Live Review: Into It. Over It. at The Rev, Melbourne

Into It Over It Australian Tour Poster
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Into It. Over It.

w/ Zzzounds and Jess Locke

The Rev, Melbourne

Friday 30 September 2016

I awoke at 4.30am (1.30am Melbourne time) to make it to the airport for my flight to Melbourne for the Into It. Over It. show. As I stumbled out of bed bleary eyed, I quietly thanked myself for having the foresight to have packed my gear the night previous.

I got to the airport without a hitch, seeing as there is no traffic so early in the morning. My flight was delayed by an hour, but I busied myself doing some paperwork on my laptop as I sat in the waiting room.

Once it was time to board I somehow managed to squeeze my 6’3″ frame into the airline seat that was clearly designed for people less vertically inclined than myself. I managed to survive the four-hour flight, despite the lady in front of me deciding to recline her seat into my knees. She then proceeded to slam her body weight squarely onto my knees every two minutes as she tossed and turned, trying to make herself comfortable, and inflicting maximum pain upon my legs in the process.

Into It. Over It. Melbourne Will Not Fade

Landing in Melbourne was mayhem. Nobody appeared to have a clue where to go and the lack of signage and airport staff did little to dispel the mass confusion. It took an hour to get from the runway to a bus that drove us along the tarmac, through customs, and out of the airport altogether. It was a public holiday in Melbourne because of the AFL sports final, so perhaps most of the staff had the day off? I’ve been told that customs officials are on strike tomorrow, so I wonder if I’m going to have an equally unpleasant time trying to get back into the airport?

Whilst not the first time I had flown overseas, or even the first time I’d been to Melbourne, this was the first time that I’d traveled abroad for a gig, and I was wondering if it was worth all the hassle I’d had to endure so far.

My friends picked me up from the airport. We spent the morning in Richmond sampling outrageously unhealthy [read: tasty] food, before heading into the city to stroll down the streets in search of more morsels and to listen to buskers on Bourke Street. It was both a public holiday and school holidays, so town was exceptionally busy and full of life.

I was insistent that we needed to buy some matching red and black checked shirts to wear to the gig. My friend Francie was having no bar of it, deciding that dressing like a lumberjack was beneath her. But I managed to find a beautiful 7XL sized top to wear for $10 (bargain!), and offered my own more modestly sized M sized shirt to Francie’s boyfriend James, who was far too polite to decline. He didn’t seem to stoked on the idea, but I think that he was secretly relieved that I hadn’t bought another of the 7XL shirts for him.

We arrived at the gig at 9pm. Sadly we missed opening act Jess Locke. Time management has never been my forte, and navigating Melbourne public transport was a bit beyond me in my current sleep-deprived state.

I introduced myself to Evan Weiss, the man of the night, who was manning the merch desk. He thought it was hilarious that I was rocking a shirt the size of a tent. I’d got the idea from the brilliant “No EQ” music video [embedded above], which involves everyone dressing up in those red checked shirts and oversized Evan Weiss masks with plastic glasses. To my surprise, Evan told me that I was the first fan crazy enough to actually try to dress like him for a gig. He told me that he hadn’t even featured in the “No EQ” video. He had been away touring while his friends put together the video, almost as a prank on him. At least my friends thought my insanity was slightly more justified after that conversation.

zzzounds Into It. Over It. Melbourne Will Not Fade

Second support Zzzounds [aka Dave Drayton] started shortly after. Like Weiss, Drayton was doing a solo show without a band for support. And the IIOI comparisons don’t stop there. He sang brilliant heartfelt songs with nimble finger picking on a glittery green guitar, and was never ending with the funny banter.

zzzounds Into It. Over It. Melbourne Will Not Fade

His guitar style was impressive. Most of his playing was done using two hands on the neck, with a mixture or tapping and finger picking. He sang sad songs about unemployment and lack of money, but it didn’t get depressing because he was devastatingly funny between songs. He employed a gimmick of trying to incorporate nu-metal puns and Simpsons references into his songs. Anyone who writes songs about Juggalos getting confused about magnets gets a thumbs up from me.

Say Ahhh. Into It. Over It. Melbourne Will Not Fade

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was hoping that Weiss would have brought a band over, or at least his phenomenal drummer, Josh Sparks. But I was also hoping to hear some  lovely singer/songwriter numbers like from his Daytrotter sessions. Turns out that Weiss had chosen not to bring his full band on his first Australian tour, partly to test the waters, and partly because going solo is cheaper than airfares for a full band.

