FBi Radio’s “Out of the Box” – October 22, 2015

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In October of 2015, I was asked to be a guest on Out of the Box, a one-hour lunchtime program every Thursday on Sydney community station FBi Radio. The premise of the show, which was hosted at the time by the absolutely delightful Ash Berdebes, is to look at a person’s life through the music that they love; with the guest programming eight songs that mean something to them. I was honoured to be asked on the show – which has also featured really cool guests like Paul MacThe Umbilical BrothersÓlafur Arnalds and Evelyn Morris aka Pikelet – but I was fretting quite a bit over what to choose. I think I put together a fairly solid and diverse list; all songs that meant something huge to me at different parts of my life.

Here are the songs I chose. You can also listen to the entire hour, which features a pretty honest chat with yours truly, by streaming it through FBi’s Radio On Demand by clicking here.

A huge thank you to Ash for asking me on and for her producer, Rachel, for doing a great job. I worship this station, and couldn’t believe my luck that I got to be involved with a show.

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Sesame Street – Imagine That

I picked this song for two reasons. The first is that it is the first song I remember truly loving and knowing all of the words to. I would have been three, maybe four when I first heard it. I was fascinated by all of the music on Sesame Street – Jim Henson would go on to become one of the biggest parts of my upbringing, through both Sesame Street and the Muppets. I think the reason that this song stuck out to me was that it was about using your imagination but also remembering that being you is the best because no-one else can be exactly like you. Ernie sings it, and I’ve always loved Ernie almost entirely because of this song. There’s also “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon,” which also clocked me square in the feels. I forgot about this song for a few years and then rediscovered it. The day that I did I cried and cried and cried. It all came flooding back to me. I also picked this song because I knew for a fact that it would have never been played on FBi before.

The Cruel Sea – Takin’ All Day

The Cruel Sea were the first band I ever saw live. I bought Over Easy when I was eight years old because I liked the cover. I later saw this video on rage and felt very grown-up for liking an “adult” band playing bluesy rock music. I wanted to play drums, so I wrote to Jim Elliott, the band’s drummer, via their PO box. He wrote back and we stayed in touch for many years. In 2002, they announced a show in St. George’s Basin. My dad took me – even though it was an over-18s gig – and I got to meet Jim and had a poster signed by the entire band which is still on my wall to this day. James Cruickshank recently passed away, and I know a lot of people are rediscovering The Cruel Sea – I hope this helps.

The Forest – The Bear

Flash forward to 2008. I’m in my final year of high school and a lot is going on – I’ve discovered that I have Asperger’s, having been diagnosed as a child but never told; I’ve ostensibly come out as bisexual at a Catholic high school and I’m angry, confused, lonely and trying to find sense in what’s happening in my life. Around this time, I see a band play at a local community hall called The Forest. They’re a “skramz” (emo/post-hardcore/indie) band from rural Queensland. Although they identify as Christian and I was quite outspoken against Christianity (high school rebel!), their music was so intense and passionate that it got through to me. As long as I treated the imagery as just that, we had an understanding.

I bought their self-titled, homemade EP that night. Every day before my final HSC exams, I would play it as loudly as I possibly could – somedays I’d even scream along if I was walking by myself. Javed, the band’s lead singer, works in video games now and lives in Sydney with his wife and his beautiful daughter. He may be done with this band, but I’ll forever be grateful to him for that EP and getting me through that time in my life.

Parades – Hunters

I loved Parades. More than I’ve loved a lot of bands. To this day, I have no idea why they put up with me – I was probably so annoying and so clingy. Still, they became friends – really good friends. People I trusted and cared about and wanted to hang out with. foreign tapes was another album that got me through a lot – a major break-up, more struggles with anxiety, the utter loneliness of my uni degree. The hours of travel I undertook to see these guys play – eight times in total before they split – was always made worth it.

I picked this song from the album because I once screamed the “SO IT GOES ON ENDLESSLY” part so loud I started crying. In the front row. These two other guys thought I was crazy. I lost myself in the moment. Parades allowed me to do that. I wish they were still around.

Lemuria – Mechanical

2012 features the worst thing that has ever happened to me – the untimely and accidental death of my mother to a one-person car crash in April – as well as the best week of my entire life – going to one major international gig a day from Monday November 12 to Sunday November 18; seeing Radiohead, Refused, Beck, Silversun Pickups in Adelaide, Ben Folds Five in Adelaide, Harvest in Sydney and Coldplay. The soundtrack to both of these parts of my life was the album Get Better by Lemuria. I discovered the band through a random blog some years before but had never properly given them a listen until one of their songs came on shuffle not long after my mother’s passing. It helped me through and was there for me whenever I needed it – there were weeks where it was all that I listened to. It made me feel like there were others out there that were just as lost and confused as I was.

Getting to meet Lemuria when the came to Australia in 2014 was such a huge thing for me. Nearly broke down telling them what their music meant to me. One of the highlights of my life was getting to sing “Lipstick” from Get Better with the band at Black Wire Records. I chose the last song from the album because of all the times I have screamed along the “SHUT UP” refrain until I literally couldn’t anymore; as well as it being a highlight of their show at Hermann’s Bar – surrounded by friends singing along so loudly that Sheena, the band’s singer, gave up singing into the mic and just let us carry it.

mowgli – Slowburn

Cameron Smith, Curtis Smith, Dave Muratore, Eleanor Shepherd and Jay Borchard have all been friends of mine for quite awhile. Eleanor, the bass player, I’ve known since we were in primary school. I met Cameron in 2008, watching his old band Epitomes play every other weekend. Dave was brought in as the lead guitarist for a band I was playing with at the end of 2009; a few months after meeting Jay for the first time at a La Dispute show – which is, ironically enough, the same situation in which I met Curtis, Cameron’s brother, in 2011 to complete the set.

I bring up the fact that I am friends with all of them – even though Curtis is no longer in the band – purely because I want to state that the fact I think mowgli are one of the best bands this country has produced in the 21st century is not because they are my mates. It’s because their music speaks to me on the same way that The Forest did all those years ago – they capture my rage and my passion and my disconnect from the world around me. I have seen mowgli play live over twenty times, and each time I am utterly blown away by their talents. This was my favourite song of 2013 by a considerable margin – I still rank it as one of my all-time favourite songs. I think everything about it is perfect.

The Smith Street Band – Belly of Your Bedroom

This was included as a shout-out to Poison City Records, the Poison City Weekender and the remarkable friends that I have made through both. I was almost intimidated by the scale of the Weekender at first – I arrived at my first at the age of 21, incredibly anxious, nervous, excited, overjoyed and overwhelmed. I’ve since felt immediately at home there – I almost feel like part of the furniture. The Weekender is a time when I am connected with friends from all over – some that I see every week, some that I only get to see for that weekend. Once all the shows and the side-tours surrounding it are done, it feels like the end of camp to me.

I have made so many great mates through the community that Poison City has created – the fact they have made the queer, anxious yeti (as I sometimes call myself) feel so welcome and so loved speaks volumes about the environment of it. At the centre of the Poison City universe is The Smith Street Band – I chose my favourite song of theirs, which ostensibly deals with being the weaker part of a relationship (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt) and features the vocals of another dear friend, Lucy Wilson.

Georgia Maq – Footscray Station

Since 2009, I have played solo under the name Nothing Rhymes with David. I’ve been lucky enough to share a stage with some remarkable songwriters. None have challenged me in the same way that Georgia Maq has. I find her music endlessly fascinating, remarkably engaging and uniformly brilliant. I see so much in her that she is often too self-deprecating and unaware to see in herself. I fear that she will never, ever know how good she is. Each time I watch her perform, I more or less sit in stunned silence – when I’m not compelled beyond my will to sing along, of course.

I find the storytelling in this song so incredible – it took me a good half a dozen listens to fully comprehend it. Everytime I’m in Melbourne and I find myself out at Footscray station, I think of this song and I can’t help but smile. The first time I saw her live, she couldn’t believe that I knew every word to this song and that I was in the front row singing along. I couldn’t believe I was the only one.

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INTERVIEW: letlive. (USA), April 2011

Another unexpected gem from my time writing for Australian Hysteria Magazine. I didn’t know letlive. from a bar of soap until I was on the line with Jason Butler, who ended up being on the loveliest and kindest dudes I had interviewed up to that point. This is just a quick chat, but I’ve been a huge fan of the band ever since. It was a lasting impression!

