Genesis Owusu in The Tank

This was a bit of an unusual gig. The Tank is a giant underground oil tank previously used for ship oil by the Navy. Now it's been repurposed as a gallery space under the Art Gallery of NSW's new modern wing.

For sculpture the space is incredible with dark corners, controlled lighting and a dramatic entry down white spiral stairs.

For music I think it's hard to get the acoustics right. It's a giant sealed box with vertical columns every few metres.

Genesis Owusu tried to make the space work for his sound, presenting a very stripped back version of his best songs. Not sure it worked though. It felt stilted and the tempos were off, when his music is usually boisterous and wild enough to break the floor.

Fun to see the space used differently though. It would work brilliantly for reverb heavy music: The xx or Portishead would be great. Dubby music perhaps?

Though what I really want is a rave in this space. Umek or Speedy J playing dark techno with a monster kick drum and minimal lighting. Perhaps a bit too wild for the Art Gallery?

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Mildlife

Friday night rolled around and we had Melbourne band Mildlife at the Factory Theatre, conveniently around the corner from our place.

Normally I'd take my mate Gab to this gig but he was in Japan so Holly came along. Not really her thing: a bit too much on the jazz end of the spectrum for her. When the jazz flute comes out you know shit's about to get real.

But for me, this gig was heaven. Deep, funky bass-driven grooves and a band of great skill. Their music has elements of late 1990s French filtered house. In fact one of the tracks had a bass groove that could be Pnau's 1999 Mellotron. Other tracks reference Steely Dan and the vocals and synths evoke Alan Parsons Project.

Loads of fun. Holly actually went home early and missed their best track, The Magnificent Moon.

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Gig catch up: Nick Cave, The Clouds, Elefant Traks and Glass Beams

I've gotten a bit behind in my gig reports so here's a big dump of what's happened since May.

Nick Cave

7th May, 2024 at State Theatre

We've seen Saint Nick of Warracknabeal many times over the years in many great venues including the Tate in London and the Sydney Opera House, but there's something special about the State Theatre. It's one of those beautiful, ornate old theatres with ornate gothic mouldings and an intimate feel. Nick playing solo with just bass accompaniment from Colin Greenwood was fantastic and he was clearly enjoying himself.

Oh and on the way home this beautiful autumnal tree presented itself.

The Clouds

25th May, 2024 at Factory Theatre

Another band I've been watching for years, first seeing there in 1992 or so at the Three Weeds in Rozelle. As always, loads of fun, though the band didn't seem so into it this time around.

Elefant Traks 25th Anniversary

26th May, 2024 at Sydney Opera House

This one is tinged with some sadness. Elefant Traks are a record label from the late 1990s who triggered a massive boom in hip-hop in Australia, launching the careers of a bunch of huge acts. Super engaged with politics and building an audience from the ground up, they did huge things. Of course the supergroup The Herd were a massive highlight. I was there at a lot of the early gigs, seeing early iterations of many of the acts up close. They were always such lovely people, humble but hugely talented.

So the sad part is that as well as being the 25th anniversary, this was also farewell from the label which is now going through an orderly shutdown. That's a true loss for Australian music, but the gig was a reflection on all that was achieved and created. A fantastic set in a spectacular venue.

Thanks for all the memories Elefants!

Glass Beams

21st June, 2024 at Factory Theatre


This is an interesting band from Melbourne who've been signed to Ninja Tunes. Most descriptions I've heard make much of their Indian influences but to my thinking their sound is a lot more in the direction of Turkish psychedelia from the 70s.

They're clearly supremely talented but the gig itself was a bit disappointing. They were incredibly tight and disciplined but that kinda made the gig a bit dull. They need to embrace improvisation a bit more I think. The style of music should have more wigging out, solos and craziness.

I'm sure they'll develop in time! They're playing some massive festivals in the Northern Hemisphere this year so they'll have plenty of practice!

Coming up

Lots of exciting gigs in the calendar: Mildlife, Genesis Owasu, Belle & Sebastian, Olivia Rodrigo.
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How to get your stuff repaired when the retailer and manufacturer don't wanna: take 'em to court

A few weeks ago I was roasting some pumpkin for a delicious soup and towards the end of the cooking time the fan on the oven started into overdrive, making a lot of noise then it started beeping and popped up this obscure error message. I phoned the manufacturer, Electrolux, on the provided number and they told me I'd need to pay at least $160 to have their engineer come out and tell me what was wrong.

