Feature: Belles Will Ring

belles will ring review, belles will ring sydney feature interview, margaret tran belles will ring
I encountered who could quite possibly my favourite Sydney band, Belles Will Ring way back in 2006 when they opened for Death Cab For Cutie. I walked in pumped to see Transatlanticism unfold before my ears and eyes, but was completely carried away by the beautiful sounds of psychedelia washing over me. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before – a gorgeous thing that seemed to restore my faith in the Sydney music scene. The way the chords and sounds just seemed to wash over the crowd, floating softly in small lush fragments on air.

Anyhoo, I got the opportunity to interview the lead singer Liam Judson about the writing process, and the songs they were looking to unleash with their new album (which they’re currently working on). As music editor of Vibewire, I banged it up here. Also accessible below..



Belles Will Ring released an exquisite slowburn of retro psychedelic sounds to critical acclaim last year with their debut Mood Patterns. Liam Judson sat down to discuss the band’s upcoming show and writing for the new album.

Belles Will Ring entered the Sydney music scene like the proverbial slivers of sun on a dreary rain-drenched afternoon. At a time when the aural landscape felt saturated by electro beats and 80s disco revival, the Blue Mountains band offered some purer retrospect via simple melodies and refreshing though oddly seductive psychedelia. The fact that it’s barely been two years since the band started out is hard to fathom, especially considering the release of their debut LP within their first year of existence.

“Things happened for us really quickly, which was great, and that was one of the things that people would always point out,” says Liam Judson, lead singer and guitarist. “They’d say ‘oh Belles Will Ring, they’re so fresh, they’re so new, they’ve only been around for x amount of months or so’, and that kind of thing always sort of follows you around. But then you think, there’s absolutely nothing new about us anymore. We’re totally old, right now.”

There’s a self-deprecating quality to the band despite their serious pursuit of music. The bespectacled Liam in particular has a tendency to find things to keep his hands busy as we talk on a quiet night at The Annandale. The earnestness about the new record and the stuff that inspires the band is tangible in the way he talks and the much-loved sounds of Mood Patterns.

“A lot of people said it was really retro and all, and I understand that. There’s no hiding the fact that we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from a lot sounds over the late 60s,” he concedes. “But I like to think that [our music] is the sound of modern music.”

He appears adamant in making the distinction between old and new, as we start talking about new bands. “I sort of get freaked out by bands who do 60s bands really well,” he says, a sense of quiet observation in his tone. “They even do the suits and sort of mod haircuts, and everything is just so spot on, that it’s all kitsch, and you wonder how really relevant it is.”

When asked if there’s any pressure to live up to the first album and the prospect of suffering “second album syndrome”, Liam shakes his head.

“I’ve never felt the need to think, ‘oh how does this compare to Mood Patterns’. I haven’t even listened to Mood Patterns for a while,” he says. “And if I was freaked out about it, I would probably try to be infused from what I should do. If we like it, then there’s a good chance that a whole bunch of other people will like it, cuz you know, we’re not that weird.” He pauses. “I like to think we’re not, I know we are fairly strange people.”

With a new single looking to be released by the year’s end, Liam and fellow band mate Aidan Roberts have been holed up in the Mountains region for the past few months writing new songs. With recording being done in various rooms in his folks’ house, we can expect similar Belles’ compositions, more distinct highs and lows and “hopefully, it’s less ‘oh it’s a retro record’.”

“It’s not gonna freak people out, though it is a bit of a left turn,” Liam says of the new sound. “It’s probably a bit more varied in a sense that it’s different to Mood Patterns, it goes to more extremes. The first one has a kind of walking tempo to the whole thing, it was crusier, whereas this one is probably a bit more severe and it probably a bit softer too.”

The song-writing process doesn’t seem to have been entirely difficult, with old songs being brought out from the dusty memory banks pre-debut, and new ones being written moments before recording sessions. That said, Liam admits to having rather few recollections of the writing process.

“Who knows where the songs come from,” he says, fiddling with my tape recorder. “I don’t know where I write them, how I write them. They just end up there. I have no memory of writing them.” He takes a moment to consider the previous record. “I sort of remember writing Coldest Heart, sort of. It was in a particular room in my folks’ house in the mountains, and I thought that’s a great tune.”

With their live shows, audiences familiar with the original five-piece line up will notice the absence of one particular keyboardist, Jacqui Schlender. Liam says that just like any band, “we just had to split apart for several reasons – it’s not a big thing. That was Belles Will Ring then, this is Belles Will Ring now.” This definitely hasn’t affected live performances, as recent reviews have continually lauded. It’s all a case of keeping it “fresh” and new as they quietly permeate the live music scene.

“Some songs, we probably don’t play as much now because there were songs we playing a whole lot when you first start out, but the beauty of that is that when you stop playing it for like six months, and then you just think, ‘yeah let’s pull this out’, and it’s the freshest thing you could do.”

Belles Will Ring seem to have mastered the pleasing bridge between old and new, melding it to create the sound of a retro-futurist. Going by the success of their live shows and the melodies that seem to induce sporadic skipping through meadows, the band have definitely created an intriguing niche.

“What we’re always trying to do is to create music that just totally surrounds. We want the sound to be kind of dancing around you.”

