The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world





23rd JULY 2011


The Hives - Top Hatted highlights






I’ll bet that James Blake didn’t think that his first time in Perth would be spent in wet and swampy grounds hidden under the tent. Still it’s a big tent and to be honest the grounds aren’t too swampy and it’s actually quite nice and warm under the big top, certainly no Glastonbury anyway...


Our introduction to the festival is Mr Blake due to travel chaos involving a fish and a trombone (another story entirely). It’s a shame as I’m told the opening pairing of LA's Warpaint and Tim and Jean were both well worth checking out.


Blake seems to have half the crowd enthralled the other half nonplussed but it's still early in the day and the crowd is still trudging through the mud. As the pioneer of the post-dubstep movement Blake is a rising star that probably won’t be staying this low on the bill too much longer. (Did I get away with sounding like I knew what post-dubstep meant?)


He’s an interesting artist, almost timid, with a sound is almost equal parts ambient detached, almost dirty, building like dance music on tranquilizers, and introspective ballads.


The thing that strikes me most though is that Blake’s voice itself is actually quite thin, his stage presence, seated behind his keys, is understated and his comments to the crowd perfunctory, all very low key, which either passes for cool or boring depending on your stance.


There's an ambient song that builds and dies with drums that is interesting. But as far as the sound goes the bass mix is reasonably horrible throughout. The last song he plays has a wash of sounds that work and is quite soulful, but again it’s undone by the washed out bass drone.


By the end of his set the tent smells like an English summer (wet with a faint smell of beer and cigarettes)...



FOSTER THE PEOPLE - The Beach Boys do Jamiroquai...


Well the name puts me off for a start, what can it mean? That we are about to be descended upon by a band of social workers? To be fair the entry onto the stage goes OK – the band has a look of an early eighties alt indie UK rock/pop band, which a Beach Boy on vocals.


The sound however is, at least initially, more akin to Jamiroquai; and we soon find out that it’s a band where seemingly everyone likes to drum, or at least be a bit percussive...


For boys from LA the sound isn’t really that American at all – there’s much more of a UK Indie Pop vibe. This is another band who are playing Perth for the first time, though they’ve played the East coast once previously.


Ignoring my complete ignorance for a moment, the second song, with the largely unintelligible lyrics has the entire crowd clapping and dancing; it's all rather non-threatening and good fun.


By this time we’re already running about 20 minutes behind (remember to plug those leads in dudes!) but by the time Pulp hit the stage at the end of the night, most of that has been clawed back.


Foster ends up getting louder and catchier as their set progresses and pull off some nice catchy tunes. I can see the appeal.



THE GRATES - Mayhem in a black skirt...


The Grates is the first band I’ve really come to see and they don’t let me down with their fun, fast-paced rock with a wild front woman who dances like a dervish and wails nicely. The Grates supplies the real nice bit of alt rock we’ve been waiting for with tunes that cut to the chase and get your whole body moving: a nice wake-up call!


A cool band to watch even if singer Patience does appear to have trouble staying still for the camera! Everything about the band is hyper, aside from the nice juxtaposition of the refined female bassist/ keyboardist. They’re a highly enjoyable band from the “another song coming along in three minutes if you didn’t like that one” school of rock.


Singer Patience comes across like a hyperactive Chrissy Amphlett and the cape-twirling and tossing fun and games and the short skirt and backward rolls go down well with an enthusiastic crowd.  However it was the crowd surfing that followed ‘Feels Like Pain’, with Patience being conveyed over the heads of the crowd until she was almost to the middle of the tent that sealed the deal! Heck these guys are fun and the crowd is on fire by the end, all that and she drinks beer! One to check out for sure if you like stuff like the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs – these guys are similar but probably just that bit better...



THE KILLS - Damn fine garage rock...


The hoisting of a leopard print backdrop is somehow enough to instantly dismiss fears that the next band – The Kills will not be Rock N Roll enough for me.


As soon as the first strangled not is torn out of the guitar the grin widens. The Kills is a great band, or more correctly duo (unless you count the drum machine).