You've probably had this experience with lots of stuff. "Sorry, the item is out of warranty so you'll have to pay." The problem with this is that Australian Consumer Law gives an automatic warranty. You can expect the item to last a reasonable amount of time. Now an old fashioned light bulb shouldn't be expected to last a decade, but an oven?

Challenged on this, I went around and around in circles with the Electrolux call centre worker. "So you think an oven should only last for two years?" and eventually I asked to be escalated to a manager who could actually make a decision. After some follow up, I finally got a call from a manager who was well drilled in shutting down any idea I should expect something from them. Eventually I said okay thanks, I'll see you at the Tribunal.

How long should an appliance last?

The "warranty" companies talk about is actually an "express warranty" and if you read them you'll notice these days they now include mandatory text about how they aren't able to exclude guarantees that come from the Australian Consumer Law. Anything they offer in their written warranty is in addition to your base rights.

So you have a reasonable expectation that your appliance will last a reasonable amount of time. So how long is reasonable? Well if you look around on the web you'll find different lengths of time for different classes of appliance. And if you buy the cheapest Chinesium appliance, you shouldn't expect it to last as long as the exxy Miele model.

So my Electrolux was a mid-range model bought in 2015, so it's about 9 years old. Hilariously the retailer's parent company has a blog post that gives explicit ranges for different appliances. Electric ovens should last 13 years according to them.

Time to book a court date

NSW (and I think all the other states) has a tribunal especially for consumer claims, what used to be the "small claims court" is now the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, NCAT. It's specifically designed to be low cost and straightforward. You shouldn't need a lawyer and can turn up with your documents.

The important thing to know about tribunals like NCAT is you're paying mostly with your time. You'll need to front up on the booked date and make your case. There's a small filing fee: in this case it was $58, which is still a lot less than Electrolux wanted to charge just to tell me what the problem was.

Before you book your date, you need to work out who is the other side of the transaction. You don't ordinarily go after the manufacturer but the retailer. So I contacted Appliances Online to talk it through. They took the same line as Electrolux that it was out of warranty and so not their problem. Again: see you in the Tribunal.

I filled in the forms. They're annoyingly slow, but the online system mostly works. Paid my fee and bingo, out comes an email with a tribunal date and location.

Amazing service, just add NCAT date

And the next day I get a call from the lovely Dylan from Appliances Online, someone who's evidently empowered to make decisions that make tribunal appointments go away. He tells me he'll get Electrolux to invoice them instead, an appointment is booked and we're off to the races.

One thing worth understanding is this: if the retailer has to send someone along to the Tribunal, they lose already. Even the cost of a junior lawyer going to the tribunal is going to be more than it would cost to repair your appliance. They might do it on principle if you're taking the piss but if you have a decent case they're wasting time and money.

A couple of engineer visits

Don't go cancelling your NCAT date just yet though! First you need the problem resolved. Remember, this could have all been resolved by them applying Australian Consumer Law when you first asked, so keep that clock ticking, it keeps things moving.

I had a lovely engineer from Electrolux visit and take a look. He wasn't sure what the problem was: tested the fan and heater element and found no problem. In the end he replaced the light bulb (which hadn't worked for years, we hadn't bothered replacing it) and the message had gone away anyway.

Next day the message is back, and Dylan drops me a note asking me to remove the NCAT booking. I respond saying it still isn't resolved and magically another engineer appointment pops up.

The second visit does the trick. The engineer replaced the heating element and fan and the message has gone away. We've done a few baking projects since and all seems good!

Satisfaction, but annoyed I have to assert my rights

So my oven is fixed. Otherwise it's a great oven. It's annoying that I have to push to get my consumer rights though. It should just be standard! My hope is that by encouraging others to also assert their rights it'll become easier. Don't put up with this shit about appliances having a tiny warranty period!

Companies: why are you like this?

25 years ago a bunch of Internet people cracked the shits with the inhuman, one-way corporate speak employed by the companies they interacted with, consulted to and advised. Those rants became The Cluetrain Manifesto. There's a copy sitting on my bookshelf right behind me, probably the fourth copy I've bought because I keep loaning it out to people who need to know and forgetting who had it.



25 years on it's still utterly fucking standard to get a stupid email like this one:


So what you're saying, Electrolux, is that I shouldn't reply to this email. But you're willing to receive emails from me at another email address. Somehow it's too hard to make the From address the one you want to receive replied on. Hell, if there's some dumb technical reason, you could even use a Reply-to header.

