Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lose Yourself In The Music

Three things I learned in the five minutes i spent watching 8 Mile last night:

Eminem's skills as a rapper are hard to pin down. There's no doubt that his flows are unique, and the stresses he puts on particular words unusual, but really, that doesn't make a megastar. I have a feeling it's just his potty mouth that does it.

Britanny Murphy, though now extremely thin, still dances like she has some weight to throw around.

And, finally, apparently it's still ok to call people 'faggots'. Eminem's justification for this later in the movie ("Paul's gay, but you're a faggot.") plus the appearance of a positive token gay character doesn't wash with me. The guy's homophobic as all fuck, and his scriptwriters are too. There. I said it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I've Got Teef.

I go on and on about how there aren't enough girls in punk, about all the things we do to marginalize and intimidate them, but after talking to my cousins from the country on Christmas day about how many women actually live in their town, I figure I should refocus for just a second. Apparently there is but one female to every five males in Woomelang. My cousin James tells me of nights when the local pub - there's only one - is entirely populated by men. Not a girl in sight, he said, with an air of resignation. In the interests of festive-season harmony I refrained from linking the declining female population with the casual sexism on display at the local, but there's probably more to it than that. And their problems are probably our problems too. We punks like to think that the issues facing our community are unique, but that's more a product of our elitism than anything else. Our world has a lot in common with James' - it's just that in his, it's totally awesome to bleach random bits of your hair. Especially your fashion mullet.

Anyways. Back to music for a second. Listening to Johnny Cash's version of 'I See A Darkness' makes me begin to appreciate the frailty and the fragility of the original. Johnny Cash may be the master of moral ambiguity, but the strength and timbre that he brings to songs means that he's unlikely to be overcome by forces beyond his control. Bonnie Prince Billy, however, seems to be wavering, weak, in need of salvation. The album 'I See A Darkness' is a flawed album, in need of a decent edit, but the title song is damn near perfection.

For about a month leading up to Christmas Tara had been playing this one cd on high rotation. It's only occasionally that something she's listening to on her computer sinks into my brain, and she needs to play it about a billion times before I take notice. But when my sister called up a fortnight ago, looking for a suitable present in Missing Link and totally lost, it was the first record to spring to mind. I listened to it all Christmas day, and am still listening to it today. My late nominee for record of the year, therefore, is the new I Heart Hiroshima. Cynics be damned. It's fucking brilliant. If they don't come down and play some shows with the Diamond Sea sometime soon I swear I will crack the sooks and throw a temper tantrum on the footpath outside Forepaw. Hold me to it now.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Charlie, I'm Pregnant....

The Five O'Clock Charlie episode of MASH is on tv right now. It's easily my favourite episode ever - positively sizzling with scorching lines, channeling the best in anti-authoritarian pacifism through Groucho Marx. Unlike some of the later episodes - in particular those directed by Alan Alda - it doesn't beat you round the head with self-righteousness, but rather lets the sheer ridiculousness of the situation deliver the message. Plus, Ginger, the token black nurse played by Odessa Williams, is in it, and she rules.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Boys, Boys, Boys.

This is from Riva, whose eloquence - and sentiments - put us all to shame.

"i've recently been left feeling more than a little empty by live music, and hardcore in particular.

a couple of weeks ago i went to see a hardcore band that had come from far away (the band was la quiete, but trust me, won't you, that isn't the point) and the short, most diplomatic and condensed report that i can give is that i felt a truckload of nothing through the entire night. i could see that a lot of people were really into the band/s but it just wasn't doing a thing for me. there were girlfriends with inches of make-up and blokes swinging from rafters and that stuff scratched at my emotional surface but couldn't reach the dermis. usually the kind of naffness that i witnessed would turn me into a grump. i watched the crowd throughout the 'headlining' band and there was but one woman in the midst of it. there were a couple of other women who looked like they were there for themselves on the periphery and a lot of 'girlfriends' well into the sidelines. as the band's set progressed, though, all of the women but that one got pushed further and further away, to make room for the men who were unleashing their... well, whatever it was that they were unleashing (and how empowering is it, really, to match the guys at what they're doing when what they're doing is being a pack of jerk-face jocks? honestly, that's a question). that and the general lack of positive women at the show and the way that a lot of the bands honestly all sounded the same to me and the complete void of emotion that the bands left me with would ordinarily upset me, most probably a great deal. but that night i just felt empty. i felt completely disconnected from what i was in the midst of and i felt an altogether lack of desire to be connected to it. it occurred to me that for all. intents and purposes, i may as well have been at a nightclub or a mormon mass, for all the affinity i felt i had with the majority of people in the room. i left the show and told myself that i would stop going to hardcore shows and i think that i will, for the most part."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Writing's On The Wall.

I know I'm going crazy with the YouTube clips lately, but I'm a man inspired. This is for those of you who didn't see it on Jessica Hopper's blog.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Straight Up, Now Tell Me...

Friday night's party at Georgia's was like gentrification in action: first came the punks and skaters; then in flowed the hipsters; when I left at around two normal people in santa hats were rolling up by the dozen. Apparently Georgia looked around at 4am and declared "I don't know any of these people!", echoing longtime residents of the Prahran flats almost perfectly.

But the party wasn't only an excellent study of sociopolitical geography. There were also some bands playing. And a fucking impressive lineup of bands it was. Drowned Out, Bill Shankley, The Diamond Sea, UV Race, and then, secretly, Eddy Current Suppression Ring.

Drowned Out were up first, and, let's face it, aren't really a party band. I mean, I was into it and all - their late-period June of 44 crossed with Shellac sound is really up my alley - but they didn't really bring the rock. I'm more excited to see them again this evening at Forepaw Gallery, which means that this entry will be a little rushed. Bill Shankley were up next, and Danny Dischord's band didn't fail to live up to his colloquial surname (or his Void tattoo, or the two Government Issue T-Shirts adorned by members of the band, for that matter). DC style hardcore, played straight and without pretension. Not bad, not bad at all, but still, the hoardes were massed outside around the clothesline, and Bill Shankley failed to bring them in. Even when Pepper attempted to singlehandedly start a circle pit.

I've written about The Diamond Sea before, and make no apologies about being a fan. After the way they played on Friday night, I'm in ever-increasing company. Seriously, they fucking blew everyone away. Word flew around outside that the band playing was slaying all comers, and the kids crowded into Georgia's living room to shake and nod and show their appreciation. They've written some new songs since their Brisbane sojourn, and these new songs, put simply, rock. Playing a little faster (and, seemingly, a lot harder), they rip through their set, melodies aplenty, Jacqui's voice fucking perfect, angst and sweetness combined. After they've finished I hear at least five people ask their friends if they had CDs. Missing Link may do a little more business this week as a result.

UV Race were up next, and they have all the right ingredients. I like Dan's drumming a lot, Al is actually an awesome guitarist, I don't know the bassplayer but he seems to hit the right notes at the right time, and Marcus as a frontman is an inspired choice. The kids seem to like them, but I was tired and grumpy by this point, so stayed back on the couch talking to McNabb, waiting for Eddy Current to play.

It was around this time that the hipsters showed up. With Eddy Current playing a house show it probably shouldn't have been a surprise - the Melbourne scene is small and incestuous, and word travels fast. Still, they weren't in strong enough numbers to morph into the Espy crowd that usually follows ECSR around. I've seen the band a number of times now, but tonight was the only time I've been impressed. Dancing around with Chad, attempting to avoid the moshpit and the crowd surfers, forming a wall around the mixing desk with McGuigan and Tristan. ECSR's straight up rock and roll is perfect for living room party throwdowns, and tonight nothing could fucking stop them. A housemate comes in and lets everyone know that the cops are outside. The music has to stop, or there will be a five hundred dollar fine. The band look at each other and say "We'll pay that," then launch into three more songs. Fucking amazing.

I go outside. McNabb is standing by the fence holding a food processor. "Next time the cops come by", she says, "I'm going to tell them that I'm just trying to make a cake." The normal people are wandering through the gate now, trying to look as though they know where they're going. I head inside, relieved to find my bag - containing my ipod, among other personal effects - where I left it, then split.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

54 - 46, That's My Number.

Kody and I argued about Bob Marley once. "He defined the genre!" Kody claimed, in Marley's defence. I scoffed at the time, but didn't really have anything smart to say. Rest assured I do now. Marley didn't so much define the genre as popularize it, which makes him to reggae what Blink 182 are to punk. If we're going to talk about true reggae pioneers we have to instead talk about Toots and the Maytals, who not only took the island sound to the world, but also named the genre with their song 'Do The Reggay'. Which kinda makes them to reggae what Minor Threat is to straightedge. Anyways, the point of all this is that now that it's hot, there's not really much better, as you walk from your airconditioned office to the airconditioned tram to your airconditioned apartment, than to select Toots on your ipod and feel the sun beating down on your forehead. Never upping the pace, always slightly jaunty, feeling both the sweat and the breeze cooling it. His voice kinda sounds like Bob Marley being strangled by James Brown, according to Nat Graf. Now that's a visual that's going to keep me cool this summer.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Hold On To What You Got.

