Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review: Eurockeennes 2010 - Fashions in the field

This blog entry is for all those people who think that the French are the most stylish, most elegant and most refined in the world and pay twice as much for dijon as they do for squeezable dijonaise, just to taste the culture. Or for those people in English-speaking parts of the world jealous of a country able to instill classy words like 'chic', 'vogue', 'avant garde' and 'champange' into a vocabulary responsible rhyming slang and 'spaakling woite woiné' (note the inflection - go up at the end).

Well guess what? It's not all hot girls with nice eyebrows and seemingly happenstance styling. Without further ado I give you Eurockeennes' Fashions in the field.
PhotobucketAirborne were just the band to get Jacques and Luc pumped for a brisk, sunny jog in scoops and velcroed sandals.

PhotobucketSuitor #2 is Cliché Guevara: As a mature-age Arts student/first year militant, Chomsky reciter and avid pot smoker, Cliche loves Radio Radio and long walks on le Plage scene.

PhotobucketBig Foot was cool with being papped in his daisy dukes. He assured us they weren't never nudes, stating 'I've worked out hard to shake my ape-ish appearance. The homo-erectus body is beautiful - why not flaunt what you've got.'

PhotobucketThough the rest of the Empire of the Sun crowd dissipated, passed out Amelie here remained walking on a dream.

Photobucket In mullét (pronounced 'Moolay'), chain-mail shirt and blue fishnet stalkings and a comfortable banana-hammock, Jean Luc was psyched for Mika.

A few photo creds go out to Amanda and Liz for this. Nice stealthness ladies.

Related topics
Review: Eurockeennes 2010 Day Three
Review: Eurockeennes 2010 Day Two
Review: Eurockeennes 2010 Day One

Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Eurockeennes Day Three

How we're running late after sitting around the campground all day is beyond me, but we find ourselves missing most of Townsville Australia's The Middle East who, it seems, inspired enough other festival goers to reasonably fill the Big Top with their folky and graceful forest rock.
PhotobucketMartina Topley Bird, maybe best known as Tricky's female voice on Maxinquaye, has a much sunnier side. On the Loggia scene, tucked among the trees, her trip hop influence shines through on cute art-pop ditties. With a ninja backing her on drums, both kit and djembe as well as, err, whirling vacuum hoses (remember those plastic tubes you'd play with as kids) she builds tracks from vocal loops, Casio strings and echoing wood blocks. She sparkles with a red bandit-mask styled make up, flowing red dress and sunny demeanour. Sadly no 'Black Steel' though. She'll appear later with the impacting Massive Attack.

On the main stage The Drums and their feelgood hit of the summer 'Let's Go Surfing' keeps me watching only for a short while. Their songs are boring bits of regurgitated pop done better by others far less retarded. And watching singer Jonathon Pearce strut like a really camp Morrissey meets Ian Curtis (again, nothing new here) sends me off to Ethiopiques.

