My Adelaide weekend beats your year
The Systemaddicts in full flight. Mandy Tzaras photo
Right now, Adelaide might not be the centre of the musical universe, but that's not for want of talent, effort and sheer fuck-offed-ness. Last weekend proves it.
First, Friday night at The Grace Emily Hotel. It's probably wrong to describe Subtract-S as Tomway Army's band, but he's definitely the leader, and the star. In fact, at the Grace Emily in Adelaide tonight, the air positively stinks of stardom, the kind of stardom which winks at you, lures you in like a jam rolypoly to Billy Bunter, then rams a fist into your blubbery belly.
If you've not caught Subtract-S, you must. In the audience tonight was a gentleman who'd come all the way from Hamburg just to see Adelaide bands. And he loved it.
Tomway Army on keys and Sam The Slam on bass.
Subtract-S + The Systemaddicts + The Sunday Reeds
The Grace Emily Hotel
20 May 2016
Pix by Mandy Tzaras, who got up close with the smartphone and still managed to break her shoes dancing.
Sure, influences like Tubeway Army and Kraftwerk are visible, but really, it's Subtract-S's originals which we're here for, delivered with power, precision and considerable glee. It must be a great pleasure to both Subtract-S and the Systemaddicts to see the crowd here dancing like there's Trump tomorrow and coal butties for tea. Both bands interact with the crowd like it's homecoming. Tom's wonderful voice is offset by Sam's equally bloody marvellous one; between them Subtract-S and Systemaddicts reek of potential and general fabulousness.
The Systemaddicts (brilliant name) are a kind of flipside to Subtract-S; a different direction but frankly the stench of imminent success floats around them in a cloud. Their drummer is blazing, their bassist comes from another dimension and their keyboardist not only knows what he's about but has licks and riffs which take the band riding into the next world. I'm not the only person who commented about this "takes me to another place"-ness stuff, so don't give me any shit about this. I'm calling it as I see it; I just happen to agree with everyone in the joint.
The star of the show is Liam, and how he reacts with the crowd, his brother the trombonist (no, really) who somehow stays upright, and the rest of the band and his own internalised-externalised rock fantasy. He writes the songs, I gather, and they're damn fine, dancing rock songs (again, the the crowd are behaving like monkeys after a coke and viagra binge).
Now, the first thing you 'orrible lot of the older generation might notice is that Liam hammers away and whips about a bit like a combination of an early Bee-Gee and Deniz Tek. Comparisons are made to be ditched; Liam's voice is a blast-furnace, and anyway, unlike the likes of Tek and so many others, Liam isn't posing; he’s just so fucking damned into it that he's rippling and writhing all over the place. How either Subtract-S and the Systemaddicts managed to stay on the Grace’s tiddly stage without toppling into the crowd I can't bloody tell you (tho there were a couple of narrow squeaks involving the large esky containing the swiftly-dwindling rider).
The Systemaddicts play so damn well. They're so damned tight, linked and locked within each other... have you ever seen a band do an impromptu song (not a jam) and make it work..? The Systemaddicts did two, one involving an over-enthusiastic audience member on vocals. Though I'd argue that Subtract-S have better sorted songs, the Systemaddicts are one of those bands who work just as well as a support as a headline act. You'll love them, get on board.
From Melbourne, the Sunday Reeds is a strange name for a band, and initially I was a little skeptical as they opened the show tonight. A two-piece, guitar, drum machine and bass, a man and a woman create a slowly burning, fusing and enticing group of songs you find yourself drawn into a bit like Red Riding Hood skipping into the woods. I confess I found myself preferring their newer songs but that's neither here nor there; their care, their whole presence onstage speaks volumes.
There's a genuine feeling here, a bond, a crisp and simmering stew going on here, and you'd be a numbskull not to give them the benefit of your precious fucking time. It took me about two songs to realise that, no, they actually don't really need a drummer because it would upset the balance between the two performers, and that's the killing floor right there.