– DJY, January 2015

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After five years of line-up changes and general turmoil in-between albums, letlive kicked back into action last year with a killer new album, Fake History. Things have been going gangbusters for the quintet from there, with the band signing to iconic punk label Epitaph and planning a re-release for Fake History with three new tracks. Australian Hysteria got the opportunity to speak to the band’s founder and leader, Jason Butler, to talk shop on the album, as well as the band’s live antics and a potential trip down under.

Australian Hysteria: Hi Jason, thanks for chatting to Australian Hysteria Magazine! Whereabouts are you?
Jason Butler: I’m actually on Venice Boulevard, making my way down to Santa Monica, California. We’re home free for about a month – we’ve got our release shows, which will only take about three days, and that’s it! I’m actually on my way to a birthday party with my girlfriend.

Sounds good! This article might be the first time our readers may have heard of letlive. How would you describe your band’s music to someone who’s never heard it before?

Something that you’ve wanted to hear for a long time. [Laughs] That’s pretty good, right?

Let’s talk Fake History. It’s your first album in five years – what do you think took so long to get this record together?

I believe it was the components of the band itself. It was willingness – what letlive was, it was a continuation on from a punk rock band I formed in high school. We cut a few albums, and – as you do when you’re young – you do what you want and you play what you want. You put out albums to be a part of something. During that time, though, we generated a different idea of letlive and what it was meant to be. So in those five years between, we were just putting the pieces back together. I’m actually the only remaining member from the original lineup. Truly, though, the beginning of letlive as you and most will know it is definitely with the five gentlemen we have now. We came to the realisation that in order to put something out in an overly-saturated culture that will hold water, you’ve got to really mean whatever it is you’re about to put out. So one day, it fell into place and we recorded it.

Epitaph have planned a re-release for the record. Do you feel at this point that it will help in exposing you to a new audience?

Absolutely. We have to illuminate and acknowledge Epitaph – it’s a milestone for us; it’s a milestone for anyone in punk rock. Of course there will be people that are dedicated to the label, and will want to check out anything Epitaph-related. Also, they’ve done so much as a label independently that they’re marked to be so authentic and natural. All these things are things that we really appreciate so early on in our career. We’re all working together.

There’s a very potent mix of both the heavier side of the music and the melodic side. Do you feel that having a diverse sound assists you in being able to play with a lot of different bands?

Y’know, I would love for that to be true. We appreciate and propagate all kinds of music that people don’t immediately assume to associate with our band. We really hope that it shines through and opens up doors – not just for us, but for other acts as well. No matter how you take it, it’s just music – you’re trying to be creative; you’re trying to latch on to something that was so primitive at one point, based on human instinct. It’s just music. I hope it’s transparent enough for people to see that’s how we feel about it. I’d love to tour with Bruno Mars – maybe if B.o.B. wants to take us out, I’ll do a hip-hop tour!

On the YouTube video for “Casino Columbus,” one of the highest-rated comments talks about what you did at a show – you threw a trash can over your head, started your own mosh pit and tried to climb the roof of a tent. Is any/all of that true? If so, when did it happen?

[Laughs] From what I’m told, it’s all true. It’s all a blur to me, but I’ve seen video! That was South by Southwest. We were playing a showcase, and I chased my microphone into a trash can. I thought I’d go for a fashion statement and wear the trash can as a top hat. I found myself outside of the tent at one point, and then climbed up the tent and found a hole and came back in. It was sort of like the tent was birthing me – it was kinda beautiful! [Laughs]

It sounds like there’s quite a bit of energy going on at these shows. How important are letlive’s live performances to you?

I think the letlive live show is just as important as the way we’re presented on record. It’s definitely different. With the album, we just tried to show as much raw energy and emotion – as trite as that may sound – as we could. It’s the exact same thing with the live show. We want people to understand that letlive is more than the five individuals on that stage. letlive is simply a vessel of some sort, and it’s much more vast than we can fully articulate at this point in time. When we can, we’ll let you know what it is; but right now, we just want people to feel something. It’s a shared energy. Even if they don’t know or don’t like what’s going on, all the energy – negative and positive – is feeding into what’s going on that stage.

Finally, when are we going to see letlive on Australian shores?

As soon as possible, man! We’ve been discussing this with our manager. I’ve heard it’s beautiful, and you guys are some of the nicest motherfuckers I’ve ever met. We did that tour with Break Even, and God-damn! You guys are just nice and cool. Not to mention my boy Jona, from Prom Queen and Bring Me The Horizon. He’s one of my favourite dudes to ever exist. As a country, if you’re all like that? I’m all about it, man. Let’s go!

The Top 100 Songs of 2014, Part Four: 40 – 21

We’re so close! Parts one, two and three… missed ’em? Not to worry? You can revisit them here, here and here. Let’s get down to some top 40 pop hits. Starting now.

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40. Fucked Up feat. J Mascis – Led By Hand

Here’s a strange proposition: The best Dinosaur Jr. song of the year did have J Mascis in it, but it wasn’t by Dinosaur Jr. In a standout moment from their exceptional Glass Boys LP, Pink Eyes and co. paid homage to proto-grunge wigouts while still maintaining their hardcore punk roots. There was perhaps no greater yin-and-yang in the year than when Mascis mumbled the song’s chorus as Pink Eyes let out a Roger Daltrey-worthy “YEAH!” atop of it. An unlikely pairing on paper, “Led by Hand” had everything making a whole lotta sense quite quickly. Follow it around.

39. St. Vincent – Digital Witness

What did Annie Clark learn from her time making music with David Byrne? Two major things. The first: Horns. They’re a weapon. Use them wisely. The second: Is something categorically weird in your song? Make it weirder. Taking this on board, “Digital Witness” is one of her finest tracks to date. Whether it was the spiralling pre-chorus melody, the stinging guitar wail or that all-encompassing hook, it was nigh-on impossible to deny the resonance of this rebirth. During one of the song’s many earworms, Clark boldly states “I want all of your mind.” You got it. Anything else?

38. The Kite String Tangle – Words

We’re still learning a lot about Danny Harley, the prodigious figurehead behind Brisbane bedroom phenomena The Kite String Tangle. Tracks like “Words” allowed us as listeners to edge slightly closer in this regard, and it was something to be extremely thankful for. A restrained exploration of post-dubstep balladry, Harley shrouds himself in light-and-shade contrasts, gently coaxing out confessional lyrics as distant lights flicker and glow on the outskirts. It shouldn’t add up that such depth and maturity has been achieved at such an early stage, but one would suppose The Kite String Tangle has always been against the odds.

37. Jane Tyrrell – The Rush

Lovers can fall hard and fast for one another, but where does one find oneself when fire turns to ice? It’s a complicated subject, and one that Tyrrell details with an outsider’s eye and an insider’s mind. She may have set up two characters in the song, but it’s safe to say that she sees more than just herself within them. Driven masterfully by the unmistakable drumming of PVT’s Laurence Pike, there are soaring highs and crushing lows that weave through the song’s relatively-short runtime. Tyrrell sees us through to the bitter end. It’s not like it’s her first time.

36. Ken Stringfellow – Kids Don’t Follow

If any song is stretching the friendship for its inclusion in a 2014 list, it’s surely this: A cover of a Replacements song from the 80s that was recorded in 2004 for a tribute album to the aforementioned college-rock legends that ultimately never came to be. This hazy barroom take on the anti-authoritative punk number came from acclaimed Posies and R.E.M. alum Ken Stringfellow; and collected dust until the release of a rarities compilation at the beginning of 2014. So, here we are. You best believe this sucker was worth uncovering. A smart, somewhat-sombre reworking from a truly underrated craftsman.

35. Babaganouj – Too Late for Love

Go Violets didn’t fade away, they burnt out. Their embers remain flickering within Brisbane’s still-thriving indie-pop village, as two of its members have resumed full-time positions in this little jangly garage outfit that could. “Too Late for Love” may have been born in the sunshine state, but it’s more European in flavour – there’s a strong dose of Camera Obscura, a hint of The Wannadies and sprinklings of Belle and Sebastian’s early work. None of this is said to deride the song, of course. It’s a reflection on how it immediately feels like home. May this band burn longer and brighter.