An east African version of the Buena Vista Social Club, Ethiopiques draws on a historic line of artists who released music through the '60s and '70s and are now re-releasing compilations through a Parisian label dedicated to the era. Out first, like the African Elvis, Alemayehu Eshete opens the set. Crooning by the beach, he's all smiles, all lounge. Alternatively, Mahmoud Ahmned's sound and stage presence is more traditional and organic. Upbeat in the summer heat, we're on a trip to Ethiopia and Eritrea and my tastebuds salivate for last night's delicious dish from the Ethiopian stand.
PhotobucketWe move from organic roots music to raw punk power. It's the running of Gallows, more dangerous than the running of the bulls. Plumes of dust flies from a stampede of fans in 'the largest circle pit France has ever seen' as demanded by singer Frank Carter. Aggressive yet humble, they thank their fans as well as those who've come to see what all the commotion is about. It's vicious punk rock cut from the same stone as the dissidence and agitated energy that spawned the British scene in the 70s. And at that, Carter explains, 'You may not know our music and that's fine, but if you don’t know this next song you have no fucking right being at a rock festival.' The drums roll into a raucous rendition of The Clash's 'I Fought The Law'. It's 2:39 seconds of gut-wrenchingly basic rock n roll rebellion, a mix of quintessential anti-establish-mentality, and dropped-out loser-dom. Goosebumps run up my spine, across my shoulders and to my fingertips manifesting into fist pumps and loud shouts. It's basic and you clap and sing along to its sentiments. Frank couldn't be more right - if you don't see the raw beauty in this song, you shouldn't be at a rock festival.
PhotobucketThe Stroke's Julian Casablancas in hi-tops, red jeans and puffy red leather jacket, not to mention his pasty, spotted face looks like Michael Jackson in Thriller. His band are a ragtag posse of musos rather than the other stylish Strokes, an indie-styled mutli-instrumentalist girl, an old rocker on guitar, and the leather bikie from Village People. Nevertheless Julian is indie cool with his Sunday afternoon attitude, chatting between songs, the girls are eager for his flippant slacker charm. For those that had hoped for a stroking were instantly delighted when he opens with 'Automatic Stop' from the band's second record 'Room On Fire'. Of course he's here for his solo album, performing the electro pop single '11th Dimension' is a treat while the soulful '4 Chords of the Apocolypse' and cheery 'I Wish It Was Christmas Today' are also highlights. Nevertheless another Stokes tune 'Hard to Explain' is the standout as the spunky pop gives us enthusiasm for a return of the band.
One of the festival's big draw cards, that had us drive through four countries to get here is LCD Soundsystem and 'the time has come' as they open with 'Us V Them'. James Murphy and friends coerce out a tribal rhythm of hard grooves and repetitive intensity from indie-dance that other bands in your playlist can't quite grasp. On the strong rhythmic backbone and almost paganist trance, 'over and over and over again' as 'Us v Them' goes, they weave an indie woolly sweater, a mosaic of fuzzy sounds, of cowbells and handclaps to fill out and dress up the groove in hip rags that we kids will recognise as our own. Mix this with Murphy's idiosyncratic lyricism that finds poignancy in the life of a shallow hipster and you've got one of the finest festival acts around. Likewise This Is Happening's lead single 'Drunk Girls' does all this in spades, building on their hard groove; the festival atmosphere and hipster motif - it's a great call 'n' response for the audience as we shout the chorus. 'Tribulations' is a massive tune, an all out rave, and the four-to-the-floor punk beat of 'The Movement' doesn't quite garner the moshpit of a couple of months ago when we saw the band in Amsterdam but it's urgency is no less. This is Happening's 'I Can Change' shifts gears into mellower melancholy and shows Murphy can hit all those recorded high notes live. It's gripping and beautiful - I catch myself swaying. Meanwhile, 'All My Friends' brings fake piano hands and group hugs as we wail 'where are your friends tonight'. Worth the drive.

A friend recommended I catch singer/songwriter Woven Hand, and teamed here with Hungarian folk act Muszikas, it could be something interesting so Rhys and I check it out as others move on. On the plage scene, a blondie-gray haired man topped with a ten-gallon hat holds solemn vocals recalling Nick Cave or Jim Morrison and it's immediately an improvement on what I was expecting. Together with the eastern bloc collective, they create brooding country soundscapes like the score to a Balkan cowboy film not yet made. It’s stories of hard luck and misfortune that are tense, gothic and expansive courtesy of both Mr Hand and the trembling and warbling Ottoman Empire era instruments Muszikas play. It is perfect dusk music.

Over on the Laggia stage is an intensity of another kind about to take hold with a one-two-three punch of Health, Action Beat and Fuck Buttons (BYO ear plugs or let them bleed). Firstly, four-piece Health make caustic industrial noise coursing below melodic and ethereal vocals that feel like the bad comedown of a night spent on glo-fi. A decent crowd are rattling free their cobwebs via the thundering drumming, tense and warping guitar and epic synths (the young chap kneels on the ground to play) of tracks like ‘Die Slow’ and ‘USA Boys’. We're all pretty impressed.

Immediately as Health finishes on stage, no wave band Action Beat turn the crowd’s attention around to below the sound tower. Equally intense, the instrumental Action Beat’s army of guitars pump through jagged riffings. There may have been two drum kits in there as well but I couldn’t see for the lack of stage and swarming crowd.

