2 ½ Days in Carnarvon, WA, June 2015

Sunset at One Mile Jetty, Carnarvon, WA

Following Kununurra, work takes me next to Carnarvon for a few days. You can’t fly directly between the two places, which means a night in hotel near Perth Airport and a flight out the next morning. Although I could have flown directly to Carnarvon I decide to fly to Learmonth instead and drive down. The flight is cheaper and more regular than the Perth-Carnarvon route and I also planned the work trip to allow me to have a few days off and spend that time in Exmouth. Learmonth is the nearest airport to Exmouth (30 minutes) and a 3 ½ drive to Carnarvon, which isn’t much in WA terms.

If you’d asked me after I travelled around Australia in 2005 where was the worst place I visited, I think there would have been little hesitation in replying with Carnarvon. I only meant to stay there the one night, driving up from Kalbarri and heading up to Coral Bay the next day. It was Friday night so I ventured out to hostel and up to the pub. I think there might have been a covers band playing but remember talking to some truck drivers and discussing the finer points of driving across the Nullarbor. Next morning I set off but had hardly got over the bridge out of town when I had a puncture. I decided that I didn’t really want to drive more than 300km in north west WA without a spare tire so after I’d changed the flat, I drove back into town, only to find that as it was now after midday on a Saturday, everywhere was shut and nowhere was open again until Monday morning. So I ended up getting stuck there and it was all a bit ‘Wake In Fright’.

I don’t know what it was about the town. It just didn’t seem to have much sense of purpose or much going for it. I guess that maybe it’s just what you get with small, isolated farming areas.

A decade on, I don’t think anything has changed and Carnarvon is a depressing place. I arrived on a Sunday lunchtime and the place was like a ghost town. It wasn’t just the town centre itself, there was no one around in the residential areas. The drawcard for living in regional Australia seems to be the outdoor life and fishing so I guess maybe everyone was away for the weekend camping somewhere up/down the coast. I also think there might be a few holiday homes near the waterfront which might not be occupied all year round.

In the town, nearly every other building was some government department or other. With all the talk of shutting down indigenous communities because they’re not financially viable, you take one look at Carnarvon and think if the government was serious about reducing costs it should probably close down most of WA north of Perth. Although I’m sure it operates as a regional centre, if you took the government out of Carnarvon, there would be little left.

I didn’t have a lot of spare time in the town so the photos are mostly camera photos from the town centre taken on that first afternoon and some photos from the walk along the very rickety/quite scary One Mile Jetty on the last day I was there. Part of me regrets not having enough time to go and visit the space centre museum, so I only ended up with a rubbish photo of the dish that I stopped to take out of the car window as I was driving out of town and heading back north.

Five Days in Kununurra – Kelly’s Knob & Mirima National Park, June 2015

Kelly's Knob, Kununurra

It was only when I was planning this trip out to Kununurra that I found out that the Bungle Bungles were fairly close to the town. The Bungle Bungles became one of those slightly mythical places thanks to Neighbours and Helen Daniels’ patronage of the place whenever she went off painting in the outback. To be honest, I think everyone in the UK who was watching Neighbours in the late 1980s/early 1990s thought that anywhere called the Bungle Bungles had to be a made up place for television. It was a bit of a surprise when they actually turned out to be a real place.

When I say fairly close, that’s in Australian terms, it’s still a 2 hr 40 minute hour trip down there and with the time I had available I just wasn’t going able to be able to get down there and back before I flew out again. It wasn’t just the drive there that was the problem; there’s still an track into the national park that’s only suitable for 4WD vehicles (which I didn’t have) and the only way I was going to be able to get out there was with an organised day tour. This would have meant driving down the day before, staying at the Roadhouse camping place near the turn-off, and then staying there the next night before driving back to Kununurra the following morning, as my hire car insurance specifically didn’t allow for night driving outside the town boundary. I needed three days to visit the Bungle Bungles, but as I only had one free day available, it, sadly, just wasn’t possible.

Instead of I had to make use of the next best thing and visit the Mirima National Park, described as the mini Bungle Bungles and situated right on the edge of town. There’s a few short walks around the valley and you only need an afternoon to do all of those. The dome structures aren’t as impressive as those you see in the photos of the Bungle Bungles and, from what you can see, there looks to be a lot less of them. There’s some nice views of the area around Kununurra though.