34. Kelis – Breakfast

Her milkshake brought all the boys to the yard, but what happens when one of those boys sticks around? Now in her thirties, Kelis is exploring the concept of finding love in wake of divorce. It’s quite an adult prospect, recurring on perhaps her most mature LP to date, Food. Many went with a helping of “Jerk Ribs” when asked to name the album’s standout, but it would be foolhardy to dismiss this triumphantly horn-laden take on neo-soul, complete with stunning chorus and adorable children’s backing vocals. Much like in life, “Breakfast” is the most important meal of the day.

33. Ben Howard – Conrad

A lot of pitch-black darkness took up Ben Howard’s second album – hell, it even took up most of the cover art. Positioned towards its latter half, “Conrad” allowed the LP to let a glimmer of light into the spectrum. It continues to look at where a past love went awry; and yet the song plays to the pop sensibilities that rewarded Howard such attention to begin with. Its shipmates are his exceptional guitar work, layered to the point of being a battalion front; as well as a hummed refrain that would even garner due respect from the Crash Test Dummies.

32. Luca Brasi – Borders and Statelines

Luca Brasi’s dues have been paid in full and with interest; and many within Australia’s punk community have spent the last few years in particular wondering as to when it would be their time. It was answered not with words, but an extremely loud action. The forceful, crashing drums, the stellar twin-guitar attack and the rousing, spirited chorus they always had in them… “Borders and Statelines,” contrary to its lyrics, will come to define this band in the very best way imaginable. There is a wolf in the throne room, and its name is Luca Brasi. There will be blood.

31. Swans – Oxygen

2014 saw Michael Gira turn 60 years old. He continues to haunt the realm of alternative/avant-garde music after thirty-plus years in the game with unfinished business. Amid an exhausting two-hour-plus release – the double-LP To Be Kind – came this truly terrifying beast. “Oxygen,” already a live favourite, can now officially stand as one of the biggest, boldest compositions to ever come out under the Swans moniker upon its long-awaited recording. Its opening moments are spent picking out one of the year’s most distinctive basslines; its dying moments forcefully hurls everything it has built up into the inferno. The in-between is unforgettable.

30. Death From Above 1979 – Right On, Frankenstein!

Yes, the most hyped new rock band of the year may well have been a bass-and-drums duo; but a vengeful return from the very band that made it cool in the first place made sure we all knew whose yard we were stepping into. “Frankenstein” fires off on all cylinders from its opening seconds, pounding through a barnstorming, breakneck dose of rock & roll that exists purely on Keeler and Grainger’s terms. Plus, it’s gotta be the best false ending to a song from this year: The dust settles, the bass rings out… then, POW! Right in the kisser!

29. Bertie Blackman – Run for Your Life

Another new Bertie Blackman album means another new Bertie Blackman. From the days of her favourite jeans to her flirtations with electronica on later releases, the chameleonic Blackman has rarely allowed herself to get too comfortable within a particular style in her decade-and-change of songwriting. “Run for Your Life” is no exception to this, although it would be wise to suggest she spend a little more time in this specific corner. She sounds right at home with the gated snare, thickly-layered synthesizers and the whoah-oh’d call and response. She may well have just stumbled across her own pop paradise.

28. Kiesza – Hideaway

Fred Armisen may have sung that the dream of the 90s was alive in Portland, but his radar was a little off. The dream of the 90s, friends, is alive in Kiesza, a twenty-something Canadian up-and-comer who dominated dancefloors throughout the entire year with this certified banger in her arsenal. From a crafting perspective, “Hideaway” is retro in the sense that it can appreciate that there was a “What is Love” and a “Rhythm of the Night” for every “Teen Spirit” and “Black Hole Sun.” Its spirit is alive and shuffling once again. Mash it.

27. Coldplay – Magic

In the year that the phrase “consciously uncoupling” entered the cultural lexicon, you could well have been forgiven for forgetting that Chris Martin actually made music this year. Sure, some people would like to forget it altogether, but that’s another story for another time. We’re here to talk about “Magic,” a single that allowed Martin and co. to recall the pop simplicity of their early days while connecting it to the fresh pain of a then-recent separation. If “Magic” proves anything, it’s that we can begin again. That, and Chris Martin can still write a bloody tune.

26. Tkay Maidza – U-Huh

Don’t let Tkay Maidza’s age fool you, nor the simplicity of her big-business single. MCs twice her age would kill for a flow so tightly syncopated, hooks this high in both quality and quantity and a beat as bright and boisterous as the one that fills the spaces of “U-Huh.” There are constant surprises around every corner in the current Australian musical climate; and Maidza is the latest to make a substantial impact. One hopes the fire spat here leads to a phenomenal debut LP next year. After all, as she puts it, “We don’t tolerate broke behaviour.”

25. Yoke – Jabiluka

A phrase as simple as “I never told her” is what centres itself thematically at the core of “Jabiluka,” so named after a mine in the Northern Territory of Australia. Each time it is uttered, there are further layers peeled back to reveal the pain, the regret and the loss that comes with delivering such a line. It’s conveyed emphatically, almost taking on new meaning with every repetition. Similarly, the song itself may externally feel like a Dev Hynes-flavoured slice of downtempo indie-pop, but further listening will see those very same layers revealing. A smart yet complicated song.

24. DZ Deathrays – Reflective Skull

Who gives a fuck about how many notes you can play? If you can play the right ones, in the right succession, you needn’t worry about a single thing more. The riff that “Reflective Skull” lives and dies by was not designed for any greater intellectual pursuit. It’s a primitive headbanger, locked into an undeniable stomping groove and launched forth with reckless abandon. Ironically enough, with its less-than-more approach, this could be one of the biggest sounding tracks that the Deathrays duo have ever put their collective name to. Altogether, now: DUN, DUN-DUN, DUN DUN DUN-DUN, DEWWWW DEWWWW DEWWWW.

23. Sia – Chandelier

Ten years removed from her previous signature song, the inimitable “Breath Me,” Sia Furler has penned herself a new standard; an anthem which will forever define her as one of not only Australia’s greatest singer-songwriter exports, but as a true mastermind behind pop music in the 21st century. Hyperbole? For Christ’s sake, go listen to that chorus again. Seriously. It feels like that Maxell ad campaign where the guy is being blown away by the sound in his chair. Maddie Ziegler may have given the song a second life, but it was all a part of Sia’s grander plan.

22. The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt

Don’t call it a comeback. Don’t even call it a reinvention. What we are seeing here is Brian Fallon and co. going out on a proverbial limb, gazing forlornly at what lies beyond. In leaving their comfort zone and exploring the possibilities of slower, more refined songwriting, Gaslight have undertaken a greater journey all with a single step. The title track from their latest record also served as one of their most striking, honest songs ever put to wax. It’s murmurs and whispers from a band defined by their shouts and screams, and it makes for a remarkable listening experience.

21. Tiny Ruins – Me at the Museum, You in the Wintergardens

The single greatest ode to love in 2014 came from the humble, warm abode of Auckland; where you’ll find the quaint, gorgeously understated sounds of one Hollie Fullbrook on the wind. The story is simply told, beautifully painted and pristinely arranged, as we follow the scent of young love through two uniquely different workplaces that somehow not only complement on another, but serve as a reflection on the resolute power that can come through finding love. Its greatest achievement, however, is its ability to accomplish all of this majesty in a decidedly slim 155 seconds. It just comes and goes.

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20 – 1

THE TEN-TIMERS’ CLUB: Bennie James

 

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WHO: Bennie James.
FROM: Nowra, NSW, Australia.
FIRST TIME: I’m going to say the Tea Club and I’m going to say 2006. Don’t quote me on it.
TENTH TIME: Upstairs at City Diggers, Wollongong; January 28, 2012.

There’s a Kanye West lyric that goes: “Lauryn Hill said her heart was in Zion/I wish her heart still was in rhyming.” I wish Bennie James’ heart was still in music. He’s part of an incredible musical family – his father directed a school musical I was in and his sister is a great singer-songwriter in her own right – but sightings of the man are few and far between. I grew up literally down the road from the guy, but we never really crossed paths until my mid-teens when we ended up in the aformentioned musical. My part wasn’t much, but hey.

We bonded over a lot of the same music, and he showed me some home recordings of his own songs that he’d done on his Zune – yeah, this dates the conversation, doesn’t it? I grew up with his music, too – his backing band, The Hesitant Few, all became good friends; and we went through some pretty memorable experiences together. Even some band comps. Shudder. Anyway, the tenth time in 2012 was, sadly, the last I saw of him. He’s not dead, he’s just in hiding somewhere. I hope he comes out again someday.

