Words: Annie Davis
 
Anna Calvi may be Karl Lagerfeld’s muse and Brian Eno’s idea of ‘the biggest thing since Patti Smith’, but this musician is no man’s protégée. To describe her as such belies the fierce originality and unbridled talent of the twenty-something year old guitarist and songwriter whose self-titled debut is being hailed by the British press as the album of the year. “I just wanted to make something that was honest to me and that made me creatively happy and not worry about how it might be received”, says Anna of such high praise from high places. “It’s a pleasant surprise that people like it”.

For a songstress renowned for her intense and seductive performances, such modesty is as startling as the delicate voice marking Anna’s presence by telephone from the UK. “As a singer I’m quite shy and I didn’t feel I had the personality to make a loud noise with my voice”, her crystalline voice strains to make itself heard through the crackle of long distance tele-optical fibres. A guitarist in a series of bands, Anna made a very conscious choice to metamorphose herself into a solo artist. “I just practiced a lot, training my voice for six hours a day” she explains of the gruelling process.

As a performer, Anna harnesses this shyness to superb effect. Her vocals trapeze from intense sultriness one moment, to willowy, whispered tones the next. “I was interested in creating contrast – from moments that were really intimate and vulnerable and moments of real strength and fastness”. She insists the melodrama constructed is something more natural than contrived. “To me, performing has to be something really honest and I don’t believe in running around the stage just to appear more interesting”.

The contrast Anna elicits most exquisitely is that of the masculine and feminine. “I think it’s my instinctive way of performing music,” Anna concedes, “but I don’t really think about it”. When asked if her inclination to play on gender stereotypes stems from her being a female performer, Anna thoughtfully turns the question on its head. “I think I’d do the same if I was a man, I would stress my feminine side”, she ponders. “I like the idea of not having to be fixed or stationary or thinking, oh you’re a woman so you have to act like this”.

Although she counts Jimi Hendrix, Scott Walker, David Bowie and Roy Orbison as her major influences, it is fellow female UK artist PJ Harvey to which Anna is most often compared. Although her debut album shares the same producer as PJ Harvey’s most recent release, Anna insists this is where the similarity ends. “I think it’s expected I’d be compared with her because people can be lazy”, Anna says in response, softly spoken, yet firm. “In any other art form you wouldn’t assume that the only influence a person has is someone of the same gender; you wouldn’t say that a female painter could only be influenced by female painters”, says Anna of her frustration at such parallels. “I find it really strange that there’s this belief that a female artist can only be influenced by other females. I just don’t get it. If PJ Harvey was a man, I don’t think anybody would compare me to her”.

How comfortable, then, is this musician with being a muse? On the subject of Karl Lagerfeld citing her as a source of inspiration, that same voice suddenly falters. As a musician does the title ‘muse’ sit comfortably with you? “Did he say that?” she says with genuine surprise. That’s what fashion websites are declaring the world over, we tell Anna, after Karl pulled a copy of her album out of his high fashion man satchel to wax lyrical about the English songstress, when interviewed about Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection. “Oh, it’s incredibly flattering to be a source of inspiration if he did say that”, she says humbly.

So how does Anna perceive this response from the fashion world? “I’m pleasantly surprised. The only time I really think about fashion is in relation to my music because I do really consider it an art form. I’d only approach it for my art rather than (because) I want to hang out somewhere that’s cool. That’s not my kind of thing”.

When asked about her musical influences, Anna is similarly averse to what’s fashionable for fashion’s sake: “I’m not really into trends or what’s the hot new thing,” she explains but she does concede one contemporary band as an influence. “The last artist I really fell in love with was Antony and the Johnsons”.

Anna’s affinity with Antony on the Johnsons comes as little surprise, both play on vocal extremes to defy gender norms and convey a sense of melodrama as much haunting as it is enticing. Her costumes inspire much comment in reviews of her live shows, often appearing with slicked back hair, blood red lips and flamenco-inspired ruffled blouses and pants. “It’s a visual representation of music so it’s very important for me,” Anna reflects on her costuming. “I love how much they express how passionate someone is about their music – they kind of signal a special language”.

