Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Live Review - Dan Mangan

Dan Mangan (26/02/2012)
Live at Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane.
Supported by: Leader Cheetah
Review by Jo Michelmore
Photography by Cordell Sanders

Sometimes on a Sunday night, does one bother to go out? It had already been a big weekend and I wasn’t sure I was convinced I could stay awake and on my feet long enough to bother. Wow, lesson learnt. Never say no to going out on a Sunday night, amazing things can happen on Sunday night and imagine how awful it would be if you missed them. This was one Sunday night gig I won’t be forgetting.

Sunday night in the Valley is a strange time, but ascending the staircase to the Black Bear Lodge takes you into another world far away from the filth of the mall and makes everything worthwhile. Four songs into his set, Dan Mangan told a little story and I knew this was a gig I was going to love, a night I wouldn’t forget and a Sunday night worth making the effort for.

The support act, Leader Cheetah, a four piece band from Adelaide, were not what I expected and I’d say I kind of liked them. In fact, I even bothered to Google them when I got home, which isn’t something one often cares to do about the support act. I found out they’ve played with Interpol, Elbow and Sarah Blasko in the past! Impressive! Even though only half of the band were represented they still managed strong harmonies and impressive lyrics; a little bit indie pop, a little bit folksy and a little bit country, they kept the crowd interested enough to keep quiet while they played. That’s not something a lot of support acts can say. Next thing you know, I may even purchase an album. Most support acts don’t inspire that either. Mangan chose well.

Even though it was a sold out show, the Black Bear Lodge is not a huge venue, which made for a beautiful intimate gig, but also makes you question how so few people can know of such a talented artist. Such is the way of the music industry and although I hope more and more people discover the beauty of Dan Mangan and his band, I also felt privileged for having seen him so close and personal.

Dan and his band bring their own instruments out onto the stage and a gasp and a hush descends over the audience. This is an audience of dedicated fans and it’s nice to see a musician interact so closely with those who clearly love his work. Playing for over an hour and a half, he shyly speaks and tells stories throughout the set and it’s hard to pinpoint and highlight songs when so many of them are so heartfelt and personal. His story telling in speech and song drags you in, makes you feel vulnerable and maybe a little uncomfortable but the sound is so warm it envelopes you, comforts you and Dan’s vocals embrace you at the same time. The band are clearly incredible musicians, very in tune with their instruments and each other, it’s clear they love what they do and play with such vigour and feeling, each song rich with sound and texture, it’s easy to get completely wrapped up in the songs and forget where you are and what day it is. The lyrics are phenomenal, heartfelt, gut wrenching and tear jerking, funny and beautiful. 'Oh Fortune,' 'Roads Regret' and 'About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All' are incredible, as perfectly strong live as they are recorded. Dan Mangan’s vocals are extraordinary, with such a strong voice he often steps back from the microphone to let the room take his sound on its own. Somehow the four piece band manage to take some complex arrangements and make them their own, simple enough to sway along to and yet complex enough to get lost in, but they don’t let you stray too far into thought, with Dan reminding the audience he is in the room by stepping off the stage and wandering into the crowd with his guitar part way through a song, playing the rest in amongst the crowd. During one of the crowd favourites; ‘Robots’ he creates one of the best sing-alongs I’ve ever experienced, hushing the band, stepping forward on the stage and slamming his hand onto the roof, screaming along with the audience “Robots need love too, they want to be loved by you”. It goes on for ages, but still doesn’t seem long enough; we could all sing those same simple lines for hours and love it.

They play thirteen songs before leaving the stage and are not gone for long before the crowd draws them back out for four more. The set ends in a way I didn’t expect and will not forget, with Dan and his band members leaving the stage with instruments in hand, making their way to the back of the room. Dan stands on the bar, his head at roof height and they play the last song ‘So Much For Everyone’ from there, completely and totally acoustic, with a little help from the audience as he teaches us to sing the backing vocals, a simple “oh, oh”; his voice is so strong he needs no amplification to fill the room and this is a moment that is etched into my memory, something that live music should be. He and his band have us entranced, holding us firmly but softly in the palms of their hands. Amazing to watch, incredible to hear and wonderful to be a part of.

