Eye-popping rock music with the Lovers in Monaco

July 8, 2013 § 5 Comments

The Lovers in Monaco poster

The Lovers in Monaco poster

The singer’s eye fell out during the middle of the set. Yes, really. The eye fell out while he was pounding on the band’s second drum kit. But as far as we can tell, no one in the audience noticed.

Loud music does that. It provides great cover when your eye falls out on stage. And I nearly captured it for all time, immortalised in a video uploaded to YouTube. As Maxwell Smart would say, missed – by that much!

It happened when the Wellington art rock band, the Lovers in Monaco played at a Wellington art gallery in a leafy seaside suburb. Support was ably provided by Jet Jaguar. Art galleries are cool places to see live music. They are generally airy, neat and stylish venues and so was the Sea Star Gallery in Seatoun.

As the redoubtable lead singer (who values his internet anonymity) of the Lovers of Monaco tells it in an email:

After singing the chorus in our second song “Dirty Boy” I thought I should crank it up a notch, so I jumped on the drums.  I tend to pound away frenetically and this time, I got a bit too carried away.  In my physical contortions, my eye popped out.

He then describes what happened next:

For the uninitiated, you can’t tell when your eye pops out.  It’s a piece of methyl-acrylic that does its own thing and one-eyed people just have to roll with whatever is going down.  So the ping, it transpired, was the sound of my eye bouncing off my kick drum.  I turned and saw it staring back at me in the centre of my drum stool. The drum stool is black.  Eye is white.  It was iris side up.  It looked pretty macabre.

Here’s the quick recovery:

Anyway, rock is rock and I had made the call for the band to change to the chorus.  I had to deliver it so I shouted the lyrics into the microphone in a half strangled way while hunched over against the art gallery wall so the crowd couldn’t see the horror story unfolding before them.  Then I grabbed my eye and dashed off to the toilets to give it a quick wash and pop it back in.

Here’s the almost famous video taken on the night of 29 June 2013. As you will be able to see, members of the Lovers in Monaco are arrayed in a row along a long wall which made it difficult to frame the entire group together from my vantage point on the mezzanine floor.

Apparently, you can hear the sound the eyeball makes when it bounces off the kick drum. After repeated viewings, I can’t pick it but the singer is adamant.

Every word is true.  It was all filmed by some guy DocRaccoon and has been posted on YouTube. Sadly for rock posterity, he was focused on Nick’s guitar solo when my eye popped out.  But you can hear it ping at two minutes and 43 seconds.  Thenceforth you get a good shot of me hunched against the wall.

Here’s another video taken that night. I’m amused that of the only two songs I captured on my Flip recorder, one of them was almost an eye-opener. As it happens, I didn’t get the cigar but came close.

The Lovers in Monaco play what I categorised as a blend of Krautrock with a touch of LCD Soundsystem. But I’ve been disabused of the notion.  The singer says the band is a new “new rock and sleaze sound”.

Who else is rhyming ‘score’ with ‘Berhampore’ today?  Lock up your daughters because, all set to a backdrop of 1930s porn, the Lovers are here.

If you go to see the Lovers in Monaco, ask for an encore. Maybe even suggest to them that they change their name to the Lovers in Monocles.


A night with Lawrence Arabia and his big band

July 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

It was hipster heaven at the Wellington State Opera House on Sunday night. Many of those gathered to watch Lawrence Arabia play songs from his new album, The Sparrow, wore their badges of hipster cool. They had come to see one of New Zealand’s brightest (and coolest) indie pop artists.

From the beginning, we could see this was going to be no normal rock gig. A big stage, four string instruments and a bolstered brass section had been commissioned to add nuance and subtlety to Arabia’s songs – textures that might have gone missing in a more conventional Wellington rock venue like the San Francisco Bathhouse or the Bodega.

It was a carefully chosen list of songs, representative of all three Lawrence Arabia albums but picked for active listening and less for dancing. The lighting was muted, the mood was atmospheric and the music was angelic.

