Melbourne’s iconic Cherry Rock festival was held again this year, for the 11th year. Held at Cherry Bar in AC/DC lane, it’s a seething mess of bodies, booze and bloody good times. Held in May each year, the weather is always unpredictable and this year offered more of the same. The rain mostly held off, but the high concrete horizons don’t let in much sun so the cold and damp sets in pretty easily. Being an inside/outside festival has its pluses though – if the cold is biting you can head inside for the next set in not too long. And by the time the indoor set is finished, you’re almost gagging for that cool air again.

This year the festival was headlined by NZ stalwarts Shihad as well as Brant Bjork, Dwarves and Nashville Pussy from the US. Ably supported by Indonesian stoner rockers Mooner and Kelompok Penerbang Roket as well as Sweden’s Bottlecap and Spain’s Bala and a swag of Aussies that are well known to the Cherry crowd.

It was a bit of a buzz for me personally to see Nick Oliveri with Dwarves – as a fan of Queens of the Stone Age, it was the first time I’d had a chance to see Oliveri perform in the flesh. He was thrilling on bass, if a little daunting. And his bandmate in Blag Dahlia was so in your face it was verging on uncomfortable to be shooting so close to the stage.

Brant Bjork and his fuzzy desert rock tunes were welcome refuge in the middle of the day. It was nice to bliss out a little before the senses were assaulted with the addition of fellow desert rock icon Sean Wheeler. He was a showman from the first, and brought some real energy to a cruisy set from Bjork.

But my highlights for the day were the chicks. Amyl and the Sniffers are a local Melbourne outfit with a mullety/sharpie/bogan vibe that gives no fucks at all what you think of their VB t-shirts. Frontwoman Amy is shouty and loud and brash and totally commandeering. She held the familiar Cherry crowd in the palm of her hand while simultaneously spitting them out with a spray of her beer. 

My other highlight was Bala from Spain. A two piece, all female wall of sound. Flinging hair, shouting lyrics, freaking loud guitar and smashing drums. It was a killer set and I was quite blown away by how much noise came out of just two people.

Cherry Rock, I salute you and all your messy glory. You’re a Melbourne institution and while I was pretty crook this year and it was a little harder to enjoy you, I was thrilled to be able to witness your shenanigans once more.


* gallery shot for AMNplify and you can see the full gallery here: Cherry Rock 2017

As chicks, it’s pretty safe to say that we are drawn to chicks being grouse and playing music while they are doing it. Whilst I was originally drawn to The Kills via The Dead Weather via Jack White, I can now say that The Kills are my current musical obsession. Currently in Oz for Splendour in the Grass, showcasing their new album Ash & Ice, us Melburnians were pretty lucky to score a sideshow at the Forum, and I was able to see them for the first time.

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© Stephen Boxshall/Rag and Bone Photography

The connection that Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince have with each other is palpable. At one point, when Mosshart played “That Love” solo after the encore break, Hince gave her a shoulder squeeze in support and encouragement, and it was truly touching in its simple and wordless way. From where we stood it was hard to tell if Mosshart was emotional or perhaps nervous to perform the song on her own, but she did amazingly and really, the emotion in the room was unmistakeable.

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© Stephen Boxshall/Rag and Bone Photography

Besides their connection with each other and the way in which that translates through their music, their energy and vibrancy was out of control. Mosshart throws her mane of (currently red) hair around like a banshee possessed, not skipping a note or becoming breathless with the exertion, which is a feat in itself. Well, to me, considering I get puffed putting the bins out. As for Hince, I’ve not seen a guitarist treat his guitar with equal parts reverence and disdain in that way for a long time. Reverence for the way he could make his music shine and reverberate in the hearts and souls of the 2000 punters in the room, but a complete disdain for the fact that he can’t get ENOUGH NOISE out of it. He slaps it and twists his arms around the fretboard trying to coax just that bit more. A highlight for me was the way he used the mic stand to wring extra punch and extra grind on those strings.

