Stiff Little Fingers live in Australia

jake burnsDuring these past few weeks there has been a stream of classic 1977 UK punks band bands floating through, or announced to play in, Sin City, aka Sydney.  Names like Buzzcocks and The Stranglers have been something of a call-to-arms. And now a band that has less of a profile locally, Stiff Little Fingers, is playing.

Stiff Little Fingers emerged out of Belfast in 1977 as a bunch of teenagers playing in a punk band in a city with its soul ripped apart. It was a hard place but one that still had heart. Anyone who looks at news footage at the time knows Belfast was a warzone.

I remember a great uncle telling me first-hand stories of how brutal the city really was. Daily body searches by the English soldiers, ruthless gangs that murdered you for your religion and children that were bashed within an inch of their lives after school for walking down the wrong street.  Entrenched generational anger and hatred ran deep on both sides.

Don't cry for me, Argentina: King of Cool delivers a KISS-off

ed lost2Bob Dylan once said: “I should have never been successful: I was a fluke” In other words: Music that I write and perform, historically speaking, has never had mass appeal, he explained.

I have to agree with that; art that is intelligent, at times challenging and thoughtful does not generally have mass appeal (with a few exceptions.) KISS, One Direction and The Eagles have all sold mega tonnes of albums. delivered in massive crates (along with packs of Cornflakes) to mega stores, and still play sold-out arenas.

Meanwhile, artists like Ed Kuepper are down the road performing in small clubs, releasing music on their own labels and playing in intimate settings to refined music geeks and fans who like to think about their music.

It was tiny clubs where you could go to see Coltrane, Mingus or, on another level, Dave Van Ronk. It is perfect that we can see Ed in these venues.

The Camelot Lounge is quite a special place. It is a decent live venue in Sydney. So much care and thought has placed into this venue, which also includes the downstairs Django Bar.

It’s like a well-manicured museum - right down to the camel obsession and the food announcements that mimic RSL clubland bingo calls.

“No 67 your pizza ready and that rhymes with heaven” is quaint, and annoying at the same time: that said the booze is a good price. Places like this are truly a godsend.

The Buzzcocks live in Australia

buzzocock adlNick Spaulding photo

Everyone, it seems, has seen The Buzzcocks. Usually many times. Why?

The old songs always bring a smile or a rueful thrash as we contemplate our ghastly mistakes in love, and our splattergun rage at … the way things are. Dammit.

The Mummies go Down Under

mummies side3


The Mummies in full flight. Shona Ross photo

The Mummies in Australia? No fucking way! Hard to believe, but true. A hit-and-run visit spanning three states in less than a week (with a stop-off in New Zealand on the way home) admittedly but a tour, nonetheless.

The Mummies were The Shit in garage rock in the late 1980s. Conceived as the ultimate anti-band by Trent Ruane (organ, vocals), Maz Kattuah (bass), Larry Winther (guitar) and Russell Quan (drums), they were a lynchpin of San Francisco’s lo-fi scene. Emerging from their tomb sporadically in the ‘90s and ‘00s, they’re renowned for being the band that gave the then very hip SubPop label the finger when refusal to sign was a death-wish. They have made no-frills Budget Rock an art-form.

Sunn0))) and Magma at the Adelaide Festival

sunn1
Sunn0))) holds court: Tomway Armie photo

It’s one of the last couple of nights of the Festival and Fringe; Womad is grooving away in Botanic Park, hipsters are growing beards, diners are admiring themselves and magician James Hessler is befuddling everyone else. Crowds are flocking like pigeons in one of Godspeed (etc)’s fillums.

Over at Thebarton, we pick up the tickets and plunk ourselves outside the door. The beefy bouncers all wear yellow shirts and clutch industrial strength earmuffs. After about 40 minutes we scurry in, straight to the interior entrance, for another 30 minute wait, and a $12 plastic cup of cider (our last, at that price).

Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Vampillia at the Adelaide Festival

vampillia live

It’s bloody festival time here in Adelaide; the week has been a hot one and between stepping around benighted tourists we’ve been taking extra-long detours around the city in order to get anywhere, cheerfully accepting the extra time and travel because the V8 car race is also on.

Then the weather bureau decided that there would only be a 30 percent chance of any rain. Parking the car the heavens opened in what is a sort of minor subtropical hissy fit, and I get drenched.

Hurrah.

It's high time for X to get into the studio

steve lucas nscSteve Lucas at the Newtown Social Club. Murray Bennett photo

X is a Sydney band.

I can’t think any other outfit that personified the street-level, brutal and at times minimalistic music of Sin City Sydney of the late ‘70s like X. Theirs' was a world of squats with a city awash with Terrence Clark's cheap smack, the odour of brown bags of dirty money and nightly beatings at Darlo police station.

It was a world of corrupt pollies and police in the post-Askin Sydney. X captured that harsh, nihilistic inner-city world. One that has long since been gentrified.

Beast Records Night at the Tote Hotel in Melbourne

tamara and dick
Tamara and Evil Dick.  Caroline Burston photo

In a parallel historical universe the vast southern continent now known as Australia might have been conquered by France.

While France was still a functioning monarchy at the time Captain James Cook invoked the now discredited legal fiction of Terra Nullius to claim the territory on behalf of the English throne; by the time Arthur Phillip lobbed into Botany Bay in 1788, France was starting to buckle in the face of rising bourgeois unrest, and had bigger internal fish to fry (or heads to lop, as the case may be).