I love my job.  I honestly do.  I am also passionate about the industry I work in.  Since I started my working life there have been a very few days where I’ve dreaded the idea of going into work in the morning.

Tomorrow is one of those days.

Still, there is always Wilco.  The new song they’re streaming, What Light, honestly makes me so happy inside.  I know that the lyrics are alarmingly simple, ditto the melody, and I know it’s more country than alt, but it honestly is happy personified.  For me at least.  Tonight it’s just what I need.

Bring on April 21.

Playground Weekender – Part 2

Day 2 of the Playground Weekender was just as good as the first.  It was chiefly a day about ping pong, sunshine and monkeys.  The crowd had diminished – for some reason people were leaving even at lunch time as we were coming into the festival site.  There were clearly less people on the ground and at each stage and even just wandering about.

Also, many less men in dresses.  Still a few superheroes though.

Here are my highlights from yesterday –

Richard in Your Mind – A weird blend of indie rock, psychedelic eastern sounds, elevator music and 70s TV theme songs.  They were a bit hit and miss for me, but overall I really enjoyed their set.  I’m not at all surprised to see Neutral Milk Hotel in their influences on their MySpace – I don’t really like comparisons, but their acoustic numbers were very NMHeqsue.

Sparkadia – I’m sure I’ve seen these guys live before, supporting someone or other, but I can’t be sure where.  They played solid indie rock/pop songs with a very melodic sound.

The Mess Hall – I’ve heard of them around the traps before and apparently they’ve been prevalent on the Sydney live music scene for some time.  These guys are FIERCE in the way the Black Keys are fierce, but more in the pub rock way than the pure blues way.  Still very, very awesome and I think they’d suit a venue like the Hopetoun down to the ground.


The Dears last night were worth the price of entry to the Playground Weekender alone.  The crowd was smaller than it probably should have been, but it didn’t take away from the intensity of the performance.  I’ve had Gang of Losers for a little while but have never had a chance to listen to it properly – I’m going to rectify that quickly.  Clearly lyrically very strong, they have such a huge sound, and they do both massive rocking out and beautiful, lilting melody equally well.  All the guitars and keyboards mean there is huge variety in the sound.  I’m new to The Dears, but I’m definitely a new fan.

It was a great, great day.  I hope next year they manage to land at least one big (as in, commercially big) international act.  As much as the small crowds were good for comfort, it kinda made the vibe weird.  Also, the security really could do with less of the agro – at a festival you want to know they’re there, but you don’t want them in your face.

Beautiful location though, great music and there are definitely worse ways to spend the weekend.

Playground Weekender Part 1

Karen might have a new favourite band.

I was completely bowled over by Elbow tonight. I knew a couple of songs from the set list, but other than that I was totally unfamiliar with the music. This actually didn’t matter an ounce. There was a touch of Doves to their sound, but I can completely see how many indie bands site them as major influences – it’s a big sound, and lyrically driven, as well as being melodic and ambient. Gary Garvey, the lead singer, has a really friendly charisma on stage and it’s clear they all love what they do.

Consider me a new Elbow fan. I have a lot of years of catching up to do.

Other highlights from today were –

Mercy Arms from Sydney, who while not really breaking any new ground sound-wise (is it just me who thinks a bunch of these new indie bands sound alarmingly like Interpol?) were very solid.

The Presets – This is not the sort of music I usually seek out to listen to, but I’m here to say that The Presets are wicked good. So much fun. The crowd was psyched about the set as well, and they look like two of the nicest guys you’d ever meet in rock and roll.

Bridezilla, an all-girl-bar-the-drummer band I’ve seen live before (supporting Gerling), really caught me by surprise. I liked the first set I saw of theirs at the Metro, and tonight I was only really going to stop for a few minutes on my way from eating to seeing the Avalanches DJ set. Well, I kinda stayed for the whole thing, because there’s something so engaging about the music they play. A lot of it is instrumental, and the sound is dramatic and very well developed for a band so young (I read tonight none of them are over 18??). The mix of violin, saxophone, guitar, drums and vocals is a really good one. I am going to seek this band out and see them live again – I think we’ll hear a lot more of them sooner rather than later.

It’s nice to know that no matter what festival you’re at, you can count on the following things –

  • Someone throwing up into the bushes.
  • Fairy wings.
  • Full frontal male nudity (what IS it about guys getting drunk and taking their clothes off?).
  • Mud and/or dust.

