Category Archives: Ben Connolly

Live Review | The Tea Party @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne – October 12, 2014

Review by Ben Connolly
The Tea Party - Enmore Theatre, Sydney
The Tea Party set kicks off with a new album (“The Ocean at The End” ) sandwich of The L.O.C. and The Black Sea (with a filling of perennial favourite The Bazaar) highlighting just how crunchy the new offering is. Gone is the flowery bloat and overly-earnest emotive slather which marred the late-career albums, in its stead a return to the screeching wail of a well-throttled Les Paul backed by a thumping backline.
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Album Review | Augie March – ‘Havens Dumb’

Review by Ben Connolly
augieWithin seconds of the first chords of AWOL, the lead track off Augie March’s return opus Havens Dumb, one thing is abundantly clear: just how large the Augie March-sized hole in the Australian musical landscape had become.

In just five short years, the band’s ‘hiatus’ had all but slipped into that permanent mode many seem to become; save for an ambling solo album from frontman Glenn Richards, a few non-descript side-projects from other band members and a couple of choice late-night Facebook rants, the band had seemed to slip by the wayside.
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Live Review | Jeff Lang @ Thornbury Theatre, Victoria – July 5, 2014

Review by Ben Connolly
jeff langThere are moments in almost every Jeff Lang gig which absolutely grab you in the guts. Often it’s while the “disturbed folk” progenitor is wrangling an impossible guitar lick to within an inch of its life; sometimes it’s when he’s fiercely locking into a groove with his long-term collaborator Danny McKenna and sailing on the precipice; others it’s when the starkly rich lyrics arrests you in your tracks.
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Live Review | Charles Bradley + Saskwatch @ Melbourne Zoo Twilight – March 7, 2014

Review by Ben Connolly

Charles BradleyWith a white sequined dinner jacket, and a ‘fro straight outta Brooklyn circa 1972, it was clear from the first strained note that Charles Bradley was every inch of his impressive mythology. The bio reads like a carefully scripted wrap-sheet: he was raised in a dirt-poor Brooklyn, from which he escaped only to spend decades drifting and working odd jobs, and spending serious time as a homeless grafter. On record, it’s heart-on-the-sleeve honesty of a man who knows no other. On stage it’s merely confirmation, as the performer pours every last ounce of feeling into the overwrought vocals and leaves nothing behind.
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Live Review | Placebo @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne – February 27, 2014

Review by Ben Connolly
Photos by Annie Wilson
PlaceboIn the great lottery of the Sidewave venue scramble, Placebo must surely have pulled the short straw. Not that St Kilda’s Palais Theatre is generally anything to be disappointed with – its grungy dilapidation holds a special place in Melbourne’s rock vernacular. But when it comes to a furious set by one of the world’s best emotive post-punk purveyors, those torn leather seats are just woeful.

Seated gigs are sometimes just the pits, with often fickle gig-going punters varying between reckless abandon and a studied aloofness, meaning that on any given night you can find yourself jumping to your heart’s content surrounded by fellow revellers, or having to reign in your exuberance or suffer the fate of a thousand daggers shot your way.
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Live Review | Something For Kate + The Orbweavers @ Melbourne Zoo Twilights – February 21, 2014

Review by Ben Connolly
Something For Kate Melb ZooGig talkers are just the pits aren’t they? The bane of any true fans, their inanities strike at the most inopportune of moments, ruining a classic heart on the sleeve moment or a strained high-note, in spite of the daggers of ice being shot across the room, or even the indignant ‘shushing’ from those more forthright in their opinions. Things get a little swayed, however, when those interrupting the moments are three fully grown lions displaying their pleasure/displeasure in no uncertain terms.

