Brian Mann and Mick Medew trading licks in Thirroul. Shona Ross photo.
Gonna break that rule about not reviewing I-94 Bar gigs, as the second of this two-night engagement was badged thus. If you can’t write about things you like, what’s the point? It’s the ethos of why we do this e-zine thing.
So let’s be up front and say that Mick Medew is a good mate and his band, The Mesmerisers, are lovely people. In customary evangelical spirit, I’m unashamedly going to tell you that if you love rock and roll then you have to see them - in their native Brisbane or on one of their few forays outside of Queensland.
The first leg of this two-night weekend stand was a support to the mighty Sunnyboys, opening a bill shared with the mercurial Ups & Downs. The venue was the magic Anita’s Theatre in Thirroul, an hour-and-a-bit south of Sydney. The second was a Sydney show at the increasingly familiar stamping ground of Marrickville Bowling Club. The Mesmerisers are making the road trip a family affair with partners and two offspring in tow.
1. The Sunnyboys / The Flaming Hands / The Shy Imposters - Enmore Theatre 2. Descent into the Maelstrom : The untold story of Radio Birdman 3. 4. Son Volt - Factory Theatre 5. Steve Earle - So You Wannabe An Outlaw CDLP 6. Tift Merritt - Stitch of the World CDLP 7. Lindi Ortega - "Til the goin' gets gone" EP 8. Ghost on The Highway : A Portrait of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and The Gun Club 9. Beware of Mr. Baker (Ginger Baker documentary) 10. (Far from) honorary mentions - - The Phringe Dwellers - recording new stuff with current line-up - Dave Favours and The Roadside Ashes - releasing and launching 7" single + recording songs for vinyl LP - Releasing my solo CD #4 "From Beth to Evie"
It's almost 2019… and the world seems to be going mad. But the big question I ask myself… is rock dead?
I see alternate styles of music like rap, hip-hop and commercial pop dominating youth culture. I wouldn’t recognise Drake or Flume if they dropped their USB sticks in front of me. In closeted rock’n’roll enclaves such as the I-94 Bar dirty rock’n’roll seems to be thriving, but one by one icons are dropping off the perch. How much longer can it survive?
The benchmark I’ve been looking at is guitar sales. Electric guitar sales have slipped 22.7 percent since 2008… the price of guitars is rocketing, yet it appears that the acoustic market is on the up… Something like a 15 percent increase over the same period. Although insipid, whiny vocal sounds have probably been tied to the same trend.
The trend that parallels the increase of Ed Sheeran wannabes is the rise of vinyl sales. I’d guess that pot smoking hippies, listening on their Technics SL1200 to Bob Dylan re-masters trying figure out how to play protest songs while avoiding the dreaded F chord are to blame.
Despite my sense of foreboding I did manage to catch some quality rock’n’roll but I put that down to confirmation bias. My personal faves:
The Celebrity Roadie informs The Barman that he can't go out in public like that. As usual, he's ignored. Kyleigh Pitcher photo.
This is a Top Ten of two parts. First, live gigs, and second, albums. You know. Second part, different from the first.The rule of not reviewing my own gigs goes right out the door from the get-go. Got an issue with that? See you in the carpark...
Chris Masuak and the Sydney City Wave Riders: This was a sensational run of shows- a mini-tour in and around Sydney because that’s all that time allowed - by Klondike and his crack band of Tony Bambach (bass) and Stuart Wilson (drums). Great players, top blokes. Armed with a killer setlist drawing on most of Chris’s back catalogue, the guys fired from the get go. Many of the versions surpassed the originals with Maz playing two guitar parts, as few people can. The shows blew away much of the skullduggery and malakarey involved with certain ghosts from the recent past.
HITS at Marrickville Bowlo You can’t keep playing the same old songs or you’ll get staid and there’s no sign of HITS doing that just yet. Members are now scattered the length of the East Coast so it can’t be easy getting together…or maybe that’s a blessing in disguise because it keeps things fresh. They continue to be THE Aussie band to follow.
The Celebrity Roadie Peter Ross attracts fans wherever he goes. Veteran road manager John Pearce (right) inspects his ponytail to make sure it's real.
The On and Ons @ almost everywhere – The Sydney power-pop phenomenon rolls on and gets ready to record a third album. Strong songs from singer/songwriter Glenn Morris and the pedigree of Clyde Bramley, Jon Roberts and Brian Morris make for irresistible pop. Welcome Aboard! Watch
The Flaming Hands @ Factory Theatre & Enmore – A couple of power packed shows from these '80s icons blew my mind. Julie Mostyn’s crack band of Radio Birdman’s Warwick Gilbert, Peter Bull and Barton Price brought a polished sheen to Jeff Sullivan and Julie’s songs. They should come back again… soon! Watch .
KC goes to more live shows than your mother goes to Tuppaware parties. Here's his Top Ten of Sydney gigs.
