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There is something oddly calming about heading to a small, dark basement seemingly unchanged from the 80s with no visible fire exits. Together with a sold-out crowd, this mix probably should’ve made the architect in me a little bit concerned. Heading into Goodgod Small Club last Tuesday night to see Toro Y Moi was probably one of the best things I’ve done this year – this show was close to perfect.

Under the pseudonym of Toro Y Moi, Chaz Bundick is a man that plays with effortless cool. He radiates calm and joy in both personality and music – you can’t help but feel relaxed even with the million things running through your head for work the next day. Albeit a little shy Toro Y Moi, is backed with a trio of equally modest and quiet musicians, and together are very collected. They are incredibly tight with all eyes squarely focused on Bundick.

The chilled out vibe continued into the night as the beer tracks flowed. The setlist concentrated on Toro Y Moi’s latest release Underneath the Pine with the occasional track from Causers Of This but there was an overwhelming sense of anticipation to hear more of the latter record and when a shorter version of “Talamak” was dropped, there wasn’t a still body in the house. “Still Sound” and “New Beat” were full of vintage soul and “Low Shoulder” was ridiculously fun.

Regardless of how practical a performance, there were numerous edits and seamless transitions you probably wouldn’t get just by listening to a Toro Y Moi record in the same way that dancing by yourself in your own room just isn’t the same. Everyone at Goodgod was simply digging it. There were no dumb hipster crowds or obnoxious drunks to avoid. Toro Y Moi brought the chilled vibes and tunes; we filled the dance floor and brought the moves. The atmosphere wasn’t electric but it was calm, heaps of fun and exactly what I needed.

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I never had intentions of going to Laneway this year as I’ve seen most of the acts if not at home, then overseas but the line-up was every indie kid’s wet dream from three years ago. You’d expect to see and hear it all before but it was the new venue (for me anyway) and the god damn weather that made it that bit more interesting.

First stop was Beach House. Plagued with technical problems early on and hunting for a good viewing spot only proved to be a difficult feat. I retreated further back and into Menomena’s set over at the Clock Tower stage and was completely blown away. Seeing “Muscle’n Flo”, “The Pelican”, “Weird” and “Wet And Rusting” live only reiterated why Friend and Foe was one of the better releases of the past decade – I was getting a little nostalgic. The Portland group threw the challenge down and hard.

We hung around to see Blonde Redhead and caught the opening of their set with “Dr. Strangluv”, “Here Sometimes” and “In Particular” before catching a breather and something to eat. I walked away knowing little could be done to beat their show last weekend at the Sydney Opera House.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti was running a bit late at the Inner Sanctum stage but in my head, I knew I had somewhere else to be. Oh yeah…at Les Savy Fav! It only seemed like yesterday I was in the crowd helping Les Savy’s vocalist, Tim Harrington, crowd surf above the masses in Reiby Place. That year was first Laneway Festival here in Sydney and the standard was set very high for subsequent festivals. This year, the performance was no different – Harrington climbed the adjacent shade sail, light-heartedly molested a spectator and was found somewhere in middle (usually very sweaty) of the rough crowd. Playing favourites including “Patty Lee”, “The Sweat Descends” and “The Equestrian”, the crowd was insane and today I have the bruises to show for it. Closing it out with “Who Rocks The Party”, this was the set of the day and something you just had see.

Still on a high and now feeling a little worse of wear, I knew Deerhunter would be the perfect fix. “Cover Me (Slowly)” and “Agoraphobia” were delivered fast but there was a cloud of great anticipation for Deerhunter drifting all the way to the back.

I ended the night with the trippy, instrumental set from Holy Fuck and there is only one word to describe that: epic. “The Pulse” and “Lovely Allen” sounded so good I knew it wasn’t going to get any better. As the temperature cooled, so did the mood with many heading home before the last acts for the night being Cut Copy, Gotye and !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Overall, I had mixed feelings about the second year of (and my first visit since) the relocation of Sydney’s Laneway.