The set is everything that should be cool and exciting about rock  music very low-fi with a big sound and a bit of everything from the Black Keys to The White Stripes via early eighties indie rock. Just the two of them up there on stage with drum machine (not sure he has a name) armed only with a garage ethic and a head full of noise makes a great set. There’s even essence of the early Cult in there.


Songs like ‘Heart is a beating Drum’ has the DNA of some of the early goth bands without the fashion and more of the aura of darkness. There’s some great rock and roll and beautiful trance-like dirges in a tight set that is a real highlight of the day for me.  



TAME IMPALA - very tame but nice to shoot...


... is pretty tame, how very apt a name I’m thinking after the first couple of songs. There’s a sheen of psychedelia that jags out of the songs at some very obtuse angles and strangely a breezy West Coast US vibe but it's all too distilled for me, all too contemplated, all too packaged somehow.


Yes I know these guys are the darlings of the West Coast Music Pres, but c’mon guys really? On stage they move little (rather like grazing Impalas?) and have a limited set of moves. There's little to recommend them at first sight. The music however has the crowd pumped and I’m really racking my brain as to why, they just seem so contrived up there, though I’m clearly in the minority. Jeez how easy it would have been to just go with the flow and say “Hometown heroes please the crowd with a fine set..." blah, blah, blah.


The bassist who stands back, relegated to line two behind guitar and guitar/vocals is good as swaying his head and why he's not upfront I don't know as he’s a helluva lot livelier than the front men, even if his feet do appear to be nailed or glued to the stage.


TAME IMPALA - Like someone describing the sixties to you who cleary wasn't there...


Not many singers these days get by without a discernable stage presence, and no it's not mysterious, he's a very naughty boy.


Imagine rock music without the danger, without the thrill. Sure there are lapses into Floyd (the kid’s band du jour) and there are elements of say Muse but it's performed in a vacuum. Like music by mime artists.


Sometimes the younger generation baffles me and with Tame Impala they seem to have gone introvert on us - it's all about me rather than going out and having fun: all about saying you were there and facebooking your friends and uploading your pics from the I-phone. Te music may have changed since grunge but in this new crop of rockers the shoe-gazing has intensified to the point where the leather is actually wearing away...  


It ain't rock and roll, unlike the two bands that held the stage before them. I feel like bands like this are effectively selling the Emperor’s new clothes, which is all well and good as long as everyone’s naked. They do have de nice lights though I notice after we've left the pit


And proof that I'm completely wrong of course is in the reaction from the crowd.



MODEST MOUSE - and we never did get to see the mouse...


The array of instruments on stage is impressive electric upright bass-type contraption, acoustic guitars, a violin, a 12 string: nice!


Initially I’m disappointed the first few songs have a very prosaic sound, indulgently flavoured, simple country-tinged ballads, indie  sensibilities, shrouded in mid-tempo ditties that hardly cut through the all-pervasive onstage smoke and red and blue light.



The good news is that they get past this: they're tight and they're deft for sure but lack a little passion and the flame is still a little too low. It’s music you parents would ask “where's the chorus” about: buut your grandparents would probably like if they had folksy or country sensibilities. I'd honestly love to know what they think they sound like because to me there’s elements of everyone from Animal Collective, Xiu Xiu, Franz Ferdinand and Violent Femmes in there but little of the excitement of any of them.


It’s strange but by the end of the set I start to enjoy it, or maybe appreciate it is a better way of saying it. It's got a groove but not one based in the blurs there's a little funk a little country but nothing overrides the warm mix of a sort of stoned groove that meanders like the jam bands did but without the guitar at the fore...


And if you are of a certain vintage they had Mr. McHenry on bass....


Well that's my thoughts on the day, and a great day ot was too. Time for me to enjoy The Hives and Pulp and pass you on to Shane and Trulie to round out the review...



THE HIVES - Damn good fun


The last time THE HIVES played Perth was in 2005 at the end of an extensive world tour, and with families and children side of stage they played practically all of their then three albums plus b-sides in an extraordinary and mammoth two hour plus set.


Tonight curfews need to be adhered to, so it’s one hour of prime triple A grade Hives hits, with a few new tunes thrown in for good measure.