EVEN – NEWTOWN SOCIAL CLUB A power pop fans dream and a very early “gig of the year” contender from the Fab Three. Supported by the wonderful On and Ons and Soul Movers on a stinker of a summer EVENing. Is it heresy to say I like them and their songs so much more than You Am I? I eagerly await the Christmas Even show at The Landsdowne on December 23.
THE APARTMENTS – THE FACTORY FLOOR A wonderful set of sparse songs, full of emotion, not sentimental but heart tugging and soul searing. Spare and simple arrangements enhanced by nuanced and subtle musicianship of Peter Milton-Walsh’s fellow musicians, including Amanda Brown.
DIED PRETTY – ENMORE THEATRE Following on from two cracking shows in 2016, Ron Peno and co delivered another amazing set and they were the band of the night at Radio Birdman’s big show. Brett Myers, what a guitarist.
In 2012, a reformed Sunnyboys delivered arguably the most emotional comeback of any Australian band in living memory. More on that soon. Three years later, they’ve given us the most unlikely of resurrected albums, with a stunning re-issue of their second record, “Individuals”.
Originally released in May 1982 when the band was poised to take the Australian charts by the throat, it sold respectably but ultimately foundered under the weight of massive expectations and a curiously subdued mix.
The discovery of a previously lost rough mix among the estate of their late producer and manager (as well as legendary guitarist), Lobby Loyde, cast a new light on a largely overlooked record. The new version sounds as lively and dynamic as the band’s “Sunnyboys” debut from 1980.
It’s time to kiss and make up. When “Individuals” was released back in 1982, as a follow-up to the Sunnyboys’ barnstorming eponymous debut, it was justifiably unloved by many.
The songs were…good…but slower. Its lead-off single, the curious “This Is Real”, was stilted and a million miles removed from the infectious “Happy Man” and “Alone With You”. The biggest drawback, however, was the record’s lifeless production which reduced the sound of the Sunnyboys to an empty husk. It lacked warmth and sounded distant.
The dictionary defines serendipity as “a pleasant surprise” and it's a term that scientists working in medical research are fond of using. It’s also at the heart of how the looming reformation of beloved Sydney band the Flaming Hands came about.
Singer Julie Mostyn is on the phone from the Coffs Harbour home she shares with husband Warwick Gilbert, onetime bassist and graphic artist for Radio Birdman. She clearly remembers serendipity’s intervention on that very same landline, late in 2016.
“It was one of those life-changing phone calls…one that shocks you out of something you’ve been trying to get out of for a while,” she recalls.
“It was a call from Peter Oxley of the Sunnyboys, and he said: ‘Would you consider reforming the Flaming Hands?’ And I thought for half a second and said: ‘Yeah, that’d be good’.”
Talk about timing. It was as good as any excuse for Julie to ditch her day job in a local bank and embark on what's not so much a career revival as a chance to revisit great times, renew old partnerships and - maybe - push the musical boat out just a little further.
More on that last point later. More immediately, it means Flaming Hands supporting the Sunnyboys at the Sydney show of their February Australian tour, with similarly reformed friends, Shy Impostors, opening the gig.
Flaming Hands were Sydney’s best soul and psych pop band, a potent and popular outfit based around Julie Mostyn’s passionate voice and guitarist Jeff Sullivan’s emotion-baring songs.
In 2020 Sunnyboys will celebrate 40 years since their inception (though a mere 12 years of actual existence) via liver shows and a new release. “Sunnyboys 40” brings together the first ever re-release of the band’s much loved 1980 eponymous debut 7” - featuring the original version of the all-time classic “Alone With You” - alongside four new recordings of songs from the archives of chief songwriter Jeremy Oxley.
The full length 8-track album will be released on November 29 via all formats including a limited edition vinyl release complete with hard cover 12 page 30cm x 30cm photo essay of the band, as well as CD, cassette and all digital platforms.
Sunnyboys 40 is available for pre-order now via here and hits retail on November 29.
Ed Kuepper leads his Aints! through their final show for a while.
Sedition 2019 The Aints! The Flaming Hands Shy Impostors The Professors Paddington RSL, Sydney Saturday, August 31 2019
It could have been an exercise in nostalgia for its own sake. It was anything but.
On paper, a bunch of bands digging into their own back pages is a fraught exercise. Things can never be what they once were; voices age and players who were at one time singularly focused on the musical here and now inevitably drift on or find new interests. Some pass on. Others fall out with each other.
Each of these bands come from a special time and a place that can’t be re-captured. Each was leaning, to some degree, on their back catalogues tonight. All were doing their best to be true to their own legacy without getting hung up on it.
There are obvious life lessons in the saga of the Sunnyboys and they’ve been related so many times that they probably don’t bear repetition here. If you’re a fan, you’ll know them all anyway (the results of crashing and burning, the enduring nature of brotherly bonds, the power of redemptive love.) If you’re not, you can wise up, musically speaking, with this collection.