Words cannot quite express the exquisite drama Anna expertly weaves as a performer, most notably on display in the video of her cover of Leonard Cohen’s Joan of Arc recorded for her Attic Sessions series, posted online leading up to the album’s release. “I thought it’d be nice to do my own take on songs that really had an effect on me and taught me a lot as an artist,” she says of the series of covers. “It was a nice place to do those songs in the attic, where I do a lot of writing and recording”.

Besides a vision of beauty, the clip shows Anna’s unique strumming technique, with her fingers whirling over the strings in a circular motion. “I think it came about because I was listening to a lot of West African music”, Anna explains of her style. “With guitar, when you’re playing Malean music, you pull your pick up and down and you kind of sneak across all of the strings and I really loved that kind of playing. I really wanted my guitar to sound like other instruments than guitar, like an orchestra or a piano and I think that original kind of technique I used and developed into my own particular style.”

Whether you see Anna Calvi as a vocalist or a songwriter, a musician or a muse, a woman or an entire orchestra unto herself, her raw talent and refined artistry is difficult to ignore.

For more about Anna Calvi and her self-titled debut album, head to www.annacalvi.com.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Words: Lisa Dib / Images: James Watkins
 
Lisa Dib gives T-Squat a run down on the New York-based rapper who most definitely played Hot BBQ (in the end)
 
 

Mos Def (Dante Terrell Smith on the roll) – a New York boy who has blossomed into a convert of Islam, a hip-hop superstar and one of the few rapper-turn-actors (as Ford Prefect in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) that don’t make me gag. Or, rapper/actor-turned-rapper-turned-actor, since he began his acting career at the tender age of fourteen with a role in TV movie God Bless This Child.

Def’s persona as a proud, outspoken African-American has been a natural stimulative for much of his more controversial, cathartic output. His 1998 album with Talib Kweli, Black Star, was released in the hateful shadow of the chary deaths of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. He has championed the idea of socially-aware hip-hop, alongside other rap heavyweights like Public Enemy, KRS One and The Roots, to name but a few. He met the wrath of Jay-Z when, on his 2004 album The New Danger, he included a song entitled, rather jarringly, The Rape Over- a parody of Jay-Z’s The Takeover (“MTV is running this rap shit/ Viacom is running this rap shit/ AOL and Time Warner is running this rap shit/ We poke out the asses for a chance to cash in”), which impressed his lawyers none. He also defended Al-Qaeda on ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’, claiming they did not participate in as much terrorism as the world had been made to believe – an act of enormous gutsiness in an extremely paranoid, anti-Islamic media.

 
 

In the wake of Def’s recent cancellations and rescheduling, it is odd that there has been such a shroud of mystery around the Ecstatic Australian tour. The Queensland floods and family illness have been just a couple of reasons fans have received for the epic kerfuffle. Not to undermine these terrible events (I think we can all agree that the lives of many innocent bystanders and the Smith family are more important than a rap show? Si?) but it’s been a strange festival season and the punters are getting mighty ornery.

Scores of musicians are mysteriously dropping from festival line-ups and Aussie tour lists like proverbial houseflies. Janelle Monae and Cee-lo Green from Good Vibes (the latter in favour of the Grammys, hmm), The Black Keys’ Aussie tour and Big Day Out appearances, the Doves’ cancellation due to “a personal matter within the band”…and that’s just off the toppa ma noggin.

 
 

I guess we must do what Aussie crowds are known for: forgive. Artists have been hideously late, performed badly, berated the punters, made diva demands and disrespected their fans, but, for the most part, Australian crowds are rather kind. The odd angered bogan, sure, will lob a stubby at a front man’s neck. And, sure, the wave of “boos” will flow through the air like Hexxus in Fern Gully (obscure Disney reference, anyone? Anyone?), but, considering the breadth and temperature of the, say, European punter backlash, I think Aussie fans are positively Buddhist in their reactive tendencies. So, hope all is well, Mos Def. And to Cee-lo, I can only offer the title of his hit song in response to his cancellation.

 
 
 
 
 
By James Watkins
 
 

HED PE's recent gig at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, was probably the warmest gig I've ever shot; sweat was constantly pouring down my face onto my camera, as they whipped the crowd into a frenzy of energetic rock/hip-hop/metal inspired madness.