After work, a few evening earlier, I ventured up to Kelly’s Knob, a lookout that’s again right on the edge of the town. The walk up was a lot harder than I thought it would be, although I was doing it at breakneck speed to make sure I had enough time up there for sunset but also enough light to get back down before it was dark. When you get to the top, there’s a telecoms tower that’s plastered in warning signs. It’s a real eyesore, as well as being slightly alarming, but doesn’t spoil the views of the area around the town and of the Mirima National Park.

Lake Argyle, WA, 01.06.2015

Lake Argyle

Kununurra has been called a white elephant and it’s a fair description, flying over desert and seeing this small oasis of greenery suddenly appear out of nowhere. Thanks to the time difference between NT and WA, I arrive in Kununurra before I’ve left Darwin. As a result, I have a few hours to kill before I can check into the hotel and the two realistic options to fill that time: a drive to Wyndham or a drive down to Lake Argyle. Lake Argyle wins out fairly easily, not because it’s a slightly shorter journey but because water has brought me to this part of the country and that water, and indeed Kununurra’s existence, is totally dependent on Lake Argyle.

It’s one of those car trips that you do based on the signpost in town pointing you in the right direction and then don’t see any other signposts until the turn off. There’s obviously no telephone signal but I had reached a point where I’d decided if there wasn’t a signpost in the next 30 minutes that I would turn around as I’d obviously missed the turn. Thinking about it afterwards, there was no need for the slight panic as the road hits the WA/NT border not far after the turn and that boundary would be a marked. It’s a nice drive down and there’s a few stops on the side of the road to take a few photos.

When I eventually get to Lake Argyle I make a pitstop at the caravan park to get something to drink, having made the 80km trip without anything to drink in the car. The caravan park is perched on the top above the lake and has some higher views of it. I also drive via a couple of lookouts down and across the dam.

The dam isn’t what I expected in the slightest, given that it holds the much-publicised 26 times the water that’s in Sydney Harbour. I expected it to be a lot higher than it is. The road across the dam leads down to the hydro power station and ends shortly after in a picnic area.

One thing I did notice from these couple of hours is that people, especially if they’re parents, look at you differently when you’re walking around with a DSLR. Or maybe it was just a touch of paranoia.

22 Hours in Darwin, NT, 31.05.2015 to 01.06.2015

Dark Clouds Over Port Darwin

Although I have a category for Landscape Photography, I wouldn’t describe myself as much of a landscape photographer.  The widest lens I own is a 24-70mm, and as I don’t have a full frame, it means it’s really 36mm at its widest, so I don’t exactly have the kit for it, let alone the patience.  I guess it would probably be safer to describe it as tourist photography more than landscape.

Whatever it’s termed, I’ve been increasing lazy with it in recent years.  I remember the days when I would carry around a full set of camera gear including a tripod but more often than not I carried around the weight all day long without actually using much of it.  I bought a Olympus PEN-E1 a few years ago, an end of line buy that was a bargain at just under $500 as it came with the expensive pancake lens.

The Olympus became the camera that lives in my bag and goes with me everywhere.  Although it’s a lot more lightweight than a full bag of camera gear, it’s probably the most complicated camera I’ve ever owned.  Even with a small digital camera at my disposal, it’s largely been replaced in recent years by my camera phone.  The quality is nowhere near as good but I just love the ease and the immediacy of a camera phone.  It’s probably also helped that a lot of the paces I’ve visited in recent years have been places I’ve already been to and photographed with ‘better’ cameras, so there’s no need to take high quality photos of the same things.  It’s also good for taking photos of quirky/stupid things that you’d probably never dream of wasting film on back in the pre-digital days.  In a way it’s surprised me that I have ended up using my camera phone as much as I do, as there was a time when they were starting to come in as a standard feature that I was very anti them.  I think the singularity that Facebook has become has become the main driver, and the ability to share photos as soon as they’re taken.  I’ve also become a recent convert to Instagram.

Work has taken me across to Western Australian for what’s basically become a three week tour of the state and visits to three place that couldn’t be any further apart; Kununurra, Carnarvon and Ravensthorpe.  The flight to Kununurra involves a one night stopover in Darwin as the flight from Brisbane gets in too late to get there in a day.  I could have gone directly via Broome but staying a night in Darwin works out slightly cheaper which makes it an easy decision when you’re charging it to a job budget.