– DJY, April 2014

THE TEN-TIMERS’ CLUB: Andy Bull

 

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WHO: Andy Bull.
FROM: Sydney, NSW, Australia.
FIRST TIME: Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre, Nowra; November 27th, 2009.
TENTH TIME: YourFest @ Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle; December 10th, 2011.

Like Michael Stipe, Justin Bieber or even Andrew Stockdale, Andy is the kind of guy that you can track periodically by hairstyle. We first met during a foppish mop-top phase, still going strong from his debut album We’re Too Young. He more or less denies the thing exists anymore, but it’s actually a wonderful collection of songs; if a little naive. Adds to the charm, see. Anyway, these days he rocks a very slick quiff and messes about with synthesizers more than the ol’ piyannah.

What hasn’t changed is how I feel about the man himself – a smart, charming and bold songwriter that I’ve seen go from strength to strength. I’ve seen this guy so many times that I probably know the words to some of his songs better than he does. Seriously, I may well be the leading authority on Andy Bull – I don’t know whether that’s a career path or not, but it’s something. Along the way, he’s introduced new musicians into the mix who have also become good friends, including Alex “Best Dude” Bennison and the similarly-quiffed/stylish Dave Jenkins, Jr. He’s also given me enough musical memories to last a lifetime. He’s a gift that keeps on giving.

– DJY, April 2014

THE TEN-TIMERS’ CLUB: Alpine

WHO: Alpine.
FROM: Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
FIRST TIME: Oxford Art Factory, Sydney; October 22nd, 2010.
TENTH TIME: Laneway Festival, Sydney; February 2, 2013.

I had never seen anything quite like Alpine when I first lay eyes on them back in my first few weeks as a twenty-year-old. I haven’t seen much like them since. Often imitated, never duplicated. I was drawn to their undeniable stage presence, their energy and the precision with which they attacked their music.

I’ve seen them go from a small gathering during a support slot to playing festivals with punters as far as the eye can see. I obviously had nothing to do with it, but you’ll find me through every stage. It’s the same with a lot of the acts that ended up in the TTC – I enter stage right at an early, opportune time; and there I stay. This band is always such a joy to be around – they’re one of the few bands who went out of their way to thank me for coming to see them early on. You don’t forget things like that. I’ve come to know them all fairly well and can only speak the highest praises of them. As long as they continue to deliver their particular brand of indie-pop, I’ll make a point of staying on board.

– DJY, April 2014

INTERVIEW: Alex Lloyd (AUS), May 2009

There are times when Alex Lloyd feels like an Australian in-joke. He skyrocketed to fame with Amazing, the single from his breakthrough LP Watching Angels Mend; and then spectacularly crashed to earth. He’s spent the last decade or so in and out of the public eye, occasionally dropping albums that a dozen people might buy. He’s still kicking around, from what I’ve gathered. Good on him.

Anyway, this was another emailer. Not quite what I was after in terms of answers, but I’ve put it up here for completion’s sake.

– DJY, April 2014

***

You’ve been fairly on the quiet in-between the release of your self-titled record and Good in the Face of a Stranger. What did you occupy yourself with in this downtime?
My family and I moved to London about two and half years ago. After we got settled I managed to find myself a studio not too far from where we live in North London. It was an old photography studio. I had to then build a box inside the room, so this kept me busy. Then once the studio was ready I started writing and recording Good In The Face Of A Stranger.

Some of the songs on the new record, I feel, are more polished revisitings to your early work, particularly of the Black the Sun era. Is that a sentiment you agree with?
I don’t know if I would say more polished, but it’s a much smaller, more compact sound than the previous self-titled album. I think it is reminiscent slightly of Black the Sun, but mostly due to the fact that, like Black the Sun I ended up playing the majority of the instruments on the record.

Was there a need to create something more intimate, dark and mellow after making more commercially-aware records such as Distant Light and your self-titled?
I think due to the fact that I was in London when I started to write the album I was able to get lost in the grey sky and the more introspective nature that it provides. I have always been partial to a more melancholy sound I guess. Being where I was enabled me to really embrace it.

Good in the Face of a Stranger was released very quietly, and has thus far seen very little media coverage or response. As a now-independent artist, what is more important to you at this stage of your career – the exposure of your work or simply to have the finished product out there?
I guess it has been a bit of a learning curve on this album. I feel that we have done it the right way as far as my soul is concerned, but I definitely feel like I have learned a lot about being an independent artist at the same time.

Your career has seen you take both ends of the musical spectrum, to being a platinum seller on a major label to a hard-working independent artist. What do you see as the pros and cons of both situations; and which do you honestly prefer?
It is really hard to say, because I honestly feel as though I had a great time at major labels. However, to be contractually obligated to a company can feel pretty claustrophobic from time to time, but then they do provide a valuable service. But I can honestly say I am happy with my current status as an independent artist.

You’ve chosen some very intimate, unpretentious venues for this tour. What can fans expect in terms of your set-list, and how the songs will be played?
We will be doing a pretty laidback set for this tour, with a slight electro influence. It will be Alex Lloyd songs old and new with a real sense of wood and wire in its presentation.

2012: A Year in the Front Row. Part Three: July/August/September

Jan // Feb // Mar
Apr // May // Jun

JULY

With the first half of the year behind me, the remaining six months had a lot to live up to. For what it’s worth, I’d like to think it did; even though nothing quite compared to Janelle. We began proceedings with a two-night stand at Yours and Owls. The two nights couldn’t have had a greater contrast. On the first night, it was a tiny mixed bill of heavy acts, featuring a crowd of just around 30 people – Hira Hira, Rev Jesse, Machina Genova (still one of the loudest bands I’ve seen this year) and Brisbane stalwarts Idylls. The next night, I had to arrive at Owls over an hour before hand just in order to secure my place. The headlining set from U.K. alt-rock lads Basement was still, to date, the most packed I have ever seen Owls. The show was memorable for this alone, but all of the acts of the night – also featuring Harbourer, Cold Youth and Endless Heights – put on solid, enjoyable sets. I’ll admit I wasn’t the biggest Basement fan – I was more going to the show for the experience, as well as to support the venue. That said, they really put a respectable effort into their set, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Later that week, I had an incredible four day run that started off with light-hearted whimsy and ended with a punishing crush. It begins with an act I had waited for eight years to see live – and, not to sound like a hipster, but before they even had their own TV series. That’s right: New Zealand’s fourth most-popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk comedy folk duo, Flight of the Conchords! They packed the Sydney Entertainment Centre out within an inch of its life, and even though it was a massive show they still managed to make it feel intimate and warm. Not to mention hilarious. Holy shit, it was hilarious. Even when you knew the punchline was coming, it was still a total gut-buster. What a wonderful thing to tick off the list.

The first weekend of the month began with a mostly-forgettable matinee show, starring Heroes for Hire and their slightly-dwindling base of tween psychopaths. I was only really in attendance to check out The Sweet Apes, who mightily impressed; and the boys from Luca Brasi. As great as they were, their set was spoilt by a group of girls who sat in the front row with their backs turned to the band, chatting away and playing with their phones. I actually had to go and apologise to the Luca boys for their horrendous actions. This would later turn into a 180-comment-long thread on Heroes’ Facebook page some months later. So I guess some good came of it. Sort of.

Moving on to the main course of the weekend: Hardcore 2012! Featuring a slab of local and international punk, metal, grind, hardcore, metalcore etc. to work through, I ventured in as a casual observer, cherry-picking the best of the bunch and appreciating the ferocity and energy of the crowd, who lunged at the stage at any given opportunity. Amazingly, there were no major fights and the weekend was surprisingly dickhead-free. The Hi-Fi staff were attentive, the sound was solid, the security knew when to step in and when to let things play out; and there were easily some of the best “heavy” sets I’ve seen all year on display. Top of the lot was Ceremony, the Californian punks who gave less than zero fucks about how much they “fitted in” with the rest of the bill. Ferchrissake, the guitarist was walking around wearing a leather Prince vest. They just got up there and tore the venue apart. Rather than alienating them, the crowd totally went for it, from their intense early songs like “Pressure’s On” and “Kersed” to newer stompers like “Hysteria” and “Repeating the Circle.” What a ripper – love this band something chronic.

