In The Pines, Somerville Auditorium, April 13, 1996

Summer tentatively chased away the onset of autumn for the cosiest festival of the year yet again, the third instalment of RTR-FM’s In The Pines. Armed with grandma’s rug and dressed in grandpa’s trousers, the who’s who of Warwick, Willeton and Waroona invaded the prized electoral seat of Nedlands in an indie-kid celebration of all things live, local and original.

It all began with Elvis (in all his cardboard splendour) taking up front position on stage, flanked by a very competitive scrabble game to the side – two incredibly ridiculous scenes – massaged to the artistically shambolic soundtrack of Adam Said Galore’s innocent pop doodlings. Perhaps even exemplifying the timid exuberance of the youthful, homegrown music that was on show for the rest of the day, the unhurried Adam Said Galore grafted out their winding ditties to the encouraging yelps of the steadily building crowd – a listenership which is not new to the almost-deliberate bumbling of prototype icons O!, Molasses and RTR’s breakfast announcer Mark Genge.

The supposed flocks of record company honchos may not have looked twice at Adam Said Galore, or even The Dumb Angels, but both of these opening bands will never be without a healthy following.

The Dumb Angels, squawking and hissing in bad grrrl attire, were a bit lost without their smoke machines and dark surrounds. Their primal screams and New York punk roots seemed to have been transplanted from Mars when the natural beauty of the Pines’ afternoon surrounds were glimpsed out of the corner of one’s eye. They don’t usually leave their haunted castle before night falls.

In stark comparison, one could almost imagine the Somerville’s pine trees being planted decades ago for the occasioned performances of Bluetile Lounge and Thermos Cardy. Even with a more obvious hoon element present this year – “they play a bit slow mate, aye?” – Bluetile Lounge again doused the now-enormous crowd with their gloriously subtle sounds, giving the reclining gathering a chance to ponder or stare unbelieving at the slow, slow sway happening on stage.

Thermos Cardy, with bass fiend Harry Kneen resplendent in an autographed lab coat, drew a huge number of adoring dancers to their mid-fi jiggery. Armed with their catalogue of one cassette’s worth of already widely-celebrated whimsy, the ‘Cardy had only to stand there on stage to be instantly recognised as crowd favourites.

As the day petered out to dusk Valvolux strode onto the stage, their full-frontal intentions laid down from their first crunching tune. While taking in their bludgeoning sound I could do little to chase away the incessant wordplay of Rosemary Thrombus (eek!) – a conglomeration of Tim Underwood and Paul Sloan’s past bands which makes for one horrid image. Furious, fast and none too subtle or intellegent, I am yet to be convinced that Valvolux have much to offer outside of the hoon-crew I mentioned earlier. But that’s their fare …

It was lazing amongst the ivy and lichen in the Somerville’s sunken garden, stage two even, where I found true joy. Martin Gambie, his seemingly simple accoustic fare dazzling in its timing twists and turns, made a great day a magical one in a way only the lead Mardi Picassoan can. As usual he giggled shyly about the large amount of new material on offer, punctuated by undeniably cute and unforgettable rhythms from yore, though this time his seconding of his son on another accoustic guitar filled the little garden stage with the warmest of sounds and a glow that I shall remember for way beyond tomorrow.

But leave it up to Circus Murders to go one up on the whole extravaganza. Mounting the stage dressed as gnomes, long socks and big pointy hats the norm, every one of the Somerville’s patrons literally bounced for the whole of the Circus Murders mellee. Running through a short set of brash, new and crazy cartoon anthems which they say will soon be unleashed on a new CD, the Murders madness could well pop up in your favourite elevator or stuffed toy show real soon.

Adam Connors

The Big Bubble, Harbourside Hotel, December 31, 1995

With a pocket full of change and a little taste for the bizarre, the Harbourside’s last gig for 1995 promised eleven hours of music from eleven bands and no pass-outs, so you were indeed trapped for the long haul. After making the venue my home for the evening there was certainly nothing to do but sip shandies and oscillate wildly. Oh, and lock lips, but that’s another story.