They fill the sound and drown out Mika who is prancing about in the distance on the main stage until Fuck Buttons replace Health on stage, ready to test mine and Matthew's IBS with their gut-rumbling search for the brown note. It began as noise, thick fucking white noise, filtering out the weak. Eurockeennes put emphasis on being a festival who accommodate for the disabled with great wheelchair access and even aiding the deaf. Well this is where the deaf should be – front and centre for Fuck Buttons – my chest feels like it’s being rucked by the All Blacks. This music has it’s own force field. The two knob twiddlers who face each other on stage slowly cut the fat, parring the noise back to varying pitches that begin to resemble a melody. It’s possibly the most challenging music I experience all weekend. And it's good to be challenged. However, without earplugs there’s only so much I can take. Plus, Massive Attack are about to start.
PhotobucketI regroup with Grant, Liz and Rhys with the amphitheatre almost already full. Soon the lights go up and Massive Attack's eight-piece band take the stage including 3D and Daddy G orchestrating the electronic symphony. In the background, from long thin lights, flashing political statements and images scroll; life in numbers (Countries’ GDPs, poverty and human rights stats and gallons spilled from the BP oil well); France’s daily headlines; the logos of multinational companies (ending on again BP, the audience responding appropriately with loud boos).
3D and Daddy G sing and rap their way through a few lesser songs (but also ‘Inertia Creeps’) before Martina Topley Bird takes the stage to sing ‘Teardrops’. Hers is a cuter version to original Elizabeth Fraser’s – not quite as piercing, a little more delicate. Reggae star Horace Andy brings his stirring vocals to the fore on ‘Angel’. There’s a pleasant wisdom to his voice but it's quickly swamped as the song rises to monstrous proportions. It’s vocalist Deborah Miller however who escalates the show to another level taking the entire festival with it. The lungs on this woman are breathtaking for all around - I guess because she needs all the air.
She brings an extra gravity to ‘Safe From Harm’ as the music builds and builds like a blockade of riot police forcing their way towards me. Likewise ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ is bigger than on record as Miller raises it to be spine-tinglingly operatic – it is indeed a massive attack.

With a long drive ahead tomorrow we wander home to call it a night, weary from three days of an amazing array of music, from Arabic disco to Bulgarian folk, New York hip hop and English punk rock – if only we could have swum.

Read Day Two
Read Day One

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: Eurockeennes 2010 - Day Two

After a long day at the campsite avoiding the mid-30s sun with the odd beer but the campervan fridge is broken, the gates open on Day Two and Broken Social Scene kick things off. 'How was Jay Z?' asks Kevin Drew and the small crowd cheers. 'How was Missy Elliott?' 'Booooo.' He's taken back. Songs from new and old mingle through the collective's set like 'Texaco Bitches' (new) and the brilliant '7/4 Shoreline' (old) that leaves me hanging for those punchy horns through swooning vocals over riffing indie guitars.
PhotobucketMixed in with the hip hop, rock and dance is almost equal amounts of world music and experimental to check out. Omar Souleyman is Arabic electro, with a young guy on keyboards and what might be his dad, in the full sheik style: headdress, aviator shades and Tom Selleck 'tache. The tunes are cool, if not cheesy, with enough pop and bass to make you wanna try partying in Syria for a night.

Airbourne are loved in Europe. I feel there's a tongue firmly in cheek with their AC/DC-lite schtick that they themselves may not be aware of it. Marshall stacks, at ten by two, cover the main stage. In their scuzzy white NB trainers, black jeans and no shirts, they lap the stage with their cordless guitars as the French audience lap them up like Angus Young never existed and after every song he screeches a loud, high pitched 'Merci'! like Bon Scot screeched 'THANK YOU!'. Liz is fairly certain she hears singer Joel O'Keeffe rhyme the lines 'Chewin' the fat' with 'Havin' a chat'. Matt and I try to get involved; devil signs, head bangs - Matt even rips off his press-stud shirt whipping it to the ground in a frenzy but it's all a bit too contrived - then again so is the music. PhotobucketDown on the beach Radio Radio mix English and French for frivolous uptempo party hip hop. It's the perfect stage and time for them. They get their crowd going but it's not too riveting.