Of course, the big talking point was the two farewell sets from Perth’s Break Even. While Ceremony was the big one for me, I still had nothing but love and respect for the BE boys – and their spots were fantastic. I don’t think I’ve heard a bigger sing-along this year than when they opened the Sunday night with “October 27.” Truly explosive, almost bone-chillingly good stuff. Other highlights included the madness of Extortion, the unholy riffage of I Exist and the OTT fun of headliners Terror; who I’ve never given much of a chance in regards to their recorded material but have still enjoyed thoroughly across the three times I’ve seen them. Overall, a very solid weekend – “hardcore lives,” as Scott Vogel might say.

As a bookend to all of this, I headed back up to Sydney in the afternoon following to grab a spot at Black Wire for Ceremony‘s only headlining Sydney set. With support from the gnashing Dark Horse and the tuneful Life and Limb, this was a high-energy show that sticks out as easily the best of the three times I saw Ceremony this month. It took all the no-bullshit reckless punk abandon of the Hardcore shows and shoved it directly into your face – I’m genuinely surprised that no major damage was done to the venue given the sure of boisterous shouting, screaming, diving, climbing etc. that was taking place throughout the band’s hour-long set. Great fun and highly memorable in the grand scheme of 2012.

For what was supposed to be their only show of 2012, I headed along to the Annandale that Friday to see The Mess Hall kick out the jams for the first time in seven years. I have no bloody idea why it took so long between drinks, but I’ll make a point for it to never happen again. What a ripper set from these guys, turning the Annandale into a sweaty mess just like only they can do. By means of contrast, the next day I saw an old friend, Annaliese Szota – who literally used to live up the road from me – play a headlining show at a theatre where I spent years in after-school drama classes. Oh, and Monica “Play School” Trapaga was there, too, as both the MC and as a cabaret performer. Needless to say, it was a pretty full-on night of nostalgia for me from a degree of levels. Needless to say, it was also lovely.

Around the middle of the month came somewhat of a bum note thanks to a disappointing set from Ladyhawke. I’m quite the fan, and do enjoy her music. Live, however, she’s quite uncomfortable and it lacks the punch that it needs to work in this element. Ahh, nevermind. Maybe next time. At least I got to catch the legends of Franzal Rhomb a few days later, who packed in a sweaty and fun crowd to the Manning Bar along with the crew from I Exist. Fuck yeah.

Festival season yet again! This time, I packed in three Splendour in the Grass sideshows into three days. Not a bad effort, if I do say so myself. Of course, I would have loved to head along to Splendour – the only shows of the year for Explosions in the Sky and Gossip, major live highlights of years previous; not to mention acts like Azealia Banks and Bloc Party. Not bad, I say! Still, getting to see just a handful of the line-up’s best acts was sufficient enough. First up was fun., a band I had wanted to tour for years – especially considering I never got to see The Format, the first band of fun.’s vocalist Nate Ruess. I took my sister along and we had an absolute blast at their show at the Metro, which was absolutely squashed in like nothing I’d seen at the Metro in yonks.

The very next day saw Mr. Jack White decide that he would play that night’s show with his all-male band, Los Buzzardos. Said show took place at the Hordern Pavilion – and, after roughly a decade of enjoying his various projects, I FINALLY got to see the great man at work in the live environment. What can you say? Absolutely sensational stuff, especially if you’re a big fan from any period of his career. It spanned all of it – when you open with a Stooges-esque reworking of Black Math, from the iconic Stripes LP Elephant, you just know you’re in for a good night. Blister-inducing guitar work, insane drumming, a great spread of sounds and plenty of hits; as well as some lesser-known stuff. Pretty much perfect, really.

Finally, I checked out British blues-rockers Band of Skulls at the Factory. Of the three, this was probably my least favourite – not a discredit to the show, per se; but moreso a credit to both fun. and Jack, which were absolutely mammoth and top-of-the-heap. This was still a solid, entertaining rock show – particularly with a band as great as The Laurels in support. Not life-changing or anything, really; but still a very, very fun set.

For something completely different, the month ended with a return to Yours and Owls for one of the biggest surprise gigs of the year. I went along after hearing some great things about U.S. post-metal acts Rosetta and City of Ships, but had never really given either one much of a listen. Really, I was headed along to their Wollongong date almost exclusively to see my boys in Totally Unicorn; plus the excellent Brisvegan openers in Nuclear Summer. I had no idea what to expect – perhaps why this show blew me away so much. It was an intense experience, never more so than during Rosetta’s performance. Post-metal is quite the thing to pull off live, it takes quite the energy and the precision as a band. That said, I have never seen anyone quite like Rosetta – before or since. Emotionally draining, resoundingly powerful and truly rewarding. I am so, so glad I went to this show.

TOP 5:

  1. Jack White
  2. Rosetta
  3. fun.
  4. Ceremony
  5. Flight of the Conchords

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Ladyhawke. I really want to support my fellow Aspies in the live environment, but bland shows make it quite difficult.

+++

AUGUST

Another month, another Milhouse show. Guess where? Always a pleasure to watch these guys do their thing – not the first time in 2012, and sure as shit not the last! Next up was a great exercise in contrast involving Melbourne wunderkinds Snakadaktal. The year prior, I had seen the band at Goodgod Small Club, performing to a sold-out room where the only people under 18 were in the band. Now, I had a chance to see them again in very different circumstances, albeit just up the road at the Metro Theatre. With an adoring all-ages audience looking on, they showed just how far they’ve come in such a remarkably short period of time. Pretty special to be a part of, really.

It never rains with Children Collide – it pours. After doing two nights of their national tour in March, I followed it up with a two-night stand at their Sydney shows. They took place at The Standard, a relatively intimate and interesting venue up the other end of Oxford Street. I quite like the venue, and definitely enjoyed my time at these two shows; which featured irrepressible stoners Dune Rats and Adelaide weirdos Bad Dreems in support. The crowd was energetic and receptive, and I even managed to sneak a stage-dive in during Jellylegs, the closing number of the set. The security, however, left a lot to be desired on the second night, getting quite aggressive with some harmless punters. I informed the Standard about this, and they were thankfully very responsive and determined to make the venue a friendlier environment. I haven’t been back since, but I hope they’ve stuck to it.

It’s weird just how long I had waited for the next gig. Something for Kate had been a part of my life for over a decade, thanks to hits ranging from 1999’s Electricity to 2006’s Cigarettes & Suitcases and everything in-between. My sister Eloise and I grew up with their music, so to find ourselves in the front row of a returning SfK show in the glorious, glorious surrounds of the Annandale was more or less a dream come true. This was the night I fell in love with some of my most beloved songs of 2012, namely Miracle Cure and Eureka; both from the at-the-time unreleased Leave Your Soul to Science. Of course, it also meant I finally got to hear my aforementioned loves, plus Monsters, Deja Vu et al. Easily one of the best Annandale shows of the year.

Later that week, I’d kick off a three-day run celebrating a considerably wide stretch of Australasian music. It began with Kate Miller-Heidke and The Beards joining together in a peculiar bill that somehow managed to work quite well. The grandiose humour of The Beards allowed the audience to relax themselves into Kate’s set, which was equal parts delightful and sweet as it was intense and emotively striking. She truly is a spectacular performer; and it was so great to hear tracks from Nightflight live, which was easily one of my favourite records of the year. The following night, New Zealand post-punks Die! Die! Die! took over Yours & Owls for a ferocious evening of high-octane noise. Although the crowd was relatively small, they were fucking rabid from the get go.

There was diving into drumkits, smashing of foreheads into microphones and dog-piles onto lead singer Andrew Wilson. And yes, I was the catalyst for each. In fact, I’m pretty sure ending up with an imprint of Andrew’s mic that stuck for the entire weekend was my favourite gig injury of the year – apart from maybe the shiner I got at Refused, but that’s another story for another time. Finally, I got to support my dear little friends in Highways as they played their first-ever headlining show at the Annandale Hotel. Apart from their set, I spent the day hanging out with some new friends, teasing the Forever Ends Here boys and selling merchandise for Way with Words while hanging at Highways’ merch table. I love those little matinee shows; they’re always good fun and the vibe is always sweet. Support them!