I’d never been to the Northern Territory before and an afternoon in Darwin was never going to be enough.  It reminds me a lot of some of those northern Queensland backpacker towns – Airlie Beach, Cairns – as the place is essentially a tourism service town to arrange tourist activities out of town.  Like those other places, all the hostels and booking agents are on the main drag through town.

One afternoon in Darwin was never going to be long enough. I would have loved to have had a week to go out of the city and out to Kakadu & Arnhem Land but just didn’t have the time available. I didn’t have time to do much; I walked along the Esplanade and out to the Sunday evening markets at Mindil Beach.  If you’ve been to one beach market, you’ve been to them all.  There’s a correct number of fisherman’s pants that anyone should own and I’ve already reached that number.  So I bought some oysters Kilpatrick and a drink and sat on the beach for a while.

I walked back to town and after dropping off my bag, headed out to the cinema a few blocks from the hotel to see Mad Max: Fury Road, which, despite the hype and amount of positive comments in my Facebook feed, was fairly terrible.  Drive in one direction chased by the bad guys, turn around in the middle of the film, drive past the bad guys while they’re not paying attention, close the gate before they can get back in.  It was like a Michael Bay film for people old enough to remember the 1980s and the original trilogy of films.

There were two mistakes I made in my time photographing Darwin.  The first was to head out wearing jeans. Despite being almost June, the heat and humidity was ridiculous (it was 33 degrees during the afternoon) and within about 15 minutes of walking around, I was really regretting not wearing shorts.

The second, and much more crucial mistake was only realising how dirty my camera sensor was when I downloaded the photos from the first few days of being away onto my laptop.  I never thought for a minute that it was that bad, I guess the dirt just doesn’t show in the light/dark contrast areas of photos taken at gigs.  What was even more frustrating was that the dirt on the camera sensor wasn’t just flecks of dust that could be removed with a blower but something that’s actually formed on the sensor, like a watermark or some bacterial growth.  Being out in rural WA meant that there wasn’t anywhere I could take the camera for a cleaning.

It’s a real shame, but most of the photos taken on my DSLR I my three weeks away aren’t that great and come with large splodges in the middle of them.  Some I’ve tried to airbursh out but others it just wasn’t possible to do with my skill level and patience.  Old habits die hard, so there’s also a fair few camera phone photos in the mix.

Violent Soho + Ceres + Black Deity @ Mansfield Tavern, 07.11.2014

Violent Soho @ Mansfield Tavern, Friday 7 November 2014

Driving the 15 minutes across Brisbane’s southern bible belt, from Salisbury where there are probably as many churches as shops, past Hillsong’s base in Mt Gravatt to Mansfield, Brisbane’s infamous religious heartland and the home of Violent Soho, it strikes that in over 10 years in Australia, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a proper suburban gig. I’ve been to shows in Paddington and West End but never anything as far from the heart of the city as Mansfield.

I’ve heard that shows at suburban pubs were a lot more common back in the 1980s and 1990s, before noise complaints from residential encroachments and the replacement of band rooms with the far more profitable pokies, took hold. The establishment of a dedicated entertainment precinct in Brisbane probably hasn’t helped, with the music scene now suffering from the success of transitioning into a few square blocks of an inner city area, as the clubs and bars have slowly taken hold to the detriment of the city’s live music scene.

The Mansfield Tavern is exactly what you expect from an Australian suburban pub. Nothing like them really exists in the UK but imagine an out of town pub in the same way you’d imagine an out of town shopping development and you’d have a good idea. A large car park in the middle of the site has a large bottle shop (off licence) on one side, the pub on the other side. Even by 8pm the car park is full and feeling a lot like Heavy Metal Parking Lot as people congregate by their cars with their mates before the show.

The band room itself is like a large cattleshed with air con. By the time the main support act, Ceres, play its packed. I’m not sure of the capacity but it must be in the 800 to 1,000 range. It’s puzzling that Soho have decided to play a national tour that includes some reasonably small venues considering the year they’ve had, especially given the impact they made at Splendour In The Grass back in July. Their last tour included three sold out nights at the 1,500 capacity Hi-Fi in Brisbane so the downsizing (at least in Brisabne) is curious even though it involves playing in their home suburb.

