Tuesday, October 2, 2007

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.

No comments: