not Bruce and Fran) they attracted a certain crowd. Now dykeling (or duckling as Fran prefers) has been added to vocabulary, Fran finally has an interest in sport having met the world’s number seven wheelchair tennis player (who hates sport – go figure…), they know what a faux chicken parma tastes like, Fran’s seen the Rosie Burgess Trio in various states of undress and they now understand that Smith Street by no means has all the answers.

In fact, after enjoying a thoroughly delightful set of bouncy, folksy numbers from the Trio, with Rosie’s beaming parents and her baby boy George sleeping in the arms of the other of his two mums, they learned that bearded and moustachioed ladies were quite commonplace around those parts. Fran, however, doesn’t really have the chin for it.

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Never one to trouble himself with being up to date, on the ball, fingering pulses or any such thing, Bruce has fallen in love several aeons after the fact. Driving through town listening to the RRR signupathon yesterday, patiently waiting for the presenters to shut up and play some tunes, he was rewarded with a truly sublime track – a remix of Noiseworks “classic”* Reach Out (Touch Someone) by RRR presenter Faux Pas. Some follow up enquiries were in order and now Bruce awaits with baited breath the announcement of a live show or two.

Until then…

* Yes, those are fingers in the air speech marks

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While you face accusations of disloyalty – of being a plastic fan – when leaving a stadium early when your team is being hammered with only minutes to go there are faintly justifiable excuses: the result isn’t going to change; avoiding the traffic; getting back to the baby-sitter.

But is there any justification for leaving a gig early? Bruce couldn’t think of one on Friday night:

“That’s right, guys. He’s saved all his worst songs for last,” he suggested to the trickle of people abandoning ship midway through the encore.

Still, it was a mere bagatelle for in those previous two hours the Aussie Bob Dylan had delivered a masterful run through his back catalogue. Initial fears that the $80 tickets had bought an evening of muffled sound in the Palais’ upper deck proved unfounded once the fug of Nothing On My Mind cleared and the band’s sound crystallised.

Set among the opulence of the old theatre, Paul Kelly’s restrained set up – the only nod to extravagance the rug on which he alternately meandered, swung his guitar and indulged in bouts of dad-dancing – allowed the music to take centre stage.

“We’re going all over the place tonight,” he annouced early on.

With a canon that switched from some of Australia’s best loved pop songs to moments of tender country heartbreak, it’s a promise he can easily keep. Dumb Things is dropped early in the set, encouraging the first audience roar of the night and much foot-tapping, before the pace slows for When I First Met Your Ma.

What is soon apparent is not just the quality of the songwriting, but the strength of his voice; often employed simply as a spoken word tool, it’s in a live arena – especially one of this scale – that his power to soar is revealed. Complemented by a tight band and his impeccable harmonica skills the music switches from gentle picking through blues and gospel to iconic singles such as Before Too Long and To Her Door. His innate humility even allows Kelly to get away with the likes of You’re 39, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine, a song one could easily imagine being sung – and massacred – by Chris De Burgh.

There are two moments of pure spine-tingling magic, when the stage is cleared to allow perfect, stripped down renditions of If I Could Start Today Again and, in particular, They Thought I Was Asleep. Not a sound was heard from the spellbound sellout crowd through either.

Running them close was Everything’s Turned To White, the story of the fishermen and the dead woman’s body. Written from a woman’s perspective, here it was also sung by a woman, with Kelly’s co-vocalist’s powerful rendition allowing Bruce to overlook the fact it looked like she had just wandered in from an early 80s aerobics class for roly-polys.

There was no room for From Little Things, Big Things Grow (so thanks to Kev Carmody for performing it at the Corner two weeks earlier) but Leaps and Bounds made an unexpected appearance in the first encore before Winter Coat brought the second encore to an epic close. Throughout there was a feeling of timelessness; by never following, mimicking or succumbing to trends he remains always outside of them.

All that remained was for the final encore and From St Kilda To King’s Cross. Bruce, Fran and friends had even braved the cold for a bottle of wine outside on the (finally constructed) promenade before heading to the Palais purely in preparation for this moment. But it never came. The lights went up, Kelly was gone and it was up to Fran to perform the song herself as she left the theatre.

It was a shame, but it’s OK: he probably wanted to avoid the traffic or had a babysitter on overtime.

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So, in their first 15 months Down Under Bruce and Fran have done their best to assimilate into Aussie culture:

  • stung by jelly fish (Fran)
  • bitten by a white tail (Bruce – does anyone know when or if the hairs start growing back on the affected patch?)
  • lived in a weatherboard cottage (next door to famous Aussie musicians and across the road from an Aussie cult)
  • become Pies fans (and recently received a formal apology from a man who was instrumental in that decision)
  • embarked on a road trip to Broken Hill
  • played Keno
  • met Nick Cave
  • obsessed over footy tipping (and, in Bruce’s case, got angry at the TV when results went the wrong way)
  • bought a massive bbq and cooked mountains of snags
  • used words like snags
  • eaten vanilla slice in Ouyen
  • said: “It’s good – we need the rain”, something no Pom would ever imagine saying
  • begun referring to themselves as Poms

and so it goes. They’ve also tried to hurry along their citizenship, not least by catching a mugger and rescuing young drunks collapsed in the road and returning them home.

Fran St Kilda pier

Awaiting Paul's arrival?