Not that this mattered. Weiss had more than enough presence to compensate for his lack of support. Belting out anthemic choruses one second, and then tenderly cooing into the mic the next, he showed a wide range of proficiency. A few of his rockier songs felt slightly flatter than usual without the drums or guitar pedals that feature in the studio versions, but this was easily forgiven, because he was able to pump out such brilliant tunes using just his guitar and his voice.

And although he joked that  it was “sad singer/songwriter night”, nothing was sad about his performance. He was lively and energetic. He shared with us that he’d been nervous about how he would be recieved in Austrailia, but was having such a great time and couldn’t believe how well it was going.

It was a captivating show. I’ve listened to him sing thousands of times on record, so it was something special to sit a few metres away from him and watch him work his magic.

Into It. Over It. Melbourne Will Not Fade

Weiss was at ease on the stage, and commented on how much fun he was having, and how welcome he felt a few times over the course of the night. He shared stories behind a few songs, told us about how his cat was plotting to kill him, discussed his old haunted car, invited us to request songs, and even asked us to heckle him (like they do back in New Jersey).

My favourite story was about the inspiration for “Pinky Swear”.  At the time of writing the song Weiss was struggling to make a living as a musician, and his girlfriend was also struggling to make ends meet as someone who made plush toys for a living. The two of them swore to each other that they’d follow their passions, and the song tells of Weiss reflecting on this promise, parked in his car on the side of the road whilst watching a fireworks display.

He was a great sport, taking requests to play super deep cuts. Some of the songs he hadn’t played for many years, but it was the last night of tour, and he was feeling good, so he made a go of it. People in the audience felt comfortable interacting. Some heckled Wiess, tongue-in-cheek, as he had prompted them to. Many shouted out requests. One guy got a shout out for whistling a melody that was absent from the live guitar-only version of a song.

For one request (“Portland, OR”, from the split EP with Such Gold), Weiss had to re-tune his whole guitar, and once he had, realised that he’d entirely forgotten how the song  went. He tried to look it up on spotify to remind himself, and had an attempt, before throwing in the towel and just telling us the story behind the song. He had been staying in Portland when he and his mates had invited a girl to the pub with them. She offered to buy him a beer, and when he’d said “thanks, bro”, she’d blasted him and called him a “jock douche”, which inspired the song.

It was nice to see a professional musician show that it’s OK not to be perfect. He will have played some of his songs countless times, but still manages to make mistakes. But he owns his mistakes, and has fun while he’s doing it.

Into It. Over It. Melbourne Will Not Fade

I was tired and sore when I got to this gig. It had been a long day. But the music had been spellbinding. It was magic seeing how music could be used to form a genuine connection between strangers.

I left the gig exhausted, but elated. I’d been awake for almost 24 hours straight and in that time I’d flown to a different country, eaten some amazing food, caught up with old friends, and managed to meet one of my favourite artists and see him take complete ownership of the stage. It made me think about how fortunate I am to be able to pursue my love of music, and attend so many great shows.

“Life gets in the way of living
And interrupts the could be, would be, should be
That we’re offered everyday
And now that you and I’ve been given what we’ve wanted
Let’s make a pinky swear that we don’t throw it all away.”

-Into It. Over It. – “Pinky Swear”

 

Into It. Over It. Melbourne

And, as if I hadn’t managed to embarrass my friends enough that day, I fell asleep on the train ride back to their house, draped in an tragically over-sized flannel shirt.

 

Joseph James

Interview: Incentives

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Melbourne based hardcore act Incentives have just dropped their début EP, Dusk, at the end of June. I fired some questions off to vocalist Kyle Adams just before then to see where the band was at prior to dropping their first EP, and to learn more about who they were.

Will Not Fade: I’ve visited Melbourne once. It was in 2012 and I stayed with my friends who were in the band The Voyage, and we all went to see Terror play that weekend. I got the impression that in Australia people take being in a band pretty seriously, whereas here in New Zealand it’s more like “hey let’s start our sixth side project, and I’ll play an instrument that I haven’t learnt because it looks fun!” Have you noticed much of a difference between NZ/AU bands?

