chris virtue - The I-94 Bar
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.
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”.
Guitarist with Moonlight 5, Waxworks, Dwarfthrower
I-94 Bar reviewer
I am sure many will say the same: This has been a shit of a year. Even so, I included much more than ten. Who cares !!
The passing of Greg Sawers
One piece of news hit me in the guts: Greg Sawyers’ death. What more can be said about this real local legend and complete old school identity. He could be fit equally well at the Marrickville Bowlo or Annandale Hotel (R.I.P.) or the Wentworth Park dog track with his working -class dreams and love of supporting pure rock ‘n’ roll. Band manager Greg Sawyers took over when God got drunk. For Ian Rilen, Louis Tillet, Steve Lucasand Steve Balbi, he was their minder and advocate. He always had a couch for those in need and was willing to cook up his bacon and eggs when they woke sometime after midday. Greg was all heart and part of a Sydney music scene that is now gone.
The latest episode of the I-94 Bar streaming show "Thursday Evening Gunk" is here for your viewing pleasure. 2RRR radio host Chris Virtue speaks to Peter "Blackie" Black and Ray Ahn of the Hard-Ons and Nunchukka Superfly about both bands and their parallel development. The episode closes with a scorching Nunchukka Superfly set.
Thursday Evening Gunk is streamed from the MoshPit Facebook pageon Thursday nights from 8pm Sydney time or you can take part for free at the bar on King Street in St Peters, Sydney. This week, Celia Curtis of White Knuckle Fever chats with Fred Negro of I Spit On Your Gravy about the racucous documentary "Pub: The Movie" that explores his musical anmd artisticv career and the St Kilda secene in Melbourne. Also joining are director Andrew Leavold and producers Jonathan Sequeira and Brett Garten. Our feature act is White Knuckle Fever.
Another bumper year for the discerning music fan with some cracking releases and choice gigs. It’s a fine time be a punter and the challenge will be keeping this review of the year to just 10.
Speaking of challenges, as I get older and my brain gets more addled, trying to remember what I had for breakfast is enough of a challenge, let alone trying to remember what I happened in the first half of the year. So, if I left something or someone off, be kind.
Amy Helm – This too shall light
Amy is the daughter of Levon Helm and Libby Titus and she (Amy) was a regular member of her dad’s band in the latter stages of his career. This is only her second solo album (she’s nearly 50) and with a pedigree like hers, you just have to check it out. In short, it’s a wonderful mixture of country, folk, soul, gospel and rock. Great voice and great backing. One of the albums of the year.
Other albums worth mentioning in the US sort of country space include Kim Richey (Edgeland) and Dawn Landes (Meet me at the River). Both excellent singers and songwriters. Kim’s ‘Leaving Song’ is one of the songs of the year.
In no particular order...
Garry Gray & The Sixth Circle:
The former Sacred Cowboys frontman's "Diamond in the Forehead" was one of the stand out albums of the year. Great songs, big unhinged guitars, fantastic vocals and solid rhythm section behind it. You could be forgiven for thinking that their show at the Factory Floor would be sell out, but no. Barely 50 people witnessed one of the gigs of the year. Supports Leadfinger were fabulous (they always are) and the Chickenstones put on the best show I've seen from them.
Leadfinger’s "Friday Night Heroes":
Stew and the boys were back with their fifth and best to date album in "Friday Night Heroes". Great songs for grown ups, plus two excellent guitarists and a top notch rhythm section. The album was backed up with some fantastic shows. Probably Sydney's best rock band at the moment and it makes me wonder what things would have been like in another era when people actually bought and went out to see this stuff. One of the albums of the year.
Jim Dickson’s "Coelum Verses":
The year's most unexpected debut? Yep. This is not what I would have expected from the New Christs and Birdman bassist. It took a few listens before I really got into and then the penny dropped – one man's journey through a life of listening to and playing music. Anyone who's had a beer with Jim knows that he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music and is a hell of a nice guy too. After each listen, this record was becoming less surprising and more enjoyable. Great songs, great band, great production. Can we have a live show please Jim?
Iggy Pop’s "Post Pop Depression":
Over the last 25 years or so, Iggy's records have been patchy at best. This one was recorded with a small band with production responsibilities handed over to Josh Homme. Stripped back, tight and brooding, it looks backwards and forwards. It's the sum of where he's been and may be where he intends to go. For mine, his best since the Berlin albums he did with Bowie. Compelling. Iggy's not done yet.
I always have trouble cutting it down to just 10, and this year is no exception. Lots of good gigs, lots of good albums. Here's a grab bag of highlights (mostly gigs) from 2022 in no particular order.