And that’s exactly the bizarre set of circumstances thrown up at you when your Friday night gig is set in the heart of one of Melbourne’s most treasured inner-city reserves – the Royal Melbourne Zoo. Its Zoo Twilight series is now in full swing, hosting fellow Melbournites Something For Kate on its current swing around the country playing on specialist outdoor stages. Wedged in between the entrance and the lion’s den, the stage area is a beautiful vista of sunset-tinged greenery interspersed with picnic blankets and a solid smattering of baby capsules.
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Live Review: Big Day Out 2014 – Melbourne

Review by Ben Connolly
Pearl Jam - Photo Credit: Kane HibberdThere was already a significant amount of water flowing under the bridge by the time Flemington’s famous iron gates were flung open for this year’s Melbourne chapter of the Big Day Out. With ownership wrangling continuing into a second year, a buy-out by one of Australian music’s most polarising characters, a line-up to end all line-ups only to be tarnished late in the day by the pull out of Blur, and now speculation that the national festival will once again be curtailed by Perth’s inability to get its shit together as a cultural collective. In some ways, 11am on the Friday before the long weekend was a welcomed event, if only to end the continual news feed of the daily life of Australia’s biggest orgy of rock.
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Live Review: Grinspoon @ The Corner Hotel, Melbourne – August 9, 2013

Review by Ben Connolly
There’s a workman like edge to the stage as the steady four piece of Northern NSW’s Grinspoon launched into their set. The wild flailing and feigned punk-rock disinterest from frontman Phil Jamieson are long gone, in its stead are the once-ironic rock poses: the furious grip on the mic stand, the perfectly timed lunge on to the stage monitors and, crucially, the almost trademarked index finger thrust decisively skyward.

“Workman-like” isn’t necessarily derogatory. Here it points to a ballsy longevity which has seen its particular brand of skate-punk survive where countless others have faded away. The ‘Spoon is the sound of Triple J, coming of age along with the fledgling youth broadcaster when both were still in proverbial nappies. Easily considered the band most likely to burn out in a blaze of glory – thanks largely to the well publicised excesses of Jamieson – the group not only survived, but has managed to cross over the Great FM Divide and is now, justifiably, entering into legacy territory.
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Live Review: Groovin’ The Moo 2013 – Bendigo

Review by Ben Connolly
There’s always something special about country town festivals. For the locals, there’s the rare joy of rocking out with your house key in your pocket; for the ring-ins, there’s the extra heady buzz of a sugar fuelled roadtrip, or skanky train chug at the end of the night. From the get-go this buzz was palpable at Bendigo’s fifth turn on the Groovin’ The Moo carousel.

As always happens when you’re a big-smoke ring-in, events like these not only provide a musical feast but also a chance to see how the locals do it in comparison.

Observation #1: the locals love their festival. Sure the procession of beaten up shit boxes and busloads of hipsters from Melbourne bolstered the numbers, but the bulging excess of humanity dodging the cow pats and shielding their eyes from the dust eddies screamed of local pride.
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Live Review: Shihad @ The Hi-Fi, Melbourne – 6 September 2012

Review by Ben Connolly
Boldness is not generally an adjective jumping to mind when you think of Kiwi band Shihad. With its skinny black-jeans clad legs planted firmly in the safe melodic-tinged rock scene pushed forth as the genre de jour of the late 90s and early 00s, you’d hardly seek out their albums to push boundaries or explore sonic adventures. Even more so in the past few years, where they’ve rotated around the all-too-familiar downward spiral of record-promote-tour-hope for relevance-rinse-repeat: it’s hardly a recipe for the cutting edge.

There is, however, an impressive boldness with the simple honesty with which they’ve approached their career crossroads moment: shunning the best-ofs and karaoke tour of their past glories in favour of a 38-song full career retrospective (a completist’s wet dream), a fly-on-the-wall cinema doco exposing the bands lowest moment of changing their name in a doomed attempt to storm the US market, and topping it all off with a solid live whip-around aimed squarely at the true believers.
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Live Review: Stonefield @ Northcote Social Club, Melbourne – 24 April 2012

Review by Ben Connolly
There are a couple of caveats to make about Stonefield as they took to the stage at The Northcote Social Club. The first is that they are a band of young, impossibly cute sisters from country Victoria, all apart from singer/drummer Amy Findlay, able to lay claim to being teenagers. It’s abundantly clear at times, too, with their youth defying their position – furtive, self-conscious glances to each other through face-shielding long lanky locks, seeking silent approval and encouragement – never mind the packed room full of hopeful adoration right at their feet.

