Live Review: Superengine Album Launch

Superengine – ‘Shadows Meet’ Album Launch
The Bakery
Sat 25th August 2007
Review By Rohan Hewson

Blackmilk did what they seem to do too much, which was playing first. They deserve to be playing a lot later to a lot more people… anyway, they were good. At least, their last couple of songs were. The Autumn Isles played their usual pop/rock, with the guitar rock side of things coming mainly from Aiden and his axe. He showed up in Superengine later, which is a fair swap considering Alison plays keyboard in the Isles. Oh, and cowbell… Superengine could use a bit more cowbell themselves.

The Tigers were the art rock band of the evening, which combined with the fair-sized crowd there was by then, meant their first song sounded like a continuation of their soundcheck for a couple of minutes. They got loud eventually, though, and they’re worth paying attention to. They’ve been playing for something like 10 years now, and there isn’t another band in Perth that sounds like them. As for Faith In Plastics: it was good to see them playing again as usual, after their gear got stolen at another gig a couple of months ago. Apart from that, nothing much to report.

Superengine finally have their album ‘Shadows Meet’ out, after five years… I’d say it’s worth the wait. It’s mildly surprising they managed to fit 10 songs onto one CD, considering their tendency to write 10 min jazz-pop epics, but they managed it. Plenty of the songs are shorter than that, though… gotta give the radio something they feel like playing.

Their set was as much of a production as the songs; they wore matching clothes, and when the house music stopped they came on stage and started playing one by one. They left the same way at the end, too. They had even more instruments than usual, including a vibraphone and plenty of guitars – in one song, Renee was joined by Elliot the trumpet player and Aiden the Autumn Isle. The songs themselves sounded the same as always, somewhere between 4 min of bouncy pop and double that of instrumental epic.

If you’ve heard one Superengine set you’ve probably heard them all, but it’s a good’un and so was this gig.

Go get the album.

Live Review: Felicity Groom and The Black, Black Smoke

Felicity Groom and The Black, Black Smoke
Friday 17th August 2007
Review By Leo Abbs

It was only a matter of time before Felicity Groom would form a band to compliment her soulful Indie/folk tunes. One of the most promising acts in Perth at the moment, it says a lot about Felicity as a solo artist, that she could such a formidable band to play with her on stage tonight.

After an extended sound check, the band rolled into a casual, but fantastic sounding intro, with Felicity introducing her band, which consisted of Andrew Ryan (Adam Said Galore/Fall Electric, Alex Archer (Kill Devil Hills), Vanessa Thornton (Jebediah), and Ian Chater (The Bank Holidays).

Then she picked up her acoustic guitar and their career as a band together began. Unfortunately the vocals were inaudible for the first song – the band drowning out their vocalist, who was more used to singing over a single steel string guitar.

Adjustments were made to the mix, and you could hear her voice during the next two songs, then the rest of the band disappeared leaving Groom with Archer on lead guitar. The subtle addition to the song was well done, but The Kill Devil Hills fans in the crowd (err.. me) must have been hoping for his violin playing.

Andrew Ryan came back to the stage to join Groom in a duet, the male/female vocals sounding fantastic, with great variety between both and the pair working well together. Groom also took time to play perhaps her most well known tune to date, ‘Take You Home’ breaking a few hearts in the process.

The entire band rejoined their vocalist on stage for the run home, and as the set ended, you felt that they were closer to reach the stage, where they would gel in a sense of being a true band. It still need some work, but the second last song (the one with that mini harp) was the closest they got all night to perfecting the sound that would suit as the music behind Groom’s voice.

With such talent on display tonight, it made for an impressive debut gig.

Live Reivew: Next Big Thing 2007 – State Final

NBT State Final
Sat 28th July 2007
Review by Rohan Hewson

Desert Radio, a two piece from Dunsborough, played first up for the second night in a row; the timing gods hadn’t smiled on them obviously. Anyone who didn’t get there early missed out, though; they played upbeat, surfy, bluesy songs, like a mixture of Black Keys and the Cruel Sea, and did it excellently. One band that definitely should have placed.

The Bullet Holes didn’t get through their semi, but got the wild card into the final. How they didn’t get through instead of the Chemist is a mystery to me; those two bands weren’t too different, but the Bullet Holes were streets ahead in terms of songs and just flat out rocking; the Chemist were good enough, but didn’t grab me as much. And the Bullet Holes got robbed again, not placing at the end of the night. Surely this band deserved better. Ah well, them’s the breaks I guess… there are only so many places.

The HowlinNovocaines ain’t gonna win any prizes for originality, that’s for sure. They make up for it with their crazy frontman, though, which is more than likely how they came third. The music was little-to-nothing new, but damn it, they were fun to watch. When you can’t sound original, at least look it… they pulled that off OK.

