You want me to write a year in reflection? Well, where and how to start? I will bang on these keys and most likely bang on in my usual stoic warm way.
Mind you, I rarely write about music these days. I look back and reflect on the shit I once wrote and it seems all so naïve, sycophantic almost. But here’s a try and since it’s not the 10 best gigs, nor the 10 best recordings, I have license to mix it up.
Best thing that happened – helping out with the band bookings at MoshPit, a small unpretentious little bar down the south end of King St which now fits 120 people. Yes, it’s small, and don’t go there if you feel paranoid or claustrophobic as you’ll probably hate it. But, in the vein of CBGB’s in NYC, Frenches which was on Oxford Street (Darlinghurst) the Old Bar in Melbourne, and its local counterpart Midnight Special in Enmore, this place oozes fun.
Where else can you put on your favourite bands and liken it to your best ever lounge-room party. There’s a whole range of yummy booze, great staff, the co-owners Pat n Wax, + two sound people who know what they’re doing within limitations. Nunchukka Superfly, Thee Evil Twin, Face Command, White Knuckle Fever and Los Monaros are just some of the great local acts that graced there in 2019. We was lucky and their goodwill was priceless. Sydney needs venues like these so in my unbiased best, please support.
Best things I listened to – newish stuff from Pallet, Small Town Incident, White Knuckle Fever, Sounds Like Winter, Syntax Error, Joseph Leonard, Wreckless Enterprise Recordings volume 1 and 2 – compilations featuring Dirty Slutz, Babymachine, Leftards, Minor Surgery, Space Bozzies, Bitchcraft, Piss to Eme.
2019 was first year for a while that I wasn’t doing a radio show and being in Canberra for work, I felt I was little bit out of the loop. Nonetheless, it was another memorable rock ‘n’ roll year and here’s my top10 in no particular order.
Kim Volkman and the Whiskey Priests at Marrickville Bowlo in Sydney This took me back to when I first started seeing bands in Melbourne in the mid ’70s. It was no-nonsense loud rock. Two really good guitarists on top of a solid rhythm section. I loved how the band occupied half the stage and hardly broke formation through the gig. The record’s pretty good, too.
Sue Telfer Tribute in Sydney It was really sad to lose Sue. She was seriously special and it was great to see so many people come out and so many good bands turn it on. All the bands I saw were great with X as a four piece the standout. I reckon it was the best gig I’ve seen Steve Lucas do.
1 The Elevator Mood - The Elevator Mood (Bandcamp) 2 Bag O’ Bones - The Reverse Cowgirls (Northern Cowboy) 3 Neon Primitives - Band of Holy Joy (Tiny Global Productions) 4 Dark Times - Doctors of Madness (Cargo Records UK) 5 My War Is Your War - deux furieuses (Xtra Mile Recordings) 6 Heightened Senses - The Cathode Ray (Stereogram Recordings) 7 In Borrowed Shoes, On Borrowed Time - The Sweet Things (Spaghetty Town Records) 8 More Guitars - Tom Rafferty(Bandcamp) 9 Address to the Nation - Chris Masuak & the Viveiro Wave Riders (I-94 Bar) 10 The Kidney Flowers - The Kidney Flowers (Bandcamp)
Gus Ironside is music editor for "Sogo" creative arts magazine and also contributes to "Louder Than War" (online and print), "Vive le Rock", "PennyBlackMusic" and "Is This Music?" He's based in Angus, Scotland.
Backstage at the Festival of Sue with (from left) BILLY POMMER JR, CLYDE BRAMLEY and ROB YOUNGER. EMMY ETIE photo.
GUADALUPE PLATA (Donostia, Basque Country) GUADALUPE PLATA are an innovative 3 piece comprising (1) vocals and guitar (2) washtub bass/guitar and (3) drums. The play an eclectic and exotic mix of rock, blues, jazz and rockabilly. I saw them perform live after my solo show in Donostia, Basque Country this year. Pedro’s guitar playing reminded me of my own, at times, demented approach to guitar playing.
KELLEY STOLZ, (Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco). KELLEY STOLZ is a singer, songwriter, musician from the USA. His music has been compared to that of BRIAN WILSON, VELVET UNDERGROUND, NICK DRAKE and LEONARD COHEN. He played an awesome show with SARAH BETHE NELSON as support. Kelley is an all- rounder – a singer, musician and song writer. The real deal.
