Gems among the dirges


The Domain, Sydney
December 7, 2002

Unlike the I-94 Bar's resident live reviewer Mr McPharlin, I have been to one of these all-day festival extravaganzas in relatively recent times. That was Livid about six years ago. It was hot, unpleasant and crowded from what I recall...Morphine were good (this was a band in which I had no interest), Jello Biafra was dull, the Cruel Sea were bored and dismissive of the audience (and the bastards did not perform "Down Below"), Babes in Toyland were the highlight for me; You Am I were tedious and could not replicate the clean pop of their albums. Ain't production great?

Anyway, things had not changed for You am I at Homebake 2002 as far as I'm concerned. In their defence the sound on the main stage was hollow and drummy. I liked their stuff better before they went poppy and always thought them overrated. Normally, I would not be bothered seeing a band unless I wanted to, but these festival things encourage you to fill in time. So I might as well sledge the ones I was unimpressed with even if I was never interested in the first place.

Actually, You am I were the last act I saw before I left (halfway through their set). By this stage my back and patience were packing in from standing around so long. The truth is that, like Mr McPharlin, I don't like these sort of events. Too long (how many band members have this sort of attention span?), bands you want to see scheduled at the same time (Pacifier vs D4 must have shitted the Kiwis and I was not impressed with Gerling vs Machine Gun Fellatio), a mass of humanity (although Homebake was better than Livid in this regard), standing for hours, poor sound (actually my major complaint), bored performers; and no fucking wine at the bar although at least you could pay cash instead of using tokens. And where were acts like The Drugs, The Stalkers, Frenzal Rhomb, etcetera? I am actually sorry that I missed Grinspoon. And I guess I'll just have to struggle through with the hole in my life experience from missing the live version of  "You were Amazing" by Alex Lloyd. Sob.

Radio Birdman's Deniz Tek.

Anyway, going further backwards… Radio Birdman went off. Despite the initially thin crowd, they pulled in the punters once they started. I thought them much better than when I saw them last at the Metro where I got no feel for why people were obsessed with them. As the Sydney Morning Herald said this around, they were sharp and made a lot of the new garage acts look stale.

Australia has developed a tradition of performance/cabaret/music acts in the mould of TISM and latterly The Drugs and Machine Gun Fellatio. While I was amused when I last caught MGF at the Newtown RSL, they really went beyond this at Homebake, clearly transcending their recorded material which has always struck me as being very uneven with some quite flat cuts. And that's without mentioning an even more over the top show with 4 extra "performers", the Pussytown Singers. Even if you didn't like the music this was entertainment! Have you noticed that photographer Tony Mott looks just like Leapy Lee? I kept expecting him to break into "Little Arrows".

I caught three songs from Gerling before departing for MGF. Sounded good but I didn't really get a feel for it in that short time and anyway I felt I was not on the right drugs. The band formally known as Shihad (not the band now known as Shihad but formally known as Frenzal Rhomb) were OK if you like stadium rock and the band were energetic enough going about it. But then they asked the audience to sing along with them so I left…

The D4 lead a soingalong as they go in search of some songs.

As with the last time I saw them, the D4 were also energetic but did nothing for me. They need some songs I think. Strangely enough, I had to leave when they asked the audience to sing along with them… What is about Kiwi bands and audience participation? Do they all really want to be like the Bay City Rollers? I'm there to see the band, not to listen to some tone deaf drunken stoned oaf from Bondi (band members excepted) scream along incoherently on a two-second delay, three centimetres from my right ear. At least this time the D4 were not overshadowed by the Stalkers and no fucking Kiwis in the audience punched me in the kidneys.

Jebediah were quite disappointing, even allowing for the dreadfully drummy/hollow sound system. I was expecting them to pick-it-up in the manner of all good live performers (MGF, D4, Radio Birdman, Gerling all managed this). As it turned out they seemed really dirgey to me.

By way of conclusion I'd like to emphasise that while I still not keen on these big line-up days, Homebake was generally well organised. For instance, I was impressed by the way that mosh pit victims were promptly and carefully extracted. And the crowd was jovial and well mannered. The sound system on the main stage was at times awful. I think that the performances were generally a bit flat with the exceptions noted above.