Sunas on the Celtic Road

Two bands played at our wedding. One has had their home flushed by the Brisbane floods and been further left out to dry by red tape and fine print — Tycho Brahe soldiers on, though the road must be bloody rough.

The other, Sunas, are walking a brighter path, with their first label release, Celtic Road, now available from ABC shops and getting a nice dollop of advertising support to boot.

I had the privilege of launching their self-released debut a bunch of years back. I loved them then, I love them more now. And, naturally, the gorgeous cover of The Cure’s Lovesong will always hold a special place …

The musician’s road is not the easiest; here’s hoping it rises to meet both of these splendid outfits.

Spare some change for a flooded muso?

My mates at synth-driven band Tycho Brahe have been washed out of their Brisbane home by the recent floods — luckily, they were able to get most of their gear — and their kids! — out before the flood water inundated their two-storey house — both storeys. Most, but not all, and the clean-up is costing a mint, not to mention the dislocation of renting and having your possessions, right down to your chooks, spread across spare storage space across the city. Tycho supremo Ken shows the studio damage in this blog post and says the easiest way to lend a hand is to pick up some merch from CDBaby. These guys aren’t just great musos, they’re great people: snaffle a cd or a download if you can. Your ears, and the band, will be grateful.

Update: Ken and George of Tycho were in the Brisbane Courier-Mail talking about the flood impact; it’s a brief piece, but you get the picture.

Writers, and readers, to help Queensland flood victims

Please check out these sites set up by writers to raise money for charities assisting Queensland flood victims:

Ocean Hearted: poetry book, proceeds to charity

100 Stories for Queensland: send in your stories, buy the book

After the Rain: Fablecroft had already got this anthology on the drawing board, and has turned around a quick e-version for charity purposes.

An auction site, offering signed books, manuscript assessments and plenty of other stuff, is now running at Authors for Queensland.

And don’t forget, cash donations can be sent to numerous charities online. This is the State Government’s website.

Tycho Brahe – live and free

Tycho Brahe with us on our wedding night.

Tycho Brahe with us on our wedding night. Pic: Kim Thomsen

Tycho Brahe are an awesome Brisbane band who were kind enough to play at our wedding. They rocked out and were absolutely fantastic. They also produced a lovely cover of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong‘, which was our theme song.

And now, I’m ecstatic to say, there’s a version of the cover available online. The ’80s-lovin’ band had an, um, interesting live session in a recording studio, in which they aimed to produce a ‘live in the studio’ ep. The ep is now available for free download from CDBaby. You might also like to sample their other output: maybe the uber-catchy ‘1985’ single or one of their albums — Atlantic is probably a good place to start, and work your way back!

I’d also mention that the other band who played at our wedding, the divine Brissie Celtic outfit Sunas, have an album coming out kind of soonish through the ABC. These guys performed a simply beautiful instrumental version of ‘Lovesong’ for the processional, then added vocals while we signed the paperwork. And then they too rocked out! You don’t have to wait for the ABC album (I don’t know if their ‘Lovesong’ cover will be on it, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was?): they have a perfectly engaging self-produced album available now.

Wedding background music

While I’m reminiscing, here’s the tunes that were on the iPod’s wedding playlist for when our pals weren’t shaking Bar Soma.


Angel, Massive Attack
Beautiful Day; Lucky Day: Stringmansassy
Ain’t No Cure for Love; Dance Me To the End of Love: Leonard Cohen
I Let Love In; Into My Arms: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Grace; Hallelujah: Jeff Buckley
Fade Into You, Mazzy Star
Beyond the Field We Know, Sunas
Lovesong; Love Cats: The Cure
A Promise Made (Wedding Day), The Cruxshadows
Building a Mystery, Sarah McLachlan
London Rain, Heather Nova
Amazing, Johnette Napolitano
I Love You, Jeff Martin
Such a Night, Dr John
Let’s Stay Together, Tina Turner
White Wedding, Billy Idol
Living Dead Girl, Rob Zombie (touring!)
Science Fiction, Divinyls
She Sells Sanctuary, The Cult
Stripped, Rammstein
Temptation; Shadows on the Mountainside: The Tea Party
Seven Nation Army, The White Stripes
Disarm; Ave Adore: Smashing Pumpkins
Wild is the Wind; Heroes: David Bowie
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, The Smiths
Love Will Tear Us Apart, Evelyn Evelyn
Easy, Faith No More
Come As You Are, Nirvana
The Ship Song, Concrete Blonde
Together in Electric Dreams, The Human League
Paint It Black, Inkubus Sukkubus
Last Beat of Your Heart, Mission UK
Tainted Love, Marilyn Manson
To Lose My Life, White Lies
Zero, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
What You Waiting For?, Gwen Stefani
True Faith 94, New Order
Temple of Love, Sisters of Mercy
No Ordinary Love, Sade
I Will Find You, Clannad
I Do, Placebo
If I Was, Midge Ure
I Just Died in Your Arms, Cutting Crew
Pictures of You, Berlin
Evil Night Together, Jill Tracy
Ampersand, Amanda Palmer
Love in Motion, Icehouse feat. Chrissy Amphlett
Vienna, Ultravox

Concrete Blonde rock Brisbane

bloodletting by concrete blonde

Any doubts that Concrete Blonde might have mellowed as a rock band were put to rest in Brisbane’s Hi-Fi Bar on Tuesday night. So too any doubts not already dispelled by the Scarred solo album that frontwoman Johnette Napolitano has not grown into a consummate performer who is content, if not happy, in her skin.