St Jerome’s Laneway Festival (02.03.08)

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So I went to what will hopefully be my last gig for a long time on Sunday (I seriously need rehab for my full-blown gig addiction) – St Jerome’s Laneway Festival was splendid! There should be more micro-gigs in Australia where independent and unsigned bands are given its own prime space for the year. That said, there have been a rather ridiculous amount of festivals coming through in recent years: Future Music, Parklife, Good Vibrations, V Festival, and that’s all on top of the annual Big Day Out, Homebake, and inaugural Splendour In The Grass (for which tickets are freakin’ impossible to get!). It seems that jmag got it right with their latest issue – “electro is killing pub gigs”.

But it’s not just electro – music itself seems to be moving in the digital direction, as downloads of both the illegal and legal kind taking its toll on CD and record sales, thereby significantly reducing the average income for musos. So really, what choice do they have other than to tour, and tour often. Not that I’m complaining – the microbyted quality of an mp3 is nothing compared to the atmosphere at a live gig. And what better way to sample all of this mind-blowing music than via a festival. The only thing you have to worry about is time clashes like Gotye being on at the same time as The Presets and The Brunettes, or Broken Social Scene being on at the same time as Dan Deacon – clashes of which I fiercely shake my fist to.

Anyhoo, below is a gig review I drummed up for Sunday’s glorious event. I submitted it to FasterLouder, but it didn’t get published because the editor of The Brag (Elmo Keep) got in first. Grrr..

Photos are on my Facebook by the way! And there are a gazillion if you look them up on Flickr.


St Jerome’s Laneway Festival

Circular Quay, Sydney


With the onslaught of music festivals in recent years, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival is a little ray of sunshine in a darkened alley of otherwise mind-numbing genres. Indeed, the clouds threatened a downpour as punters rocked up in their decidedly individualist garb – flannel shirts and wayfarer sunnies in equal parts please.

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But no matter, the sun proved its staying power and was cheerfully helped along by the power pop sounds of a suit-wearing trio. Performing to a handful of early Sunday morning risers on the stage closest to the entrance, The Basics gave a charmingly observed set as the first act of the day. Wally de Backer, a.k.a. Gotye sat hidden in the back, possibly to give his long time band mates Tim Heath and Kris Schroeder some time in the spotlight. Despite their shining tunes, it was clear that Wally quietly outshone his crew with his stunning vocals and mild drummer gymnastics, the drum kit left shaking from his beats.

Ghostwood have been playing the live scene for a good 18 months, and their punk rock drawl often brings a fairly strong crowd to their shows, curious onlookers included. That said, they did little to maximise the laneway space of Reiby Place to their potential and left a promising sound quite unfulfilled. On a similar plane, there followed The Devastations who unfurled their own brand of moody rock to a politely intrigued crowd. Unfortunately, I wasn’t intrigued enough so it was back to the Park Stage for some swing dancing via Little Red.

st jerome's laneway festival 2008, broken social scene, little red, margaret tran st jerome's laneway festival sydney 2008 review, vasco era, manchester orchestra, gotye, bridezilla, devastations, the panics review, stars sydney 2008 laneway festival, feist broken social scene, kevin drew feistLittle Red

The Melbourne boys of Little Red continued the do-wopping trend set by The Basics as they filled the canopied area with sweet tunes of holding hands and monogamous relationships. With the joyous fizzy dream of an ice cream soda, their marriage of The Kinks ’ pop-rocks and Beach Boys groove sent a growing crowd to partake in their own brand of toe-tapping, though their rock star swagger and throbbing bass lines provided a curious sexual lining to their otherwise innocent personas.

Indeed, the Laneway Festival provides a platform for new and upcoming bands to strut their stuff to a smorgasboard of indie enthusiasts where music tastes are as diverse as they are intriguing. Perhaps the most curiosity-driven crowd arrived when Manchester Orchestra took the Reiby Place stage, and with a name as poetic as that, one almost expects a string ensemble to join their otherwise tempered rock. With vocals reminiscent of Placebo, Manchester Orchestra gave Sydney a solid performance to their music on the back of their, ahem, virgin record, I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child. The crowd threw appreciative applause as lead singer Andy Hull bestowed his pleasantries on them to see his band.

st jerome's laneway festival 2008, broken social scene, little red, margaret tran st jerome's laneway festival sydney 2008 review, vasco era, manchester orchestra, gotye, bridezilla, devastations, the panics review, stars sydney 2008 laneway festival, feist broken social scene, kevin drew feistThe Panics

From there, this reviewer inched back towards the Park Stage with sausage and notepad in tow to witness emerging Australian darlings The Panics. The sheer volume of the crowd became apparent as the path to the front barrier was quickly obstructed by devoted fans sitting put and staking their claim to the popular stage. The Panics are quickly becoming infused into the Australian music psyche, not unlike the lads of You Am I. With a third album firmly latched under their well-worn belts, The Panics launched into the oh-so-familiar tracks from A House on a Street in a Town I’m From, and Sleeps Like A Curse. A faulty keyboard threw off their performance with a “ghostly” jarring to their otherwise melodramatic blend of rock and psychedelia. As the stage crew attempted to replace the keyboard with what sounded like a second faulty one, lead singer Jae Laffer unleashed a torrent of F-bombs, a testimony to his admission that he doesn’t “work well under stress”. But worry not, for all was forgotten as guitarist Julian Douglas led an arm waving of support as the familiar opening chords of Don’t Fight It filled our ears. Technical glitches cut the set short, but the adoring crowd really couldn’t give a flying fuck – pleasing is as pleasing does.

