LIVE: The Panics, live at ANU Bar, Canberra (22-09-11)

Avalanche City opened the night, and I’m glad they made the trip from New Zealand. Their folkish hooks came coupled with instrumentation that felt both delicate at times, and very powerful at others. The rapid guitar picking jumped up from the tinkling additions of a glockenspiel and what seemed like a cross between a mandolin and a banjo (actually, according to Wikipedia it’s a “manjo” – you learn something new every day!). They were surprisingly good for a support act, and it was nice to start the night with a band that has not only a firm grasp of their sound, but also the talent to bring it across live. The only things I think their music and live show would benefit from is more explosive and giant moments. The potential to build them is there, they just need to take hold of it. But Avalanche City put on a great show, and are well worth checking out.

Next up were Georgia Fair. Known more widely as the band that wrote the song on that milk commercial, don’t be too quick to put them in a box (as great as “Picture Frames” is), because these guys have matured and developed since then. The softly-spoken folk numbers filled the bar, in-between guitar stabs and intricate backing melodies, and the band poured forth emotion, showing off both older tracks and newer unreleased ones.

Provided Georgia Fair don’t fall into the over-populated group of bands I call the “Boy And Bear niche”, they’ll have a great future ahead of them. With a sense of pace and melody, it would be interesting to see the band bring some bite into their sound, because I think it’s something they could definitely achieve well.

At any rate, Georgia Fair have a sense of style grounded in beautiful harmonies, and right now that’s more than enough to provide an entertaining set. The duo are preparing to release their full-length debut in about a month’s time, so make sure you look out for it!

There’s something quintessentially Australian about The Panics. From their modest yet enthusiastic stage presence, to their grandiose melodies, there’s something about them that screams out “geniune” and “down to earth”. It’s an attractive quality in musicians really, because no one enjoys going to a gig where the musicians’ ego crowds out the room. The fact that The Panics carry themselves in such a way does everything to reinforce the passion they have for their craft, and when you’re watching a passionate band perform, there isn’t much more you can ask for.

Running through a slew of older tracks, with a handful from their 2007 J-Award-winning album Cruel Guards, the band also introduced the polite crowd at ANU Bar to a few numbers from their latest release – Rain on the Humming Wire. That said, understandably “Don’t Fight It” received a very warm welcome, as did “Majesty” and “Get Us Home” (which was brought out for the encore).

As subdued as some of their songs are, the band’s energy and playing carried the performance. Jae Laffer’s very distinctive movements showed a man absorbed in the moment, and between the relaxed grooves and frenetic playing of the other members, the band didn’t drop a beat (from what I could tell).

It would’ve been particularly impressive to see them bring a brass player on tour for some of the instrumentation, in particular the melodies in “Don’t Fight It”. But I understand the logistics of these things make it often not worth the hassle, and the song didn’t suffer as a result which is the important thing.

The Panics put on a tight show, with impressive playing and a warming stage presence. It’s hard not to enjoy a band like this, especially when you have a perfect crowd. Their blend of alt-rock with slow-crawl country influences may not be entirely ground-breaking musical territory, but The Panics prove that when sometimes coupling a considerable amount of talent and dedication, a performance becomes less about challenging an audience and more about pulling them in – and that’s exactly what they do.

LIVE: The Living End, live at ANU Bar, Canberra (07-09-11)

There’s no doubt about it: The Living End still have it.

On Wednesday night I relived my first ever gig. Just over five years ago I saw The Living End at the Albury Wodonga Civic Centre – they were touring their then freshly pressed album State of Emergency. As a three-piece, their performance set the bar for years to come. It’s nice to see nothing’s changed.

King Cannons opened the night, blasting through the quickly growing crowd with their hard-edged catchy rock. Although their sound builds itself on pop hooks, don’t be fooled – these guys have got it in them to bring the house down. Although I rarely mention this aspect of a band, you’ll struggle to find a more consistently fashionable group – with black shirts, slick hair, and tattoos aplenty, they not only sounded great, but they looked the part.

Hunting Grounds filled the stage with their band, and it was interesting to see them swap instruments and roles over the course of their set. Without a doubt, their explosive rock really came to fruition with the final song – drums being smashed, a guitarist in the photo pit, a beaten up cymbal being thrown around, and some drumstick duelling all made it an amazing closer. Like King Cannons, they have live energy and talent – it’d be nice to see both bands go somewhere further in the future.

The Living End took to the stage, and surprisingly I didn’t break any ribs against the barrier in the “surge”. Well, it wasn’t so much a crowd surge as a gentle push. Not that I was complaining, but the crowd did take a little while to warm up.

Which got me thinking about the kind of band TLE are. The first songs were from their latest album, The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, and don’t get me wrong – the reception for them was great, but it was still lukewarm relative to old favourites like “West End Riot” and “Roll On”.

