2019 Barfly Top Ten: Chris Virtue
2019 was first year for a while that I wasn’t doing a radio show and being in Canberra for work, I felt I was little bit out of the loop. Nonetheless, it was another memorable rock ‘n’ roll year and here’s my top10 in no particular order.
Kim Volkman and the Whiskey Priests at Marrickville Bowlo in Sydney
This took me back to when I first started seeing bands in Melbourne in the mid ’70s. It was no-nonsense loud rock. Two really good guitarists on top of a solid rhythm section. I loved how the band occupied half the stage and hardly broke formation through the gig. The record’s pretty good, too.
Sue Telfer Tribute in Sydney
It was really sad to lose Sue. She was seriously special and it was great to see so many people come out and so many good bands turn it on. All the bands I saw were great with X as a four piece the standout. I reckon it was the best gig I’ve seen Steve Lucas do.
Mustang Jerx in Orange, NSW
Chuckles from Bunt brings Tokyo band Mustang Jerx out every couple of years and their live show is stunning. As well playing in Sydney, they always play Four on the Floor at the Vic in Orange. This time, what with Canberra being closer to Orange than Sydney, I saw them in Orange.
Anyone who’s seen Mustang Jerx knows the deal and they’re a fantastic live band, but the Orange show was awesome even by their standards. They own that room and Saturo, Rika and Mag tore it up. Tokyo blues punk band are superstars in country New South Wales? Believe it!
Shonen Knife at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney
I love Shonen Knife. Naoko and the girls have been bringing me joy for 30 years and they get better and better all the time. They were in the country supporting Regurgitator and I didn’t get to the Canberra show but I did catch them doing a freebie at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and they didn’t disappoint. They never do.
There are two types of people in the world - those who like trashy Japanese girl bands and those who have something seriously wrong with them.
Hugh Cornwell at the Basement in Belconnen, Canberra
If you want to talk like a Canberra local, it’s not Belconnen. It’s Belco and Belco has a classic rock room – The Basement. Last time I saw former Strangler Hugh Cornwell was at the Vanguard in Sydney where he played a solo acoustic show. That was interesting because it allowed the Stranglers’ songs to breathe. This time he was accompanied by a rhythm section and it was more of a full-on rock show and rock it did.
For those don’t know, Hugh’s solo records are pretty good (I have three of them) but it was as if there was a need to get the solo stuff out of the way before he would give the crowd what they came for: Stranglers nostalgia. Bit rude I thought.
If you haven’t checked out Hugh’s solo stuff, The Fall and Rise of Hugh Cornwell is probably a good place to start.
Kawaguchi Masami's New Rock Syndicate at the Transit Bar
Masterful psych rock from a masterful guitarist in another fine Canberra venue. Big expansive soundscapes are the thing here and Kawaguchi was ably backed by Dave Gray (Rocket Science and The Electric Guitars) and Don Drum (Fraudband). The trio recorded a single during the year – “Boogie”. It’s great.
The Beasts and The Johnnys at ANU
The post-Spencer Beasts were touring their new album and it made sense for them to tour with Spencer’s other band the Johnnys. The Johnnys are working well as a three piece and it was first time I’d seen the Beasts with both Kim and Charlie in the line-up.
Looking forward to more from both bands.
Hugo Race at Smiths Alternative in Canberra
Smith’s Alternative is my favourite Canberra room and I saw a few things there during my 14 months in The Bubble. Hugo Race race laid down some minimalist dark and atmospheric blues that took me back to the post-punk stuff in Melbourne in the 80s.
The new Hugo Race Fatalists album “Taken” by the Dream is well worth checking out.
Dyson Stringer Cloher at the Lansdowne, Sydney
Mia Dyson, Liz Stringer and Jen Cloher record an album together and it’s good. Very good. The show at the Lansdowne was fab. Mia’s one of my favourite guitarists and Jen and Liz are fantastic singers. Check out the album.
Jim Lauderdale at the Lansdowne, Sydney
Also at the Lansdowne was Nashville legend Jim Lauderdale, touring his new album "From Another World".
I like Jim. He’s a great singer and his music is a mix of country and bluegrass and it rocks. His songwriting is clever and mature. He brought a top band with him and it was a visual treat too.
Iggy at the Opera House
I was wondering what it would be like seeing Iggy in a sit down venue. I’m still wondering. Is that a rating of 10 or 11? Someone count them for me.
Other things that could’ve and perhaps should’ve made the top 10 include:
- Flaming Lips at the Opera House (mind blowing)
- Michaela Anne’s “Desert Dove” LP (gorgeousness personified)
- Deena AKA Jaguar Jonze getting some traction at last
- Dressy Bessy’s “Fast Faster Disaster” LP
- Felice Brothers at the Lansdowne
- The Aints! live album. I was there!
Chris Virtue is a community radio program host, now living back in Sydney.