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Soon after, Stars blended dreamy pop tunes with the ever-melodious Torquil Campbell. The trees lining the area provided a fitting atmosphere for the stronghold of fans – one girl sang along word perfect to each and every one of their musical offerings. Amy Millan stuck a decided brash rock chick persona, her part balanced by Torquil’s exuberant singing and clapping – an action that’s seemingly become a crucial part of indie pop. Indeed, the fun was just beginning as Torquil introduced a song about “fucking someone to death” with a well-observed Australian accent, providing a violently prosaic tinge to their set with One More Night (Your Ex-Lover Remains Dead).

A last minute change and clash to the timetable meant there was no way I was forgoing the next band for Dan Deacon, no matter how amazing people say he is. Kevin Drew emerged with the ever-expansive Broken Social Scene. To say that this band is a supergroup is a profound understatement. There is definitely something brewing in those Canadian waters – the sheer quality of musicians coming out of that place over the past few years is mind-blowing, and Broken Social Scene are no exception. If you thought their gorgeous layers of orchestral joy and guitar noise was splendid on CD, then seeing them play it live is like a whole new revelation.

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Opening to the chorus of audience anticipation, the band dallied across the stage, their fingers articulated in concentration. Stars And Sons provided the first high of the set as Leslie Feist , Stars, and a slew of other members clapped their way into the hearts of an already adoring crowd before skipping off to the sidelines, their figures still visibly dancing. 7/4 (Shoreline) was another highlight as Feist gave us another reason to love her wily ways amidst the stunning cacophony of brass-wielding members. Torquil came out with his trumpet and a nod to his own Australian idol via his emblazoned t-shirt – “I Miss Grant McLennan” – as the air practically hummed with euphoria.

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Part Three of the Broken Social Scene takeover of Sydney came as Leslie Feist took the stage for her solo act leaving Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to puncture her ballads and iPod passengers from the Reiby Place stage with their stellar guitar. That said, Ms Feist radiated powerful Joni Mitchell vibes as she came on stage soon after sunset with her lantern. So interchangeable she seemed that the blues guitar of Janis Joplin, the soft lilting voice of Jane Birkin, and even the brash persona of Stevie Nicks came soaring through her performances. Feist cruised through most of her latest album, jarring the spaces between songs with the odd “fuck you” to the doof-doof sounds of neighbouring stages.

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The Presets

But enough Canadian joy for tonight, as a handful of punters shuffled back to Reiby Place to catch The Presets last performance before their stint in the UK. I would’ve liked to have seen The Brunettes, but the Basement was decidedly out of bounds having reached full capacity about 3 hours previously. That said, a night with The Presets is a guaranteed night well-spent as the electro duo shot through their tracks with the precision of a dance sniper – so compelling were their beats that one really had no option but to dance. Are You The One? and My People proved the biggest hits of the night as the crowd sent St Jerome’s off to the musical ether for another year.

As the dispersing crowd headed for the exit, Gotye finished up at the Park Stage with the closing sounds of Night Drive. And so it was with the rising chorus and sheer joy of his mantra Learnalilgivinanlovin ’ that this punter headed home with gleefully imploding back muscles and a day’s worth of aural splendour.

Explosions In The Sky (15.02.08)

explosions in the sky gig review margaret tran
I’ve always been a fan of Explosions In The Sky ever since my Last.FM player pulled them up during my early aural experiments. Being a fan of Mogwai and Sigur Rós, Explosions was right up my alley. That said, seeing them live is a whole new experience.. Intense only barely begins to describe the atmosphere of the place.

And it seems that University of Sydney’s Manning Bar is fast becoming a formidable venue in the Sydney live scene. February was without a doubt chockers with indie’s finest: Stars, Broken Social Scene, Beirut, Okkervil River, but to name a few.

explosions in the sky gig review margaret tranBroken Social Scene
Freakin’ glorious

Anyhoo, below is the gig review I did for FasterLouder. I personally think I come off as a pretentious wanker, but it’s still fairly readable. Those prog-rock/soundscapes stuff that extreme artsy types listen to can be a hit-and-miss for me sometimes..


Explosions In The Sky
Manning Bar, Sydney
15 February 2008

By expertly balancing the tender tones of Sigur Rós with My Bloody Valentine ’s sadistic brutalities, Explosions In The Sky set an obscenely high bar of expectation for the night. Their late starting time of 10.45PM and requisite support acts only served to heightened the buzz surrounding their maiden performance on our shores.

Wollongong band Ohana meandered onto the stage and unleashed a disjointed mesh of guitars and jagged wails. Indeed they seemed to aim for the punk end of this dizzying prog-rock spectrum, but lacked the energy or presence to really pull it off. The crowd threw appreciative applause, but the band struck an, at times, clichéd chord that did little to stir the senses for this reviewer.

Eluvium on the other hand, was a welcome entrée to the main event as Matthew Cooper shuffled into position. It was a varied and breathtaking experience of soundscapes punctured with conjured images of warfare and its proceeding funeral procession, the sombre piano a testimony to his years of childhood lessons. Being a one-man-band, there was the immediate difficulty in translating the lush layers of sound into a live experience. He alternated between crouching over his DAT players and crouching over his piano, a feat only forgivable by his superb compositions.

Another half hour wait preceded the main event as the crowd ambled closer to the stage. Plastic cups began to litter the carpeted floor of the university hangout, and there was a distinct buzz in the air, heavy with anticipation for the Texan aural artists. Then at last, they arrived, grins apparent on their faces above the roar of applause as they settled into position. After the announcement of the very recent birth of a friend’s baby by guitarist Munaf Rayani, a harrowing explosion (for lack of a better word) of distorted guitar by Michael James opened the set, assaulting the eardrums of those who happened to be nearest to the speakers.

