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A Night with Lagwagon

The overwhelming sentiment of the evening was rocking out and having a good time without any of the bullshit

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02.11.06 @ HiFi Bar, Melbourne, AUS
w/ Chase Manhattan, Armageddon Sky

In the seven odd years between my first and most recent Lagwagon show, the members of the band have aged (some more gracefully than others), they’ve had to say goodbye to one of their own, and it seems, the kids at the shows are getting much younger. This was none more evident than their recent trek to Melbourne. Skepticism rose early during the announcements of the opening acts- in 1999, when they played Philadelphia’s Trocadero, it was Wretch Like Me, All, and Latex Generation warming up the crowd. All of the bands could have been lumped together in one pseudo genre group- an acceptable slate of artists one would expect to open a Lagwagon show. Fast forward to the present day and wagon fans are (mis)treated to a couple of bands trying their very best to ape Taking Back Sunday screaming inside a trash can rolling down a hill. Chase Manhattan were crap, and there’s little else to say about it other than the folks arriving early (that’s us), had the chance to check the merch booth or buy overpriced beer before the crowds came.

Armageddon Sky were decent- if not trying too hard to sound like Senses Fail. Their sound was a little muted and their songs lacked the thump needed to energize an already impatient audience. To add, they acted like rockstars, and that dear readers, is no-no numero uno: rockstar posing is for dickheads. And after they trudged through their seemingly long set, the crowd finally seemed bothered to pay attention. $30 and almost three hours of waiting, Joey Cape and friends graced the stage to rapturous, thank-god they’re finally here, we’ve sat through the muck applause.

And like a tectonic shift in plains, the atmosphere exploded with the kind riotous energy reserved for storming a Danish embassy. Oh sweet chaos! Lagwagon broke into “Heartbreaking Music” and “Automatic” as bodies began flying off the stage left and right and finally … finally, the show was on. They raced through an impressive setlist that included some of their best tunes from their extensive discography, making sure not to skip over their earlier work on Duh and Trashed, as well as their later work- “Making Friends,” “Sleep,” “May 16th,” “Island of Shame,” and “Mr. Coffee” all made their appearance- stopping every so often to fraternize with the crowd that had made their way on stage. And this would be an ongoing theme through the night- the staggering number of concertgoers who ultimately ended up on stage. Security came in the form of one solitary, weedy stage hand who spent the night pleading with rushers to “please clear the stage.” (Side note: the number of dudes who made their way on stage to kiss Joey was more than two)Spending time to acknowledge the audience and former drummer Derrick Plourde who took his own life last year, the overwhelming sentiment of the evening was rocking out and having a good time without any of the bullshit. There was a sense of closeness between the crowd and the band often lost at rock shows. They played their way through their tunes and the crowd recognized the band by providing them with the kind of organized anarchy not seen since Fear destroyed the SNL set in 1981. Closing the night with “Razor Burn,” Cape announced that this was the crowd’s last chance to “rock” the evening away, and like they had done through their hour-or-so long performance, it was beautiful carnage from beginning to end.

Reviews

Hatchie – Keepsake

Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars

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Hatchie Keepsake

Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.

There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.

However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.

The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.

(Heavenly Recordings)

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