Kylee: We were lucky enough to tour New Zealand early 2015 and made great friends with a band called ‘The Inquisition’. I don’t really feel like we picked up on any huge differences other than the fact that the New Zealand scene is considerably smaller. This probably means that as an Australian band you really need to put in a little bit of extra time and money to get yourself noticed and grab opportunities. End of the day I think both scenes really love their music it’s just a matter of scale.

How does the Melbourne hardcore scene feel at the moment?

The Melbourne hardcore scene is super, super, talented right now. We have heaps and heaps of bands coming out and continually impressing! I still think there is a bit of a gap between the “In group” and the rest of the scene but that’s always pretty standard for any kind of scene in any facet of life.

I read that many of your songs are written about girls. Which member of the band is the biggest ladies’ man? (You need a story to back up any answers to this question!)

Daaaammmn, this is tough but good old Jezza (bassist) is currently the only single member so best for the future of all four other relationships I don’t disclose a great deal. Jezza has a pretty neat track record when it comes to Tinder, and has been known to pull some local girls when we pull up in their town. Currently boasting a 100% strike rate down in Tassie!

The Dusk album cover features a picture of a faceless man with a gorgeous beard, but I see in your publicity pics that none of you have beards. What gives?

Well you see before our drummer Joe moved to Melbourne he lived in the mountain ranges, and whilst stalking his Facebook to ensure this new drummer was a legit person I stumbled across a few photos. These photos depicted a wild Joe two weeks after his 18th birthday. Where Joe grew up you aren’t considered a man unless you trek through the bush for two weeks either side of your 18th birthday., and so these photos our dear drummer was sporting one fine beard and that’s basically where the inspiration came from.

You came to NZ last year to tour with Depths, Hand of Mercy and The Inquisition. Tell me what you enjoyed/learnt during that trip.

We loooooove New Zealand! Everyone was just so genuine and kind to us throughout the entire trip it was quite incredible. We made some lifelong friends in The Inquisition so that was great. One thing we did learn though was that our New Zealand friends weren’t all that great with the local geography and with an adventure that ended in Papatoitoi. I feel we Australians have a better idea when it comes to such matters.

Do you prefer playing all ages or R18 shows? 

I really don’t mind! Over ages is fun because everyone can get drunk and have a bit of a time, but then it’s equally fun playing to younger crowds too. It’s all a good time really!

Joe’s dad built his drum kit for him. How did he learn how to do that?

This is the question I have asked myself a million times, but again I think it comes down to the coming of age ritual. Upon Joe’s return he had a fully constructed guitar he had built out of tambark and other fauna, so my tip is that Joe’s dad managed to do something similar but in the form of a drum kit.

You’ve been playing for three years, but have only just recorded your first EP. Do you think this will open many doors for you?

One can only hope! It’s been hard for us to keep things consistently moving given that we have had so many lineup changes but now things have got a bit of a move on and we just want to keep the momentum rolling.

You’re just about to drop your first EP, and have a tour lined up. What else is on the cards for Incentives?

I guess just more of the same! Everything bigger and better would be the goal. Creating memories that we can always look back on is my biggest wish. I understand bands aren’t the be all and end all, so really I just want to do as much as I can during this short little time frame we have. Then when my kids give me shit for wearing cardigans I can whip out some old photos and music and say “your dad had a half decent run back in the day” hahaha.

Which song do you think I should share with readers who aren’t familiar with your music?

Hmmmmm possibly “Dawn”. We’ve had a great response to that track and Jezza has a sing on it too! It’s pretty much the only song on the entire EP with a chorus so perhaps this chorus trend may continue with the new stuff.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Hopefully I’ll catch you next time you cross the ditch to play in New Zealand again!

Thanks heaps for the interview man! Probably the most fun I’ve had with an interview this entire time (had over 50 of the buggers). Hopefully we can make it out to New Zealand again soon and see you at a show.


 

Incentives links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IncentivesMelb/

Bandcamp: https://incentivesmelbourne.bandcamp.com/

Tour: https://www.facebook.com/events/1752335758369622/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/incentives-band 

 

Joseph James

Buried Treasure: La Dispute – Eight

La Dispute Here Hear
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Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

Melodic hardcore band La Dispute just dropped their new track “Thirteen“, so this is a good time to shine a spotlight on some of their non-album material.

