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LIVE – Rock It! – Joondalup, WA, 28th October 2012

| 8 November 2012 | Reply

Joondalup Arena, Western Australia, Sunday 28th October 2012
By Dani DeVille | Photography by Sarah Bahbah & Graham Clark

I have been a passionate lover of music all my life.  One of my earliest memories is lying in my bed hearing my Dad playing Mars from The Planets by Gustav Holst on the stereo in the lounge and feeling genuinely terrified.  Music has always had the power to move me like nothing else. It is a deeply ingrained part of my identity. Yet recently I discovered that I had been going through the motions, that my love had become stagnant, that the flame in my belly had died down to a mere flicker. I needed something to remind of the raw emotion that ignited my passion in the first place. Little did I know, I would find exactly that on a little back stage at Rock It.

It’s Sunday 28th October and Abbe May is first off the ranks at the Joondalup Arena. She sparkles on stage with her gold tunic and big sunglasses, bringing some much needed sunshine to this overcast day.  This edgy, raven-haired rock goddess struts on stage, the sustained, pulsing bass line running through the audience like a second heartbeat, her songbird-voice creating a perfect contrast to the droning crunch of her instruments.  Despite some technical difficulties with the bass dropping out near the beginning of the show, none of the musicians miss a beat.  Abbe announces that this is the last time they will play their “Design Desire” set.  She proclaims this “the end of an era”, finishing the show by “machine-gunning” the crowd with her guitar before falling to the ground.

The cruisy, indi-pop sounds of San Cisco are the next to emanate from the main stage. Drummer, Scarlett, in her hot, red lipstick, is dwarfed by her kit as Jordi, Josh and Nick each play a keyboard as well as guitar or bass. They end their set with their 2011 hit, Awkward, while the slowly amassing crowd sings along.

When the next act, The Last Dinosaurs, greet their audience with a casual “G’day”, their music wafts through the Arena like a highly inoffensive, tepid breeze.  On the other side of the grounds, The Emperors bash out some derivative, grungy tunes from Kong’s Rock Shack. I am in the middle of the two, caught in an increasingly dense cloud of disinterest. Time to do the rounds to get merch, drinks and over-priced festival food.

Perhaps sensing my mood, the skies open and hammer us with big, fat raindrops. I don’t care. I am sipping on cans of Jacks and coke, protecting my patch of dry grass and overseeing the construction of a giant snake of empty cans, which, it seems, may stretch the whole length of the arena by the end of the afternoon.

And then Lanie Lane takes the stage. If it is raining still, I am no longer aware. I am drawn to Lanie’s music like a firefly to a full moon.  There is something innately sexual about her performance. She flirts with her guitar and reminds me of a prohibition-era chanteuse as she performs Hoochie Coochie Man. She oozes charm and sings with joyful abandon, beaming constantly. When she throws herself into a version of My Man, a song she recorded with Jack White in 2011, the way she gyrates and grinds makes me picture her in a smoky bar, draped enticingly over a piano à la Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys.  Although her seductive and coy manner lends itself to a more intimate venue, her voice is in no way lost in this large open space.  She kneels, feeling the music running through her, her every move smooth, effortless, cool and in no way contrived.  You can feel that she bares her soul in her songs.  She talks to the crowd as if they were a close, personal friend. “We love making music” she coos before introducing her band. “These guys rock my world and I’m keen to show them off”. The double bass and drums then duel off in a blistering solo of pure funk. “That was RIPPING” Lanie gushes, feeding off the audience’s enthusiasm. She brings the tempo down with her “favourite song”, To The Horses, her eyes closed, head back, wailing mournfully. Looking around, the audience is rapt as the sway, mesmerised and under her spell. The arena is her boudoir and we are all her willing captives. Lanie invites her “hairy friends”, members from The Brothers Grim and Graveyard Train (scheduled to play in Kong’s Rock Shack later that day) onstage to provide the backing vocals for What do I do.  The larger group on stage reduces the feeling of separation between stage and crowd. The celebratory vibe that this creates is contagious. I am in an ocean of dancing, laughing, happy faces. It is the women in the crowd that seem to be the most taken with her. With her open and comfortable sexuality, she is an empowering idol.