Today was fancy dress day at the festival. I’ve noticed that you give people free reign on fancy dress and this is what happens – the girls dress up as various things, from nurses to school girls to fairies to skeletons to soldiers or whatever, but the guys do one of two things. They either dress up as a superhero, or they put on a dress. There were honestly so many guys in dresses there today. Give them any opportunity and they’re all about the skirt.

It is really a beautiful location. Just glorious. I love the Hawkesbury river, but this particularly part of the river, and Wiseman’s Ferry, is just beautiful. I’m really looking forward to heading back there tomorrow.

Sing sing sing

One of the things I wanted to do last year was see more live music.  I’m pretty pleased with the amount of bands I managed to catch, but even having said that, this coming year is going to at least triple it I would imagine.  The number of amazing bands/musicians touring this year is a little daunting.  I need to stop discovering new music or something.

ANYWAY.  This has been a work in progress for a couple of months now.  Listing stuff in order is hard, okay?  I’m pretty happy with the order of it now, and blah to me if I change my mind because it’s POSTED.  No going back.

My first choice is hardly surprising to anyone who knows me really well, but it kinda sticks out like a sore thumb only because of the type of gig and music it was.  History most certainly counts for something though.  Also, there are 3 shows here from the same music festival.  I’ve written before how much I enjoyed the Great Escape last year, but the sheer quality of music was a bit staggering.  I’ve treated each set I saw separately, rather than the festival as a whole.

So without further ado, here they are – my top 10 live music experiences of 2006.

10.  Placebo
+ Howling Bells
Thursday September 21, 2006 – Horden Pavilion

I am a fan of Placebo, but not a fan, if you catch my drift.  I played Nancy Boy on repeat back in the 90s and I think Pure Morning is one of the best songs ever written about nothing at all.  I had thought about picking up tickets to this gig, particularly considering Howling Bells were supporting (I was very keen to catch them live), but I didn’t in the end because (as to be expected) tickets hit near the $80 mark.  It just seemed a bit much for a band I was ambivalent about seeing.  THEN Hellen got two free tickets through work.  Hooray!

I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this show.  The band was tight, and Brian Molko has one of the best and most unique live voices in rock and roll I’ve heard in a long time.  The classics were good, but what I enjoyed most were the songs from their latest album Meds – they just translated so well live.  The song Follow the Cops Back Home made all the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

The only bad thing about the gig was the 3 encores.  This is very rarely required ever, and was most certainly not required that night when after second encore most everyone was waiting for the house lights to come back on.

Still, it was awesome.  Howling Bells also provided great support (and their debut album was one of my favourite releases last year).

9.  The White Stripes
+ The Greenhornes
Wednesday January 25, 2006 – Horden Pavilion

I have a bit of a celebrity crush on Jack White.  I have had for some time now.  He’s actually not that attractive, really, when you look at it objectively.  At least, not from where I’m sitting.  I think it’s just that he has this tortured artist/musician thing going on.  And he’s so enigmatic – you’re never quite sure where he’s coming from or where he’s going.

Anyway, this was actually my first gig for last year, and a very good way to start.  I’d never seen the band live before and I’d read enough to be really curious.  I wrote a pretty long-winded review of it at the time, so I won’t rabbit on about it too much again now.  It was a great deal of fun though.

Also, still crushing on Jack.  Just so you know.

8.  Augie March
+ Dan Kelly and the Alpha Males
Saturday April 29, 2006 – @ Newtown

To be completely accurate in my description here, I remember very little of this gig.  Here is what I do remember –

  • I drank an awful lot of vodka that night.
  • This is all Luke’s fault.
  • I found an awesome seat in full view of the stage that wasn’t so much a seat as the BACK of a seat that Hell was sitting on.
  • I spilt my drink on poor Hell at least twice.
  • I felt nothing inside of me but awe and JOY because I was hearing Augie March live.
  • They played One Crowded Hour, Song in the Key of Chance, This Train Will be Taking No Passengers, Bottle Baby AND There is No Such Place.  This should be enough really.
  • I met a guy called Jordan from Hornsby who knew all the songs from the set list, like I did, and sang along with them all, like I did.
  • We declared to the whole venue, once we found out we both loved the album August and Everything After by Counting Crows, that we were soul mates.
  • I think this annoyed his boyfriend.
  • Hellen threatened to never come with me to a gig again.

