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TGTF Does ARIA Week 2012: MGM and SPA Australia Showcase at Upstairs Beresford featuring Lime Cordiale, Battleships, The Trouble with Templeton, The Falls and Oceanics – 28th November 2012

 
By on Thursday, 6th December 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

After the two previous nights seeing acts associated with industry heavyweight Universal Music Australia and digital radio station triple j unearthed, it was time to catch some bands with more independent connections. Wednesday night I headed over to the upstairs floor of the Beresford Hotel (formerly a hotel that was built in 1870 but converted into a swanky nightclub) to catch the showcase being put on MGM (that’s Metropolitan Groove Merchants, the largest independent distributor of Australian music, not an American film company) and SPA Australia. There were supposed to be four bands, but a fifth appeared at the end as a last minute addition.

Usually, the first band at a show has the most unenviable task of warming up a crowd that is only slowly starting to gain in size. Thanks to a hour of free drinks prior to the start of the evening’s sets, the reverse was true for this night at Upstairs Beresford. Oceanics from the Gold Coast, a coastal city 1 hour by plane north of Sydney that is probably every bit as idyllic as the name sounds, no doubt benefitting to the crowd already buzzing from the free booze.

With only one small, local Pipsqueak cider within me, I wasn’t buzzing just from the alcohol; I was definitely feeling their music, which sounded much like the Strokes, if they weren’t from New York but a sunny seaside town. Their lead singer Elliot Weston cuts a compelling frontman figure like Noel Gallagher (will you take a look at that hair???), but thankfully sounds nothing like him. He even had an almost Pete Townshend moment, banging his guitar around in front of his amp to create squealing feedback. Have a listen to their song ‘Jukebox’, and tell me what you think.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbP_pNgmfRQ[/youtube]

Along with a four-piece string quartet and backing band, The Falls came on next. It was explained to me by a new Aussie friend that singers/songwriters Simon Rudston-Brown and Melinda Kirwin were formerly boyfriend/girlfriend but they’ve seen broken up but evidently (and to our great benefit) kept their musical connection. My new friend also said that for her, this duo far surpasses Julia and Angus Stone as the best male/female folk duo in Australia. (I’d have to do some compare and contrasting on that to be sure, but Cheryl can probably do a better job at this than I ever could.)

They’re originally from Darwin, Northern Territories, in the topmost, central part of Australia. They’ve just released their debut EP, ‘Hollywood’, and the first single from the EP, ‘Home’, is as beautiful of a song introduction that you could hope from anyone. Watch the video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0VqzQU6wGc[/youtube]

Who I thought would be the second to last act of the night was Brisbane’s The Trouble with Templeton. Despite my initial thought that the act’s name was a nod to the children’s book Charlotte’s Web, our friends at the AU Review quickly set me right, clarifying that the name came instead from a title of a Twilight Zone episode.

The first song of their set was a solo version of ‘I Wrote a Novel’ by Thomas Calder (whose project this is), dedicated to MGM’s founder Sebastian Chase, who emceed the night. There is a simple, Teitur-like innocence to Calder’s voice, and he’s already made waves at Filter’s Culture Collide festival in October, so my guess is you’ll be hearing more of him very soon.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQXkyj20ZcE[/youtube]

Sydney-based Battleships have already gained high-profile fans in Lauren Laverne, Radcliffe and Maconie and the fine folks at Communion, so they’re another band we can expect to hear more of terrestrially. Singer/ guitarist Jordan Sturdee favours a bowtie, which set him apart from everyone else I saw this week. (Well, nearly everyone. Buddy Goode, the winner of the Best Comedy Album ARIA for ‘Unappropriate’, showed up with one and a ruffly ‘70s era shirt the following night.) The word “haunting” would probably be the best way to describe ‘In Retrospect’ (video below) , one of their early songs that might best be compared to Elbow’s sweepy, grand style, but with Wild Beasts’ Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto-type vocals.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3qU1aJwe58[/youtube]

And then came the surprise for the night. Not to be confused with a cocktail mixer, the final band was Lime Cordiale. With an E on the end. The kind of band that names their EP ‘Faceless Cat’ has to be some real mental cases, right? Brothers Oliver and Louis Leimbach play guitar and bass, respectively. Earlier in the night, we got a supporting string quartet. But imagine my astonishment to see these two brothers putting aside their guitars in the middle of a song…to play horn instruments! (Turns out they’re both classically trained.)

The result of ‘regular’ rock instruments combined with horns made for what came out as what they call ‘slam pop’: incredibly fun, catchy and eclectic. Oliver has a sultry drawl that you might think would be at odds with this seemingly oddball combination of musical devices, but it works, and it ended my ‘regular’ gig week in Sydney on a fine note. Curious? Watch their video for ‘Pretty Girl’ below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKQPGPR-Sho[/youtube]

 

TGTF Does ARIA Week 2012: triple j unearthed Showcase at Oxford Art Factory featuring The Rubens, YesYou and Asta – 27th November 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 4th December 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

I am well familiar with triple j: it seems every year in January, right when festival season is in full swing in Oz, the best indie bands from all over go through the Aussie radio station’s hallowed doors for sessions and interviews. I already kind of guessed their importance like Radio1, but I was told by many an ARIA Week punter that if a band wants to be a success and make it out of Australia, they must have triple j’s support. In October 2011, triple j launched a sister station, available only digitally, called triple j unearthed, and as you can probably guess from the name, they are all about finding the best new up and coming bands. My second night of bands in Sydney were three acts that have all received the triple j unearthed stamp of approval. The night was emceed by triple j breakfast hosts Tom (pictured below) and Alex (pictured at top).

