Archive for the ‘gig’ Category

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Dave Hole at the Bridge Hotel

2 November 2013

I spent Halloween evening at the Bridge Hotel in Rozelle, Sydney, listening to the blues. This should come as a surprise to no one.

The Bridge is a no-frills place. It’s not sawdust-on-the-floors, but it’s not too far beyond that either. It’s a simple pub on one side and a small room with tables and a stage for music events on the other. The crowd the other night was, in the words of one of the performer, “small but select”. I and the two friends I went with would agree.

The first act was Canadian Charlie A’Court. I didn’t know until I looked him up, just before going into the room, that he’s actually a Nova Scotian like me. From Truro, in fact, so not far at all from where I grew up. Charlie’s got a powerful voice and plays a good acoustic guitar. He sounded great, and performed a good mix of blues, soft folk, and soul tunes.

DH

The main event was Dave Hole, an Australian slide guitarist I’ve been keen to see since I heard him on an Alligator blues collection I picked up in the early ’90s. He hasn’t toured much in recent years, and this mini-tour around Oz is an acoustic one. He came on stage with a Dobro steel guitar; he was later joined by a drummer on snare and high hat, and a bass player, so not the stack of Marshalls he admitted he usually uses.

But no matter what sort of guitar he has in his hands, Dave Hole can play a slide guitar. He coaxes all those emotive slide sounds from his instrument, the wails and shouts, the glissandos of mourning.

And Dave plays from his guts. There’s no artifice about his performance. His singing isn’t polished. He makes an effort, and grimaces and gestures and shouts, but not in a put-on way. He just has the air of someone who’s self-taught, who loves the old roadhouse blues tunes, and who loves playing them.

By the end of the night it was perhaps getting to be a bit too much of the same sliding trills, over and over, for me. But then he ended with his version of “Purple Haze” and left me with a smile. Thanks Dave.

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Lorde at the Metro Theatre

17 October 2013

I’m just back from seeing Lorde play the tiny Metro Theatre in Sydney.

The first act was Oliver Tank, a one-man electro-groove-folk act. I liked his mix of samples, synthetic beats, and easygoing vocals in a laid-back sort of way.

Before I talk about Lorde I feel that I should clarify something. Lorde – real name Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor – is (at the time of this post) a 16-year-old trip-pop singer and songwriter from New Zealand. She is very distinct from Lordi, the ludicrously-costumed hard rock band from Finland that won the Eurovision song contest in 2006. Just so there’s no confusion. Because there has been.

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Now, back to Lorde. She was good. I mean, for someone who can really only have performed on stage a limited number of times, given her age, she was pretty good. Her show didn’t consist of anything flashy. She sang, one guy played drums, and another played synth and electronics. There were a few lights. There were a lot of recorded background vocals, since a lot of the songs have multiple vocal tracks. There wasn’t much opportunity for elaborate showmanship.

Lorde did a hunched over, herky-jerky dance throughout the show, and flicked her cascading set of hair a lot, but was an assured performer for one so young. It was only between songs, when the crowd went mental, that she sometimes seemed at a bit of a loss as to how to respond. No worries, she’s got a whole career in front of her to become polished (and jaded and cynical).

A word about that crowd: they were loud. I have been to hundreds of gigs. Really, a lot. Metal, rock, punk, Springsteen, everything. And I’ve never heard a crowd scream so loudly all around me as I heard tonight. After she played “Royals” I had to cover my ears. “Biting Down” also got a massive response. The piercing volume might have had something to do with the high proportion of females in the audience. Nevertheless it was a clear sign that the crowd absolutely loved her.

For my money she was good, not amazing, live. She  played for slightly over an hour but got through most of the songs on her EP and LP. A surprising omission was new ANZ hit “Team”, which I really like. Maybe they’re still figuring out how to do it live. Here it is for you:

And just to show you that she can sing live here’s Lorde and her band doing “Royals” for a radio show in the US:

Lorde has shown herself to be a phenomenally catchy songwriter. She’s on the road to be a good performer. I don’t see that there’s any stopping her.

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Sugar Bowl Hokum at the Union Hotel

13 October 2013

The Union Hotel in Newtown is an excellent pub. They have lots of interesting beers, mostly local but with a few from overseas, and even a couple of hand-pumped ales. They have pool tables and a beer garden.  Something for everyone, really.

And this Sunday afternoon they had something that surpassed all of these: Sugar Bowl Hokum, a band that plays blues, jazz, and hokum tunes from the early 20th century. They were sweet and naughty and a lot of fun. I’d definitely catch them again.

Here’s a short clip of them playing Memphis Minnie’s “In My Girlish Days“.

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Foals at the Enmore Theatre

30 September 2013

I saw UK dance-rock band Foals live once before in early 2008. I thought they were good then but not varied enough. But I’ve liked their new album enough that I decided to go see them again last night at the nearby Enmore Theatre.