Having recently seen (and enjoyed) Memory Tapes, foremost exponents of blog-genre-of-the-month 'glo-fi' (though some blogs are calling it 'chill-wave'), I opt for the always entertaining Specials with Rhys. Thirty years of ska (give or take) draws a large afternoon crowd ready for a sunny summer skank. Classics like 'Message to You Rudy', 'Ghost Town' and 'Too Much Too Young' are obvious hits with the crowd, all delivered by a deadpan Terry Hall.

It's during The Specials a political movement takes hold. Sponge Bob Square Pants helium-filled balloons had already been released from their strings which prompts a revolution over the festival. Chants circulate through the festival to Libere Bob l'éponge ('Liberate Sponge Bob Square Pants') when someone is caught with a Bob on a string. Sporadic releases saw Bob, Patrick and sometimes even Dora, explore the world beyond Eurockeennes. During The Specials numerous balloons rise and spin with a mesmerising rotation. Patrick particularly, off kilter with his wide bum and arm out waving, he danced into the stratosphere serenely. It was real life American Beauty shit. Vive l'éponge!PhotobucketFrom the UK, The XX's brooding, down-tempo trip hop has been well received over the last 18 months through rigorous European touring. It's paid off, they've got the word out with a large crowd amassing under the Big Top. Opening with favourite 'Islands', they move through 'Shelter' 'VCR' and 'Crystalised'. Never too jovial or hyperactive on stage, their music is reflected their solemn live personas. As a result Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim come off kind of humble but also kind of pretentious - Sim shows his appreciation through Gere-esque, hand-clasped Buddhist bows.

Though I'd been expecting to see The Hives who are headlining the main stage we all decide to take up Liz's suggestion and see new R n B artist Jonelle Monae. On the beach stage with a storm brewing overhead, lightning in the clouds are putting on a threatening show. But Monae won't be upstaged. A protégé of Outkast's Andre 3000, she's crazy, sexy, cool. Elements of all the best who've come before her are incorporated into the Monae package. With costume changes and art-diva sensibility of Grace Jones, she rampages the stage with river deep soul like Tina Turner and when she slows it, she hits every note, elevating to the next, all the while keeping it in the bounds of a singular artist.

Two dancers, hooded and masked like an Eyes Wide Shut scene accompany Monae, as does a top-hatted ringleader. 'Cold War' is upbeat like Gnarls Barkley's 'Run (I'm a natural disaster)' as she shadow boxes through the dry ice while the loungy other-timely 'Locked Inside' provokes an impromptu finger clicking and backing singer styled shimmy from us. 'Tightrope' (which on record features Big Boi), brings that Motown jive via Andre 3000's production filter and the wet sand dance floor is stirred up and churned over. The raw punkabilly strut of 'Come Alive (War of the Roses)' summons the lightning and thunder cracking overhead and the sky opens up on us as the voice from the diminutive body creeps from whispers to boisterous rock wails that could rival Airbourne's squeels. Her quiff comes undone as she shakes loose, all the while her band are tight time keepers.

The guitarist's hair, like a black Johnny Ramone hangs down in his face and his swagger and swing, it seems familiar. I don’t know how much of the audience caught on, but certainly once we clue in that that is Andre himself, he holds our attention almost as well as the beautiful and captivating Monae. He's electrifying on guitar, somewhere between Chuck Berry and Prince.

Nevertheless Monae is the star and shines she does, through smoke and lasers, on the beach under a storm about to break, she summons the lightning and the thunder with this high energy soul. We're blown away - the kids didn't stand a chance. Though Afrodizz and Vitalic are still ahead we call it a night ending on a great note - weary from another hot, thirsty day of beers and great music.
PhotobucketRead Day One

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: Eurockeennes 2010 - Day One

Day errr Zero?
The four of us, Amanda, Grant, Liz and myself, arrive at the Eurockeennes campgrounds before most campervans. Five minutes later through the gates walks Rhys. Thirty minutes later we've caught up with Matt and Jenny who've arrived by bike… the gang's all here.