The first act up was Hobart, Tasmania’s Asta, aka Year 12 singer Asta Binnie, accompanied onstage by bespectacled DJ/producer Kel. (Cue thoughts of Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid of La Roux.) There was no way you could ever miss the blonde Asta in the outfit she chose that night: a black top, a faux jewel belt and exceedingly bright gold lame hot pants, which starkly contrasted her super red lipstick. With the hot pants, my initial thought was, oh no, not another Florence and the Machine! Thankfully though, Binnie doesn’t shriek like Welch, and maybe Welch has gotten less bashful and more comfortable in her role as frontwoman after two albums, but Binnie exhibited no inhibitions at all while she sang. And she plays guitar! Take that, Flo.

She must have been picked up by triple j unearthed very recently, as she commented that this was her first ever Sydney gig. (Consider that if you are not from the city, it’s the equivalent of a small town British band playing in London, or a small town American band playing in New York City.) In honour of the momentous occasion, she dedicated the song ‘It Starts with You’ to the audience, explaining she never would have gotten anywhere without triple j unearthed or the fans who listen to her on the radio. The tunes that closed out her short set, ‘I Need Answers’ and ‘Is Anyone Out There?’, highlighted that despite the teen image she projects in her clothes, lyrically, she’s at least trying to delve into deeper subjects.

Absent so far from my ARIA Week experience was strobe lighting, which was to come in the form of YesYou’s set. They’re a synth pop production duo from Brisbane, and evidently, they already have a lot of followers. They garnered massive cheers came from a cover of SBTRKT’s ‘Wildfire’, which saw their unnamed female singer invoking the blue eyed soul from deep within. But the loudest applause came with final song ‘Frivolous Life’, which featured a surprise live vocal appearance by Marcus Azon of established Sydney tropical dance band Jinja Safari. From what I’ve read, this duo rarely does live appearances, so I felt very lucky indeed to have been present for one of their rare live performances.

I learned about the Art Factory’s stage curtain the hard way – by getting clocked in the head with it when the curtain was closed while the stage was set up for the headliners The Rubens from a New South Wales village called Menangle, who I really didn’t take to. (Seriously though, is there a need for a curtain for a 600-capacity venue with a medium-sized stage? It’s not like there is going to be a super sophisticated lighting rig back there.) When it was time for them to go on stage, the curtains parted and I thought the girls next to us were going to lose it. The Rubens have a laddish vibe to them, which I suppose makes perfect sense for a guitar rock band, but I’ve probably heard – and passed over – too many UK guitar bands for not being unique enough. (The next night, I saw another rock band at another venue that I thought was head and shoulders much better, so stay tuned…)

Set opener ‘Best We Got’ uses Oasis-styley “lalalas”; ‘My Gun’ made me think of Noel’s ‘If I Had a Gun’. Those of you who know me personally know I usually stick it out down the front for the entirety of a show, even if I’m not a massive fan of all the bands playing that night. But by then, the venue was completely rammed and it didn’t seem right for me to be so close when there were kids in attendance who absolutely adored these guys.

 

TGTF Does ARIA Week 2012: Universal Showcase at Oxford Art Factory featuring Bertie Blackman, The Art of Sleeping, The Preatures and Harts – 26th November 2012

 
By on Monday, 3rd December 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

I was so very chuffed when us here at TGTF were invited to participate in the inaugural ARIA Week that took place the last week of November in Sydney, Australia. This was the first year that showcases, the first-ever Electronic Music Conference (EMC) 2012 (the largest dance conference for the Asian-Pacific region), and parties provided the lead-up to the absolute pinnacle of the Australian music industry, the 26th ARIA Awards (the Aussie equivalent to the UK’sBRITs and America’s Grammys). After a full day spent at the Rock Lily nightclub within the Star City Casino in the Pyrmont area of the city for the first-ever ARIA Masterclass for industry, it was time to get stuck in to Sydney nightlife.

As the editor of this Web site, I’ve seen the Australian tour dates of so many of my favourite bands and invariably, the one place everyone seems to play is the Oxford Art Factory. Its location can’t be beat: it’s within walking distance of the central business district (CBD) where most tourists make a beeline for. As should be predicted, it lives on Oxford Street, though it bears little resemblance to the one in London that we are all more familiar with. For one, the street, along with all of the Sydney I saw, was incredibly clean and there’s something to be said about walking around in a city in late November with the sun blazing down. It just brightens your whole day – and night – and makes covering a gig feel like less work.

