peteg's blog - noise - music - 2010 01 26 LaughingClowns DirtyThree

Laughing Clowns and Dirty Three at the Enmore Theatre

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This was a Sydney Festival gig, and as such it was pricey and sold out quickly. I went with Jon, who I hadn't seen since last year.

The novelty of the evening was that both bands would play a full album end-to-end. The Laughing Clowns did History Of Rock 'n' Roll Volume 1. I believe there is yet to be a second volume, though one can never fault Ed Kuepper's exuberance. Briefly, they are indeed some kind of experimental jazz/punk/whatever group, as their presumably self-written bio on Wikipedia says. The bass at the Enmore was cranked up a bit too much for me to get all the nuance, so I found them a bit incoherent.

Incidentally I recall Ed Kuepper mostly for his fabulously trashy mid-90s Wasn't I Pissed Off Today, on high rotation at JJJ at the time, and the ethereal All of these things from the same album. I'd bracket him with Dave Graney for vocals, and maybe Chris Abrahams for eclecticism: an all-Australian sub-star.

...but of course everyone came to see the Dirty Three do Ocean Songs, at presumably their only concert in Sydney this year. I missed them at last year's All Tomorrow's Parties festival, largely because the rest of the lineup looked thin. The 2006 gig at the Metro set my expectations ridiculously high, and I recall mrak and his brother Chris being similarly blown away.

I rate Ocean Songs as their best, but it is more ambient than rock, and the Enmore is not really up to any kind of nuance. (The Dirty Three have made three kinds of music: this ambient-ruminative soulful stuff that makes it clear they're from Melbourne, recovering from being Jeffed in the late 90s; the Saturday-afternoon-evening rock'n'roll of their hell raising years, the early-to-mid-90s of the classic Melbourne live-music pubs; and Cinder, presumably tunes for the twenty-first century diaspora.)

So they rocked it out, I can cope with that. Heck, I knew it would be thus. Warren Ellis gave a lot of schtick to the crowd in his ironic-Jesus manner, and totally butchered the opening Sirena by failing to switch out of Grinderman mode. It's a track you just can't rock out. He slowed down for the next few, getting it together with Jim White and Mick Turner for an Authentic Celestial Music that, even with the detail difficult to discern (damn that excessive bass, no! — crank up that violin) araldited the crowd to their seats.

The filler part of the album, roughly tracks five through eight, went over better than their studio counterparts, leading into the second peak of Deeper Waters, or as Ellis likes to call it, Epic. Clearly they play this one a lot more often than the rest, spinning it out to some ridiculous length with effortless aplomb. Many people left straight afterwards, not staying for Ends of the Earth or the possibility of an encore, which didn't eventuate anyway.

So a great gig. Ellis was in fine form, and Jim White's drumming was so animated, so energetic. Conversely Mick Turner was very laid back, and together they somehow made so much more coherent noise than they had any right to. As they always do.

I would carp about our "A Reserve" seats, right at the top of the stairs. We had a good view of the stage, between the continual stream of people walking in front of us. The no-loitering policy meant that the security people regularly intervened, somewhat destroying the rapture the band creates. I guess the Sydney Festival billing attracts a minority (of the crowd, but perhaps members of a wider majority) who have more money than sense, who aren't there for the music.

I wish they'd put out another album.