Photography: McLean Stephenson
Vivid is a festival that takes place in the city I grew up in, the city I love, the city of Sydney, in a little building I like to call The Opera House. I know all about live music. That's on account of I've played over one hundred live performances across most continents of the globe. That gives me two things. One is seasoned road muscle. The other is the right to comment on live music from a critical perspective. I do this for a living. The acts I play in are the best in the world at what they do. Look at Alex Cameron. That's my business partner. It’s not a coincidence that our act gets hired the world over to open stages for hot rock acts. It's just a fact. It's show business and I have expectations and desires about what happens on stage. I want hot shows. I want professionalism in everything I see. These are my standards for things.
Al from Snake and Friends
Saturday - Repressed Records
Holy kimono. It's a nice night for feeling good and seeing the beautiful people of Sydney move around. The first band I walked in on was Snake and Friends. They're a five piece and Snake is a handsome looking gentleman named Al. It's real low key but effective rock. Attractive men, hot babes on the rhythm section and lots of good stuff. It's my kinda rock show. There's a lotta gear on stage and a couple of saxophones. A costly old drum machine looking amp. It could also have been one of those digital drum machine things. The handsome man said something about it being their first show. Good luck to 'em. Hope their label has money because a band like that's costly to tour.
Sunday - The Drones
Let's get one thing straight, the Drones are flippin' rock and roll. They don't look it. These guys have a jeans and collared shirt type vibe. They dress like adults because they are. And they sing songs like adults. They write about a platform of culture that can't be accessed by these young kids. Gareth just works the guitar with hostility. It's that perfect place rock goes to where all the players are only just in control and it's exhilarating and fun. It was emotional. If it had been the same crowd as Royal Headache they would a needed the cops again but it was a more civilised. A people who own-a-Mazda-3 type crowd. There was one point where I looked out at the crowd and just saw a bunch of balding men and beautiful women nodding their heads back and forth. Not in unison. Unevenly. It was like some uncoordinated celebration of people with no rhythm. People were listening.
Wednesday - The Preatures
Doing anything solo is a beautiful thing. It took me until the age of 25 to realise how good it could feel. To go get a meal at a restaurant by yourself. Catch a movie. Just sit there in silence.
I went in to watch the Preatures alone. They'd put me in some nice close seats. The set took a good while to warm up but when Izzy Manfredi sat playing the keys it started to feel good. They went off stage and when they came back she'd done a costume change and the whole thing switched up to a real pop vibe and started gettin' it real nice and hot. They played a Divinyls cover and that summed up the tone change. Manfredi literally clutched a textbook to her chest during one song and made her way around like a dynamo. There were a lot a dramatics. The rest of the show was fun and their hit song "Is This How You Feel?" went hard but their show has a lot a filler. They're a hard touring band and I got all sorts of respect for that.
Thursday - Bill Callahan
I don't revere Bill the way a lot a indie kids do. It's almost competitive. You have to give it to the guy though. There's a reason for the reverence that isn't just about great albums. He has an onstage presence that's hard to explain. Real low key three man set up. Percussion, bass, guitar and himself, and they don't have any trouble filling the whole auditorium. It's the best show I seen in a while. People say how he's a minimalist but it doesn't feel like a conscious decision. Nothing's excluded for the sake of minimalism, it's just the calibre of songwriting and performance doesn't require anything beyond what it's doin' to get across the line. A good rock show is a hell of a thing and this was one a the best I've ever seen.
Friday - Future Classic
I missed most of Seekae's set but caught their last two songs. They're a flippin' great band with great music, but their fans are a bunch a nerds and JB is one of the biggest wieners in Australian music. It doesn't take away from the show, they were playing on the back boardwalk, framed by the harbour bridge, and they played the tail end of what seemed to be a smashing set. Those f*$ks better decide what they're doing though. They're friends of mine and I don't want to see anyone I know sittin on the fence just cause they got a couple of good reviews.
I made it back in time to catch the tail end of Flumes set, which I found enjoyable. He's a young dog and his popularity irritates me but the show was a flippin' party. People were going nuts. Marcus Whale come out and played a remix of Collarbone's song "Turning". He's a talented man and his frontmanship has energy and soul.
Halfway are a cool crew. Put on these hip hop nights. I heard they take their fees and use em to charter young folk in from the outter suburbs so as they party in the CBD. Got in there and it was pretty much what you expect of a party. Lot a hot young people. Me and Ken refrained from the d-floor for some reason. Possibly fear. The music was real electronic and slow. Real loud too. No flak in the air whatsoever. I was impressed by that due to Sydney sometimes forgets itself of a Saturday night. Real nice vibe.
Kirin J Callinan
I was due to play a number with Kirin J Callinan on my saxophone which was very exciting for me. And I figured it'd give me a good vantage to review TV on the Radio.
I got the shakes before stage time but hopefully no one noticed. I can never pick the shows I get nervous for but this one made sense. There's nothing wrong with the shakey dakes so long as you reel it in and play your part ok. I think I did. Kirin put on a beautiful show. He always does. The guy is a pro, has a beautiful voice and writes songs you don't expect. He's an alluring creature, real sexy and coy, and he had the whole crowd holding on to his words by the end.
TV on the Radio
TV on the Radio
I accidentally interrupted TV on the Radio's pre show huddle. It looked like some good shit. Good energy. I stashed my sax and went to the front and it was sounding beautiful and big. They played most of the material from their new album, which would normally irk folks, but their new album kind of rules and it sounds excellent live. At one point Kyp said the phrase "super psyched", which would generally cause me to leave a room, but these guys were running such a hot a stage act I stayed the course. Heck, I might have even been feelin "super psyched" myself.
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