The Walking Who, Leo J, Young Braves, Vanguard Party and The Plasmon Resonance Band @ Rydges CBD Sports Bar, 1/10/11

The CBD Sports Bar is just a big comfy room; it feels sort of, I don’t know, homely. This feeling was heightened on this night because of the community feel of this whole charity gig. It wasn’t only that people were coming together to hear great local music and donate some money to a good cause, but that one of our own local stars, Leo J (also known on a day-to-day basis as Joel McLean), was organising the whole thing and at his hand the whole evening seemed to tie together really nicely with a discernible buzz leading up to and including especially his set.

It’s a travesty that The Plasmon Resonance Band only have an odd 100 followers on facebook, and also that not many people arrived early enough to catch their set tonight. Opening with the catchy ‘Too Much Talk’, these guys proved from the get-go just how accomplished they are as musicians and songwriters, as well as demonstrating the their eclectic tastes, which seamlessly transfers into consistently interesting shows that sound like nothing you’ve heard before. Sitting in for regular drummer Adam Rogan on this night was Nikolai Russo (formerly of Slow Waves), who proved a more-than-worthy stand-in, steering a tight rhythmic ship with Plasmon staples George Stanton and Michael Manzini, who also graced us with some bitching guitar and bass work, and always pitch-perfect vocals. I’m a big fan of Mr Stanton’s lyrics, which range from delightfully funny to a twisted kind of epic poetry, and they’re especially nice to hear delivered live with gusto. Highlights of this set included the always popular and punchy ‘HORSE!’, ‘Che Bello’, and the closing ‘Plasmon Resonance Band TV Theme’ which took out the set with a wonderful yet understated kind of bang.

Vanguard Party are always a party! This set was overflowing with energy and silly costumes, running around and hyperactive banter from enigmatic frontman Jared Chappell. I do like watching these guys for the above reasons, and it certainly makes the whole show more enjoyable; I just feel like when the music does take the foreground, it sometimes lacks the punch and imagination of the other elements of their performance. Their cover of Future of the Left’s ‘Manchasm’ was a stand-out of this set, and their ‘8-bit Medley’ was probably the best I’ve seen it live, provoking a lot of hoots of laughter from the crowd, but I have only seen these guys a couple of times before and their sets were almost identical. Vanguard Party have a fantastic sense of humour, they’re fun to watch live, and I love that they don’t take themselves too seriously even though they are clearly a very capable band. I also dig that they took video game music and made a pretty cool song out of it; I’d just also really like to see them try something new.

The problem with Young Braves is, unlike the other bands on tonight’s bill, they take themselves too seriously. Maybe this isn’t true for all members of the band, but it’s the distinct impression I got watching them play. For one thing, they look almost awkward on stage, the lead guitarist taking up too much room and the other guys squashed to one side, and apart from the lead singer and maybe the rhythm guitarist, they all seem to project an aura of surliness, which is never that endearing. Aside from all of this, their songs sounded like echoes of, at turns, Sydney outfit Mercy Arms, Little Birdy, and – overwhelmingly – Kings of Leon. They play alright, but I really think they need to relax a bit, and loosen up.

The wait between sets here was long, and as the lights went out, Leo J emerged onto the blacked out stage in a white jumpsuit and those amazing disco-light-glasses and after one of his trademark automated-voice introductions, this time welcoming us to PLANET FUN, launched into a howling rendition of the Cape Fear theme. He held a lone guitar on stage, as well as playing around with a collection of effects, while an unknown programmer backed his sound. But Leo J is so much more than the sum his instruments. His shows are as much about the art of performance as music, and his talent lies as much in the way he executes this – in the creepy, unsettling sound clips he uses between songs, to the array of on-stage personas, to the myriad of brilliant and absurd ways he uses his voice – as in the songs he so solidly writes and masters. This set was consistently fantastic, but highlights for me were a song from a recent collaboration with Sarah Juice, a roaring cover of Mi-Sex’s ever-popular ‘Computer Games’, and a Leo J favourite of mine, ‘Perfect Lover’, a comic love poem by a serial killer. It isn’t really possible to do a Leo J show justice with mere words, so I’ll just give you an overtly enthusiastic recommendation to see him sometime, and tell you that, even as he closed with a cover of the once-ubiquitous and mildly irritating ‘Bad Romance’, the people in this room were blown away by what they had just witnessed; they will be thinking about it for some time to come.

It was a shame for The Walking Who, who, after waiting through a long and high-energy night, had to play at night’s end to a modest and decidedly worn-out audience. They did well, though, playing a set mostly filled with straightforward to mildly heavy rock tunes, and most of the people left in the place got up to dance for the first time all evening. These guys just lacked the energy of the other performances this evening and seemed a bit sloppy in parts. I think everyone was tired, and I do commiserate with these guys having had to follow Leo J, which can’t be easy. I would have to see these guys again in a different context to give them a fair assessment.