Will Stoker and the Embers had been previously quite impressive in the heats, but played a fairly loose, slapdash set on the night, which was somewhat disappointing. The Spring Collection played a very similar set to the previous night, except their fans were much less annoying this time… maybe drowned out in the larger venue. They didn’t place, but did win an award for best headgear… no, I kid. It was the songwriting award.

As for the Harlequin League, playing last once again, they could have phoned in their set and still probably won it. Between their own gigs, and members playing in Mile End or 2005 winners the Fault (who they sound a lot like), they were the most experienced band of the night, and it showed – they’ve played these songs a lot before. It looks like this band are going places. Congratulations to them and all the bands.

Live Reivew: Next Big Thing 2007 – Regional Semi Final

NBT Regional Semi Final
Fri 27th July 2007
Review By Rohan Hewson

Firstly, Desert Radio played first and I missed them, so refer to the state final review the next night where I did. I’m assuming they were as good on Friday as on Saturday, ie: great.

Ashleigh Rodier came all the way from Carnarvon, and unusually for the regional semi, was the only soloist of the night. Apparently a multi-instrumentalist, although the only instrument she played was a guitar… why is it always a guitar? She’s forgiven though, because the songs were good; especially ‘The Last’. Most of the songs were surprisingly personal, coming from a small town where most people know each other. Soloists don’t tend to win this competition, but it doesn’t mean she wasn’t good.

Next up, last year’s grand finalists Bartlett, now with the oldest lead guitarist I’ve ever seen, apparently named ‘Boink’. By the third song, ‘The Footy Song’, it was fairly obvious they wouldn’t win, purely because Perth judges / audiences wouldn’t get the very, VERY rural vibe. However, I’m a country kid myself, and I grew up listening to the Angels and Choirboys, so I liked it anyway. Loud, simple, pub rock that couldn’t have come from anywhere else but the bush. By this stage, Mojo’s was absolutely packed… all the bands’ friends and family together made it quite hard to get to the bar, or anywhere else.

I thought the Spring Collection, from still-apparently-regional Mandurah, were called ‘the Scream Collection’ until I read their correct name on a time sheet, largely due to their fans. Mojo’s was suddenly flooded with black hoodies and teenage screams for their set, which was intensely annoying. Despite this, however, their set was quite enjoyable; the singer’s Bob Log-style microphone helmet should win the ‘best gimmick of the competition’ prize, if such a thing existed. And the music wasn’t too bad either; there was a bit of modern emo-punk style in there to please the kids, but the bluesy Bob Log influence didn’t stop at the helmet. They won the night, and probably deserved to.

The last two bands, Cody Robson from Broome and Aron’s Crusade from Albany, were fairly similar. When Cody Robson started playing, I spent the first song trying to see around the crowd to find the other guitarist; surprisingly, there wasn’t one. Just one guitar and drums, but the two of them got plenty of sound out of them. Aron’s Crusade had the ‘Albany sound’ about them, ie: they sounded plenty like the Waifs. Two acoustic guitars, and strangely, a drummer who looked like he’d be more at home in a punk band. Neither of them placed, but were a nice cruisy way to wind down the night.

Live Reivew: Next Big Thing 2007 – Metro Semi Final 1

Next Big Thing Competition – Metro Semi 1
Amplifier Bar
Friday 20th July 2007
Review by Rohan Hewson

Firstly… I didn’t see The Bullet Holes, and they didn’t place, and I barely saw The Wilderness and neither did they. I’ll be diplomatic and say I heard good things about them, though.

Druid Lee Roth were hopefully the joke band of the competition… I have to hope. Five-sixths of the band were bringing back 80’s new wave / post-punk… ahh, whatever it is, and they were fairly good. Unfortunately, the singer (who did nothing but sing, dance and dodgy audience participation) seemed to be bringing back Madchester. Anyone with eyes could see there’s a crowd, there are girls in it and some of them are dancing – we don’t need it pointed out. Maybe it’s a kind of art that’s too subtle for me to grasp, but I just thought… is he on E?

The Disguise impressed me a whole lot more than in their heat, maybe because I was paying attention this time. They played… well, guitar rock, with less keyboards than some of the other bands. Simple explanations are good sometimes. They were good, too. At this point the cheap beer started to kick in, so the Disguise, the Remedials and the Chemist kinda drifted into each other. The Chemist were only a three piece, but still managed to have quite a full sound, which is probably how they came second. Those three bands were an hour of ultimately inoffensive music… nothing bad, some quite good, but then I didn’t remember much an hour later.

And then, the Harlequin League played last and won the night. As in their heat, they were never really in doubt – a cut above any other band in the comp so far. That said, they possibly don’t need to win, as they’re going to get big with or without the NBT. They’ll be deserving winners, though.

Live Review: Next Big Thing Heat 6

Next Big Thing Competition Heat 6
The Bakery
Friday 29th June 2007
Review By Rohan Hewson

Generals And Majors got the difficult first slot on this NBT heat, on a cold and wet night, which meant they played to the judges and about 10 other people. I didn’t see them, but I guess they must have been OK – they came second, and any band named after an XTC song is all right by me. So I’ll see them at the semi.