The success that the band has had is evident in that, by observation, they’ve reached the enviable and extremely rare status of being a band where it’s acceptable to wear one of their t shirts to their shows. Outside of a few bit metal bands and Pop Will Eat Itself, it’s an unwritten law that Soho have overcome. The room is packed with an array of Soho shirts from down the years, while the merch stand is doing a roaring trade on the most recent designs.

The downside of breaking out and achieving a crossover audience is that you can’t pick who likes you. Between acts it’s a case of make your own entertainment, with random sing-a-longs interspersed with far too many “Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi” chants, in the way that only Australians can bring nationalism to a night out at a pub seeing a band. The high levels of testosterone towards the front of the room manifests itself in the dudebros shaking out their beer cans over everyone before throwing the empties towards the stage and shirtless crowd surfers during the set. Even before Soho start, a dude manages to run onto the stage and attempts to stage dive a distance that includes clearing the foldback speakers as well as the photo pit but just manages to face plant it into the back of the barrier. Luckily he manages to miss a photographer and a couple of security people in the pit, but it looks like a near miss and no less painful for him.

One final entire room sing-a-long is provided with ‘Killing In The Name” before the band takes to the stage, bassist Luke Henery, first out as ever, Luke Boerdam , wearing that same Mudhoney t-shirt I’m convinced he wears at almost every show, and they launch straight into ‘Dope Calypso’.

As someone who’s only see the band play festival sets during 2014, it’s a similar setlist to those big shows and one that concentrates almost exclusively on the Hungry Ghost album and the standalone singles that came out between the second and third albums, with not much from the band’s formative years. Nine of the album’s 11 songs are included, with only the title track and ‘Liars’ absent.

‘Lowbrow’, ‘Gold Coast’ and ‘Neighbour Neighbour’ follow in quick succession, the band barely pausing between songs but it’s ’In The Aisle’ that provides the highlight of the first half of the set. Guitarist James Tidswell spitting out the “Waiting for God, Waiting for God” refrain in perfect unison with the crowd, while Luke Boerdam really howls out the verses, Luke Henery, always the visual focal point of the band, pulling out all of his best rock moves, drummer Michael Richards, as ever with his face obscured by his hair, thrashing across his drum kit.

The crowd are at the heart of this show; screaming out every word along with Boredom. ‘Saramona Says’ has the circle pit bros hugging each other as they yell “Let’s start a fire” at the top of their lungs and the slower-paced ‘Fur Eyes’ doesn’t bring much in the way of respite, even though there are couples trying to slow dance to it.

Waves after wave of crowd surfers keeps security busy in front of the band. With their attention taken up with what’s coming at them from the other side of the barrier, they miss another stage diver during ‘Tinderbox’ who’s brought a potted plant with him for the ride. Unlike the guy who failed miserably in his attempt to clear the barrier before the band started, this one has enough velocity to virtually Fosbury flop over everything and into the crowd. The good job and thankless task that security are doing is acknowledged by Tidswell a couple of songs before the end of the night.

Every show has its mid-set lull; sometimes it’s a slower song, sometimes an obscure B-side or a new track that no one knows. What’s really surprising is that tonight’s mid-song lull takes place during ‘Muscle Junkie’, a song from Soho’s first album and one that’s been a mainstay of their sets for years. It gets a muted response from the audience when Luke Henery starts up the intro bass riff and the reaction never really gets above a small rumble of appreciation. By comparison they follow it up with ‘Covered In Chrome’, the one song above all else that everyone wants to hear tonight, with the shirtless bros crowd surfing en masse as the rest of the room sings every word as loud as they can and turns it into one big mosh pit. I got into an argument on the Collapse Board contributors’ forum describing Soho as ‘Big dumb rock’ even though it was meant as a compliment. How can any song whose chorus is “YEAH” x 15 and which includes the refrain “HELL. FUCK.YEAH”, three words that have more or less become the festival chant of 2014 be anything else than good ol’ Big Dumb Rock in all its glory?

The printed setlists gaffa taped to the stage list ‘OK Cathedral’ as the final song of the night, one of Hungry Ghost’s more subtle songs, less Big Dumb Rock than it is more interesting shoegaze guitar textures. However, the way it’s played live, extended into a guitar battle between Boerdam and Tidswell, manages to combine both of these aspects and turn it into a stadium-sized anthem. It’s not printed on the setlist but how could they play in Mansfield and ignore not just one of their finest moments but a song that they probably wouldn’t have written if they hadn’t have lived here. So the night ends with an encore of ‘Jesus Stole My Girlfriend’, the perfect finale, the not just the sound of the suburbs but this particular suburb.