All in all, it was a pretty great night 🙂

7.  Death Cab for Cutie
Saturday July 15, 2006 – Rebel Rebel

This gig making 7th on the list is outstanding for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, the venue sucked.  I’d never been to Home nightclub before, nor Rebel Rebel, and it’s the first time I’d had reason to.  Secondly, the crowd was kinda annoying.  They were rude, pushy, and more than a bit obnoxious.

Stands to reason then, given the setbacks it experienced early on, the reason it’s sitting at number 7 is because the music at this gig was awesome.  It really, really was.

They opened with Passenger Seat, my favourite Death Cab song OAT.  The feeling they created throughout the set was brilliant – they morphed from one song to another seamlessly, and they played a good mix of older and newer stuff.  I wish we’d got there earlier, and I wish I’d managed to stand closer, but even given the crappiness of the venue I came out of this gig buzzing.

Next time I am SO getting there early.

6.  The Mountain Goats
+ Wallspace
Wednesday April 19, 2006 – Annandale Hotel

I’d seen the band 2 days before at the Great Escape, and since that night I’d had a giddy feeling of excitement in my belly knowing I was going to see them again so quickly.  This night was great for a few of reasons – firstly, the Annandale is such a good venue for feeling like you’re sharing intimate space with a band.  We were maybe 2 people back from the stage and there was a lot of banter between JD, Peter and the crowd.  Secondly, I was there with Tara, and it was the first time since she’d come back from Canada that we’d had a chance to spend one on one time together.    Thirdly, it was the first time I’d heard California Song live.  Oh my god.

During the show they played Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise (the Trembling Blue Stars cover from the Babylon Springs EP) and he remarked it was the first time they’d played it live.  Then he went into a whole thing about Gene Simmons from Kiss, and how each time he’d play a certain song at a gig, every single night, he’d say ‘this is the first time we’ve played this song live!’  The onstage banter from JD is one of my favourite parts of Mountain Goats shows.

This show lacked the unadulterated joy of the one from the Great Escape, but it was solid, and the crowd was so happy, and the set list was great.  I mean, it was a MOUNTAIN GOATS show.  So of course it was amazing.

5.  Sigur Ros
Friday April 14, 2006 – The Great Escape

Some musical experiences are more than the songs.  Some are all around body experiences that hit every sense at once.  Sigur Ros, on day 1 of the Great Escape, was that sort of experience.

Silverchair played before them and I actually think that wasn’t a bad lead up for the band, given the sound of their new stuff.  I’d heard all sorts of things about Sigur Ros live shows, but in a festival environment I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The two people I was with weren’t really into the band, so I left them a little to the side and wandered into the crowd.  When the front curtain lit up and the opening bars of Glosoli started, my heart just welled up and I was taken to a whole other place.

Part way through the set I pushed out of the crowd near the front and headed toward to the top of the hill, behind all the people.  I still had a great view of the stage and the sound was great.  Standing at the top of that hill, surrounded by warm autumn air, sublime sound and lamp light, I was suddenly struck with a sense of calm and contentment.  It was as though all the stress and anxiety of the previous few days had left my body and floated away.  It’s a feeling that stayed with me right throughout the festival and I’m sure a lot of the reason I had such an amazing 3 days.

4.  Love Outside Andromeda
+ SubAudible Hum
Friday October 6, 2006 – The Annandale Hotel

This post here is probably enough explanation as to why this all Australian gig is number 4 on my list.  Sianna Lee, the lead singer and chief song writer of LOA, is one of my favourite people in the Australian music biz.  She’s a little temperamental from all accounts and kinda looks like she’ll strike you down at any moment, but holy crap can the girl sing.

Also, this was the night I really discovered SubAudible Hum.  Their album In Time for Spring On Came the Snow was one of my favourite releases of last year

As I wrote in that review post, this gig was a perfect example of the fact that you don’t have to spend over $15 to experience amazing live music.

3.  The Black Keys
Saturday April 15, 2006 – The Great Escape Festival

My anticipation of their tour here in May is in no small way due to how amazingly awesome this set from them was at the Great Escape last year.  I first heard the Black Keys on a car stereo in the middle of the Cowra wilderness, and it was enough for me to pick up Rubber Factory pretty soon after.  It’s pretty clear, from hearing any of their studio albums, that they’d kick ass live.  They didn’t disappoint.

