From Dave Hogan.
You should probably put the kettle on, there’s some slow burners in today’s La Musique Mercredi.
When Brendan and I spent a couple of years at High School together, I don’t think we could have been more different; he the long-haired trouble maker, me the skinny dingus with the red hair and glasses. Brendan obviously tread a path into punk, while by the time I made it to university I was the dorky indie kid stuck in an Engineering faculty. So it was with a little surprise that we both recently realised our music tastes have at least a hint of cross-over.
During my uni days, way back when, I used to go and see a lot of live music. My friend Nat hosted Local and/or General on RRR, and I used to listen to it religiously. I found some old tapes when I moved house recently with songs I’d taped off the show; live in-studio performances by bands like Sandro, Little General and 2 Litre Dolby. I’d love to be able to post some videos from those guys up here, especially of Little General and the phenomenally precise drumming of David Kneale, but do you know how hard it is to search youtube for clips of a little Melbourne band called Little General.
(EDIT - Thanks to Jolan, I just discovered bandcamp.com, which miraculously has a couple of Little General tracks. Go here, and listen to the first track if youcan'ttakeajokegetthefuckoutofmyhouse, and if you like that, listen to the third song, Ron Pearlman. The basketball nerd in me especially loves Ron Pearlman, because it samples 70s NBA star Daryl Dawkins talking about his turbo sexophonic delight dunk.)
I’d traipse to gigs all over town, happily on my own, but more happily with my buddy Bec. She’s my wife now. We shared our first kiss at a Gersey gig at the Empress. I saw Gersey play a lot, would let myself get lost amongst the slow progression of their songs, letting the sound wash over me as though I was in one of those slow motion movie scenes of people swimming under water. I’d get hypnotised by Danny Tulen’s simple 4-4 drumming, to the point that I when I first sat at a drum kit a few years later I could bash out a whole bunch of Gersey songs without thinking.
Back in about ’98, years before Bec and I got together, we caught the train back up to my parents’ place in Ballarat on a Thursday night with Cronky to see Not From There play at 21 Arms, one of the dodgy local nightclubs (why they weren’t playing at the Bridgey I’ve no idea). Before the show, the only people in the place were us three, and the three guys from the band. We had a chat with Heinz, the singer, a few other folks turned up, and then they played to all of 12 people. They were fucking amazing. For my parents, I was still trying to support the pretence that I attended lectures, given that this was reasonably early in my first year of uni, so we got a 7am train the next morning back to Melbourne so I could pretend to go to my 8.30am lecture.
There were two other bands that I saw play a lot around that time at the end of the 90’s / start of the 2000’s. The first was pre-shrunk, they of the two-bass-guitar-one-drummer set-up. Brilliant, talented musicians, producing sounds and song structures I’d never heard before, with a ridiculously tight live sound. If they were playing in Melbourne, or Ballarat (this time at the Bridgey thankfully), I was there.
Going to all these pre-shunk gigs, I became friendly with the band’s manager, Doug, who runs Rare Records. He got me onto another band he was managing at the time, The Grand Silent System. Once again, my young impressionable ears were blown away by the musicianship and amazing live shows these guys put on. I’m not sure how well their prog-rock sound has dated, but their live shows were phenomenal. The somewhat serious, self-indulgent prog sound was balanced by Jova (singer) and Cabsy (guitarist) spending most of the show taking the piss out of themselves. Cabsy had a particularly foul mouth, and the first time I saw them play, at the Laundry sometime in early 2000, Cabsy was typically dropping f-bombs everywhere. Between songs he apologised; “we play a lot of all ages gigs back home in the La Trobe Valley, and I normally have to bite my tongue at those shows” Pause…….. “ we don’t have to play to them cunts no more.”
I like this clip particularly as it’s a song they never recorded or released, which kind of gives you a hint as to how good they were, unless you don’t like prog in which case you may as well scroll down. Me, I loved this shit.