Then came the soft, lilting notes that define the light and shade masterpiece that is Explosions In The Sky. Being so used to seeing microphones follow musicians like an organ extension, one becomes acutely aware that here is a band who let the music do the talking for them. Taking most of the setlist from the records The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place and the popular All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, the band have the outrageously exacting skill of taking you on an almost cathartic journey. Never mind that you might know the songs all by heart, they somehow meld the tracks into one so that it’s impossible to tell which way you’re going to be thrown next. Many punters were standing completely still, their eyes closed in an act of utter submission, allowing their bodies to flow from the proverbial quiet stream into the violent and suffocating ocean.

There are few words that can describe the intensity of experiencing the music live. You get the impression that something terrible is going to happen, and sure enough, it does, its coming obliterating everything in its path. Indeed, some people had to leave the space for a moment or move further away from the stage in a bid to regulate the music. The textured synthesised sounds and the weeping guitars were not done justice by the sound at Manning Bar, the walls of the place threatening to peel away to accommodate. Amazingly, there were a few people talking during the James’ quietly nuanced guitar, but they too were silenced into obedience by the white noise of Mark Smith’s pounding bassline and Rayani’s satanic tones, as he swayed around like a man possessed.

Despite the absence of the beautiful Your Hand In Mine and First Breath After Coma, the band delivered a set worthy if not better than their overused Mogwai comparisons, and leaves this reviewer needing a few days to recover from it all.

gig review: José González

I am stupid behind my usual deadline with this gig review on José González – I usually get it done the morning after the gig. By the way, he was stunning, love love love. But I took a critic perspective with this review. I paid for my ticket, but have since signed on as a contributor for at FasterLouder (about freakin’ time, I know). Hopefully it’ll pass through the editors.. *twiddles thumbs*

I still have a Daft Punk review I’ve been meaning to finish, but let’s face it – how the fuck do you put the Daft Punk experience into words? I was hoping to pitch it Rolling Stone, who’ve since gotten a new editor – HURRAH! No more being freakishly terrified of Simon Wooldridge =D


José González @ Enmore Theatre, 29.12.07
Support: Emily Barker

José González really loves Australia. His recent Enmore gig was his fourth visit to our sweltering shores in just under as many years. Commanding a quietly formidable presence at Newtown’s Enmore Theatre, the artist riffled through his library of finger-plucking tracks with requisite covers thrown into the mix. Indeed there is just something about the Enmore Theatre that keeps musos coming back, and González was no exception, transforming the at times vast space into an intimate mute-lit lounge.

Support Emily Barker turned over a pleasing set with her folk-slash-alternate-country melodies. Dixie Chicks comparisons aside, she found her place between a melancholic Sarah McLachlan and the trace of Stevie Nicks. Indeed, one might even find the strength and clarity of Martha Wainwright if listened hard enough. Barker’s voice is quite an aural gem to behold, as she attracted some appreciative applause from the small crowd who bothered to turn up early.

A rather long 45-minute wait finally saw the Argentinean-cum-Swede stroll onto the stage with his rapidly expanding afro and mo’. A hush descended the murmuring crowd as he opened the show with a powerful rendition of Hints. Fingers moved across the strings like water, hypnotising to those lucky few at the front as we were treated to a humbling instrumental number before crowd pleaser Heartbeats took the show to the first of many highlights of the night.

Percussionist Erik Bodin and back-up vocalist Yukimi Nagamo joined him on stage for Stay In The Shade, before the crowd threw adoration at a less-than-perfect In Our Nature. Indeed, while the song-writing from the In Our Nature record is a lot more adventurous, its surety was not as easily obtained when translated to a live performance. Interspersing a lukewarm Time To Send Someone Away with a haunting rendition of Lovestain merely served to point out exactly in what made Veneer so exquisite. The atmosphere of this song brought the show to a soaring crescendo as we were treated to a more bitter side to the otherwise quiet González. Soonafter, Remain took this fever to a higher octave before a simmering and almost groovy Down The Line.

A change possibly spurred by his growing popularity, the venue was divided into two dancefloors, a move that did little to benefit González’s otherwise mesmerising performance. The presence that he drove on stage is one of drawn out subtlety and climactic in its execution, an impact lost on some of his newer fans. It seemed that the simplicity of his songs found many punters shuffling from sore lower backs, and made the theatre appear cavernous at times. A shame to be sure considering the lush melodies mused with his soft vocal tones; he spent much of the night hunched over his classical guitar, the odd ‘thank you’ thrown to the crowd here and there in between his aurally pleasing twangs and picks.

With such a lack of showmanship, you become acutely aware González’ complacency with his growing popularity and perchance for the stunning covers he puts in place of his otherwise excellent song-writing, which is on par with the likes of Elliot Smith and of course, Nick Drake. The encore proved such brilliance with Deadweight on Velveteen and Crosses before a lack-lustre Abram from his second album. The softly melancholic Kylie Minogue cover aside, it was apparent that the night belonged to one song. A devastating Teardrop closed the night, building to a commanding high, at once breathtaking and true.

