Sunday, May 1, 2011

Warehouse Music Festival 2011 @ AIS Arena

In a move that had more than a few Canberrans confused, Kicks Entertainment moved the Warehouse Music Festival from its usual winter time slot and stuck on the end of the worlds longest weekend. This had its benefits as the weather was warmer and the outside areas and stage were able to be enjoyed by everyone, but having it on the Tuesday didn’t give punters much time to recover for work.

Hangovers aside, it was a fantastic day overall. I started my day watching Canberra locals Peking Duk warm up the outdoor stage. The boys were dressed in singlets and sunnies, and played a bunch of their base heavy remixes to get the early arrivals warmed up. There was easy access to a bar and sausage sizzle, and a few tables and chairs scattered at one end to provide a place to sit and chat or take a break from the dance floors.

By the time Ian Carey took to the decks the terrace was packed with hot young things not wearing many clothes. I always enjoy seeing the festival fashion trends change, and Warehouse was all about animal prints, short shorts and long shirts and boots for the girls and fluro singlets and shorts for the boys. Ian Carey played his house hits like Shot CallerGet Shaky and his new hit featuring Snoop Dog Last Night. The crowd reacted well to the tunes, but I couldn’t help feeling that Carey was a little bored with not much crowd interaction from him.

The main arena looked great, with the stadium seating providing a great view of the stage for those who wanted to see Wytner Gordon in all her glory take the stage. In a super quick twenty-minute set, she stepped out in a white body suit with a cropped yellow jacket and sky-high blue ankle boots. Her super curly hair was flying everywhere as she belted out her hit Dirty Talk and Toyfriend which made the crowd go a little crazy, but she was off the stage before they could really get into it.
Martin Solvig arrived on stage wearing a black leather jacket and his trade-mark sweatband and immediately set the mood for his set with ready to go. He was super enthusiastic bopping along to the music and jumping up on the rail in the middle of songs. He played a heap of remixes from a range of genres that kept the punters engaged. In a surprise appearance, gorgeous British singer Sunday Girl joined him on stage to sing hello and bring his set to a close.

Dubstep poster boy Skrillex was next on stage who was the first act to really make use of the huge multimedia screen behind the stage. The pint-sized guru wore his infamous black-framed glasses and his eccentric long dark hair with one side shaved made sure you couldn’t mistake him for anyone else.
He built his set steadily, and it didn’t take long for a mosh circle to form right in front of the main stage. His music was clearly different from anything else on the day, with heavy bass tracks creating a darker, dirtier and heavier feel to his tunes. He played remixes of La Roux’s In for the Kill and GaGas Alejandro but the most popular tracks from the crowds point of view was his own Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, Reptiles which whipped the crowd into dangerous insanity, with a couple of over-excited boys being removed for crowd surfing and moshing. 

The night finished with the most anticipated act, Canadian DJ Deadmau5 who spoilt Australia on this tour by bringing his whole light show setup to enthrall the masses. His mouse head outfit was also kitted out with lights, which changed to make faces to match the songs. The visually spectacular 90 minute set was backed up with solid mixes of some of his most popular songs Ghosts n Stuff, Sometimes things get, Whatever, and One trick pony. Another guest appearance came courtesy of Sofi who came out to do live vocals on Sofi needs a ladder, who added a dynamic live element. Unfortunately right at the end just as he was about to drop the last song, his computer died and the crowd were left feeling a little un-satisfied with the abrupt ending to an otherwise spectacular day.

The Holidays @ Transit Bar

The super long-weekend found an aptly named band pack out Transit bar on Saturday night. Hailing from Sydney, The Holidays stopped over to celebrate Easter with their Canberra fans on their Seven Million Mornings tour sold-out show.

I arrived mid-way through Gold Field’s set, who have been supporting The Holidays throughout their tour, and was surprised at the level of energy that was on display by the young, hip and friendly crowd. It was standing room only, with everyone squishing closer to the stage to get a good view of the male five-piece. Their music was light, frivolous and fun with a good dash of cheekiness, making the crowd bust out their best shimmies and shakes to their popular single ‘Treehouse.’