I've commented far and wide on the phenomenon that is Bon Jovi's 'Living On A Prayer', but I'll do so again here, you know, for posterity. It first struck me back home in Stawell, dancing with Ali McCann to terrible, terrible top 40 drivel. When Living On a Prayer came on the whole dancefloor lit up, Ali and myself included, and screamed the words until our throats bled. A few weeks later a car full of fully sicks is driving down Brunswick Street, blasting the song as loud as their stereo would go. And I watched as everyone on the street, goths and hippies and fashionistas and hipsters, all turned their heads and smiled. But my theory was finally sealed last night, at daggy disco, in a room full of deliberately dorkily dressed crustpunks. The song came on and we threw our fists in the air, revolution style, and sung like we were abusing cops. So here I stand, correct again: There is no one in the world who doesn't like this song.

Friday, November 30, 2007

This Bike Is A...

Nothing beats riding through the city, busting your gut to get somewhere on time, spotting a friend on their bike, flipping them the bird at the exact same moment that they do you, then riding off. Leaves a smile on your face for the rest of the evening. And then, the next morning, seeing your bike guru gunning it through the roundabouts on the downhill side of Lennox St, movember moustache bristling against the wind, looking like he's riding just for the sheer joy of it. Makes going up that same hill just that little bit easier.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Here Come The Drums

Leith, Tegan and I have a vision for our summer project. The vision encapsulates the best parts of Milemarker, early Chumbawamba, late Kill Sadie, and Bruce Springsteen. The vision includes sweaty bodies shaking manically on dancefloors across this fair city. The vision embraces all comers, from hardcore kids desperate to dance or indie kids finally shaking off their too-cool-for-school personas. The vision, however, is lacking a drummer. If you are prepared to watch everyone else rock out revolution style while keeping perfect time, drop me a line. Serious types and introverts need not apply.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Shot To The Heart

Last night at Trades Hall the party was like the worst bogan party I ever went to in 1995. Leith and I (and later Nat Hendry) danced anyway; we danced like idiots to The Offspring with communist girls wearing noserings; like we were in the Big Day Out Boiler Room to Fat Boy Slim with Greens candidate for the seat of Melbourne Adam Brandt; like we were mildly interested in all of humanity when they finally played The Clash. The party had a lot going against it, yet the fact that random people kept hugging me on the way to the bar, coupled with the overall sense of goodwill and non-sketchiness that Nat later reported on, meant that we stuck around til last call. It was like our football team had finally won the grand final, only this time, winning might actually affect us. So we danced.

Friday, November 23, 2007

No Rock And Roll Fun

Flesh Vs Venom play their last show for the year tonight and I only find out about an hour beforehand. What the fuck? I'm their biggest fan in the whole wide world. I say nice things about them on the internet. I would happily follow them around the country, tending to their every need. And yet there I was, busting my gut to get there on time. Fortunately I had forgotten about punk time, which is just like normal time but one hour later, so when I arrived the atrocious These Hands Could Separate The Sky were still playing. Which gave me time to tell Leith that for the hour previous I'd been at a comedy show, at which the one and a half minutes of SexyBack I'd heard while leaving the building brought me considerably more pleasure than the entire hour of "comedy" preceding. That's not too much of an insult. It's a fucking great song. Eventually Flesh go on, totally rule, then finish. Kody is sticking around to see Chainsaw Girls, but after half a song I've had enough, and ride really fucking fast the whole way home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now?

I'm going, slowly, deaf. If there's music playing in the background and we're talking, chances are I'm only hearing about half of what you're saying. This scares the shit out of me.

All In All...

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I have always and will always hate Pink Floyd. Even versions that have been mangled to fit certain political ideologies.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Joey, I'm Not Angry Any More

The other night, in a very cramped Loophole gallery, I tried talking with Fjorn about the disparity between the music we listen to when we're at home, and the music we go to see live. I've known her for a while, and know that her real passion is wanky experimental noise (my term, not hers). And really, the music I keep running to for shelter is best described as indie - and sometimes classic - rock. Yet we keep bumping into each other at hardcore and screamo shows. She was drunk and I was annoyed, but we seemed to meet somewhere in the middle. "The difference," she said, "is that when we're out, we're not just looking for music. We're looking for a performance."

But this raises a number of questions: Do the indie rock musicians and the noise artists that we love in our bedrooms automatically give shitty performances (anecdotal evidence tends to answer in the affirmative, but I'm quite comfortable with being proven incorrect). Are the loud and fast bands we see when we're out really not that good? And really, why aren't we searching out bands that are a combination of both? I want a local band who I can listen to when I'm falling asleep, and when I'm rowdy. You know, other than Fear Like Us.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Action Retraction Action

In a conversation with Pete Hyde from Collapsed Toilet Vietnam about the entry below he essentially tells me that I need to go do some research, so I know what the fuck I'm talking about. And he has a point. So I go do a little. And I discover that they're even better than I thought they were. They're purposefully putting themselves out of their comfort zone, playing awkwardly-configured drums, nearly unrecognizable guitar and a one string bass as fast and as brutal as they fucking can, making music that turns limitation into a virtue, in what is apparently the noisegrind tradition. The genre, apparently, was founded (in the punk tradition, I might add) by guys who couldn't play so great, but who just wanted to play fast, noisy and brutal. It also seems to be more of a two way street than I at first assumed, with noise musicians turning their hands to grind and and grind musicians slowing the fuck down a bit and playing noise pretty often. CTV do the former with brutality and intelligence. Don't be mistaken; these guys know exactly what they're doing - as opposed to me, perhaps.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Once In A Song

"When a great singer sings, the skin of space and time go taut, the voices of the newborn fill the world, there is no corner left of silence or of innocence, the gown of life is turned inside out, the singer becomes earth and sky, time past and time to come are singing one of the songs of a single life."

- John Berger

Words and Guitar

Two bands this (extended) weekend have made an impression: one new, one not so new.

The new would be Collapsed Toilet Vietnam. Something of a noise music supergroup - featuring members of Whitehorse, Grey Daturas, True Radical Miracle and various others - they've come together to create experimental grind that actually inspires awe (as opposed to just being awesome). The loudest band I've seen in a long time, they punctuate their songs with feedback sirens and one-string bass crunches. It's a wall of sound assault, in a way that somehow reminds me of a grind version of Public Enemy. I fucking love it when noise musicians turn their hands to other genres, as their tendency to experiment always adds an uncertain dimension to the sound, while at the same time removing the meandering, unstructured pretension that plagues straight-up noise acts. CTV brings the expertise of four of Melbourne's most established noise musicians together, and you seriously have to get your ass down to one of their ten minute sets. Make sure you're on time.

The not-so-new would be Schifosi, who have been around long enough to be considered crust scene stalwarts, but who haven't played a show in fucking ages. They played at the benefit for A World Without Sexual Assault at Irene's Warehouse. After seeing Majorca, eating some free (and delicious) Food Not Bombs, then fucking off to the East Brunswick Club for the four hours until Schifosi played, we all packed into the small mud-and-hay room, anticipating a great deal. And we weren't fucking disappointed. At one point during the show Ross turned to me and asked, "When did Schifosi turn into Iron Maiden?" and while he may have been exaggerating slightly, he has a point. They're much more epic than I remember, crashing, pausing, then diving into songs.

I've tried to write about these moments so many times, both in my journals and in my zine, and each time I've fallen disappointingly short. But I'll give it a go here anyway, despite not really wanting to tumble headlong into livejournal-esque emoting. While watching Schifosi I get one of those incredibly rare moments where nothing else seems to exist, where your focus is only on the one thing. It's these fleeting seconds of clarity that keep me coming to shows, that I chase and chase and chase, in whatever form I can find. It's not often that all the noise, the clatter, the machinery of everyday life disappears into the background, but today, watching Schifosi, surrounded by some of the people I love most in the entire world, with a belly full of lemonade and free vegan food, sweating and nodding my head and making unfunny comments between songs, it happens.

And really, that's all I need to say.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

i can see right through you.

Tuned into the ARIAs just in time to catch Missy Higgins. I don't have a remote, and I'm concerned that in the time it took me to rise from the couch, stumble over to the TV and hit the off switch I may have suffered irreparable brain damage. I mean, seriously, Missy, stop fucking whining so much. You seem like a smart girl. Take a look around. Put away your fucking electric keyboard, pick up a guitar and sing about something that matters.

In the hope of actually enlightening my newly deformed brain I threw on 'Germ Free Adolescents' by X-Ray Spex. Let's face it, there aren't many bands from punk's inception that stand the test of time (and as an aside, if I see another kid with a GBH patch - or worse, GBH written in studs on the back of a leather jacket - I will smack them upside the head), but Germ Free Adolescents sounds like it could've been made yesterday. Sure, it would've been made by a rock-punk band (the saxophone in particular makes me think Rocket From The Crypt), but fuck, no one who's anyone bothers genre splitting any more. Poly Styrene's lyrics are surprisingly prescient, especially given that a) thirty years have gone by and b) she was only 19 when she wrote them. They're a band that not enough people know about, so get on board and win mad scene points.

