R’n’B and glam-rock icons hold it down in Melbourne’s stadiums while ambitious day parties happen in the suburbs. And there’s an appearance from San Fran’s sweat-inducing riff lords.
Melbourne might have its own prolific psych-rock outfit in the form of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, but someone will have to give them a medal if they are still playing as hard, fast and weird 20 years into their careers as Oh Sees leader John Dwyer is.
Performing under various names and line-up arrangements, the San Francisco band has released a staggering 21 studio albums since 2003, and that doesn’t include Dwyer’s solo productions either.
Live, the band is as relentless as its release schedule, mixing garage rock’n’roll with post-punk and psych-rock. A combination of sweat, riffs and rhythm that borders on the transcendent.
The band’s newest album Smote Reverser has a strong ’70s European prog-rock influence. There’s Black Sabbath-esque proto metal, vintage organ solos and the psychedelic mania of Blade Runner composer Vangelis’s early band Aphrodite’s Child.
Two shows have already sold out. Get on it.
Oh Sees play the Croxton Bandroom from February 14 to 16. Tickets here.
Ms. Lauryn Hill and Nas
In August 1998 Ms. Lauryn Hill released the seminal album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Now she’s taking that album on a 20th-anniversary tour. And she’s bringing hip-hop heavyweight Nas with her.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, is perhaps the best-known record to emerge from the 1990s neo-soul movement that included artists such as Erykah Badu and D’Angelo. The single Doo Wop (That Thing) propelled Hill to international super stardom.
It was Hill’s first solo record away from Fugees, the group she was a member of with Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel. The album’s sound built on the soul and hip-hop of Fugees by adding elements of reggae that came from recording sessions in Kingston, Jamaica.
Lyrically the record spoke of Hill’s experience as a new mother, her relationship with religion and gospel music, love, heartbreak, and her frustrations working in Fugees.
Hill’s first show at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl has sold out, but reasonably priced tickets are still available for the Festival Hall show.
Ms. Lauryn Hill and Nas play Festival Hall on February 14. Tickets here.
It’s strange that Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music aren’t granted the same awe and devotion as their ’70s glam-rock peers when their catalogue includes classics like Love is the Drug, More Than this and Angel Eyes.
Perhaps it’s because the band’s subversion of rock tropes played it too close. Where Bowie flew head first into pantomime, it was always harder to tell with Ferry where the joke stopped. His signature vibrato could embrace big-band pomp and pillow-talk sweet nothings. At his best, his songs were seductive but tinged with midnight danger like on Don’t Stop the Dance.
Exposing and embracing the artifice and fantasy in the pop world that so many aspired to, Roxy Music switched on the dressing room lights to reveal gum stuck to the shag pile carpet; a seedy world of nightclub back doors with flickering lights and rented limousines with the lingering smell of cheap cigars. Just look at Ferry’s pencil-thin moustache and white suit in the video for Let’s Stick Together. It can be a fine line between creepy and classy.
If all of that sounds like style over substance that’s kind of the point. Roxy Music were the first post-modern meta band, making pop-music about pop-music, that both embraced and lampooned the artifice and aspirations of the genre while at the same time leaving behind pop-masterpieces of their own.
Bryan Ferry plays Margaret Court Arena on February 26. Tickets here.
Duke Street Block Party
Duke Street in Abbotsford is being taken over for a massive block party surrounded by industrial warehouses and a view of Yarra Bend bushland.
Acclaimed English electronic musician Floating Points is headlining, this time in DJ mode when he abandons his mercurial, avant garde solo productions in favour of mind-bendingly obscure disco, boogie and afro jams spinning unbridled joy from his enviable record collection.
Doubling down on the classic disco and boogie vibe is iconic artist Evelyn “Champagne” King. “Baby you make my love come down; ooh you make my love come down,” sings King on Love Come Down. It’s one of those earworms that has become almost ubiquitous at parties, following a resurgent interest in classic disco and boogie over the past decade. Despite its high rotation, it just never gets old. King’s other hits will be brought to life by Mondo Freaks, a bunch of gun Melbourne session musicians led by Graeme Pogson of the Bamboos, GL and Bermuda fame.
There will also be DJ sets from Total Giovanni, who are still riding the wave of their excellent 2018 debut album Euphoria; John Gómez, the compiler of the outstanding Outro Tempo: Electronic and Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978–1992; and CC:DISCO! who's hosting her Club Coco stage, among others.
Duke Street Block Party takes place at Duke Street, Abbotsford on February 2. Tickets here.
Perhaps it’s the huge variety of festivals on the summer calendar – Dark Mofo and its wild afterparties probably have something to do with it – but it feels like the scale and ambition of one-day parties is really stepping up.
New day party/mini fest Something Unlimited has some impressive party pedigree behind it. The group of promoters running it has had a hand in dance music-focused events such as Inner Varnika, Strawberry Fields, Hopkins Creek, and the Lucid nights at the Lounge, among others.
The event will involve two stages set up in the 1887 Northcote Townhall, the side rooms of which will be taken over by installations from visual artist Mikaela Stafford, who has created visuals for Sydney’s experimental-techno parties Soft Centre.
Headline internationals include Detroit DJ Rick Wilhite, whose selections run through house, techno, rap and R’n’B; deep-house DJ and producer Lady Blacktronika; and retro-futuristic house producer Urulu.
But it’s the depth of the local talent that really shows the strengths of Melbourne’s music scene at the moment. There’s Allysha Joy’s future soul, Sui Zhen’s subversive (and at times demented) synth-pop, psychedelic noodlers Mildlife, and sets from the city’s house and disco kings and queens Wax’o Paradiso and DJ Jnett among others. You can expect drinks and snacks too.
Something Unlimited takes place at the Northcote Town Hall on February 16. Tickets here.