“A FESTIVAL OF SUE: THE JDS ARE ON YOU” (The Factory Theatre, Marrickville, Sydney) Friends of SUE TELFER banded together to pay tribute to this much-loved Sydney lady with proceeds going to Support Act. A line-up that included myself (with special guest BILLY POMMER JNR on drums), X, the NEW CHRISTS, THE JOHNNYS, KIM SALMON, THE CRUEL SEA (instrumental), FRONT END LOADER, THE MIS-MADE, THE HOLY SOUL, & THE ON AND ONS. Having BILLY POMMER JNR on drums certainly gave me a run for my money. Highlights for me included the NEW CHRISTS, THE CRUEL SEA, THE JOHNNYS and X. Unfortunately, I did not get to see all the acts. Too busy chatting with my friends. It was such a great turn out from Sydney folks! After my trip into the city, seeing so many old buildings torn down (which caused me a lot of distress), it was great to see that Sydney folks still have a heart – a very big heart!
Rock n Roll CPR v Nostalgia Neuralgia TheDean’s 2019 - 10 things you should know
1) D is for Dickhead Hey you! Yeah you sitting on your lounge watching TV. You sitting on your lounge, watching people sitting on their lounge, watching TV. If you’re a fan of that show no worries. I can live with that but if I have to listen to you talk to your mate Thommo about it the next day, way too loudly on the phone in a crowded carriage and your follow up sentence is “all music these days is shit” and that there hasn’t been a decent Aussie Rock Band since the Screaming Jets, you my friend; are a Dickhead.
2) A is for Australian Dirty, Fast & Built to last. The Australian Kingswood Factory album Bloodshot and Shakin’. Get on it. Buy Australian & buy it now! Cow Punk, Punk-a-billy, punk, punk rock, rock punk or just plain old dirty rock n roll? Not sure how to pigeon hole these guys but I do know they are pretty much everything I ever liked in a band back in the day. If you don’t check ‘em out next chance you get, that’s just plain Unaustralian.
It is always hard to cut it down to ten but here goes.
Ice Cream Hands supported by Bryan Estapa Band- Factory Floor, Sydney A great night of cleverly and carefully crafted power pop from Ice Cream Hands as Charles Jenkins and co bewitched us again with their sublime sounds. Support act Bryan Estapa Band were also a delight with their songs that owe a bit of a nod to high quality 70s AM radio sounds.
Charlotte and The Harlots/COFFIN/Turbobelco/Generation Landslide/Hy Test/Neptune Power Federation – Marrickville Bowling Club, Sydney All killer no filler as this mighty bill saw each band up the ante and be better than the one before them. COFFIN and Neptune Power Federation were especially outstanding.
Thee Marshmallow Overcoat – The Caravan Club, Oakleigh, Melbourne. Ashley Naylor, Davey Lane and Brett Wolfie playing two sets of their favourites from the 60s and 70s. Do I need to say more?
Ice Cream Hands – The Caravan Club, Oakleigh, Melbourne. Oh yes, the night after Thee Marshmallow Overcoat, at the same venue. Bliss, heaven on a stick and a more sympathetic mix than was apparent at the Factory Floor show.
The Dark Clouds/Mick Medew and The Mesmerisers/Radio Birdman – Factory Theatre The Dark Clouds showed why they are one of the best hard rock bands around but it was Mick Medew and The Mesmerisers who wowed the crowd with their set. Peppered with tracks from the Open Season album and select gems from Mick’s back catalogue they were the stars of the night. Radio Birdman also delivered a fine set and it was probably Rob Younger’s best vocal performance with RB for some time.
Number 1 February 2 at The Lyrebyrd Lounge, Ripponlea: The Lyrebyrd Lounge was the first of seven shows for me in Melbourne this year. It felt like coming home; what a marvellous club - run by my buddy Leon Storch. This show also featured Penny Ikinger and would turn out to be the start of something good.
Number 2 Late January marks the birth of my special new friend '' Arthur Robert Collie''
Number 3 Stephen Cummings at The Triffid on April 4:
An unlikely choice for my Top Ten but when you are hot you are hot. This was the gig of the year, no doubt about it. Clare Moore on drums and Sam Lemann on guitar.
The time of year when all right-thinking folk set out the Santa traps on Christmas eve, hoping for a big, juicy Santa (and not the scrawny weasel we caught last year, jesus, no meat on him at all) and the traditional charcoal spit-roast Santa in the back yard with all your mates and beer a-flowing. Done just right, the flesh falls right off the fucker's bones and melts in the mouth.
Preferably with apple and cinnamon sauce, but maybe that's just me.
Truth is that, while I heard a lot of wonderful music this year, I really don't feel up to delivering a Top Ten. Sure, there are some which leap out, but I didn't really listen that widely, I don't think. And I hardly went out. All were reviewed, look 'em out if you don't believe me.