“No kidding”, you’re thinking. “Generally people know a band’s older songs, of course there’s going to be a stronger reception.”

Well, that might seem logically right, but it’s not always true. There are plenty of bands that release a new album, get flogged by radio, and most will only know those songs. Everyone knows “White Noise” got one hell of a flogging. But despite that, TLE are still different. We had 99% of a room screaming along to tracks like “Prisoner of Society” and “All Torn Down”, both of which were released years and years ago.

Does this mean their albums are getting worse? No, of course not. But it shows that The Living End are one of the few contemporary Australian bands that have written songs that generations will consider “classics”. This is a band with longevity, who have paid their dues and toured relentlessly. This is a band who consistently draw all sorts of people to their gigs – from teenagers to adults who’re over 50. Plenty of bands can write decent hooks and memorable songs – only a rare few can write classics that stay with a generation for years upon years.

And only a rare few can play their songs so damn well! Chris Cheney commands the stage like a seasoned veteran, and his guitar is played so effortlessly it’s like another limb. Andy and Scott tear through their respective parts, and as proficient as the band is, you can’t deny the work they’re putting into the performance when they’re sweating all over the stage.

The Living End are not only skilled musicians, but skilled showmen – they all know how to present themselves on stage and get the most out of their music. This latest tour has seen another guitarist, Adrian, playing live, and he’s a welcome addition – he really does seem to flesh out the band’s sound.

There are few bands of this calibre. The Living End set the bar for music fans, inspire musicians, and are good at what they do – let’s hope they stick around for many years to come.

I didn’t take many photos. You can check out some nice ones over at FasterLouder though.

NEWS/BRAND NEW: Johnny Foreigner – “(Don’t) Show Us Your Fangs”

Johnny Foreigner - (Don't) Show Us Yr Fangs

Our favourite Birmingham punks Johnny Foreigner made some big announcements today!

They now have a rather snazzy looking website over here for you to peruse. On top of that, JoFo announced the details for their new album, Johnny Foreigner vs Everything, due November the 7th on Alcopop. The band also announced a new promotional YouTube channel to put up snippets of songs and footage to sate our appetite until the release.

What else? Oh yeah, only a couple of brand new songs from them! In the form of a double-a-side single, you can listen to (Don’t) Show Us Your Fangs / The Hand That Slaps You Back over at BandCamp. There are a limited number of free downloads for “(Don’t) Show Us Your Fangs”, so get in quickly! But don’t forget to fork over a couple of dollars and buy them, ’cause the band will send you some skateboard stickers. I think I’m going to buy a skateboard just so I can use one of these properly.

There’s also yet-to-be-announced news regarding pre-order packages, and multiple album covers, so listen out for that too.

LIVE: The Bedroom Philosopher, live at Transit Bar, Canberra (28-08-11)

Like an elephant running rampant through a tennis court, The Bedroom Philosopher demands your attention – because, like that image he’s quite funny, but also because you just aren’t sure what the hell is going to happen next.

Walking into the room with a guitar, he provided some dramatic music for two guys playing pool (incidentally the guy missed his shot). He then began snapping his fingers and strumming along, before pulling a shaker out of his mouth. Then pulling a party whistle out of his mouth, he proceeded to play it as well. It set the mood for a set filled with the sorts of antics most artists either look down upon, or are too scared to try themselves, and that’s really what sets him apart as both a comedian and a musician.

What’s particularly astounding is Justin Heazlewood’s unique brand of absurdist humour. In terms of jokes, anything goes, and any number of toes are guaranteed to be trodden on. Belconnen Labor Club, University of Canberra, and the crowd’s attempts at clapping along were all on the agenda for the night, and it was great to see everyone take it in good humour.

It was unfortunate that I failed to pick up a lot of what he was singing, and the lyrical talent I know he has failed to translate on the night. Maybe it was my position off to the side, but it felt like a lot of it was mumbled. Fortunately when you go to see The Bedroom Philosopher, you get a great deal more in a gig.

His mash-up of hits “I’m So Post Modern” and “Northcote (So Hungover)” was particularly well done, as was his impromptu rant and song aimed at the guy sitting with his back to him. When said bar patron decided to join Mr Heazlewood on stage I did worry a little, but it turned out he just wanted to stand up there with him. There may have been a hug involved, I can’t quite remember.

When it all boils down to it, The Bedroom Philosopher is both quick-witted and insightful, and as catchy as his songs are, what puts him above similar artists is how amusing and unpredictable his performance is. The sort of rare self-deprecating humour in his act is something that can only be off-set by the reading of a touching poem about depression on a packet of Cheerios (which he also offered to the audience).

The Bedroom Philosopher is not only mesmerising, but in a way that other acts most definitely are not. Without pushing his point, you can take what you want from his art – but no matter how you see it, you’ll definitely be entertained.

