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Musical Love Affair.

// Australia has always been a huge fan of live music. Whether it be a small gig at the local RSL or a huge festival that takes up the entire CBD, Aussie’s always seem to get into the spirit of things and rock out with their respective cock’s out.

Music festivals have started to grow in scale and popularity within the last few years to an astonishing size. Throughout the nineties, Australia really only had a small handful of events to pick from. Big Day Out began in 1992 as a Sydney only festival and expanded after a few years to become a national festival. Falls Festival started in 1993 in Lorne and only expanded to Marion Bay in Tasmania in 2003. Despite their success, and despite their growing popularity, sadly some festivals haven’t been as fortunate. Livid, Overcranked and Summersault have simply passed us by.

I mention Summersault in particular because it was organised by Steve Pavlovic, one of Australia’s biggest importers of music. He was the dude who organised Nirvana to come out to Australia just before Nevermind broke out and in turn Nirvana exploded. Locally, he is the head of Modular records and has built the career of acts like Wolfmother, The Presets and Cut Copy. After the success of Big Day Out, he decided to start his own festival. Considering he brought Big Day Out one of it’s first big bands, he figured it highly possible on reputation alone. Summersault boasted a lineup that both then and today would be smiled upon by alternative fans. Such acts as Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Beck, Pavement and Foo Fighters graced the stage that year, but a follow up festival was never arranged, and it became simply a once off festival that never returned.

These days, punters are inundated with choice. We have Big Day Out, Falls Festival, Splendour In The Grass, St Jeromes Laneway Festival, Future Music Festival, Pyramid Rock, We Love Sounds, Creamfields, Soundwave and Summadayze just to name a few. But as is with everyday life, is quantity better than quality? Australian festivals have never quite reached the status of other overseas music festivals. Names like Glastonbury, Coachella and Roskilde are instantly recognizable around the world. The festivals are known for their amazing lineups which boast exclusive acts or bands that don’t usually tour but have made an exception. For example, Coachella celebrated their 10th birthday last year, and formed a most impressive lineup to celebrate. The closest that Australia has ever got to this was when Big Day Out secured Rage Against The Machine as their first gigs outside of America. Usually, Australian audiences have become accustomed to seeing acts months and months after a new release. Bands will release an album mid year and will not tour with it till early the next year, due to festivals being either behind the pulse of current music or poor scheduling.

It seems that, like Coachella, Australia’s own Splendour In The Grass has stepped up to the challenge of celebrating its 10th birthday in style. What started out as a 2 day festival with roughly 30-40 bands has this year been turned into a 3 day camping festival featuring over 90 acts. No waiting for  two North American tours and an European tour this time, LCD Soundsystem, Broken Social Scene, Midlake, Goldfrapp, Kate Nash and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are all celebrating the release of their brand new records. Splendour has somehow managed to defy this rule and produce an extremely wide palette of artists. Bands such as Grizzly Bear, Florence + The Machine and headliners The Pixies have all toured Australia already this year and are coming back again due to increased popularity. The Strokes (also headlining) have only secured two other festival gigs worldwide and don’t have any new music out to support their touring, but Splendour has captured them. 

Friday

The Strokes, The Temper Trap, Empire of The Sun, Band of Horses, Grizzly Bear, Hot Chip, Midnight Juggernauts, Kate Nash, Lisa Mitchell, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Magic Numbers, Bluejuice, The Middle East, Delphic, Alberta Cross, Miike Snow, Phiadelphia Grand Jury, Two Door Cinema Club, Violent Soho, Last Dinosaurs, Jonathan Boulet, Cloud Control, Ernest Ellis, Tijuana Cartel, Gypsy & The Cat, Zennith, Van She Tech, Purple Sneakers, The Only

Saturday

The Pixies, Mumford & Sons, Scissor Sisters, Goldfrapp, LCD Soundsystem, Wolfmother, Jonsi, Laura Marling, Midlake, Broken Social Scene, K-OS, Little Red, Whitley, We Are Scientists, Surfer Blood, British India, Clare Bowditch, The Drums, Miami Horror, John Steel Singers, Dan Sultan, Fanfarlo, Horrowshow, The Joy Formidable, Money for Rope, Tim & Jean, Kid Kenobi, Levins

Sunday

Ben Harper & Relentless 7, Florence & The Machine, The Ting Tings, Richard Ashcroft & The United Nations of Sound, Angus & Julia Stone, Passion Pit, Paul Kelly, Fat Freddys Drop, The Vines, Tame Impala, Operator Please, Ash, Yeasayer, Foals, Space Invadas, Washington, Band of Skulls, The Mess Hall, School of Seven Bells, Yacht Club DJs, Oh Mercy, Boy & Bear, Frightened Rabbit, Skipping Girl Vinegar, Jac Stone, Bag Raiders, Yolanda Be Cool, Anna Lunoe.

Splendour In The Grass could well very be Australias answer to the big worldwide festivals and give other Australia festivals some motivation to work harder in impressing audiences with their lineups. We’re looking at you Lee’s and West.

// Simon-Z

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Ain’t Life Swell.

// I first learnt about Glen Hansard in the middle of 2007. One of his bands, The Frames, were supporting Bob Dylan on his Modern Times tour. I listened to some of their music and fell in love with it almost immediately. Falling Slowly was, simply put, one of the greatest songs I had ever heard.

This song would later be stripped back by Glen and used in his next musical endeavor, The Swell Season. Teaming up with Markéta Irglová, a Czech songwriter and musician, they wrote a self-titled EP in 2006. They later went on to star in the independent movie Once together. Although not technically a musical, Once was a vehicle for a number of performances for the duo. The film went from being a small independent Irish film to the little movie that could. It took home an Academy Award for Achievement in Music Written for a Motion Picture (Original Song), a Critics Choice Award and a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award.

They recently released their third album together, Strict Joy. Receiving rave reviews, it reached 15 on the Billboard Charts.

I saw these guys at the start of 2009 in Melbourne at The Palais Theatre. Starting the show with an unplugged guitar and no microphone, Hansard strolled past the speakers and right to the very edge of the stage. He performed to the entire theatre without the use of any audio equipment and still managed to fill the entire space with his vocals and guitar. It was one of the best shows I had ever seen.

Last week, The Swell Season toured again in support of Strict Joy. Their tour reached Adelaide this time and they played to a sold out Thebarton Theatre. I was obsessed enough to have purchased front row seats and as a result given a sensational view for the evening. Starting the same way he did in Melbourne, he blew the entire Adelaide audience away from the very start. Both performers would take charge of different songs for the night, and they even tried their hand at an Empire Of The Sun cover. (It worked.)

When poking around for some clips after the concert, I stumbled across this video for one of their recent singles. Low Rising is the second single off Strict Joy, and the video is absolutely stunning. Like, can’t-look-away type brilliance. Check it. 

// Simon

Volume 2

// In The Sun from She & Him’s new album, Volume Two. Out now.

What started out as a small side project between Zooey Deschanel (from films like Elf and 500 Days of Summer) & M. Ward (from his own singer-songwriter fame and Monsters of Folk) has flourished into a fully formed touring and recording band. Receiving rave reviews for their first album and deciding to follow it up, they have just released Volume Two to equal fanfare, if not more. This gorgeous video shows just how well this collaboration works (plus she’s cute.)

// Simon-Z