Lawrence Arabia plays songs about unrequited love, requited love, best friends, former best friends and nostalgia for ships that pass in the night. The highlights included the drama filled The Crew of the Commodore, the heartbreaking Look Like A Fool and the ironic Talk About The Good Times.

But to call the show wistful and mournful would be to do Lawrence Arabia – real name James Milne – an injustice. I defy anyone to find a better exponent of writing perfect pop hooks, and, as if to make this point, he and the band played Apple Pie Bed as if to break up the show’s languid, graceful tempo.

For me, the night peaked with Dream Teacher, the last song on his second album, Chant Darling. It filled the cavernous space with fragile harmonies and made us grin about what could only be an autobiographical portrait of Milne’s infatuation with a teacher from his school aged days. I only wish I had captured it on my Flip recorder. But I did manage Early Kneecappings, an ominous sounding song from the new album.

The crowd could have been bigger and Milne and the band deserved better, even on a rainy, wintry, Sunday night in Wellington. Days before, I had been warned by a phone call from an Opera House staffer who was calling to advise those of us who had bought seats in the dress circle that it had been decided to create a more intimate show in general seating. In other words, it wasn’t going to be a sell out. But Milne was gracious as he thanked the fans from the “capital of culture” for making the trip to see him.

The videos here are nothing special. I was too distant from the stage to get close images and the lighting was subdued. But the sound is pretty good – a tribute to the wonderful arrangements and an excellent sound engineer. For posterity’s sake, it’s a partial record of an enthralling show by a New Zealand artist who continues to find new peaks to scale in his pursuit of musical adventure and brilliance.

After a two song encore, as the crowd at hipster central broke up and floated home, we were all left to reflect on how we could have stayed all night, if Lawrence Arabia had let us.

The view from the moshpit and other fan tales

May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Photo by Julie Warmington

Julie Warmington says she’s always been a big music fan and avid gig goer and she’s got the ticket stubs, set lists, photographs and autographs to prove it.

Coinciding with New Zealand Music Month, this enterprising music fan has started the crowd sourced website, Fantale: Tales From the Front Row, for all music lovers to share their reviews, photos, videos and other souvenirs.

Originally, she had planned to create a timeline of her gig going history (“hundreds of gigs”) with her ticket stubs. She did some market research on what the average concert goer did with their show souvenirs – both digital and analogue – and arrived at the concept for Fantale.

Julie says the website – which is fully socially integrated where contributors can build up their profiles and follow and be followed – has only been live since April 25 but she’s been encouraged by the traffic, links and referrals that Fantale has been receiving.

“I even got a retweet from a Britpop star (James Walsh of Starsailor) which was unexpected and welcomed, but the most exciting thing was seeing the first user post a photo and review on the site,” she told SMNZ.

Fantale’s first listing was made on April 27 – a post by Loniusunknown of a Disasterradio/All Seeing Hands/Huf show in Palmerston North on April 21.

Julie says the reaction from musicians and the music industry has been really supportive. “I have been blown away by the feedback. Those people really count so I am pleased it has been well received.”

As far as Julie knows, there is no equivalent website in New Zealand for fans to share their reviews of live shows, as well as other concert ephemera. There are websites like Songkick that allow fans to add photos but it is not the main focus.

Fantale is also a natural extension of what Julie has been doing. She has worked with music companies and digital agencies in Britain, including four years as a marketing manager for MySpace. She currently works in Wellington as a digital producer.

The website is designed by Joanna Alpe at We Love Inc. “Not only was she the natural choice for me because she is enormously talented, but she totally got what I was trying to achieve.”

Julie’s next priority is to create a mobile app for Fantale because mobile technology means most fans are increasingly expecting to upload images or video directly from gigs. She promises a development in that regard and is currently looking for funding to make it happen.

Music lovers and artists now have a dedicated website for sharing their experiences of live music, long after the last beats have played. As New Zealand Music Month closes out for another year, it is hoped that one of the long term legacies from this year will be Fantale.

Also look for Fantale on Twitter and Facebook and send Julie your feedback on what you think of her website and how it works for you.

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