Four songs into his set, Dan Mangan told a little story. He spoke of how he hoped to live his life experiencing as many goose bump inducing moments as possible. This gig gave me so, so many of them and that’s an incredibly nice way to spend a Sunday night.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Song of the Day - R U Mine?

Arctic Monkeys - R U Mine?

Unexpectedly, Arctic Monkeys have released a brand spankin' new single (complete with accompanying music video) and, as expected, it's a pretty good listen. 'R U Mine?' wont be found on last year's Suck It And See and there's nothing going around about a new album just yet, but who cares? The track is one of the best pure rock songs we've heard in 2012 and should give the band a bit of exposure ahead of their supporting slot on the Black Keys' US tour. However, if this is a sign of what's to come on a new album... heck yes!

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, 26 February 2012

New To The Scene - Inland Sea

Inland Sea

When a band is made up of more than eight members, odds are definitely in favour of them being awesome. Familiar with The Polyphonic Spree? Yeah, awesome. You'll definitely be aware of that little Grammy award winning act, Arcade Fire. Pretty awesome, right? Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Slipknot (?)... the list goes on. If you're looking for a newer name to add to that impressive collection I give you Brisbane's own oversized collection of talent, Inland Sea.

Made up of ten members, Inland Sea offer heart warming slices of folk-tinged pop. The lads and lasses of the group share the vocal spotlight, with the ladies' sweet harmonies deserving a special mention. They're like Angus and Julia Stone in the way they alternate between male and female voice, but it's more Angus and Julia Stone on steroids. There's no snooze factor here. Their songs range from triumphant ('Dead Man's Left') to borderline heartbreaking ('All Fall Down'). There's songs for the open road ('The Only One') and there's songs for those unexpected booze fueled nights with friends ('All The Same Words').

To best experience the music of the Inland Sea, you're going to need to see them live. I had the opportunity to see them support the Howling Bells at Alhambra last year and they definitely lived up to their reputation as one of the more memorable live acts emerging from Brisbane's music scene. They hop between instruments, make a bit of banter with the entranced crowd and, most importantly, they fill a room with a quality, rich sound. With the UK already knocking on their door, this is a local act on the cusp of greatness. Be a part of the fun and grab Inland Sea's two excellent EP's, Traitor and Fortune. You wont regret it!

Text Review - Soundwave 2012

For the peeps out there who enjoy their music a little bit harder, there's really only one major Australian music festival catering to your needs... Soundwave! Slipknot, System of a Down, Trivium... they've got you covered. For the peeps out there who are still living in 1999, there's really only one major Australian music festival catering to your needs... Soundwave!!! Marilyn Manson, Limp Bizkit, Bush... they've got you covered. For the peeps out there who still think emo is a thing... stop that.

Sadly, I wasn't in attendance for Soundwave's stop at the RNA showgrounds in Brisbane yesterday, but our bestest, hardest working (unpaid) member of staff was; Jo! So just like Jo's text review of Splendour in the Grass, we've brought it back for Soundwave 2012. Let's do this.

Text Review - Soundwave 2012

Jo: Was going to Viber the crap outta these text reviews but getting no wifi connection here. Ridiculous. So, today's text reviews brought to you by rain, the new and improved (?) metal version of Jo, gumboots and bad tattoos, lots of them. I'm only just in and my blackest t-shirt isn't black enough. By the way, ponchos are not, in any way, attractive. Neither are Soundwave patrons.

Matt: I hope your poncho is floral based with pictures of unicorns and rainbows.