If I were to have an affair with a band, it would be with Blonde Redhead. Ever since Misery Is A Butterfly, I jumped on the small, cult bandwagon and haven’t gotten off since. The music Blonde Redhead has given me, has marked some momentous occasions in my life even to this day – this is a band with personal significance and this show at the Opera House wasn’t going to be any different.


The Verlaines kicked proceedings off with promising alternative songs – they were pretty much New Zealand’s answer to Pavement, complete with sweet little guitar solos, clean yet crunchy riffs combined with angular melodies and downbeat lyrics. It was a sound and atmosphere more suited to a pub with a beer in one hand. The mutual relationship between The Verlaines and Blonde Redhead is that they’ve both been in this industry for over 2 decades now.

The Opera House can be a little overwhelming, especially when all the seats aren’t filled but that wasn’t the least of Blonde Redhead’s concerns. Song after song the Brooklyn trio mesmerized and blew the audience away pitted against a striking backdrop of photographic umbrellas and minimal vintage light bulbs, flickering their little tungsten hearts away.



The hum and flicker of the lights were a sublime way to open their set and subtly launch into “Black Guitar”. The trio now accompanied with a keys/synth player seemed like doing so was the only option to recreate songs off Penny Sparkle in a live setting but did it work? Yeah it did … only if the Opera House in all of it’s acoustic glory can figure out a new configuration for bass-heavy songs. Good thing Blonde Redhead had a back catalogue dating as far back as ‘93. The implication of which (and one would hope) was a set not entirely devoted to their latest release. Despite the set being the live realisation of Penny Sparkle, the Pace twins with an under-the-weather Kazu Makino still threw in the favourites from 23. They did gave 110% in energy, atmosphere and skill – it was truly worthy of the standing ovation and the eager (but unsuccessful) request for a second encore.

Setlist
Black Guitar
Here Sometimes
Dr. Strangeluv
Spring and by Summer Fall
Oslo
Will There be Stars
In Particular
Falling Man
Spain
Not Getting There

Encore
23


Expect great things from Blonde Redhead this Sunday at Laneway, Sydney.

Photos by Daniel Boud.

All the way from San Francisco, Girls delighted us with a calm and collected set showcasing songs from their self-titled debut and Broken Dreams Club EP last Wednesday night at the Manning. Curtains opened to a floral adorned stage with the focus heavily squared on Christopher Owens – his presence alluring us into his broken world. A soft version of “Ghost Mouth” was appropriate for an intimate setting of white roses perhaps epitomising the undertones of their songs.

The group made up principally of Owens and JR White also broke away from the relaxed atmosphere with some pop tunes the group are renowned for. Owen’s playfulness with his guitar and the band members stopped the awe and allowed the crowd to let loose.



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Now backed with a band, Melbourne darling Pikelet started proceedings in unfamiliar territory. The sight of more band members was refreshing but the addition of more sounds to Pikelet was two fold: first, the resulting sound is bold and heavy. The second (and as an effect of the former) is a lost of lightness and delicacies associated with Pikelet’s earlier performances – they were centralized, luscious and clear. Tonight was neither of those things. If anything, this new direction for Pikelet was more intimidating and unpredictable. These are probably good traits but it wasn’t the direction that seemed fitting.

In the past four years of Seekae’s existence this was the first time I caught the trio live. That’s poor form I know but I’ve always been worried their great release of 2009 would be ruined…in my head anyway. Watching the trio mix “Void”, “Blood Bank” or “Snax” detracted from the magical preconception made by their album. However, dropping a few remixes made Seekae’s set enjoyable, getting people up from their firmly planted behinds and moving a little.

At this point I was a little nervous as the Birmingham duo casually set-up. They looked relaxed, like they’ve done in it before. Wait, they’ve done this for 15 years now. As veterans with an extensive back catalogue, my expectations for this show where just a little high for Broadcast.