The first ARIA Week showcase I caught was the Universal Australia Monday night, with an evening chock full of bands. Looks are very deceiving: it looks like a massive place, but our friends from the AU Review said it only held 600. It looked way bigger than Washington’s Black Cat. Our friends also told us the first spots to go at the OAF are always the ones on the balcony; I’ve never been stood at the balcony of the 9:30 because you just aren’t close enough to be able to see the bands; at OAF, this isn’t a problem, with the venue feeling equally grand in size, while maintaining an intimate feel. And the sound system? Simply amazing. I daren’t even consider how many great bands we could reel into Washington if the Black Cat’s system were as good.

First up was Harts, which at first glance looked like a rock quartet. This was quickly explained away by the lead singer / guitarist, who must have said, “I am Harts, and I am from Melbourne” at least three times during their set. So I guess he is a solo artiste but comes out on tour with three backing musician, none of which were ever introduced and/or thanked by Harts himself, so my guess is he’s a multi-instrumentalist who needs touring band members to truly bring his masterpieces to life onstage.

It seems overkill to have not one but two synthesiser players onstage at one time, though I can appreciate that some of Harts’ tunes have a disco bent (therefore at least one synthesiser player makes sense). What was more apparent was his penchant for employing Prince-type guitar solos as well as the Purple One’s wails, such as in the song ‘All Too Real’. The wailing was something quirky, as was the checkered kerchief around the top of his microphone, which I guessed was a homemade pop shield. (Aren’t pop shields only ever employed in recording situations? Or maybe I’m being a total anorak, I dunno…)

Sydney band The Preatures were on next. (Where possible, I’ll be including the cities all the bands I saw are from, as it should be of note that unlike the UK and more like America, cities are very far apart and except of course the Sydney-based ones, most of them had to travel long distances in order to participate in ARIA Week.) This group handily won the best dressed award for the night for their chaps in smart suits and female singer Isabella Manfredi in Outback chic, sporting a leather fringe vest and drapey scarf.

With male and female lead singers, there was a definite Fleetwood Mac vibe to them, in that when their vocals were paired, they worked perfectly together; Gideon Bensen’s style of singing reminded of the Rascals’ Eddie Brigati, every time he opened his mouth, it looked like it took tonnes of effort, as it opened with alarming wideness. (If that makes sense at all…) They offered up ‘Drive Away’, “a brand new song that’s only been played a couple of times”. While I enjoyed the vocals, I wasn’t blown away by their songs.

Second on the bill, The Art of Sleeping from Brisbane, was the band I was most eager to see. Imagine long-haired and beardy blokes like Fleet Foxes, but ones that rock out just a bit harder, as well as ones who have the instinctive ability to write anthemic tunes similar to the Temper Trap, and you get some sense of their musical style. Beautiful harmonies and great guitar work are a hallmark of this group.

They recently released an EP, ‘Like a Thief’, and most of their set consisted of songs from this EP, including the overly gorgeous ‘Empty Hands’ (see video below). They also played new song ‘Voodoo’ as well. It was an all too short set for me. Seeing how quickly both the UK and America took to the beard-sporting Seattle folk rockers, with the right promotion, The Art of Sleeping have a chance to do very well in both markets.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2-8Ll-itjs[/youtube]

The headliner was Universal Australia success story Bertie Blackman, who despite what you might initially think looking at the first name, it’s a she, not a he. Sydney-born Blackman has sold numerous albums in her home country, and I have to wonder why she doesn’t have a UK contract yet, and I’ll tell you why. In my preliminary research of the bands I might see at ARIA Week, there were many I couldn’t find on the American version of Spotify because of region copyright issues, and although I’d heard some of Blackman’s songs, the image that stuck with me was her looking like a goth punk on the covers of her albums. I was thinking, ok, maybe ‘90s-era Liz Phair before she went pop?

So imagine my surprise when she comes out in a red muu-muu (Phyllis Diller vibes?) with a white camo design on it and starts beating frantically on a drum like her life depended on it, just as her fans screamed their devotion to her. Later, Blackman took to her guitars, which she played with gusto while singing her brand of emotion in a wide-eyed Grace Slick kind of emphatic way. The whole package, borderline subversive, reminded me of a featherless Patrick Wolf, and she pleasantly surprised me. She might not be a star overnight in Britain, but I can totally see a fan base ready and waiting for her.

 

Live Gig Video: The Temper Trap perform live at Sydney Opera House

 
By on Tuesday, 12th June 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

On the 31st of May, the Temper Trap returned to Sydney to play an epic show for their countrymen. If you missed them on their last UK tour and/or their appearance on the TGTF stage at Liverpool Sound City, shame on you. But you’re forgiven. And even better, the band forgives you by offering up the entire stream of their performance at the legendary Sydney Opera House. Watch it all enfold below. It’ll only be available for a short time, so catch it while you can.

Read all about the TGTF stage that the Temper Trap headlined on the 18th of May here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al__6iBBqQ8[/youtube]

 
 
 

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