Friday, February 17, 2012
A Gender Teenage Mothers –♦– Circle Pit Lost Animal
Although the set had lasted only three songs it had by its conclusion featured: a smoked cigarette, a guitar lead or pedal malfunction, a backflip from the front monitors into a space cleared quickly by the jeering crowd, and a sparkler spinning into oblivion towards the black corner of the Espy front bar stage. While the diligent representative from the Hotel’s highly populated security division ventured only as far as the side stage and waited patiently for the song’s end to tell singer J.D. Skater to quit flaunting the venue’s license – to please repress the immediate need for a cigarette – and risk jeopardising the service to live music the venue had been offering for over forty years now. It was a textbook punk gesture and the cigarette, now smoked to a stub, was allowed to extinguish on the stage floor. The Teenage Mothers are a punk band. Earlier a familiar looking girl wearing a horizontal striped B&W long sleeved T could be seen trying as nonchalantly as possible to gain access to the backstage area via the Espy’s grand 19th century double staircase guarded all night by an Indian man wearing a beanie with his hands folded. This was the second attempt I had witnessed so far and orders to the contrary appeared not to have upgraded her access level. Awkward northern city enthusiasts slowly filed past the still closed doorway bar under the gaze of the few publicans in the long glass viewing room of the unbooked function room mezzanine. The man, in a trenchcoat, followed his partner as they searched for a zone populated by the knowingly displaced inner city fad gadgeteers. The girl bleached blonde mouthed the words what the fuck as she peered past the ATM towards the Gershwin room only to reappear somewhat confused with the trenchcoated man from the male toilets that opened to the side of the front bar moments later. This was where they were supposed to play.
Circle Pit had the normally headline time slot although they are to be followed by Melbourne’s Lost Animal booked to play at 12.45am. After the three song confusion caused by The Teenage Mothers there is a large time wedge before the Pits take the stage. During their first song Jack Mannix has his guitar unplugged by a Teenage Mother who runs off only to return with a distortion pedal for him. Jack gives the other Circle Pit guitarist the driest knowing smile from beneath his straw yellow fringe. Raph, the Teenage Mother, replugs Jack and the crowd realise he was trying to help. Circle Pit have some good guitar jams and sound like they have had a long day / life. People in the know are now dancing underneath the band and this draws the attention of a St Kilda old timer who adds to the atmosphere by trying to get some girls to look at him by blowing a harmonica solo to the bands dual guitar exhibition. It is now very loud inside the Espy. The female Pit guitarist has an unmissable deadpan stare over the top of the swelling crowd and I can’t decide if her gesture is genuine resentment or general affectation. Meanwhile Jack is making a real go of it and he reaches over to fix the levels of the amp behind the bass player who I think is playing through a d.i. only and looks like he played in Felt. Some people are kissing and a dancer whips me in the eye with her pony tail.
Earlier in the night the first ever appearance by A Gender had made a trip to the basement a feasible alternative to the seated only terrace space that somehow involved the precarious logistical imperative of one-in-one-out while at the same time enforcing a strictly no standing rule. The realisation of a sophomore bedroom idea galvanised by the blistering levels of the Espy’s Saturday Night Sound required a ‘first show’ provision announcement at the penultimate point of the slot which didn’t sound apologetic. A definite candidate for Espy Publican of the Night had appeared for the first time by this point and as the house music raised through the final feedback of Romy Hoffman’s post-punk apocalypse the heavy eyed rager began in earnest a solo slow dance shoulder to the keyboard monitor in her daytime’s bikini top above tanned bellybutton that would remain a fixture of the evening. This all occurred before the cigarette incident that was no doubt precipitated by Raph’s late appearance from something more important. The Teenage Mother’s music, brief as it was gathered a more interested crowd which grew as Circle Pit’s Melbourne appearance – responsible for the spiritual aura of the night’s line-up – produced dedicated various friends/acquaintances also fans to the declining venue as both required structural support and integrity braces in a mutual house-of-cards kind of way. The bikini girl resumed her dance to the easier step of the house music as the hour gap between the Teenage Mothers and Circle Pit appearance lengthened with perceptable elasticity and I found myself staring at her bellybutton for longer and longer periods of time.
Later the sounds of a harmonica could still be heard intermittently and people glancing up the grand stairs revealed that dj Dirtbag was not in control of the front bar’s music selection. A large man in a New York Yankees baseball team kit appeared as Lost Animal took to the stage just before 1a.m. and a Teenage Mother poked him mischievously with a boney finger. He was happy for the attention he received although most of it was by this time directed at the stage. I heard someone say I love him and then when asked which one she said both of them. Seeing Lost Animal play for the first time in a year I found the transition from iPhone and microphone to Macbook and stage-show disengaging – like Ariel Pink on 4AD or finding out that pop stars lip-synched. The change was apparently necessitated by a move towards higher fidelity sound, I was countered later, as proven by the retrofit VU metered interface under the laptop that had been placed suavely mid-stage on a roadcase facing north. In a post John Maus contemporary their set-up seemed to have been pulled a bit closer to centre although it did make the show even louder, which in turn gave singer/lover Jarrod Quarrel more room scream. The pre-cut track predicament, despite laptops on stage – which I have never really been a fan of – appears to make the crowd more ‘in’ on the performance. The pool hall backroom which can be seen past the stage seemed to fit as well, and the Espy remains a pretty weird toilets-are-blocked-with toilet paper but everyone’s having a good time kind of place. The floors clear pretty fast post show but the bellybutton swaying is back front of stage under the same keyboard monitor and I need to get out of there before I succumb to the hypnogogic haze at the centre of this universe.