Going in with open ears and no expectations, this unassuming album is a revelation. It launched with little fanfare and was spoken about online but was unheard by these ears until after a copy was pressed into my hands backstage at a gig.
Somebody said it was country. A little. It's copped a flogging on the CD player. It’s mostly warm and breezy blues-pop, from a husband and wife duo, one of whom you might know in their other guise.
The Bils are Bil and Michelle Bilson. They play everything between them (guitars, bass, keys and drums) and share vocals. Bil’s other gig is drumming with reincarnated Australian power-pop legends the Sunnyboys. He also played with The (Sunnyboys-related) Sparklers and the gloriously acid punk Doctor Stone. Can’t confess to knowing Michelle’s musical pedigree but it doesn’t much matter. The back story’s not as important as what's going on at the front-of-house.
Five years into their reformation and you could be forgiven for thinking the Sunnyboys revival was on the wane. Wrong.
With two Sydney shows selling out in just four days, setting a sales record at Sunshine Coast venue The Shed by selling a third of capacity in the first eight hours and eclipsing their previous best first-week sales in Melbourne, Sunnyboys are the hottest alternative ticket of the Australian summer.
Due to overwhelming demand Sunnyboys are pleased to announce three new shows.
It came out with bugger-all fanfare five months ago, to coincide with the band’s one-off Sydney reformation on a Sunnyboys undercard, so it’s high time this one was passed around the I-94 Bar for a critique.
You might know the back story but too bad: Shy Impostors were fronted by uber talented vocalist Penny Ward and contained future Sunnyboys Peter Oxley and Richard Burgman, plus Michael Charles, who would go on to the Lipstick Killers and Screaming Tribesmen. Not much shyness about that lot and no impostors among them.
A slew of previously unheard tracks from short-burning but bright Sydney band Shy Impostors is about to be released on Citadel Records, to coincide with the band playing a one-off reunion in support of the Sunnyboys’ Sydney show on February 4.You can pre-order your copy here.
Shy Impostors were active in 1979-80 and their ranks included future Sunnyboys Richard Burgman and Peter Oxley. Fronted by singer-songwriter Penny Ward and also featuring drummer Michael Charles (Lipstick Killers, Screaming Tribesmen, Mick Medew & The Mesmerisers), they played infectious, raucous and melodic pop music.
In February of 1980 the band recorded seven songs at Palm Studios, Sydney. Two of these tracks, “At The Barrier” b/w “Seein' Double”, were posthumously released late in 1980 on Sydney's Phantom label. The other five languished in the vaults.
During 2016 all seven tracks were restored from original master tapes and mixed by producer Jason Blackwell. The resulting self-titled CD is a long overdue retrospective giving yet another intriguing insight into the formative years of Sydney's post Radio Birdman indie music explosion.
Captain Fast (P Ward) (3:08 m:s) At The Barrier (P Ward) (2:57 m:s) When Night Comes In (P Ward) (3:22 m:s) Sweet Defender (P Ward) (1:55 m:s) My Sin Is My Pride (The Astronauts) (2:32 m:s) She Can't Win (P Ward) (2:31 m:s) Seein' Double (P Ward/M Charles) (3:32 m:s)
It is literally the hottest ticket in town - Sunnyboys at Sydney's Factory Theatre - and nearly as desirable everywhere else. After selling out their two shows at the inner-west venue in just four days, Sunnyboys are pleased to announce a third and final Sydney show.
The new date is Sunday, February 11 at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville with support (again) from the Celibate Rifles. The gig runs over the schoolnight-friendly times of 6-9.30pm.
The sold-out shows are the fastest-selling Sydney Sunnyboys shows since the band’s reunion in 2012. Elsewhere, the iconic band - born in the ‘80s but with all-time appeal - set a first-day sales record at Sunshine Coast venue The Shed @ Aussie World, selling a third of all tickets.
It's the band’s first performance on the Coast since their reformation and just their third appearance in the region ever, their last visit being in 1983 at the Noosa Hop, an all day festival featuring Skyhooks, Midnight Oil, The Church and others.
Comeback kings the Sunnyboys have announced a full-blown Aussie summer tour, along with deluxe releases of their second and third studio albums.
The 2015 tour will include shows in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide plus a slot at the Perth International Arts Festival, just the second Sunnyboys appearance in the W.A. capital since 1984.
Brisbane and Sydney will be treated to appearances by their former sparring partners, the Riptides. Other guests on the February tour include The New Christs (Melbourne and Sydney) young punks Bad // Dreems (Adelaide) and Dom Mariani's post-Stems vehicle DM3, in Perth.
Without resorting to hyperbole, the definitive version of the debut album for Sydney’s esteemed Sunnyboys sounds fresher than the day it came out. The original 12 songs are coupled with seven early B-sides and live cuts but the revelation is in the bonus disc of 17 sparkling demo tracks, many of them previously unissued.