1. “WANJOO BIRAK” FESTIVAL @ ABMUSIC COLLEGE, WATERFORD, SATURDAY
M____ asks on Facebook if anyone wants to come to Abmusic’s “Wanjoo Birak” festival. I say I do, and after a quick dash to the Spud Shed I return home and his car rolls up as I read Tristan's "VHS Tracking" zine of exciting movie recommendations.
“Wanjoo” means “welcome” in the Noongar language and Birak is the “first summer”… the “season of the young,” with warmer weather, afternoon sea breezes, fledgling birds. This particular “Wanjoo Birak” also happens to mark Abmusic’s 30th Birthday (happy birthday Abmusic).
We make a detour to a costume shop closing-down sale, poring over WAFL jerseys, giant mosquito costumes and outlandish hats, so we’re a little late. When we arrive the warmth of Birak is in full effect, beating down brightness on the quadrangle.
On the mural-decked stage we hear from DAN RICHES, spinning yarns and acoustic guitar tales. There’s the legendary PHIL WALLEY-STACK, singing across genres in both English and Noongar, joined by a tasteful shredder on lead guitar. BABY KOOL delivers a brief but incredible rap set as we fetch plates of kangaroo stew with damper and rice; DOREEN PENSIO brings a magical voice and top-end musical flavours; first-time performer BETHANY ROSE changes it up with a bundle of soulful renditions, including an adapted Tupac tune. Possibly the highlight for me is a trio called THE PICTURE GARDENS who bring a slew of melodic rock songs, plenty of grit and post-punky looseness but each track with a heartfelt, earnest core, not least ‘Hurt, Live, Heal’ which was featured on this year’s Kiss My WAMI compilation. Finally, HOT LIKWID tie it in a bow with a mix of pop and hard rock covers, alternately showcasing band member’s vocal and instrumental talents (so many nonchalant shredders today).
These performances are interspersed with speeches and reflections from Abmusic staff and alumni. It’s pretty fascinating and inspiring stuff, how a Perth musical training college specifically for First Nations people has survived for 30 years and counting despite plenty of unhelpful governments and funding crises. Alongside, a photo exhibition allowing you to visually trace this history, from sepia-tone Led Zep singlets to Y2K beats and beyond. Australia spends a fair bit of time documenting and discussing pre-colonial Indigenous history, with good reason - but all too often these remarkable modern narratives, these infinite contemporary tangents of Indigenous creativity, go unsung.
2. ZIMBABWEAN CULTURAL NIGHT @ LITTLE OLIVE LEAF CAFÉ, WILLAGEE, SATURDAY NIGHT
Doc messages me about it, and, having no plans, I jump aboard. Our neighbour and good friend works at The Little Olive Leaf Café, which hosts occasional “cultural nights” exploring different cuisines, musics and experiences. The Little Olive Leaf Café is next to a hairdresser with a fluffy white dog in the window, a “moral uplifting society” and a senior citizens’ centre with a psychedelic mural nestled among its bright blue walls. Over the road is a nature park with maybe the best playground I’ve ever seen (it includes a hammock), and a terrazzo table with embedded chess board and flower decal.
Inside the café, I encounter a bevy of plants and trinkets, wooden shelves and enamel lamps, and a woman who I’ve never met but who’s as casual and friendly as if we were old mates. She even asks if I want to go collect soda water from the IGA up the road, in exchange for a discounted ticket, which I do.
Doc and S arrive just after sunset. We sip Zimbabwean cordial - “Mazoe” - and recline out the back, under the shade of a sprawling age-old grape vine. The musical guests tonight are Zim’s own GARIKAYI AND TINASHE TIRIKOTI, a father-son mbira (thumb piano) duo who both hand-craft and masterfully play their instruments. They’re joined by Fremantle’s SHANGARA JIVE, an “afro roots” band who turn the haunting mbira tesselations into a simmering dance party.
I absorb the tunes as we’re brought plates of spiced beans and tomatoes, wilted chomolia with peanut paste, sadza mash and bread. The band produces one of the most beautiful beds of sound I’ve heard in a while. Hypnotic repetition, delightfully dizzying polyrhythms, sparing vocal additions, shakers, twinkling guitar. Sangara Jive’s drums and bass keep things galloping along with a restrained momentum. Throughout, the mbira resonances spread across the space like liquid, gently shifting melodies and reverberating chords landing pillowy on your eardrums, the whole thing billowing into the night air like magic.
(PS. Garikayi, Tinashe and Shangara Jive are playing this Saturday night at Clancy’s if you’re interested).
3. IL SESHO #1 @ LATE NIGHT VALENTINE, SUNDAY
A troupe of Rhythm Section boys are in town: Prequel from Australia, Bradley Zero from the UK and Chaos in the CBD from New Zealand. That’s as good a reason as I need to shake off the cobwebs and follow the hill slope down Beaufort Street, to the inaugural ‘Il Sesho’ presented by Good Company.
Late Night Valentine’s backyard floods with sun, cocktails, sneakers; from the very healthy PA ring rotund and shimmering beats. Upon first aperol it’s all very mellow, chats and floating cadences on the breeze. But as the daylight recedes the amphitheatre and its dance floor are heaving, surfaces pummelled by undulating bass and swivelling soles, eventually moving indoors post-curfew for a final power boogie in the dark.
The night ends with the track ‘Deep Forest’ by Deep Forest off their 1992 album Deep Forest. ‘90s nostalgia depth charge missile.
LNV closes up so naturally we beeline for Hungry Jack’s; drive through only means jumping in a car with a kindly man who bemusedly tells us about the Giant Robot Flame-Throwing Spider at Elizabeth Quay and the grotesquely long lines at the Brass Monkey.
4. NOIZEMASCHIN #65 - UNPLUGGED @ THE ARTIFACTORY, OSBORNE PARK, TUESDAY
I don’t normally go to Osborne Park for cultural experiences, but when I do they’re often housed at the Artifcatory, a unique kind of DIY tech workshop meets weird music and art venue.
Tonight’s show is one of the more eclectic and exploratory gigs I’ve seen, comprising: Jaco Pastorius inspired fretless bass experimentation (JOSEPH DE KOCK); episodic aerophone drones and bellows-noise (this was me); fluxus-inspired lullaby song-o-grams via mobile phone to unsuspecting friends and family (LAURA STRØBECH); manifold saxophone noise experiments exploiting spittle-sound, overtones, vocal cords and pringles tubes (JOSTEN MYBURGH).
Dirty-minded limericks (GUTTER WORTHY); atonal piano-mashing as an accompaniment to live screaming, ranting, trembling, flailing and obscure muttering (SCYTHEY PSEUDOS); intense, volcanic drum dynamics and stormy free jazz-sax odyssey (BEHN GREEN + ALANA MACPHERSON); guitar, cello, glass bottles, flowers and ambient visual projections forming a brittle and beautiful audiovisual assemblage (DAISY’S NET).
If this Noizemaschin was a bewilderingly varied array, it was also a microcosm of the glimpse I got of the last few days in music in Perth. I marvel at the thought of seeing it all.