A night with José González is one well-spent indeed, especially for a reviewer who’d paid to see him twice before. Despite a slow rise in popularity with the second offering, the songs were supported by his solid efforts with Veneer many of which proved to be the favourites amongst the crowd. The performance was an enlightening end to the year, though it would be a crying shame if he became defined by the covers that he so ingeniously produces.

commercial whore vs. indie kid

The below is a rant that has been niggling the back of my mind these past few weeks. It is difficult for me to hold back any longer, therefore I give you the following. I’m aiming to get this published in either Frankie (top issue this bi-month. Now for another excruciating two month wait for the new one) or the UTS student magazine Vertigo.. *fingers crossed*


Commercial Whore vs. Indie Kid:
Why I Should Be Allowed To Channel Both

These past few weeks have been rather traumatic for me. I’ve been verbally abused on my beliefs, told multiple times that I cannot be one thing as well as the other, as well as financially molested by someone who seems to make love to his own dance routines. It is not quite the experience I’d recommend to anyone suffering a potential existential crisis. And by that I mean the musical kind (because we all know that Foucault is so post-pomo).

I am a passionate supporter of independent and ‘alternative’ music. I have been on a 3-month binge of The Cure (Bloodflowers is splendid and Fascination Street live is like the Karma Sutra in aural form), whilst my current listening buffet consists of Gotye, The Frames, Marianne Faithfull, Brendan Benson, The Basics, Explosions In The Sky, and George Harrison. I am on my way to quoting exactly which Beatles song appeared on which Beatles album (Strawberry Fields Forever appeared on, umm… Magical Mystery Tour?), and I got so excited when I heard The Cure were touring that I called my friend who was on exchange in Sweden to tell her I got us GA tickets (GA stands for ‘general admission’ for you unversed music punters). The amount of money I spend on CDs every month is enough to feed a colony of emaciated children. I believe that iPods and their artsy fartsy coloured dancing silhouettes should consider self-imploding into a much more marketable display of ‘we fucked you over hard!’ (see what you did to those Swedish Caesars Palace!). That means I have never owned an MP3 player, which possibly relegates me to a social standing similar to turd-dom. I get excited every time I hear a new band on Fbi and 2SER, meaning I gleefully implode whenever my mate’s songs get played.

But here is the crux: I watch Idol religiously. And I’m paying to see Justin Timberlake on the first day of November this year. Insert Hitchcockian Psycho shower scene music score here. By admitting these fatal aspects of my personal inclinations, my friends and colleagues run screaming, flinging EP remnants and the Spice Girls on vinyl in their wake, thereby effectively forfeiting any musical respect they ever garnered for me in the first place. The question is, WHY?

One thing I’d like to ask: what is wrong with Idol? And by that I do not mean to open the floodgates of an inexorable damning (I’m so witty) to a hell where Avril Lavigne attempts to skateboard in circular motions whilst chanting “Hey hey, you you” to the tune of Hanson’s ‘Mmmbop’. You cannot deny the indescribable appeal of the Idol concept – unlike Big Wanking Brother, this is actually entertaining. Is it so wrong to look forward to it every year, to guffaw at my race’s inability to breed Idol-esque musicians (Asian Pride represent!), and become enamoured at the very rare though utterly satisfying moments of radness, like last year when the oddly intriguing yet ever so talented Bobby Flynn took the stage?

Being martyred as a result of my ‘Faustian’ ways has afforded me some interesting observations. How much more anal can we get when it comes to differentiating ourselves from ‘the mainstream’? Are we so fearful of becoming tinged in any shape or form by this Machiavellian monster that we call ‘commercialisation’ that it’s made us think in two-tonal dimensions? Does that not defeat the purpose of music? Does music not question our social ideologies and perceptions, whilst simultaneously allowing a certain openness to interpretation?

As much as we proclaim our allegiance to ‘independent’ artists and freely slap on the criticisms regarding the ‘lack of musicianship’ vested in Justin Timberlake and Bon Jovi (for no one can deny the aural pull of Livin’ on A Prayer), the fact of the matter is that the nuances between the mainstream and independent-slash-alternative is blurring. Festivals are popping up left, right, and centre thereby rendering the average punter both confused and broke at time of printing, and they’re all promote one thing – music. Why are we quick to annihilate the promotion of music with our nostril-flaring elitism? Is there something wrong with signing up to both ticketing lists for the Spice Girls and the Falls Festival? And how long can your new favourite band stay truly yours? Sharing is caring – have all those hours of illegal downloading taught you nothing! Music spreads the love, therefore appreciate said love!

My point is – music needs balance. If all you have to listen to is perpetually good and damn near orgiastic music, then what have you got to define it with? This is what we call definition through opposition – there is no north without south, there is no good without bad, and there is no splendid ear candy without the mainstream shit that is polluting the Kyle and Jackie O show (I liken the listening experience to that of O-zone’s ‘Dragostea-di-dei’ – resistance is futile). With the exception of Rihanna-fucking-ella-ella-ella-eh (she had better get out of my aural range before I attempt her surgical removal from the music scene), why should I be crucified for opening my ears to such readily proclaimed examples of banality? If you don’t like it, then don’t listen to it.

Meanwhile, I’m going back to my weekly Sundays and Mondays ‘Idoling’. And I reserve the right to listen to Britney Spears in between my nightly dosage of Mogwai and Lo-tel – everyone else can stay grumpy and discombobulated.


…and by that I mean The Cure variety, not the Shawn Mullins kind (although, catchy song). No I am not a self-proclaimed emo, and please do not stir me into some form of justification that will be thinly disguised as non-sensical rambling. For your information Robert Smith is a musician, and not all musicians angst away with their borrowed guitars.