Resplendant in their matching black top hats, tails, ties and white shirts and vests, the hats, jackets then ties of which are discarded rapidly, the Swedish punk heavyweight champions owned the stage – dynamic singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist struts like a teenage Jagger/Iggy peacock with a black belt in self-aggrandisement; his guitarist brother Nicholaus Arson throws himself and his axe around, leaping atop monitors and into the photo pit ceaselessly; while the rest of the band – second guitarist Vigilante Carlstrom, bassist Dr Matt Destruction and drummer Chris Dangerous – hold down the business end of the band while the brothers work their magic with the crowd.


Almqvist’s stage banter is the stuff of legend and tonight he doesn’t disappoint, exhorting “all you happy Perthans” to be excited that he is “your Perthonal lead singer” early in the set; asking “ladies and gentlemen, are you excited?  Don’t worry – it’s completely normal!”; and later suggesting “I feel we’ve been on a couple of dates now, Perthans, and shit is gonna happen – I think I love you Perthans!”.  Sadly his vocals are strangely unclear through the mix, but it’s a small niggle in an otherwise seamless set of punk rock minor classics.



The crowd went apeshit through the whole set – ‘Main Offender’ was an early highlight, classics ‘Idiot Walk’ and ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ brought the house down, new tune ‘Take Back The Toys’ bodes very well indeed for the forthcoming album, and a apocalyptically good ‘Tick Tick Boom’ closed out the set, with the band affecting statues for a full minute before closing out the song and lapping up the adulation for several more minutes before finally leaving the stage, triumphant.



Pulp Jarvis Cocker Perth 2011

PULP - one for the Common People...


The Hives weren’t the only ones to leave at this point – at least a quarter of the crowd exited after the Swedes, but it was definitely their loss, with PULP putting on one hell of a performance almost on par with the Swedish punk onslaught.


A moody intro tape and laser lights projecting all manner of questions (Are you ready?, Do you want to see a dolphin? Shall we do it?) around the Big Top tent heralded the geeky swagger of a still-young looking Jarvis Cocker onto the stage behind a thin curtain, from where he started ‘Do You Remember The First Time’ from 1998 breakthrough album “His n’ Hers”.


PULP - Dancing like this man is usually only seen at weddings


Tonight’s setlist is mostly drawn from their biggest seller, 1995’s “Different Class” – ‘Mis-Shapes’, ‘Something Changed’, their cover of Laura Branigan’s ‘Gloria’ – oh no that’s right, it’s their own song ‘Disco 2000’ (sounds the same to me!), drug classic ‘Sorted for E’s and Whizz’, ‘Underwear’, ‘Bar Italia’ all make welcome appearances as Cocker prowls the stage like a geeky sexual predator.


The big hits had everyone clapping and shouting and dancing, ‘I Spy’ was faster and funkier than the album version, an acapella snippet from David Essex’s ‘Rock On’ served as a birthday tribute, and more than once the PYT’s (pretty young things) looked on bemused as this mid-forties schoolteacher-looking bloke sung songs of sleaze and perversion and drugs.  Not that that’s a bad thing!



‘Sunrise’, the only tune tonight from their last studio album “We Love Life”, had a Stone Roses jangle to it, and multi million seller ‘Common People’, featuring Tom from Modest Mouse on violin was just euphoric – even without the E’s and Whizz!


Some may say Jarvis and his nameless faceless Pulp alumni should have stayed in the 90’s, but he made our day a lot more fun, and though The Hives won this bout, making rough punk rock love in the back of a car to Perth's earholes, Pulp came a VERY close second in a more sleazy and creepy uncle-under-the-covers kind of way!!!





Do You Remember The First Time
Something Changed              
Disco 2000                             
Sorted For E’s and Whizz     
I Spy                                      
This is Hardcore                     
Bar Italia                                
Common People         



All in all it's a great day out... and getting the crowd like that to a seemingly varied group of acts show that the promoters are on top of their game.


Words by Mark Diggins, Shane & Trulie Pinnegar
Photos by Mark Diggins