HARP HOTEL CANCELS FUTURE GIGS?

Despite carving out a reputation for itself as Wollongong’s live music hub over the last 18 months, we’re hearing reports that the Harp Hotel seems to have changed focus and will no longer host live music.

This Wednesday would have seen a trio of up-and-coming locals – Young Braves, The Good God Damned and A Cat Named Kesey – take to the Harp stage for another in the Harp’s regular local music evenings. However, the gig has been cancelled, with little explanation as to the reasons. The cancellation of this show was, incidentally, the catalyst for the Starlight Foundation fundraising show at CBD Bar, as announced by Radar yesterday.

Kuz, drummer for The Good God Damned and organiser of Soundbreak Live, explained what he had been told as to the reasons for Wednesday’s cancellation, saying that a recent change in ownership had been followed by a change in priorities for the Harp.

“Jeb [Taylor, of Music Farmers] said that whatever show was on the other night was going to be the last and that the new owners were going in a karaoke bar direction.”

To lose the Harp, which had largely been filling the hole left by the Oxford in terms of hosting mid-level Australian independent acts, and which had recently started hosting all-local shows, would be another big blow to the local music community. In recent months, the Harp had hosted Parades, Oh Sleeper, The Chariot, The Bedroom Philosopher, Citizen of the Sea, Mary Jane Kelly, Totally Unicorn, Bec Sandridge, Places People and Bennie James.

What this means for the shows already scheduled to be held at the Harp – including the upcoming Tonight Alive/Skyway and Ghostwood/Chicks Who Love Guns gigs – is yet to be seen. Stay tuned for more news as it comes.

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INTERVIEW: Kaleidoscope

Local psych/noise-rockers, Kaleidoscope, are launching their debut EP tonight at the Rydges CBD Bar with Dane Overton, Vanguard Party and Curious Temple. Band guitarist and lead vocalist, Sweeney, was kind enough to answer a few questions in the leadup to the big launch show.

Tell us a bit about Kaleidoscope’s sound
We get described as sort of stoner rock/psychedelic, but I guess different people hear different things. I’d say a bit grungy too, because we love noise and a bit of a mess.

How long has the band been together?
We’ve been gigging properly since about December last year. We didn’t really start a band, we just are three guys who liked making noise together. Eventually we actually had what you’d call “songs” so we decided it’d be funny to play a gig, so we entered a band comp [the Mercury Bluescope band competition], just as an excuse to play. We did well in the band comp, made it to the finals and ended up with another gig. We used this as a chance to get disqualified and become a “real” band.

You’ve just released your EP. Tell us a bit about the recording process
One of the judges from the band comp we entered is Al Wright, the producer at 313 Studios, who I knew previously. He gets us, as he’d seen us before so we were very happy to have him work with us. We recordedit in a few days, and pretty much recorded live. I’m really proud of that, because it’s just us playing. That’s what we sound like live. We over did some vocals, but we used the raw ones as well anyway, so I’m really proud. We only had like two days of band recording, so we just played what we’d normally play. The main thing we wanted to do was to get the vibe of “The Towers” right, and we did that. So the rest is a plus for us.

Are you happy with the final product?
Yes! We got cases printed onto cardboard, so it looks really cool. We were happy with the vibe of the CD, then we put it in cool cases, so we are really happy all up. I’d buy it if I saw it in a shop!

Any highlights for you, in terms of recording?
Working with Al was really cool. He gave us little tips that were really helpful, but one of my favourite things was getting to use a Space Echo tape echo. It’s an effect from the early 70s where they use a tape to record a sound and play it back. Also, Al never gets it serviced because he doesn’t want it to sound perfect, so it’s crackly and warped, and sounded really cool.

How can people get their hands on your EP?
At our show on the 4th June with Dane Overton, Vanguard Party and Curious Temple. You can also get it from Music Farmers, and hopefully some other local independent stores. Also on Facebook, just send us a message or post our wall and we’ll get back to you. The’yre only $5 too, so it’s cheap!

