Going metal at MICF: Andrew O’Neill and Steve Hughes

andrew o'neillEnglish comedian Andrew O’Neill wears green heels, jeans tight enough to show off an enviable pair of pins, black top, red lipstick and nail polish. His Melbourne International Comedy Festival show is entitled Alternative but the core theme is one of how easily he can be distracted: by the internet, by television, by shiny things. The show is filled with distractions — zany asides, mostly — and littered with pop and metal references. He has a Dr Who tattoo. He’s witty and intelligent and he has something to say and doesn’t mind coming out and saying it — about the class divide, about hipster appropriation of culture, about societal constraints on being who you want to be; in his case, he’s a lover of heavy metal, an overt transvestite, an athiest with a grudging respect for the Norse gods (just in case).

His own spruiker and roadie, he’s playing the suitably metal Pony, a small, slightly smelly club tricked out in red and black with an upstairs performance space cosy enough for the full house to appreciate his boss eye sight gag. The gig ends with a bit of a singalong in ‘Jesus was a Cockney’. Lovely dovely.


We gladly paid to see O’Neill; the tickets to Steve Hughes were complimentaries for review purposes.


steve hughes Hughes is another metal head, but where O’Neill wears heels and talks about the outdated and outlandish vision of what it means to be male, the Aussie comedian, now relocated to the UK, still thinks a man should steer clear of Starbuck’s, pull up his pants, grow a beard and not act like a faggot. Or a poofter. Yes, such people still exist, and they can fill the Melbourne Town Hall. It’s a strange world, Hughes says repeatedly, and listening to the chortles and guffaws as he harangues and postulates for 90 minutes, I can’t agree more.

What starts out as amusing anecdotes, deftly told in Aussie vernacular, descends into a diatribe of sometimes contradictory pseudo-spirituality, anti-establishment, pro-drugs anti-police conspiracy theory with all the subtlety of a bludgeon.

Clearly, Hughes’s take on the Big Issues isn’t for me. And I think, if I’ve interpreted the psychobabble rightly, Hughes will understand if I say it’s not me, it’s them.

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MICF: Victoria Healy and Lisa-Skye

Two Melbourne comedians, two sides of the same self-empowered coin in last night’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival outing.

comedian victoria healy

Victoria Healy

First up was Victoria Healy, taking the stage at an intimate upstairs room at the wonderfully downbeat Rue Bebelons — out of the cafe, down the alley, up the wooden stairs … and Healy’s journey was even more entertaining.

Entitled Independent Women Part 2, Healy’s show offers the soundtrack to her understanding of what it means to be an independent woman. Starting with the Spice Girls in Year 7 and including Shania Twain, Black Eyed Peas and the titular tune from Destiny’s Child, there are six or seven songs that serve as milestones along the way.

Through a timeline featuring high school dorkiness and learning to be a team player, a spate of loser boyfriends, becoming a fashionista and a competitive sex object, Healy, in jeans and sleeveless blouse and armed with telling character voices, delivers observations and laughs at a conversational and endearing pace, brought to a close with disappointing abruptness. And damn if I couldn’t see the signature hoop move that made her the star of the rhythm gymnastics team…

comedian lisa-skye

Lisa-Skye

TAKING a different approach to the subject of self-awareness and fulfilment is Lisa-Skye, holding down a spot upstairs at the John Curtin Hotel.

Lisa is ‘a glittery drag queen in a tubby goth real-girl’s body’ who delivers a multi-media exploration of sexual desire and individualism par excellence in Ladyboner. She enters the stage with a walk through the audience while reciting Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’, and you just know you’re in for a treat.

Performance poetry, slide shows and video clips complement her search for a girl of her own. There’s the dad dance, the animal kingdom’s mating rituals, her nan’s passions, love requests from a telephone dating service, an audience Q&A on BDSM; all interspersed with beautifully delivered performance pieces set to the beat of a metronome.

Thirty and married and living in the ‘burbs in her nan’s ‘wog house’, Lisa-Skye is going her own way and taking us along for the ride. She’s personable, honest, acerbic, with great character pieces and spot-on timing. It’s an accomplished performance and wickedly funny.

If you ever wanted to know what it sounds like when doves cry, Ladyboner is for you.