I have decided that my writing does not possess a voice. It is the type of prose which attempts to carve its own path of distinction, of originality and ‘flair’ (frackin’ wanky assessment criteria), yet ends up in a spluttering heap of stolen expressions, feeble emulations and spluttering impressions of all writers I’ve idolised and loved.

Which I think is part of the reason why I find myself sifting through the photos of said writers (or rather, just the one) via their Facebook profiles like a voyeur of sorts; peering into the unknown world, which on the outskirts seems to mirror my own and yet beneath the surface, scratches the realities of a different world. Different, not wrong.

I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I look at his pictures (ooh ahh, it’s a he!), see the remnants of his childhood upbringings laced in Chinese tradition, visible in the Poloroid-imbued faces of his family. I study his siblings, whom are no doubt equally intelligent, articulate, and perhaps more perceptive than he is. It amazes me how much human beings can accomplish when forcefully removed from their immediate surroundings. Coerced into making a new life, and for this particular one, making the choice of pursuing the arts world in order to discover the perfect way to express himself and find truth. To quote Flaubert: ‘Of all lies, art is the least untrue’.

But of course, I am making presumptions. And I am neck-deep in airy fairy post-modern wank (damn stream-of-consciousness prose!) as a result of my insomnia, so I will try to get to the point.

The question, I suppose, is: how much do you need to be a writer? How much time, how much emotion, euphoria, determination, creativity (if any at all), focused observation without lacking the ability to think broadly, criticism, and most importantly, how much life do you need? What makes a writer? What makes the self-indulgent art that they immerse themselves in so important to others? And is it truly self-indulgent? Do writers scramble for their audience’s approval? Do expressionists?

Obviously these are all questions I should be answering myself, but I am in a thick state mind now (yes, have dense head), so I shall settle for pondering.

Other news:
– Met the lead singer Kele of Bloc Party. Photo, signed ticket stub, and evidence of a so-ecstatic-I-feel-trippy moi is accessible via my Facebook photos. Have now concluded that myself and my close-knit gig posse are all connected to Kele. Me and another friend met him, one hugged him right before she was pushed out from the front of the barrier at Splendour In The Grass, and the other saw him on a Sydney Bus. It’s fate!
– Also saw The Cure about a fortnight ago: came out of the Sydney Entertainment Centre deaf for four days a.k.a. titinnus freak out and it is a SHIT venue. But worry not – my ears are still good!
Masters in Media Practice is 70% international students from China which has me seriously pondering the usefulness of a degree to such students (journalism does not exist in China full stop, bold, underlined, capitals, neon flashing lights, spruiker), as well as my own usefulness.
Arctic Monkeys are still serious GOLD.
– Have started my Girlfriend internship. Am now a gung-ho online content producer for the next year or so (for one day a week! It was initially a three week trial, but I must’ve done something astounding because I am now signed on for the next 365 days. JOY!! Ooh sexy CV, uh-huh)
– 21st Birthdays have become frighteningly abundant. Am now engrossed in my own multi-paged (and multi-dimensional) proposal for my pending 21st shindig
– Never underestimate the power of multiple half hours indulging in productive time consumption via Dictionary.Com and Thesaurus.Com.
Dawson’s Creek is gold for expanding vocabulary

god put a smile upon your face

I’m listening to Coldplay for the first time in a long time. I remember their gig way back on 27 June 2006 – one year ago, actually, where I became the somewhat reluctant recipient of a spare ticket to, though I did not know it at the time, a beautiful cacophony and display of musicianship (in the truest sense of the word) by the quietly spoken and utterly ethereal talent that is Chris Martin. What has me taken in so many indescribable ways, is that this particular song seems to imbue in me a kind of wild abandon, a visceral impact, which I suppose is the whole purpose of music, really – I wrote a gig review on it via MySpace (oh back in the day Lol), which can be accessed here.

Anyhoo, I’m sitting at home for yet another Saturday night pondering the notion of writing and keeping a blog. Most people write about the nuances in the everyday lives, weaving a kind of epic narrative around the presupposed idiosyncrasies of their world, thinly disguised as a prime form of self-indulgence. Having said that, I don’t deny that what I’m doing right this moment is self-indulgent.. I mean, we all aspire for our 15 minutes of fame, and really, is there no better way to do it than through a blog? Or MySpace/YouTube.. such is the current culture that we live in. We hoist ourselves upon a pedestal in our own minds because we want to be recognised. We’re mortally afraid of being insignificant, so we do all we can to spread our legacy by any means possible (a somewhat related tangent: check out this week’s The Essay by Larry Buttrose in the Spectrum section via the brick that is SMH today – sorry, I can’t find the link to it), and to preserve it through any means.

What I wonder is why people write about certain things in their lives. I suppose the things that they deem important, of course. If it were up to me, I’d write about the people in my life, who I love, admire, am jealous of, those who stir such a feeling of frustration within me that the only way to release it is to write it all down. But that’s the crux – the whole point of keeping a blog is to write a diary with the knowledge that it’s being read by third parties. You write with almost the intention that it WILL be read by someone other than you.

Which is why most of my thoughts take the form of emails to each of those people in my lives. In emails, comments, random text messages, letters, gifts, phone calls. Communication is what it comes down to. I mean, of course, it’d be easier to write about all the things I aspire to be and all my insecurities and fears in a blog so that it saves me having to repeat myself to certain people. But the fact of the matter is, I’ve realised that some things don’t need to be posted up for all the world to see. There are matters that are private and serve no real interest to the voyueristic society in which we live.