ASHLEY THOMSON Ex-Kelpies, Rollcage, Brother Brick, Panadolls Sydney, Australia
Top Ten Gigs I wish I was at drunk
Beatles - @ the Kaiserkeller - Hamburg, Germany. October 1960. From the era when the Beatles played four sets a night, 50 days straight, making themselves an extremely tight rock n roll machine. Heineken ja ja!
The Doors - @ Whiskey a Go Go - Los Angeles, USA. August 1966 Mostly I just want to hear a fat version of “The End”. I’d probably drop a trip as well. JD.
Coloured Balls/Lobby Lloyd - @ Sebastians, Melbourne. Saturday April 15, 1972 I’d make sure I was fucking hammered and slammed my head into the PA when they did their “torture rock porn” version of Heartbreak Hotel, suck more piss indeed. Just beer.
Robert Johnson @ anywhere around the Mississippi Delta, USA. 1935 “Hellhound on my Trail” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Moonshine.
The Byrds @ Whiskey a Go Go - Los Angeles, USA. 1966 So influential, changed everything, still listening to them. A trip as well? Not sure. Watermelon wine.
Bob Short Filth, Blood & Roses, Dead Rabids, 4 Stooges, The Light Brigade et al Sydney, Australia
Twenty-twenty is a phrase used to demonstrate a standard of visual acuity. Providing a Top Ten list for the year of that name using normal standards of vision presents certain difficulties.
The harbinger of our civilization's downfall was, of course, the motion picture "Cats". This was a movie that spent its first hour-and-a-half introducing a series of characters played by celebrities in bad valley CGI mode licking themselves inappropriately whilst singing and dancing. Spoiler: It ends with the ritual suicide of the most downtrodden character by balloon.
Its similarity to the year it announced were too staggering to avoid. All year, we have been bombarded by celebrities entertaining (themselves) us from their living rooms in bad clothes and makeup whilst the poor and broken down die gasping for breath.
What stands out in the year that broke the world? And make no bones, the world is broken. Certainly, rock and roll is broken. It has been a long time coming but that bucket has been firmly kicked.
There has been illness for a while now. We've all been getting old. Most people stop adding new songs to their playlists in their early 20s. Some of us have kept our ears open much longer but that ultimately makes no difference. You could make the most stunning new music and no one would be there to listen. The old aren't interested in the new and the young aren't interested in the old.
CELIA CURTIS Vocalist for White Knuckle Fever and Stone Cold Fox Sydney, NSW, Australia
Celia Curtis’s Top20 of 2020!
The gigging landscape undulated wildly in 2020 but it was by no means barren. The absence of the annual stagger to (and from) River Rocks Festival in Geelong definitely stung a bit, but there were some corker live gigs and streams in 2020. Here are some of my favourites I was lucky to attend/ play:
1. Jan 4 2020, PUNKNATS, The Old Canberra Inn Due to raging fires and road closures, Crapulous Geegaw, Tweekers and Grim couldn’t make it. But you just can’t stop the rock. Lucifungus, Oaf, the Dirty Sluts,Minor Surgery, rooted, Hymn, Herxhaim, DuShkanu,White Knuckle Fever and(my personal faves) Thee Cha Cha Chas all went hard.
It was 44 degrees Celsius in a tin shed. Literally the worst air quality in the world. A late southerly that brought out the p2 masks and a blanket of apocalyptic Orange smoke. But fuck it was a great day. Milly, Tilly and Outtaspace Presents did a top job organising once again and The Old Canberra Inn was as hospitable as ever.
CHRIS KLONDIKE MASUAK’S TOP SEVERAL OF 2020 Guitarist, Viveiro Wave Riders Ex-Radio Birdmnan, Hitmen, Screaming Tribesmen, New Christs Viveiro, Galicia, Spain
We were having fun at the start of 2020.
The Viveiro Wave Riders had already been hither and yon … around the country and up to Breizh (“Yec’hed mad!” with the emphasis on “mad”) when it all came to a shuddering halt.
Life abruptly became somewhat more complicated, confusing, and occasionally alarming, but that’s not to say it stopped being entertaining.
COVIDOUCHERY We jumped on protocols pretty quick-smart over here in Spain, even as our hospitals became alarmingly overwhelmed and morgues literally over spilled.
We were heartened, encouraged, and edified by the sage advice that flooded social media from other apparently more civilised and informed countries.
We hardly even scratched our heads in wonder at their oblivious dawdling procrastination and general goldbricking, or as they gathered in teeming proliferation to demonstrate in support of their “rights” even as their “leaders” unequivocally let them know Just What The Priorities Actually Were.
CHRIS VIRTUE Sydney radio host* Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
Top Ten in Twos
1. Two Hendrix covers
Lucie Tiger – The Wind Cries Mary" Sydney country singer transcribes one of Jimi’s more melodic tunes for solo piano with stunning effect, but leaves the song intact. Lucie acknowledges where it’s come from, but takes it somewhere new. Hear it.