The first act were up-and-coming Melbourne band Alpine. Their song “Gasoline” has been pretty popular on the radio here, and for good reason. They’ve got a poppy vibe from their two vocalists but some hefty rock crunch from the musicians. Live they were hi-energy fun in that Karen O/Yeah Yeah Yeahs way. I enjoyed their set a lot.

When Foals came out soon afterwards I was really pleased I’d decided to give them another chance because they’ve grown as a band and as performers. They now have three albums to draw on, and their last two have both included more of the crunch they employ live but also broadened their music. It’s still a fairly focused sound, with a lot of U2-ish bell-ringing guitars but eminently danceable rhythms. The crowd could not help but shake itself to each guitar-driven song.

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My favourites last night were old track “Electric Bloom” and new tracks “Inhaler, “My Number” (this one, especially, delivered early on, set the boogie tone), and “Providence”. All demonstrated how the band uniquely combines staccato guitar riffs with high-hat grooves to make dance-floor-filling rock songs.

Lead singer Yannis Philippakis got into the spirit of things with two stages dives, one with his guitar (and his solo kept going). It looks like the previous night’s show got even wilder, though, as he did a crowd dive from the upper level. Don’t try this at home, kids.

And finally, because it’s a great song, here’s “My Number” for your ear pleasure.

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Japandroids at Manning Bar

11 September 2013

I totally forgot: a week and a half ago I saw Canadian garage-rock duo Japandroids play at Sydney University’s Manning Bar.

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They were rad. That is all. You really just have to experience it, and you’ll get the raw experience or you won’t.

 

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Lloyd Spiegel at the Camelot Lounge

8 September 2013

I was looking at the upcoming gigs for Camelot Lounge and saw a listing for a blues guitar player named Lloyd Spiegel. That piqued my interest so I dug into it a little more. I found out that Lloyd has been named one of the 50 best Australian guitarists of all time.

Lloyd Spiegel

Lloyd Spiegel

Then I found this video:

Then I bought tickets to see Spiegel.

The gig was Friday night. We were ‘way up in the front so we could get a good view. Spiegel in no way looks like a rock star, though, or even a blues star for that matter. He’s a completely ordinary-looking bloke, the kind of guy you’d know from work or that installs your sink. He was dressed completely ordinarily.

But once he sat on that stool and lifted that acoustic guitar Lloyd let loose with a powerful – almost overpowering – blast of blues music. He can play. The only way to know is to see it live, like in that video above, or this one:

He played standards and his own songs, accompanied by drummer Tim Watkins. It felt free of artifice, and almost overwhelming in guitar proficiency.

Lloyd is a blues shouter, with a full-throated, powerful voice. There were few mellow tunes, though I really liked this one.

For fans of the blues, or acoustic guitar playing, Lloyd is an amazing Australian act.

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Christa Hughes & Ben Fink at Camelot Lounge, plus LazyBones Lounge

13 July 2013

Camelot Lounge is one of the funkiest recent additions to Marrickville. It opened a year or two back, a music club in an old building in the very industrial space close to Sydenham train station, and the legitimate offspring of warehouse party outfit Qirkz. They focus on blues, jazz, folk, and world music in a small eclectic (and camel-centric) space. And it’s very close to where I live.

On Thursday Qirkz were giving away a couple of last-minute free tickets to that night’s show and I managed to snag one. So I grooved on down the road to see Christa Hughes and Ben Fink.

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Christa comes from a musical family and performs a very cabaret-infused style of early blues and jazz. Her full-on burlesque theatricality added pizzazz to alt-rock group Machine Gun Fellatio, but she’s been performing on her own for about 8 years. Ben is a guitarist, composer, and singer who dabbles in several roots styles.

They played a set of songs that drew from early blues, back when there was little difference between that musical form and others like jazz and folk and gospel. Hughes’s powerful theatrical voice and flamboyant stage manner drew your attention, while Fink’s raw, understated playing gave it a rootsy grounding. They played standards like “Midnight Special” and Skip James’ “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues” (which, interestingly, morphed into Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song”, which of course references Howlin’ Wolf’s very different “Killing Floor” and Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues”). They also did a great version of Bessie Smith’s double-entendre-filled  “My Kitchen Man“.

That burlesque naughtiness spilled over into some of Christa and Ben’s originals too. “Pig Flu Blues” was a snorting, coughing ode to feeling miserable (and a run-in with the cops). And in a move sure to entertain all the kids whose parents had brought them along for the evening, Hughes bemoaned the emphasis on anal sex in modern adult entertainment with a tune called “Bring Back the Pussy in Porn”.

While I really like early blues the shrill pantomime of Christa’s performance wears thin on me after a while. I ducked out at the intermission, suitably entertained and not wanting to slip over into the point of diminishing returns.

On the way home I stopped into an even newer music venue in Marrickville, just two minutes from my front door, located in what I believe used to be a Vietnamese karaoke bar: LazyBones Lounge. This very cool, large, ultra-loungey upstairs room can only have been open a couple of weeks. Judging by the quality jam band, interesting decor, impressively stocked bar, no cover charge, and already-substantial crowd this place has got some legs. I’m looking forward to chilling out here in the near future.

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