When it comes to Violent Soho, in my mind, the greatest philosophical question has always been why has it taken so long for Australia to pay attention to them. They always felt like one of Brisbane’s great undiscovered musical secrets and have always been one of the most loved bands within the city’s music scene even though no one else really seemed to be paying attention until the last year or two.

I’ve photographed them loads over the years.  The first time was when they were the second band on the indoor second stage at Market Day. I had some photos published by Mess+Noise to go with an interview with them back when Mess+Noise was still a printed magazine, and have photographed them at various support slots, headline shows and festivals since 2006. (Annoyingly they’ve obviously changed the Flickr URLs so none of those photos come across to the posts now, although they’re all on Flickr)

I think I put it best when I wrote in June 2009, almost five and a half years ago:

By right Violent Soho should be the ones with the number one records, with the Rolling Stone features, the extended interviews on Video Hits, on constant rotation on Triple J, playing the sell-out shows at huge venues, being lined up for the ARIAs. But the people of Australia have spoken. And they want Eskimo Joe. At least they do this year

It’s not like you can say Violent Soho are better than ever, they’ve always been this good, it’s just that everyone finally realised this. They’re no longer Brisbane’s best kept musical secret.

Cibo Matto + Richard In Your Mind + Ben Ely @ The Zoo, 29.10.2014

Cibo Matto @ The Zoo, Wednesday 29 October 2014

I have the photos to prove that I was there, but struggle to recall many memories from the night.  There are some nights when you become so pre-occupied with photographing that the night quickly passes you without making much of an impression.  It happens on ‘bad’ nights when you’re not happy with the photographs you’re taking and photograph far beyond the three song limit.  There’s usually no limit at the Zoo and although I generally try to limit my time photographing, not having that rule, especially at a venue like the Zoo that doesn’t have a photo pit, allows you greater scope to move around the venue at your leisure to try for different angles.

My unhappiness with the photos I’m taking tonight are twofold.

Photographing musicians, especially singers with sunglasses is a pet hate that rivals singers holding drinks.  I like to see peoples’ eyes when I’m photographing, windows to the soul and all that.  Similarly I also have issues with people who keep their eyes tightly shut when playing; those are often the times when the best songs are taken in the gaps between songs.  Miho Hatori keeps her sunglasses on for almost the entire show tonight (from memory there is a very short time later in the set when she does take them off but it’s very fleeting) and I just can’t get anything that I’m really happy with.

The other cause of unhappiness is instruments.  Yuka Honda stands behind her keyboards, laptop and microphone that makes it hard to get a clear shot of her.  There is a sweet spot but unfortunately it’s in the middle of the throng so I have to make do with moving from one side of the stage, around the back of the room to the another side to try and make do.  It’s a process that goes on for too much of the night than I’d ideally like and leaving a residual memory of photo frustration rather than one that focussed on the music.

Bedroom Suck Records’ 5th Birthday Party @ Black Bear Lodge, 19.10.2014

Terrible Truths @ Black Bear Lodge, Sunday 19 October 2014

Time may be getting faster every year but it’s crazy to look at how much Bedroom Sucks Records have achieved in the last five years, their first five years. As the man said, they’ve put out some of the best music in Australia in that time and keep going from strength to strength. By comparison, Collapse Board celebrated its four year anniversary at the end of August 2014 and while the site continues to dwell on the fringes, Bedroom Sucks keeps on manoeuvring itself for a full global assault. (I think CB just peaked too early. Plus CB is the Millwall of music writing – “No one likes us and we don’t care”).

To celebrate the fifth anniversary, BSR have put on a series of anniversary shows in Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide and tonight in Brisbane to showcase their achievements with some of the acts signed to the label.

There’s no two ways of looking at it, Thigh Master is a great name for a band. They’ve got that primal post punk sound so beloved by so many Brisbane bands but combine it at times with that just out of tune 90s slacker rock. They’re at their best during their allotted 30 minutes when they get the twin guitar attack going for that that sweet fist pumping moment. They have a song called ‘Ric’s’ and joke that the birthday show should have been across the mall at Ric’s. It’s a one-liner that probably betrays their age, where as for an older crowd, the demise of Ric’s is something too sad to joke about.

