David Bowie Tribute – A Starman Waiting in the Sky – N.S.C 7-2-16

There, in the chords and melodies, is everything I want to say. The words just jolly it along. It’s always been my way of expressing what, for me, is inexpressible by any other means” (Bowie)

Bowie often stated that he communicated more through his music than his lyrics. But I defy the notion that from the first couple of bars, (we can all immediately identify), of classics like; “The Jean Genie“, “Ziggy Stardust” or “Life on Mars“, that you’re not prompted to sing the words that are somehow indelibly etched in your subconscious, even if only a sometimes fan. Such was the impact of the thin white duke. And just as it’d be difficult to find a music lover who hasn’t had at least a feeling about a Bowie song, it would be difficult to find a musician who hasn’t been influenced either directly or indirectly by Bowie in some form, be it music, lyrics or image. He was renowned for his ability to reinvent himself as a performer both through the use of characters and his changing musical style. So it seemed somehow fitting that performers whose musical styles differed were assembled to pay tribute, including a few I wouldn’t have immediately thought would be Bowie fans.

Enter JMS Harrison, (who is also lead vocalist with Old Etiquettes), who is emerging as the “go to” guy when you want an event that will feature a diverse group of local musicians, (both within their own bands or as part of a mix), having also organised the successful PJ Harvey tribute last year. It’s not an easy task to stage manage a dozen acts over a marathon six hours, keeping the set up times to a minimum and the audience engaged. A difficult task when most acts are playing only 2 or 3 songs each. It was the diversity of the performers, many who I hadn’t heard before and the mix of Bowie songs, including some of the lesser known, that kept the audience eager for more.

A strong start with one of the centrepieces of the Ziggy Stardust album, “Starman“, performed by a band I hadn’t heard before, Closet Straights, who got the crowd singing along from the off, and definitely a band I’ll see again. Kate Lucas from Coda Chroma then smashed it with a brilliant version of “Ashes to Ashes“. Andrew McCubbin once again showed his skill on guitar with one of my favourites, “Wild is the Wind“. The first half had something for everyone with other classics; “Five Years“, “China Girl“, “Heroes” and a couple of songs Bowie had covered.

The second half of the show somehow seemed to take it up a notch. Beginning with JMS and band performing a great version of “Modern Love” along with the lesser known, haunting, “Slip Away“. Then rockers, Have/Hold turned up the volume and had some of the crowd almost in a dancing frenzy. But, it was from the first 8 well known beats of “The Jean Genie” that high energy power blues band, The Ugly Kings assaulted the stage. “The Jean Genie“, “Lazarus“, and “Rebel Rebel“, perfect choices for their powerful sound and style. The sound, played with precision, exploded from the stage, and having chosen two of the best loved Bowie hits, it took things to the next level. They absolutely stole the show. A marathon afternoon and early evening, it was left to the flawless Ash Naylor & Sun God Replica, who continued the vibe and closed the show with great renditions of “Boys Keep Swinging” and one of the best versions I’ve heard in a long time of “All the Young Dudes“.

And so ended a day of music that has endured the passage of time, a celebration both among the crowd and  musicians, of a one-off, musician, performer, chameleon and rock icon whose breadth of influence is almost too vast to contemplate.

Maybe Ziggy Stardust was immortal after all….

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JMS Harrison

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The Ugly Kings

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Have/Hold

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The Ugly Kings

 

https://jmsharrison.bandcamp.com/

https://theuglykings.bandcamp.com/releases

http://havehold.com/

https://closetstraights.bandcamp.com/

 

 

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The Basics – Tinder Knight 2, 2/1/16

When I said I was starting 2016 with a Tinder night, I think it was assumed I was going to a slightly different “love in” than was the Northcote Social club. However, 2016 for me, did begin with a smile and a definite swipe to the right!

Thanks to Wally coming home for Christmas, the indefinite hiatus announced at their Melbourne Cup Eve gig, temporarily modified to an intermission of sorts, with The Basics together again for the one-off Tinder Knight 2. This “love in” was the guys stripped back, in the round, with the just over 200 sold out audience, stretched out on the floor around them. Tim and Kris acoustic and Wally swapping drums for a Wurlitzer.

