Katchafire @ the Forum – 4 April

When I told my trance-loving, bass-banging friends I was checking out some New Zealand reggae, they laughed, then looked confused then communally said ‘oh…really?’ I’m not exactly a person you’d pick for the scene but I love what I’ve heard of it so far. I was introduced to Katchafire by an old work friend who forced me to listen to hours and hours of reggae, dub and Aussie hip hop. Although I didn’t like all the music he played in the background as we made coffee, Katchafire was one that I loved from the first moment I heard the rhythmic beats of ‘Reggae Revival’ bursting out of the speakers.

Katchafire co-headlined with the Open Souls, a New Zealand act I wasn’t familiar with. We walked into the Forum at about 9:30, having thrown down a few cocktails, beers and bready-snacks at the surrounding pubs. The Open Souls had already begun and there was fairly full crowd on the main floor having a chat and a quiet dance. The lead singer had beautiful alto voice, very sensuous coupled with jazz beats and tones. They put on a nice warm-up show that got everyone relaxed and ready for the main act of the night.

Katchafire began at about 11pm, slowing down ‘Colour Me Life’ to prep the crowd and start up the show gently. They played for about 1 and a half hours, pulling tracks from all their discography including much-loved songs ‘Say What You’re Thinking’, ‘Seriously’, ‘Mr Flava’ and ‘Who You With’. As soon as the band appeared, the crowd became much more lively, with plenty of people dancing in the sensual, unabashed way that goes so well with reggae. ‘Sensimilia’ was a particular highlight, everyone knowing the words, the rhythms, and the band interacting beautifully with their attentive audience. The saxaphonist was brilliant, rousing a cheer whenever he played a memorable solo. Unfortunately where we standing, it was difficult to see the lead guitarist work his instrumentals but everything we heard was just heaven. There’s really nothing reggae, with all its soul and unashamed vigour. Not much music can claim to be so wholly positive as reggae. Some of this positive energy, however, was dampened by a fight breaking out near the front of the crowd between a group of young women. The lead singer of Katchafire, seeing this brawl, yelled at the end of the song ‘cut that shit out!’ at which point everyone responded with a resounding ‘yeah!’

The crowd reached its highest pitch when the opening strums of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ were heard. If you looked among the audience, almost every person on that floor new the words to this song. Any inhibitions people may have had were completely lost at this point. You didn’t have to be minor fan of reggae to know even a few lyrics from this legend. Even though I’ve never been a fan of Bob Marley covers, its truly something to see such a large crowd singing these lines unanimously and so joyfully. I think its the closest I’ll ever get to the father of reggae myself and I have to tell you, it was pretty amazing for me.

Katchafire was more than I imagined it would be. Among all the electro, trance and minimal I’d been experiencing over the past few months, I’d forgotten how great it can be listen to a live band, with saxophone, drums and a damn smooth voice to front it all.

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Deadmau5 – 20th February at the Forum

With only a vague interest in the controversial dj Deadmau5 and with no intention of buying a ticket to see his encore gig at the Forum, I found myself receiving a message Friday afternoon telling me that my acquaintance who works at the Brag had a spare free ticket to check out the artist and wanted dear little old me to go with him. A sold out event, a pretentious but talented electro and progressive house producer, who wears a mouse mask while he deejays, and all for free? I couldn’t exactly say no, seeing as my Friday plans so far contained nothing more than intended boozing at [insert pub] at [insert time] with [insert friends].

After a long day at work, a shower and pre-drinks, we managed to meet at the Forum at about 10pm, at which point Jeff Drake was on the decks getting an almost to capacity venue amped and ready for the international many had seen last week at Good Vibes. We were in the VIP section where Deadmau5 himself was hanging out before he was scheduled to perform. Minus the mask of course. He came on stage right on time at 11pm. From our section on the upper floor, you could see how dense and crowded it was down on the main dance floor. One of the great things about the Forum however, is that it never gets so hot that it becomes unbearable. In between each wooden panel lining the main dance area were wafts of air-conditioning – a rare thing at most venues in Sydney. People were sweaty, but not so sweaty that it made you scamper for a bottle of water every 10 minutes.