My last two shows of the month saw me once again celebrating some local talent, as well as making a pretty major tick on the bucket list. First up was Alpine, who I saw for the eighth time in Wollongong. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever missed an Alpine show in Wollongong; supporting or otherwise. I’m pretty happy about that, now that I think about it. I adore these guys so much, and to see how much their audience has grown in the time that I’ve known them as both musicians and people really inspires me. Then, a big one: The original line-up – well, what’s left of them – of The Beach Boys. Yep, including Brian Wilson. That was the selling point for me. It ensured that I would have to be in attendance. And I am so very, very glad that I was. Yes, it was a very daggy show. Yes, there were probably too many ballads (“Disney Girls,” guys? Really?). Yes, Mike Love is a businessman first and a musician second these days. But come on. I got to hear I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times. I got to hear Wouldn’t It Be Nice. I got to hear God Only fucking Knows. The band – mostly made up of Brian Wilson’s guys – were incredible. This was a truly delightful and heart-warming show. I enjoyed it worlds more than I expected to, as well as more than I probably should have.

TOP 5:

  1. The Beach Boys
  2. Something for Kate
  3. Kate Miller-Heidke
  4. Die! Die! Die!
  5. Snakdaktal

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Far Away Stables and We Saved the Party opened for Highways. I awarded them no points. May God have mercy on their souls.

+++

SEPTEMBER

What a big month I had here! A few choice internationals, some brilliant locals and my second of four interstate trips in the name of live music. It all started with Seekae, the little Sydney electronic adventurers that could. In a smokey and very-sold-out Basement, they put on an intense and engaging show that sees them in the finest form of their career. Hope we hear from them again soon with album number three! The next night was spent with three great Aussie bands in Little Scout, Bearhug and Light Giant; the latter of which were playing their first-ever gig at this show. Speaking of firsts, this was also my first time at FBi Social and I had a blast checking out the friendly, intimate surrounds. I sadly haven’t had the chance to return since, but hoping to in 2013. What a surprisingly pleasant Friday night in the midst of Kings Cross.

Saturday was spent with a tonne of mates from the FasterLouder forum, who all joined together to celebrate the release of The Smith Street Band‘s excellent second album, Sunshine and Technology. With mates Hoodlum Shouts, Restorations and Milhouse in support, the Smithies took to a heaving Annandale for beer-y sing-alongs, stage-dives and a loud and lively crowd. Took all of Sunday to shake the comedown, I can tell you that much. Well, most of Sunday, at least. On Sunday night, I snuck up to Cronulla to watch my dear-friend-slash-hot-patootie Lanie Lane at the Brass Monkey. It was intimate, charming and a very relaxing way to end what was a very busy week.

What happened next… ahh, what happened next. If only I could fully describe just how incredible, exciting and life-affirming what happened next truly was. This, friends was the Poison City Weekender. Or just The Weekender. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a magical place to find yourself. Whether it was whoah-oh’ing along to the Restorations boys, stage-diving with the Smithies and Luca Brasi, discovering the genius that is Lincoln Le Fevre or falling in love with Lucy Wilson‘s voice, there was so much to do, see and get involved with. I’m not ashamed to say that after TSSB’s set – the last set of the last day – I cried. I cried for about 10 minutes straight. I can’t begin to tell you what being a part of that entire thing meant to me. I made so many great friends, I saw so many great bands, I immersed myself in the beauty of Melbourne and its live music scene. What a time.

Upon returning home, complete with an accursed Melbourne flu, I sneezed my way through a show at Wollongong’s Uni Bar, technically headlined by The Rubens but show-stolen by Bertie Blackman. I got in just as her set started and she was worth every cent. The next night, I got to see the Enter Shikari boys tear it up once again, this time at the UNSW Roundhouse. Interesting time for uni students in NSW, that’s for sure. ES were as entertaining as always, even busting out their own title track for the first time in ages much to my delight. Pity the support act, In Heart’s Wake, were such garbage. We went from letlive. to this?

Some well-deserved time off lead to a solid run of internationals for the last three days of the month. First up was the guitar-god badass, Gary Clark, Jr. I was the very first person to buy a ticket to this show, but I sure as hell wasn’t the last – that was one of the most packed audiences that I’ve ever seen at the Annandale. People were hanging from the rafters to welcome GCJ at his first-ever Sydney show, and he gave them exactly what they came for – lick after lick of the electric blues. Not to mention a voice that’s pure honey. Oh, and a killer live band. Tick, tick, tick.

Roughly 12 hours later, I returned to the Annandale to check out Defeater and Blacklisted from the States. Bit different to Gary, of course, but y’all know about the spice of life and shit. This was a really entertaining show, with both bands showing off different kinds of hardcore that were matched in intensity and conviction in delivery. Always good fun to hang out at the Annandale as often as possible. Also a shout-out to Latham’s Grip, who I hung out with and watched at the Lansdowne that evening. Good times.

At last, Sunday rolled around. The last day of the month. Admittedly, not normally a time to party. But hell, I had two reasons to celebrate: a) It was a public holiday; and b) MC Lars was in town! For those of you unfamiliar, MC Lars is a geek/comedy rapper who got really popular around 2006 on the back of his debut album, The Graduate. Despite it being so many years on since then, I’d never gotten a chance to see him live up until now, so I was pretty damn stoked to catch him. I got to be in the front row, play the part of Marty’s boss in “Signing Emo” (have a listen to the song and you’ll understand) and hug the man after him being somewhat of a mid-teens hero to me. Oh, did I mention fucking Horsell Common played, too? Are you flippin’ kidding me, bro? Sure, they’re essentially the John Farnham of mid-2000s rock, but that was a major trip to see those guys again – especially after seeing Trial Kennedy‘s final show a few months back. The only detraction from the whole thing was that it took place at Spectrum – or, as I like to call it, Satan’s armpit. What a destitute and loathsome place. Don’t expect me back at that venue anytime soon.

TOP FIVE:

  1. The Smith Street Band
  2. Restorations
  3. MC Lars
  4. A Death in the Family
  5. Gary Clark, Jr.

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: In Heart’s Wake. Suck a fuck, you hacks.

2012 – A Year in the Front Row. Part Two: April/May/June

Jan // Feb // Mar
Jul // Aug // Sep

APRIL

It’s somewhat fitting that I saw Hands Like Houses play a show on April Fool’s Day. Despite international acclaim and touring, they proved to be one of the most lifeless and uninspired bands I’ve seen live this year. What a joke. Still, at least I got to see Sound of Seasons tear it up at that show. Great live act, those kids. Onto the gorgeous surrounds of the Enmore, where I was fortunate enough to see ska legends The Specials tear the joint a new one. This was honestly one of the most energetic shows I went to in all of 2012 – I had no idea things would get this wild! For nearly two hours a solid crowd of roughly 1500, the band tore through their classics with all the energy and vitality that came with their release some thirty years ago. What a treat, what an honour. Definitely a major year highlight.

Milhouse launched their debut seven-inch in style, with a show at the venue they’re practically the house band of now: Black Wire Records. A very fun night indeed. The very next day, I had the chance of doubling up on a tour yet again – this time, twice in one day. Brisbane brats Bleeding Knees Club were playing in the afternoon in Sydney before playing that night in Wollongong. While it was fun to watch some kids going completely mental at what was quite possibly their first gig, the Gong show was something else entirely. Shit got decidedly loose, especially when local legend Jack Reilly got on stage with the boys to tear through a blink-182 cover. Oh, what a night!

With the Dig It Up! Festival in town, I had the chance to see the legendary Redd Kross play their cracking debut album, Born Innocent, in its entirety. While the Oxford Art Factory isn’t usually a great rock venue, this was the perfect room for these guys to thrash through the album and bring to life their wild younger years. Getting to press the flesh with the legendary Steve McDonald was also a total honour. A few days later, I was back at the same venue to see Brissie ex-pats An Horse play a rare Sydney show. A great audience and some top-shelf songs – wish these guys came back more often. Finally, I wrapped up the month with a show at Yours & Owls, which you’ll be hearing plenty more of later in the year. Here, I got to check out the frighteningly good Adelaide crew Night Hag grind to their heart’s content, with ample support from The Reverend Jesse Custer and Endeavours. Good times.

TOP 5:

  1. The Specials
  2. Redd Kross
  3. An Horse
  4. Bleeding Knees Club
  5. Night Hag

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Hands Like Houses. For all the hype, potentially the blandest band in all the land.

+++

MAY

Holy fuck. What a heavyweight month this was! Aside from maybe November, I can’t think of another period where I saw such incredible music being performed at such a consistent rate. An exhausting, exhilarating and life-affirming time in 2012. I kicked things off by farewelling The Butterfly Effect‘s vocalist, Clint Boge, with their final Sydney show with him at the UNSW Roundhouse. I’ll be the first to admit how daggy this lot can be, but I decided early on that I’d get there early, get the barrier and party like it was 2006. What a fun show this was, a complete nostalgia trip and a great send-off to a band that genuinely meant the world to me back in my mid-teens. Excellent fun, probably more than I should be admitting.