What has this to do with Tinder you ask? A gig with some sort of dating twist perhaps? Not such a bad idea! However, simply, the original Tinder Knight began as a word of mouth secret gig on a Tuesday night last February. The name evolved because the band figured Tuesday nights were slow nights so everyone was probably at home on Tinder. Not everyone, guys! The name is now recognised by Basics followers as a night of covers, their own tracks and audience requests, if copies of the sheet music or at least chords are brought along. Kris had requested everyone sit on the floor as the last Tinder Knight went for 3hrs. At first we thought this would detract from the performance, even though I was basically beside Wally’s chair, but it was perfect and allowed the music to just happen.

Admitting there was no set list, they began, and immediately I was smiling when I heard Wally’s gentle vocal and the unmistakable opening chords of my absolute best loved Beatles track, In My Life. The room instantly fell silent and already I knew, that this night was going to exceed any expectations. Next, was the up tempo Beatles version of Ain’t She Sweet. Then, what followed was a mixture of Basics tracks, covers and audience requests. The musicianship of the group was evident as the next two and bit hours was an eclectic mix of songs that crossed nearly all genres interspersed with the usual Basics humour, story telling and good-natured banter that kept me smiling until my cheeks hurt.

The two sets had a laid back feel with songs sometimes being chosen because someone had shouted out a name. This happened when a shout out “George Michael” resulted in a lively fun version of Faith. The Beatles featured again with Wally and Kris nailing two of my other favourite tracks; Golden Slumbers and If I Fell. The consensus being, oh not Ringo, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass was also sung. Being seated, we clapped along to The Everly Brothers’ Wake Up Little Susie and sang along to All I Have To Do Is Dream. We stamped our feet when they rocked out Rebel Rebel and as a tribute to Stevie Wright, I’ll Make You Happy, which many knew from their Rockwiz performance.

Other highlights were the underrated Real Men, (Joe Jackson), and the surprising Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, (Crash Test Dummies). I felt a momentary rush of patriotism during one of the best versions of Eric Bogle’s The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, I’ve heard and Tim had me captivated when he swapped his guitar for keys and quietly performed a beautiful rendition of Neil Young’s Birds. But it was Wally’s haunting vocal on Songbird, that held the room once more.

Whilst not as many brought music as I had expected, we were treated to audience requests; Sister Madly and I Got You. And despite Tim protesting having to play The Eagles, Lyin Eyes was successfully requested. Some of their own songs were also in the mix, including two that I love and haven’t heard live for a while being Memory Lane and Home Again.

But the two most memorable moments of the night were Tim on keys for Hey Rain, with an extra made up on the spot verse about cane toads due to the frog in Wally’s throat, which had us in stitches, and the requested I Walk The Line which somehow ended up a Johnny Cash/Cookie Monster mash up.

Final song of the night was an as usual brilliant version of Comfortably Numb and the band as always, seemed to reluctantly exit.

Kris and Wally stayed chatting to the crowd during the break between sets and I did mention to Kris that not all musicians can play on request with no rehearsal, as I was once again reminded that these guys seem to be able to effortlessly play anything.

His response was simply, “it’s just chords”…….. and I guess it is!

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Wally De Backer

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Wally De Backer

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Tim Heath

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Kris Schroeder

https://thebasics.bandcamp.com/album/leftovers-2

2015 in Review-My Musical Medley

John Cusack told me in High Fidelity that, a good mix tape is like writing a letter. There’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch .… 2015 was my mix tape, but after seeing 50 gigs, and I could’ve seen many more, for Melbourne, is, music, could I narrow it to my top 5?

January 1, 2016, there won’t be any new years resolutions from this gal, because we all know that resolutions remain resolute for about the amount of time it takes hungover and draped over the couch, to find the remote control and change the channel. So rather than look forward, as I contemplate the logistics of finding said remote without movement on my part, here is my year of live music that in some way, blew me away.

