Binic Folks Blues Festival is a safe European home for Australia's best bands

 

bcsixfthickBen Corbett makes a point to the crowd as SixFtHick play on.

In May 2012, I had the good fortune to travel to Brittany in France to see HITS plays three club shows in the cities of Brest, Lorient and Lannion. The brilliant Ben Salter happened to be touring France at the same time, so he arrived, guitar in hand, to see his friends in HITS - and was promptly added to the bill for those gigs.

HITS and Salter were welcomed with open arms and rapturous applause, but I started to hear French people say the same thing to them after every show - "You have to play at Binic!"

Charlie Marshall & the Curious Minds live in Adelaide

 Charlie Marshall wheatsheafPhoto by Robert Dunstan of Bside magazine 

When you shut your eyes and listen, support act Workhorse sound very good, kind of soothing but slightly disturbing.

Several of us did just that. Watching them was interesting - their violinist was exceptional (most violinists seem to think that furiously sawing away will earn them some sort of Scout or Brownie badge), the vocals haunting and rather beautiful, and a rather lovely Vox bass throbbed effectively.

 It may be early days for this outfit (I'm told that a couple, including the lead vocalist/ guitarist, were/ are in the Wireheads) and there's a certain amount of shyness - common to a large number of young bands these days - which I don't think suits the material. I'll make a point of seeing them again as I enjoy noticing how bands develop.

After 40 years, it's not time to say goodbye

x factory theatreX in full flight in Sydney. Murray Bennett photo  

Forty years of X and there’s a national tour to celebrate. Who would have thought? Certainly none of the original members, of which Steve Lucas is the only one remaining alive.

Lucas and bassist Ian Rilen were, of course, the only constant members of X. Almost. Even Ian was went briefly MIA from one line-up. The pair’s tumultuous relationship has been documented in many places and they were the heart and soul of the band.

New Christs and James McCann and The New Vindictives bring fire to a cold Sydney night

new christs mville2Sometimes you get all philosophical. The penny dropped on Saturday night, after a succession of $14 jugs of beer with a mate, that the New Christs are probably the band that I’ve experienced live for the longest number of years.

Of course there have been so many line-ups that a statement like that becomes very elastic. But the wrist stamps don’t lie...

And they go right back to 1984 when a loose and limber Rob Younger bounded onto the stage of Sydney’s Capital Theatre, fronting the band’s first live incarnation, in support of Iggy Pop.

That line-up of Chris Masuak, Tony Robertson, Mark Kingsmill and Kent Steedman (the Rifle later to be subbed by a Spider, Richard Jakimyszyn) might have been equalled by the “Distemper” one (Charlie Owen, Jim Dickson and Louis Burdett/Nick Fisher) but never bettered. The former had a brutal edge, the latter a bluesier, expansive feel with jazzy inflections.

The current configuration of Dickson, Paul Larsen, Dave Kettley and Brent Williams measures up nicely in the history of the New Christs, probably sitting at level-pegging with the late-‘90s line-ups. They’ve all served up differing sounds and brought something different to the stage, with the one constant being Younger’s undeniable presence and bitter-sour song-writing.

“Emotional Jihad” and “Word Salad” are terms that others have used down the years to describe Younger’s lyrical vision. You can’t do much better than that.  

Humour and genial brilliance - that's The Undertones

the undertones live

This is a bit of a rant, I’m afraid. 

Opening support band to The Undertones in Adelaide, The Green Circles ,were good - but as I was preoccupied rescuing my keys from inside my car with the help of the RAA, I only saw the last half of their set. They seemed a little awkward tonight. The Green Circles are well and truly superb, however, and if this was a slightly off night for them, I’d better see them again to make up for it. Find them on Facebook and get their cds.

Next support, The Systemaddicts, are on Off the Hip in Melbourne, and they are one exciting, involving, often very amusing band. You don’t really know what you’re missing unless you’ve seen them. Fucking brilliant.

