Bully + Rolling Blackouts + Tempura Nights @ Woolly Mammoth, 12.12.2015

The 8th day of Gigmas.  It’s been 10 shows in 9 nights and it’s the final show for the year.

It’s the end of a long week but one that was so enjoyable and brought back memories of the good old days photographing for Rave when there would be times of the year when doing this many shows in a short period would happen a few times each year.  Like this last week, it was usually around the Golden Plains/Meredith festivals or other big events happening down south, when Brisbane actually gets an abundance of sideshows compared to those times when there’s a festival with a few hours drive, in a different state, in a different timezone, and Brisbane gets nothing.  I miss going to shows and photographing at this intensity but it’s all so much harder these days, especially when I continually struggle to find anyone to double up and review the show.  As much as I love photographing shows, I do think it works best when there’s also someone to write some words.  People often say I should do both but I’m not a good reviewer and anything but an on time and speedy writer, hence managing to have a whole year’s worth of posts to write for all the shows I went to in 2015 by the time I started to try to put some words together.

It’s quiet early on.  A few people are in for Tempura Nights, mostly Brisbane band people, and then it’s pretty much Tempura Nights making up the tiny number of people stood watching Rolling Blackouts.  It makes me wonder if we are in for a repeat of last night’s Mercury Rev show but there’s a last minute rush and the room really fills out by the time Bully play.  There’s a lot more people here than for Thurston Moore on Monday night and obviously a lot more people here than were at Mercury Rev yesterday.  I think it’s a show in the $35 range, so it’s obviously cheaper than both of those other shows, although when you take into account there was a 2-4-1 offer for Mercury Rev, last night was actually a cheaper night out.

I liked this Bully album, nothing new of course but a good voice and some good hooks happening   but they don’t play for very long, it can’t have gone on for much more than 30 minutes, maybe 40 minutes tops, so you don’t get a lot for your money.

Coming to the end of this week and a bit, it’s hard to know just who was the standout, there was plenty to choose from the headline acts.  Somewhere between Mercury Rev, Shellac and Thurston Moore, plus King Gizzard’s support slot, there’s a winner for Best Band of Gigmas 2016 but it’s too close to call.

Mercury Rev + Primitive Motion + Fainting Spells @ The Zoo, 11.12.2015

Friday night brings the 7th day of Gigmas

It’s a show I wasn’t expecting to get and indeed it’s come via a really late confirmation on the day of the show.  The show obviously hadn’t sold very well as there was a two-for-one fire sale in the last few days leading up to the gig but even with that enticement the place was mostly empty, less than 100 people in The Zoo, and no doubt a chunk of them were either guest list or had used the 2-4-1 offer.  It was a $65 gig, putting it at the upper end of Zoo shows, but it felt strange that it was so poorly attended, especially given this was the first time they’ve played a headline show in Brisbane for a while.  I’m not sure when exactly but I can’t remember them playing a show of their own in the time I’ve lived here and that’s more than a decade away now.  They did play at Harvest a few years ago and were sounding excellent for the three songs I got to see them for before having to depart for another band on another stage.

Mercury Rev aren’t phased by it though, look like a band that’s really enjoying playing together and play as if playing for thousands.  It’s such an impressive show, one that was meant for much bigger venues than the Zoo and a much bigger audience.  The band sound huge. There’s lights, smoke machines, the whole set up and it’s one of those times when you feel lucky to be seeing such a show in such close quarters.  I guess we just hope that next time they tour they don’t decide to skip a Brisbane show like so many other bands.

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats + Smoke @ Crowbar, 10.12.2015

Thursday and the 6th day of Gigmas

Regular readers will by now know my thoughts on the Crowbar very well.  It’s even worse when it’s packed as unless you’re in the first couple of rows, you can’t see anything.  The stage is too low because the ceiling is too low.  If tonight isn’t a sell out, it must be pretty close to it.  It’s a surprise to me as until saw them advertised as playing here, I’d never heard of them.  Doing some research on the bands playing Meredith sideshows in Brisbane this week, I really liked what I was hearing, they reminded me of the early Alice Cooper, when Alice Cooper was the name of the band, not just the singing guy.  Those albums, the run from Love It To Death through to Billion Dollar Babies, taking in Killer and School’s Out are some of my favourite rock albums.