Bodies were flying everywhere, joints were hurled onto the stage and I got pushed, pulled, groped and sweated on by various young party-goers. There were multiple stage invasions, one in which involved me being almost pulled off the side of the stage through some unused drum stands. The security team tried in vain to evict the intruders off the stage, but the band didn't seem to mind that much and did nothing to discourage (and in fact definitely encouraged) the anarchy.

Jared Gomes (the lead singer) delivered a sermon-like performance. With his songs and ad-libs exhibiting strong anti-establishment messages, as well as his own philosophies and political commentaries - all of which were well received by the absorbent crowd.

The band itself was watertight, displaying the composure and professionalism you'd expect from a band who have toured extensively for 17 years and have released 8 studio albums.

Click here to view all images from their set: www.jameswatkinsphotography.com/hed_pe.html

KillRockStar Entertainment

www.myspace.com/hedpe

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Words: Tahlia Anderson
 
 

Two Door Cinema Club talk Laneway Festival and dressing room cheese with T-Squat’s Tahlia Anderson

Two Door Cinema Club are not your average indie rockers. The Irish trio, comprising of Kevin Baird, Sam Halliday and Alex Trimble, are the first to admit they’re not too cool for school. In fact, they embrace the cheese. “When we’re getting in the mood in our dressing room before we play…we like terrible 80’s music, like WHAM, all really cheesy stuff”, admits leads singer/guitarist and unassuming heartthrob Alex.

Having catapulted into the music stratosphere on the back of hits Something Good Can Work and Undercover Martyn, their debut album, Tourist History, was eagerly anticipated by those in the known. And lucky for them, and their growing Aussie fan base, it did the trick. Of their first trip Down Under earlier this year, Alex recalls, “we played Splendour in the Grass and that was just one of the best festivals ever for us. It was amazing to see how people reacted”.

Tourist History as the name of the album originated from the small Irish coastal town the boys grew up in. “[It was] like a tourist attraction…in the 60’s and 70’s and we grew up in the remnants of that”. It’s a fitting title and a canny coincidence, as since the album’s release, they have pretty much been travelling minstrels. On a world tour leading up to St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, the fan response has been “really good”. Especially in France which is, in a sense, their second home. As Alex explains, “we’ve worked with a lot of French people for a long time, including our record label”, the famed Kitsuné, who also boast French maestros Phoenix as one of their acts and who the trio had the pleasure of opening for in the US.

Signing on with the powerhouse French record label was a no brainer for the band who, Alex confides, used to “record songs ourselves in my house”. And surprisingly for the studio novices, the chance to work with producer Elliot James wasn’t as intimidating as one might suspect. “It was really cool…he was always on the same page as us…so we never got into any arguments about what we were doing”, Alex recalls. Besides, with a catalog of collaborations that includes Noah and the Whale and the first Bloc Party album, “my favourite debut album of all time” Alex enthusiastically interjects, they were in very capable hands.

In between touring and capturing the hearts of many a girl and a few boys with his ginger locks and angelic yet devilishly good pipes, Alex reveals “we’ve had a go at writing some new stuff that’s been a progression…and something slightly different”. Daft Punk is one band Alex hopes to “get to know better in the future and something will happen”, as a band Two Door Cinema Club always “really wanted to collaborate with”.

For now though, they’ll have to settle for their own tour, including a stop at Melbourne’s St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in February. “We’ve been dying to come back [to Australia] since the last time we were there and so when we got offered Laneway, it was just the perfect opportunity”. For these Irish folk, it’s also a chance to play the role of the tourist. “It’s such a beautiful place and when we’re back we’ll get a few days off to explore”, Alex enthuses. A nice change from the European winter wouldn’t be a bad thing either, he agrees.

As Laneway Festival rolls into town and Two Door Cinema Club play their slew of sideshows, Alex gives us his word that, like the best 80s music cheese, their punchy, indie-pop party tunes will “set the mood, get you ready to go and have a dance”. Really, what more could you ask for?

 
 
 
 
 
Words: Lisa Dib
 
 

As if Google Maps and the Arcade Fire didn’t have enough on their respective plates, they’ve combined in an unlikely love affair to produce The Wilderness Downtown, an internet site on which you enter the address of the house (or whatever it may be) in which you grew up, the Arcade Fire’s We Used to Wait plays and Google Maps finds the aforementioned domicile, getting well nostalgic and wistful in the process with your very own contemplative coming-home music video. Hey, that’s my house! Squee!