We fire up the BBQ and a pop champagne bottle sized Leffe Blondes we picked up on our way through Belgium's Ardennes. Musically, the long weekend opens with the pre-festival skittish rumblings of dubstep's Gaslamp Killer. Warped by name and record label the Killer jilts and jolts behind the decks. He's followed by some tropical group not as impressive.

Day One
The first act on stage, under the big top, was the aging thrash-punk godfathers Suicidal Tendencies with Pyscho Mike-O out front. Catching only their last song, the entire stage was full of die-hard fans in blue bandanas and Suicidal shirts chanting 'S.T' over and over again. Most would avoid Jay Z later that night for the band's hard funk alter-egos, Infectious Grooves a show that reportedly carried high energy jams.

A friend had suggested we see Baroness who are on the small but powerful Laggia Scene. Powerful yes, but I honestly can't remember them now… other than they were pretty bad.

The jagged and off-kilter rock of The Dead Weather holds the agitated tension of RATM and the scorched soul of the blues wrapped up in greasy garage rock. Allison stalks the stage in her leopard print shirt, slick black jeans and a mane of hair like a predatory cat. Cigarette and tamborine shake through her hand. She occasionally slinks on to an amp allowing Jack pride and place off the kit and on the mic - they're a savage pairing. The best cuts come from 'Treat Me Like Your Mother', 'Cut Like A Buffalo', and 'So Far From Your Weapon' and 'Gasoline'.
In the big top the Black Keys duo, Dan and Patrick fail to disappoint and keep me engaged even after seeing them just three days before at Amsterdam's Paradiso. Heavy soul and swaggering blues builds the audience into a hot fever.

On the Plage or beach stage, with sand under our feet yet sadly the lake cordoned off from swimming despite the heat, Two Door Cinema Club have their fellow Frenchmen and women enjoying the indie-pop. It's not particularly challenging or innovative, in fact it's all pretty derivative but offers harmless fun in the sun with crowd participation.

Kasabian, I thought might hold my interest but their ballsy Brit rock can't do it like it has in the past. Nevertheless them shouting 'Merci-Fucken-Beaucoup!' as English as possible is worth the visit anyway.

Afterwards we head for Foals back at the Plage as they fling into their set. Standouts for me come more from the mathiness of Antidotes rather than this year's mellower Total Life Forever. Sand flies from my thongs (flip flops, people) for 'Cassius' and 'Balloons' but the heat is heavy and I've gotta re-hydrate for Jigga, so I take a seat on the cooling sand.

To use Jay Z's quote from 'Izzo (H.O.V.A)' back at the man himself, 'You could have been anywhere in the world tonight and you're are here with me - I appreciate that.' A filled amphitheatre in front of the main stage and a sea of Diamonds (terribly confusing if that's your sign in a crowd to find your friends like it is ours') shows appreciation for the 'greatest rapper alive'. His 'Naïve' (Evian) T shirt nods to his French audience with a playfulness. He seems genuine, having a great time and appreciating us too without a sense of egotism. With a big band and fellow MC Memphis Bleek behind him he swings through modern classics 'Hard Knock Life', '99 Problems,' 'Izzo,' 'Numb/Encore', 'Dirt off Your Shoulder' as well as the recent Blueprint 3 'Death of Autotune' and 'New York State of Mind.' Hell, the whole thing is amazing. The Roc is most definitely in the building tonight and conscious of how to work a crowd.
Hot Chip are the first real dance act for the festival and is our leap from hip hop to electro… Crowd favourite 'Over and Over' along with 'One Pure Thought' and the epic rave of new track 'I Feel Better' gets the big top firing on all lazers. Love that kettle-drum too. Similarly to the Black Keys, I've see Hot Chip recently but it only heightens the fun, knowing how great these new songs are live.

