The other night I was told, that since I have never left the country I know nothing about what constitutes good taste. I was also told that I was a loser for listening to Pavement. With that being said, I went to Baltimore on Saturday to see a band, who clearly must be shitty, and hung out with a bunch of other losers.
The first two bands, Mr Moccasin and Slow Jerks, are both local products. I only heard two songs from Mr Moccasin, but between that and what I heard on their Myspace, they sounded alright. People, who were there and had seen this band before, said that the group sounded better than they had in the past. I had tried listening to Slow Jerks earlier in the day, but my internet research skills failed me and I found nothing. It’s entirely possible that this was by design, though. Seeing these dudes live, I got the impression that perhaps they wanted to do everything DIY and gradually work their way up. If that’s the case, then props are in order.
The Axemen are from New Zealand, and apparently they formed back in 1981 as a means of protesting the fact that some South African rugby team was playing matches in New Zealand which violated an agreement of some sort. They were pretty tight live, and it wasn’t until the end of the set that I realized that my head had been bobbing the entire time.
This may have been a nervous reaction because early on in the set it occurred to me that the girl from Times New Viking was standing next to me. All the members of the band were in my general vicinity, in fact, and as a result I drank accordingly.
What struck me the most about The Axemen was how they came across as a band with the best of intentions.
It all just seemed so honest. They brought the one dude [Adam Elliot] from Times New Viking up on stage to do a song at one point, and that was pretty rad.
Towards the end, the guitarist took his shirt off and wiped the brow of the lead singer. The best of intentions. The whole set was a good time, and the forty people in attendance all seemed to dig it.
Times New Viking are quite possibly the loudest band that I listen to, and I went to this show to see how loud it could get. It was quite loud, and this was accentuated by the fact that the Talking Head is about the size of a hallway and the only difference between the club and an actual hallway is the fact that the Talking Head has a bathroom.
I had done some preliminary research about what TNV was like live, but all I found was that they get loud and that the drummer talks too much. Looking back, the drummer didn’t say a whole lot once the set got underway so maybe the internets was wrong about that.
TNV might be better live than they are on record.
They are a band of sounds, and that’s awesome on it’s own, but in concert the melodies are much more apparent. I do have to admit that I don’t own the latest record, and it’s entirely possible that they were just playing songs off of it and it’s also quite possible that the new disc is slightly more hi-fi than previous albums. I know for a fact that didn’t play all new songs because I recognized several and also because at one point they said, “Now, we’re going to play some old songs.”
Everyone was into it. There was more moving around at this show then at anything else I’ve seen all year, for the most part.
There was this one girl, and she seemed really tapped into the whole thing. She swayed and spun her way through every song. I think she had her eyes closed, but it didn’t really matter because the way she was dancing it was like an act of surrender. It was like what Nietzsche had described. She was on the edge of the proverbial cliff, but instead of being frightened or concerned, she was reveling in the chaos.
Loving every minute of it, and dancing like it would never stop. It’s how I generally feel on the inside, but since I’m such an uncouth deadbeat unfit for the public, it’s better for me to just keep my head down and try not to piss anyone off.
Well we got the touring wagon today, no Siennas available but we got a KIA 2010 model with 1400 Miles on it and a GPS – now thats what I call golden!
Having got that sorted out we took it for a spin out to Hollywood Forever to see Johnny Ramone’s grave and the Hollywood sign for photo shoot, picked up Humann’s kid Ava, went book-grazing and caught a movie…
If anyone was laying bets on to see who could be chosen to charm this gloomy yet cheerful neck of the woods the odds would probably not have had good pile of winnings had they invested in the dynamic pairing of those vehemently and unapologetically wizened old geezers [The Axemen] with the relatively youthful and still bouncy and vibrant Auckland-based chick and bloke combo [The Hairdos] at the South of the South Islands premiere music venue CHICKS Hotel in Port Chalmers.
Port Chalmers, the idyllic Southern town is of course just a sunny breeze away from that mestasising brooding musical hub of the South, South Dunedin, poorer of the two Dunedins group, and allegedly the inspiration behind Gaylenetm‘s epic poem DUNEDIN.
SD, having spread its gull wings over the Octagon and smearing its majestic leaves outwards in order to imperfectly carpet the rest of the polygonal submetropolis that is Dunedin proper, or ‘the Dunedin Interface’, as hungry commuters wait to devour their buses, taxis and the famous trams and trains bustling through the hurdy-gurdy streets, the better to transport the throngs who have drawn the magic lots to go out and visit the poor cousins in the Charming Port just a stones throw away, has of course now become a touchstone for all visitors interested in getting a taste of the ‘olde’ Dunedin sound and the sights and smells of the city which at once enthralled and appalled those who uptook them in those heady days of the 80’s.