My friends will tell you that I gush endlessly about Husky so it was somehow fitting, (although completely random), that the first and last gigs of 2015 for me, were in fact, Husky. 2015 began with Husky on a 40 degree Summer evening, outdoors in the cool leafy space behind the NGV International that gave the gig a lazy sumptuous feel. 2015 ended on December 19, a 42 degree day with Husky at NSC where I was as mesmerised as on that earlier February day.

But before the cheers of the final 5, here are my thoughts on those of the other 45 that have stuck in my mind.

The Perfections, a fave from 2013-14, and self proclaimed as Melbourne’s laziest garage soul band kicked ass in February with Christina’s vocals. She could be the love child of Tina Turner and Chrissy Amphlett if that was possible!
A final Bennetts Lane gig with The Furbelows in June transported me to the 40’s with songs of times past, with the exquisite harmonies of the 3 vocalists.
Amistat’s folky goodness charmed with their easy rapport, funny stories and gentle harmonies, then, Marlon Williams’ ballads and vocal gymnastics left us speechless.
Sydney’s Squeeze Box Trio, a 5 piece gypsy swing band, had the whole joint squeeze box jumpin to gypsy beats that had me dancing until my feet ached!
Follow with, the night of every song with a 3/4 (waltz) beat from the somewhat eccentric but wonderful, Captain Apples.
And, absolute highlights for a gal that is indie folk/country at heart, were Ben Whiting, James Fahy, Hugh McGinlay and Dan Lethbridge, whose lyrics all weave wonderful stories.
Having a predilection for Paris in the time of Hemingway and Gauguin, add to the mix, a regular indulgence of French chanson that made me swoon, from crooners, Merime, Paul Gillette and La Mauvaise Reputation.
And finally, Queenscliff Music Festival where I was blown away by The California Honeydrops, Mustered Courage and Melbourne Ska Orchestra, whilst coming home to, Lior and Hoodoo Gurus.

But these 5 were something extra special:

The Basics – Gasometer
Middle of the floor, in the round, everyone huddled around them, an easy banter that comes from playing together a long time, they had the crowd from the first drum beat. For over 2hrs, the musical brilliance of Wally De Backer held me spellbound culminating in a version of Fleetwood Mac’s Songbird.

Rubber Soul Revolver – Arts Centre
A rare opportunity, 3 rows from the front, to see, Jordie Lane, Marlon Williams, Husky Gawenda and Fergus Linacre perform The Beatles Rubber Soul and Revolver albums back to back. Individually and as a group they not only did justice to the The Beatles but made the songs their own.

Husky – Private Gig
Lucky enough to be one of a handful sat around a grand piano, with music that soared.

Three Writers Sing Their Words – Conduit Arts
A truly acoustic gig, no mics, no amps, just three guys and their guitars. James Fahy, James Hazelden and Floyd Thursby did just that. Each performer taking turns, one song each. This allowed a night of humour, stories and song. A delight.

Number 5 is a 3 way tie…cheating I know!

David Bowie Ziggy Stardust From the Top – featured the who’s who of local musicians. Highlights were James Fahy – Life on Mars, Baby Grace – Strangers When We Meet and Pete Whelan embodied Bowie with The Jean Genie

Changes – A Bowie Tribute – performers unleashed their inner Bowie. As I’ve already reviewed this gig I’ll just say, read my review! Highlights; Michael Plater and Sam Sejavka.

The Secret History of Song – Take a true folk soul, Mandy Connell and add provocateur balladeer, Floyd Thursby and you get a singular musical experience focused on the origin of the song, inspiration for the song and if the song was completely original at all. One gig I wanted more of.

…..and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs, and … oh there are loads of rules. But, really, there are no rules, for me, often it’s the indefinable.