The next night saw me regain some of my “cred” by attending a packed-out show from the wonderful Frank Turner. In support was folk-punk’s first lady Jen Buxton, your new favourite punks The Smith Street Band and the jolly travelling bluesman William Elliott Whitmore. All four acts put on sets that superlatives simply cannot do justice to. It was a night to celebrate the arrival, if you will, of Frank. After selling out Wembley, he came to Australia with high spirits and an arsenal of anthems spanning all four of his albums. This man is honestly one of the reasons why I make music, so it truly was an honour to watch him bring his fervent folk-punk energy to the Manning Bar. You had to be there to get it.

Groovin’ the Moo – bit of a rubbish festival, but they bring the goods every now and then. Case in point: City and Colour & Wavves, who both put on great shows in Sydney. Having never seen C&C as a live band, it was quite fulfilling to hear so many tracks that I’ve loved over the years come to life so classily. Dallas is a great performer, understated and charming. I really appreciated the fact he asked everyone to put away their camera phones – one of my biggest vices at shows, so it was nice to get a break from it, however momentary. Although a totally different style of performer, Nathan Williams (aka Wavves) put on a cracking hour set at the Oxford Art Factory. All the best tracks from his own arsenal, plus a Sonic Youth cover (100%) and some gut-bustingly funny inside jokes made this a super-fun show.

Nearing the end of the month meant shit got increasingly more real. And it doesn’t get more freakin’ real than Prince. Holy shit, this was a spectacle and a half. To walk in and see the Allphones turned into a house of purple – complete with a stage shaped like Prince’s symbol – was breathtaking enough. Then, he decides to make things even more insane by OPENING with a fifteen-minute version of Purple Rain. Read again: OPENING with that. Where do you go from there, exactly? Pretty simple: Hit after hit after hit. This was a joyous, funky thing to be a part of; and I’m so glad I got that chance. Truly memorable stuff right there.

Following on from that, I got to see two long-time live favourites across two consecutive nights at the Patch – Dead Letter Circus and Tonight Alive. The former brought a meaty, volatile crowd with them; which was to be expected, really. Thankfully, I had myself a nice spot on the corner of the front row, tucked away and just enjoying their groovy tunes. Great live act, only getting better. As for Tonight Alive, this was the start of a pretty special run of shows with those guys – one show in Wollongong and two shows in Sydney, as a part of their final Australian tour for the year.

I always love these shows, if anything just for the company that comes with them and the incredible circle of people I’ve met through the band and its fans. It gets better, however: My boys in Totally Unicorn were the opening act, which meant that they got to terrorise a bunch of unsuspecting pop-punk kids and blow their freakin’ minds. All three shows had their good points, but the highlight of the bunch was easily the all-ages show at the Factory Theatre. There’s just something about AA Tonight Alive shows that have such an unshakable energy to them. The crowd is always mental, the kids up the front know the score and we can all go mental in unison. I usually have a pretty low tolerance level of AA crowds, but this was totally fine. In fact, it enhanced the experience.

May ended with not so much a bang as an absolute freak explosion. Two words: Janelle. Monae. Friends from across the country came out for this one, as the petite dynamo turned the Opera House concert hall into a next-level party. I can’t begin to tell you how much I needed this fucking show. After admiring Janelle for over two years, it was a complete thrill to finally get the chance to see her and her electric band do their thing, playing songs that still meant the absolute world to me like they did when they first came out. All roads truly felt like they lead to this very show. I can’t really give you much more detail than that. It was out of this world. Amazing. Life-changing. Pretty damn sure this was the one. As awesome as the rest of the year was, nothing quite compared to this night, these songs and this moment in time.

TOP 5:

  1. Janelle Monae
  2. Prince
  3. Frank Turner
  4. The Butterfly Effect
  5. Tonight Alive

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Young Guns, the main support for Tonight Alive. Sorry, lads; you seemed lovely but you were trying to do an arena show to an audience of about 50 people and it really didn’t work in your favour.

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JUNE

By contast, June was actually one of my quietest gig months. Not that it was a barren wasteland or anything, but I felt like a senior citizen compared to my frequent travels of the month prior. Even so, I probably needed the break more than I was willing to admit. I eased back into gigging post-Janelle (or PJ, as I so measure my life these days) with a small gig at Goodgod, one of my favourite new Sydney venues. My chums in Mrs. Bishop were launching a new single, and it was great to catch up with them and bask in their cooing harmonies. The week after, I bid farewell to an old mate in Trial Kennedy, who decided to notch up the nostalgia factor a little extra by adding After the Fall to the line-up. Getting in one last sing-along to Damage on Parade was a year highlight, as was the chance to FINALLY hear Mississippi Burn live; which is my all-time favourite TK song.

After having a ball (pardon the pun) at her last show in 2010, there was no way I was going to miss Lady Gaga on her Born This Way Ball tour. Although I wasn’t as big a fan of BTW as I was of her previous efforts, this was still an absolutely awesome show, full of wonder and big pop sing-alongs – which, if you know me well enough, are pretty much my bread and butter. The thing I love about big-arse pop shows like this one are that, even if it’s only for just a couple of hours, you can escape from whatever’s going on in your life and dive headfirst into a whole new world, Aladdin style. Gaga is a great entertainer and someone who can keep up energy levels like few others can. It’s truly a sight to see. Put aside your doubts and try it out sometime.

The end of the month came quickly, with two more shows before it was done. First was a trip all the way out to Epping, where I ended up at a cafe called Pablo’s in order to see my dear buddies in Collarbones and Fishing; as well as Dappled Cities side-project Swimwear. This was put on by The Gate, aka Joe Hardy, who puts in great efforts to bring great original live music to unconventional places. The show was an absolute treat for the senses, squishing in with a stack of other music lovers to soak up some glitchy goodness. You KNOW a show’s gone well when it ends with an en-masse sing-along to Jenny From the Block. Finally, there was my dear old buddy Jonathan Boulet, hitting the big time with his largest hometown show ever at the Metro Theatre. Having followed his work for years across all of his projects, to see this show go so well was a big thing for me. Jono continues to amaze and inspire with his work, and his live shows (starring his remarkably handsome band) are no exception. Good times!

TOP 5:

  1. Lady Gaga
  2. Trial Kennedy
  3. Jonathan Boulet
  4. Fishing
  5. Mrs Bishop

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: None! Everyone ruled! How good is that?

2012 – A Year in the Front Row. Part One: Jan/Feb/March

So, here’s an idea I had. I go to so many damn shows, why not do a retrospective? Especially considering 2012 was easily my busiest year of gigs ever. So, here is part one of four. It’s a very brief recount of the year that was, but one I was compelled to share. Enjoy! – DJY

JANUARY

With a slew of bands still staying over from the New Year’s festivals, as well as some perfectly timed tours, my first few weeks of January 2012 were insanely busy. Within the first week alone, I’d seen old favourites Bluejuice, Italian skramz band Raein, U.S. hip-hopper Jean Grae, U.K. movers-and-shakers The Jim Jones Revue, pop-punk heroes Tonight Alive (the first of four times I’d see them this year) and mid-teen heroes The Dresden Dolls. An exhausting highlight reel of great, diverse and interesting music hanging around Sydney and Wollongong at the time.

Unfortunately, the only sour note among the lot was Jean – arriving forty minutes late on stage and proceeding to treat her fans like idiots while barely putting any effort into her rapping still ranks highly among my year’s sorest disappointments. Still, you’ve got to take the good with the bad – and, there was so much good to take.

In particular, I point to the Dresden Dolls show at the Enmore Theatre as still one of the best shows I went to this year. For two-and-a-half hours, I partied like it was 2006 and celebrated the reunion of one of my biggest high-school obsessions. Having seen Amanda solo twice before, I already had an idea of what to expect – but bringing drummer Brian Viglione into the mix sent the entire affair to strange new levels. A great one to tick off the bucket list.

Not long after that, I was headed to Melbourne for the first time ever. I had the honour of playing with former A Death in the Family vocalist/guitarist Jamie Hay – eerily enough, on Friday the 13th, the day that AditF had announced their split. He didn’t let the news get in the way of a phenomenal performance, thankfully. The weekend immediately following this show lead to my main purpose of visiting Melbourne – Sugar Mountain.

