Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Live Act: Gareth Liddiard @ Sonic Session & Mojo's



I crap on about Gaz, don't I? Well, here I go again. I've been to two most wicked gigs over this weekend and wish there was more because if I didn't think he was the greatest singer-songwriter before, I do even more now.

Before him I thought Warren Ellis and Nick Cave were pretty great but together since about 2005, and I'll say nothing more about them in this post. Rowland S. Howard did show he's truly great but just took a lot longer in between albums. I'll say David McComb and his band The Triffids before that. I like to throw in Kim Salmon and Ed Kuepper too but no one listens to them enough, or should I say more people should listen to them. Paul Kelly also can be included too in this mammoth line-up. Sarah Blasko and Glenn Richards also and are the only other singer-songwriters currently building a career who come close to Gareth Liddiard. With his new solo album he's upped the ante to the exhaustively extreme. Maybe there could be some even newer songwriters on the way in but are yet to unquestionably prove it.

What about overseas singer-songwriters? Well do I need to say anything because they get so much press written about them and are championed by every man, women, child, dog, cat, goldfish, budgie. To me Australian music should talked about as much as stuff from two country's who started with the letter U, can guess which two?

Sonic Session @ The Fremantle Arts Centre

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This gig was at an old mental hospital which is reputed to be haunted and now is an art gallery. It was in the middle courtyard which sounds like a great place for a gig in summertime in Perth but after a queer cold, windy, wet spring week here it was a stupid and uncomfortable idea. I was numb by the end and sitting on plastic chairs didn't help too but moths, mosquitoes and mice were having a good time. Sonic Session's is a bit of an odd gig and might need explaining. It's hosted by American radio DJ called Lucky Oceans who plays Pedal Steel Guitar which worked well with the older Drones songs but didn't with his new ones. Plus in between songs he asked questions but Gaz is a brilliant talker too so made for a good nights viewing. I'm going to write down some things I want to remember and share it with you.

First song up was 'Shark Fin Blues', which after playing Lucky said "How did you come up with that?" "I wanted to write a song like an old sea shanty but it didn't come out like that." he went on to say "It's started with a Karen Dalton song called 'Same Old Man' but changed into that." Lucky asked a lot of times about the songwriting process but Gaz didn't give too much away saying things like "he's a cut and paste kind-off guy" and "just start it by any means necessary" or "doing something you never done before just for something different". Next song was the title track from the new album 'Strange Tourist' which was unbelievable played live. Oceans said "Wow, there is so much in there." and asked more songwriting questions, then Lucky asked a where he was born and grown-up question: "I was born in Port Hedland"

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(Sorry but I've just discovered Google maps and I'm going a bit mad in this post with them). Port Headland looks closer to Darwin than Perth. He traveled a lot as a kid with his family in between London and Western Australia before stopping in Perth and starting school in the suburb of Warwick. Which is north of the Swan River and inland from the coast too. It would have say in the late 70's and early 80's been a bit of a trek into the city but not market gardens like say Wanneroo was back then. Perth as a city is very, very, very spread out because of all the space around. All the suburbs have just grown like some blob monster and it's only just now that all the gaps are being filled in but here's another map to shown you again.

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Liddiard's first and earliest music memory's, that he spoke of that night were Blondie's 'Heart of Glass', he said, "I knew I liked but didn't know why" and Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2', "I didn't stop singing the chorus which worried my folks". He was asked when did he started playing music - as a teenager Saxophone was his first instrument but after hearing Charlie Parker and John Coltrane because he couldn't do that this lead to go on to guitar but it was almost the same because of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page but his sister gave him a cassette of Black Flag and he thought "I can do that". They talked about moving to Melbourne and Liddiard said "it was just something I had to do to keep playing music, just like going overseas too. Just more places to play", which makes prefect sense really.

One of the funniest bits in the first half was talking about the Aussie music scene because "sooner or later you meet and everyone is cool except one person who is a knob but I'm not say who", he was pushed a little more he gave clues "He's from here too and he's got big hair" someone shorted out Luke Steele to which he answered, "you said it not me".

Before the interval they played a wicked version of 'Words From The Executioner To Alexander Pearce', which I haven't heard since the Gala Mill tour live. After the break he played 'Blondin Makes An Omelette' which is one of my favorites from the new album. More talk about starting to work as a roadie, lighting guy, ringer just anything where music was being played and one word to describe himself in his early 20's is "cocky", he's 34 now and making a decent wage like someone with just a normal job but I done something I really love and have done crazy shit to keep doing it. The bands, or artist he name dropped throughout the evening were Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Stooges, Dirty Three, Tom Waits and even Bob Dylan, "He alright ain't he but he's on the cover of Mojo magazine too much and all those critics rave about him way too much." Which then leads into talking about the English and American love affair which can/could go back to the war of Independence according to Liddiard, and how Australians, or for that matter any other countries in the world are never included. It's like those two superpowers are the whole world and the rest is nothing. Breaking into that is kind-of impossible no matter what you do and he knows people in Perth, in Melbourne or just Aussies doing so much better music but if a band comes to town from America you go to see them even if the local who is better than them is playing the same night. Lucky Oceans who is an American living here said, Americans just think they're the best and Aussies don't think that way because you're not raised to think like that so here it doesn't happen. It's disappointing but I guess that's what I was writing about at the start of this post too. They played 'Your Acting’s Like The End Of The World' next which was perfect timing.