Deadmau5 played a rather phenomenal 3-hour set. He opened with some strong electro tracks, including his own like ‘Not Exactly’ and ‘Faxing Berlin’. As the set went on, his more progressive house influences moved in which I was grateful for seeing as I think I would have trouble withstanding 3 hours of pure electro. It made for an interesting show, and he certainly was aware of the dynamics of his audience – when they needed a break, when they wanted more and when they wanted to dance hard non-stop for 3 minutes. His mouse mask also had its own novelty, flashing different coloured lights that were in time with the beat. He didn’t wear it the entire time being as cumbersome as it was but the crowd sure enjoyed it whenever he put it on. There would have been a fair few in the crowd tripping balls whenever the lights would flash along with the beat.

I did take photos for this event but I managed to lose my memory crowd at some point during the night. For visuals, you can instead find them here on In The Mix.

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Roni Size @ Laundry – cramped is an understatement

After failing to get a ticket for Shapeshifter who were playing as part of the SoCo Cargo festival, I figured I was still keen for some drum and bass and decided to wander over to Chinese Laundry to check out dnb pioneer, Roni Size. Lucky that I did seeing as most of the people I talked to about the Shapeshifter gig said it was fairly rubbish – a shipping container apparently isn’t as great a music venue as some would believe. They were also selling glowsticks there…I don’t think the wrong-ness of this needs to be explained. Shapeshifter only played for a one hour set, I’m told a fantastic one hour set but still, $45 for average hip hop and only a snippet of Shapeshifter? I now appreciate the fact that the gig sold out. Finally, my procrastination paid off.

A drum and bass gig at Laundry is a rare thing, one that I have never experienced before. I must say, being an avid attendee of the Cave and a big fan of the entire venue in general, I was quite disappointed at how everything turned out. My friends and I managed to get in fairly easily (mostly because we’ve gotten to know many of the promoters and in general they’re top people). We rocked up at about 11pm, short lines in view, little rain and clearly below capacity. This all changed once it hit midnight, when Roni was scheduled to do a 1 and a half hour set. The Cave didn’t open on time, meaning one less area where people could be shoved into for a little dance and boogie. It was cramped, VERY cramped. Drum and bass is music that generally requires big dancing – as in energetic, jumping, stomping dancing. It’s not really condusive to bopping or bang ganging. However, we were forced to do this in the back corner of the main room. I attempted to burrow my way through to the front but there was no hope. Even trying to get out of the back corner was a battle. We stayed for about an hour and decided to leave. Roni played a decent set but to be honest it was difficult to pay attention considering we were being jostled every 3 seconds because someone wanted to leave the room or wanted a bigger space to dance in. To say the least, it didn’t really work and I was disappointed with my dose of drum and bass this weekend. Hopefully the drum and bass weekender at Void and UTS Loft Bar next week will be better. I don’t mind cramped, hot and sweaty but when you’re stuck doing some form of mini-box-step surrounded by people talking over the music yelling ‘Roni who?!’ it kind of sucks the fun out of the usual cramped, hot and sweaty dnb gig that I have to come love so much.

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Playground Weekender 09 – 3 days of minimal bliss.

If you haven’t been to this festival yet, it’s about time you lock it into next year’s calendar, click attending and start gearing up for a weekend of dub tunes and deep unraveling beats pumping out of an intimate, dusty tent.

It was over 40 degree heat and it was still one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to. One man we met said ‘it restored his faith in music festivals’ and I totally understand why. If you’ve been to any music festival before, especially in the dance scene, we’re all familiar with the roided douchebags and fluro tarts wandering around the grounds looking for an arse to grab rather than a tune to dance to. You won’t find that at the Del Rio Riverside Resort at Playground Weekender. They barely exist. The festival brings in a massive range of people, from young couples with toddlers to middle-ageds groovers holding on triumphantly to their youth, even to the extremely elderly wandering around with a wooden cane and an umbrella. It’s a beautiful thing. I have never been among such a welcoming crowd. Everyone’s up for a chat, or to offer some help or to share a spliffo and chill in the shade. But enough about the crowd – to the festival!

We arrived there on the Friday night particularly late after a big battle of a day. It took 2 hrs to get into the festival grounds because we had to wait for the car ferry to lug back and forth hundreds of campervans, cars, fuel tanks and more. Next were the searches. Instead of random searches, every single motorhome or car that came rolling into the resort was searched top to bottom. Next to the search area you could see a 10 x 10 metre pile of beer, spirits and goon bags that had been found and confiscated. Even so, most people I spoke managed to get everything through security despite the search.

We finally settled in at about 10 pm and then headed off to catch Salmonella Dub on the main stage. Amazing show. Their albums transform brilliantly into a stunning live show, as the band jams and explores sounds and beats with both freedom and control. They marked the end of my night as I was completely beat after the long drive from Mascot to Wiseman’s Ferry and the fact that’d I had been up for 21 hrs straight. Apparently I missed an epic campervan party but I valued my sleep too much to feel too gutted that I missed it.