All in all, this was a genuinely enjoyable evening, with much energised watching and listening to of bands, interspersed with some entertaining and wacky performance pieces (animated readings from Star Wars and inexplicable Spanglish pop songs not amiss), and a really nice atmosphere which was largely orchestrated by Mr Joel McLean himself. There should be more nights like this, and I’m glad to say they seem to be becoming more frequent in the Illawarra area. Apparently the night’s efforts also raised over $1000 for an initiative supporting underprivileged Cambodian youth, which is also wonderful to hear. Keep it up, dudes!

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8 Responses to The Walking Who, Leo J, Young Braves, Vanguard Party and The Plasmon Resonance Band @ Rydges CBD Sports Bar, 1/10/11

  1. "Anonymous" says:

    Dear “INDREM”,

    Having now read several reviews on this website, I’ve finally felt the need to post a comment.

    Firstly, I’d like to point out that comments like “it was ok”, “not that interesting” or “I think they need to relax” do not constitute a review. They are simply opinions, and are of little interest to readers. If you want to continue to write reviews (and there’s certainly space for people to be reviewing local acts), then maybe try doing a little bit of research on how to write them. There are plenty of ‘how to’s’ online, or if you want to go really crazy, try reading some books. There is a rich history of music reviewing that you might actually enjoy learning from, and would certainly benefit from reading.

    Secondly, it is bad form in the extreme to post ‘reviews’ anonymously. Hiding behind a screen name while saying some pretty negative things about bands is just cowardly.

    It’s not hard to gather (after reading your reviews) that you give your friends/people you know positive reviews, while bands that you don’t appear to have a personal connection with tend to get tepid and underwhelming reviews. This is fine, if you’re simply writing your opinion on a personal blog that discloses your name and relationships; but under the guise of a ‘review’ this is both dishonest and poor form.

    You’re absolutely entitled to your opinions, but when your opinions – under the shroud of a screen name – affect local bands’ reputations, even potentially their ability to get gigs, then you are doing a serious disservice to a community that this website allegedly exists to support.

    Sincerely, and with deliberate irony,

    “Anonymous”

    p.s. If in doubt, maybe try this: http://flewinfrommiami.blogspot.com/2006/05/paul-fuzz-e-z-do-it-yourself-gig.html

    • Josh Butler says:

      Dear “Anonymous”

      You’ve raised some pretty serious (albeit strange) points in your comment. Usually I wouldnt approve comments like this, but I felt a need to address your points.

      First, you say that “opinion does not constitute a review.” I then ask, what DOES constitute a review? A “review,” by its very virtue, IS an opinion. Look up two separate reviews of the same gig or festival – I can bet that they will not be exactly the same. Why not? Because each reviewer has his or her own opinions, which impact upon that review. “Opinion” is EXACTLY the entire POINT of a review; opinion is why reviewers get paid, because people WANT to hear their opinion. I actually encourage opinion on this site, as a slavering and mindless “YES THIS WAS A GOOD GIG” type of review actually defeats the point of a review. I want to hear what the reviewer thought about a particular show, and so do others.

      Secondly, “IndreM” is the name of the reviewer. Sorry that she didn’t post her full name, address, bank account details and date of birth online; maybe she (perhaps wisely) chose to hide some details about herself in an online environment due to acidic keyboard warriors like yourself. In addition, I have posted her (yes, “IndreM” is a “her”) name on Facebook several times, along the lines of “our new reviewer Indre went along to this gig,” so your point about an “anonymous screen name” seems invalid also.

      Lastly, the part about reviews affecting a band’s ability to get gigs? What would you recommend – a mindlessly positive review of each and every band and show? Again, that would defeat the purpose of a “review.” I want to hear about what happened at the gig, who played, who was good (and who I should see next time they play) and who was bad (and who I should avoid next time). If all our reviews are “every band was good because they are locals and I love Wollongong and the bands were really cool, the end,” would you read it? Don’t you want to know who played well, and who played badly? I’d like to think people visit Radar Illawarra because they realise that the writers have something to say, something worthwhile to read. Radar isn’t a promo company for local bands – it’s a review website. We review bands. If they don’t want to get a bad review, you know what the answer is? Play better. I make no apologies for reviews posted on this site that are critical of local bands. There are a multitude of incredible, passionate and committed bands out there, and most of the reviews on Radar reflect that – but when a band puts in a bad performance, expect to read about it.

      Anyway, “Anonymous,” thanks for your comment. I hope this has cleared up a few things.