Bottle Rockets were next. They were all right, but obviously very new, with a few awkward patches in their songs here and there. When the acoustic guitar player picked up a second electric one instead for a song, it became obvious they could use a bass player. The mix of two electric guitars and some very basic drumming needed a whole lot more low end than what it had.

Upton Pilots continued the aeronautical theme, and also the really new band theme. They were more of a full band than Bottle Rockets, but suffered from the same problem: songs that sound like they’ve been written a week ago and played four times. Fortunately, that’s an easier problem to fix than rubbish songs. Once these bands have been playing for a while and figure out their sound, they should be pretty good – I think they call that ‘potential’. I’d pick both these bands to do well in next year’s NBT, if they’re still together then.

Natasha Bouchard played the kind of music you hear on Channel 31 at 2am, Chelsea Lights played the kind of music you hear at the Amplifier Bar at 2am. They were fairly boring, so enough about them.

They played either side of Will Stoker and the Embers, who deservedly won the night. They started out with two keyboards, with their players sitting down. I was thinking ‘some kind of Whitlams band?’. The Whitlams comparison lasted about half a song, and by the end of the set Will had played keyboard, clarinet, harmonica, guitar and sung. Trying to put a genre on what they played would be pointless, so I’ll just say: go and see them. They’re manic, and very good, too.

The Roast were a whole pile of fun. God knows what an eight piece funk band was doing in this comp, but it got people dancing. Not indie-dancing, either – but real shimmying on the floor. I think it’s safe to say that they provided the only trombone solo of the whole NBT competition. We could use more bands with three-piece horn sections.

Anyway… Will Stoker and the Embers go through to the semis along with Generals and Majors, and a heap of other bands from the other heats. See ya there.

Live Revew: The Nordeens

The Nordeens/ The Order Of The Black Werewolf / The Gary’s / Russian Winters
Hyde Park hotel
Friday 25th May
Review by Leo Abbs

I turned up half way through the Russian Winters’ acoustic set. Featuring two members of Team Jedi, a few people have suggested it’s Team Jedi two. A little off the mark as Kris Dimatroff (better known as Dima) is on lead vocals and guitar, whilst in Jedi he was on drums.

I couldn’t actually see the band, or for the matter, hear much bar a bit of vocals. They played without a drums, so perhaps it’s best I save judgement for when I get to see the full band play.

‘You guys suck!’ called a guy in the audience early in the next band, The Gary’s set..
‘hi Wayne!’ The lead singer said of The Gary’s into his mic.
‘I said, you guys SUCK!’ said Wayne
‘We may suck, but you paid 5 bucks, so you suck more!’ replied the vocalist.

Tonight was apparently The Gary’s first show. Also featuring members of a pervious Perth ban (the guitarist and bassist from Punk band White Trash, who were around about ten years ago) The Garys impressed this reviewer. They were hilarious, and had some catchy rock songs with at least four of the tunes mentioning Gary. Who’s Gary? Anyway, a band to check out.

Beside being known as a cunt of a reviewer for Xpress, Mike Wafer used to play in a popular punk band Love Camp 7. Best known for piss funny songs, they broke up when Wafer moved to Melbourne. When he came back to Perth 2 years later, he formed Whitechapel, who never reached the popularity of LC7 and dissolved in 2006. Tonight was the second performance of his new band, The Order of the Black Werewolf.

While both previous bands dabbled in surf guitar, The Werewolf have got a more full on surf rock sound. With long instrumental passages, they sounded interesting, until vocalist Wafer opened his mouth. His vocals sounded terrible tonight. It would be easy to write this whole band off on hearing him sing, but we’ll go easy on the fact that tonight’s gig was only their second. However, bassist (also of Love Camp and Whitechapel) Anthony is still one of the funniest men I’ve ever seen play in a band.

Glenn Musto is one of the best pop songwriters around town, and has been concentrating on his acoustic act, College Fall in recent times. Tonight it was a reunion of sorts for his other band, The Nordeens. It’s been a while since they’ve played, as drummer Ant is now living in Bendigo.

When it comes to comparing Musto’s two bands, then College Fall would be his day job, while The Nordeens would be like going to the pub with his mates. A 3 piece that is on the heavier side of pop, they’re angsty at times with out being dreadfully emo. The Nordeens are perfect for Friday night at the Hydey.

Their set that ran through their ‘How To Forget (you)’ EP, with the catchy Alison Ashley opening proceedings plus other live favourites such as ‘Caroline, I don’t deserve you’. It felt like it was 2004.

Finishing with their last single ‘So Long’ and not playing one of those predictable encores that bands so often do, they left us wanting more, but it’s better to wait for the next gig. Hopefully the wait is shorter than two years.