...It's the birdsong of a new country you notice first. Gaudy parroting and tropical calls. The Australian whine of the crow-call, flute coo pidgeon chatter. Banging trains. Closer. Joy divisions. Spare some change & cancel th' pong. In essence it's a relaxed city. The Aesthetics band and the Crude project visited Melbourne for a series of shows, performing alongside a gaggle of artists. Lost me eftpos card at Sydney airport, didnt realize it until the descent into Melbourne, so no money available, the airport a 30 minute drive to town. My fellow passengers may've thought i'd just learnt of a loved-ones demise for all my bubbling. Providence came in the form of a loan at the other end - a miracle. A testament to the value of not burning (at least..some) bridges. Welcome to Cremorne, just north of South Yarra, just south of Richmond. The area was notorious gangland in the 80s. It was raining. Gig number one was a Crude show at a controversial new venue in Flemington called KOF. An artist run gallery space that was previously a flower shop, KOF's frontage is a madenning psychedelic punk mural, local locals and landylords and shoppe owners bitching up a storm a-fucking-bout it. I performed alongside Bearded Iris (Jane Louise) and Heavy Turkey( Lynton & Dave) . The night was Dionysus-Lite, a bellicose, braying jam-session. Heavy turkey is a drum/bass/vocals duo, James a gangly bassist of deft abilities, lynton a street-smart traps-man - groove oriented and fully bearded. Their music was a sort of curio-punk....a compelling metal-pop. Bearded Iris was a multi-media encounter, slice'o'life video clips and monologues, day-to-day psycho-pychedelica.Crude played...shawm over mini-beat, used to great effect throughout the tour.Lynton joined me on the kit for an improv piece. After Crud ex-pat kiwis came out of the fucking walls and re-formed wellingtons eerie out-fit Sharpie Crows for a free-for-all music-orgy, the entire night relaxed, without regulations, kiwi-like, a real party. litle did I know that ain't the Melbourne way. Gig two was a christening of a new warehouse room/venue in Abbotsford. Known as the 'Phillip M Carey Memorial Room', the room is a labour of love dedicated to a recently deceased local eccentric complete with a beautiful PA system. Several rag-tag artists performed..Cutlery, a stoner rock band, komplete with girlfriends and girlfriends girlfriends in tow, jamo-jamo-rama , one of those 'we-could-play-forever' kinda acts, 'Brothers Hand Mirror' (There seems to be a penchant in Melb for band-names with several words seemingly pulled from a hat or conjoured up on while drunk and stoned,something that also reminds me of Wellington - in fact ,Melbourne and Wellington do share some similar culltural traints---but see, thing is, to me Melbourne is a composite of the flat-city sprawl of Christchurch, the hyper-size and rapaciousness of Auckland, and the cluttered vaudevillian clownishness of Wellywood). Anyhoo, Brother Hand Mirror is the project of a local eclecticians Oscar Vincente-Slorach Thorn & Grant Jonathon Gronewold. They experiment with various styles and this was a cooky hip hop set. Strange rap/pop material. Interesting. Crude's set was a little shell shocked and self-concious. But hey...WTF. Heres a clip from that.......After a week off as-it-were the rest of the Aesthetics band arrived in the great city. Our first engagement was at a very hip venue called The Workers Club. This was a a learning experience. Melbourne's music and entertainment industry is a well oiled machine. As the inner city is gentrified clubs'n'pubs are forced to shut the fuck up. Bands will start from 8.30, and its usually all over by 12. As an outside musician it almost seems as if the industry works like this: the artists are the last to be paid after all the other players. There is an industry set up around bands that is there to capture as much capital as possible. You have the 'booking' 'agent'. The postering and printing boys. The inhouse door-staff. The inhouse soundperson. The photographers and media. The band managers. The lighting crews. The bouncers. The bar-staff. Each of these people demand payment, it goes without saying. I've probably missed several other roles. And i don't think its just in Melbourne either. And they try to convince you that without them, you wouldn't get anywhere. So many young bands are screwed over by these predators. The more I experience the more i believe artist-run spaces are the most rewarding places to perform. As 8.30 drew nearer it was time for act 1 to get on. This slot was Heavy Turkey's, unbeknownst to them (and me) ...pretty much my guests for the evening. You know you're in the big city when you're told sternly that if the act dosen't get on stage before x time they wont play at all. And yet again my allegences are tested...do i honour the venue or do i honour the kiwis. They arrive slightly late , argue with the sound-guy, get on stage, vent beautifully and get off. The vibe now is a confused and bitter mess, Matty yet again has waltzed into other peoples fueds with other people. They rocked. Next up was Dead Ants Rainbow, Melbourne based improv/electronic,,,chanelling a gorgeous racket, alcohol and alchemy and stoned charcoal drawings and slithering pedal-coaxing. Exciting sound-arts from the New-Australian-Wierd Movement. And then there was SUPERSTAR, a stylish duo , Roland Juno 6 underlay and Roy Montgomery-esque guitar over-lay. Incidental music, spacious, introverted, meditative, brooding like a freshly dumped teen. Unfortunatley my drunk mind couldn't help but recall channel 7's Home and Away. The guitar stuff used for particularly dark moments. i know it sounds bad but you had to be there it was great. And then The Aesthetics, our first appearance in Australia since febuary 2005. Melb has changed since then - most notable was the much increased power of the internet as a social networking and promotional device. A flesh D-vice. We hit the stage with recent barnstormers like 'O' and old-faithfuls like 'Better dead than Red'. The audience sorta beamed back at us, we provided a kind of relief, a blow-off, a kind of messy catharsis. Release from the crystal-clarity of tightass-melby-pop and the deadened copycat audio-architecture of the 'indie' scene . This was messy, this was wrong, we made mistakes, we was brazen,we were cute yet ugly. And the up-side down guitar was just so.....wrong. It was drunkeness itself. This was The Aesthetics. Edie Stevens, Matt Middleton and Malcolm-Fucking-Deans..
..next day was party time....the 2nd of 4 shows-in-a-row for thee Aes-fucking-thetics. A kiwi-centric soiree was arranged in friendly Cremorne. A beautiful loose blow-out to remedy the stilted functionality/disfunctionality of the previous night eh-what??? Rock and-or Roll it was. wasn't it. Wasn't it?? Was it?? Wha? Whaaaa? WWWhaaaaaa? Jack Sprat??? Little Jack Horner? Large Dong? (Not quite, my man thursday.)