On Tour: Machine Translations

Machine Translations/Bank Holidays/Autumn Isles
Amplifier Bar
Friday 30th September 2005
Review by Rohan Hewson

I went to see Machine Translations at the Amplifier Bar last night, and bloody hell, it was awesome. The best gig I’ve been to in a while; $13 for the ticket + $15 for beer = money well spent.

The set list:

Holiday In Spain
Love On The Vine
A Ghost Rides
A Most Peculiar Place
Miss China
Makers 1
The Real You
She Wears A Mask
Poor Circle
Walt Must Die
Venus Traps Fly

I got to the Amplifier at about 9pm, on a train full of people going from the Showgrounds to Northbridge. I waited around for a while, the the Autumn Isles came on. I didn’t know they were going to play, as the Bank Holidays were the only support advertised. I always love seeing them, they play great songs; especially ‘Drastic Change’, ‘Piece of Your Mind’ (if that’s its real name) and the mostly instrumental piece they did at the beginning. Unfortunately this was Erik the guitarist / keyboardist’s last gig with them… I hope they find someone else quick and come back soon.

Erik got a (hopefully) unintentional sendoff just after the set finished… the fire alarm went off and the automatic fire doors slid shut. The loud siren went on for a few minutes, but nothing else happened; with the intermittent rain through the night, I’d be surprised if there was a fire anywhere. After those fun and games, the Bank Holidays came on. I like the Banks, but tonight they seemed a bit flat. I was tired, very tired, and that might had something to do with it, but I don’t think they’re as much fun as they used to be. ‘Tread Easy’ is still a great song though. I watched them for a bar stool up the back; I was very tired all night, the bite back from too much caffeine inspired wakefulness during the week. The Autumn Isles had that special something that made me stand up there (or at least lean on a pillar), the Bank Holidays just didn’t tonight. It’s a pity, I quite like them.

After a bit of a wait, and no fire sirens, Machine Translations came on. The main singer and songwriter in the band is J Walker, but some of the other players were better or at least more interesting than him, especially the shit hot guitarist with the 70’s porno hairdo. The first song they played was ‘Holiday In Spain’, a bit of an oldie, but second up… ‘Love On The Vine’. If there’s a more beautiful song realeased in the last couple of years then I haven’t heard it; they could have played it all night for all I cared. I was mesmerised. After that was ‘A Ghost Rides’, one of the songs off their new EP ‘Wolf On A String’, and then an incredible 15 minute improv version of ‘A Most Peculiar Place’. The song sounded a lot different from on ‘Happy’, and wasn’t as delicate, but then there was 10 minutes of quite intense instrumental jamming that completely left the recorded version of the song behind. Incredible.

They played a couple more songs off their new EP, and also ‘Scretch’ off their last full-length album, ‘Venus Traps Fly’. Someone in the crowd yelled out, ‘Play Amnesia!’ J said no, they weren’t doing that one tonight, and they played another oldie off the ‘Holiday In Spain’ album, which faded into ‘She Wears A Mask’. On the album Happy, ‘Mask’ is a beautiful pop song; live, its effect is diluted somewhat, due to distortion and other fun stuff that happens when you play live. I was singing along anyway because I love the song but I’m not sure what somebody who was hearing the song for the first time.

J did the next song solo (complete with someone yelling out for ‘Tinsel Town’). He didn’t do that one, said something about the last time he played it being a disaster, but he played another song off ‘Bad Shapes’ instead – ‘Poor Circle’. The band came on again for the last two songs, ‘Walt Must Die’, another song off ‘Bad Shapes’ that’s not so unpleasant as the title might make you think, actually quite a nice song; and they finished the night with ‘Venus Traps Fly’.

Machine Translations played plenty of old stuff at this gig, off their last four albums. That’s the advantage of a tour to support an EP rather that a full-length album; there aren’t so many new songs to play and that makes room for the good old ones. Some of the songs sounded quite different than on record, but they still sounded pretty good, with flashes of absolute brilliance (‘Love On The Vine’ and ‘Walt Must Die’ particularly). And there weren’t so many people there that it was uncomfortable. Now that’s the advantage to liking music that doesn’t get played on commercial radio.

Now if only I had another $20. I’m betting the Norfolk show’ll be just as good, possibly a bit more intimate than the Amplifier. Ah well…


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