Three riveting bands. I'd rather see musicians bursting with this level of enthusiasm, talent and skill than any bunch of lumpen old fuckers running through their hits, posing and posturing like they really mean something, maaaan, decades after their talent faded or wasted away to shabby memories. And there seems to be a fuckin’ raft of those these days.
Christ, what more do you want, you pack of greedy selfish pricks..?
Here's a bunch of links:
Perdition and The C-Bombs
The Gaslight Tavern
May 22, 2016
So to Sunday night: By the end I was getting drunk. Doesn't happen at gigs that often. But after the C-Bombs, I was so excited and pumped I thought, fuck it. I only have to get up at 6am tomorrow.
Mick runs the Gaslight, a former worker's pub in the former industrial and meat packaging suburbs of Bowden Brompton or whatever it's called - just outside the city, and he likes the blues. So he opened a pub and started getting organised. Workers came, but not enough, and while the reprobates from the nearby houses and flats came, there weren't as many as expected, so when the punks arrived, he was (I expect) initially skeptical. But it's proved a winner for him. The place is constantly being done up and there's live music every night - in the manner of the successful Grace Emily the styles of music vary, which is the key to success. You never fully know what you're in for.
Nick Xenophon would be astonished as the small shiny fleet of pokie machines in a corner are completely ignored tonight, and the takings at the till alone indicate that the place is stuffed to the gills with happy, dancing, chatting punters.
No mean feat, given that tonight is ‘Clarity Records Presents’ night at six or seven pubs all over town.
There was a support band tonight, but let's leave them un-named for now. I'm sure they'll improve - they can play, but like all of us, they can't see themselves and none of their mates will give them feedback because they're clearly nice fellas. Leave that nasty job for your horrible reporter (heaves huge sigh). Their major problem is that the drummer sings and you know what that means. This almost never works; the drummer needs oxygen to play with full emphasis and attack, and also for singing. So either everything slows down or the singer can't concentrate properly, so either one or both roles suffer. Even Magma's drummer only occasionally sings; he has a vocalist up front to handle what he knows he can't do at the same time and Magma are, of course, incredible.
I'd suggest this band get shitfaced in the rehearsal room and play like bastards with the tape going, and intentionally ruin all their songs by playing far too fast and too badly. After the hangover and the inevitable recriminations by spousal individuals ('how dare you come home like this, no it can't be good for the band, what are you talking about, I forbid you to see them ever again' etc) they should leave it two weeks and then ... listen to the tape. Apart from some nasty bits, it’ll sound a lot better. Also, people come for the music, and you're there to impress, not introduce and explain. If the crowd are reacting to you, interact with 'em, but otherwise keep it to a minimum.
Two other small things: the band sounded better toward the end of the set, as many people around me remarked. That's because the guitarist had turned off his punk rock squeal pedal and we could hear his actual guitar, which suited their (original) songs much, much better. Lastly, and this is the reason I'm writing this, otherwise I would've simply said I didn't see them: leave that nice 300mph Victims song alone. Either that, or play it at the right speed, eight notes where you're playing notes. And, all downstroke, not this awful strumming thing. The Victims were not Bob Dylan.
Up next were the heroes of the hour, and the main reason we're all here and that most of us are pretty damn drunk (I made up for this afterwards) - give it up you drunken swine for The C-Bombs as they launch their cd ep into the arms of an uncaring world... They're tighter, more switched-on than ever, Rob Szkolik has abandoned his motorcycle jacket in favour of black T-shirt and dark shades (rather like an-exmember of the Angels), Sean's hair is more like a straggly cliff as is falls over his face as he pulls splinters, chords and yowl from a rather gorgeous guitar (by god he’s a top flight guitarist), Phil looks like a cheerful physical ed chap (the kind all the other kids seemed to have, not like the bastard who relished hosing you all down in the freezing nuddy with ice-cold water in the middle of winter) as he pounds in that distinctive style and Tony Grudge... well.