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© Stephen Boxshall/Rag and Bone Photography

Playing crowd favourites from their back catalogue such as “No Wow” and “Future Starts Slow” and teaming them with new singles “Doing It To Death”, “Heart Of A Dog” and others that are sure to become classics (“Siberian Nights” is my *faaaaaaavourite*), The Kills really did kill it here in Melbourne Town, and there was not a single soul in that crowd that weren’t warmed through on one of our coldest nights.


words: Mandy Campbell
images: Stephen Boxshall
(images captured at the 3RRR event)

Music and politics have gone hand in hand since the birth of time. I grew up listening to Joan Baez and Bob Dylan – their passionate anti-war prose being my first political education. I remember being a small human, maybe around 10 or 12, and having a conversation with my mother about why people chose to go to war, and why some chose to go to jail rather than be conscripted. I had socialist and progressive values from a young age which fiercely continued into my adult years. Pussy Riot, Midnight Oil, The Beatles/John Lennon, Muse, Rage Against the Machine – all of these artists have been poster children for rebellion and resistance at some stage.

As a teen and adult my musical choices were fairly anti-establishment. I cheered when Pearl Jam took on Ticketmaster and then George Dubya. I fist pump when some of my favourite artists proclaim their disdain for American gun culture. I celebrate the fact that most of my musical choices seem to align with my leftie leanings, and I guess that’s part of  being a rebellious misfit  – it can be hard to find voices in mainstream media that so closely mirror your own thoughts.

And then sometimes I get completely jolted off-side when I hear the political leanings of bands and individuals whom I respect and admire.

During the shocking and horrific attacks on Paris in November 2015, and specifically on the Eagles of Death Metal gig at Le Bataclan, I watched in fervent horror as I saw people who could have been me or any of my friends running for their lives. Blood stained. Injured. Desperate. In the short time since, EODM have given a couple of official interviews. The first of which was recorded for VICE and was completely heart wrenching to watch. I had to watch it over several sittings. Their pain and suffering was absolutely palpable. And as I had met and chatted with both Jesse Hughes and Dave Catching during their last Australian tour, it felt personal. I wanted to reach through my screen and console them, with every inch of my beating heart.

And then the second interview. Given exclusively to French television station iTélé, Hughes passionately and tearfully called for greater access to guns and increased gun ownership, claiming that had everyone in that auditorium that night had a gun on them the death toll would have been far lower, and the siege ended far more quickly.

“Did your French gun control stop a single fucking person from dying at the Bataclan? And if anyone can answer yes, I’d like to hear it, because I don’t think so. I think the only thing that stopped it was some of the bravest men that I’ve ever seen in my life charging head-first into the face of death with their firearms.

“I know people will disagree with me, but it just seems like God made men and women, and that night guns made them equal,” he said. “And I hate it that it’s that way. I think the only way that my mind has been changed is that maybe that until nobody has guns everybody has to have them.

“Because I’ve never seen anyone that’s ever had one dead, and I want everyone to have access to them, and I saw people die that maybe could have lived, I don’t know.”

To say I was absolutely gobsmacked by the sheer hypocrisy and irony of his interview is a massive understatement.

I am not naïve enough to think every artist I am interested in musically holds the same core values as I do. I had seen photos of Hughes on his Instagram feed where he supported gun culture, and given that he lives in the desert I didn’t think it much of a stretch. I had read that he was a Trump supporter – I took that with a grain of salt because *surely* anyone with half a brain in their head doesn’t support that clown. And I’ve met Hughes. He has more than half a brain in his head. He is a deeply compassionate and considerate man. So knowing that about him, I was shocked to my core to hear him mimic the words of the NRA and the right-wing conservative movement. I thought a lot of the rhetoric was a joke that he was playing on us all. He calls himself The Devil, he loves and lives with a porn star (Tuesday Cross), he is a rock’n’roll badass. Was he taking the piss?