The last two songs were from the new album too, they were - 'Did She Scare All Your Friends Away' and 'Highplains Mailman'. Lucky Oceans asked the crowd for questions too, at which point my mind went blank. I would like to interview Liddiard because I could fill a note pad with stuff to ask him but my head just wasn't working and then it was all over and I had to stand up which I couldn't do that too because I was numb with cold.

Album Lurch @ Mojo's Bar

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Well, this is the first show he's done totally solo in W.A., the previous night playing only two songs at the end of the sonic sessions solo. Plus he and Dan Luscombe together supported Augie March late last year but of-course he's done tours over east all by himself. As far as I know he's never done it overseas but hopefully a tour with be announced soon because the whole world should be able to see him perform like this.

Liddiard started at the beginning of the album and did every track on the new album in order plus even had a CD copy to get all in the right order. Then he came on for the encore with 'Shark Fin Blues' and 'Jezebel'. He did little intros about each song so I'm going to write down what I remember too.

'Blondin Makes A Omelette' is about "a 19th century wire walker who once hit the big time crossing Niagara Falls his manager kept thinking new and different ways to do the same thing but did something no rock n' roll manager did, let him piggy-back him across but this song is written from the point of view of his understudy". 'Highplains Mailman' is about "the men who live where I live in the Australian Mountains and think I'm just a softcock." Next song was 'Strange Tourist', one of my favorites from the album. He was saying the character in the song is like a combination of all the flatmates you lived with that you start out liking but you just want to kill them next time they're asleep but they don't sleep because they're on crystal meth and you just end up hating them." He also said to Google suicide forest in Japan so I did and here's one of the weirdest youtube videos I came across so here it is to watch...


'You Sure Ain't Mine Now' was next up some girl shouted out, "you look alone up there, do you want a hug?" which his replied was "No, I get payed to be alone, hey that sounds really cool, don't it?" at some point somebody else shouted out, "when are you going to have kids?" which the answer was, "I'm a lover not a breeder". There was abundance of laughing in between songs for someone who's a deadly serious song-writer. 'The Collaborator' which is another of my favorite tracks from the album is set in World War II but is about "old but also modern day collaborators too." Also he asked the crowd, "if anyone is still frightened of Nazis anymore? Like you could walk about with a swastika tattoo on your head now, can't you? It was like almost a hundred years ago." 'Did She Scare All Your Friends Away' is a love song. He said, you got to have love songs if you're a songwriter but he didn't really explain what it's really about but said "I do know I'm the only songwriter to put Winnebagos in a song. I've been on one too at an expo, somewhere. It cost like three million dollars and is like a yacht with wheels." He kept looking at the back of the CD for the names of his own songs and said he only remembers how the tunes go and not the names and sang the open riff to 'Heartbreaker' by Led Zeppelin.

Someone asked for 'Sixteen Straws' but Liddiard said I'll play this one instead which of-course is the last song on the new album, it's called 'The Radicalistion Of D' "which is NOT about David Hicks. It could be about anyone who gets radical like Timothy McVeigh or David Koresh or even anyone who just joined greenpeace too. It's the same thing, It's all getting radical" at which point someone yelled out "writing a blog" which Gareth said "yes, that the Gen Y way to get radical." So here I am writing what he said one night in a blog, pretty fucked, eh? I do remember making bombs as a teenager and blowing things up. We had a pine forest behind the high school which was perfect for wagging class and you didn't have to go very far. One day someone took all his skin off his hand while lighting one, he just said to everyone he tripped over on the pavement but we knew better. Anyway Gaz goes on to say "my generation bomb things up", proudly but there was a lot Gen Y's in the front row watching him. Because of the subject matter this song is a very, very long song just over sixteen minutes on the album but the person next to me said, "what is it ten minutes?" but what Liddiard did next was slow it right down and it ended up a bit past twenty minutes. He said "rock n' roll is a contact sport so why write a three minute song, I've been listening to a lot of music of North Africa and they do not have radio stations tell them how long to make a song. It's playing Kora or standing on a rock with an AK-47" or something like that. Anyway one of versus in this is about someone who stole a tank in Perth in the early 90's which was a bizarre thing I had totally forgot about, so I looked that up on youtube too and here it is to watch...


In the first verse people in the crowd were laughing about D building a bomb but by the next verse the bloke in front of me sits down on the floor and hung his head. It took one more verse for his girlfriend to turn around and head for the bar for a drink. I don't know how many people have heard this before tonights show but they seem like they all were in a state of shock but the end of it, it was unbelievable to witness, a killer song literally. Anyway Gareth finished off with 'Jezebel' which was awesome.

I wish I bought a t-shirt or tea towel but going to these shows I'm missing some money to pay the rent with. One last thing just before the show started and Mojo's turned into a sardine can I was sitting on couch up the back and Fiona Kitschin you know The Drones bass player and Gareth Liddiard's parter tripped over my feet and she squealed which I said sorry but I don't think she heard me over Syd Barrett's Madcap Laughs. This is totally embarrassing really almost making a member of your favorite band almost fall over so if somehow I could chop my feet off before she did I would but she was the only one of all those people who did but you know it's still pretty bad, eh?

This and the top image is by photographer Olga Bennett and is where Gareth lives in outback Victoria. That's Max the dog, his blue-healer who's also on the inside the CD copy of the new album. Another reason to buy the real thing and not just download it. This bottom photo here is in my girlfriend's latest Frankie magazine.

They were remarkable and astonishing shows so you should go and see him if he comes to your city. I have gone a bit overboard with all these little details and wrote too much so I better finish now, the end and full stop.

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