The EP launch show is with Dane Overton, who is also releasing his EP. How did it come about for you two to team up on the show?
Dane has been one of our best friends since before we learned our instruments, and now both of us play, so are like brother bands. It was just natural to do it together because we both love going to each others shows and hanging out, so it’ll be fun.

Also playing is Vanguard Party. With you, them and Dane, that’s a pretty diverse lineup. Why did you decide to book a show with such a wide range of bands?
Because Vanguard Party are the most fun band I’ve ever seen! Plus they are also good friends of ours; we wanted to get bands that weren’t wankers, so there will be a good vibe in the room.

You announced last week that Curious Temple would be the fourth band on the lineup. Can you tell us a bit about them?
Not really! We saw them a while ago, and after they played, we talked to them and they said the guitarist couldn’t play the gig; so instead of pulling out they just jammed on stage! Awesome! So if they were that good on the spot, they’ll be awesome with a full lineup. They also were cool, which fits the “No Wanker” policy.

What can we expect from a Kaleidoscope live show?
Loud chaos, smiles, journeys and low end. And dreadlocks. Heaps of dreads.

You’ve announced that the band will be going on a long hiatus, after you go travelling. Will the band be getting together in future?
Well we are only stopping because of the travel. We will definitely be back, even if we are 38 or something because we all genuinely enjoy it. So if you’re into it, keep an eye on our Facebook because it ain’t over yet. And I’ll probably put photos from the desert up to look at.

There’s been quite a few new venues popping up in Wollongong lately, with Otis Bar, Yours & Owls, The Patch and Rydges CBD Bar. What do you think about the new venues appearing in town?
It’s good to see new venues around, but they need to spread the music nights out. Every venue says “we are here supporting live music, come watch live band Thursday nights!” But, we can’t support live bands if they are on at the same time in different venues! Plus, from a business view, if your target market is musos, they are all busy playing in every other venue on a Thursday night! They need to work together so they all make money and support the scene, like Otis does Wednesday nights, Harp does Thursday, Patch does Friday, CBD does Saturday, Owls does Sunday

How do you see the state of music in Wollongong, generally? How is the scene going right now?
People think the scene died when the Oxford Tavern closed, but people just stopped looking. When a pub closes, bands don’t put down their instruments, they go somewhere else. But I think a bunch of them didn’t look real hard because they never had to before. I mean it’s sad, I loved that place but the universe didn’t end. Just drink beer and listen to music somewhere else – like tonight at CBD Bar!

What can be changed, or improved, to help support music in Wollongong?
Bands supporting each other instead of getting huge ego’s. Every gig should adopt the “No Wankers” policy, and everyone would be happy. Also, people should get off their arses and stop blogging about being bored and watch a band play. You can’t say they are shit if you haven’t seen them before.

Local Legends: THE HARP HOTEL

In terms of consistent pulling power, the Harp is probably the top venue in town.

The Corrimal St venue has arguably been the performance space that has ‘benefited’ most from the closure of other mid-sized venues in town, picking up acts that would have previously been hosted by the Oxford or Night Eats Day at Cooneys; the Harp has hosted the likes of Boy & Bear, The Jezabels, Ash Grunwald, Bodyjar, Parades, The Mission In Motion, Die! Die! Die!, and Howl in recent months, and the list of upcoming shows includes Oh Sleeper, The Chariot, Strange Talk, Pez and Maya Jupiter.

Largely dealing with tours from upcoming Australian talent – i.e. whatever you’re hearing on Triple J this week – its relationship with the team at Various Industries mean that the Harp is also usually a good place to check out local talent; Various seem to strive to put a local band or two on every gig that they can, helping local bands gain experience alongside more established acts.

A fairly classic representation of the ‘pub venue’ prevalent – but sadly in decline – in Sydney and Melbourne, it doesn’t try to be something it isn’t; a bar along one wall, a stage along the opposite wall, chairs and tables and a dancefloor between (and Buck Hunter and a pinball machine over in one corner). It’s a simple venue, but that is what makes it an effective venue. It’s a good venue for bands to play, it’s a good venue to see bands play. The sound system is great, you can see from wherever you are, you can sit down or stand up or dance, and – for some reason – it is never crowded.