Lachie Doley - "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" Sydney blues and soul keyboard master gives the whammy clavvy a serious workout on this. Check out the vid.
2. Two political songs
Chuck Prophet – "Get Off The Stage" Subtle demolition job on the soon to be Toddler-in-Chief. The late great John Prine rates a mention even though the song was recorded pre-Covid because (as Chuck said when I interviewed him) everyone needs to listen to John Prine.
Matthew Caws– "When History Comes" Nada Surf front man delivers one of the best protest songs in decades. Totally in your face without being cruel and ends with a rallying call to vote because “it’s important”.
DARREN BIRCH Bass player for Black Bombers and former member of Gunfire Dance, Brian James Gang, Walter Lure and The Godfathers Birmingham, UK
It's been a funny old year! I managed to play one gig before the world shut down and didn't get to see any. From the beginning of March, I couldn't leave the house for 15 weeks so books and music became my friends....
My Top 10 for 2020:
1.) “Sing Backwards and Weep” by Mark Lanegan. His autobiography.
2.) “The War is Never Over” by Nick Soulsby. A book and companion piece to the Lydia Lunch documentary of the same name.
3.) “Just A Shot Away. 1969 Revisisted” Volumes 1 and 2 books by Kris Needs.
4.) “Diminished Responsibility: My Life as a UK Sub and Other Strange Stoies” (book) by Alvin Gibbs
To be honest, 2020 wasn’t too big of a train wreck for me. I generally work remotely, so there was no adjustment to the joys and pitfalls of working from home. Even though live concerts were few and far between, I still managed to catch a few great ones before the gates closed. (Poison Heart’s Ten-Year Anniversary gig and an aurally hallucinogenic set by Brazil’s Rakta come to mind.)
Alas, some long-anticipated plans got scrapped (some well-paying DJ gigs, a Heavy Medication LabelFest with Puffball and Hell Nation Army in Berlin, travelling somewhere to catch Pat Todd & the Rankoutsiders on their European tour), but new plans rose out of the ashes of the fallen ones to make the best out of a bad situation. But more on that later…
Here are some things I dug in 2020:
1.) Smalltown Tigers “Five Things” mini-album(Area Pirata Records) Loud guitars, catchy tunes and simplicity have always worked in punk rock’s favor, and these three Italian chicas (sorry, regazze) follow this recipe while mixing in their own sonic special sauce through the eight songs on this tasty debut platter. The Ramones and Runaways are obvious reference points (especially Valli’s gritty Joan Jett growl), but these Tigers manage to sound both ferocious and sweet at the same time. The no-frills execution and earworm-quality of the songs kept me playing this mini-LP on endless repeat. Listen up here.
There’s no need to explain what a slightly weird year 2020 was. Sadly and for my back pocket’s sake, Phase 4 Records had to close for most of Autumn which meant I wasn’t as often held captive by some stinky guy banging on about the greatness of some rockist act they read about in "The Wire" at the top of their voice scaring our innocent customers away while I desperately needed to go to the toilet.
Our record label LCMR managed to squeeze out only three 7” EPs for the year – one by a hopelessly obscure Toowoomba punk group, Brian, and two by Xiro, the Brisbane band of the early post-punk era who should’ve gone on to have a great international career but decided not to for the sake of art; or something.
It was a great pleasure putting them all together for those who were all too familiar and the ones who were brave enough to try some music that was completely unknown to them.
1. It’s great to see that Stew "Leadfinger" Cunningham of Leadfinger is recovering well from cancer and getting back into rock n roll with an album recorded. Thankful also to see that the New Christs emerged from lockdown (much appreciation to Dave Curley for the great live footage!). Tumbleweed’s blistering return to earth with killer new material is cool. Plus, Covid restrictions has often meant enjoying bands vicariously through images/video, so a big thank you to the great work of photographers like MattHouston, Kaza Black and Keith Claringbold who allow us all to enjoy live shows.
2. 2020 did a good job scuttling so many gigs and opportunities that bands need to promote new music. Despite this setback, Howlin’ Threads pressed on and released a new EP and a separate follow up 7” vinyl single ("Edge on the World") this year. It was a real privilege to have Lenny Curley (Tumbleweed/Pink Fits) contribute lead guitar to our recording of "Professional Againster"; a feature track on a European compilation tribute to the New Bomb Turks (release Feb 2021). And, working with Cub Callaway (ex-Saints) is always a pleasure. Howlin’ Threads CDs, vinyl, digital downloads can be ordered via Bandcamp.