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Michael Plater

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Dan Lethbridge

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Husky

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Lior

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Mustered Courage

 

Changes – A David Bowie Tribute, Lyrebird Cafe. 21/11/15

Growing up in a house where my dad would come home from work every day and we’d spin his favourite 33’s, it’s no surprise I got my first album for my 8th birthday. TV was limited, but I begged my parents to give me the 6pm Sunday time slot, for Countdown! It was the mid 80’s and Beargarden, (fronted by the charismatic Sam Sejavka), and their single, I Write The News, burst onto the screen. I was instantly transfixed!
It’s always a risk to revisit idols of your past years later, and curiosity killed the cat, but hey, this cat still has at least 7 lives, so when I heard Sam was singing at Bowie – Changes Tribute, I couldn’t resist revisiting my preteen self!

So it was with curious anticipation that I ventured forth to suburbia. Lyrebird Cafe & Bar unobtrusively nestled among the Glen Eira Road shopping strip is cosy, with a slightly bohemian, welcoming feel. Now suburbia is not without its distance, so I missed the first couple of acts. The cafe was jammed with an assortment of Bowie and 80’s music devotees, some in standard glittery Bowie issue. Some faces were familiar but I couldn’t quite place them. Sam was yet to arrive.

The fourth act of the night,(my first), rapidly becoming a favourite, organiser Michael Plater, complete with glitter and eyeliner, opened with a very Bowiesque version of Diamond Dogs. Reminiscent of the Velvet Underground or The Triffids, Michael’s restrained edgy vocal then smashed Suffragette City, a difficult achievement for an iconic Bowie number. The crowd approved.

With ten acts and a set list including some of the lesser known Bowie numbers, the experience of the performers showed as they were able to quickly establish a rapport with the audience whilst limited to three songs each. The subdued vocal of Andrew McCubbin had the room in silence with his version of the under rated, Wild is The Wind. Another highlight was Melbourne four piece, Winter Sun, whose energetic version of, Fame got people dancing. The set ups were quick, the sets were tight and overall the night had a wonderful supportive feel from both the crowd and the other musicians.

With the last two acts to go, there was an almost imperceptible hum,”Sam’s here”, and all eyes were on the door. Dressed in a leopard print coat he quietly entered, and in doing so commanded the attention of the room. I don’t really know what I had expected but I still had that curious fascination. Guitar in hand, Sam and The Moth Body’s awesome guitarist, Donald Baldie accompanied unique vocalist and violinist, Bronwyn Adams. Then, the final act and my performance of the night, which included a brilliant version of, All The Madmen, the stage was Sam’s. A perfect finish! But the crowd, and the musicians wanted more, so all performers assembled on stage for a couple of impromptu Bowie numbers, a fitting finale.

As I turned to leave, I looked around and for a fleeting moment became that preteen fan once more, and I couldn’t help but smile!

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https://michaelplater.bandcamp.com/

https://themothbody.bandcamp.com/track/curious

 

Floyd Thursby – Library at the Dock, Docklands. 25/10/15

Amongst titles; Fury’s Kiss and Love and Other Diseases, in a 3 piece suit and trilby, reminiscent of a 1940’s Sam Spade, on a hot Spring day, is a man, and his guitar. That is all. Although at first glance it seems an odd fit, he begins, and effortlessly starts to weave his stories through song. As I listen, I forget the noise and chatter of the library cafe and the poetry comes to life.

Unlike many singer songwriters locked into a particular sound or style, Floyd’s songs cross styles and genres. From the gentle folky, and my favourite, ‘In Your Hands’, to the truckin’ country beat of ‘Eight Days’ or the Cab Callowayesque ‘Bag of Knives’, the songs have one thing in common: subtle, emotion-charged, thoughtful, often humorous lyrics. Lyrics that are guaranteed to provoke a response in the listener.

Floyd quickly establishes a rapport with the audience and the next hour doesn’t disappoint, giving us a mix of songs old and new, and the stories behind those songs. Tales of tarot, weddings, lost love and even finding a bag of knives in a tree, these backstories further bring the lyrics to life. Being a library cafe, not an easy gig space, the audience ranges from very young to old, but even the pre-schooler at the next table is listening intently. Too soon the audience is clapping and I am brought back with a jolt as the musical journey has come to an end.

I smile and think, play it again, Floyd!

 

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https://floydthursby.bandcamp.com/track/in-your-hands