I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone get sounds out of a guitar the way Dan Auerbach does.  He also has one of those instinctive, guttural blues voices that can bring passion to most anything.  And the way Patrick Carney plays the drums?  Holy crap.  Every other drummer looks delicate in comparison.

It had been a weird festival for me, in that I was with people I who weren’t familiar with most of the music we were seeing and the vibe was very laid back.  This set, though, was raw and pounding and sheer rock and roll.  I went into the crowd full of anticipation and came out dirty, sore and missing a headscarf.  And it was AWESOME.

2.  The Mountain Goats
Sunday April 16, 2006 – The Great Escape Festival

The open letter to John Darnielle that I wrote after this gig is testament enough I think.  Actually, it took my fandom for this band from mildly insane to out and out crazy.  The main thing I loved about it was the sense of community – it was really the first time I’d experienced it at that level at any gig anywhere, and I’ve found since then that it’s kind of a staple at Mountain Goats shows.

When the whole crowd sang along to This Year I swear my heart nearly burst.  Feeling all that Mountain Goats love in one concentrated space was almost too much for my poor little brain to bear.  It was the first time I’d heard Up The Wolves live, and they also played Color In Your Cheeks.  I just – well, there’s no words really.  I think you get the picture.

1.  U2
+ Kanye West
Friday November 10, 2006 – Telstra Stadium

Yes.  My number 1 music experience from last year was a stadium sized gig played by an aging super group.

The anticipation I had for this gig was massive.  They were playing in March, and then they cancelled, before finally hitting our shores in November.  I saw them live in 1994 and when you factor in everything that was my first ‘real’ live music experience.  It left me completely and irrevocably changed.  I have already written about how I came to the music and how much it has meant to me at various times of my life, and while in some respects I’ve grown out of the music, it’s still a very important part of who I am.

We got there a little later than I thought we should but it turned out it didn’t matter – we managed to be around half way back in the GA section, smack between the speaker stacks.  The sky looked ominous and it was hot and sticky.  I was almost surprised when Kanye West came on – I hadn’t really been paying attention to the main stage.  The set was okay but the sound was lost on the open air.  Because of this I was a bit nervous about the main show – the sound was kinda crap.

Just as we were clearly heading up to U2 coming on stage, the skies opened up.  Firstly the rain was just a pitter pat, then a steady pour.  Then, inexplicably, louder than anything I’d heard so far that night, I heard the opening bars of Wake Up by the Arcade Fire.  The sky completely tore open and the water came pouring down.  The lights went down and the crowd went mad before the band came out on stage.  I was utterly and completely swept away by the experience.

The opened with City of Blinding Lights.  They played most everything I could have wanted them to play, including Angel of Harlem which was a complete surprise.  Bono could tell me anything and I would utterly follow him anywhere.  The man has charisma.  He sang Miss Sarajevo and I almost lost it.  I sang unashamedly to every single track and I didn’t care about the rain.  I was also there with someone who was as big a fan as I was, which I genuinely think adds to an experience like that.

It’s not the sort of show I could do all the time – those big stadium gigs are so impersonal and the sound is generally not great.  Still, this one was perfectly massive.  It’s why U2, love ‘em or hate ‘em, are considered at the top of what they do.

Notable mention –

National Pornographic
Friday August 18, 2006 – The Marquee

This gets a mention because the night was so much FUN and because the band has pretty much called it quits.  NP, due to Hell working so closely with the band, has been such a large part of my live music landscape for a lot of years.  This night the venue was packed, there was a lot of long term fans of the band there, and they were on the brink of releasing their new album.  There was so much potential and optimism in the air.

The Sydney local music scene is a fickle thing, however.  They will forever be a perfect example of what could have been.

And the worst gig?  With a bullet –

+ Smoosh
Friday July 21, 2006 – The Metro

If you see a lot of live music in Sydney, the Metro Theatre is a venue you can’t avoid.  This is normally okay, because normally you’re not surrounded by drunk belligerent asholes, normally the venue isn’t clearly over capacity and normally you can see/hear the band.

The music was okay.  It was a completely different sound to how I know the band in that it was more a rock show (which is generally something I am very open to) but the crowd at that show ruined every chance I had of enjoying the music.  The security was non-existent and there was a hellava lot of argy bargy.  I think, possibly, it’s the worst live music experience I’ve ever had.  And I’ve had a few.