But once uni ended and the real world came calling, local gigs were few and far between. Bec and I lived in Edinburgh for a few years, where I came across Scotland’s Uncle John and Whitelock. They had a grim blues-rock sound dripping with the swampy stench of a Scottish bog, but unfortunately we only managed to see them once before they announced they were splitting up. A final show in Edinburgh beckoned, we got there nice and early, around 9-ish, to make sure we could get in. The venue was tiny and by the time we arrived it was full, with people literally hanging from the rafters. And yes, I do actually mean literally. I couldn’t find any decent live clips of these guys, but there was one song from the album There Is Nothing Else floating around on youtube. It’s a cracker.
In 2008, we spent Christmas and New Years in New York. The next clip isn’t from a show we saw there, but from a guy we saw when we got back. We had tickets to All Tomorrow’s Parties up at Mt Buller for the day after we flew home. We left New York in a blizzard, and our flight was delayed by 45 minutes while they de-iced the wings. We landed in San Francisco about the same time that our connecting flight to Sydney was due to leave. The connecting flight was at the other end of the airport, and we ran through the lounges as fast as we could, desperately hanging onto our coats and carry-on bags full of vinyl we’d bought in New York (that shit was heavy). We got to the gate around 10.30pm, about 5 minutes after the plane was due to leave. The plane was still sitting there, the entry tunnel thing still connected. But the lounge gate was empty and dark, with not a United Airlines staff member to be seen. After much frantic calling, we booked a flight that would get us to Melbourne the fastest, and after a night at a cheap airport motel ended up heading from San Francisco to LA the next morning, where we sat around for 7 hours before boarding a flight direct back to Melbourne, rather than through Sydney as per our original flight. We sent an email to our friends picking us up from the airport to let them know the score, but with no US dollars left we couldn’t stay on the internet long, and had no idea if they’d receive it or if they’d be at the airport a day early wondering where the fuck we were.
We had no idea where our bags were, presumably they had made the original flight from San Fran to Sydney. We landed in Melbourne the day the festival was starting. Baggage claim made us wait until all the bags from our flight had been unloaded onto the carousel before we could fill in a claim. We finally got out of the airport, stressed and tired with only the clothes on our back, to find our friends Steve and Charlotte patiently waiting for us. Back home to Northcote for a quick shower and to grab whatever clothes we could, before driving up to Mt Buller. Now, Steve didn’t really drive (it was amazing he made it to the airport to pick us up) and Charlotte was French and couldn’t drive in Australia. So I sucked down a can of coke, jumped behind the wheel of our car and sped towards Mansfield.
We made it to the festival car park in the early afternoon, something like 40 hours after we’d left our friend’s apartment in New York, and waited half an hour for a bus to take us into the festival itself. We found our chalet, dumped our gear, and trotted up the hill to the stage. With only 2/3 of tickets sold, there was plenty of room. We grabbed a beer, and sat down on the hill. About 2 minutes later, onto the stage walked Bill Callahan, Mick Turner and Jim White. I think my head nearly exploded. Bill started playing his guitar, with that slow, repetitive pluck, and I laid back on the grass and looked up at a blue sky painted with fluffy white clouds. I was completely overcome by a combination of euphoria, joy, fatigue and almighty relief, and I floated up to those clouds grinning from ear to ear. I can count on one hand the times in my life when I’ve felt better than I did at that moment. Hell, I can list them; when I kissed Bec the first time, when I married Bec, and when my two daughters were born. That’s it.
And lastly, here’s Dirty Three at their emotion-charged best. I was going to post a clip from their 2004 set at Meredith. You know, the one with the storm. But if you’re reading this, it’s a pretty good bet that either 1 – you were there, or 2 – you’re sick of hearing about how amazing it was. Instead, I’m going to post a clip from possibly the greatest television show in Australian history. Where else but Recovery would you get a live performance like this on television, complete with Warren Ellis’ brutal introduction. Perfect for a dusty Saturday morning, no?