You know this makes you sound like an arsehole, right? You had an opportunity to provide care to customers, you know like a "Customer Care" function, and you fluffed it. Golf clap time.
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sleepmakeswaves and Elephant Gym

Last Saturday night I went to see sleepmakeswaves at the Manning Bar in Sydney Uni with a couple of mates. I have many fond memories of this gig: the epic Freaky Loops gigs, Terrence McKenna and lunchtime gigs during my brief time as a university student, I remember seeing DiG and Trout Fishing in Quebec.

The lineup for the night got moved around so that Taiwanese band Elephant Gym were moved up to slot 2, so I had a chance to catch them. I had minimal expectations but really enjoyed their set. Wikipedia describes them as "math rock" which is, of course, a terrible genre name. I'd characterise them more as jazz rock except instead of improvising onstage they're playing out the result of past improvisations, with exceptional accuracy, tightness and structure. Really good fun.

sleepmakeswaves were, as always, awesome. Dreamy soundscapes with dramatic crescendos. Brilliant.

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White Bay Power Station: 700 Feel + Ryan Fennis & Voidhood

I've been entering the ballots for Phoenix Central Park's music programmes for a while now and never managed to get tickets. It's a tiny venue and the gigs are free, but often artists you've never heard of. They've partnered with the Biennale of Sydney to run gigs at the White Bay Power Station. This giant industrial edifice has been closed my entire life in Sydney, so I've spent many years going past and wondering what's inside.

So of course I jumped at the chance!

The music? Yeah, interesting enough. The DJ set played before the acts were really good: a combination of DJ Vadin-style dubbed out hip hop samples and bass-heavy interesting beats. Dunno who they were though. The rest? Yeah okay whatevs.

But going around this giant industrial hulk: amazing! And the art scattered around for the Biennale was pretty cool too. I'm going to have to head back with the family for another look in daylight.

Looking forward to more music at this place though!



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Floodlights: Oz Rock revival?

As a kid of the late 70s, Oz Rock was my childhood soundtrack. In the mainstream in the 1980s it was bogan classics: Cold Chisel, The Angels, Rose Tattoo, Dragon, The Radiators, Australian Crawl, Barnsey. Ugh. It's blokey. It's ocker. It's got all the sexist, racist tropes. You can see why I went all in on electronic music as a teenager.

But early 80s pub rock in Australia also had good stuff that broke through: Goanna, Midnight Oil, Men At Work, Hunters & Collectors. Music with a distinctly Australian sound but without needing to drive a ute, wear a mullet and get blind drunk and beat your wife. It's technically proficient music, varied stylistically with great songs and often with a political edge.

Enter Floodlights, a band from Melbourne with a distinct sound. I don't know if they think of themselves as Oz Rock influenced, or part of some kind of revival, but their sound brings to mind bands like Goanna and early Hunters & Collectors for me. Their live performance—and the audience reaction—makes me feel this band is about to go huge.

I love seeing a band in a small venue just before they go huge. You think to yourself "this is the last time I'll see this band somewhere so small". The lead singer has frontman energy (and good looking too, which never hurts) while the band are tight, the harmonies strong and the harmonica comes out quite a bit.

Support band Sweetie were fun, and having fun, with catchy tunes. Melodrones sounded okay but a bit loose.

This was my first time at The Great Club, a terrible tragedy. It's been open years now and I haven't made it. It's a great small-mid sized venue, walking distance from home and well set up. Now that I've been, I'll be keeping an eye out for more bands playing there.


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Battlesnake: metal madness!

Last Saturday night I went with my mate Michael to see Battlesnake. This band have been on my radar to watch with their over-the-top stage theatrics and right-on hard rock. Think Saxon by way of Spinal Tap. This is clearly a band who have watched Spinal Tap a few times. And taken notes.

Loads of fun. Unfortunately they had some problems blowing out the venue's electrics every time they hit their big stage lights, so we got a somewhat diminished show. I'll be along to their show for Vivid in June to see what I was missing!

The show was wild. Seven dudes on a fairly small stage. Great songs with killer riffs, delivered by great musicians who clearly enjoy doing the theatrics. Check out the video here showing some truly Spinal Tap antics with a guitarist wheeled through the crowd on wheels. Hilarious.

They're playing around places, including Europe, so check em out!

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Brekky Boy

My favourite music venue gains it's favour because it's so close. I can be at the Factory Theatre in about 5 minutes. Back when they only had terrible beer we used to duck home in between bands for a decent beer from our own fridge.

So their free events on weekends are particularly compelling. Low effort and worth checking out at the smallest provocation. Today's paid off in spades.

Brekky Boy are three supremely talented jazz musos playing intricate, tightly coordinated tracks very much in the techno or ambient house vein. Brilliant band.
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