No nostalgia, just blues and Animal magic

john steel adelaideAnimals co-founder John Steel.    Mandy Tzaras photo

Remember the screaming '60s? If not, you’ve seen the footage, in particular of the Beatles in "A Hard Days’ Night", of hordes of howling fans hurtling after their fantastic idols … when the object of pursuit becomes less than human, almost a fetishistic object.

Those days are gone, thank god. The other influential band which everyone remembers is the Rolling Stones, long regarded as the great survivors of the Sixties. Until their last LP of blues covers, their LPs were not selling well. One of the reasons I think their last LP sold so well is, I think, the intimacy implicit in the release. That, and the knowledge that the Stones are rediscovering their roots again.

Truth to tell, if you pull the original versions of the songs the Stones covered … you’d probably enjoy the originals just as much, if not better.

Back in Byron with Tamam Shud - four decades later

shud byron2Tamam Shud back on stage at Byron Bay's Great Northgern Hotel.   Al Heeney photo

The Northern New South Wales Australian coastline has changed dramatically over the last 50 years.

Remember the pilgrimage of holiday time, with caravans lined up on the Pacific Highway…the tribe of kids in the backseat of the Kingwood (or Ford Falcons) bellowing out of boredom on the inteminable drive north? Then there was the weekend pilgrimage of surfers with their Sandman panel vans. Followed, of course, by the night drive back to work to Monday. It was a long trip back down to Sydney with car headlights on high beam, dodging speeding semi-trailers with speed-driven truckies, in-between stopovers at the Oak Milk Bar or the Big Banana.

Dotted along the NSW coast, from Hornsby to the Gold Coast, are memories. Of stop-overs at Frangipani-lined caravan parks, or pitstops at the homes of relatives. Memories marked by places like Foster, Nambucca Heads, Coffs and Byron. Sleepy little towns that were bursting at the seams on long weekends and Chrissie holidays.

Sydney just another step in Patti's spiritual, rock and roll journey

patti horses slSteve Lorkin photo

More than a decade ago, I was sitting in a Sydney pub with a beer after a Bob Dylan concert. I was amidst Dylan fans, including Jenny Kee, the ’60s fashion icon, “OZ” magazine figure and Buddhist. Jenny is a deep thinker and was peeling back layers on the Dylan show we had both witnessed. She turned to me in mid-conversation and asked a question I won’t forget.


“Do you think Dylan is deeply spiritual and has soul consciousness on stage?”

My answer after much thought was: “I can’t answer that, as I believe Bob lived many lifetimes and always felt he was guarded on that level, except in his born-again phase. That said, his songs are from the heart and mostly from his mind.” 

Jenny responded. “I saw Lou Reed last year. I believe he does, as he is on that journey.”

“I can’t say that about Bob or even Lou Reed. But after seeing Patti Smith live, I believe she does and that it comes from a very deep realm, in fact one could call it soul consciousness.”  

That was my answer all those years ago that night in Haymarket. I've always believed Patti is indeed a special performer.

Debbie and Patti in a Tale of Two Dieties

blondie dean ertlBlondie and her session men plus Clem Burke (obscured).   Dean Ertl photo

I come at this review as a fan.  Since 1976 (earlier if you count the Dolls and the Velvets), I have been enamoured of that New York New Wave sound.  It's a broad church.  Suicide could thrash synthesizers and Television could probe the stratosphere with spiralling lead guitar lines.  The Ramones could make dumb look smart.

The Talking Heads sounded nothing like the Heartbreakers.  The Fast sounded nothing link Mink DeVille.  But the scene was still recognisable as a whole.

Blondie lived in the spotlight of eternal summer despite spending a lifetime dodging sun rays.   You could be walking through the Lower East Side, see a boy you liked and say hello.  Even if you found yourself charged with solicitation, everything would be all right because you are young, beautiful and in love.