Though an interesting concept, for all the time it takes to flick off a pen lid, it kind of makes you want to scream blood. What, you will ask, is the point? Then again, you may also ask, if you have the time, what is the point of anything on the internet? What’s the point of Lolcats? What’s the point of YouTube? What’s the point of Dramatic Gopher, Sad Keanu and Scene Wolf? It’s just something there. Briefly encapsulating, easily forgotten, another brick in the cyber-wall.

www.thewildernessdowntown.com

 
 

 
 
Words: Lisa Dib
 
 



Inspired by a bingo session with Andrew W.K., Lisa Dib gives T-Squat a rundown on the man who wants to party your face off.

Well before his name got carved into our pavements as the reigning king of party rock, Andrew W.K recalls his folks sending him to a child psychologist when he was a lad, following a dipped toe or two in arson, forgery, mail fraud and the penning of a controversial song about a school mate whom he had a crush on at the time. The song earned him a juvenile restraining order which wasn’t lifted until age twenty-one.

W.K was born in Stanford, California but grew up in Ann Arbor in Michigan. He’s studied classical piano since age four and from the tender age of fourteen, he has been a part of a slew of bands, including, but not limited to: Slam (later to be called Reverse Polarity), The Pterodactyls, Lab Lobotomy, Music Band, Mr. Velocity Hopkins, Kangoo, The Beast People, Stormy Rodent, a later iteration of Scheme, the Malt Lickers, The Incredibly Small Men, Kathode, The Portly Boys, Isis and Werewolves, and Sucking Coeds.

His first official solo record as Andrew Wilkes-Krier was released in 1998, entitled Room to Breathe. It was released on the Ann Arbor label Hanson Records only thirty-five copies were produced of the cassette. In 2000, he released his first EP under his newfound pseudonym, AWKGOJ on Bulb Records. He also released the charmingly titled Party ‘Til You Puke, before moving to Island Def Jam Records.

2001 saw W.K release his most infamous record and first full-length album: I Get Wet. You know the one - the cover shows W.K bleeding profusely from the nose? His next album, The Wolf (2003), didn’t do as well (commercially, that is) as I Get Wet. Though the subsequent tour showed the generous, down-to-earth side of W.K, after injuring his foot on stage, he not only continued to sign autographs from the ambulance but undertook the rest of the tour from a wheelchair! In 2008, W.K even performed as pianist at the funeral of a young fan.

After releasing an album of J-Pop covers (really…it’s called The Japan Covers) and a so-far anthology, Andrew announced in 2005 that he was to become a motivational speaker. Yale, Northeastern University, the University of Wisconsin and scores of others saw this newly new-age Andrew who, I have to say, would rather suit the motivational speaking career circuit.

In 2004, W.K’s attention was drawn to television. Your Friend, Andrew W.K began on MTV2, wherein fans would write the rocker letters, asking the sage for advice, and W.K would visit them and, no doubt, enrich their lives. He also recorded a jingle for Kit Kat which is kind of ‘un-rock’, but I can forgive. W.K also *slight shudder* released an exclusive ringtone for the Japanese mobile phone market.

In 2008, W.K and three others opened a multi-level nightclub and concert hall in Manhattan. Santos Party House features eight thousand square feet of dance floor and over one hundred and fifty loud-speakers. In 2010, the worldly renowned Zagat’s Survey named Santos Party House the top dance club in all of New York City.

There has been a swarm of rumour and conjecture about the nature of W.K’s persona. The gossip mill suggests that someone named ‘Steev Mike’ is behind Andrew W.K’s music – listed s executive producer on I Get Wet and Close Calls With Brick Walls. A series of websites appeared in November 2004, apparently created by this "Steev Mike". In his final message, he tells W.K directly: "Your recent efforts to exclude me from the 3rd album material will not be tolerated. I did not work for the last year on these new songs in order to have you break promises. If you refuse to comply, I will have no choice but to let the world know that you’re a backstabbing fraud." W.K later posted on his own website to clear up the drama: "PLEASE DON'T BELIEVE STEEV MIKE. I USED TO CALL MYSELF STEEV MIKE A LONG TIME AGO AND IT'S NOTHING NOW. Someone is trying to confuse you and make me look bad."