Friday, October 19, 2007

je me souviens

Dear Quebec,

I'm sorry, as I know you're all really nice guys, but Majorca made you look like rank fucking amateurs tonight.

Love Brendan

Ps. If you keep referring to your band as "Kew-Beck" instead of "Keh-Beck" (or, even more correctly, "Kay-Beck"), I will lock you all in a room and make you listen to the speeches of Rene Levesque until you learn to adaquetely respect Canadian francophiles.

Friday, October 12, 2007

what decency deserves.

Saw Soiled Stroller (aka the diamond sea, aka slow signal, aka milky joe and the sweet chinchillas) at 383 house last night. There are so many things right about this band: a mic stand made from a milkcrate, a broomstick and copious amounts of gaffer; a tendency to play in livingrooms and backyards to friends and people in the know; songs that are well-structured and tight; textured guitar interplay; and all-round impressive musicianship. This last reason shouldn't come as any surprise. We know Jacqui is good from her time in Terror Firma and Schifosi. We know Alicia is good from her time in Masstrauma. And we know James is good because I'm told he spent time in Jaws. The real surprise here for me is Steph Cola, who i've never seen in a band before, but whose mad guitar skills are so amazing that when she takes the lead in their cover of God's 'My Pal' I'm more impressed with their version than that played by A Death In The Family at the Espy a few weeks back. And Steve from Mid Youth Crisis sang it for them. Apparently Jacqui doesn't even know the words.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

steady diet of nothing would have to be my least favourite fugazi record. this isn't to say i don't love it - quite the contrary - but rather to say it doesn't have the energy or sheer force of will that the other records burst with. instead it has a darkness, a sullenness that makes it one of those records you can only listen to at very particular times. like now, with the sky closing in and the late-afternoon exhaustion making every movement a trial.

this being said, the only knuckle tatts i've ever seriously considered read KYEO.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

sometimes someone else just gets it. ben tripp, everybody. worth clicking for this phrase alone:

"Why do I offer this disclaimer? Same reason. Very tired. Don't want to argue with the un-examined chickenhawk "I have a cousin in the military" jingoistic pro-death legion of hateloving fetus-fetishist Jesusgobbling fuckwits any more. Which brings me back to the point. I'm so damn tired."

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Flesh Vs Venom at Pony, 06-10-07.

Resisting the almost overwhelming urge to just stay at home listening to the new Fear Like Us record, I catch the tram into the city to see Flesh Vs Venom at the Pony. Almost as soon as I arrive Mel asks about the whereabouts of my bike, and I have to confess to her that I’ve left it at home because, well, a girl I kinda had a crush on while I was at uni is in town tonight and I’m supposed to be catching up with her after the show. And, well, it’s hard to take someone home when you have your bike with you. Girls in their going-out clothes don’t tend to react well to being offered a dink.

So I’m in a positive frame of mind. Mel and I stand out the front of Pony, me metaphorically smoking a cigarette, she literally smoking one. I tell her about my attempts to define Flesh to a friend earlier that day, and how I ended up just throwing out adjectives. “Pressurized… Claustrophobic… Tense….” Mel tells me she too has a tough time of it, and takes the easy way out, loosely comparing them to Joy Division and Bauhaus.

But when they start up they blow those comparisons out of the water. Squalls of feedback (later revealed to be not entirely intentional) and reverb make this one of the loudest shows I’ve ever been to, even at Pony. Kody belts his guitar and twiddles with knobs, barely breaking rhythm as he changes up the sound. Amy is in good form tonight – apparently unable to hear herself in the foldback from her position behind her keyboard in the centre of stage, she unwraps the mic cord and edges closer to the side of the stage, bouncing up and down with the music the way Angela Pippos bounces when she reads the sports on the ABC news. Later in the evening, perhaps during the second or third last song, she’ll duck down behind the keys. I’m momentarily distracted, wondering what she’s doing, curiosity getting the better of me. She’s looking at her hands, pressing her fingers against each other, adjusting her wedding ring. It’s a soft, intimate moment in the midst of punishing gales of noise.

Last week, after the show at the Fitzroy Bowls Club, none of the band had been impressed with their own performance. And they had a point. They were loose and out of practice, missing cues and – on one occasion – starting a song in the wrong key. The kids in the crowd – me included – didn’t seem to mind. The songs, I guess, are so well written that they carry the band through even their most unenthusiastic evenings. But tonight Flesh are on point – sharp as a fucking scalpel and ready to inflict pain. Marty and Tim push the songs along on drums and bass respectively, ever insistent, like a bully peer-pressures a dork. Kody shatters glass with his guitar, providing a counterpoint to Amy whose right hand work occasionally takes a quirky pop tone. I think, though, that it’s her left hand that really drives the Flesh Vs Venom sound, essentially bringing to the band another bassplayer, which gives them a depth that is impossible to escape from. She’s not a typical dance-punk band keyboard player, hitting one key at a time, and they benefit from this immensely.

I’m having trouble finding the words to describe the way they play. I’m writing this later in the evening, and trying to explain it to Tara I grab her wrist and squeeze until she tells me to fuck off. Tonight it works. It all comes together. I don’t know how to describe it, other than to say it’s fucking awesome.

My phone goes off midway through the set, but for perhaps the first time in months I ignore it. Later, when I check it, it’s a message from my friend Nat Graf, who is hanging out with the aforementioned crush from university. They’re going home, he says, the crush has to work tomorrow. I’m momentarily disappointed, but it doesn’t last long. I say my goodbyes and walk off, stopping for Lord of the Fries on the way home.

You know, I was going to write about how tonight I'm going to try to catch both Flesh Vs Venom at Pony (starting at 10.30) and Ninetynine at The Tote (starting at 11), but I've decided instead to solve that problem by staying in and listening to the new Fear Like Us record over and over again. Yep, it's that good.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

so, it seems like every second person on facebook has some photo of themselves with a black person in whatever fucking country they visited for three days as their profile picture, but no black people in their friends list. there's such a disturbing sense of Otherness... like, "look at the different people i'm hanging out with! i'm so multicultural and awesome! because they're black! see!" like fuck, they might as well just wear a badge saying, "i love black people!"

and i'm trying desperately to come up with a slight against this in my status update, but saying "brendan is not impressed by those photos of you holding black babies" just doesn't sound right. sounds like i disapprove of them holding black babies, not the photo and how they're showing it off like it's a fucking souvenir spoon. it's the implicit racism i have a problem with, not their cradling techniques.

chumbawamba once released a record taking a shot at live aid called "pictures of black babies sell records". that's the vibe i want here. help a brother out.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

ok, so there are a lot of new bands around that i totally, totally love: fear like us, 731, majorca, cut sick, the diamond sea (aka slow signal, aka milky joe and the sweet chinchillas). but i gotta say that i'm incredibly excited about the resurgence that 2001 is making at the moment. leith is talking about booking a true radical miracle tour, flesh vs venom are playing shows and writing songs again after taking what seems to be years off for maternity/paternity leave, kody and marcus are talking about a battleaxe discography, and even ninetynine have deigned to play shows in their own country. these are the kids who, in their various incarnations (red divide, vivian girls, the aforementioned bands, kokoshka, george w. bush, paul of blood), got me excited about music way back in the day. these days they're starting to seem their ages - shows are punctuated with cracks about bad backs and families, rehearsals happen at times that fit around jobs and not vice versa, tours are short - but that just makes me like them more. hell, i got a real job and a bad back too.

Pikelet, Small Knives and The City on Film at the Northcote Social Club, 26-08-07

Bob and Megan and I are driving over to the Social in my parents' car. We're listening to Jawbreaker, and when the conversation drops Bob sings along. I tell him the rumour Sarah K told me about Dear You: that it was written entirely after Blake Schwartzenbach was left at the alter, and that afterwards he was so shattered that he a) gave up on his punk rock values and signed to Geffen, and b) wrote an album which is perhaps to spite what Sartre's Nausea is to, well, feeling a bit crook. Bob tells me that in everything he has ever heard about Jawbreaker he's never heard the story. Given he's been around the scene a lot longer than I have – and played a slightly more central part – I'm prepared to believe him over a rumour I heard in a Montreal kitchen. We find a park around the back and head inside.

No one is there yet so we rock up to the bar. It's Hirdy and Sheeds' last game in Melbourne tonight, and I'm kinda hoping that the Social have it on their big screen. Instead they're showing the latest gardening show with Jamie Durie. I start to make my excuses – the Peacock Hotel up the road will be screening it, for sure. Bob is interested in coming, but has to stick around and have serious talks with Tara and Tom. He seems slightly disappointed – turns out he's a big fan of American football (the sport, not the band. Well, perhaps the band too. I didn't ask), to the point of having his own fantasy football team (I forget to ask if they're called 'the Braids'). Given, though, that he doesn't have the 27 years of emotional connection with Sheeds that I have, I understand his choice, and head up there alone. Where I see them get flogged.

When I get back Evelyn / Pikelet is setting up. I notice that no one is sitting at the merch desk, and take the opportunity to snaffle the only seat in the entire room. I'll have to sell shirts all night as a result, but that's barely work, and besides, it's nice to have a job. Eventually Harriet rocks up. She's been at the game with her parents. She tells me that her mum cried. We console each other with the Minton vegan mint slices she has in her bag. Apparently I need a lot more consoling than she does.