The Panics, who follow Lanie Lane, can’t help but fall short of the mark.  Scrambling desperately over to Kong’s Rock Shack, hungry for more musical stimulation, I am stopped in my tracks by rocking roots outfit the Toot Toot Toots delivering a foot stomping cover of R&B crunk number “Be Faithful”. It is so utterly infectious that I am instantly sucked in like slightly shell-shocked spider up a vacuum cleaner. I should point out that I am not one to say “hey” when you say “ho”, I do not make any noise for Detroit and I am certainly disinclined to shake anything as if I cared or otherwise… But I, as well as everyone else in the immediate vicinity of the stage, am now jumping up and down while vocalist Danny leaps off the stage, barking at “all the chicken heads” to “be quiet”. It’s a party atmosphere both on the stage and in the crowd.  The Toot Toot Toots’ music is a rambling, soulful story reminiscent of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds or Tom Waits in its form and content.  Chatting briefly to Danny after their set, he explains that the Toot Toot Toots work in concepts. While their most recent album, Outlaws (released earlier this year), has a spaghetti western rock opera theme, their upcoming album, set for release in May of 2013, will be a road trip album based on Dante’s Inferno, with the layers of hell depicted through the imagery of the Australian outback.

I now have a choice. Do I stay at the Rock Shack, not quite knowing what to expect, or do I go back to the main stage for The John Butler Trio? Having seen John Butler Trio on numerous occasions and feeling secure in my expectation that they would, once again, bring nothing new to the table, I promptly decide that the Rock Shack is the place to be and strap myself in for The Brothers Grim. Singer James kicks things into gear by proclaiming that “it’s time to get hot and sweaty” and boy does he deliver! He is a wild ball of rocking fury, adding coal to the furnaces of a runaway blues train travelling at a million miles an hour. He launches himself off the stage and onto the crowd barrier, a wild thing, untamed, shuddering to the bluesy beats. This band is a boon for any photographer with every conceivable moment filled with quirky antics. If you can tear your eyes off James, a feat in itself, you can observe all four Brothers playing, eyes closed, feeling the music as it cascades from them. Bass player Dominic slaps his double bass, bending backwards and holding it tight to his body, like a lover. What I am seeing is pure sex. It is an animalistic display. Unsurprisingly, as they end the show with Dirty Dog, the crowd is howling at the moon, caught up in the moment and in the melody.  After the set, James takes the time to come and shake some hands and exchange a few words with the fans both old and newly converted.  “We come and play because we can’t do anything else” he tells us with a playful twinkle in his eye. Although the question begs, when you can move a crowd the way they do, why would you WANT to do anything else? The Brothers Grim’s new album is due to be released in March of 2013. I am already praying to the rock gods that they will not wait too long before coming back to Perth to share it with us.

Next up in the Rock Shack are Graveyard Train. They open with the sultry and slightly eerie Even Witches Like to Go Out Dancing. This six piece band, who describes itself as “horror country”, is a screaming, eclectic jumble of voices and instruments. Slide guitar, banjo, double bass, harmonica and even a hammer and chain make up this assorted ensemble. Their style and presentation brings to mind a 1920’s circus side-show and memories of telling drunken ghost stories around a camp fire in the gloaming. “This is a song about death… surprise surprise” they chortle as they launch into their next number.  Beau, one of the band’s two lead vocalists, smokes on stage while he wriggles his hips farcically and yells into a microphone with all the intensity of a drunk Irishman explaining a complicated drink order to a barman in a very noisy pub.  This is dirty, visceral, spitting, screaming mayhem.  “Obviously Butler has just finished” jeers Graveyard Train’s bearded vocalist, Nick, with a good measure of disdain having spotted a small crowd scuttling over from the main stage. “How is Butler by the way” he spits, not waiting for an answer, as they tear into Got Bit by a Dog, their last song for the night. The sheer volume of the music is knocking over equipment left, right and centre, sending the stage hands scrambling. The band members seem too lost in the moment to notice or care. They are a band of unbalanced berserkers, singing terrible tales of demons and death.

The end of the evening pans out exactly how you would expect it. Yes, the Birds of Tokyo deliver a predictably dazzling display of light and sound. The crowd is at its biggest when The Black Keys take the stage and, yes, they play the hits, we laugh, we sing, we dance, a good time is had by all. But the day is already over for me… I find myself wondering, however hard the Black Keys groove, however bright the Birds of Tokyo’s lights shine, does seeing them in the flesh add anything substantial to the experience of listening to their album at home? The answer, for me at least, is no.

Rock It! 28 October 2012 by Sarah Bahbah

There is a huge difference between performing music and playing a song. The Panics, The Birds of Tokyo and The Black Keys are great musicians. There is no denying it. They win awards, they are as flawless onstage as they are in the recording studio, we buy their albums, we love them. But as far as showmanship goes, performers like Lanie Lane, the Toot Toot Toots, The Brothers Grim and Graveyard Train will steal the show and our hearts every time.

Category: Live Reviews

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