The second note is about the style of music they produce – 70’s era synth-heavy psych-influenced prog-rock straight from their parents vinyl collection. It’s a genre with a shaky recent history in the Australian rock scene, with name after name hailed in the UK press as the next great hope of rock music only to fall in a heap come time and critical analysis. It’s a hype seemingly mirrored in Stonefield’s already mythically-charged short history – plucked from their country-town garage, they won a slot at Perth’s One Movement industry event, where a band booker snapped them up to play on the John Peel stage at the holiest of holy grails, Glastonbury. All of this while still labouring under a short EP and doing the merry-go-round of Triple J’s perpetual Unearthed treadmill.
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Live Review: SEASICK STEVE – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne – 10 April 2012

Review by Ben Connolly
It was abundantly clear from the get-go that there was an elephant in the suffocatingly packed band room at The Corner Hotel, and it was in the guise of one John Paul Jones. This was not his gig – his name didn’t appear on the posters, gig guides or tickets and nor was there an allusion to him with the band’s name – Seasick Steve. Singular. Not “Seasick Steve and Friends”, not even the oblique “Seasick Steve Trio”. This was, for all intents and purposes, a solo gig by one of the most enigmatic and curious blues performers to have broken through into the mainstream during the past few years.

But it cannot be argued that the full house was solely there to bear witness to Seasick’s foreign hobo stories and wicked collection of do-it-yourself guitars. A cursory glance through the crowd put it almost overwhelmingly at middle-aged men; a stink of stale cigarette smoke clinging to their jackets, their greyed locks either trimmed close in demure recognition of their fading youth, or proudly allowed to grow and slicked back. They could easily be fans of either artist and a warm enough welcome was extended to the man with his name on the posters as he introduced the set with Diddley Bo, a slide blues number played on a junkyard one-string contraption.
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Live Review: Angelique Kidjo @ Melbourne Recital Centre – 5th April 2012

Review by Ben Connolly
It’s not often that an accomplished artist of the calibre of Anglique Kidjo is in danger of being overshadowed at her own headline gig. But early on the evening at her East Coast Blues and Roots sideshow in Melbourne recently, that was clearly on the cards, with both the support act Vusi Mahlasela and even the venue itself, the Melbourne Recital Centre, proving to be highlights on what was to become a magical night.

TheMelbourne Recital Centre seemed a strange choice of venue, with the architecturally intriguing concert hall tucked away in a corner of the cultural precinct usually playing host to staid chamber pieces and sober recitals. High-energy, percussive-intense gigs of the type Kidjo has become famous for seemed an incongruous mix for the plush, sit-down hall – a round peg trying to squeeze into its obtuse, honeycombed exterior, if you will. This is not to detract from the venue itself – far from it, in fact, as many of the full house took the opportunity to marvel at its plush interior. The warm foyer invited curious exploration, with wide, flowing stairs leading to the stalls above. The hall’s walls were etched with flowing designs, like that of a wood-worm snaking its way throughout and invited child-like wonder as patron after patron failed to resist the urge to run their fingers along its entrails. Once seated, the vaulted ceiling and angular facias all spoke of its acoustically-pleasing design – the proof of which was highlighted time and again throughout the performances.
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Yuck @ East Brunswick Club, Melbourne – 3rd February 2012 | Review

Review by Ben Connolly
What is the collective noun for a group of fuzzed-out guitars? Is it a gaggle? Maybe a cacophony is more apt? Perhaps it could have been a murder, if it weren’t already taken by those pesky crows. I reckon it’s a joy of fuzz, as that’s certainly the feeling you get when confronted with a wail of tricked out pedal-laden guitars, as was the case at Yuck’s Laneway Festival sideshow, as well as a more than passing hat-tip to the lo-fi aesthetics of late 80s and early 90s grunge rock.

South Dakota via LAs EMA had her feet planted firmly in the shoe-gazing psychedelia camp, with two guitars backed by keys/violins providing a mournful, sparse feeling. There’s a deliberate bleakness to the songs, with Erika M Anderson’s lyrics often whispered with great earnestness and calculated affectation. An early string break forced a setlist change, pushing a surprisingly tender “Breakfest” up the order. The song’s aching repeated refrain “Mumma’s in the bedroom, don’t you stop” paints a desolate picture, before building into a Mogwai-esque wall-of-noise. A midset reworking of Danzig’s “Soul On Fire” perfectly highlighted Anderson’s almost disembodied, affected vocals.
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