I have a problem with two of the bands on the list tonight: they're not really bands. Both City on Film and Pikelet are solo acts. And I know both of their real names. So what do I call them? At what point does the performer become the person? Is the stage name the name of the performance, rather than any particular entity? When I say, "Pikelet was really good tonight," and follow it up with, "she's really developed her sound over the past year," (both true) does the pronoun refer to Pikelet or Evelyn? Is it possible for a performance itself to develop a sound? I'm so confused. If anyone can straighten this out for me, the way Rina straightened out the whole surnames issue, just leave a comment below. Especially if you are Evelyn or Bob.

Nomenclative issues aside, Pikelet is really good tonight. She's really developed her sound. When I first saw her about a year ago there was a lot of space in the music – it was almost sparse in parts. But now, with a bit of help from the samples and loops she creates on the spot, the sound has really filled out. It's important – the Social band room is big, and she's only one person. A solo act has a lot of work to do in order to fill the space, and she does the job well. She also plays her guitar a lot more these days, which is a good thing. I mean, she plays drums in True Radical Miracle, and bass in Baseball, so really, it's nice for her to get a chance to be a guitarist as well.

Sometime during her set pretty much the entire Melbourne Emo Mafia circa 1999 roll up. I was overseas at the time, and it's Natalie Ann who alerts me to their presence, but I recognise a bunch of the faces: Bloom, Kieran, that Amanda girl who actually came to a party in at my parents' house in Stawell once with Corey Delley (who is conspicuous in his absence), but who I'm too awkward and shy and perhaps self-conscious about the image I used to project to approach. Kieran asks me after Pikelet's set if it's okay to request Braid songs when City on Film are playing. I tell him that Bob's been playing a few of the old songs throughout the tour, but really, I'm more excited about the Tom Waits cover he'd played at Deago studios the night before.

Between sets a couple of randoms come up to buy shirts. I've sold three by the time CoF starts, and sell another during the first song. It's a weird phenomenon. I mean, he might suck! He might say horrible racist things during his set (I'm talking about you, Sensefield)! I'd feel strange about handing over my fifteen bucks before I know for sure.

Small Knives play next, and they're really, really pleasant. Despite giving the appearance of being totally fucking hardcore, I'm a bit of a sucker for the quiet acoustic types - my favourite Springsteen album is Nebraska, and my favourite Against Me album is the acoustic EP. Small Knives hit this nail square on the head. Two blokes up on stage, sometimes two guitars, sometimes guitar and organ, sometimes one singing, sometimes both. They don't sell any CDs, but I like them a lot.

City on Film is up next. He sets his own sampler off and launches into the first song. He doesn't say any horrible racist things, and he doesn't suck. He is, however, a lot looser tonight, and apparently looser still than at the Canberra show, where he was forced to take a Breathalyser before playing. It's a good thing. Though he doesn't talk to the crowd until after the first couple of songs, he's moving around, stamping his foot and shaking his head. The music is indie-rock gone acoustic, occasionally sounding a bit like Joan of Arc, but not much. He has a problem with the sampler and decides it's better to talk to us instead. We're all grateful. I mean, the guy is funny. He's rolling his Coopers around the stage, talking about Drop Bears, making fun of how we say his name. It's awesome.

I suggest to Tara and Harriet the next day that there's pressure on solo acts to be funny and witty and charming, as if the songs themselves aren't enough. They don't agree, but really, it's rare that I'll go away from a solo show thinking just about the songs themselves. When it's only one person on stage the banter matters, the stories matter. You have to create an atmosphere of familiarity, of intimacy, and not much does this as well as cracking someone up.

And yeah, Bob does this well. After he plays a Magnetic Fields cover he challenges the audience to name the band. A guy up the back does and Bob offers him a free CD. The guy declines and asks for a Braid song instead. Bob looks genuinely apologetic. "Do I want to do it? OK." He admits, "But would I be able to do it? Probably not." He plays "Come On Eileen" instead. Everyone seems satisfied. He plays one encore, then another, then two more when he said he'd only play one. It's the last show of the tour, and you get the impression he doesn't want it to end.

But it does. We pack up, and once everyone has cleared out we head up to the green room. The Social has provided an entire slab of Coopers and a bottle of wine for City on Film, perhaps accustomed to dealing with entire bands rather than solo acts. Bob doesn't seem to mind. He and Megan sit on the couch and quiz us on our understanding of Australian colloquialisms, using the back of their Lonely Planet as their guide. I'm quite offended when Tara, Tom and Harriet all use me as their example when defining 'bogan'. "For Christ's sake!" I cry, "I write fucking poetry!" But I guess love of the Essendon Football Club and a soft spot for Midnight Oil puts me over the edge. Eventually the Social kicks us out. We smuggle the leftover beers in our backpacks and head for the car. Tara and I must have forgotten we don't drink. Those beers are still in our fridge now. Anyone out there like Coopers Green?

Snakes Run, Cut Sick and Gorilla Angreb at the Arthouse, 29-07-07

I'd been excited about the Friday night show for weeks beforehand – the Focus, Straightjacket Nation, Gorilla Angreb and Eddy Current Suppression Ring all on the one bill – but on Thursday night I break up with my girlfriend so it's pretty much a write-off. I split midway through Eddy Current's set, buffeted by bogans and annoyed by pretty much everybody. The same post-breakup grumpiness keeps me from making the trip out to Northcote for the all ages show the next afternoon, meaning that I once again miss Jacqui and Alicia's new band, whose name changes with every show and who are apparently amazing. Instead I stay home, listen to the Weakerthans and tinker with my bike. Somehow I manage to break a lockring. I must be angrier than I thought.

I've been watching the Tour de France pretty much religiously over the past three weeks, and am aware that tonight there is a very real chance that Australia's Cadel Evans will take the yellow jersey, setting him up for an overall win. So again, I'm tempted to skip the show altogether and stay at home watching TV. But TJ suggests that I could skip out before Pisschrist and be home by 11.30. Given that it's a timetrial tonight and there's no way Cadel will be riding first, I figure I can wing it.

I roll up early, get stamped, then wander off to get coffee with Cori, Tegan and her friend Sophie. When Tegan reveals to us that she earns more cold hard cash as a dog hairdresser than I do as a teacher, I insist that she shout me coffee. She insists that I catch up when it comes to job satisfaction, but I'm not convinced.

When we arrive back Snakes Run are playing. They're fast, eighties style hardcore, and seem to be throwing everything into their set. I'm impressed, but Cori wants to go find a bank so she can buy more beer later in the evening. I'm not usually too keen to support a young girl's drinking habit, but I'm more into walking around late at night than I am fast, eighties style hardcore, so we wander over to the Vic Market. The air outside is cool and kind of refreshing, but smells slightly of rotting vegetables and camel shit. I get to complaining about my relationship breakdown and suggest to her that maybe I'm incapable of ever sustaining a relationship that lasts longer than a month. She, sensitive to the last, agrees.

Cut Sick are one of my favourite bands in Melbourne right now. Yep, seriously. They're always good to watch, always thrashing hard, playing fast and throwing themselves around like an ADHD kid with a bellyful of jellybeans. Steve and Rob, dual guitar / vocalists, throw their copious amounts of hair around and slice the air with their guitars, but the real star of the show tonight is Steve's gigantic hickey, which is perhaps the biggest I've ever seen. Somehow it seems to sum them up perfectly – they're young, full of energy and go at life without hesitation, whether it be rocking out, bombing hills or sucking each other's necks. Rob spits in the air and sends a spray over the entire band. The kids loved the terribly spelt Mispent Youth, but Cut Sick – essentially the same band but with Max on drums – are so much faster, tighter and debaucherous. They're touring a lot, doing the hard yards, playing skateparks and galleries and anywhere they can, and will continue getting better with each show.

I talk a bit to Rob after their set. We worked together over the summer at the Social Research Centre. As an aside, anyone wanting a quick 'in' to the Melbourne punk scene could do worse than apply to one of two call centres – Social Research Centre, wittily referred to as 'Social Retard Centre' by its employees, where Dan from Straightjacket Nation is a supervisor; or the mysteriously named Wallace, where vegan champion Lidia is a supervisor. Nearly everyone I know in the Melbourne scene has done a stint at one or the other, some unfortunate souls both. I want to ask Rob if he and Steve practice their rock stances in the mirror, but the conversation steers away and I don't get the chance.

