Cannoli Oak Beard*

*Or, how I had an awesome Friday and I love my brother.

Yesterday was a non-stop smorgasbord of fun.

One of my colleagues brought in a box full of Pasticceria Papa‘s famouscannoli. They are seriously, heart-stoppingly wonderful.

After the workday finished there was a workplace financial year kickoff celebration at The Oaks. We were in one of the upstairs rooms, and I didn’t stay too long, but it was a good laugh.

Then it was time to taxi over to Sydney Uni and Manning Bar, where the gig festivities kicked off with a few good mates. There were several acts, most better than the last. I missed the first act, The Stiffys. Here are the ones we did see.

  • Mojo Juju play a swampy New Orleans gutbucket jazz shuffle. Their first couple of songs had me worried as they were slow and similar. But they brought it up in tempo, volume, and attitude as they went on, and got much better. They were fun, and quite stylin’.
  • Manchoir were an amazing surprise. They are exactly what the name implies: a choir of men. About 10 of them, all in singlets, some with bottles of beer in hand, performing a capella renditions of such great man-classics as “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Highway to Hell”.Hilarious!
  • The Crooked Fiddle Band played prog folk metal. I’ve never heard such a heavy polyrhythmic racket from a lute, violin, upright bass, and drums. It was mostly instrumental and mostly pretty intense. The woman playing fiddle had virtuoso level: she was amazing. Very skilled and dynamic, but it missed some of the fun and emotion that the earlier two acts had set us up for. But definitely an amazing band.
  • The Beards. What can I say about this band that I haven’t already done? They love beards, disdain all those who are beardless, and play many rockin’ tunes about beards. Last night they played several from their new album, Having a Beard is the New Not Having a Beard, which I hadn’t heard them play live before. They were, as usual, awesome. If you’ve missed previous posts watch thesevideos.

Afterwards we had a couple of beers at the Marly Bar in Newtown, made all the more entertaining by a power-tripping bouncer and a soft-porn session by some drunkards who forgot they were in public.

Classy Beards

The Beards + Claire + Matt Andersen at The Vanguard

Earlier this week I went to a gig The Vanguard, in Newtown, for the first time. It’s a pretty cool little venue.

First up was Matt Andersen, the massive Canadian blues guitarist I’ve already seen twice as he’s toured Australia. He displayed the same pyrotechnics as before; maybe a bit more, as he was the first opening act. The crowd seemed to think it was cool, though a lot of them remained sitting on the floor, which I found a bit odd.

Second was Claire, a relatively new and very young Australian act. Heavy art rock, sort of. Modern, and theatrical, but not emotional enough for me after seeing Matt. The crowd stood up, though.

Finally it was The Beards in their last show of the year. They were as tight and hooky and beard-y as the first time I saw them. You’ve got to have chops if you’re going to be successful as a one-joke band, but they really do it.

Here it is again, because you need to hear it: “You Should Consider Having Sex With a Bearded Man”. Listen, then vote it into triple j’s Hottest 100.

The Beards at the Annandale Hotel

I have to admit the truth: I love gigs but I have not yet been to Sydney’s Annandale Hotel. On Friday night I addressed this terrible shortcoming. A couple of mates came with me to see The Beards, and I now have another trembling admission: I think beards are incredibly cool.

First off, the Annandale: perfect dive bar for gigs. It’s just a dark, dirty, sticky room. There’s a pretty nice little Thai food restaurant in back (called Wok ‘n’ Roll, of course). But the Annandale is awesome for all the same reasons as the Astoria in London was awesome: dark, filthy rock had infused every grain of wood in the building’s structure. Love it.

There were three bands on Friday, but we missed The Rockets because we were stuffing our face with Thai. The second band was Gay Paris, and I’ve seen few odder. They were a roaring, bald, purple-cloaked, bearded hillybilly stomp of rock funk. The bass player’s grimacing had me in stitches. Okay, they were just a weird bunch of guys, but as one of my mates pointed out they played incredibly tightly. Also, their bearded-ness made me wonder if The Rockets had had beards as well, and it was an all-facial-hair night.

But The Beards…oh, The Beards. They were awesome fun. Okay, obviously they’re a bit of a novelty beard…I mean band. They’ve had three albums, and every song on every one of them is about how awesome beards are. Songs like “A Wizard Needs A Beard”, “No Beard, No Good”, “Born With A Beard” and “It Only Takes A Fortnight…*”.

But their songs are all rocking, and delivered with such enthusiasm, and single-minded, beard-stroking seriousness, that you cannot help but pump your fist. At the same time you buy in: beards do make you look manly and powerful. You start thinking about your chin follicles, and straining a little.

It’s all helped immensely by the facts that they pick especially catchy, singalong rhythms, and their singer is really quite good. There’s nothing especialy complicated going on, sonically, but it’s fun, energetic rock. They wore matching lounge suits too. Always a plus.

Witness a couple of examples: first, the video for “If Your Dad Doesn’t Have A Beard, You’ve Got Two Mums”.

Now listen to a new song, ’80’s synth-drenched track “You Should Consider Having Sex With A Bearded Man.”

I think it’s pretty clear what level of awesome I’m talking about here.