Fresh faced Beanbag started the tour with a Tumbleweedish heaviness, their vocalist at times – many times – struggling to get in the right register. With a Chevelles guitarist moonlighting as a bass player amongst the surf-shirted grunge kids, their simple revved tunes were a bit frontal for four in the afternoon and I think a melody shot was also in order. But it is early for these guys yet.

Meanwhile, the outside stage was getting its first testings from the funk metal outfit Dirtbag. With every note being measured for noise pollution, the cry went up from the crowd to not clap because we might send the levels over. Dirtbag knew the score and had a bit of a chuckle about the whispering crowd, introducing staccato-tight numbers like Smoo and Pelican as “really loud songs”.

Drummer Smith’s backing vocals were especially worthy of note, the tight chops of the whole band getting a quiet double thumbs up from the steadily building masses.

With two bands on at the same time there was a constant stream of human movement between the stages. Inside, Humbug celebrated their name change for the evening to Humbag by blowing everyone away with some great sonic pop songs and a great deal of on-stage tomfoolery. These folk genuinely have fun up there – guitarists chew the strings during solos, drummer Tim Jewel looks like he’s constantly out of his seat and screaming the lyrics (he does not have a mic) and singer Ryan Johnston has now mastered his bass, vocals and dance steps so he does not stare blankly ahead anymore.

Humbug are truely a find and must now be considered as one of this city’s real performers. No less than five different groups of people asked me who they were with much nodding and grinning.

Squidfinger suffered at the hand of a dodgy sound mix, their usual heartbeat-arresting bass lines swallowed up in the mash of loud guitar noise. The disco thing is pretty dull without that full-on bass propulsion, but Squidfinger’s adoring fans, especially femme fans, threw their bodies about anyway as the sun set and turned Chris Carpenter’s mirror boots into blazing orange beacons. It was like New Year’s Eve, 1976.

Beaverloop also grabbed the crowd by the neck and gave it a good shake, the outdoor option being a fantastic change from the hot, indoor crush in front of Mother Star. Actually, it was the neat jazz groove of Scratch N Sniff that eventually pulled me back inside, their excellent, subtle muzak getting a little wiggle from the crowd while the Beaverloopians sent the outdoor moshpit silly.

Beaverloop’s Loon X-Wing – bass guitarist, spokesperson for a generation and silly hat wearer – was in fine form as usual, leading his pogoing minions from the front and blasting forth the musical agitpop of an age: the perfect soundtrack for the police helicopter with a big spotlight in the distant sky. Wow, it all sounds very Judge Dredd, doesn’t it?

With Book Of Funk bringing everyone back to the organic actuality of Fremantle, the outdoor crowd transformed into the earthy, tree-hugging folk that live there. Leopard skin waistcoats and harmonicas, ragga dance and enviro-speak, Book Of Funk are an acquired taste and a hell of a lot of locals have had a nibble. It’s that ability to dance in sandles which I still haven’t mastered …

The inside stage saw Perth power popsters The Chevelles and Header trade licks without skipping a beat, a match of the most melodious and complimentary kind. The Chevelles sound was harder and heavier, the guitars tuned to squeal, the harmonies lovely. Header, likewise, were like the antipodean Charlatans with frontboy Ian Freeman crooning and preening and shaking his bowl-cut hair. Header have some fine tricks and easily kept the crowd rabid for the Circus Murders loon-fest to follow.

Faces painted with silly masks, Fremantle’s nuttiest professors had everyone bouncing off the walls in another dexterous display of their own cabaret o’ thrash. With the room absolutely full to bursting and the shandies kicking in for a majority of the patronage, the big bubble burst around 2am. Much to my relief actually, I had forgotten the wonderment of space and quiet.

Adam Connors