In 2009, W.K told The Guardian: "At the end of 2004, an old friend of mine got in some business trouble and basically decided to take it out on me. To cut a long story short, this person is someone I worked very closely with and had a formal and family business relationship with. Due to various complaints this person had with me, they were able to turn my life and career upside down. I wasn't allowed to use my own name within certain areas of the US entertainment industry and we were in a debate about who owned the rights to my image, and who should get credit for ‘inventing’ it. This made my life complicated and intense for a few years, but I kept working and doing whatever I could to keep moving forward."

In December 2009, a lecture recorded at Madame Jojo's in London in September 2008 was published online. In it, Andrew W.K. claimed that the ‘Andrew W.K’ persona was created by a committee including himself, his father, and other individuals, and that he was the "next person playing Andrew W.K." He says: "I'm not the guy you've seen from the I Get Wet album... I'm not that same person. I don't just mean that in a philosophical or conceptual way. It's not the same person at all." Andrew W.K. later went on to clarify that he believed that he, as well as his fans, who have followed him since the original album, have become different people. “On the one hand it may be a little scary to admit this to you all, that I may not be exactly who you thought I was, and that the guy who was, in fact, first hired as Andrew W.K. is a different person than the guy sitting here on the stage tonight. I'm the next person who is playing Andrew W.K."

To protect himself from backlash, in 2010, W.K. wrote on his official website: "I am a real person who thinks for himself and am not the victim of anyone or group of people trying to influence my career or life. I take responsibility for everything in my life, including who I work for and what happens to me because of it. Just because a person has mentors or advisers doesn't mean they don't have their own brain and soul. And just because I work with other people who advise me doesn't mean that I am a puppet for an evil cult or have some sort of master plan."

But it’s not all arson, fraud and bizarre backstabbing intrigue: in 2008, Andrew married Cherie Pourtabib, who he met through a mutual heavy-metal voice teacher. Ain’t that sweet?

Thanks to Spook Mag for our invite. Sadly, Lisa didn’t win but she did nab Andrew W.K. for a T-Squat happy snap.

 
 


 
 
Words: Matt Cohen / Image: James Watkins
     
     

Dancing Heals drop by T-Squat to give us an update us on their recent L.A. tour and a little dating advice.

Dancing Heals have been described as indie pop but as we found out when they dropped by T-Squat, they’re more sub-grunge-dubstep-opera-mathrock-ish who rock out with their cocks out (see below). Cock rock and other sub-genres aside, these guys are definitely a band to watch, After the release of Out of This in early 2010, and a new EP, Diamonds, due in April this year, the five piece are a Frankenstein’s monster of previous bands (Sojourn and Dirty Pink Jeans).

Like true rockers, half the band was late dropping by T-Squat en route to onesixone for a gig so I started up asking Dan and Josh (the punctual ones) about their LA/tour. Visibly excited at the mention of L.A., I tell them to hold that thought til the rest of the band wandered in for the interview. And here it is:

Matt: So how was LA?

Jon: In LA, there is everything and nothing going on, it’s just so big. But everyone we met was so nice and willing to help out. I never knew Joshua Tree was a national park, I thought it was a single tree in the middle of the desert...

Matt: You’re playing on the 27th with Hunting Foxes, yeah?

Josh: Do we normally do gigs on Sunday? But, yes we are, at The Evelyn

James: (Resident squatter who wanders in, distracted by his upcoming date, grabs the guitar off Dan) Do you send a reinforcing text before a date?

(Shrugs all round)

Matt: I would, I think I would be in panic if I hadn't heard from her?

Dan: Yeah it's a tough one, you gotta act cool.

James: Nah fuck it. I need a shower (wanders off)

Josh: Shower? What? Does he live here?

Matt: Yeah he lives up there (I point to a loft room attached to the top corner of our warehouse)

Dan/Josh: No way! That is so wicked.

Matt: So, how long have Dancing Heals been playing as a band for?

Jon: I played in a band with Josh, the bassist, and that came to an end in 2009. I knew Daniel (guitar) and Jarrad (drums) from their own projects, which were finishing up as well. I had an albums worth of material already down, which was a lot softer. I basically just called Dan and Josh up for a jam, then I was working at Rooftop Bar with Zoe (keys), who I later found out to be a super-talent keyboard player. We jammed for about three months, and we all clicked… more so than other times.