Sadly, as good as the songs are, they’re terrible to photograph in this environment. It’s not quite My Disco terrible but not too far away from it.

As well as really enjoying listening to them, I also really loved some of the merch they had on their website and had every intention of buying something but they didn’t bring any of the t shirts I really liked with them.  Hopefully there’ll be a next time in Brisbane at a different venue and with a larger merch display.

Moon Duo + Dreamtime + Grinding Eyes @ The Zoo, 09.12.2015

And so to the fifth day of gigmas.

From a packed Triffid last night, it’s a much less packed Wednesday night at The Zoo. Depressingly, it’s only my second gig at The Zoo this year (excluding popping in for some of the BigSound showcases. The only other time I was here during 2015 was for ZA!, all the way back in January at the night of my first shows of the year. Given this place has often been my second home for much of the time I’ve been photographing in Brisbane, it’s astonishing that I’ve hardly set foot in the place in the last 12 months.

It’s one of those shows where the lighting gets worse as the night goes on, especially as Grinding Eyes have all the stage lights on for their first song until they asked for them to be turned down/off. By the time Moon Duo play, it’s minimal lighting with a lot of psychedelic animations and patterns being projected on the stage’s backdrop. Playing with no lights is the new blue LED lighting is the new red light.

Goat + King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard + ORB @ Triffid, 08.12.2015

Tuesday brings the fourth day of Gigmas.

Although Triffid annoyingly never advertise their set times, checking on each band’s Facebook page I’m able to get the start times for the three bands playing tonight.  There are a lot of terribly named Australian bands and also a lot of bands that take on names that they obviously didn’t Google and you which leave you wondering (a) why they choose that name; and (b) how they get away with it.  Sure there’s no ‘The’ at the front but calling yourself ORB just doesn’t seem to be part of a sensible business plan.  At least they’re not as bad as Melbourne’s The Steve Miller Band, for who I’m guessing the Cease and Desist letter is in the post.  ORB sounded like they’re trying to move into the space left by Wolfmother.

The terribly named King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard (who possibly might be issuing a cease and desist letter to Brisbane band Wizard Lizard at some point in time) were the main drawcard for me, having never seen them.  To say that they’re phenomenally good would be a gross understatement.  They’re so much better than Tame Impala were a few weeks earlier, then again they’re better than Tame Impala full stop.  If you’d never experienced them before, for the amount of hype they’ve received over the last few years you would have thought that Tame Impala would be this good.  Although they’re coming under this psychedelic tag, it’s surprising how prog it is really, with lots of what used to get called ‘widdly widdly’ guitar.  Although I try to keep abreast of Brisbane shows, I can’t recall them playing here before but I’m guessing they must have at some point, I just might have been away/overseas or something.  Then again I might have ignored them for having such a terrible name.  The room is really packed for them so either they’ve built up this following on the back of other Brisbane shows or they haven’t played here much and everyone wants to see them.  It gets a bit awkward after King Gizzard have played as the room really thins out for the headlining Goat.  It looks like about a third of the punters decided they’d seen what they came to see and not to stick around for the final band of the night.

Having talked about band names and how some bands get away with the lack of originality, the question for Goat is how they get away without any accusations for cultural appropriation regarding the way they dress.  Elements of African and Indian traditional dress are obvious despite being a band from Sweden.  They’re good though, obviously not King Gizzard good, although without a photo pit it’s a frustrating photo opportunity.  I’m too out to the side to get the photos I would have liked and there’s too many people in the way to get any more central.  Four days in and Gigmas is really making the start of December a feast of live music.

Thurston Moore Band @ Woolly Mammoth, 07.12.2015

It’s a Monday night and the third day of Gigmas (having had the Sunday night off, although I’m sure I could have found a show to go to, especially given all the Meredith sideshows in town at the moment).

Gold Class are the single supporting act tonight and although I saw them on the Friday night, I would have liked to have caught them again, and perhaps gotten some better photos than a few days earlier.  They had an especially early start time of 7:45pm, and having been told to meet the promoter’s rep at 8:30pm, I didn’t get to Woolly Mammoth until after they’d finished playing.  The promoter’s rep was a no show so I probably could have come early and seen and photographed Gold Class again.