La Dispute have three EPs in the Here, Hear series that are wildly different from their regular output. Rather than the intense hardcore we are used to, these EPs include untitled experimental spoken word songs based on literature, poetry, philosophy and prose. When I saw La Dispute play with Balance & Composure in Wellington a few years ago I was delighted that they even included the song ‘Nine’ into their set by playing it as the first encore.

La Dispute here hear liner notes

Setting up for recording in a garage. Picture taken from the Here, Hear II EP liner notes

The series is delightfully low-fi and creative. Most of the tracks use unconventional objects as instruments, like clapping wooden blocks together in a basement. Other examples that stood out as interesting were using a pocketknife as a guitar slide, flipping book pages, or using a pencil sharpener for percussion. You can even hear a dog howling in the song “Seven”.

They draw on a variety of literary sources for inspiration, such as Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic Annabel Lee, and Kenneth Grahame’s charming The Wind in The Willows. My favourite though, is the song ‘Eight’, adapted from the afterword of J. Michael Straczynski’s graphic novel Midnight Nation.

Written in the form of a diary reflection, Straczynski explores the dichmidnight-nation-cover2otomies of his city, with the characters that feature during the day and during the night seemingly from two different worlds. This theme provides the basis for the graphic novel, a story of the lost and forgotten trying to find their way out from beneath the cracks of society.

I love listen to this track through headphones as I go for walks. I picture the narrators story as I explore my city, and try to see the places I’ve walked through hundreds of times with fresh eyes, trying to notice the hidden and forgotten.

Go and listen to Here, Hear series to fall in love with the blend of brilliant music and literature.

Joseph James

Interview: Audio Impulse

Audio Impulse
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What is the story behind your band?

Hey guys its Barry, lead singer and rhythm guitarist from Audio Impulse. I met Nate back in college through our bassist Pat. We quickly became friends and always discussed writing music together. We ended up living around the corner from each other and found ourselves without bands and a lot of free time. I went through a break-up and ended up moving about 45 minutes away from Nate. He came over twice a week to write music and keep me sane. Eventually when we had several songs written we decided to make it a full line-up and asked Pat to join as our bassist. The search for a drummer was a little tricky, we ended up placing an ad on Craigslist and Freeman answered it. He was the first and only try-out we had. The first night he played with us it all gelled perfectly.

How would you describe your sound?

Our sound is somewhat unique but still accessible. Most people say it’s hard to pin us directly in one specific genre but overall we identify as Punk Rock. We have heavy Pop Punk influences that mesh with our love for 90s era grunge. We all have specific bands that we pull our influences from but the common ones across the board would be Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, Rise Against, Incubus, Nirvana, Wonder Years, and Thrice.

What song or album do you recommend for first time listeners?

I would actually recommend our EP that we just released in March called “Straight Shot”. It’s four songs that will definitely get you up and moving. My personal favourite from the EP would be “For The Road” which we are getting ready to release a music video for!

What lessons did you learn from your previous bands that you brought with you to this band?

There are more lessons than I care to list here but there are several main points that we all agree on. Everything we do is done as a team, we either sink or swim together. A good work ethic when it comes to practicing on a regular basis. We don’t ever play a song in the studio or live unless we know it like the back of our hands. Practice makes perfect and we make sure we hold true to that mentality especially in reference to our live shows. We take pride in being able to put on a great live show every time and we can only do that if we are well rehearsed together.

A lot of your vocals remind me of Fat Wreck signed punk bands. Would these acts be counted among your influences?

Absolutely! I grew up listening to NOFX, and Lagwagon is one of my all-time favourite punk bands. Rise Against has already been listed as a main influence in our sound, and they sit in high regard along with No Use for a Name, Less Than Jake, None More Black, Nerf Herder, and the Real McKenzies. All of those bands have definitely influenced my singing style over the years just from constantly singing along to their albums in my car! I always find it pretty cool when people can pick up on musical influences in our songs. It shines the light on how influential music can really be in somebody’s life.

What are some key themes and messages that you cover with your music?