Salmonella Dub at PGW 09

Salmonella Dub at PGW 09

I woke up at about 8:30 am on Saturday, unable to sleep in any later as the sun started to beat down on our humble little campervan. Had some vegemite toast, and then headed to Club Tropicana, the place to be on a hot summer’s day as it was fitted with a kiddy pool, a big boy pool and plenty of grassy embankments and a ripper Function 1 sound system. After about 2 hrs, the pool was fairly filthy. Everyone who didn’t feel like having a shower dragged their dusty, grassy behinds into the pool for what they thought would be a cleansing replacement bath. It wasn’t really but it was close enough. Music on the other stages started at midday but we were too hammered down by the 35 degree heat to get ourselves away from Club Tropicana. The first act we saw was Todd Terje at 4:30pm. However, we were expecting to see Jimpster at that time but for some reason all the set times in the Sounds Big Top tent had been shuffled around, which we only realised at 9pm when we had to endure the grueling sounds of Edu K rather than the techy beats of Nic Fanciulli. There are simply no words to describe how painful Edu K was. The MC kept protesting ‘I want your candy’ over and over and all I could think was ‘why oh why are yelling at me, you crazy bitch???’ My ears bled. I almost wanted to just crawl back into my campervan, shrivel in a ball and die. But then I realised Jimpster was on in 10 minutes and thank the festival gods for that. Jimpster played a phenomenal set, with deep, pounding beats with wooden block rhythms and drums intertwining neatly and creatively on top. It was exactly what I wanted and marked the highlight of my time in the Sounds Big Top Tent.

Over-enthusiastic punters during Jimpster's set

Over-enthusiastic punters during Jimpster's set

It wasn’t all spent in the Big Top though. I stepped outside into the searing heat for Lyrics Born and Crazy Penis at the mainstage. Both had great energy and new how to get a sweaty crowd even sweatier and happy about it. Most people had braved the weather and dressed up in their costume, staying true to the Playground Weekender spirit and celebrating Fancy Dress day with rigour and style. Where’s Wallies, oompa loompas, bananas, Borat, fairytale characters and even a jellyfish could be seen wandering the festival grounds. Big ups to the man head to toe in golden lycra. He must have sweated out half his body weight by the end of the day.

In my opinion, Sunday musically was much better than Saturday. Even though there were some great acts giving a quality show on the Saturday, there was a lack of flow in the Sounds Big Top Tent. The acts weren’t organised well, each transitioning messily from one genre of dance to the next. Sunday however worked out a lot better. I was in minimal heaven. The only poor effort came from Kid Kenobi who played a generic, noisy set that filled a room but didn’t inspire. Declan Lee before him was quality as was King Unique after him, despite initial problems with the generator running out of fuel. King Unique likes to go hard and heavy, which was a bit of battle for people to deal with when the heat had risen to over 40 degrees but there were still a fair few punters willing to dance off their disgust brought on by Kid Kenobi’s precediting set.

We exited the Big Top tent for a moment to catch Whomadewho. Brilliant show. The boys do know how to perform and can make a crowd boogie and mosh at the same time. They only played a 45 minute set – brief but any longer would have seen a number of avid fans faint from the heat and energy.

Ewan Pearson and the Streets were the acts of the day for me. Ewan played a 2 hour set, as Norman Jay was a no-show. It was a riveting 2 hours, Ewan starting slow and pulling out some uplifting and light melodies and beats and progressed into a banging set that filled the entire Big Top tent with people dancing and stomping til the air was thick with dusty. We managed to catch only the last half hour of the Streets again because set times had been shuffled. When we arrived at the main stage, about 80% of campers were there having the time of their lives. The witty banter and laid back demeanor of the streets set off a great mood on the main stage and satisfying mark to the end of our night. I was absolutely benched. dancing for 3 hrs straight in the Big Top tent had done me in. Once the Streets had finished off their show, we headed back to the campervan and headed home. Leaving early meant we missed out on the after parties (apparently Murat played a killer set at the Teepees) but we were at least able to avoid the havoc that punters experienced the next morning.

I’d recommend this festival to anyone and everyone. It was worth every dollar spent, every sweat expelled, every ache in my legs and every bit of sunburn. I never thought a crowd could make a festival until I went to this one. The crowd makes a massive difference, no matter how good the line-up is. What a phenomenal weekend.