It’s that rarity of events in Brisbane, an early headline show, one that starts at 8:45pm and is all done by 10:15pm.  The Monday night probably explains why but it’s a refreshing change and there should be more of this playing at sensible times for people who have jobs to go to in the morning.  Woolly Mammoth is reasonably full for a Monday night and given it was $70 and he wasn’t going to play any Sonic Youth songs.

Truth be told and I’m a bit of a fair-weather Sonic Youth fan.  I think I always found them too clever for their own good, and for all the interesting sounding guitars, never felt that they had the songs to match.  I think they were always a bit too high art, too discordant for me.  I have a few of their albums and enjoy them enough from time-to-time without ever having become besotted by them, like so many of my peers, and have seen them numerous times at various festivals down the years, sometimes appearing to be better than other times.  When they’ve been good, they’ve been very good, but there’s often been an inconsistency to their shows.  Obviously the festival situation probably has had a major impact on this and I’ve never seen them play a headline show, and now probably never will.

Having said all that, this Thurston Moore show was really excellent, easily one of the best gigs in this week of madness. I can’t explain why it resonated so much when his previous band have often left me non-plussed.

Shellac + Crooked Fiddle Band @ Triffid, 05.12.2015

The second day of Gigmas takes me to Triffid for Shellac. Famously Shellac never have a guest list, something I learnt last time they played in Brisbane with a show at The Zoo. It’s not so much the buying the ticket that’s ever the issue with bands I want to see, it’s more that I always want to photograph them. Although I saw them at The Zoo it was without a camera, something that I regret a bit as it isn’t ever day a band like Shellac played at The Zoo.

In the days leading up to the show I was undecided about whether I was going to go but made the happy mistake of listening to their latest album, 2014’s Dude Incredible and decided that I just had to go. Triffid being a camera friendly venue (so far), I also decided that I’d risk taking my camera and didn’t have any trouble at the door.

At $45, it’s a bargain, even more so in these times when Australian triple j landfill indie bands have started charging more than that for their shows. Another bonus is that there’s no extra charge for buying on the door.

I get there ridiculously early, as unlike other venues, Triffid don’t generally announce their set times. I went based on times for Future Island a few weeks back only to find I’m there about an hour before the support band. It’s long enough to get some food, which I’m sure is part of Triffid’s evil business plan in not publishing set times. It’s a strange mix of people – a combination of Brisbane’s indie rock scene holding counsel, people in Santa hats out on their work Xmas parties and the people in black and band t shirts who are obviously there for Shellac. I had hoped that the Brisbane indie crowd and the Xmas party people would surprise me by all being there to see Shellac but I don’t think it happened.

The Crooked Fiddle Band are a strange choice of support although probably one that works.

I make an amateur error when photographing the support band in that I change the camera setting to ISO 2000 to try to get some photos of the band’s drummer, who’s hiding at the back of the stage in the dark, and completely forget I’ve done this until I’ve moved away from the front after photographing a few of Shellac’s songs. As a result, the photos are nowhere near as detailed as I would have wanted. It would have also been better with a photo pit but there’s always next time and third time lucky.

Gold Class + Per Purpose + Pleasure Symbols @ The Foundry, 04.12.2015

The first day of Gigmas continues with Gold Class at The Foundry, which is basically the after show from the 4ZZZ Birthday party at the Old Museum.  By the time I get here, I’ve already missed the opening 100%  but get to see the rest of the night’s bands.

The last time I saw GC was at Ric’s for BigSound.  It must be so dispiriting to be awarded a showcase and then find yourself playing at the tiny room that is Ric’s, even more so if you’re a Brisbane act and know what venues you potentially could be playing in.  Sadly Ric’s isn’t the place it was when I first moved to Brisbane.  I always felt it was a goldmine waiting to happen but needed some changes in layout and (in the later days) in attitude.  Some of those things happened when it was taken over, it’s just a shame that essentially it was take over by the wrong people.

The problem with holding BigSound showcases at Ric’s is that the place is always packed, and it doesn’t exactly take many people for that to happen, so unless you were there most of the night, you didn’t get in.  I did manage to squeeze myself in to see a tiny bit of Gold Class but only for a song or so.  Photographing in Ric’s isn’t fun at the best of times (despite the massive lighting rig they have), and it becomes a bit of a lost cause.  I had hoped to finally see Goon Sax when they had their showcase there, but I was nowhere near getting into the beer garden, let alone the building, and it was the same with Jaala.