Its proximity to the centre of town, to public transport and to essential amenities (i.e. McDonalds and Oporto) just helps to make the Harp one of the best venues in the area. A good lineup of bands, great facilities and an effective set-up; the Harp is a venue that you should become a little more acquainted with.

CONTACT:
The Harp Hotel, Wollongong
124 Corrimal Street, Wollongong
See Various Industries website for info on upcoming gigs.

STATE OF THE MUSIC SCENE FORUM

A quick post regarding an important upcoming event for the Wollongong music scene; the 2011 State of the Music Scene Forum.

To be held at Music Farmers (5 Crown Lane, Wollongong; just up the lane from Otis Bar) on Tuesday April 19th, the community forum has been designed to look at the future of music in Wollongong. With the closure of the Oxford Tavern in 2010, the emergence and rapid deterioration of the live music nights at various Wollongong clubs, and a current shortage of venues, Wollongong’s music scene is in a state of flux; local music advocates have organised the forum to look at what can be done to support venues and bands.

Running from 7.30pm to 9pm, three main topics are up for discussion; music venues, music scene advocacy and music scene history.

As well as being a serious forum for discussing and debating ideas for the future of Wollongong music, forum organisers are encouraging bands, musicians and anyone interested in live music to use the evening as a networking opportunity; to meet like-minded individuals, form contacts and speak with fellow music fans.

The evening is a free, all ages event open to anyone interested, and will include performances from Bennie James and Sean Stinson. A post-forum gig has also been organised at the Otis Bar, to start at 9.30pm.

Early next week, Radar will feature an interview with forum organiser, Rob Carr; stay tuned!

For more info on the forum, and to RSVP your attendance, check out the official Facebook event.

2011 State of the Music Scene Forum
April 19th; 5 Crown Lane, Wollongong (Music Farmers)
7.30pm-9pm, all ages, free and open to all

LIVE REVIEW: Mother and Son album launch @ 5 Crown Lane

Driving to the venue, I was explaining to a friend the story of Music Farmers’ closure after noise complaints from nearby residents. On this, the first ‘loud’ music gig since 5 Crown Lane’s re-opening as a venue, I expected the volume of the bands to be at a bare whisper to avoid similar neighbourly complaints.

“It’ll be really quiet tonight,” I predicted with the confidence of a TV psychic.
“They won’t want to upset the people in the apartments next door.”

So it was with some surprise that, when I stepped out of my car, the steady throb of a down-tuned bass, the staccato thudding of drums and piercing, yelled vocals were instantly audible.

Take into account the fact that I parked three streets and over five hundred metres away from the venue; that should give you some idea of what I mean.

Mother and Son, one of Wollongong’s most talented and least-publicised acts, launched their debut album on Friday night with a proper rock’n’roll show, the likes of which had not been seen since the halcyon days of the Oxford Tavern. With a mix of bands from Sydney and Melbourne rounding out the bill, and a palpable buzz in the room (whether it was due to the re-opening of the warehouse-style 5 Crown Lane, or due to the BYO alcohol policy, it wasn’t clear), the gig brought back memories of Wollongong’s once-prolific live music culture.

Arriving too late to catch The Gooch Palms from Sydney, the explosive sound heard on the walk to the venue was Melbourne’s Midnight Woolf. Boasting members of iconic grunge-rock group Magic Dirt, Midnight Woolf play a loose, punk-tinged rock’n’roll bringing The Cramps or The Ramones to mind. Not a particularly ground-breaking sound; but the passion that the four-piece injected into their set made it easy to forgive them for treading a well-worn path, and made it hard to take your eyes off them.In a set filled with band members venturing into the crowd to sing or dance, then jumping on or over the drumkit, it was a member of the crowd that provided the highlight. During the final song, as the guitarist threw his instrument to the floor and bent over to play it with his knees (yes, his knees), a female patron casually sauntered over, placed her beer on the floor and jumped onto his shoulders. He then stood up and started walking around the room with the girl on his shoulders, all the while smashing out the dirtiest rock riff you’ve ever heard.
It was pretty rock’n’roll.