If their music was a cocktail, The Holidays would be a pinacolada sipped at a beach party under a palm tree, and the guys perfected the laid back look with checked shirts, un-kept hair and stubble on their chins. The boys displayed their electro-pop tunes, with a hint of funk and reggae, and kept the bar jumping with excitement. Having two drummers can sometimes be disastrous, but the Holidays pulled it off. The bright red bongos added a dynamic element to their music, and a tambourine got passed around the band members and even made a quick visit to the front row for some impromptu audience participation.

Their set list included Triple J high-rotations Moonlight Hours, 2 days and Broken Bones with additional tunes Computer Triangles and Conga keeping the loyal fans happy. They topped off the night with hit Golden Sky, dedicating it to a girl in the front row ‘who has been wiping my spit off her face all night,’ and promised their set at Groovin the Moo in two weeks would be just as much fun, minus the squishiness. Make sure you check them out. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Illy @ ANU Bar

I'll admit to not being the biggest hip-hop fan when arrived at ANU last Friday, but I left a convert, singing (or should that be rapping) the praises of all three acts of the night. The gig sold out quickly, with the handful of tickets left on the door being snapped up by 8.30, ensuring the night was going to be a cracker.

Local crew Raw City Rukus got the night pumping from the get go, with a huge turnout for the early starters. The live band brought a unique edge to their music, and the combination of the two male MC's and the smooth female vocals from Imogen Spong in 'Aint We Funkin'' snagged my attention immediately. The guitars provided groove, and the drums kept the timing tight, making the crowd jump and sway to their songs. Their set was short and sweet, but they certainly made an impact, and are definitely one of Canberra's brightest unsigned talents.

Dutch was next on the sweaty stage and entertained the crowd with rapping over remixes of songs from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Little Red's 'Rock It'. He didn't increase the crowd's energy, just kept it bubbling along nicely. The mainly male audience was kitted out in caps, beanies and clothing a couple of sizes too big, a cliche look of hip-hop fans. The majority of girls sported skimpy dresses and killer heels, an odd choice for a hip-hop gig, but their motives were clearly more about getting the attention of handsome Illy than practicable clothing for dancing. 

Super producer & DJ M-Phazes took over the decks for a solid twenty-minute set before Illy started. His slick mix included heaps of Aussie artists like Bliss & Esso, Drapht and The Herd which steadily built anticipation and excitement among the crowd for Illy's imminent performance.  

Dressed in a Zoo York sweater and NY Yankees baseball cap, the blue-eyed and clean cut Illy burst onto the stage to a screaming crowd. M-Phazes stayed on the decks and Cam Gilmore added live drums, completing the recipe for musical mastery. 

This show was the last on Illy's 'The Chase Tour', but fatigue was certainly the last thing on his mind as he gave the crowd his all. His intense gaze penetrated each part of the mosh, making the crowd go crazy for 'My way', 'Riding the bus' and 'Diamonds'. 

Half-way through his set he made the crowd turn around and sing happy birthday to his tour manager, and instructed the audience to get out their phones and hold them in the air so he could take an arty picture with his iphone.  

Illy played his Triple J like a version cover of 'Where is my mind', which displayed his creative lyrical talents by replacing the lyrics of the original with lines from Aussie hip-hop songs. Pure pandemonium ensued when he closed off his set with 'Pictures' and came back for encore with 'It can wait'. The audience screamed the lyrics so loudly that Illy was almost drowned out. The chorus of the song perfectly summed up the evening as all the punters left basking in a moment of glorious, music inspired, happiness. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

British India @ ANU Bar

British India played at the ANU on Saturday night as part of their 'March into the Ocean' tour. Supported by the City Riots and Boy in a Box, the venue was half filled with a mainly male crowd by the time I got there just as the City Riots finished.