This is probably one of the most important questions you can ask us. All four of us have experienced moments in our lives that had completely wrecked us emotionally. When we were at our worst, there was one constant that kept us sane, and that was music. We each have an album that we define as “the album that saved me” and picked us up from the ashes to grow stronger. Our main goal is to create that album that helps somebody get through life. We understand the therapeutic principals that are within music and do our best to create a safe haven for the fans. Whether we are playing a show to one person or one million people, if somebody walks away feeling better about life then we’ve done our job. Our songs reflect that by portraying the message of you are not alone in a hopeful and sympathetic manner.

What format do you use the most when listening to music? [vinyl, cd, streaming etc..]

Honestly that depends on the day. I usually end up streaming my music when I’m on the computer or driving, but when I have the time to sit down and appreciate the music, I will rifle through my dad’s old vinyl collection and see what I can find.

Tell us your best tour story.

Well we haven’t been on a tour yet, but we just booked our first one for the month of September this year. We will be heading down south with the Extreme Tour and we couldn’t be more excited about it. I will definitely get back to you with some stories when you interview us again!

What is your band’s greatest achievement to date?

We’ve gotten a few but our biggest accomplishments have been three things. First we opened for Alien Ant Farm and Hed PE and sold out the bill! Then we won the greatest Alternative Hard Rock album in the country in November 2015 by the Akademia Music Awards. Lastly our most recent accomplishment was selling out our EP release show in March at Connie’s Ric Rac in South Philly!

Who would you most love to tour or collaborate with?

I can safely say that the entire band would be tickled pink if we could tour with Foo Fighters! Dave Grohl seems like such a fun guy and collaborating with him would be hysterical and educational all at the same time.

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What plans do you have for the near future?

We have a busy schedule ahead of us! We are playing several festivals this summer along with local shows. Then we will be going on tour in September for most of the month. We also will be releasing a new music video for our latest single off of “Straight Shot” called “For the Road” in which we got to work with a great director named Scott Hoon. Then we plan on releasing a single sometime in August or September that we recorded with Shane Garland from Hunger Before Greed Productions. After all of that we are planning on releasing a new album sometime in the next year.

Here’s your chance to say anything that we haven’t covered.

Outside of the music we are all big gamers. In fact, we got our name from one of the greatest RPGs ever made. There was a game released for the Super Nintendo called Chrono Trigger and it has been rated as one of the best games of all time. There is a move in the game called “arc impulse”, after some research, we found out that name was already taken. So we ended up deciding on Audio Impulse after some short deliberation. It was a name that as soon as we heard it, we knew that was it.


Links:

AudioImpulseMusic.com

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

YouTube

 

Joseph James

 

Live Review: Steel Panther at the Auckland Powerstation

Steel Panther Auckland Powerstation
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Steel Panther

w/ Blue Ruin

The Powerstation, Auckland

Sunday 26 June

 

Like similar acts Tenacious D and The Beards, Steel Panther are comprised of some very talented musicians who choose to centre their band on parody. By channeling late 1980’s LA rock giants like Mötley Crüe, Guns n Roses and Skid Row, Steel Panther bring the excess of hair metal forward thirty years, with a generous dosage of tongue in [between] cheek.

It’s all-out assault on decency, with every song guaranteed to offend. If it’s sexual and lewd, than you’re likely to find a Steel Panther song on the topic. I dare say it’s an assault on the environment as well, with the amount of hairspray the band uses surely responsible for a large part of our ozone depleting.

Steel Panther

Arriving at The Powerstation on a Sunday evening, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I have seen some of my favourite bands play this venue [Rise Against, Biffy Clyro, Jimmy Eat World], so I know it works well as a tightly packed intimate setting. The rest of the crowd, however, seemed to have a fair idea of what they were in for. Glancing around I saw countless fishnet tights, neon pink outfits, and luscious long locks flowing from underneath bandannas …. And that was just the men!

Kiwi rockers Blue Ruin kicked off night with their own blend of rock and punk. They recently opened for Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie, and the Runaways influence is obvious on the all-girl five-piece. In fact, they’ve had a good run of slots opening for various acts recently, including Buckcherry and The Misfits, both of whom they covered during tonight’s set.  They did OK and looked the part, but it was pretty apparent that they need a few more band practices to tighten up their act. Blue haired front woman Jessie Booth appears set to fill Jennie Skulander’s boots if she keeps up what she is doing, especially with that roar of hers.