I’m chuckling at myself as I’m writing this, because my profession really serves to air out all those truths and opinions that people may have – ‘expose’ the nuances and idiosyncrasies and, at times, hypocrasies of some individuals. About a year ago, I would’ve been all for exposing the evils of the world and certain individuals – but I am different person now. More learned, weathered, wiser if anything. But I guess when that time comes, when I find myself wrestling personally with that old ‘conflict of interest’ debate, it will come and I’ll deal with it when it does. And while I am fully aware that my profession has its own contradictions (just like any other profession), I vow to guard my own privacy for as long as I can.

I think what it comes down to though, is what we choose to make significant in our lives, what we hold most dear. And so to quote Justin Heazlewood in this month’s issue of Frankie (No. 18, Jul/Aug 2007, p.108):

“My emotional intelligence decides that [life] is better spent writing, gigging, and loving my family and friends… I ride through the muck with a shield of quiet concern, a sword of wit and creativity on a very wonky horse of metaphors.”

But enough with the rambling and existential ponderings – I’m hungry…

P.S. A small thing to keep in mind: subjectivity reigns.

Live Earth gig review + existential crisis #87

I banged out a gig review of Live Earth and sent all 1104 words (they’d definitely have to edit it down to about 700 words – it’s impossible editing your own work) to street press mag the Drum Media with the request and thanks that if deemed worthy, the review would be published in the upcoming issue. Now I read a fairly mediocre review in my copy of said issue of the Drum, critiquing an event that, despite its commercial nature, did not really cover the critiques that came with reviewing.

I feel a profound sense of inadequacy, possibly due to my ability to be over-anxious when it comes to not achieving what I’ve set out to do. That coupled with my present anxiety over not hearing any response from USYD about my Masters application, which will eventuate into an overwhelming (and unnecessary) sense of worthlessness means that I am one very tightly wounded individual right now.

But of course, this is just me feeling wounded at not being published so really, don’t listen to me. Such is the self-indulgence and narcissism that comes with blogging YAY.

My review is below for you to make up your own mind.


LIVE EARTH – 07.07.07

With climate change warm in the air, the day was not without a sense of trepidation as the cream of the Australian music crop came together to raise awareness on this most pressing issue in our modern world. I mean, with Al Gore’s stamp of approval, any excuse for a concert right?

An Aboriginal performance paid homage to the nation’s indigenous roots before Blue King Brown opened the bill with an energetic set to wake the early Saturday morning punters trickling into the Oval A and B sections. There was a little more action in the stadium when Toni Collette and The Finish took the stage. Now I haven’t always been a fan of Ms Collette, save for her performance in Muriel’s Wedding, but her band wasn’t half bad. Despite the highlight being her cover of T. Rex’s Children of the Revolution, she carried a firm stage presence. Her songs failed to stir any particular interest in me however – blandness reigned.

The epic food lines at the stalls scattered around the innards of the stadium had me clutching my poor excuse for a pizza as I ran to catch the remnants of Sneaky Sound System. Bridging the gap between indie and mainstream, they made the most of their measly twenty-five minute set, momentarily transforming the stadium into a club house, albeit a very open spaced one. Soon after, The Ghostwriters performed a solid set as Rob Hirst took the stage, unleashing original songs and a classic Midnight Oil number, When The Generals Talk.

Paul Kelly got the crowd going with a gorgeous rendition of From Little Things, Big Things Grow as Missy Higgins and John Butler took the stage earlier than scheduled to support the man himself – a definite highlight. Soon after, Eskimo Joe donned their pretentious mainstream coats and took the stage with yet another lack-lustre and tightly rehearsed set, opening with crowd-pleaser From The Sea and ending with the commercial earworm that is Black Fingernails, Red Wine. In a set riddled with new tracks (hate to break it to you boys, but a little Sweater every now and then won’t tarnish those skinny jeans of yours), frontman Kav Temperley renounced London Bombs as a political song. But the political nature of the event itself was already tangible in the air. Regardless, the punters soaked it in and onward we swayed.

The darling of the Australian music scene Missy Higgins bounded on the stage for the second time that day, shooting off tracks from her new record, intercepting The Wrong Girl and Where I Stood with sing-a-long renditions of The Special Two and Scar as her gentle though formidable stage presence was felt. John Butler Trio took the stage, sending the crowd into a dancing frenzy as he punched out a solid performance of Zebra before riffling off Funky Tonight and an undeniably joyous Better Than. He spoke to the audience of looking after Mother Earth (as if we needed reminding) before launching into Treat Yo Mama with lute in tow and a mind-blowing drum solo by percussionist Michael Barker.

The inexorable juggernaut that is Wolfmother unleashed a solid and tight set to a somewhat unworthy crowd. One punter suggested the lack of enthusiasm to the way in which moshing generated heat, and that such refrain would serve as an example to the cause. Indeed, it seemed that green was definitely the taste of the day as Andrew Stockdale held up his double-necked guitar proclaiming, ‘We used just one tree to make two guitars!’ much to the puzzled punters.