Gorilla Angreb start up and immediately I'm more impressed by them than I was the previous night. After the same thing happened with Against Me, who played absolutely shit at the Corner on a Saturday night, but pretty much ruled at the Arthouse on a Monday, I'm beginning to think that the Arthouse, my sentimental attachments to it aside, is the best place in Melbourne to see bands. And what's more, two of the things that I usually hate about the Arty have all but disappeared: non-smoking laws have actually worked and I'm able to breathe inside; and the fucking idiots bringing the mosh at the front of the stage have been replaced by people actually dancing. For the former I have the state government to thank, but for the latter I have Gorilla Angreb, whose sheer enthusiasm infects us like a virus. The singer, whose excellent voice is complimented by her amazing dance moves, wraps the microphone cord around her wrists and punches the air in front of her, grinning like it's her birthday. The bassplayer, posture like a question mark, stares out across the top of the audience with bloodshot eyes, bass slung across his knees and shaven head glistening in the stagelights. Where everyone in the crowd is madly in love with the singer, everyone is a little bit intimidated by this guy. For the second night in a row I've found myself positioned directly in front of him and I swear I only saw him smile once. Their own brand of early 80s punk, infused with catchy riffs, singalongs and actual singing lends itself to dancing, but is scrappy and raw enough to maintain interest and keep our heads bopping.

I'm a bit intrigued by the crowd, to be honest, and not only because a bunch of them are attempting to sing along to lyrics that are entirely sung in Danish. As stated above, the usual Thrash Til Death style crust punk crash into each other crap that takes place at the Arty has been, despite Metal Mick's best efforts, replaced by dancing, and I'm going to speculate that this is in no small part due to the considerable number of girls up the front. This is an all too rare occurrence, and I can't help but wonder what exactly draws a majority of a particular gender to a particular show. Pisschrist, headlining the show tonight, have heaps of female fans, despite having no female members, whereas I only ever see a few girls at Straightjacket Nation shows, despite their female drummer. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this previously, and come to no conclusions whatsoever, and doubt that I'll come to any tonight. So I stop.

Outside, I stop to talk with TJ, Ross and Cori. We throw around restaurants that have puns in their names, quietly proud of our very own Lord of the Fries, but also impressed by Abra Kebabra. Ross suggests that we write to the Souvlaki King on Brunswick Street and tell them to change their name to "I Should Be Souvlaki", but I doubt that any of us have the conviction. The Gorilla Angreb folk come out to chat – Ross has come down the East Coast with them, and they all seem pretty nice, but I have a date with Cognac to Angoulême, and have to split. On the way home, riding close to a tram, sparks come flying off the wires like fireworks, showering me in points of light. At a red light on Swanston Street I skid to a stop and go straight into a trackstand, which I manage to hold for what seems like an entire minute. None of the latenight pedestrian traffic are impressed. And when I arrive home Cadel has ridden the timetrial of his life, but has not quite done enough. Second place for him, and an empty bed for me.

Christian hip hop at some church in Richmond; Shagnum, Brisk, Edge of Spirit, The Rivalry and Palm at the Arthouse, 01-06-07.

Lidia and I are hanging out in Hound Dog's Bop Shop, surrounded by the best selection of country, blues and early rock n roll records in Melbourne. An exgirlfriend calls me up and I hit the 'busy' button. Lidia, subtly prying, asks me what the deal is. I tell her I'm no longer on speaking terms with this particular former lover. "She done me wrong," I say. I look around at the records in the racks. It seems an appropriate response, and nothing more needs to be said. I buy a Sam Cooke CD and we go our separate ways.

It's a weird night. I'm keen on going out, but am a little sick, and more than a little directionless. So when Riley calls up and tells me to come to this hip hop show at 'the church', I decide to take him up on the offer. I like hip hop. I like it a lot. And I like exploring different scenes. It should be fine. Yeah.

But I should've been smarter. I'm going to blame my cold, keeping my nose running and my senses at an all time low. I meet up with Riley and we head into the Venue. It's huge, positively gigantic, rows upon rows of seats, rapidly filling with young, healthy looking people. There's a suspicious revival-meeting vibe. Some of my students from school are there. One of the oldest (and perhaps drunkest), Peter Brown, perceptive to the last, remarks that he never thought he'd see me at something like this. And he's right. Despite being stuck between Riley's devastatingly attractive younger sister and her equally blessed friend, I'm feeling horrifically out of place. When the two MCs on stage start talking about the 'thousands of people worldwide who have been persecuted for believing in Our Lord Jesus Christ', I figure it's time for me to leave.

Tara is still at home so I catch up with her and we ride to the Arthouse. She wants to be there by nine fifteen so we can catch Shagnum, and when we arrive, late and midway through their set, I can see why. These guys are fucking brilliant at what they do. Older blokes shredding through monster bar chords, sweating out all the crap they've accumulated through the working week. I think they've been around for a while, but I can't remember being this impressed by them before. It's been a long time since I've deliberately gone out with the intention of seeing metal bands, but if Shagnum are playing again, I'll be there. Probably.

In order to avoid having to think of further constructive criticism I go for coffee during Brisk's set. The moon is full, fat and round. Someone read me my stars earlier in the day and they were overwhelmingly positive. I don't usually place much stock in superstition, but these days my mood is a slippery proposition, and I'm taking compliments wherever I can find them. I join the line for lattes at Koko Black. While I'm waiting the Crow calls up. He's at some place called the Kitty Club. I have no idea of what that is, and it doesn't sound very good, but given I'm still in this strangely gregarious mood, I consider catching him up after the show is done. My coffee comes and I make my way back to the Arty.

I've failed in my main intention, though – when I return Brisk are still playing. They are better than they were at the Espy the other night, but then again, everyone is better than when they play at the Espy. There are still, however, a handful of things I don't particularly like about them, despite Tara's protestations. The keyboards, again, are superfluous, intrusive and annoying, often destroying relatively awesome riffs with cheesy eighties synth sounds. They've listened to too much prog rock – a common ailment in this Floyd-friendly era (as a digression, apparently all the guests at Epitaph boss Brett Gurewitz's house are asked to play a game I like to think of as "Rock Star Assassination", which goes like this: if you could choose one band or individual from the whole history of music to eliminate – in terms of both their recorded output and their influence on other musicians – who would it be? Apparently Tom Waits said 'Pink Floyd', which makes me love Tom Waits even more. I'd also be tempted to take out Bob Marley, but for his influence on the Fugees). And there's the matter of Pete's voice. It's lower down in the mix tonight – Ben from My Disco is behind the desk, so the sound is pretty damn good – but it's still abrasive at some points, flat and lifeless at others. When he really lets rip with a scream it sounds alright, but given his generally unenthusiastic demeanour, this is a rare occurrence. The guitarists and bassplayer are actually pretty good, but are, again, overshadowed by the voice and keys. They play their last song and I head up the back to chat to some friend of Tara's.

Edge of Spirit are up next. Apparently they are on some major label in Japan, and are used to playing shows to thousands of people at a time. It shows, but seems to work for them. The singer looks like a nightclub bouncer, shaved head and surly expression, but between screams he smiles like he's having the time of his life. It's a recurring theme throughout the night. It's been a long time since I've been to a show where the people in the bands have looked just so damn stoked to be there. In broken English they ask us if we are ready to rock. It seems we are. The crowd is full of nodding heads and fists in the air. I'm not big on metallic hardcore, but the sheer joy is infectious, and my fists are numbered amongst them.

Tara has been raving about The Rivalry for ages now, but given her wholesale endorsement of Brisk I'm sceptical to say the least. A bunch of the Broken Glass Online crew are here, flat caps and Bape Squad hoodies in effect. But Lizzie follows me up the front and we chat before the band starts. She's psyched to be seeing them, and I get a little caught up in her excitement. And when they start I'm not disappointed. There seem to be a lot of people on stage – two vocalists and two guitarists, plus the rhythm section, makes the small Arthouse stage seem tiny. Perhaps considering the same logistical problems, one of the vocalists spends most of the show singing from the crowd. Again, I'm not hugely into the style of metallic hardcore – and songs they announce as 'old ones' are considerably better than the 'new stuff' – but I'm always impressed by bands that finish with onstage pile-ons. Including members of the band. While still playing their guitars.

While Palm are setting up the Crow texts me, wanting to know where I am. He's interested in coming out. I'm not quite sure how to deal with it. I mean, I like hanging out with the Crow, but I know for certain that after a night at the Kitty Club (which apparently is in Little Collins), a hardcore show at the Arthouse won't exactly be his scene. I'm left attempting to deal with the age old dilemma – how to reconcile our punk friends with our non-punk friends. Some kids from the scene seem to deal with this by simply not having non-punk friends at all, but I'm not really prepared to be quite that narrow minded. Others keep the two worlds strictly separate, but sometimes I think the twain should meet. Perhaps 1am on a Friday night isn't quite the right time for it, however. So I'm honest with him – I tell him the address, but warn him that he won't be into the situation there at all. He's not offended, apparently, but I know I'm going to have to reassure him when I see him at work on Monday.

Lizzie and I keep talking about Palm for ages after they finish. We talk about how, instead of stagediving, the singer simply collapses into the crowd, how the bassplayer, doing a weird little squatting dance, looks at individual people in the audience and just beams at them. How the singer has crushed the microphone into his forehead, drawing blood, which trickles into his eye and down onto his cheek. He doesn't wipe it. I'm into blood on stage lately. Izzy from Robotosaurus sent me a message earlier in the week asking what I look for in a local band, and I gave him some longwinded answer about desperation, intensity and commitment, but really, I think it comes down to breaking the skin. I feel a bit weird referring to them as metallic hardcore – their sound owes a lot more to Black Sabbath than it does Black Flag, but hey, I grew up with OZZY written across my knuckles, so I'm okay with that. Palm are fucking brilliant. And Tara and I, risking life at the hands of taxi drivers once again, bike home in the bitter cold, on the first day of winter, raving about them.