Sisters of Mercy bring it on home in Auckland

It was the gig I excpected it to be. The gig I’d waited 20 years or so for. The Sisters of Mercy — well, founder and main man Andrew Eldritch with a guitarist, bassist and laptop wrangler — live and loud at Auckland’s Powerstation on Wednesday night.

It was a no-nonsense set-up. A plain, industrial stage dressing of pipes, guitar, bass, smoke machines working so hard the band sometimes vanished. And holding court, Eldritch – bald, sunglasses, goatee, military blacks. Delivering virtual spoken word in uber cool style, cigarette in hand as he whispered and moaned into the mic. For an hour and a half. Song after song, notorious drum machine Dr Avalanche not giving a moment to pause.

They offered a playlist to die for: an assortment of hits, b-sides and a couple of unrecorded tunes including ‘Summer’, played to an ecstatic full house. A young crowd with a presentable smattering of overt goths. Not enough to rankle the infamous goth-shy Eldritch, or if so, he made no comment. In fact, he said barely a word that wasn’t a lyric.

‘Ribbons’ opened. There was ‘Dominion’, ‘First and Last and Always’, ‘Detonation Boulevard’, ‘Alice’, ‘Vision Thing’, ‘More’ (not the 12″!) … and two (albeit seemingly scripted) thumping encores featuring a highlight of the night in ‘Lucretia My Reflection’ and a strangely uninspiring ‘Temple of Love’ to close.

Underpinning it all were those familiar, at times repetitive beats, lashings of superb guitar, a stray wish for a drummer to help kick things up and around a bit. Eldritch was a little hard to hear early in the piece, but there was no denying the power of the constant battering to transport the listener. Twenty years in the waiting, and the Sisters did not disappoint, even if they didn’t surprise.

Bring on Melbourne, where they play two gigs at the Corner in their only non-Soundwave tour appearance Down Under!

‘Goth looking but genius’ – WTF?

pauley perrette as abby in ncis

I was reading this article about a mummy exhibition, sadly in the US so I can only admire from afar, when I was struck by an assinine comment, in relation to the wundertabulous forensic tech Abby (played by Pauley Perrette) in NCIS. A mummy expert is saying how she loves the character, a positive role model for women seeking careers in science. And the journalist added this note of explanation:

“Perrette plays the Goth-looking but genius Abby Sciuto on the top-rated television drama.”

“Goth-looking but genius”.

Why BUT. Why not AND? Why is it even relevant to this piece about mummies that Abby’s gothic? But it’s the ‘but’ that gets me. As if goths can’t be clever.

Phooey to your but.

Brisbane’s goth scene – a clubber’s update

I’ve been sidelined of late thanks to a major meltdown at my ISP, Optus, who sure dragged the chain sorting their gear out. But for now, at least, I’m back in the cyber game 🙂
Haven’t got much to show for my absence except an article for the Courier-Mail providing a vague update on Brisbane’s goth scene. The article was spawned when some suit in admin noticed the amount of goths/emos hanging around in the mall and wondered how they could bear to wear all that black, coats and all. So I, for some reason :P, was asked to write something about it. I felt like asking if anyone had ever wondered about all the businessmen in their suits and how they handled the Queensland heat and humidity, but I figured that probably wasn’t as interesting …
Anyhoo, the result: a yarn slashed to fit a standard CM tabloid page — but at least a *whole* page 🙂 And here it is, with a neat rundown of the core clubs playing gothic music for a predominantly gothic crowd.

Which is a nice segue into a mention of having seen Dandelion Wine play their last Australian gig for the forseeable future, at Faith night club’s Love Cats night a couple of weekends back. Fans of Lisa Gerard/Dead Can Dance should enjoy this duo’s music, as it often involves medieval and world music elements played with synths, flute, guitar and dulcimer. I’m told they used to have a percussionist, too, which I think would round out their sound beautifully.
Dandelion Wine are off to Germany to pursue their creative career. Cool, eh?
And finally, kudos to Faith: the new venue in Mary Street is really something else. Spacious, decent dance floor and brilliant set lists (IMHO), with a nice long bar, lots of gorgeous sofas, a chill-out room, Korean restaurant next door … it’s a superb venue. Faith is running every Saturday now, rotating through its various theme nights.


Coming up: Tycho Brahe and Leaders of Men at Atmosphere night club, Tank St, Brisbane, on April 18.


I am particularly dark that I won’t be able to make the Midnight Calling gig on April 25, featuring one of my fave Brissie bands, The Wretched Villains.