Turns out he wasn’t. Recently he has published more politically charged imagery and words on his Instagram feed. And now all I can do is shake my head and feel saddened that our values are so polar opposite. Being the politically motivated woman that I am, the temptation to sell my ticket to their upcoming Melbourne gig is sky high, and I’m finding that choosing between two passions is a tough line for me to draw in the sand.


words and photo: Mandy Campbell

 

Is there anything as quintessentially Melbourne as Cherry Bar? Situated in ACDC Lane, a laneway off a laneway, everything from its grungy interior to its notice at the door proclaiming, “No suits. No sporting apparel”, just screams Melbourne. Cherry Bar is pure Melbourne and pure rock. Everything about it grabs you by the throat and blasts rock music straight into your ears. And the best part about it? It’s usually free entry. Cherry Bar hosts free live music so often that it feels like a betrayal when you show up and find there’s a cover charge.

Cherry Bar is exactly the type of venue where you would expect to hear a band called Diva Demolition, and certainly the band looks the part. Diva Demolition are carefully crafted to let you know they’re a rock band before they even hit the stage. They look like an angry female-centric rock band (my absolute favourite kind), so it surprised me that they frequently play Mt Isa, because I have some pretty strong ideas, that are in no way based on ever having been there, of what Mt Isa is like and the kind of people that frequent the pubs up that way. Hint: not the kind of people that favour angry female-centric rock bands.

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Once they hit the stage though, things became a little clearer. Diva Demolition are pure Aussie Rock.   A little bland for my taste (Aussie Rock not really being my thing), it was clear why Mt Isa has embraced them, and why the rest of Australia could very easily do the same. With the sparse crowd and playing a free gig on a Sunday night, you could be forgiven for expecting a band that’s decent, but not quite ‘there’ yet. Diva Demolition, by contrast, are polished and professional, sounding more like a band that should be playing Festival Hall, or at the very least, The Corner Hotel.

Kylie Cowling has a great voice, and easily holds her own onstage, but it’s impossible not to look at Sherree Newton. The woman fairly oozes charisma. She is a showwoman (totally not a word, but absolutely should be) who looks like she was born to be onstage. She is over-the-top and completely entertaining without being even the slightest bit unnatural. The two women are the core of the band, with two men (or ‘toy boys’, as Sherree and Kylie call them) fading into the background, seemlessly filling out the band’s sound without really drawing attention to themselves.

Their new single, Rock the Zombie, is out now and you can find their full length album on iTunes and Spotify, or actual real-life retailers if you prefer actual CDs.

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words: Claire Watt
photos: Mandy Campbell

I didn’t know what to expect from Echuca’s Winter Blues Fest. Firstly, I’d never really been to Echuca. Secondly, everything I know about blues I learned from repeated viewing of The Blues Brothers and one, mostly repressed viewing of Blues Brothers 2000 (try as I might, I simply can’t get that scene of Elwood standing outside the prison waiting for Jake to show up out of my head). To be honest, I mostly went for the promise of the mulled wine that Mandy was making.

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We expected to go see as many acts as possible over the course of the weekend and bring you a number of reviews, but to be honest, I just don’t think that goes to the heart of the festival. Certainly, there are stand out acts – 19 Twenty and Benny Walker were personal favourites of mine and I was disappointed that I only got to catch Walker for a couple of songs before I had to bid Echuca farewell – but mostly it’s the atmosphere. Despite the fact that the acts play a number of venues around town, the Winter Blues Fest feels a lot like a camping trip where you sit around the campfire drinking while a mate plays guitar. Except on a larger scale. It’s a relaxed weekend, where people from many walks of life wander about at a leisurely pace, stopping for awhile to have a drink and watch a few songs before moving on to the next venue, the next drink, the next musician. Some folks dress up, many dance, all let their guard down and happily share space with strangers.