A Death In The Family, The Nation Blue, Brisk, Coue Method, Identity Theft, Lead Sketch Union and a bunch of other bands I either missed or can't remember at the Espy, 26-05-07.

Tom and Tara and I are tired. We sit around the living room considering staying in and watching American Dad on dvd. The Espy, even though it's only really ten minutes down the road, seems further and further away with each passing moment. But the appearance of both Coue Method and Identity Theft has left us speculating about a secret Mid Youth Crisis set, and besides, The Nation Blue are playing. We drag ourselves off the couch and get on our bikes.

Later in the night Kieran, who I have just moments ago foolishly introduced to his former housemate Jen Jen, outlines the four major problems with the Espy:

It's in St Kilda.

It's the kind of place that would appear in a Lonely Planet guide to Melbourne nightlife.

People go there 'to go out', not to necessarily see the bands that are playing, and

It's in St Kilda.

When we enter all four of these problems are immediately evident. Some terrible band are playing in the front bar, so we wander into the Gershwin to see Identity Theft. The guys from Luca Brasi are there, including the bassplayer, who I yelled at a couple of weeks ago when he threw a lit cigarette butt that nearly hit Tom. I'm overpolite to him and he smiles at me nervously. I'm more impressed by Nathaniel, whom I meet at the bar, and his efforts at sneaking into yet another licensed venue at the age of sixteen. "Kitchen steps," he tells me, "always a winner."

Identity Theft start up and I'm surprised at just how metal they sound. Chris – who I think used to be in Silpheed, is shredding guitar solos all over the place, and Big Jay supplements his thudding drum thunder with screams and growls. Weirdly, though, it's underpinned by this melodic hardcore sound, and it doesn't really come together the way that it should. They've been around for ages, are excellent musicians, and have really impressive amplifiers, but I'm too confused to be into it.

Lead Sketch Union are playing in the front bar and Nathaniel and I go check it out. I bump into Kieran and Jen Jen there, as well as Jen's longtime boyfriend, whom I've never met, but whom I'm sure hates me. He's pleasant enough, though – a pretty decent guy. I'm disturbed that I don't know him already; after all, he's straight edge and into bikes and tattoos, and there aren't too many of us around who fit that description. Resolving to go see more edge bands, I turn to Lead Sketch Union, before turning quickly away.

It's at this point that I realise what a nineties-revival evening this is. The bands playing tonight consist of people who I've been seeing play in bands since 1995 or people who so obviously attended the same shows I did during those halcyon days. I'm kinda torn and a little bit disturbed about this. I mean, I love the nineties, and I love nineties music, but really, I'm not sure how I feel about people making nineties music so far into the new millennium.

Pushing on, Kieran and I wander back into the Gershwin to see Brisk. Now, I've met the singer from Brisk a couple of times – he's quite good friends with Tara – and he seems like a pretty nice guy. But tonight he doesn't really seem all that interested. He pretty much just stands in the middle of the stage and screams without enthusiasm. The rest of the band are ok, but it's difficult to take any notice of what they're doing, because, well, the vocals kinda overwhelm everything. And really, a moustache doesn't help. I suggest to Kieran that the ironic moustache is the new trucker cap and he concurs. We go outside for coffee and talk shit until we realise that Coue Method are playing.

Steve from Mid Youth Crisis sings in Coue Method, which is definitely a good thing. His voice sounds exactly the same, and his songwriting hasn't slipped. Kieran tells me that he has a folk thing going on with Adrian from Mid Youth and some mandolin player, and to be honest, I'm more into the idea of that than Coue themselves. Despite having a difficult to pronounce name, they're ok, but pale into comparison with the band they will constantly be compared to. Sucks for them.

I'm typing this quite a while after the fact, so the details are starting to slip away. Somewhere along the line we end up in the Gershwin room again for The Nation Blue. And then they're playing, throwing their bodies around and beating their instruments into submission. Perhaps they don't like the Espy either, because tonight they seem unhappy. Tom Lyngcoln kicks their drinks rider – a plastic blue tub full of ice and beer - towards the punters up the front. They take the cold cans of Carlton Draught and drink up. The drummer is pelted with unmelted ice. Now that the initial shock of their onstage histrionics have worn off I can appreciate more the emotion they're exerting. I'd seen Lyngcoln drinking at the bar earlier, his flannelette shirt halftucked into his jeans, looking like a lost farmer. But now he's onstage shredding his vocal chords, mumbling barely-formed sentences into the mic between songs, and swinging his guitar around his neck with nary a thought to personal safety. I forget to pay attention for a little while, distracted by some aesthetically pleasing locals, and before I know it the set has ended. The crowd cries out for more, but Lyngcoln suggests that instead we "Go see A Death In The Family slay us all".

So we do. Tara and I are nearly falling asleep on our feet, but we manage to climb the front bar stairs for a decent vantage point. A Death… are good, even better now that Jamie Hay is playing guitar for them. I start to think about Sarah, the girl he replaced, and then it strikes me: with ten bands on the bill tonight, I have not seen a single female on stage. Not one. Tara suggests we cut out early, not in the slightest interested in seeing the appallingly named "These Hands Could Separate The Sky". We look around for Tom. He's up the front, standing at Jamie's feet. I go grab him and we're on our way. It's cold, but the wind is at our backs.

The Nation Blue at the Tote, 24-04-07

The Tote is crowded, absolutely fucking packed. People have spilled out from the bandroom to the public bar, making it difficult to get through the front door. I squeeze and lurch and edge my way through the room, conscious of my oversized backpack smacking short people in the head. The Nation Blue got a heap of press when their new album came out a month or so ago, and it has probably been receiving a fair bit of Triple J airplay ever since, but I had kinda hoped that the buzz would've died down a little by now. It hasn't, and my first piece of advice to The Nation Blue is this: start booking bigger venues. After two sold out shows in a row you should have learnt your lesson.

I'm hopped up on coffee, being a little bit silly, talking to people I don't know and making poor jokes. It's a weird crowd – some hardcore kids, some hipsters, some randoms in surfwear and torn jeans. Jen Jen is there and watches me talking to two young girls. She accuses me of having sketchy body language and ignoble intentions, but when she realises I'm standing the exactly the same way when I'm talking to her, she shuts the hell up. She arrived too late and doesn't have a stamp, so when King Brothers end I leave her in the public bar and head in to catch The Nation Blue.

Midway through the set singer Tom Lyngcoln brings his guitar to his face and crushes the strings into his forehead. His fingers are still working the chords and the feedback keeps coming, but when he drops it back down to his hips there are three neat lines of blood scratched into his brow. Between the pickups there are red smudges of DNA. But really, it was only a matter of time before things got messy. Earlier in the week I read an interview with the band in Unbelievably Bad zine, in which Lyngcoln claimed that his foremost concern in music was recapturing the sounds coming from Tasmania in 1992. This couldn't have excited me more – Mouth and The Little Ugly Girls were always some of my local favourites when they ventured across Bass Strait – but it was a particularly brutal time to be in a band. Blood was expected, debauchery demanded. And the way Lyngcoln is throwing his guitar around it seems he intends to deliver.

I'd been listening to the aforementioned new record all week, and was pretty psyched about seeing them, but had wondered how they would recreate the huge sound they generate on the record in a live setting. But somehow it works – I'm standing right next to the PA and the songs belt me like a bag of bricks. Bassplayer and co-vocalist Matt Weston is standing spreadlegged in front of me, hunching over a low set microphone to deliver his lyrics and screams. In any other band he'd be the lead singer, but his and Lyngcoln's vocals are similar and compliment each other well. Drummer Dan McKay, looking like a bogan from a country pub-rock cover band, doesn't flail around, but strikes the drums with brutal efficiency, jabbing hard like a boxer. They're tight from years of playing together, are stopping and starting on a dime, nodding signals to each other between crashing into the walls and falling into the crowd.

While I'm watching them I'm trying to figure out exactly how to describe their sound – the guitar and bass tones remind me of melodic hardcore, the song structure reminds me of post-punk, the vocals of Triple J friendly alterna-rock – but after the set, when Beard Matt suggests that the way Lyngcoln moves around the stage is 'Kurt-Chic', it all falls into place. This is grunge. Not watered down, Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Mother Love Bone and Soundgarden grunge, but grunge when it still knew that it was a direct descendent of hardcore, grunge that is self-aware but not self-indulgent, melodic and tuneful but not weak and glossy. They don't say much during the set, don't play an encore, walk straight off into the crowd and disappear into the sea of flannelette shirts and shoulderlength hair.

I walk outside into the cold, still fuelled by caffeine, ears ringing like bells. There is a bunch of kids there and I'm trying to build enthusiasm for some post-show, public-holiday-tomorrow dancing, but no one is up for it. Walking by, Brendan Hitchens asks me if I'm going to write about the show in my blog. We chat for a while before he's distracted by someone who he introduces me to as 'the guy who wrote about Wolfman Jack'. It seems that reviews of bad bands are always going to be more popular than reviews that say nice things. Perhaps I should have made it to this show earlier and caught Young And The Restless.