Its the little things isn’t it? Put a man with a beard wearing a bad Hawaiian shirt on stage and just it’s a man with a beard wearing a bad Hawaiian shirt. But give him glittery silver eye shadow, a deep crimson lipstick and matching painted nails and suddenly you’ve got my interest no matter what else happens. Cannon have been around for a while but I’ve just never managed to catch them, which is my loss based on tonight’s proceedings. I take too many photos instead of paying full attention but soundwise they’ve got the Pere Ubu thing going on.

Out of all the BRS releases, the Primitive Motion album is one of my favourites and most played. I’ve only seen them play just the once though and I ended up writing some lukewarm words about the experience because it didn’t do justice to the songs in their recorded format on the album. I found them disappointing because it was all too harsh sounding and not lush and textured enough. Tonight is different because they are different and don’t play any songs I recognise. Instead of being disappointed by comparing them to their studio output, I’m totally enraptured with, what is to me, a completely different set of songs. Afterwards Everett tells me the first song is a cover by one of the Dunedin bands, although he can’t recall which one. Leighton introduces the second song as one they haven’t played for about three years. By the third song Sandra is on her third instrument of the night, having started behind the drum kit, before moving to the saxophone for the second song and finally to flute. It’s these songs, the third and the fifth, that have Primitive Motion at their peak, blissed out and sounding spell-binding. These songs remind me of early Spiritualized before they became too overblown and pompous. It’s music for lying in a field on a warm, light summer evening watching the sun eventually set over the horizon. Glorious stuff and if these are songs from their forthcoming new album, 2015 is going to get off to a great start.

Superstar aren’t the band I was expecting. Having checked my photographic records, it turns out I had somehow confused them with Holy Balm but both of them played at a Deadshits night at Woodland back at the start of 2011 so there is some rationale behind being confused. Instead of the more electronic dancey three-piece I was expecting, I get a female/male duo with lots of chorus and delay pedal action and those 1980s glassy keyboard sounds throughout. It’s at home late at night music more so than it is something I want to see on a Sunday night out in town. It’s the sweet sound of my bed calling me after a long day. Because it’s those things, it’s a struggle to enjoy as it’s just too soporific for where I want to be with another couple of acts to go.

I have a theory about live music photography which is that it’s all about hands. I learnt long ago (mostly from fashion photography) that it’s totally ok to chop the tops of people heads off, and that those crops work, but when photographing a musician playing an instrument on stage, if you don’t get both of their hands in the frame, it just doesn’t look right. It’s because of this theory that keyboard players are the worst to photograph; the height of the stage prevents you from fully capturing their performance. Peter Escott plays his set on an off-stage upright piano in the space between the merch table and the stairs and the roughly formed semi-circle that surrounds him gets to actually see him playing up close and personal. Given the rarity of a performer to play like this, it feels like a special moment and there’s something quite exquisite about the whole set-up. But despite the quiet nature of the solo piano and his voice at the back of the venue, well away from the speakers, most of those assembled around the piano decide that even in this close proximity, less than a couple of metres away, they’ll just use the opportunity to keep on with their conversations.

It’s a pet hate but tonight it just feels teeth-grindingly rude and I have to move back to the front of the venue nearer the speakers and away from a bunch of people I want to murder. I don’t have a view anymore but at least the proximity to the PA system helps drown out all the background conversations. Its stunning stuff to observe close up, just such a shame about the chattering masses.

A quick straw poll is unlikely to find anyone whose preferred time to be out seeing a band is 11:15pm on a Sunday night. The original plan is to only stay for a couple of Terrible Truths’ songs to get some photos.  Instead I’m completely blown away by them so stay until the bitter end, which, as it happens, is only 20 minutes away. I don’t know any of their songs or the titles but it takes less than half a song for them to not just become my new favourite band but also the best new (to me) band that I’ve seen in a long while. It wouldn’t surprise me if they get lazy comparisons to The Slits given the female vocals and reggae-influenced post-punk sound but it’s a whole lot less playful and fun and much more frenetic and frantic, more like Gang of Four at their best, especially with those call and response vocals. Not just Screaming Match good but *whispers* Screaming Match better. Sometimes, in addition to really enjoying a band play, you also just have to quietly contemplate how you’ve managed to miss a band this good for so long.