Josh: Me and Jon played in Sojourn and he had some solo stuff he wanted to do. I ended up playing some live bass with him, Sojourn started breaking apart and we were left with a lot of Jon’s solo stuff to jam on. I originally thought we were going to be a Simon and Garfunkel type thing, and then we just started rocking the shit out of it.

Jon: Yeah, we just got our dicks out and rocked it!

Jarrad: Yeah everything has been pretty much said. The rest is history.

Josh: (Checking out the squat plates) Hey, I had these plates when I was young.

Zoe: Yeah, me too.

Daniel: So are we going to talk about plates or the band?

Matt: Whichever one is more interesting.

Zoe: I’m going with plates.

Daniel: (Going with band) yeah, I joined the band when we were all working at Rooftop Bar as well. That’s really the end of my story…

Matt: So how does the band work together?

Josh: It’s either Dan or Jon who comes into the jam with an idea and basically goes you do this and you do this…

Jon: (Cuts in) Oh come on, I’m not a dictator! We play the song through and have fun; actually I’m more untactful than Dan though… he just goes with the flow.

Josh: Well, this is the absolute truth I don’t know what to play unless someone tells me. I’m not really a musician; I’d like to think of myself as a guy who presses his fingers against a fret board.

Matt: Well you have to make sure it’s plug in as well?

Josh: Whoa, that’s actually happened, I was like Jon! This fucker doesn’t work! I just bought this bass!

You can catch Dancing Heals at The Vineyard in Melbourne on the 17th of March, plugged in and ready to indie-pop-cock-rock or whatever it is they do.


www.dancingheals.net

 
 
 
 
 

Words: Fadzai Jaravaza / Images: James Watkins

 
 

Fadzai Jaravaza a.k.a. DJ Sister Zai brings T-Squat a retrospective on Jimmy Cliff, living reggae legend and all-round snappy dresser

Wearing a pair of glimmering gold shoes and a bold red suit, Jimmy Cliff brought living proof to the Raggamuffin stage this year that Jamaicans dress sharp. On stage, Jimmy Cliff commanded admiration as he leapt and bounded across the entire space, punctuating the beat with marching and his trademark high kicks. The pure physicality of his performance makes you wonder how he still finds the breath to unfailingly deliver his songs in a powerful soulful voice at age 62.

There’s a Jamaican saying that the race is not won by the fittest but by he (or she) who can endure. There is no doubt that Jimmy Cliff is one who has endured. Perhaps it is no surprise. After all, the man born James Chambers in a Jamaican village adopted the stage name Jimmy Cliff because he had “the intention of establishing myself throughout this planet, as high as the Cliff's of Adelphi Land, where I was told I was born, which seemed like the highest peak on the Earth to me as a child.”

 
 
 
 

Much more than a symbol of Jamaican dress sense and pride, Jimmy Cliff is reggae’s brightest living legend, describing himself as a “music innovator, singer, songwriter, music producer, ‘artivist’, businessman, and much more...” Outside of reggae music circles, Jimmy Cliff is best known for what he says his first love – acting. His most famous film appearance remains his lead role in the 1972 hit movie The Harder They Come.

Last year, Jimmy Cliff was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and he is currently the only living musician to hold Order of Merit – the highest Jamaican accolade for achievement in the arts and sciences. His music career spans about four decades, with songs as deeply ingrained on the world’s musical consciousness as Many Rivers to Cross and Vietnam (said by Bob Dylan to be the best protest song ever written). Even with covers like Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now and Cat Steven’s Wild World, Jimmy Cliff is an artist capable of making anything truly his own.

 
 
 

As he finished his set, Jimmy Cliff humbly and quietly walked off the Raggamuffin stage, leaving the applause for his backing band. Entranced, we can only hope this living treasure has a lot more time to shine left in him. If Raggamuffin was any indication, he will be alive and high-kicking onstage for a while yet to come."

For more images from James plus his own write-up of the event, head to James Watkins Photography - Jimmy Cliff

Go here to keep in Andew McManus Presents' event loop: www.ampresents.com

 
 
 
 
 
Words: Annie Davis
 
 
Recovering from her gender bender, Annie reviews Peaches sideshow at the Corner Hotel.