Blue Ruin.jpg

In between sets one wild-eyed individual approached my friend and I to chat. He had long curly hair, a thick black beard and glasses, giving him a white nerdy Jesus look. I think he decided to chat to the two of us because we both had beards as well. He was saying about how much he loved Steel Panther, and how he has been unsuccessfully trying to convince his son to listen to them as well. My [Swedish] friend has seen Steel Panther three times already, and was telling the guy that he was in for a fun night. Upon hearing my friend’s Swedish accent, the guy mistook him for American and began professing his undying love for Bernie Sanders to us, despite my friend explaining that he isn’t actually American. After a few minutes of hearing all about the virtues of the Bern, the guy produced a small joint and began to offer it around.

Kicking off the night with the panther growls that introduce song “Eye Of The Panther”, Steel Panther showed us what we were in for. Hot off an Australian tour with Black Stone Cherry, the band was in fine form. They sounded seriously good. Parody act or not, they knew how to play. They had the image down-pat too. Everything the band wore was lycra and leopard print, and they all had long flowing hair and bandannas.

Bass player Lexi Foxx puts the glam component in glam rock, preening himself in front of the mirror, spraying hairspray and applying lip gloss between most songs. Aerosmith have the song “Dude Looks Like A Lady”, and although I thought it was about Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil, it could very well have been written about Foxx instead. Foxx was on the receiving end of many of the band’s jokes, being portrayed as the “retarded bass player”.

Frontman Michael Starr was the “slightly fatter David Lee Roth”, or “slightly skinnier Vince Neil”, depending which way you looked at it. Either way, he could sing just as well. They band told of how he had received vocal lessons from Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, and Starr even came onstage dressed like Halford during one song, rocking aviator sunglasses and a bright red sparkly sequined coat.

Guitarist Satchel provided one of the highlights of the night with a ripping extended guitar solo that included a medley with nods to classic rock bands like Van Halen, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Guns n Roses, Iron Maiden and even a song from The Sound of Music made it in there.

Drummer Stixx Zadinia had little to say throughout the night, but he had complete control over his monstrous red DW kit. Throughout the set he would play around by throwing drumsticks to the band and crew, then catching them when thrown back and playing on without missing a beat.

 

The band’s real strength lay in how well they could improvise. There was plenty of stage banter, and although not all of it could have been original, much of it was. They interacted with the crowd, cracked jokes and brought girls up onstage to dance around.

One such girl was Asian, so got the dubious honour of being the centre of attention for the song “Asian Hooker”. Later in the night two scantily clad twins wearing studded bras got onstage and the band composed a song for them, each member ad-libbing couplets while Satchel strummed his acoustic guitar. It was a bit concerning seeing two sisters so desperate for attention that they would hook up with each other onstage, and even the band seemed slightly uncomfortable with it. Soon enough the stage was full, with girls being pulled up left, right and centre. It was undeniably crude, but that is all you would expect from Steel Panther. And that’s where the genius of their joke lies, because although they go all-out to shock with their content, it is hardly any different to the “serious” that they are spoofing, making the act believable.

At the end of the band started to throw items into the crowd: guitar picks, water bottles, empty hair spray canisters etc… One drumstick was thrown very close to where I was standing so I put my hand out to catch it, but it was just out of reach. The person who caught it raced to the back of our venue so I turned to see who it was, and lo and behold, it was none other than our Sanders-loving stoner friend from earlier in the night. Needless to say he was completely ecstatic with his prize.

Steel Panther put on an incredibly entertaining performance. It wasn’t just a concert, it was a show. A funny, absurd, inappropriate and improvised rock show. And it was awesome.

Death to all but metal indeed.

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The Steel Panther set list

Joseph James

Live Review: Strung Out playing Exile in Oblivion

strungout pears nz tour
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Strung Out playing Exile in Oblivion plus hits

w/ Night Gaunts and PEARS

San Fran, Wellington

Friday 1 April 2016

Strung Out San Fran Wellington (1)

Strung Out. Jake Kiley (L), Jason Cruz (R)

Albany act Night Gaunts started the night off with their upbeat high-pitched ska. They bounced around and got the small crowd grooving along to dub styled offbeat strumming, complemented by saxophone. I’m not sure why I was surprised, but they were far more polished than I expected. Their chirpy happy-go-lucky sound didn’t quite match the tone on the other two bands of the night, but they played well nonetheless.