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February DSS party – I almost lost hope.

Finally. The next warehouse party brought to you by ‘Jamie Hardie Productions’. I have only been attending these parties for the last two years and for those who haven’t experienced it, it simply must be done. But only people who are willing to uphold the integrity of these events. It’s not just about taking drugs and doing everyhing illegal possible to party. It’s about underground drum ‘n’ bass at its finest. Jungle, psy trance, dub. All the styles of music that we rarely hear in the generic Sydney club. To be fair, drum ‘n’ bass seems to have had some sort of revival of late as seen in the bi-monthly Void events held at Phoenix Bar, or the growing success of dnb events held at the UTS Glasshouse Bar or the Gaff (possibly one of the most disliked venues by Sydneysiders but has turned out to be suitable for the somewhat dingy, underground nature of dnb crowds).

However, warehouse parties are that much more special. It isn’t about a revival or some profiteering venture. It’s about music, an unpretentious crowd and the simple joy of hearing quality music you love out of something bigger than an iPod for once.

Alexandria warehouse party 07 - dss stage.
Alexandria warehouse party 07 – dss stage (Jackson Elsegood)

Of late, the warehouse parties haven’t been great. Mostly because coppers have shut them down by midnight which has only allowed me 2 hrs of hectic dancing and chilling out while feeling throbbing bass reverbrate beneath my feet. The most recent one on Parramatta Rd was doomed to be shut down. Not because the loud music would give us away but because of all the people hanging around outside the tiny front door of the abandoned multi-storey complex. That’s what gave us away. Pure and simple. Too many people smoking out front and trying to fit into a metre wide doorway of a delapidated warehouse on a major, MAJOR road. It was fun while it lasted. As rickety and brief as it was. Meanwhile, I’m really quite proud of the fact that drum ‘n’ bass were the cause for shutting down Parramatta Rd for a short period on a Saturday night. I cannot express the glee I felt as I got hauled and shoved out of the warehouse only to find that I could legitimately and safely walk straight through the middle of a 6 lane road. For that alone, I thank ‘Jamie Hardy Productions’ for putting in the time, effort and good will to make such a party possible.

Thrown out of the warehouse party on Parramatta Rd - hello helicopters

Thrown out of the warehouse party on Parramatta Rd - hello helicopters (Daily Telegraph)

So here we are. February. No date. No facebook event. No secret numbers supplied. This my friends is up to knowing your contacts. It seems DSS are trying to squeeze out all the random revellers that purely want to go to an illegal party without caring whether drum ‘n’ bass, hip hop, or geek rock were blasting through rusty walls. I only hope the date they’ve chosen is one where I am free and able to party and stomp to the music I love the most (please not Feb 7, or Feb 21, or Feb 28, please oh please…).

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Ah the introduction of course

How to recap the summer of 08/09?

To be honest, I should have begun this blog a year ago when I attended at least one gig every week for 12 months. I am one of those people that needs a soundtrack to their life. Different moods, different sways of the trees and echoes of the harbour can be too much for a young woman sometimes who only wishes for tunes and beats that make each little moment that much brighter, or darker, or swinging, banging, weepy or juicy. I can’t claim to have a 120 GBs of music in my iPod but I do enjoy most genres that crop up in our new world, even those I’m too old to like or even too young to like. I love a lot of music. There’s something special about every genre, every style. There’s a right time in my mind for everything. I can’t listen to metal before 11am. I can’t listen to reggae when its raining. I can’t listen to punk unless I’m with a rowdy group of boys. I only listen to geek rock when I wan’t to be out-music someone. Drum and bass I could listen to all day every day but there are some particular moments where it seems so right you can’t imagine being anywhere else at any other time when listening to drum and bass could be more right.

So this is my blog about music. About recording the milestones in my life, marked by each new artist I see or each pre-loved artist I see again and again.

This weekend – Playground Weekender 2009. My first ever. 3-day camping festival here I come. My friend and I have rented a campervan to house our belongings in Wiseman’s Ferry, considering our bodies will be too busy dancing in my Tinkerbell costume, or bending into yoga positions, or chilling out playing jenga on the grass. On the shortlist of artists to see: Crystal Castles, Nic Fanciulli, Blue King Brown, Salmonella Dub, Alice Russell, Trevor Parkee, Ewan Pearson, The Streets, Optimo, Tom Middleton and perhaps even some Crazy Penis just for kicks.

For those attending, you can find the set times through Fasterlouder here.

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