Jo: Text review ahoy!! Cherri Bomb: I wish I knew enough about you to get up earlier on a Saturday and make the effort to see you. Sorry. Next time maybe? Saves The Day: you look like a combination of members of Blur and Wolfmother, you sound like a band on before midday. Steel Panther: you do remember you were a joke band, right? I'm not sure the patrons get it. Lost Prophets: you can count AND play instruments at the same time. Good work! Fireworks: your guitarist is so enthusiastic. I want to like you, but the acoustics in the shed are so bad I can't tell if you're Green Day or Katy Perry wannabes. Shame. Also, the Soundwave safety fences are beginning to get annoying.

Matt: Wait, you didn't see Cherri Bomb? Rookie error.

Jo: AlterBridge: What? These are originals? You're not a Creed coverband? A Day To Remember: Oh! You're like the metal Flaming Lips with all the colourful beach balls and bouncing! Cute! Meshuggah: if metal was played as elevator music, you'd have made a fortune. Is the awkward silence between songs on purpose? Stop it. It's weird. Coal Chamber: time to rename yourselves Old Chamber. Bush: If I close my eyes and pretend it's the late '90s, you're alright. It's not though. On a Soundwave note; caged drinking areas are funny. Monkeys want some peanuts?

Matt: Alterbridge pretty much are a Creed coverband, no? Please take a photo of the monkeys with flash off... Don't want to anger them.

Jo: Bad Religion: like the papa's of pop punk, they still do it well and better than so many others. Makes me want to dust my skateboard off... or buy 1, or something. Cobra Starship: I don't know why ur on the Soundwave lineup, but ur a nice bit of fun to break up the runny eyeliner seriousness and metal dogs barking that's been going on all day. Limp Bizkit: u do remember u were a joke band, right? I'm not sure the patrons get it. Er, what? On a Soundwave patrons note; where have all these 90s throwbacks been hibernating all these years? It's 2012 you know. I wonder where they've been hiding?

Matt: I'm assuming they've come from coastal areas. They left urban zones following the end of grunge. It was the bubblegum pop that drove them out.

Jo: Soundwave is springtime for them. They've woken and they're hungry, dammit.

Matt: Wait until Slipknot... BOOM!!

Jo: Marilyn Manson: twice the man you used to be, literally. (Celebrity Biggest Loser contestant; 2015?) If you organised all the bats flying overhead at the start of your set, that was a nice touch. I was going to say I was wishing for Courtney in a helicopter, but then you played that Depeche Mode cover and Beautiful People to finish and it was all too good. Slipknot: the show Marilyn Manson should have put on. You do your thing really well, costumes and fire and climbing and theatrics, the people seem to love it and that has to be admired.

Jo: System Of A Down: it is obvious why you are the headliners on the main stage. You're a little bit serious, a little bit funny and better than all the others. You provide the best singalong of the festival "wake up, hfjnkgfhgd, make up etc" (no one really knows the words do they?). It was worth the mud and rain and stench to see that.

For those of you wondering, Jo's poncho was blue. How do I know? Instagram. Totes stalked you. Awkward?

Top 20 - 26 February, 2012

Sleigh Bells!

1. Sleigh Bells - Comeback Kid

2. M.I.A - Bad Girls

3. Brandi Carlile - Keep Your Heart Young (NEW)

4. Santigold - Disparate Youth (NEW)

5. He's My Brother, She's My Sister - Can't See The Stars

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Song of the Day - Homewrecker

Marina and the Diamonds - Homewrecker
Album: Electra Heart (2012)

We still have over a month before 'Primadonna,' the first official single from Electra Heart is released (with the album following a couple of weeks after), but until then we can use 'Homewrecker' for our Marina fix. Her new album is shaping up to be one of the most exciting electro-pop albums of the year, with anticipation slowly growing since late 2011. Debut, The Family Jewels, was one of the most exciting and underrated albums to come out in 2010, so hopefully Electra Heart will win Marina Diamandis the international acclaim she deserves. Admittedly, 'Homewrecker' isn't the most exciting track from the album we've heard so far. Still, it's more than just a filler song and seems deserving of its inclusion. 'Primadonna' will surely blow it out of the water... hurry up and leak it, I mean, release it! 

Rating: 3/5

Friday, 24 February 2012