Putting the gender into the bender that was the bevvy of sideshows leading up to this year’s Falls Fest was Peaches’ DJ set at Melbourne’s Corner Hotel. An ex-school teacher, Ms Nisker clearly knew how to keep an attention-deficit-disordered crowd from running around dacking each other like pre-schoolers who forgot to take their Ritalin. Much like Fat Cat (incidentally shut down for allowing a cat on TV with a gender not clearly defined) the formula was simple: put on a costume, some coordinated dance moves with a bit of a sing-a-long and the kids will fucking love it.

With a fake elevator move, support act JD Sampson (Peaches’ guitarist of Le Tigre fame and a cranking DJ in her own right) then descended behind the decks as Peaches announced her appearance, storming the stage in a giant tit-suit. Yes, a tit-suit. Best look at the photos and you will get the idea but to put it into words, it was like a gigantic pine-cone of breasts in all different shapes and sizes with perky little nipples made out of dolls’ heads, strung together. Comparisons with Lady Gaga were murmured through the crowd and yet, when you look back you realise Peaches has been rocking outlandish outfits long before Lady Gaga rode her first disco stick. Her unshaved bikini-line alone spoke volumes more on the subject of femininity and gender norms than any meat dress of Gaga’s could.

Peaches’ theatrics continued as her two dancers then lunged onstage like extra-terrestrial ballerinas as the set swung from pop-heavy tunes like Rye Rye’s Bang! and Salt’n’Pepa’s Push It to dirty house crowd-pleasers like Cajmere’s Coffee Pot and Larry Tree feat. Roxy Cottontail’s Let’s Make Nasty. Their hair was so coiffed and the flashing lights on their costumes so surreal, you had to wonder whether they were battery-operated fembots with a portable recharged device positioned somewhere offstage, where they retreated and then re-emerged dressed like disco-belly-dancing hybrids.

Not to be upstaged by her back-up dancers, Peaches commanded the crowd’s attention back every now and then by climbing up onto the decks and crouching over the turntables as if she were about to give birth to something on them. At one point, something did in fact emerge from between her thighs – a champagne bottle she then shook about and kindly sprayed into the open mouths lined up front to receive a load after she took a swig herself, announcing that it was hot under that tit-suit.

Refreshments were probably needed for the next dancer to join Peaches onstage – an androgynous boy with long flowing hair and thigh-high tie-up boots, who emerged from the wings to give the Corner a kind of strip-tease. The Corner’s seen a lot of shit go down but possibly not like this. Saying that, his gorgeousness seemed to go beyond something either of male or female form. Writhing about and spitting champagne on our faces, he was a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in PVC.

Peaches then snapped us back to attention with Major Lazer’s Pon de Floor, as her two peacherinas leapt back onstage wearing pig masks, kyupi dolls pinned on their crotch and their very own tit suits. As the girls popped bunches of grapes into their mouths, Peaches’ set rolled into more guitar driven dance tunes like the Gossip’s Pop Goes the World. With the set more than halfway done, Peaches finally got on the mike for Why Don’t You Talk to Me. Underneath all the flashing lights, strip-teasing transvestites, dang this lady can sing.

After someone took it upon themselves to strip off and jump onstage to dance around in their undies, the crowd waited a few beats to see what the bouncers would do and then sensed a free-for-all, clambering up from the dance-floor to flood the stage in varying states of undress. The dancers then wove their way through the sweaty mass in red kabuki wigs and hooded tops back onto their podiums and Peaches disappeared somewhere in the scrum as gangsta rap tracks like Three 6 Mafia Fuck That Shit thumped out. Peaches then mounted the decks again to thread the mike through a beam leaving it suspended and swinging in the air as she sang Fuck the Pain Away to then get swept back into the crowd as the gig drew to a close.

If there is any criticism, Ms Nisker could have treated us to more sing-a-longs but this was a DJ set after all and if you want a bigger slice of Peaches you best hope she makes her way back on tour sometime soon. Which leads to the question of what’s next for costume designer Vaughan Alexander? We’ve done dicks and boobs so can we expect to see Peaches rolling herself onstage like some circus performer atop a gigantic pair of hairy balls? Or enveloping us with a gigantic labia? Whatever he comes up with, there’s little doubt Peaches’ theatrics and her prowess as a DJ and performer will keep giving us mind-blow jobs for as long as she’s happy to put out.