Melbourne’s Graveyard Train — horror movie lyrics to a country-blues beat rounded out by banjo, double bass and a well-hammered length of chain — ably softened up the sizeable crowd who comfortably filled the tiered, industrial-themed room (bare bricks, exposed ducts, concrete and — just so you know you’re in a rock venue — a sticky timber floor).

Our posse lined the barrier directly in front of Johnette’s mic, prepared to sacrifice sound quality for a close-up of one of the few singers I would call an idol: talented, emotive, uncompromising.

We were not disappointed.

Johnette’s bass — unadorned gloss black with simple, sweeping lines — combined with the drums of Gabriel Ramirez (who stepped up to the sticks for the Group Therapy tour when drummer Harry Rushakoff fell off the radar, and has stuck around) to lay down a thumping beat, at times reaching into the chest to alter the heart beat, at others tickling the throat or making a mild tremor under the feet. The velvet curtain hanging at the front of the stage billowed in time like a lung.

And Jim Mankey, Johnette’s foil and anchor, stood unflappable and so very casual, whether filling in the background with his trademark guitar wail and chug or cutting loose on a solo for Hendrix’s Little Wing.

The stage was simply lit, emphasised with an occasional billow of fog, and was adorned only with black muslin around the drum kit and a scatter of huge red roses — this tour marks the 20th anniversary of Bloodletting, a breakout album with vampire themed tunes leading the way.

The stage belonged to Johnette Napolitano.

Wearing a Spanish-influenced black dress, her movements were laced with Flamenco in bare feet and deliberate movements of the hands and arms; at other times, she would twirl the bass as she rocked out, at others pluck the strings as if each was a thorn to be pulled. A tattoo of a cross, filled with Celtic knotwork and surrounded by simple stars, adorned her chest, and her long, black hair at times fell as a curtain across her so very expressive kohl-darkened eyes, lending a hint of Japanese horror movie, a sense of mystique.

Watching her descend into the emotional space for When I Was A Fool, led by Jim’s guitar, was an exquisite pleasure, and then to be carried aloft as the song built to its explosive crescendo …

There were many such moments — Heal It Up, Your Haunted Head and more — in a set that ran almost to two hours and offered at least 21 songs drawn from the band’s studio catalogue (with Bloodletting most highly represented, naturally), skipping only the Mojave album (and the band’s debut, the eponymous Dream 6 before they took on their current moniker).

A rock aesthetic ran through much of the set, kicking off with opener Bloodletting and putting fire into typically slow-burning tunes such as I Don’t Need a Hero. The pace eased when Jim took up the acoustic and Johnette rested the bass for a ballad set — Mexican Moon with Flamenco dance included — and was brought to a close with the poignant Tomorrow, Wendy, which saw Johnette slowly fold to hands and knees as the lament for lost life and innocence wound down, to arise on knees with a single red rose held aloft into a perfectly aimed spotlight.

Unexpected delights such as Run, Run, Run, Your Haunted Head and Days and Days raised the roof — Johnette crossed herself before laying down a massive, manic bassline to intro one — and her voice soared, with Janis Joplin-like verve at times, on tunes such as Heal It Up. The encore consisted of the Midnight Oil hit Beds Are Burning and the raucous Still in Hollywood.

It was one hell of a way to open their Australian tour, and signalled there’s plenty of life left in the trio yet.

Songs, not in order: Bloodletting, Joey, Scene of a Perfect Crime, Someday, When I Was A Fool, Run Run Run, Happy Birthday, God Is A Bullet, Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man, Haunted Head, True, Little Wing, Everybody Knows, Mexican Moon, Heal It Up, Caroline, Days and Days, Tomorrow Wendy, I Don’t Need a Hero, Lullabye, Beds are Burning, Still in Hollywood.

  • A remastered anniversary edition of Bloodletting is available, with six extra songs.
  • Brisbane Madigan Mine signing

    kirstyn reading from Scenes from the Second Storey at Aussiecon 4
    Kirstyn and I will be at Brisbane’s Pulp Fiction in Edward St from noon on Wednesday (Sept 15) where she will be signing Madigan Mine. She also has stories in the anthologies Macabre and Scenes from the Second Storey, both launched at this month’s Aussiecon4 (the World Science Fiction Convention). Please do pop in to say hello if you are able 🙂