Boy in a Box performed a spirited set, but the crowd wasn't exactly engaged with more standing than dancing. That didn't stop the boys giving it their all though, no-one could say they lacked energy when playing power-pop single 'Moon Comes Up' and 'We are the Warriors'.

 Front man Tobias Priddle had the necessary charm, charisma and cheekbones to draw attention from the small female portion of the audience and the rest of the band warrant special mention for their matching white shirts. They ended their set with much debauchery, with all members using the last of their energy in a fit of noise, instrument whacking and piggy backs around the stage.

When a slightly haggard looking British India finally leapt onto the stage, the pedal was to the metal from the first bar of music. I had heard about their infamous live show power but still their sound was rougher and heavier than I had expected, not a bad thing. They certainly didn't wait around to get into their solid list of hits with 'Run the Red Light' one of the first songs played. This got the rowdy, testosterone fueled crowd riled up, and a crazy hour of heavy moshing began. 

Lead singer Declan Melia was dressed in a wu-tang t-shirt and grey hoodie, which at one point, he placed over his head and sang through it. He was chatty throughout the set, talking about previous visits to Canberra and double checking whether he was at the 'pretentious' university or the 'bogan one'. 

Songs like 'I'll wait for you' and 'She Prefers Older Men' were hard and fast, and the timing of slower 'Vanilla' was perfect to give the fatigued crowd a break before their most popular song 'I Said I'm Sorry.' At the end of their set the boys went ballistic, using every instrument on stage to make as much noise as possible. Predictably, the crowd went crazy with crowd surfers and shoulder rides making life the security guards earn their keep. 

British India proved again why they are regarded as one of Australia's finest live acts with no intention of slowing down anytime soon. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Papa vs Pretty and Last Dinosaurs

Transit Bar hosted three young all male bands with bucket-loads of talent last Thursday night. 

First cab off the rank was local four-piece Hancock Basement who did an excellent job at warming the crowd up with their songs 'One in a million' and 'Things will get better'. They have been playing solidly in the Canberra scene for the last few years, building a fan base who were there to hear their tunes. I especially liked the songs they introduced as 'new' which showed more depth and musical diversity than their previous EP. 

The crowd was made up of short haired girls and long-haired boys who had a young, friendly vibe. Needing only tiny encouragement from the Last Dinosaurs to move towards the stage and energetic dancing began and didn't stop all night. 

The Last Dinosaurs didn't look like I had imagined from their music. The pint sized musicians looked like they had come straight from Hobbiton. The lead singer Sean Caskey didn't have a ring, but a large marble tied around his neck completing the Frodo comparison. Their music was rougher and faster live than their recorded stuff, and their single 'Honolulu' sounded vastly different from the radio version. They also played very catchy tunes like 'Can't Decide' and 'Time and Place', all clearly loved by the crowd. 
Closing out the night was Papa vs Pretty who were my favourite band of the show. Hailing from Sydney, driven by nineteen-year-old Thomas Rawle, the three-piece created some seriously punchy live music. Producing such a diverse range of songs, from hard and fast 'Wrecking Ball' to slow and lovely 'Heavy Harm' showed a level of music maturity well beyond their years.

 Drummer Tom Myers played bare-chested for most of the set, understandable given the room temperature and how hard he was hitting the drums. When current single 'One of the Animals' started the audience took their advice and went crazy, singing along and jumping around. The boys looked genuinely chuffed that people knew the words and all three had huge smiles plastered on their faces.

I was impressed with the humble and generous nature of all the bands, inviting everyone to stick around and have a drink with them after the gig, an un-common invitation in the often cooler-than-thou music scene. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sparkadia Sparkles at ANU

Sparkadia kicked off their Australian 'Great Impressions Tour' at ANU Bar, supported by Alpine and Operator Please on Thursday night. The young, hip crowd filled the bar early, and it was apparent everyone was really excited for the three talented Australian bands.

