If endorphins ever become a controlled substance, I’d probably be arrested on a weekend like this one! I kicked off with the SoCo Carnivale at the Brisbane Powerhouse, where the Polyphonic Spree and New Orleans Bingo! Show blew me away completely. I dragged myself out of bed the next morning wondering how I was going to cope with another whole day of music, but 10 bands later I was sitting in the stands watching Mike Patton hold a rapt crowd in the palm of his hand and reflecting on what makes some bands so much better than others. What did I conclude? You’ll have to read on…
SoCo Carnivale was simply outstanding. We walked through the door and were greeted by a masked attendant who gave us complimentary Carnivale fancy dress: rainbow Indian headdresses, peacock feather masks, gaudy beads and LED wristbands. It was an instant icebreaker and the room was awash with gaudy colour.
The New Orleans Bingo! Show were the warm up act, which made the quality of their show a huge bonus – I had no idea what to expect, but I’d now consider seeing them as a stand-alone act! It’s almost impossible to describe the show, which comprised a mix of vaudeville, jazz, blues, cabaret, punk, mime, rock, romance and other assorted performing arts. The sometimes outrageous antics didn’t overshadow their admirably diverse and entertaining songs.
Having set the mood perfectly, the audience was then ready for the main course. I’d seen the Spree twice before, but this time I was right beside the stage within touching distance of the band and their set list was great. They played a healthy dose of their own joyous pop, but it was their re-imaginings of classic songs that stood out the most. They performed covers of Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney), Lithium (Nirvana), She’s A Rainbow (Rolling Stones), Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond) and my personal favourite, See Me, Feel Me/Pinball Wizard by The Who. The energy and sheer fun of the night was overwhelming and I’m sure it will be remembered by everyone who attended for a long time. If nothing else, the gaudy headdress now sitting in my room is a bright reminder.
This is already threatening to become a wall of text, so I’ll summarise Soundwave in categories: Rx Bandits, Sunny Day Real Estate and Set Your Goals were pretty good; AFI, Jane’s Addiction, Reel Big Fish, Alexisonfire, Eagles of Death Metal, Jimmy Eat World and A Wilhelm Scream were good; The Aquabats! were super rad and Faith No More reigned supreme.
So, why do I think some bands do a better job than others? It’s highly subjective, but this quote from Roger Ebert hits home for me:
I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
The acts I enjoyed the most this weekend – NOB!S, The Polyphonic Spree, A Wilhelm Scream, Reel Big Fish, the Aquabats! and Faith No More – were sharing the experience with the audience and looked genuinely happy to be doing so. That took on different forms, from a passive-aggressive domination by Mike Patton to ludicrous antics from the New Orleans Bingo crew and the Aquabats!, but they weren’t just there to play their songs and leave. There was, at least to some extent, a two-way relationship with communication going both ways. It works for me – while I’ve enjoyed sets from artists at the opposite end of the communication scale, like Tool, I have a feeling it’ll be these involving acts I most remember in years to come. Here’s an example of Mike doing that extra bit for a specific audience just last week in Auckland…