Another Melbourne act, The Yard Apes, began their set to a largely empty room, with most patrons still outside enjoying their BYO alcohol. Playing a very 50s-inspired rock sound, the group wore their influences on their sleeve; or their chest as it were, with the three-piece’s frontman proudly flaunting an Elvis Presley shirt. A more classic blues-style band, they had far less energy than Midnight Woolf, but made up for it with a musical consistency and rhythm that hinted of a well-rehearsed, solid band. A mix of blues and surf rock, it was the kind of music you could imagine as the soundtrack for an early Malibu surf film. The slowed tempo and constant rhythm made for some proper 50s-style dancing, with a large group at the front partaking in dances that came into and went out of style years before they – or, in some cases, even their parents – were born; the Twist and some proper go-go dancing gave the night a classic, authentic rock’n’roll feel.

As Mother and Son came on to set up and tune up, the outside crowd quickly filed in. Frontman Bodie Jarman had been manning the sound desk all night, started into a riff that everyone assumed to be a soundcheck; it was not until drummer Mat joined in – a good two minutes later – that the crowd realised that the show had begun. For only having two members, and thus two instruments, produce a sound that is both impressively rich and musically diverse. A deep, solid sound that wanders between garage-rock, blues, rock’n’roll and surf rock, it offers something for almost everyone. Frontman Bodie staggered around the room, bent double as he plucked out intricate melodies, while drummer Mat relentlessly pounded out his fills. Bodie seemed genuinely surprised at the size of the crowd, and took full advantage of the intimate venue, regularly getting into the crowd and getting up in the faces of audience members as he belted out his gravely, raspy lyrics. The two-piece generated huge energy and a great reception from an enthusiastic (and, admittedly, largely tipsy) crowd. A frenetic, blistering and energetic set came to a close with an epic extended jam that clocked in around ten-minutes (or, at least, that’s what it felt like). Bodie ended up being chaired around the venue on the shoulders of friends, with almost all in attendance jumping out of their skins.

All in all, a surprisingly awesome gig. A relaxed and laidback atmosphere, BYO alcohol, great live bands, a sold-out crowd, and the knowledge that you were supporting the local live music scene – the perfect combination. The only sour note is that 5 Crown Lane will likely not be able to host these types of gigs very often; a shame, because venues and shows like this are EXACTLY what Wollongong is desperately crying out for.

For more info, check out Radar’s interview with Mother and Son.

INTERVIEW: TOTALLY UNICORN

Usually, I hate straight up Q&A-style interviews. They’re boring, lazy and just show a general unwillingness to go the extra mile for your interview subject.
With that in mind, I did an interview with Mike from hardcore group Totally Unicorn that was so damn funny, it would be a crime to do anything but present it in its original context.

So, without further ado, Radar talks to Totally Unicorn about beards, beer, the medieval society and getting kicked out of their own gigs…


First off, just introduce yourself and the band to our readers
This is Mike, Drew is there, Robs next, and Clancy’s beside him

Give us a bit of insight into the band, and the kind of music you play.
Uhhh we’re 4 people and play sorta rock and roll music with more moustache

Who would you nominate as some of your musical influences, or acts that have a similar sound to you?
Clancy likes that dude from the Chilli Peppers, I’ll say that drummer from Nirvana, Rob likes Sleigh Bells and Drew is mostly into Queen.

How and when did Totally Unicorn start?
There was a merging of intentions between us and sorta like how a bullshark is more deadly than a great white, we thought it was time to try and make some decent music. We’re still trying and hopefully by our fourth double CD studio album, we’ll nail it.

Tell us about the early days of the band; your first shows, starting to build a reputation.
I don’t know how long it took for us to get enough songs together to have something that resembled a ‘set’, but I do remember it was 4 songs and went for about 8 minutes. I couldn’t afford new cymbals so just welded pieces together to make some Frankenstein kinda thing. That was a bad idea and I can speak from experience when I say “don’t weld old cymbals together to make new cymbals” – They snap and they fly at you and your friends. Yeah, so I was dressed as an overweight, retired Spiderman and I think someone else dressed as a hoof? It wasn’t worth going to, but we built a reputation.