Happy Birthday Bedroom Suck Records and here’s to your next five years.

Courtney Barnett + D.D. Dumbo + Mosman Alder @ The Zoo, 11.10.2014

Courtney Barnett @ The Zoo, Saturday 11 October 2014

There was life before Kate Bush and there is life after Kate Bush. The live shows I’ve been to in the last couple of months just haven’t done it for me and it’s all La Bush’s fault for putting on the greatest show ever.

Admittedly, I haven’t set my aim that high since getting back to Australia. A jet-lagged No Bunny show in Perth provided the perfect Australian Welcome Back moment featuring a large, inebriated man being force fed tequila straight from the bottle by his mates and almost instantly vomiting all over the floor. At a Pop Will Eat Itself show back in Brisbane, Mary Byker played the part of Clint Mansell to the best of his abilities and showed that the feeling of warm nostalgia largely reconciles with memories of being young and stupid.

Sometimes Mosman Alder, tonight’s opening act show that they’ve been listening to Talk Talk when they haven’t been stenciling the pavements of Fortitude Valley with adversts for their album but it doesn’t escape the fact that it’s six people lined up in a row on stage playing earnest and serious music that doesn’t engage and just floats in the background.

Watching D.D Dumbo play you can’t help but think that he’s been earmarked to fill the gap between Gotye albums. The Australian music press proudly proclaim that he’s signed to 4AD in the way that only the Australian music press proudly proclaim music industry deals without a moment to reflect that 4AD in 2014 bears no resemblance to the 4AD that once existed back in the 80s and early 90s. Who knows, I might like him more if he didn’t sound so much like a Sting parody.

Two thirds of the way through the night and it’s another live show that’s not delivering in any size, shape or form. Has Kate Bush just ruined live music for me forever? It’s up to Courtney Barnett to rescue something from the night and, as far too many music writers would say, she absolutely kills it.

I’ve spent a lot of time this year listening to her A Sea Of Split Peas double EP compilation but all that time spent with her songs still doesn’t prepare me for her live show. Opening with ‘David’ and followed up straight away, without a second’s pause, by ‘Lance Jr’, the more genteel recordings that put the witty narratives and clever lyrics to the fore are replaced by a much more base and brutal display. It’s thrilling to be completely surprised and be presented with something that transcends what you’re expecting, all those tasteful piano flourishes that accompany her songs are discarded in favour of loud and furious distorted guitar.

It’s only listening to those EPs in the last few days that I’ve realised that all that squalling guitar is there, it’s just that true to modern recording style, the lack of dynamic range makes it a whole lot more subtle than when it’s being blasted out from the stage.

Although I’ve never seen her play before, I’ve heard that sometimes she plays as a trio without Dan Luscombe. Obviously Dan Luscombe can’t be omnipresent but basically, as tonight shows, everything is better with Dan Luscombe. His guitar playing completely steals the show, it’s as good as anything he’s done with The Drones. It’s allowed to because the everyone here already knows the words and melodies; they don’t need to be given prominence to carry the songs. There is that typical mid-show lull in proceedings when a couple of new songs, ‘Blah’ and ‘Pedestal’, are given a first airing to a Brisbane audience; it’s too early to tell whether they stand up to the small canon that Barnett has already put together, although the fairly recent ‘Depreston’, the first song of the encore, played solo, shows that it has already made an impact on the hardcore fans crammed at the front of the venue. The show sold out well in advance, although it doesn’t show, with the front half of the venue packed to bursting point, while the back half of the room is fairly empty.

She tells us she’s got a few more songs and that it’s the last show of the tour, as if to make us feel special for being there. A quick review of for research purposes shows that she’s played the same songs in the same order for the whole tour. Perhaps it’s little wonder that they all sound so good. Having played ‘Depreston’ by herself, Barnett is joined by drummer Dave Mudie for the heavily rotated triple j favourite of ‘Pickles From The Jar’ before the rest of the band join her for the obvious night-ending, final encore of ‘History Eraser’.

“I hope you have a good rest of the night, I hope you have a good weekend and if I don’t see you again I hope you have a good rest of your life,” she tells us. There’s little doubt that we all be seeing her again, it’s just unlikely that we’ll be seeing her in venues as small as The Zoo next time.