The axemen / hairdos combo has been firing up dancefloors across the island nation of nz since time immemorial (or at least for most of the year 2009) however this was the inaugural trip to the mainland for the follically annointed trio and the first visit across the rubicon of the mighty Kilmog for their adze-wielding cohorts in a number of years.
Upon arrival in Christchurch we were whisked off to our waiting vehicle, then before you know it, we were thru the tunnel and at Lyttelton gasbagging with Maree and Keith on their Volcano Radio Show ‘Pale Green Things’ (see http://volcanoradio.co.nz/ for schedule, http://worldtimezones.com/ for time translation), then off to Roz’s for the traditional sumptuous pre-show dinner before making our way across to the Wunderbar to set up for what was to be an awesome night for an awesomely tiny crowd in an awesome venue in an awesome town.
Wunderbar, Lyttelton Sept 24th
Green Eyed Owl
First up Green Eyed Owl , named from a line from a Chills song, which hints at the direction / audience type they are aiming at [finicky bread thieves whov’e kicked more band members out than Andrew Mehrtens kicked penalties???] They got the look and a tight performance, playing a variety of styles, William Daymond’s trademark Beatles bowl-cut looking not a hair out of place and offset nicely by his chequered scarf, all of which reeked style.
Next up to the plate were the Axemen. Steve having played at the Wunderbar recently with Matt Middleton (accompanied by Loliners backline Mick Elborado and Russel Covini) they were soon down to business in the classic 3-piece lineup of McCabe, Brannigan and Kawowski and giving the tiny crowd their all in their first post-Liz Hairdo gig of recent times… in fact their first gig together in about two months…
The Axemen pared back their sound as though it were a gleaming knife slicing throgh a perfect unblemished avocado, McCabe even pausing to metaphorically stoop down, pluck a hair from his head and proceed to (metaphorically once again) chop it in half with the sound coming from the speakers – i know you could argue that were it extra sharp one could cut it all the way down the middle lengthyways, but to be honest I’ve never been one to split hairs…
Rifling through their gander-bag of songs old and new, as is their wont of late in preparation for their upcoming tour (“Let No Song Remain Unplayed!” McCabe was heard to malevonantly whisper during a break in the proceedings). Hooking through their hookladen hits like Dr Hook in a velcro factory the guys effortlessly pulled off a lean, tight rock show with very little fat on it (“I’m gonna need a cheeseburger after this!” Bob quipped). Steve’s one-note Michael Jackson tribute guitar solo concept is developing and sounding better at each performance. A pleasant surprise to see Bob Brannigan behind the wheel of a full-fledged, fullsize axe once again, having recently been heavily into playing keyboards and ukulele. And as for drums, you could set your watch by Kawowski as usual – in fact it is not widely known that the term ‘New York Minute’ refers to and is defined as “the space between beats in the drum trill at the beginning of ‘Animals Have Rights Too’ “ (recently re-released on the Scary! double LP – Silt Breeze);
And now for those erstwhile barely-out-of-their-teens “I was the first punk in the incubator” angry young people rocking their wayout of the slums and grey streets of Grey Lynn and now to Chch and Lyttelton where the small but feisty crowd generate enough spirited banter and appreciative sounds to emulate a crowd of at least twice the actual size the numbers would indicate.
The Hairdos played a typical highly energised set giving Lyttelton the honour of being the first South Island town to get a taste of the Hairdos, a badge of honour the hardy individuals who made the effort to come along will remember for a lifetime and have many a bartab settled by a buddy coming up to them and saying “Please Great Uncle Steve, you were there – please will you tell us once more about the time you saw the Hairdos the first time they played at the WunderBar in Lyttelton?”
As usual the band follow their high-minded democratic principles and the singing is shared equally between the 3 members, Renee, Luke and Liz.
AXEMEN, HAIRDOS, NOBBQ – WHAMMY BAR, AUCKLAND NZ, NOVEMBER 16 2009
The AXEMEN, or in keeping with their ‘Fair Trade’ and Consumer Guarantees Act commitments more correctly adopting the AXEMIN moniker due to the last minute substitution of teen heartthrob Liz Hairdo on drums in Stu’s place for these gigs while Stu down in the South Island hustling his film and other projects.