Chad Morgan & The Johnnys, Link and Pin, Woy Woy, NSW in May
I missed the previous NSW Chad gig with The Johnnys when I was Canberra-based for a bit, so I was keen to catch him this time. He was at the Mazza Bowlo on the Saturday when I was seeing Dave Hole (see below), so I caught the train to Woy Woy on the Sunday to put things right.
I went there to pay tribute to an under-recognised icon and the Sheik from Scrubby Creek was in fine form, both in voice and on the guitar. He was supposed to play for only 20 minutes, but went for the best part of an hour. Much laughter in the audience with the 89 year old (true) picking up more fans.
The Johnnys were in fine form too and the Link and Pin is a great venue.
Dave Hole, Bridge Hotel, Rozelle, NSW in May
On the same weekend as Chad and speaking of old blokes still doing the business, Dave Hole tore up the Bridge. I first saw him in Melbourne in the ‘70s in Matt Taylor’s band. His playing is just as explosive now as it always has been. He’s 74 by the way.
We had seen Robben Ford the night before. He was great. He always is, but the Factory (which was the venue) needs to do something about the sound. Dave’s loud and raucous power blues the next night was just what the doctor ordered.
Glitoris, Oxford Art Factory Gallery Bar, Sydney, NSW November
Canberra fem-punks Glitoris (it’s hard to call them punks when they’re such good players) put on a ripper of a politically and socially charged set of mostly new songs from their next album. Brave! Hopefully they’re in the main room next time. I hope to have them on show when the album comes out.
Raising Ravens in support were pretty damn good too and I’m looking forward to having Jessin the studio in the new year.
Grindhouse, Mazza Bowlo, June
Taking spiritual guidance from Peter Russell Clark and eating nothing but cheese for a week, Mick and the boys drove the Grindhouse SLR 5000 to the Bowlo for a night of Sex Punk Power! Great stuff and looking forward to more of same!
Jaguar Jonze, Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW, July
I first met the incredible Deena Lynch back in 2015 and have watched her rise since. 2020 looked like it was to be her year but COVID had other ideas. Things lined up better in 2022 with the release of the debut Jaguar Jonze LP “Bunny Mode” (there had been a couple of excellent EPs previously).
Prior to this year, she and the band had only played in the Gallery Bar at OAF. This time, Jaguar Jonze put on a killer show launching “Bunny Mode”. As for the album: yep! Get it. It’s excellent.
Jesse Dayton, Mazza Bowlo, July
First time the Beau-monster had been here and with a top notch rhythm section, put on a fantastic genre-hopping show. We reckon he was just testing the water here, and with any luck, he’ll be back again soon.
If you’ve never heard of him, pop his name into your preferred search engine. You’ll be gob smacked.
Spurs for Jesus and Dave Favours were excellent in support.
Firstly, “Love is Calling”, the debut album from Mick Medew and Ursula is quite frankly a ball-tearer. Everyone’s been raving about it (as they should) and I can’t add much to what’s already been said.
Secondly, Mick Medew and the Mesmerisers made the long trek from Brissie in November to mesmerise us at the Bowlo and they did just that. It seemed like ages since they last played here and they delivered another tight power pop show.
The On and Ons and Pocket Watch were terrific in support. On and Ons are always great and Pocket Watch are ones to watch.
Ron S. Peno and the Superstitions, Mazza Bowlo, November
Jeeze, for a bloke who’s supposed to be taking it easy, Ron put on a killer show with his all-star band. I think they’ve done three albums now and it’s turning into tight unit for Ron to work with.
Gold star to MD Horne’s Last Stand for closing the night.
Scattered Order, Katoomba, NSW November
I had seen them with Melbourne’s Black Cab at the Red Rattler in 2015, and they reappeared on my radar in 2022, with their latest album “Where is the Windy Gun?”
The show in a small room in Bursill Lane in Katoomba was loud with lots of effects and very trippy visuals. Seriously good and I’m now a big fan.
(Note to self: talk to Andrew from Black Cab to get a double bill happening in Sydney.) Mitch Jones from Scattered Order was the studio guest on the December 23 show.
Thursday Evening Gunk, Mosh Pit
It was back again on a different night and it was lots of fun. I was privileged enough to host two shows and I hope it comes back because I’m up for it!vThat’s it but there could be heaps more – there were lots of excellent albums released during the year.
Chris Virtue presents “Virtual Unreality” on 2RRR 88.5 FM on Fridays at 19:00 Sydney time.