      Josh Butler
      Radar Illawarra
      (also, just for your convenience, and because I know you like to know pertinent details about people you engage with online, you can email me at radar.illawarra@gmail.com to discuss things further)

  2. "Anonymous" says:

    Dear Josh,

    For a website that enjoys criticising, perhaps you should be more open to a bit of criticism yourself. To paraphrase you, when a reviewer puts in a (number of) bad performance(s), expect to read about it!

    I’d also like to clarify (after checking out your facebook page for the first time), that I’m in no way associated with the band the Young Braves. I apologise if anyone has gotten that impression. I’ve never seen them, and don’t know them. I’m just someone who occasionally likes watching bands and reading music blogs, and is tired of the shlock that calls itself critical review.

    And if you don’t want negative feedback – write and review better!

    • I’m interested in the concept you raise of “the shlock that calls itself a critical review”. Put it into perspective – it’s a blog based around local bands and gigs, not Pitchfork or Rolling Stone. What are you asking of this site? Local bands play shows, and then subjective reviews are written in an attempt to encapsulate the performer’s strengths and weaknesses.

      You say that the content on the site “are simply opinions, and are of little interest to readers”, which I find interesting, seeing as that you’re taking YOUR opinion and assuming that it applies to the general readership of the blog.

      If you’ve got general criticisms, perhaps make a constructive suggestion rather than simply providing an “I hate it when you do this” and a link to a piece of satirical derision. I’ll preempt a likely suggestion from yourself that “you shouldn’t have to tell other people how to do their job” – if so, then why bother? Simply disagree with the content and move on.

      Notice that I’ve included my name, and even my band, which was reviewed barely modestly above. This is my opinion, and this is my review of your comments. Feel free to agree or disagree at your own pace.

    • Josh Butler says:

      One – I don’t “enjoy” criticising. Two – there’s a difference between “criticism” and “review.” I would argue that most – if not all – the points raised by Indre can be classified as “constructive criticism” rather than “criticism” (because, yes, there is a difference).

      I’m open to criticism, but when you openly and personally attack a person, that’s different. I’m open to negative feedback, but it’s also fair to expect that I will reply to you when you give it, to defend myself and also the site’s other writers from unwarranted criticism. Is it the best review in the world? No. Is Radar a bastion of all that is good and true in the world of music writing? Not by a long shot. But the review was honest, even-handed, unbiased and did not try to pander to “protect” local bands. It was not unnecessarily cruel or mean. It contained opinion. It summed up the show. In short, it contained everything you’d want a review to contain, and I stand behind it 100%.

  3. Mitch says:

    Dear “Anonymous”,

    Please post a link to YOUR writing, and tell us your real name

  4. indrem says:

    WOAH, thanks everyone for your feedback!

    In response to the sassy and elusive “Anonymous”, I also stand by my review, and the way I chose to write it; recognising that it isn’t anywhere near perfect, and that it is by it’s nature an opinion piece, and also taking responsibility for my at-times brutal honesty, because rather than pleasing the local bands Radar reviews (all of whom I respect and admire deeply) on a short-term basis with across-the-board lovely, glittering reviews, I think that both they and the people who take an interest in the local music scene deserve an honest (albeit subjective, yes!) account of whatever the performance in question might be. It goes without saying that as someone who loves local music and who loves to write, I am constantly trying to write better about all the shows I review (nevertheless, thanks for your stellar and degrading advice on how to do it properly).

    As for my identity and personal connections to bands, I don’t think either of these is necessary to give out alongside reviews (although when I read I also like to know who the author is, so I have given my real name, believe it or not!), and although I do know and am friends with people in a number of local bands and I don’t know others at all, this has no effect on my reviews because I respect them and their craft too much to be so horribly fickle.

    At the risk of dignifying your tirade with too much of a lengthy response, it is also ridiculous of you to suggest that I, or anyone writing for Radar, are doing a disservice to the community when each of our reviews and articles is contributing to a well-rounded discussion about the local music scene. Honest, constructive criticism is absolutely supportive and is far more of a service to the community than pander-y fibbing. The musicians of the Illawarra stand at the very centre of this and I have no doubt that they are strong enough to withstand it.

    Thanks for your noise.

    Indre M

  5. shaun from young braves says:

    hey guys, I know this reply may be a little late but i just came across this review while surfing the interwebs tonight.
    I hope it’s not perceived that “anonymous” was trying to protect or defend our band, because i don’t think that was his/her intention and nor would i welcome it. I know that not everyone is into the same things or has the same musical tastes, I’m not into lady gaga or maroon 5 but there are a lot of people who are, everyone has their own opinions and this reviewer is no different and is free to express that. And I hope we get the chance to play for Radar reviewers again in the future.

    Shaun

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