PEARS have been through a lot on this tour, so we were lucky to even have them. Their bassist had dropped out of the tour mere days before the tour, leaving them scrambling to find players to fill in. Hayden from Night Gaunts obliged for most of their set, with super-smiley Strung Out  bassist Chris Aiken taking over for the last few songs.

Vocalist Zach Quinn had recently bust his fist PUNCHING THE STAGE on the Australian leg of the tour, resulting in pricey hospital bills and leaving him in a wrist brace/cast that you can see in the picture below. I recently broke a few bones in my wrist and I can tell you straight away that there is no way I would have been attempting half the stuff Quinn was doing on stage. He threw himself about with abandon, like violent interpretive dance. He jumped down into the audience and walked around – you know, just because – before climbing back onstage and writhing around on the floor.

PEARS San Fran (8)

PEARS vocalist Zach Quinn, with Jarrett Nathan behind him on drums.

When bands have members like this it always makes for a captivating show. It was so unpredictable. I don’t think the band members themselves even know quite what to expect.Guitarist Brian Pretus played front man, and rather than just rattling off obligatory nonsense to fill time between songs, he actually was worth paying attention to. He told stories, cracked jokes, and had the crowd chanting.

The date actually coincided with the release of the second PEARS album, Green Star, which meant that the band were in good spirits. I guess that this, combined with the show being the last of the tour, meant that the band really wanted to give their all. This was great to watch, with the performance being super high energy and frantic. As chaotic and wild as it seemed, there was still evidence of talent beneath the whirlwind. Quinn and Pretus shared some great vocal harmonies when they weren’t launching about the stage. Pretus displayed great abilities and drummer Jarrett Nathan kept them on their toes with his lightning beats. It looked like loads of punters were already loyal fans of the band and there were singalongs aplenty, especially when PEARS covered The Ramones’ “Judy is a Punk”.

Strung Out San Fran Wellington (3)

Jake Kiley (L), Chris Aiken (R)

As always, when bands play an entire album you know what to expect [examples: Nas performing Illmatic, Jimmy Eat World playing Futures], but also hope to hear handful of hits from other albums as well. Strung Out have been playing a selection of their albums start to finish over this Australasian tour. Last night was Twisted by Design in Auckland, and tonight they played Exile in Oblivion.

After a sound check the band kept us in suspense by playing a handful of old jazz numbers through the public address system, knowing that we were expecting one such song to be the intro to”Analog”, to first track of Exile. When said track finally played everyone cheered, knowing that this signaled the start of a brilliant set to complete an already-great night.

They’re tight, and play rippingly fast. And you can tell that they’re on top of their game. Exile came out 11 years ago, and they were able to play it through without a hitch. And on top of that, they’ve been playing many of their other albums in their entirety at other stops on their tour, showing that they are exceptionally rehearsed. They ripped through Exile, and followed up with half a dozen tracks from the rest of their catalogue.

Sweat dripped and the audience swarmed as fans rocked out and sang along to favourite tunes from one of their most beloved bands. Strung Out reciprocated, clearly appreciative that their fans enable them to play music for a living. Singer Jason Cruz told about how the band got a bit tired and jaded when they were first touring Exile on Warped Tour in 2005, until a crew member had told them to suck it up and take a reality check. This made an impact on them, and it is clear that they make the most of their opportunities and give back to the fans who support them to get where they are now.

This was the last night of the tour, and you could tell the PEARS and Strung Out had built a special camaraderie over the course of their time together. Throughout both sets, band members and crew from side of stage would throw bananas and potato chips at the band playing. During the last song – a cover of “Soulmate” by late No Use For a Name singer Tony Sly – members of PEARS and the crew started stealing away pieces of the drum kit one by one, making drummer Jordan Burns work extra hard as he tried to improvise with less equipment at his disposal. Somehow, by the end of the song the drum kit was scattered around the stage, with Strung Out singer Cruz stuck underneath a pile of the drums.

Strung Out San Fran Wellington (2)

Chris Aiken on bass


Although  we have had punk bands like GBH and The Buzzcocks come recently, it is a rare treat to have more modern international punk acts make their way to Wellington. Thanks to Chicks That Scream for organising shows like these. For me personally, gigs like this one are often key highlights of my year.

Special mention to Jordan Burns’ mother, who passed away three years ago. This show was dedicated to her.