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Logistically there were some issues. Some venues that featured outdoor gigs were a little close together, so it was difficult to watch one act without being distracted by another just next to it. It was hardly the end of the world though, as the musicians played a number of times at various venues over the course of the weekend, so it was easy enough to catch them elsewhere. It was mildly disappointing that it took a long time to get served at most of the bars and the cost of the beer was inflated for the duration of the weekend – however if you’re used to paying premium prices at venues or festivals around Melbourne it is only a small irritant. I definitely spent less money than I anticipated, and staying in the caravan park helped keep the costs down. The only other thing we felt a bit miffed about was the performer who looked like he was a bit cute in his promo shots – we quickly realised that the arty black and white shots were really hiding a bit of a dork and, frankly, we really should have known.

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I’m no more knowledgeable about blues than I was to begin with. There were some acts that I would have recognised as blues without being told, but just as many that I would have put into a category closer to rock or folk if I’d seen them playing elsewhere. I am, though, a little less ambivalent towards the genre and when I return next year it will be as much for the music as the mulled wine (and maybe to catch another glimpse of the elusive couple of lumberjacks we admired from afar).

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(See the full gallery here: WINTER BLUES FEST GALLERY)


 

words: Claire Watt
photos: Mandy Campbell

Winter Blues Fest, 24th-26th July 2015 Echuca.
(All photos by Mandy Campbell.)

Click on thumbnails for full size images.

It’s not really very fun to head into the night in Melbourne in Winter, but it is always very fun to head out to see La Bastard play. This homegrown surfabilly and good time rock’n’roll band are always a feast for the senses and their gig at the Post Office Hotel in Coburg was no exception.

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The pub was like a warm inviting haven, the heady scent of mulled wine simmering at the bar was just about the most comforting smell you could imagine on a night that felt like it might snow at any moment. The atmosphere was relaxed and jovial, you could really tell that everyone was keen to enjoy La Bastard’s last local show before they head off on their Euro tour next week. The crowd was a sea of some very familiar faces (friends of the band) and people who were there to enjoy the free gig and have a drink or two.

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Once the band started up they were almost immediately joined for a dance by a man I affectionately dubbed Tai Chi Man; his slow and engaged dance style was fun for the band and the crowd to watch, and helped to entice Ben off the “stage” (not that he ever needs any encouragement) and others up to boogie. One thing I love about La Bastard – they always have the crowd dancing. It’s a blast seeing people dancing in a small pub environment watching a band, and it’s not something that happens very often in my experience.

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Interval between the two sets saw people disperse from the front bar and only slowly come back in once the second set started but things kicked up a gear again when they played ‘Call of the Wild‘ and the crowd got back on their feet as Ben and Dick got up on tables and Anna danced around and through the crowd.

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If you get a chance to see La Bastard when they get back from Europe, please do. Trust me when I say you’ll be in for a toe tapping good time, and I dare you to not dance.

SEE THE FULL GALLERY HERE

La Bastard, 4th July 2015 at the Post Office Hotel.
(All photos by Mandy Campbell.)

READ OUR REVIEW HERE

Click on thumbnails for full size images.

First Aid Kit first came into my consciousness through a couple of covers – firstly through Kingswood covering ‘Wolf‘, and then through First Aid Kit themselves covering Jack White’s ‘Love Interruption‘ for Triple J’s Live at the Wireless.

Back in March First Aid Kit toured the east coast in some of their biggest headline gigs, as well as a slot at both Golden Plains and WOMADelaide. Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg command attention with their strong and beautiful harmonies, hair swishing and keyboard pounding, and don’t let your mind once wander from the performance in front of you. The stunning Palais was the perfect backdrop for their folky blues and the sold out crowd were enraptured from the moment the women entered the stage.

If you’ve never seen First Aid Kit make sure you catch them next time they’re here. They are currently on a bit of a break while they write some new songs and “see what happens”. Lets hope they hit our shores again really soon.

Full gallery can be seen here at TONE DEAF.
(click on image for slideshow)

Earlier this month I was able to shoot and be mesmerised by TV On The Radio live here at the Forum in Melbourne. Not knowing much about them or their music, I went in with an open mind and I was very pleasantly surprised. They were energetic and charismatic, and singer Tunde Adebimpe had the pumping crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.

Full gallery can be seen here at TONE DEAF.
(Click on image for slideshow)