Sometimes I want to avoid the fact that I'm becoming an old fart. Sadly, talking up the "good old days" is a sign of this. Even so, it seems relevant when talking about today's Sydney, the bands and the live scene. It's how I view the world.
I remember when I was seeing bands most nights of the week. It was somewhat of an outlaw existence and hard to comprehend it all at just 19-years-old. Back then, anyone over 24 was “old”. The veteran bands were the Sex Pistols and Radio Birdman. Then there was Iggy, who was ancient.
It was the early ‘80s and I was living in Surry Hills in Central Sydney when could you get a room in a shared house hold for $25 a week. There were quality, cutting-edge bands playing within a few minutes’ walk, five nights a week. The Triffids, The End, The Moffs, Salamander Jim, Scientist, The Laughing Clowns, and all that Black Eye art-noise band stuff. There were venues everywhere - Trade Union Club, Evil Star, French’s, The Strawberry Hills, The Lansdowne and The Hopetoun. Then there were the squat gigs or house parties where everyone put bands on in their lounge rooms. And mostly always, those were free. It’s now all just a faded blur.
Growing up in Sydney in the ‘80s, we were spoiled. The amorphous thing called Pub Rock spawned an explosion of live music and it was literally everywhere. The one thing all those bands had in common is still hard to put your finger on but you could term it The Pub Contract.
From the audience side, the Contract read like this: “Don’t give us any airs and graces. If you aren’t any good, we’re going to put shit on you. Due to us consuming social lubricants in prodigious proportions, you need to play hard to get our attention.”
Those days are gone and only a few people care anymore. The ones who might be keen are buried deep under mortgages, families and adulthood.
Maybe it was the lack of a crowd, skewed expectations or the fact that The Runaways were never mandated high rotation listening in my own world, but Friday night’s Cherie Currie show at the Manning Bar in Sydney fell flatter than a soufflé in a bricklayers’ pie oven.
It wasn’t entirely the fault of the headliner.
The Runaways’ place in history is notable if slightly perverse. On one hand, as an all-girl band in a man’s world, they provided inspiration for a later generation of Riot Grrrls and (Punk Rock) Sisters Doing It For Themselves. On the other hand, they were shamelessly objectified, used and abused and have become a cautionary object lesson in exploitation.
Expatriate Americans living in Shanghai in China, Round Eye have unleashed a video to accompany their song “Billy” which is a stringing critique on the state of politics back home.
Round Eye recently signed to the Canadian label Sudden Death Records (owned by DOA’s Joey Shithead) and collaborated with the late Stooges sax man Steve Mackay on an eponymous record "Round Eye" last year which you can hear and download via theiur Bandcamp (link below).
“We've lived here for 6 years but have never neglected the issues of home,” explains singer Chachy. “This video is our open letter to the United States. We really put a lot of work into this to ensure the message is very loud and very clear.”
Sydney’s music community is rallying to get behind much-loved rocker Spencer P Jones in an hour of need.
Spencer is battling serious illness and fund-raisers have been popping up all over Australia. Sydney is responding with its own show, The Axeman’s Benefit, on Friday, June 24 at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville.
Died Pretty is headlining a heavyweight bill which will include Spencer’s old band The Johnnys (with guest vocalists), the Hoodoo Gurus (playing a mini-set), home-grown garage up-starts Straight Arrows and psych-punk veterans Young Docteurs. The Johnnys will close the night.
The killer line-up will be augmented by a bevy of guest musicians including Jim Moginie (Midnight Oil), Simon Day (Ratcat), Jack Ladder, Murray Cook, MC Anthony Morgan, Jason Walker, Peter Fenton (Crow) and Kane Dyson (Spurs For Jesus.) FBi’s Jack Shit will be lending his DJ talents.
All of the acts have played alongside or recorded with Spencer in some capacity. Died Pretty is fresh from a summer of sold-out A Day On The Green and club shows and is re-convening especially for Spencer.
Although his career has been mainly under the mainstream music radar, Spencer P Jones has been a tremendously influential figure in Australia.
Arriving in Australia from New Zealand in 1976, Spencer came to prominence with hard-drinking cowpunks the Johnnys and then inner-Sydney swamp supergroup the Beasts of Bourbon, he’s also played with the Gun Club, Renee Geyer, Chris Bailey, Rowland S Howard, Nick Cave and Paul Kelly.
In recent years he’s been recording and playing with his own solo bands as well as members of The Scientists and The Drones.
Tickets for The Axeman’s Benefit went on sale last night and are here. A substantial number have gone already so don't delay.
Did you ever see The Decline of Western Civilization documentary? The first one?
Pretty uneven, isn’t it? And by god, there’s a lot of indifferent stuff in there. The Germs are horrible, but rather wonderful. Fear are also quite nasty, and funny, and wonderful. The rest … well, it’s kind of interesting. But Decline (Mk I) is not a film I readily return to.
Even so, because it captures a scene in a scattergun style, it’s significant. By no means was that every significant band. By no means known to man, woman or beast.
But when it first came out here in Australia (1984, I think) it made and confirmed a huge impact. The wave of US hardcore and secondary punk was finally breaking into our homes (well, not if you listened to mainstream radio and watched TV, granted. I mean, us in the alternative scene.
You remember that…) and gentle young souls with spiky hair, the right jeans and Doc Martens and leather motorcycle jackets with UK punk band names and patches all over them? (I was always reminded of my school exercise books when I was about 13; I figured I’d done that already, I didn’t need a jacket that reminded me of school.) When, in 1983, we tried to explain to these gentle souls that, you know, it was the American punk bands which were amazing, they were aggressively dismissive.
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.
There’s no-one better qualified to decry “this counterfeit world” than Pat Todd as he does on the opening cut of the same name on his new album.
Todd’s been The Real Deal for three decades, first with Los Angeles underground legends The Lazy Cowgirls and more recently with The Rankoutsiders. “Blood & Treasure” is long=player number-four and builds on a substantial body of work.
People sometimes look down their noses at the term “bar band”. Why is a mystery. Isn’t a “bar band” the antithesis of a “stadium band”? Todd has assembled one of the world’s best bar bands in The Rankoutsiders and it would be a travesty to think of them playing Coachella.
There’s something special about a gutsy and compelling female vocalist fronting a hard rock band when it’s done right. Canadian band Sulfur City tick all those boxes.
Sulfur City’s bold, bluesy and soulful sound is a perfect fit for the Alive Naturalsound stable which has carved a market in the rootsy hard rock space. They’re the label’s first female-fronted act which was a surprise. .
Hailing from Ontario, the band’s focal point is ex-truck driver and bartender Lori Paradis, a flame-haired vocal powerhouse and electric washboard player (!) whose voice will knock you flat at 20 paces. “Talking Loud” is an attention-getting debut record overflowing with blues-boogie and soul goodness.