Tonight’s a biggy, though: Paul Kelly in concert. At the Palais in St Kilda, too, which should add an extra whoop of delight from the crowd when St Kilda To King’s Cross starts up. (Hopefully the venue will prove more suitable for this gig than it did for the Arctic Monkeys).

Fran was the first to fall for his iconic Aussie charms. And boy did she fall. One afternoon she started crying while walking along Smith Street just thinking about How To Make Gravy. That’s right: thinking about it… When Bruce surprised her with tickets for the show it was like watching a five-year-old susceptible to sugar rushes being force fed half a kilo of Redskins washed down with a gallon of Coke and a couple of sherbert fountains then let loose on a bouncy castle. When she later got hold of Songs From The South vol. 2 and realised he penned Every Fucking City – the tune she rewrote into an Ancient Mariner-type odyssey with her road sisters while travelling the States in pre-Bruce days – it’s a miracle she didn’t shift a couple of tectonic plates.

Bruce, on the other hand, has been pretty 50/50 about the guy: Leaps and Bounds yes, Bradman (which reminds him of his attempt aged 10 to write a stat-heavy biography of Ian Botham) no. However, he just heard If I Could Start Again for the first time while listening to the hits collection on repeat shuffle and reading this fantastic Robert Forster article and found his emotions stirred and his anticipation for tonight growing.

Well, as some wise man whose name escapes me once wrote: “From little things, big things grow…”

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Quite why Bruce and Fran hadn’t ventured inside the Birmingham earlier is hard to fathom considering the new owners placed a sign in the street declaring proudly:

NOT SHIT ANY MORE

around the time they moved to Collingwood. Perhaps it had something to do with the Eddie Izzard supermarket theory that shoppers are always guided into the fresh fruit section first rather than toiletries so your initial thought is “Everything here is fresh, I will do well here” as opposed to “Everything here is made of poo”. (Interestingly, when you enter the Safeway / Woolworths in Smith Street you walk into a wall of toilet paper and baskets of tuna – poo and smelly fish – hmmmm….).

Still, spotting a review of a band called The Parking Lot Experiments on Mess and Noise Bruce decided to break his poo pub duck on the strength that their name is taken from one of the Flaming Lips weirder moments. And, despite the fact the only non-crap tap beer (Cooper’s Pale) ran out after his first drink, it did appear to be quite NOT SHIT: comfy sofas; pool table; big slabs of art featuring legends of music; decent jukebox; handy outdoor area; lights turned down low enough to make a detailed judgement of NON SHIT-ness slighty trickier.

The band room certainly had character; coming so soon after the dining room at the Edinburgh Castle helped prepare Bruce: the old sofas, tatty wooden walls, kids sat expectantly on the floor and lack of a stage made it reminiscent of the back room at your grandparents’ – you know, the one they’ve never got round to decorating since the 60s.

The kids did eventually stand up once the band were playing (some even stood on the sofas – IN THEIR SHOES – which the grandparents would never have stood for, no matter how much they liked spoiling you) and revealed Bruce to be the oldest in the room by an aeon. Still, he was there wasn’t he, generation terrorists? So many appeared to be friends of the band that at times it felt like he’d gatecrashed a private party in a school common room.

ParkingLot

But what of the Experiments? Ramshackle in setup (the aforementioned lack of stage, amp stacked on milkcrates, drums sat on possibly more milk crates) and often also in sound (in particular the vocal harmonies that occasionally bordered on caterwauling).

Yet what tunes: from wistful freaky folk to pounding electro-indie that recall anything from the Lips to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, fellow Melburnians Kes and beyond. Impressive drumming on a sparse, unusual set up, entertaining playoff between the keyboard / organ and guitars, otherwordly lead vocals, odd lyrics, moments of yelping lunacy and boundless imagination. Exciting, weird, wonderful and bursting with potential.

Well worth heading there armed with five bucks for the final night of their residency next Tuesday (26/5). Might even try one of the Birmingham’s NOT SHIT $6 pizzas.

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Don't fight it, big man

Don't fight it, big man

A few days after discovering Jae and Myles, the young men regularly shifting musical equipment to and from the neighbouring house in the street in the town he’s now from, were Laffer and Wootton of The Panics, Bruce returned home from Nick Cave’s thunderous Palace gig and spied lights on.

“You’re in for a treat at All Tomorrow’s Parties,” wrote Bruce in a text. “Cave was awesome tonight.”

Minutes later, as he prepared for bed, came the reply.

“Have you got any booze?”

A bottle of red twinkled tantalisingly from the kitchen, questioning whether Bruce really did have to be alert for the following day and whether he really needed a huge amount of sleep before Spiritualized’s Hifi gig.

Seconds later, there was a knock at the door. There was Jae and the remnants of a six-pack. 48 hours earlier, Bruce had carried out a brief interview with the singer over the kitchen counter (how rock ‘n’ roll) in an attempt to fast track an article into Clash magazine in the UK ready for the Panics’ imminent arrival to hawk Cruel Guards.

Much of the conversation that followed on the sofa was far more entertaining than what had been included in the article but, figuring some things were best kept for the sofa at 3am rather than wider public consumption, the article remained unchanged. Clearly not all journos feel the same, with this appearing in the Sun to coincide with the release of Don’t Fight It in the UK.

Admittedly, the full story of that night hasn’t been told (and one detail in particular appears to have been changed…!). Still, wouldn’t mind being a fly on the wall of the Blackburn changing room this weekend as one of football’s self-styled hard men faces his players…

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