Tony shut his shop (Retro Bait) at the end of the day and drove the 120 kilometres in his stage gear, walking in precisely on time, did his fabulous thing, said hello to the assorted throng then buggered off for another 120 kilometres drive to open the shop again at 7am. That's the reason the C-Bombs are on before Perdition; but no-one cares, we're just all high to the hills with what the C-Bombs bring. I’ve seen a lot of bands over the years, and the number of internationally rated ozzie rock legends who can’t hold a candle to some of Adelaide’s finest underground outfits.
If you ain't seen the C-Bombs (and for several reasons they haven't played around enough) you'd better grab them when you see the name advertised. If you live outside of Adders, then contact them and bring them to your fair city. Caution: give Tony a very long lead and apologise that it's so short. Then stand back.
Up next are Perdition. There's a new CD coming out, so I'm told, and Mark Hayes and Co are in coursing good form tonight.
For those who don't know, "back in the old days" when we were all younger and prettier, Mark fronted the Skunks ('all skins and punks together' was the catch-cry; "all skins hate punks get out of it you poofta punk rubbish" (followed by a swiftish swipe to the head) was the skinhead reality). Tall, muscly bald youths with swelling .. uh ... hearts (hearts, right, not dicks) bellowed like bulls as they flew all over the stage and each other like rather unpleasant exocets. So us lot simply got out of it and stood back and marveled. It was a bit like watching a rugby scrum where everyone had taken speed and drunk Tequila. Sunday arvos in the Producers beer 'garden' remain indelibly printed in my brain. I mean, fuck, if I’d wanted a broken neck and my arse fondled in the crush of sweaty male adrenalin, I’d have joined a rugby team.
Thank god, those dangerous days are gone. Once splintered, the "alternative" scene (we couldn't think of another word for it, but 'post-punk' or 'new wave' weren't phrases we even considered) found itself broken into chunks, often chunks which would never meet bar exceptional occasions such as the Hot Records tour in erm. 1984, was it? Anyway. Tonight we see representatives of all those scenes from the '80s and '90s; folk more associated with "the Beulah Road lot", or the bogan northerners, or the beyond the pale southerners, connecting with a few former skins and former unmentionables (moi), former haunters of The Producers and the Old Queens Arms and on and on.
Hell, photographer Alison Lea is here (she took the pic on the rear cover of the "Nick the Stripper" 12inch). Members of Fear and Loathing are here (they've just found a replacement for their guitarist, only took 'em ten years, and their rehearsals are being attended by so many people they're thinking of charging admission. Expect horror from FAL soon), Pete The Stud Howlett is here (gobsmackingly sober), and wielding that chirpy smile he has along with those weird tufts of fur on his face. These days, we know we all somehow survived the chaos and the weft and warp, and we know we all love music and the ... spirit ... which we were and are all a part of.
Perdition come along and by now all inhibitions are long-gone, the joint is jumping, beer and so forth is being spilt - I owe Paula (?) one of those sticky drinks which girls drink due to a flailing arm - the Secret Weapon has been bounding about like a gazelle on springs with a big sweet smile on her face and everyone is dancing. That German chap who came from Hamburg to Adelaide to see our bands is boinking about happily.
Perdition were big fans of UK punk, but their music seemed more influenced by all the pop aspects. In attempting to emulate that ‘punk’ sound, instead of sounding like a rubbish version of Anti-Gen-BH or whatever, they ended up with some ripping pop songs with a hard, assaultive edge. Mark's still a great showman; these days he can hop from the stage to join the throng without fear of lustful dismemberment (you always felt scared for him back in the Skunks days, particularly if you’d seen footage of the mob hysteria around the Beatles as they got grabbed by a crush of young females who hauled and tore at anything they could get at like hungry sharks) and the crowd love Mark. Completely in control on stage, yet completely friendly and matter-of-fact. There’s no pose in this man. In fact, there was no pose in any of the bands tonight, and that’s interesting because the level of talent these men demonstrate, they’d be entitled. Yet they don’t.
This is what rock'n'roll is about. Passion, not pose; love and acceptance not bad tempered arseholio. If I could bottle the essence of the last two nights here in Adelaide, I'd make a fucking fortune.
Where do YOU live?