An awesome initiative from Two Bright Lakes, this night was the first of three times I would see percussive adventurers tUnE-yArDs in this month. Getting to see the delightful Deerhoof and the blistering Thee Oh Sees was the icing on an already delicious cake. The next night at the Corner Hotel, I got to see tUnE-yArDs doing her thing once again. I appreciated a total switch-up of her live set – she even started on the same song that she had closed with the day before, and vice versa! My final time seeing her was a day after returning home, at the Famous Spiegeltent as a part of the 2012 Sydney Festival. I also managed to sneak in a breathtaking set from U.K. chanteuse Beth Orton at City Recital Hall for the Festival, too. Gotta be happy with that.

Onto a far-less cultured festival, the one and only Big Day Out. I only managed to get in a single sideshow this time, but it was more than worth it. Battles shook the foundations of the Metro Theatre like nobody’s business. Having now seen these guys 4 times, I can affirm their status as mind-melting musos that you could watch individually for a set’s entirety and not get bored. That said, their MVP is unquestonably Mr. John Stanier. ‘Tis no man! ‘Tis a drumming machine! Onto the BDO itself: Highlights included the bombastic Kanye headlining set, the world-class rock & roll of Soundgarden, Cage the Elephant and My Chemical Romance and the insane celebratory dance party of Girl Talk. Despite relatively poor ticket sales, BDO was a tonne of fun.

The month finished with a quick visit to Wollongong for day 2 of the Stacked Music Festival. Although I attended almost exclusively for Sydney legends Gay Paris, there were also a few treats thrown in for good measure – local champions The Conspiracy Plan, brattish post-punks Chicks Who Love Guns and the always-delightful folk-rockers The Pennys.

TOP 5:

  1. The Dresden Dolls
  2. tUnE-yArDs
  3. Kanye West
  4. Battles
  5. Jamie Hay

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Jean Grae, plus the shitty local band that opened for Tonight Alive whose name escapes me.

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FEBRUARY

I was eased into February quite nicely by one of my favourite events in Blood, Sweat and Beers. This show would mark the first of many times I would see positive-thinking pop-rockers Milhouse, as well as sets from Canberran bong-ripping favourites I Exist, Tassie boys Luca Brasi, country bumpkins Wagons and the brilliant Harmony. With Laneway in town, I caught a sideshow for Canadian sensation Leslie Feist, although admittedly I was going almost exclusively for her support in the delightful Mountain Man. These sweet-singing ladies subsequently wiped the floor with Feist herself, who was half-an-hour late on stage and caught up in her own self indulgences too much to make this show worthwhile.

I then returned to my second home of the Annandale Hotel for three shows headlined by Michigan post-hardcore cult heroes La Dispute. These shows were just as inspiring and engaging as the very first time I saw them back in 2009, but for very different reasons. The 2009 shows were inspiring on account of an American band doing a completely D.I.Y. Australian tour that was done out a pure love for what they do as a band.

These shows were inspiring on account of seeing a relatively little-known band playing a very unfriendly style of music managing to pack out the Annandale for three shows with a huge, hungry and wildly boisterous audience. In other words, they’ve more or less arrived in Australia. We also got some fantastic local supports at these shows: Let Me Down Jungleman, Hira Hira (shout out to Jack Wotton for doing double duty!), Perspectives, Between the Devil and the Deep, Making and the late, great Animal Shapes.

Nearing the end of the month, I got to spend some quality time with some of my songwriting heroes – namely, Dan Mangan and Ben Gibbard. The former played a wondrously joyful set at Notes in Newtown, while the latter lead his band (and one of my all-time favourites), Death Cab for Cutie, into a second headlining show at the Enmore Theatre just up the road. Despite an annoying, iPhone-ready audience, I still had a great time at my third Death Cab show.

Sandwiched in-between Dan and DcfC was SoundDave, a DIY all-day festival held at another one of my Sydney “homes,” Black Wire Records, curated by Milhouse/Between the Devil and the Deep bassist/FBi radio personality/all-round heartthrob Dave Drayton. I was a volunteer for the entire day, and was so happy to be involved. Highlights including decidedly bitchin’ sets from Epics, Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt and Surprise Wasp, fronted by Gay Paris bassist Dean “Slim Pickin’s” Podmore. Top stuff.

Although I gave Soundwave a miss, I still managed to wrap up the month with two great “Sidewaves” at the Metro Theatre. The first was the final Sydney show from Thursday, a band that I will gladly admit meant a hell of a lot more to most people in that room than me. I was a late bloomer for Thursday, only really getting into them later in high school. And I was a War All the Time guy, as opposed to a Full Collapse guy, which was the album they were playing in its entirety. Even so, I came out of that show with a mountain of respect for what they accomplished in their time, and it was an honour to be a part of it. Finally getting to see Circa Survive live was also a treat.

A few days later, on a rare February 29th, I got a triple-horned hardcore treat with Enter Shikari, letlive. and Your Demise. Each put on a great set with their own style and energy, but I’d be kidding myself if I wasn’t there to get properly mental to letlive. After discovering them in mid-2011, I vowed that I’d be front row centre as soon as they toured. And so it was – I screamed, I jumped, I climbed on things and I essentially acted all of the ways a 21-year-old really, really shouldn’t. And it was GLORIOUS.

TOP 5:

  1. La Dispute
  2. Dan Mangan
  3. letlive.
  4. Death Cab for Cutie
  5. I Exist

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Feist. Sorry, babe. Maybe next time.

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MARCH

A pinch, a punch and some motherfucking MASTODON for the first of the month! Don’t mind if I do, thanks. With French destroyers Gojira and Norwegian warriors Kvelertak in tow, my brother Chris and I were treated to one of the most brutal shows I’ve seen all year. This was also the first of three shows at new Sydney venue The Hi-Fi I would attend this month, and all within a few days of one another. The very next day, I saw the delightful Ben Kweller doing his thing, while on the Sunday I’d finally get to see Manchester Orchestra live. Along with my ridiculously similar appearance to Andy Hull, I love all of their albums, especially Mean Everything to Nothing. Watching the band play “Everything to Nothing” live is one of the few gig moments from 2012 where I’ve actually teared up. Truly incredible stuff.

With Future Music Festival in town, I had yet another chance to see Die Antwoord after catching them at both the 2011 Big Day Out and at their show with M.I.A. the very next day, at which they completely blew her off the stage. Here, I found them in the illustrious surrounds of the Enmore, which was decidedly packed full of people from the Zef Side of Sydney. Despite going on late, they put on a truly fantastic show – bounding energy and a seemingly endless supply of bangers.

Next up was a return to Black Wire, to see the hilarious Battle Pope get rowdy along with Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt, The Reverend Jesse Custer and Jesus Christ Posse. Right there is four of my favourite heavy bands in the country, so that was more or less a dream come true. Another festival in March was Golden Plains, and from the cool streets of Portland came the femme-fatale quartet of Wild Flag. Lots of dancing to be had at their show at the Manning Bar with Love of Diagrams and impressive upstarts Unity Floors.

I’ve had the chance to do multiple shows on tours a few times this year, as evidenced back in February with La Dispute. These next two shows would be the first of two times I’d double up on some Children Collide action this year, bringing my grand total to nine times of seeing them live. For what it’s worth, they never let me down. Although the turnout for their Metro Theatre show was abysmal, they packed out the Patch in Wollongong and put on a truly hectic show for all involved.

During the final song, I decided to flip myself off the foldback and into the crowd. Half-expecting to fall to the ground, I ended up being carried all the way to the back of the venue, eventually toppling downward in-front of my bug-eyed sister, who could not believe her baby brother had just crowdsurfed like an absolute champion. Good times. Shout out to the killer supports, Deep Sea Arcade and Palms.

Nearing the end of the month, I was back at Black Wire to see two of my favourite Australian musicians, and people that I’m honoured to count as friends – Jamie Hay and Jen Buxton. I also had the pleasure of meeting Jen’s little dude, Eli. He has the biggest cheeks I’ve ever seen. I showed a world of restraint for not just sinking my teeth directly into them. Don’t tell her I said that, of course.

Oh yeah, I also saw Evanescence. The less said about that, the better. At least Blaqk Audio were pretty good.

TOP 5:

  1. Manchester Orchestra
  2. Mastodon
  3. Die Antwoord
  4. Children Collide
  5. Jamie Hay and Jen Buxton

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Evanescence. Childhood memories tainted forever by this soulless display of mediocrity.