Missy Elliott, unlike Jay Z, is not in the building - or so it seems. Delays of some sort hamper her appearance on stage for a 2am timeslot, making a tired audience grow further weary. When she appears with black light dancers there's definite promise however a quick medley skims over a couple of her best songs including 'Gossip Folks'. Will she return to them in full? She's wanting everything turned up but the speakers are crackling. She sings a song, but fuck me, is she miming? She spends nearly ten minutes without music trying to hype a crowd who want hip hop to energise them rather than forced 'wassup' diatribe and a barrage of diva posturing. Then she walks off stage leaving the DJ to play Black Eyed Peas' 'I Got A Feeling'. Seriously. However, the young audience eager for MTV are stoked - finally some music at least. That's it for Liz and I though. We turn and walk. BEP is mixed into Nelly or something which gives way for a Missy track eventually, but she's not on stage. Her dude MC is rapping her parts. Where is she? Fuck knows. From a distance, leaving for bed, we note she's returned. Meh.

Read Day Two

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Surfer Blood interview by my mate Olly

PhotobucketMiami band Surfer Blood conjure those great slacker moments of the 90s, the likes of Weezer, The Pixies and Pavement.
Astro Coast is a joyous trip back to my youth with distorted three-chord pop, carrying echoey, dreamy vocal harmonies of The Beach Boys.

I recently saw them play directly across the road from my house at Bitterzoet and they were every bit brilliant. If you're reading this in Australia catch them at Splendour in the Grass along side The Pixies, the Strokes and LCD Soundsystem to name but a few. They'll also play a side show at Sydney's Manning Bar for those not heading north.

I used to have a radio show way back when on Byron Bay's Bay FM with Al Crombie and Olly McElligott. Olly is still on Bay FM and he interviewed Thomas from Surfer Blood. The interview goes for about 15 minutes so boil the jug, sit back and listen to both Olly and Surfer Blood's dulcet radio tones.

Surfer Blood Interview For Bay FM by Oliver McElligott by Olylama

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: The Black Keys at Amsterdam's Paradiso

The hottest day of the year so far, a Dutch win against Slovakia in the World Cup and five hours of celebratory drinking bred a thirsty, sweaty fever for The Black Keys' heavy blues, that thickfreakness if you will, the Akron Ohio duo are known for.
And sure enough, Dan and Patrick appease the masses opening with just that, 'Thickfreakness'. The brick-house riffing and hard drumming of the early single stirs the sold out old church and the crowd heaves. Hot.

Patrick drives down on the simple kit, his face twitching and coursing through a range of expressions; slightly rock, slightly mental. Dan's rolling guitar picking, while technical, carries more flow and when he jams out, bent over the guitar he seems to have this headbang-on-slo-mo style where his hair defies gravity and his back curls hard.

It's sexy voodoo blues, writhing with the burdened spirit of Robert Johnson, tales of wrong doings and love gone foul. From Attack Release, 'Strange Times' creeps with a lurk, sprawling the Keys' music beyond their original sound to something more multidimensional, aided initially on record by producer Danger Mouse.

Rolling down the line, as if the sound they punch out isn't enough, the two are accompanied on stage by a bass player and keyboardist. The bass rumbles past Auerbach's guitar - which wouldn't normally need support - and throughout the overflowing hall. Likewise the organ grinds out a psychedelic path of its own, adding to that wall of voodoo. If it wasn't before, it's scorching now.

New tunes play equal favourites to old, with a succession from Brothers. Opener, 'Everlasting Night' chugs along with Auerbach's falsetto before the personal redemption and kiss off of 'Next Girl' and the glam stomp of the Dr Who-esque 'Howling For You' as we all sing 'dada-da-da-da, dada-da-da-da'.

With more axes then an angry dwarf convention, Dan chops and changes with every song, all immaculate with new tones and a whole lotta richness, continuing through the soul of Brothers' 'I'm Not The One' and Magic Potion's 'Your Touch' and finishing the set with raw, creeping roll of 'I Got Mine' from Attack Release.

An uproarious crowd laid it on thick for an encore, from the stage front to the third tier rungs. 'So She Won't Break' burns to a slow heat. The Black Keys are an amazing live band who harness unbridled rock, while keeping it wild - no more evident than on 'Set You Free', their closer for the night, where wrangling guitar licks and whipping drum rolls are cut through by Dan's soulful voice and heavy groove.

We spill out of the old church and onto the street to an unfamiliar yet comforting warm night in Holland that feels more like a steamy evening in the deep south after midnight mass. Thank heavens for the Black Keys.