Saturday, January 23, 2010

Grand Master Flash

Acumen Feat DJ Grotesque, Seth Sentry, Jack Viney
21 January 2010
Princes Wharf 1 Hobart

By Keith Churchill

An amateur sociological analysis from yours truly (MC Write Response) would hazard a guess that around 70% of those attending Grand Master Flash et al. would not have been conceived before the commercial release of “The Adventures of Grand Master Flash on The Wheels of Steel” in 1981. Given this “fact”, the healthy-sized crowd is testament to the legend and reputation that proceeds the man who (and he reminds us more than once) turned the turntable and vinyl record into an “instrument”.

The support act DJ Grotesque, with crew Acumen, illustrated just how far this musical genre has evolved from purpose built analogue mixing desks and diamond needles on vinyl records to mp3 music files on decks and laptops, scratching, mashing and mixing tunes set to a stunning video track on the big screen with some fine v-jay work. Eclectic would be an understatement when describing their source material ranging from prog-rock to pop to metal to soul including a nod to the festival curator in a Violent Femmes tune. Matching “Son of a preacher man” to a reggae beat was simply wrong but it worked!

Prior to Grand Master Flash’s arrival on stage a mini-documentary testified to his pioneering mixing skills providing a detailed description of his revolutionary handling of a vinyl record.

Initially Flash’s side-kick did some DJ work whilst Flash forcefully explained the three rules of the hip hop party that the audience were to abide by in order to have a good time. These included: 1. Make a noise when told to (generally roar), 2. Put your mother f@#*ing hands in the air when told to, and 3. Sing the song when told.

After Flash’s commandments had been handed down he and his side kick reversed roles and GM Flash launched us into that old chestnut “We Will Rock You”, with the bass-heavy mix literally vibrating my internal organs (thanks for the free earplugs MoFo).

Being a long term disciple of the punk rock genre, I was seriously concerned about my ability to deliver on commandments one to three, particularly as I have an aversion to anyone commanding me to do anything. However the seething mass around me up front were more than compliant for the next one and a half hours, moving like a single organism as Flash, with his signature old school scratching techniques, served up tunes that anyone having lived in an English speaking part of the planet with access to a radio over the last thirty years would know, including his signature tune “the Message”.

When reflecting on the night there is no doubt that Grand Master Flash’s reputation for being able to fire up and work a crowd is well deserved, but I can't help but see him as a museum piece trotting out the same old call and response routine (insert city name here…) over the same old tracks as though stuck in some sort of musical cul-de sac while the other DJs continue to evolve the art.

Friday, January 22, 2010

King Cale

John Cale and Band
Wednesday, January 20 2009
Hobart Town Hall

By Janet Upcher

Hobart’s sedate Town Hall was never so animated as on Wednesday evening, January 20, when John Cale – legendary classical and rock musician – and his band comprising guitar, percussion and bass, galvanised a capacity audience with a stunning performance.

Cale’s musicianship and virtuosity shone more brilliantly with every number and just as impressive were his energy and passion. Unlike many ageing former rock stars, he made no attempt at a trendy youthful image: he didn’t need to. Quite simply, John Cale is timeless, ageless and oh-so assured. The technical competence and genius of his accompanying musicians reflects the exacting nature of their maestro. The electronic acoustic effects produced powerful volume and, mostly, a good balance,although occasionally over-amplified.

Tentative for the first few minutes, the show subsequently never lost pace, with Cale moving seamlessly from piano to keyboard, from acoustic to electric guitar, all the while proving his amazing versatility, changing tempo and mood with each piece. His extensive vocal range sometimes evoked Leonard Cohen, sometimes Neil Young and beneath it all was the resonance of his Welsh voice and the backing of a great band.

For ninety minutes, they created an uninterrupted musical feast, entertaining fans aged from 17 to 70, all devotees of Cale’s unique brand of experimentation and innovation. From favourites like ‘Dying on the Vine’, ‘Style It Takes’, and the dreamy mood of ‘Buffalo Ballet’, he ventured into more surreal nightmarish distortions in ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, before culminating in Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, bringing cheers from the audience. Even this rather popularised piece seemed re-invented by Cale’s voice, enhanced by a great instrumental arrangement. After his exit, the entire audience stood clapping, clamouring for more – the reward was a stirring encore: ‘Paris 1919’.