Trish Keenan’s voice is impeccable – dreamy, effortless and absolutely wonderful. James Cargill’s musical flexibility seemed like second nature with all instruments played with stern concentration. The projected visuals accompanying their set was spectacular, getting stuck in a giant kaleidoscope or alternatively, tripping back in time sans the drugs.


Playing a few older favourites like “Black Cat”, “Pendulum” and “Corporeal”, the majority of the set focused (no pun intended) on their last release Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age – a collaboration with their friend, Julian House (The Focus Group). This made the set a little more experimental particularly during tracks like ” We Are After All Here” where Keenan adorns what seems like a shamisen (if you know the name of that guitar, let me know please) or “Inside Out” where their haunting electronics are taken to a whole new level.


For the whole evening I felt underwhelmed but it wasn’t the music, it was rather the space and the excessiveness of it. The awful mix job from the sound guy didn’t help this cause either. That said, the crowd who greeted Broadcast last Wednesday night couldn’t be more apt and appreciative of their hour-long set.

If you’ve looked around a gig recently and lamented the tired, pretentious douchebaggery versus showy over-dancing dichotomy, a sunshiney Sia performance is just what you need.

Despite the rain, Sia and her rainbow knitted microphone stand covers created an atmosphere of absolute carefree positivity and unselfconscious celebration at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens, overlooking the Opera House. Although her recorded albums are soulful and stunningly beautiful, the only real way to experience Sia is to see her live – her personality shone between tracks, when she offered the enamored crowd the opportunity to heckle and ask questions, and repeatedly laughed at herself for forgetting lyrics – absolutely the most fun way to build rapport between audience and artist.

In her draped black jacket, Sia danced her way through “Buttons” and “Clap Your Hands”, as did much of the audience, who also sang (yelled) along for most of the performance and made the most of being at a show which truly felt inclusive. A rendition of Madonna’s “Oh Father” established a more sombre mood, and I found myself tearing up a little thanks to the magical closing track “Breathe Me”. Despite the short and sweet set, it only proved why Sia was so deserving of the astonishing seven ARIA award nominations but between you and me, she should have won them all.

You can download this live set exclusively via iTunes Live here. There are also a few more photos here.

I had a cloud over my head as I walked into the Oxford Art Factory on Thursday night, possibly because of the event that was to occur the following morning: the second-last presentation I’d ever give in architecture school. So as you can imagine, I was feeling a little guilty for being out. Luckily it was time well spent with one curious double bill.

I arrived during the vibrant end of Kyu’s set, with family and friends supporting the Sydney duo. The girls played an upbeat and intelligent set, feeding off each other’s energy and it was promising sight.

A dull crowd greeted L.A.’s High Places and in all honesty, I felt embarrassed. But the duo powered on with class and professionalism in contrast to those on the receiving end. Much of their set was taken from their latest release High Places Vs. Mankind and to my delight we saw the band diving head first into ephemeral guitar loops, which formed the base for Mary Pearson’s delicate vocals – the standout track being “On Giving Up”. With the odd track from their debut thrown in like “The Storm” and “Vision’s The First…” it was great to see High Places once again embodying a wide range and complexity of sounds yet retain their ethereal aesthetic.

If there were a theme for the night it would be that all good things come in twos. Kyu, High Places and now, Xiu Xiu.

In a similar vain to High Palces, Xiu Xiu were primarily riding on the back of their latest release – Dear God, I Hate Myself is one of the better records of this year. Opening with “Gray Death”, the art-pop duo meant business: minimal crowd interaction but utterly immersed in their songs, with sporadic and intense bursts of energy from both Angela Seo and Jamie Stewart. “Hyunhye’s Theme” and “Fabulous Muscles” broke my heart, with “The Fabrizio Palumbo Retaliation” and “Dear God, I Hate Myself” ferociously mending it up again. “I Luv The Valley Oh” almost became an anthem with a good portion of the crowd yelling along – this sealed and buried the guilt I walked in with and was just thankful from here on in.

It usually annoys me when bands ignore the fans/crowd, but I didn’t care one bit during Xiu Xiu. This is a band with strong convictions it almost hurts.