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Cat Empire (with Blue King Brown, The Beautiful Girls, Ash Grunwald): Sidney Myer Music Bowl, 4 Feb 2008

When I saw the tickets advertised in the Sun the day they came out, I just knew I had to go. Unfortunately, it took a while to organise people and buy the tickets, so we ended up with Reserved Row S tickets (which I guess were pretty good). Only managed to catch the last 10 or so minutes of Ash Grunwald‘s act, due to the lengthy line and the fact we only arrived half an hour or so before gates opened. Though not a fan of his music, his enthusiam (and obvious skill) was good to see.

Shortly after, The Beautiful Girls started playing. I was quite disappointed (having heard good things about them) and went off to purchase a souvlaki. Their music was entirely bland and unoriginal, consisting of very little more than a couple of basic chords and dull bass lines– what one might expect of a high school band. The next act more than made up for the disappointment of The Beautiful Girls. Blue King Brown were fantastic as usual (this being the fourth time I’d seen them). A fantastic synthesis of many musically talented individuals, through whose music came an incredible sense of rhythm and fun. Especially impressive was the percussion section- the drummer and percussionist had an incredible sense of rhythm. They did a fantastic job of priming the crowd for the main item.

The Cat Empire were amazing. The talented musicianship, intense rhythms, catchy melodies and the pervading sense of a good time communicated through their albums pales in comparison to what is delivered by a live show. Although there was a focus on songs from the newest album So Many Nights, it was fantastic to see they did not neglect their earlier crowd-pleasing masterpieces. Unfortunately (but obviously), they played their worst-ever song No Longer There (the flaccidity of which is incomprehensible compared to their otherwise excellent body of work). Extended improvisations from the Empire Horns (Ross Irwin and Kieran Conrau on trumpet and trombone respectively), the virtuostic Ollie McGill on keys and drummer Will Brown were a fantastic addition to the well-known studio-recorded tracks. Highlights of the show included the four dancers during Sly and the two dancers (featuring guest guitarist and percussionist) during Two Shoes, which was a visual treat. The night was powerfully ended by the encores: new track The Darkness and all-time favourite The Chariot (which we were to sing/hum/whistle for the rest of the night). A fantastic night out, supported by amazingly talented Blue King Brown and others. Much more than well worth the $65 ticket price!!

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Filed under 5 stars, gig, review

Barons of Tang (with Sex on Toast): Bar Open, 22 August 2008

Here’s another review. I was thinking about what to review: a book, an album, a movie? Then I decided to add a slightly local feel to the blog by reviewing a gig I went to a few weeks ago at a place called Bar Open in Brunswick Street.

I might actually start by talking about the place itself. It’s an interesting joint: a bar with strange artwork on the walls (see left) with a small bit out the back and an upstairs room with a bunch of couches which is where the music is. It has a good atmosphere and best of all, entry is free! So we got to hear two bands for the price of none!

The Barons of Tang are described on the Bar Open website as:

the pioneers of what has been dubbed gypsy “deathcore” which is a crazy mash up traditional Eastern European, Latin, rockabilly and tango sounds, outrageously bastardized by hard hitting guitar riffs, double kick blast beats and massive horn arrangements

 

The music was really good and drew an interesting crowd. Mixing gypsy melodies with dancable beats drew out the very best of Melbourne’s hidden creatures: black-clad figures doing interpretive dance, some interesting hair colours and a man with a massive pirate hat (who also danced). Somebody (can’t remember who) recently told me that the saxophone has no place in a gypsy band, but if they’d seen Barons of Tang, they would have been forced to eat their words! In fact, the harshness of the saxophone went very well with the fast rhythms and hard beats. Visit their myspace to check out their songs, especially my favourite, Tango For Billy.

They were supported by a band of lanky teenagers who called themselves Sex on Toast (see left; photo from gig). These fellows played an interesting variety of music, always fun. I ever so slightly envied the keyboardist, who had a tshirt that said “*picture of keyboard* ADDICT”. It was good music, suitably fast and noisy- the sound of people having a good time and using their music for fun, not boredom (in contrast, to, say: “All right people, we’re taking the second movement again slowly! Strings: watch the conductor!”). They describe their music as “combining cartoonish screaming and jump cuts, free improvisation and killer metal riffs, fused with the finest doo-wop harmonies… fun, often whimsical”.

The two bands were a good combination for a good night out and a great way to celebrate my birthday. I definitely recommend the venue as it often has great bands playing (for free!) as well as cult movie nights, etc… Also, if you ever see either Barons of Tang or Sex on Toast around, you would be well advised to give them a shot. Easily the best entertainment-to-cost ratio I’ve ever had the good fortune to… (what verb would go here?). 4 Stars.

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Filed under 4 stars, gig, review