Obviously the name ‘Totally Unicorn’ stands out, especially in relation to the type of music you play. How did the name come about?
It’s kind of a long story but Mike is deeply involved in a local medieval society and it was the name of his steed. Oh… short story.

You seem to play interstate shows pretty regularly; when was the first time you played outside NSW, and what made you think then was the right moment to do so?
I think we first went interstate was our “Raise Your Horn Tour” when we’d written 12 minutes of material, but we just played the intro 3 times and told Dad jokes to get it up to 20 minutes. Once Drew had rehearsed enough jokes about “a cheeseburger for the ride home”, we knew we were ready for the big time.

A lot of people seem to remember you guys getting kicked out of your own show at the Novotel Beach Bar a while back. First off, care to clear up what really happened at that show?
While we were playing, Drew de-robed to his underwear, ran out the back and dived onto a patron’s table knocking their beers to the ground. Then he fell off the table, rolling around in broken glass. From memory then he ran back inside and was bleeding on people and swinging on this balcony thing. Security’s all “put your clothes back on and stop goosing around” or words to that effect. I think he refused, or the set ended or something? Either way, Heavy Heavy Low Low played after us and they were good.

(Click here to see a picture from the gig, which should perfectly sum up the venue’s appreciation of Totally Unicorn’s performance)

In a few weeks you’re touring with Let Me Down Jungleman, who obviously have a really different sound to Totally Unicorn. Do you think it’s good to have contrasting bands on a lineup, rather than a few bands who sound similar?
They’re a really good band that we’re proud to be touring with, and we usually try to play with bands in different genres. It breaks up the night and hopefully you get to hear something cool and new.

Last week you released the video for “Daddy’s Stabby Surprise,” which was pretty much immediately removed from Youtube. Is there some kind of pride in that honour for you?
Not for me personally. More disgrace I suppose….

It seemed like you would have had a lot of fun making the video. Approximately what percentage of the video did you spend drunk?
I was drunk about 9 hours before I got to the set and naked about 10 minutes after I arrived. I think the other dudes were already half cut too cos they’d been filming all day. I would say drunk for 70% of the clip over 3 days – cos some of us had to work…

(To see the video, click here – WARNING: not for the faint of heart!)

The band was involved in managing the ‘Stay Frosty’ punk night at Cooneys. Are there plans for that to continue in some way, or did that get shelved along with N.E.D after the problems with the venue?
Yeah, Drew and I were putting those shows on for about 6 months I think. We were having a good time with it but after Cooneys went to shit, we tried The Beach Bar and got kicked out of there as well so I think if we start it up again, we’ll have to do it in our own venue where we’ve got the freedom to make it exactly what we want.

In light of the recent upheavals in the Wollongong music community – for instance, the closure of the Oxford; Cooneys, The Brewery and Hostage cancelling their local music nights; the Patch opening to bands, and 5 Crown Lane relaunching – what are your thoughts on local music in this town? Do you think it’s in good shape, or is it struggling?
The Brewery finished up? That sucks… $12 jugs – I like it there. But I dunno if it’s good or bad dude. We always complain that it’s shit here but I think it is what we make of it, and unless people support it, it will always die.

What could be done, or changed, to support live music in Wollongong?
You said it in a nutshell… support it. That, and making sure it’s run by people who give a shit about the music rather than cashing in on it.

Finish this sentence; Wollongong live music is…
probably out there… somewhere…

Where can people buy your EP?
From our Big Cartel and from our website/s

Besides your show with Oh Sleeper, The Chariot and MJK at the end of April, are there any other local shows coming up?
Not that we’re allowed to announce yet, no. So yes.

Grab Totally Unicorn’s ‘Horse Hugger’ EP from their Bigcartel site. Totally Unicorn kick off ‘The Dick Party tour!’ at Canberra’s Bar 32 on April 6th and Sydney’s Red Rattler on April 8th with Let Me Down Jungleman. See all the tour dates here. Closer to home, Totally Unicorn also play The Harp Hotel on April 24 with The Chariot, Oh Sleeper and Mary Jane Kelly.

Totally Unicorn – Daddy’s Stabby Surprise

Totally Unicorn – Cool Dads With Cool Sons

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