Gillian Welch – I Dream A Highway.

A while ago, in a fit of late-onset adolescent angst that has embarrassingly been immortalised in print, I wrote that the song that best epitomises this life was "Other People's Lives" by Modest Mouse. "They just don't seem to understand," I wrote, "That this narrative free droning is a hell of a lot like this life; always building up to something without ever actually doing so, patterns constantly in repetition, minor variations on the theme and voices incomprehensibly shouting disjointed and meaningless sentences across the noise."

Now that I'm older, and perhaps slightly less angsty, I'm inclined to suggest that another twelve minute epic, Gillian Welch's "I Dream A Highway" is the song that best captures the essence of existence. Like "Other People's Lives" there are patterns repeating, themes that emerge and re-emerge, intertwining with other threads from other directions. Yet unlike the Modest Mouse song, which considers us outsiders, watching as our own lives unfold before us, "I Dream A Highway" reminds us that we are not standing alone. Citing freely from the history of country music, Welch places us – our misguided meanderings, our long drives late at night to destinations we are unsure of, our confusion and our trouble and our pain – on a continuum that includes us in both our future and our past. Johnny Cash kicking out the footlights at the Grand Ole Opry, Poor Lazarus stepping into the light, Emmylou Harris dueting with Gram Parsons – Welch knows that these myths are part of the texture of who we are, give us a sense of identity as much as those we create ourselves. Driving from Canberra to Sydney, leaving at 1am, fuelled by shitty truckstop coffee, everyone else in the car asleep. The moon is full in the rearview mirror, the stars clear pinpricks of light ahead. As we drive on the road gets blurry, dreamlike. I'm texting anyone who is awake, trying to keep myself from drifting off. All the mistakes I've made, all the lessons I've failed to learn are coming back to haunt me – 3am being the natural enemy of those who can't come to terms with their regrets – but when I disregard danger in order to listen to "I Dream A Highway" on my ipod, I'm reminded that I'm not the first to fuck up, and I won't be the last. And more than that, she reassures me that at some point in the future I'll find the right direction, will find a road that leads, eventually, to something like redemption. We arrive in Newtown at 4am, falling out of the car and into our temporary beds, alive and bewildered and whispering our stories to each other as sleep finally comes.

True Radical Miracle at Pony, early 21-04-07

Ok, I won't bullshit you here. I know these kids. In fact, I reckon I've known the bassplayer since I was about 14. He claims to this day that I intimidated him into giving me his lunch money. It seems only right, then, that play a part in creating such a punishing noise. The bullied becomes the bully, as they say.

I somehow manage to stay up until 2am to catch True Radical Miracle. As I walk into the Pony some drunk fuckheads try to charge me fifteen bucks to get in. It's the 2am Pony lateslot; it's been free as long as I've been going there, but I'm not at my best at 2am and they momentarily disorient me. I text Leith Thomas (the aforementioned bassplayer) to ask what's up, but eventually the fuckheads relent and usher me through the door. Where I'm reminded of all the reasons I fucking hate Pony.

There's a lot of good reasons to hate a venue – size, sound, location – but at Pony these are all perfect. No, my hatred for Pony is more about the clientele, and the late hour only serves to exacerbate this. Hipsters smoking cigarettes, a lot of coke done in the toilets, random kids posing on the couches out the back. It doesn't make for a pleasant evening. But then this makes me think about hipsters a bit. Leith once suggested that the annoying thing about cyclists wasn't that they take up space on the road or that they wear too much lycra, but rather that they hate all other cyclists. I don't think this is necessarily true – I stopped and chatted to another cyclist for about fifteen minutes today – but I think the theory can be applied to hipsters. When crusty punks see other crusty punks, they go get drunk together. When fifteen year old emos see other fifteen year old emos, they're best friend by default. But when hipsters see other hipsters, they spend the next hour bitching about how many hipsters are around these days.

I talk to Leith and drummer Evelyn Morris for a bit before they go on stage. Ev seems slightly nervous. They practiced once, she tells me, but it's generally a long time between shows and they're a band notorious for having onstage mini-catastrophes (once, in Adelaide, I saw Evelyn break her kick or something. The band all immediately downed their instruments and headed, as a unit, to the bar, where they started ordering rounds of shots until the problem was solved). But once they get up on stage things seem to be going well. They've slowed a bunch of songs down, stretching out the grunge sound that was once hidden behind a wall of noise. Indeed, I find myself not recognising a bunch of their songs, even though I've seen them a handful of times now. Singer Mark "Grover" Groves is shouting, ranting rather than screaming, and his frequent use of the echo pedal betrays a latent love of all things dub. It strikes me at the time that it's perfect music for those of us still out at 2am – a little sleazy, a little obnoxious, good to grind your hips and sneer your lips to, and occasionally breaking out into bludgeoning bursts of violence. Grover throws the mic against the floor again and again, despising it, wrapping it into his fist and thrusting it into to the sky like a preacher. Leith seems to be punching his bass where Scotty O'Hara picks out rhythms on a guitar held together with gaffer tape. But tonight it's Evelyn who astounds me – having seen her indie/folk/pop alterego Pikelet a couple of times now, I've forgotten how hard she hits the drums, how sharp and well-timed her fills are, how all those years listening to math rock have paid off with interest. They're pulling it off, no disasters, and the crowd are into it. Kids are dancing up the front, Grover is making jokes, and everyone is having a good time.

Midway through the show I notice Petie Hyde standing over the other side of the stage. Ali McCann is here somewhere too, and I noticed Angela Dufty's bike outside, which means there are five Stawell kids here tonight. Pete looks tired. After the show I invite him to breakfast the next day, but he tells me he'll still be asleep by the time eleven rolls around. Talking to him reminds me how tired I am. I don't even bother to say goodbye to everyone. It's now three. I get on my bike and ride home. Alicia "Fewlz" Saye is asleep on my couch when I get there, so I have to be quiet.

Essendon v Carlton at the MCG, 14-04-07, and Fear Like Us, Like… Alaska and Wolfman Jack at Deago Studios, 15-04-07

I'm mostly including this here in order to share with the world my much-propounded theory about anarcho-syndicalism and the Essendon Football Club. It goes like this: Essendon formed around the turn of the century, when anarchism in general was a political ideology with some considerable clout. Indeed, around that time anarchists were known for assassinations in both Russia and the United States, and also for a number of bombings – which, of course, leads me to my next point – that Essendon is known as the Bombers. Essendon as a suburb was, before it gentrified and became 'the Toorak of the North', predominantly working-class Protestant, and was known for militant union activity. And, finally, there are the colours - anarcho-syndicalists too fly the red and black flag, symbolising their unique mix of anarchism through communism (in some circles anarcho-syndicalists are known as libertarian communists, and the labels chosen generally indicate which background you hail from. Communists fly the red flag, anarchists the black). When the moronic Essendon mascot – a giant red mosquito decked out in pilot attire - comes around to our section of the ground I consider asking him about it, but decide against it. It is too early in the day to get bashed.

My little brother Steve and I rock up early to get a decent seat in the general admission section. We are way too disorganised to have bought tickets on the internet beforehand. We're both a little dishevelled. Steve smells like beer and I'm still wearing the clothes I wore the night before. We talk, read the footy record, buy dramatically overpriced bottles of water. Eventually the teams run out.

Essendon is on fire through the first quarter, but by the end of the second term appear to have lost their breath. Brendan Fevola, sloppy earlier in the day, has found his feet and kicked two quick goals. "If we hold him to five or less," I say to Steve, "we'll win the day." At the final siren he has kicked eight and Carlton has pulled off the fifteenth greatest comeback of all time, making up a fortyeight point deficit to take the game by three points. We're not too upset though. We've seen a decent game, and – more surprisingly – I have not heard a single person shout a single homophobic insult. The kid next to Steve did refer to James Hird as a 'poofter', but given that said kid was wearing a headband and danced around like he was at one of the clubs on Commercial Road every time Carlton scored, I think he meant it more in terms of wishful thinking. I couldn't believe it. When Steve told me that his girlfriend's last words to him as he left in the morning were "don't get in a fight," we both knew what she meant. Don't let Brendan say anything. Don't let him start yelling at rednecks twice the size of him. And as it was, I didn't have to. I think this made all of us happy.

On the tram back into the city – after a brief detour to the Bridge Road Macro to score some free end-of-day juice – Steve and I discuss Nicky Winmar's famous protest against racist supporters, ostensibly the tipping point when it came to fighting racism at football games. We try to come up with a queer equivalent to pulling up your jumper and pointing to your skin. Eventually we realise that two things need to happen. 1) Two players on the one team need to come out. With only ten percent of the population identifying as strictly heterosexual (according to Kinsey, that old perv), the odds are pretty good that there are gay players – and more than one per team. They need to come out, and then 2) Make out with each other in front the most vociferous section of the crowd. Now that would make the football worth going to every week. If Essendon again led the way, like they did with indigenous players, I might even consider buying a membership.