Joseph James

Album Review: Into It. Over It. – Standards

Into It Over It Standards
Standard

How does one describe Into It. Over It? Sometimes a solo folksy singer-songwriter, sometimes rocking pop-punk band. Always kooky. And the “E” word gets thrown around a lot. Does “really good” suffice for an accurate description?

Into It. Over It. is Evan Weiss, in the same sense that Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor. Weiss is extremely prolific, having released countless compilations and splits around his IIOI studio albums, as well as playing in a number of other projects (Stay Ahead of The Weather, Their/They’re/There, Pet Symmetry). He usually rocks the stereotypical folksy/hipster combo of a beard, thick glasses, and checked shirt, and most of his lyrics are introspective and poetic. And did I mention that his music is great?

I first heard IIOI featured in split EPs alongside the likes of Such Gold and Koji, and on a Fake Problems tour sampler. Later I fell in love with the adorable Daytrotter sessions. Discovering Weiss was so rewarding, because there were so many avenues to explore. One project, 52 Weeks contained a whopping 52 songs, written at the rate of one per week for an entire year. And all of the music is so diverse, yet irresistible.

Despite being so incredibly prolific, Standards is only the third full studio IIOI album. The first, Proper (2011), was lovably addictive upbeat pop-punk. Follow up album Intersections (2013) was less accessible, partly because Weiss chose not to include choruses when he wrote the album. And Standards? Read on to find out.

into It Over It Even Weiss The Rev Melbourne

Look back through Weiss’ previous work, and you’ll notice that he is a man obsessed with location and environment. Many of his songs are named after places and towns. It is interesting then, that for this album he choose to go to the middle of nowhere in Vermont. Isolated in a cabin in the woods with drummer and collaborator Josh Sparks, surrounded by snow and little else, they had no choice but to write.

We are introduced through “Open Casket”, with lightly picked guitar and xylophone, but become antiquated with the energetic IIOI sound in second track “Closing Argument”, which brings in the attitude in the second verse.

Lead single “No EQ” centres around a mantra that reminds me of a doorbell my parents had when I was a child. The drumming is frantic and busy, while Weiss sings calmly in the verses, with more urgency in the chorus. Sparks’ style of urgent, hurried drumming is noticeable in a number of songs on the album “Vis Major” sounds straight up punk, with added flourishes of complexity, and “Adult Contempt” follows suit with highlights on cymbal bells and plenty of wash. “Bible Black” also standouts as a drumming track due to the odd trashy percussion that punctuates the song with attention grabbing tones.

Tracks four and five signal a slump in the album . The slow burning “Your Lasting Image” seems to drag for almost 5minutes, full of swirling swells and echoing accents. Weiss sadly sings “I can’t remember your touch”. The dreamy hazy music runs seamlessly into “Old Lace and Ivory”, which keeps the mood low, but sounds more hopeful than forlorn. There’s a lovely extended bridge of guitar picking over simple drumming, slowly building up and gaining fuzz to lead us back into the more energetic songs on the album.

“Who You Are ≠ Where You Are” has a delightful bouncing riff that stops abruptly while a hi-hat beat dances merrily in the background. For a man touted as the figurehead of the new wave of emo, this album sure sounds upbeat. He does show versatility though. Weiss rates “Anesthetic” as one of his proudest moments. It’s another soothing slow-burner, rich in atmosphere and layered with distant vocal tracks.

This is truly an album, not just a handpicked selection of songs. You can tell by how the transitions between tracks sound so flawless. Weiss commented on a recent Reddit AMA that he had been inspired by “mostly instrumental ambient stuff when it came to most of the textures. brian eno. harold budd. yes. michael hedges. 60’s prestige and blue note stuff.” You hear the fuzzy tones, odd percussion, quirky doorbell riffs. You hear distorted acoustic guitar, moog synthesisers, and a range of effect pedals – weird sounds, textures and tones that all add to the appeal and make the album cohesive. There’s also a lively feel that could be attributed to the less-than-perfect analogue method of recording the album, at the insistence of  producer John Vanderslice.

With Standards, Into It. Over It. still defy clear genre definition, with the tender songs full of folksy finger picking somehow fitting seamlessly next to punk belters.

Urgent. Intimate. Upbeat. Quirky. Perfect. Evan Weiss, the emo revival figurehead, went reclusive with his drummer and together they churned out some of their best work to date.

 

Joseph James