The last time I saw Operator Please was at Stonefest, and I was a little under-whelmed by their performance, so I was looking forward to seeing them in a more intimate venue. The smaller stage and crowd allowed the energetic young band to connect more with the audience, who lapped up their fun pop tunes like 'Leave it alone'. 'Just a song about ping pong' was the crowd's favourite song of their set, and Bassist Ashley McConnell and violinist Taylor Henderson deserve special mention for their enthusiasm, getting the crowd excited and providing the perfect warm up for Sparkadia. 
Operator Please- © Chris Whitfield

Appearing on a heavily back-lit stage dressed all in black, looking like a group of very attractive, new-age priests. Frontman Alex Burnett basically had to find a whole new band to continue with Sparkadia for this album, and the new bunch of brits bring new energy and talent to make a brighter band.  They started off quietly with 'Kiss of Death' before moving on to 'Too much to do', which the crowd loved, all squishing close to the stage.  
Sparkadia © Chris Whitfield

Their sound was fantastic on the night, with clear, soothing vocals and the use of an array of instruments like asian gongs and glocks which created a really different, interesting feel to their songs. Alex said 'Mary' was his favourite song on the album and his live rendition had everyone singing along, making the crowd his gospel choir, signing his praises. 

Sparkadia © Chris Whitfield
They played a range of songs from both albums over the 90 minute set, with current single 'China' and haunting ballad 'Ghost' displaying their versatility. An epic extended version of 'Jealousy' closed the night, and I left with a new-found respect of the seriously talented boys and very happy that Alex pushed through adversity to make sure Spakadia's flame didn't fizzle out.

© Chris Whitfield
© Chris Whitfield

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chris Isaak lights up Enlighten

It was a cold, almost wintry March evening on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin when Chris Isaak performed at Commonwealth Place as part of the Enlighten Festival.

Most audience members came prepared with picnic rugs, camping chairs and blankets to keep warm. Those that forgot the essential guards against the damp lawn and chilly wind were able to warm up with ample food and drink choices available next to the stage.

Soon enough the McClymont sisters took to the stage, showing off their toned, bare legs covered in goosebumps and making jokes about Canberra's infamous weather. Their country rock tunes had eager audience members swaying in front of the stage, whilst the majority were happy to watch from their aforementioned chairs.

The three sisters displayed their musical talents by singing in harmony and playing guitars throughout their set. Their feelgood songs such as I'm Not Done With You Just Yet and Love Me In The Morning were well performed with the sisters making an effort to playfully interact with each other and the audience.

The hour-long wait from the McClymonts finishing and Chris Isaak starting was filled with talented ladies dancing with lit-up hoolahoops. They wandered through the crowd providing a pleasant and unique distraction from the usually boring wait that set changes involve.

Chris Isaak arrived on stage and immediately the atmosphere in the audience changed. Chris didn't have to ask twice for people to stand up and start dancing. His silky-smooth voice, coupled with his heart-felt lyrics and dangerous good looks immediately had the female portion of the audience swooning. He even created a crush of middle-aged women trying to touch him when he left the stage and walked through the audience in the middle of his third song.

It was impossible to take your eyes off him, clad in a bright red suit with golden flames embroidered on the sleeves, and his hair slicked back and piled into a Elvis-esque quiff. The rest of his band were kitted out in a black version of his suit.

Chris consciously entertained the crowd, dancing and chatting to all musicians and pulling girls out of the crowd to join them on stage. He played a variety of guitars beautifully throughout the show, including an acoustic that had his name written on it in white paint, and a super white Gibson electric guitar.

He performed a mixture of his songs including Wicked Game, We Lost Our Way and Best I've Ever Had and included well-known covers to fit with his flame theme like Johny Cash's Ring of Fire and Jerry Lee Lewis's Great Balls of Fire.

He returned for the encore wearing an eye-catching mirrored suit and closed out the night with Pretty Woman and Blue Spanish Sky. The audience meandered to their cars, super satisfied with a night of quality music and entertainment.