So yeah, I went to Spoon that night to see Fear Like Us and Like… Alaska and Sarah (Christ, what was her last name? She was really good and I can't remember. Damn, I suck at this. Should take notes.), but really, despite the good lineup, the whole night was kinda shit – bad sound, bad weather, bad moods – so I'm not going to write about it here. Instead I'm going to skip ahead to Sunday night, when the weather is fine and the early start most accommodating for those of us due back at school the next day. I rock up and see my housemate Tara Jayne on the door. The band in the background are crashing through a trashy pop-folk-punk variety of music that I'm not entirely hating. I ask TJ who they are and she points to the name Wolfman Jack on flyer in front of her. Disbelieving her, I ask again. She looks equally surprised, saying, "I know! They're so much better with a full band!" And she's right. What were annoyingly earnest vocals are being stretched to the limit to contend with the increase in volume, and have lost pretty much all that was irritating about them. Bashing away at electric guitars is much more effective than doing the same with an acoustic, and they come off sounding like a cross between Eternal Cowboy-era Against Me! and This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb. They're still gratingly wacky in moments, perhaps revealing their roots as a ska band, but tonight these moments largely disappear among the sweat and the effort. Later Nathaniel had mentions that he overheard them talking about my last blog, and apparently they were considering dedicating a song to me. I wish they had've. In a year or two they could be an awesome band, and I could've totally told everyone I got in on the ground floor.

First of all, Like… Alaska have stupid punctuation. Cori Burford once suggested to me that ellipses should be banned altogether, and I disagreed, but it's shenanigans like this that make me see her point. I blame Against Me!, but then again, I blame them for a lot of things these days. And really, as a band, L…A are kinda patchy. There are moments of downright perfection, but there are also moments where it kinda seems like overwrought angsty boy-rock. When the bassplayer (hereafter known as 'Rina's little sister') takes an acoustic guitar and the lead vocal for a song, Jacqui Hynes and I look at each other with the 'hell yeah' expression. When Erle Pavlis walks in he declares that it's fucking awesome to see a drummer who can actually drum, but he's understating it – she hits hard and her fills are perfectly timed. The lapsteel, however, occasionally veers into the experimental, and the keyboard player – though excellent at what she does – seems at times superfluous, at times even intrusive. Afterwards I don't remember hearing either of the male vocalists sing at all, but damn, the minute Rina's little sister opens her mouth, I'm all ears.

Simultaneous local heroes and visiting Novocastrians Fear Like Us are up next, and things are not going well from the word go. Bab's bass amp is making fucked up crackling noises and no matter of lead changes or additions of gaffer tape seem to be having any effect. Eventually he gives up and sits on the side of the stage, singing along and clapping with Georgia Rose. His loss, however, doesn't fuck the show up at all – after a few shows with just Jamie and Kim, they know how to fill in the sound. Joel is smirking from behind the drumkit, his three month old moustache barely registering as bumfluff in the dim light. When he first joined the band last year I wasn't hugely impressed – he was always an awesome drummer, but they hadn't quite figured out how to make the drums fit. But in the last few shows it has all come together, and tonight the drums drive the songs as much as the guitars do. After the first couple of songs the kids start calling out for them to play Against Me!'s 'Pints of Guinness Make You Strong', and eventually, after Babs has called it a night, Jamie acquiesces. It's a bit rowdier this time around, with the whole crowd singing and Jamie strumming the strings instead of quietly plucking at the minor chords. Kim sings backing vocals to 'Streets of Mexico' and gets spit all over Tara, thanking her for putting on the show in the next break between songs. They finish with 'The Bitter Cold' and start packing up their stuff, but no one really wants to leave. The kids who own the place start frying up sausages in the kitchen out the back. Someone puts Wu-Tang on the PA and Jimmy Clarke starts rocking out where the stage was. Georgia takes photos of us mucking around, posing for the camera and looking stupid. We dribble away, separate in clumps, rugged up against the first touches of Melbourne winter.

Jamie and Kim from Fear Like Us, Wolfman Jack, and a bunch of random teenagers at Spoon Café, 29-03-07.

I get a fucking puncture on the way to Spoon, so I'm not in the best mood when I arrive. Figuring I'll change it after the show, I lock up my bike across the road and start walking over, worried that maybe the show had started early and Jamie and Kim have gone on already. Hobbledehoy Tom and his friend Fjorn nod hello from their spot in the doorway. I make it halfway across the road before realising that Jamie and Kim are not playing, and instead the makeshift Spoon 'stage' is being occupied by some random kids who are fucking awful. I turn back to my bike.

A few minutes later they are still playing. I decide to walk in. Georgia Rose is sitting up the front. "These are teenage runaways from Tasmania," she tells me, nodding her head at the band. The thought occurs to me that maybe they should have stayed at home and let their parents pay for a few more guitar lessons. I head up the back to the bar. Natalie Ann is tending, and she shouts me a ginger beer. The kids are singing about asking some girl to go down on them. I drink the ginger beer. Another kid gets up from the audience and grabs a guitar. "This song is called fuck the cops," he tells us. For the second time that evening I walk out.

Nat follows me and we sit across from the café a while. We chat and I take care of the puncture. Jerim comes out and tells us that we have to come back in so we can see the band he 'manages', Wolfman Jack. Nat attempts to play punk policewoman and pull him up on it, but she's tired after a day at school and her heart isn't in it. We wander back in, finding a seat way, way down the back. She makes some peppermint tea and draws on her legs with permanent marker.

Wolfman Jack come on and – despite me being a big fan of Plan-It-X records and acoustic punk in general - it's difficult for me to find anything to like about them. The main singer seems to be inflated by his own self-importance, which he lets out in bellows that echo across the small space. His voice isn't great, which I'm okay with, but he seems to think he can make up for it by yelling louder, which I'm not okay with. They also seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that hitting the strings harder is some kind of substitute for passion. They seem to be attempting to develop a Plan-It-X style quirkiness, but instead come off like VCE drama students. Still, when they hit a ska breakdown Nat and I get to reminisce about skanking, so maybe they do have some redeeming qualities. After their last song Jerim asks me what I think. I tell him they were alright, and don't go into detail.

Jamie and Kim start setting up and Nat and I move up the front. Most of the kids who filled the café earlier in the evening have disappeared – obviously part of the Wolfperson entourage. When Jamie introduces himself and Kim (as 'the Melbourne half of Fear Like Us', prompting calls of 'the better half!', which I'm sure Babs and Joel will be happy to hear) the kids filter back in. This proves to be an important factor, as it almost derails the show altogether. They talk loudly amongst themselves throughout the set – at one point forcing me to pull out my teacher voice and tell them to shut up. They don't seem to understand that the spotlight can possibly shine on someone else, and do whatever they can to bring it back to themselves. The kids are, to sum up, annoying as all fuck.

But goddamn, Jamie and Kim, sitting on milkcrates as if they're sitting on the street, reel that shit in. Eventually even the kids shut up and sit there, transfixed. Years spent in hardcore and screamo bands mean that Jamie knows his shit, knows how to construct a song, knows how and more importantly when to build tension and when to release it. His voice seems a little weathered tonight, and cracks occasionally, but somehow that adds to the overall feel. He's tired, Kim looks tired, we're all tired. Nat has put her head in my lap and is trying valiantly to stay awake. Jamie pulls out a banjo and introduces a new song, 'Hunger Pains'. Halfway through he takes a break and does some old-timey bluegrass fingerpicking. It fucking rules; the place bursts out into spontaneous applause. He keeps the banjo out – weathering jokes about Deliverance – and plays a reworked old song, 'When We Close Our Eyes'. Georgia looks happy – she has the chorus tattooed on her ribs. But when Jamie takes the stage solo and tiptoes into a stripped back version of Against Me!'s 'Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong' the whole place is in awe. I feel like my fucking heart is about to break. It's all minor chords and softly softly picking and vocals that are sometimes a whisper. I look around me. I'm at Spoon most weeks. My friends work there, run the place, eat there, put on shows there. I've cried in the toilets, flirted over boardgames, being hugged, been ignored. This is my community, and Jamie Hay has just given it a soundtrack. He returns to the guitar and Kim joins him for a few more numbers. At times Kim seems to be Jamie's foil – serious, shy and unassuming where Jamie is gregarious and outgoing – but tonight he's funny and warm, letting more of himself shine through. They finish with 'Music and Movement' and the room is quiet. It takes a few more moments for us to return to life.

We sit around a while longer. Nat goes home and I talk with Fjorn. She and Tom are allegedly going to stay out all night, but he has been momentarily distracted by his gigantic crush on Jamie, so is ignoring her in order to talk to him. We play marbles with glass balls from a vase and climb all over the furniture, but eventually I too get up to leave. Jamie is leaving at the same time and we talk briefly about bluegrass. He put me onto Old Crow Medicine Show a few weeks back, so I know he has decent taste in country music, but we get sidetracked and end up talking about something completely different. Eventually he heads off to catch the tram and I get back on my bike. A tailwind pushes me all the way home.