Saturday, January 08, 2005

2004 - A Year To Remember?

2004 overview
I guess it’s the done thing to look back over the year – best releases, gigs, etc but this was a year where the lows easily beat the highs so I’m not sure about highlights per se – let’s just see how it goes.

The year started well with the opportunity of presenting Merzbow in Adelaide. This was courtesy of his tour for the What Is Music? Festival and my bosses at Big Star – a record shop I work for in Adelaide. (Record shop – shit that shows my age!) The guys behind W.I.M. were looking for a suitable venue/promoter and somehow it fell into my lap – I tell you it’s great being a promoter with other people’s money too. Anyway, Merzbow came, played in the Big Star basement – ably supported by local acts Isomer and Bonsai Kitten – and we got a good crowd. No one really made money, but no one lost any either and Adelaide got to hear some truly sonic noise from one of the best. Funniest moment was picked Masami up from the airport where his first request was to be taken to Kangaroo Island! Unfortunately time did not permit so we took him for a tour of the zoo instead. When I saw him a few days later in Melbourne, he wasn’t concerned about the gig he’d done in between in Perth, he just wanted to tell me he had got to hand feed some kangaroos. I was in Melbourne for the What Is Music? Fest, where not only did I get to see Masami once again assault my senses but also caught Keiji Haino thrashing drum, guitar and eardrums. Unfortunately I was too drunk and just plain too tired to stay for the whole set but I heard (and saw footage) that he just kept on going and going – like that bloody bunny in the battery ad, he just never stops. While in Melbourne I also got to see the cabaret act that passes for Whitehouse at the Corner Hotel– very disappointing. However supporting them was the Von Crapp family who assailed us with noises, poetry and random madness – truly, the family that plays together, stays together. Another unexpected highlight was catching Dean Roberts playing at Synaesthesia – music shop to the stars. Stinking hot day, windows closed, sauna like atmosphere (if you haven’t been to Synaesthesia it’s the size of a breadbox) but exquisite guitar.
The Merzbow gig went so well that later in the year, Big Star got the chance to present Francisco Lopez (thanx Greg). Again, word of mouth, great sound (thanx Dave), no one made money, no one lost and the small crowd got an outstanding show with Music Of Transparent Means offering fine local support. (A brief aside here, none of this would have happened without Jon Dale. Both shows came together with his help and knowledge, many thanks Jon) So, I guess I can add promoter to my meager resume as well now.

Music wise, it was the year of reissues for me with the Sun City Girls Eclipse vinyl being a high priority as well as Atavistic’s great reissues of the Flesheaters with bonus tracks and all the Billy Eckstine I could get my hands on (vinyl, Cd and finally DVD!).
Of the newer stuff that rattled my bones, Stuart Busby’s Breathe 3" on Kindling was far and away the best thing all year. Strangely enough the next best has strong links to Kindling too – Lost Domain’s Something Is… CDR on Rhizome features the Kindling folk in other guises giving Sunburnt Hand and all the other "Weird Amerikka" bands a taste of what free folk/psychedelic blues should sound like. Neither Kindling or Rhizome have disappointed me yet (maybe they just hide the bad releases from me?).
Emanem put out a couple of crackers too – the trouble with this label is simply that there’s just so much to absorb- but the standouts for me would have to include Three Planets by John Russell/Ute Volker/Mathieu Werchowski – guitar, accordian and violin recorded acoustically – sublime sounds perfect for thundery late nights and Fred Lonberg-Holm’s Dialogs simply because I’m a sucker for cello right now, even when it’s being manipulated, pasted, reverbed and turned into something new. Then there’s the Parker/Schlippenbach/Lytton America 2003 cd on Psi. Talent like this can not be faulted.
Willy Deville’s latest offering Crow Jane Alley (Eagle Records) found him returning to form with a slather of New Orleans/swing/blues/cut throat cool that may not touch me like the first time I heard Cabretta but still beats damn near anyone else in the same parking zone (if there is anyone else). The only fault I can find is that the production is just a little to slick at times, it needs the rough edges that the Live In Berlin cd offered to make it really hit you.
Of course, the Albert Ayler box set has to be mentioned if only to show how cool I am. A great box, great music but it’s only just come out so it’s hard to really judge it yet. The best box set for me in 2004 was Miles Davis – Complete Jack Johnson Sessions on Sony. I know, technically it came out near the end of 2003 but you need a good six months to appreciate it anyway! Unreleased Sonny Sharrock, Miles at his kick arse rock’n’roll peak – worth every penny.

Disappointments would include the aforementioned Whitehouse gig, the fact that Sun City Girls aren’t coming to Australia in 2005 for What Is Music, finding out Sunburned Hand Of Man don’t live up to the hype – nor do Wolf Eyes for that matter and that Bananafish is no more. And, of course the fact that Julie Dalia still hasn’t released a new album. Still, compared to the real world none of that stuff matters anyway.

Because 2004 wasn’t all fun and music. A good friend committed suicide, and though I understand her reasons I’m not sure I’ve forgiven her yet. And my nephew finally lost his battle with cancer – holding out until the morning of his twenty first birthday before passing away in his sleep. On top of this one of my closest friends is fighting his own battle with cancer; stubborn, cantankerous pain in the arse that he is I’m sure he can beat it too. He’d better, he’s my publisher and if he wants to ride the gravy train when my next book becomes a best seller then I guess he’s gonna have to beat it ain’t he?
All I really want for 2005 then is for the same amount of people that I start the year with to still be there at the end. That would be a good year for me.


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