HAH done.  The best of 2007, if the quality of the music I’ve seen already this year is any indication, will be a very interesting post.  I have a feeling though that I have already experienced the best gig I’ll see this year.

I am always, however, prepared to be surprised.

Little wonder

Augie March wins the Australian Music Prize!  Hooray!

I am so torn about stuff like this.  Half of me is blownawayhappy about it, and the other half is terrified it will mean massive mainstream success.  Still, I’m guessing, if they were going to hit the commercial big time they would have done so by now.  Commercial radio play began and ended with One Crowded Hour and there was that scary appearance on the Footy Show (wait, I thought we were going to never mention that again).

Anyway, I am happy for the band.  Like, so happy.  And so excited to be seeing them live in April and Glenn supporting Wilco.


My figure, female, framed crookedly

Today is International Women’s Day.

Most of the men I know scoff at this sort of thing, or humour it in a way.  This actually really annoys me more than I usually let on.  I do not get into this discussion with many of them because I don’t like to be patronised and I know everything I say to them will be passed of as feminist ranting.  The fact that I’m a generally not a completely stupid person who is usually more than reasonable seems to be lost on them.

It’s an unfortunate word, feminism.  The government and media like to marginalise and generalise it, and a lot of men are threatened by it.  The whole meaning of the word is completely lost on most of the population which I think is kinda sad.

Men say they’re starting to feel marginalised.  Well, men in Western countries.  I say, though, it’s like a bucket of water – you tip the bucket, it tips and spills one way.  Then, it rocks back, and the water spills over the other side.  The bucket and water level continues to rock to and fro until eventually, after a lot of rocking, it settles, balanced, in the middle.  We’re still definitely mid rock.

And you know what else is sad?  The most exciting part of today for the girls at work was that someone heard women get free public transport all day.  I just wanted to scream out you’re completely missing the point.  It’s not about free bus rides, or getting flowers, or having men tell us how fab we are, or even ‘celebrating our womanhood’ or whatever the hell that means.  It’s about recognising the inequality that still exists in the world and the gap between the sexes that is still there.  We forget, living in Australia, that the divide is still canyon-sized in many parts of the world.  Woman in many parts of the world cannot get an education or a job or adequate health care or even vote.

Anyway, that’s what today is about.  For me at least.  Remembering how much work there is left to do and recognising how lucky I am.

If you see light

There is light in more ways than one this evening.

Tonight when I left the office there was a rainbow that stretched from one side of the sky to the other.  It honestly arced the whole width of the sky – I stood with my face turned up and my mouth hanging open in a goofy grin for at least 5 minutes.    Then the purpley black of the sky opened up and the clean light of the sun came through – the light was such a strange yellow, and everything it hit because warm and almost saturated in colour.  It was one of those times when the whole world looked clean and bright and clear.  And full of promise.  It’s been the first time all week I’ve felt anything remotely like that.

Added to this, I made progress at work today for the first time since the boss left.  The infuriating thing about the last 7 days has been (well, apart from the 10 to 12 hour days) cleaning up someone else’s mess.  I have spent the whole week tying up knots I didn’t undo, and because of that my own workload has piled up behind me to infinity.  Next week is going to be less than fun due to some Bad Stuff that needs sorting, but at least I’m chipping away at stuff slowly.  This is a good thing.

Also, that meeting today was okay.  I need to back myself, because really, I can do this stuff.  I can.

I toe the water

I like to have a good time
Any of my friends will tell you
But when you confront me with stupidity
I’m doubly angry at you

And I say: Nip! Nap! It’s all a trap
Bo! Bis! And so was this
Whoa! Whoa! To Haiti go
And watch it all come down
Ding! Dong! A silly song
Sure do say something’s wrong
Smile awhile, forget the bile
And watch it all come down

MY GOD.  Help.  I think this album already owns a piece of me.

Death to everyone

I cannot stop listening to I See A Darkness by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.  How the hell did I do without this album for so long?

That’s all tonight.  I’m running out of optimism for the week getting better, which is a little sad considering it’s only MF TUESDAY.


Oh and…

Ditto Micah P. Hinson.  I have no idea what song that was that I heard on the radio on the weekend, but HOLY MOLY.  I’m happy to wade through some other stuff to find it.