After four decades of creativity across many genres, maybe the only predictable thing about John Cale is that he will never grow stale.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Eclectic is the word!

MONA FOMA Festival
Thursday nights offerings
By Gai Anderson


The Bond Store at the Museum and Art Gallery, is an ancient Four - floored building of stone and hand hewn beams. The smell of the earth rises up from the lower ground to meet the furious piano sounds of Keiran Harveys “48 Fuges For Frank” - a musical homage to the life and work of Frank Zappa. Four different keyboards are played on four different levels during the performance, set amongst the varied and entertaining art and poetry of a group of local artist / Zappaphiles, as curated by Leigh Hobba.
As Harvey moves between the floors, the audience, seated by the grand piano, is linked to the performance by video screens.
Harveys intriguing and intense compositions were mostly performed on the grand piano, and played with amazing dexterity and focus. His hands furiously running back and forth across the keyboard were stunning. But I found the moments on the other keyboards the most interesting musically, an old pump organ, a portative pipe organ, and a Kawai electronic keyboard , (my personal favourite) ,- and to be honest most reminiscent of the earlier phases of doowop / rock / jazz inspired Zappa music that I love.
I must admit I am not conversant with the later works which inspired this concert, and so I found it a bit hard to penetrate, and wanting for some of the humour that is such a mark of Zappa . But perhaps I just don’t know how to read the musical jokes in this?
I would have loved Harvey to dance up and down the stairs between instruments but hey I did leave laughing at the “Hot Rats” of Matt Wards sculpture scurrying about on the top floor.

I then rushed off the Princess Wharf 1, which has been transformed again with an astro turfed front lawn, and is pumping with (mostly)youngsters lounging on bean bags watching the video wall.
I found some delicious South American Inspired food , before I run back up to the Town Hall for …

The chandeliered Town Hall was filled to the max with yet another sort of crowd – mostly older – the symphony crowd I guess - all here for a pipe organ and oboe concert. The virtuosic performers present a variety of classical and more modern pieces .
I was totally transported by the combination of these two beautiful voices, the oboe looped around the room with such clarity above the more grounded sounds of the huge organ pipes, set into the back wall of this incredibly opulent space.
I realised how demanding an instrument can be as I watched the great effort of Kalous filling her lungs at the behest of her oboe, and the intense focus of Kahout at his multi voiced keyboard.
The crowd cheered and after a standing ovation and encore I rushed off with my head still full of divine sounds back to PW1 …

… to catch the very end of Helmet Head, and with just enough time to get a drink and watch the video wall for a moment...It was busy now, young and old together, filling up the bean bags in front of the stage waiting for the next band.

A group of young Melbourne musicians in space suits, who were instantly infectious. The crowd was up and dancing, whilst science fiction and jungle images flashed across the giant screen behind them. What a way to end the night!

It’s a great PARTY , wonderful music , fantastic performers, all sorts of great ART .
There is something for everyone and just about all of it is
So get into it – no excuses.

Gai Anderson is a Cygnet based writer and performer .


by Kylie Elizabeth Eastley
Sometimes the best thing is not to question or analyse, but to experience. TIMEART provided the perfect opportunity to do this as the four musicians captured the audience in a 30 minute performance at the Peacock Theatre.
On the darkened stage with only dim spotlights, artists from Germany, France and Norway improvised sounds amidst linear shards of light and scratchings projected onto the players and stage.
Described as the ‘the International Ensemble for Intermedial Improvisation’, the group are part of a larger collection of more than 30 musicians who perform in smaller groups at various festivals and events.
For MOFO audiences TIMEART provided an audio and visual indulgence.
A slide trombone, oboe, guitars combined with an array of other noise makers and electronic effects to create organised chaos.
With eyes closed, it could have been a singing kettle or the sounds of urban life. It was a case of shut your eyes and hear the world.
This was another exhilarating, witty and thoroughly enjoyable moment in a packed program. A great experience.