MIXTAPE: On The Tune Mixtape Vol. 5

On The Tune Mixtape Vol. 5

It’s certainly been a while between mixtapes, but hopefully this is a triumphant return to form! We’ve got something for everyone with this one. Guitar-based songs, softer tracks, a Talking Heads cover, sample-based electronic songs, hip-hop mash-ups, acoustic ditties, and some post-rock to finish everything up.

Plus, it’s all completely legal. I asked every single artist or their management if I could use the tracks. No guilty conscience for anyone involved. It feels nice, doesn’t it?

Enough of my ramblings though. Feel free to peruse this fine tracklisting and download the mixtape at your leisure. Happy listening!

P.S. Cover art is by the incredibly handsome Michael “Sea Monkeys” Forrest.

And don’t forget to like On The Tune on Facebook!

Download

Size: 131.09 MB

Tracklist:

1. Winter Street – A Little More

2. The Moniters – Lights Go Down

3. The Panda Band – The Fix

4. The Deer Republic – Feel Like Dancing

5. Millions – Those Girls

6. Udays Tiger – Machine

7. Tim Fitz – Disposable Youth

8. The Dead Leaves – This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)

9. Buckley Ward – So Pretend

10. Anton Franc – Letting Go

11. Air France – It Feels Good To Be Around You

12. Lion & the Lotus – Vistas De Oro

13. Gotye –  Somebody That I Used To Know (Phatchance Hip Hop Remix) Remixed by One Above

14. The Trouble With Templeton – Bleeders

15. Cheer Advisory Council – Coach

16. Solkyri – This Can’t Wait!

17. Tom Day – Home

Don’t know how to unzip stuff? Download 7zip here.
Don’t know which download link to click? I don’t know what .msi files are either. Do you use Windows? Try this one.

LIVE: The Panda Band, live at ANU Bar, Canberra (17-08-11)

Continuing my accidental streak of missing the opening support act, I didn’t catch Paryce’s set. Instead, Beth ‘N’ Ben (above) started the night for me with their brand of bluesy folk. It spread throughout the sparse onlooking crowd, and although there was a small turnout, it was offset by the band’s encouragement to get lost in the music – an offer which was all the encouragement most people needed to dance and cheer. It’s surprising how often a band’s attitude can affect the atmosphere of a gig, and the playful banter between a few members really proved to lighten the mood. Importantly, the band looked like they were having fun too.

Beth ‘N’ Ben don’t burden their music with cliched literary techniques, instead focusing more on simply telling a story. Unfortunately that’s where they seem to fall short. I feel like that writing style needs to be coupled with those special hooks that throw the song up in the air. That special moment that gets the whole crowd participating, almost anthemic in nature, and it just didn’t feel like there were many opportunities for that on Wednesday. They seem to be gradually nailing that musical niche they occupy, but it would bring so much more to their live show to see their song-writing grow with that in focus. That said, they were entertaining to watch, and let’s be honest, there aren’t many bands that sell g-strings and bibs as merchandise.

The Panda Band took the stage shortly afterwards, and I want to address an issue before I talk about their set.

I felt that in terms of acoustics or sound quality, their set suffered. Even standing as far back as possible due to the overbearing volume, it still felt uncomfortable, and although I should have remembered my earplugs, no band needs to be that loud. Whether it was the acoustics of ANU bar, or the sound set up, the band sounded clearer and more enjoyable when I blocked my ears. This was no fault of the band, but it did influence my enjoyment a bit.

Apart from that, I found their playing quite enjoyable, but their performance itself a little lacklustre. They looked a little bored, almost as if they didn’t want to be there, and although I can understand the disappointment with what was probably a smaller than expected turnout, it didn’t translate into a positive vibe. Rarely did lead singer and guitarist Damian Crosbie really let go and move around, and although their playing sounded quite solid, there does have to be an element of energy in a live performance.

That said, I felt their music did translate well live, and without the unfortunate sound issues it would’ve sounded even better. The combination of grandiose drumming patterns, which seemed to stay rhythmically interesting, and the band’s bright melodies, really had this sense of style about them. There’s no doubt about The Panda Band – they certainly know how to form their hooks into well-developed and mature songs, and if they can inject some more energy and atmosphere into their set, they’ll definitely be heading onto much bigger things.

The Panda Band are still touring around, and you can check out all of the dates over here.

VIDEO: The Dodos – “Good”

Californian indie duo The Dodos have just released their new clip for “Good”, from their latest album No Color. It’s one of the most interesting albums I’ve heard this year, and the video is a very cool take on the traditional “band playing their instruments together” clip. The Dodos really bring credit back to the idea of a duo (even if they do play live with an extra member), and it’s refreshing to be reminded once again (thanks Japandroids) that two people can create some brilliant music without a full band behind them.

Check it out over here at Pitchfork!