For the two-nite Auckland stand featuring two of their stalwart Silt Breeze sidekicks on different nites – xNOBBQx from Brisbane on Wednesday nite at the Whammy bar to a tiny but enthusiastic crowd (think next time they should bring the BBQ – their attempts to show their disdain for the grill so loved by kiwis and aussies alike did nothing to endear them to those in the crowd hungry for prawns, shrimp, hot-dogs, tofu burgers and rock’n’roll).
“Even a sausage sizzle would have been nice” one veteran punter (who looked as if he’d seen more than a few sausage sizzles up close and personally in his time) lamented later.
Fortunately for Auckland, the erstwhile and awesome HAIRDOS and ageing (but still with all their faculties since getting their fillings removed and not using aluminium cooking pots) Axemin emerged as crowd favourites to redeem the evening – It should be noted since playing gigs with the Hairdos in recent times, the Axemin have appeared to be getting noticeably and palpably younger at each gig, following the infusion of post-teen spirit exuded by that band and their followers, in an alarmingly, almost Dorian Gray kind of way.
Sandwiched around xNOBBQx like so much white on rye, the Hairdos played first. Switching their Stranglers / B52s sound mix across to ‘more Stranglers’ setting for the evening (fuzzier and dirtier) the Hairdos played a punchy, poppy, plucky set in their inimitable enthusiastic style, going almost the entire set without a fight – I think that is a record, I know people who go to Hairdos gigs just for the fights, and occasionally run a book on them.
Energetic and snappy as always, the Hairdos style contrasted vividly with xNOBBQx‘s ethereal meandering soundscapes. Conjuring images of aborigines standing on one foot on the outback, tossing a boomerang, blowing a digeridoo and watching re-runs of Evonne Goolagong at the French Open in 1971, these straight-edge ‘stralians evoked images of an eery gum-tree-lined outback road, a camel your only friend.
Next the Axemin. Fresh from being on the door in the early part of the evening Steve and Bob virtually bounded to the stage. the role of Stu for the evening was taken by the gal Auckland society is calling ‘the New Stu’, the Hairdos own Liz Hairdo. After just one practice ‘Stu-do’ and the lads went out and effortlessly knocked it to the pint-sized crowd, and Liz H did perhaps the best impression of Stu I’ve seen since I copped an eyeful of him practicing under his fisheye ceiling mirror (the “objects may be larger than they appear” sticker remaining proudly intact).
AXEMEN, PUMICE, PINK REASON – THE HIGH SEAS, AUCKLAND, NZ NOVEMBER 19 2009
The Axemen feat ‘The New Stu’ (Liz Hairdo):
filling in for Stu Kawowski for 2 Auckland engagements:
This Video from THE HIGH SEAS, Beresford Street, Auckland, 19 Sept 2009
The AXEMEN, chafing at the bit to meet up with and play for their Silt Breeze stablemates The Pink Reason sidled up first for the High Seas gig in Beresford Streed, Newton Auckland. Just a stones throw from the infamous toilets and a brisk walk to K Rd, the surroundings as well as the gig really gave those cornfed Colombus boys something to write home about. Bristling from their successful (artistically if not commercially) Wednesday nite gig Bob and Stu once again gave it their all and Liz NewStu literally never missed a beat.
Once again another noteperfect evening of axemen rockola, if anything enhanced by the injection of some new drumming blood, like stem cells called in to mend a hole.
PUMICE next came on playing a bunch of songs on ‘treated’ guitar with white noise, radio frequencies and memorable lines such as ‘half price for half a chicken’, obviously calling on the audience to metaphorically extend their minds and go outside their aural comfort zones, yet coming back full circle, maybe to bite you on the bum, maybe to serenade you. Mesmeric.
PINK REASON played an immaculate spooky and at times delicate set, sounding quite at home in the intimate venue of the High Seas, the venue tonite showcasing its flexibility as a band venue for artistes playing a wide range of different musical styles. These guys represent the cutting edge of indie rock in America at the moment and they are good buddies with our touring partners on our US tour, Times New Viking. Columbus, Ohio has produced some fine musicians, along with the strapping muscular farmboys [with six-pack abs and rivulets of sweat rolling down the bulging veins and following the smooth curve of their oversized triceps before evaporating away to nothing – are we keepng this in?] it is famous for!
A much better turnout on Friday at the High Seas than the Whammy Bar on a rainy Wednesday I must say…