In what may very well have been his only gig of the year, tourist Jack Johnson strolled onto the stage with a certain humility and laid-back attitude before strumming an almost crowd-led rendition of Times Like These. Visibly amused by such antics, Mr Johnson teased the audience with ‘I bet you know the words to this next one’ as the opening chords of The Horizon Has Been Defeated guaranteed instant transportation to a tropical island of punter choice. Interspersing older tracks with his newer ones, the crowd was giddy with excitement as they sang along to Gone, a track unfortunately made famous by the ubiquitous Black Eyed Peas.

The screens on either side of the stage occupied the time between sets, interlacing short films that pushed the climate change and water/energy/oil/methane-saving message via Cate Blanchett, Will Ferrell and videos of the eternally annoying Rihanna. Signs brought by the audience, ranging from the hilarious ‘Jack Johnson, have my GREEN babies’ to the downright clever ‘I HEART energy efficient LAMP’, were projected onto said screens for amusement. Then Peter Garrett took the stage to introduce recently reformed headliners Crowded House. Punters cheered for the former Midnight Oil frontman as he put his own green two cents into the bill, telling the crowd that climate change was the biggest issue affecting modern society before dropping the Rudd factor as the crowd shuffled in discomfort. It was almost sad to see a man once revered as rock royalty seemingly weighed down by the political agendas of his party.

Then Crowded House took the stage as the crowd threw their adoration in screams and applause, and let’s face it, tonight was all about them. Neil Finn has become a man one year short of fifty and definitely not one short of rocking out, as he greeted the crowd with a genuine happiness spreading through the lines on his face. And with that familiar opening riff of Locked Out, we were overwhelmingly assured of Crowded House as they once were, at least as much as they are without the late Paul Hester. There was definitely no denying the absence of the drummer that was, but this did not deter the crowd’s raw enthusiasm for the band that formed a big part of the ‘soundtrack to our lives’. Shooting off tracks with a grandiose sing-a-long of Fall At Your Feet and Don’t Dream It’s Over, as well new record offering Silent House, the audience was brimming with nostalgic euphoria, grins and cheers inescapable. The gimmick-free power outage of the tyred backdrop of lights during an ironic Four Seasons In One Day provided a poetic touch to the night; ‘I guess they’re trying to save energy’ replied a surprised Mr Finn. The entire bill took to the stage, including a child-rearing John Butler, to bow out the night with Weather With You, before a Neil Finn-led Better Be Home Soon during the encore.

And so it was, a day (and night) of environmentally friendly and positive green energy as weary punters trudged toward the bus queues and toward Central Station by foot, their heads filled with Orwellian energy saving tactics.

i refuse to procrastinate…

…by writing a blog for the first time in over 45 days. Perhaps more, perhaps less. My calculations are off.

I’ve logged into Facebook for the umpteenth time and nothing has changed and I seriously cannot be screwed wall-whoring anyone at this point in time.

I am functioning on about two and half hours of sleep. I went to bed at 5AM this morning finishing a 3000 word draft for my Crime Fiction class where my tutor has a decidedly stupid vendetta against me.

Right now I am working on my 1500 word travel piece for Creative Non Fiction. It is due Wednesday afternoon which is in about 36 hours. I am also meant to be working on my International Communication essay which aspires to be 3000 words in length and of a Credit variety. Obviously this will not happen. I am completely fucked.

Which is why I’ve begun YouTubing Teeny Little Super Guy and Rove’s interview with Elmo, along with Gumby. I have spent countless hours on Wikipedia researching the British Monarchy via Elizabeth I, the French Monarchy via Marie Antoinette, and tomorrow night I may move onto the Russian Monarchy via Tsar Nicholas II before it fell to revolution in 1917. Not to mention countless games of online Monopoly with the only other insomniac I know…

Some updates (apologies for being a self-indulgent turd whose prose has completely died in the arse):

– I’ve discovered the brilliance of Dappled Cities Fly
– I’m applying for Masters in Media Practice at the University of Sydney for their semester two intake because I’ve suddenly realised that I do not want to leave university just yet, and the idea of being 21 with a Masters degree pleases me very much
– I did a four week internship at Rolling Stone Australia and made rad friends with my deputy editor. God damn, it looks splendourific on my CV
– Am still yet to kick the habit of leaving things til the absolute last minute, right now being a prime example. I have to get up for work in about 4 hours and here I am typing out a conglomerate of thoughts
– I became addicted to Scrubs
– I fell in love with Ethan Hawke (via Reality Bites) and Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson is soooo astoundingly good!)
– I realised that my friend has a damn good band called Ghosts of Television
– I’ve also realised that no matter how hard I try to resist, I have slowly become the pretentious artsy fartsy wank that I’ve tried so hard not to become… but then again, I fluctuate between moments of absolute idiocy (artsy wank) and normalcy (typical Maggie-ness) depending on what the situation is
– I window show with a gusto, that is, looking and not buying into every single shop
– I don’t volunteer at 2SER as much as I’d like to mostly due to my increased levels of apathy
– Being twenteen is potentially overrated; I woke up the morning of my twentieth and thought, ‘Oh it’s my birthday today’ and then ‘Dammit, I’m late for my 9AM lecture…’
– I’m going to Melbourne with my workmate Ausseela at the end of June which is smackbang in the middle of Melburnian winter which is notoriously cold Yarghh..
– I’m still yet to rid myself of this tendency to write long, pointless entries regardless of the occasion..
– Getting over the death of someone close to you is easy in some ways and harder in many more.

My eyeballs are killing me, and I still have 1000 words to go for this travel piece. Ironically enough, I reckon I just banged out over 1000 words to write this blog entry! AARGHHHH…