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RTRFM’S THE BIG 40 @ Perth Concert Hall gets 7.5/10

Slightly Odway Orchestra

The Big 40 @ Perth Concert Hall
Sunday, November 19, 2017


Anyone who has lived in Perth over the last several decades knows of the radio station RTRFM 92.1. Either in its current format or the earlier days as 6UVS FM, or even both. As part of their 40th birthday year they threw a big celebration at the Perth Concert Hall on Sunday.

There were several stages dotted around the venue. Over at the Tunnel Stage, they had DJs playing throughout the afternoon/night starting off with long running show Rock Rattle n Roll‘s DJs playing old school rock as people started to arrive. The vibes were good and while it wasn’t packed, there was room to dance and the young kids loved getting up to have a boogie with their parents.

Eljo Agenbach & Kate Milligan

There was also the Difficult Listening Stage and that was dividing people left, right and centre. There were those that loved listening to and watching the spectacle that included acts like Kristen Symczycz/Lenny Jacobs and Eljo Agenbach/Kate Milligan, and then there were those that… well; let’s just say that it wasn’t called the Difficult Listening Stage by accident. It definitely got people talking, particularly the chanting and percussion all in that was Ashes of Burnt Sage.

The Verandah Stage was probably the most popular stage of the day with punters, perhaps because it was the only of the two main stages they could drink at. It was out in the sunshine and overlooked the river – it’s hard to think of a better way to watch some fantastic bands and enjoy a Sunday afternoon. Grace Barbe Afro Kreol was first up and, as always, put on a great show. She even had a new song Fun “for all the strong women out there.”

Grace Barbe Afro Kreol

Rick Steele was next up and there were quite a few people by this time enjoying the blues and the sun. “You can’t pick your fans!” he told the audience. “This one is for the check out chicks”.

Rick Steele

Red Jezebel were a big draw card and there were plenty of people excited to see them play 2004 debut album Revelations in its entirety for the first time. Highlights included Heart In the SunDemons a revved up See Through Dress and, again, a rocking Ocean Blue Eyes – the latter two trading the female vocals of the recordings for loud guitars quite nicely. But (why is there always a but?) they ran out of time and didn’t get to play Angels, that ONE song that they have never played live before (and we have it on good authority they spent the most time rehearsing). The 40 minutes allotted on the playing times never seemed like it was going to be quite long enough for this set, and it proved to be the case on the day.

Red Jezebel

The Kill Devil Hills were on fire and lead singer Brendon Humphries shared a story with us about how they used to play goth metal and even managed to get themselves banned by RTR. We will let your imagination run wild with that one. These days their sound is still dark, but tinged with epic country and roots-rock, and you can hear Humphries’ previous bands with The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard on standouts like Words From Robin to Batman.

The Kill Devils Hills

The Slightly Odway Orchestra was the last act on the Verandah Stage and was an idea stemming from RTRFM’s Breakfast with Caitlin segment where WA musicians cover other WA acts. In Sunday’s case it was made up of four supergroups. First was Kiera Owen (Rag n’ Bone), Mitch McDonald (The Love Junkies), Liam Young (Puck) and Zac Grafton (Grievous Bodily Calm) covering HAMJAM and Childsaint.

Slightly Oddway Orchestra

Next was Axel Carrington (Rag n’ Bone), Owen de Marchi (The Chlorines), Ashlyn Koh (Childsaint) and Alec Thomas (Kitchen People) covering The Dianas and Nerve Quakes.

Jacob Diamond, Sara McPherson (Rag n’ Bone), Alex Reid (Grievous Bodily Calm) and Lauren O’Hara (Flossy) covered Stella Donnelly and The Fruity Whites; notably their cover of the former’s Mechanical Bull was electric to hear – near definitive in fact – in full band format and suggests big things for Donnelly when she decides to call in some additional help.

Last up was the stage’s host, Tanaya Harper (Bells Rapids) plus Elle Walsh (The Love Junkies), Jack Gaby (Dream Rimmy) and Carla Geneve. As they had run out of time, they only had time to cover one song from Rag n’ Bone (Methyl Ethel’s Ubu sadly missing the cut). Here’s hoping this becomes a more regular thing, though, as it was a whole lotta fun.

The Auditorium was an interesting stage. While they had some incredible shows on and acoustics were sublime as always, due to numbers being down and the strict no alcohol policy inside the Perth Concert Hall, it wasn’t as crowded as it should have been.

Mt Mountain

That didn’t stop Mt Mountain putting a spectacular audiovisual show, with up to nine people on stage including guest vocalists from Childsaint. Playing latest album Dust front to back, the bespoke visuals offered incredible footage of Australia’s unique, dusty outback, taking in mines and other iconic images. Placed next to the intensity of the music, it was a show designed to make you feel something. It’s the way the album should be heard, and here’s hoping they release a DVD accompaniment soon.

Adam Said Galore

Their post rock leanings also proved to be the perfect warm up for the following act. Adam Said Galore may not have ever officially broken up, but that didn’t stop this show alongside original guitarist Michael Lake being special – his first with the band in 16 years was “emotionally significant, to me at least,” frontman Andrew Ryan said. They only come out of hiding for a show every now and then, but it is a reminder of how original a force they were then and still are now, that no band in Perth has taken up the mantle of angular post rock songwriting that Ryan and co perfected. Having seen them again for the first time in ages, tracks like Magic Planes and Guitar Angles reminded everyone there just how inventive they are and how upsetting it will be to see them disappear again for who knows how long.

Odette Mercy & Her Soul Atomics

Another staple in the Perth scene is the absolute darling Odette Mercy & Her Soul Atomics – this time with an added choir. The world really needs more Odette with her brilliant smile and her infectious happiness. The choir added such a dimension to her act (not that it needed it) but wow! Let’s hope we see this again. Abbe May‘s experiment with WAYJO (WA’s Youth Jazz Orchestra) was less successful, as rather than having the additional players on stage add to her unique brand of rock and roll, she played to their stylings, producing something like The Big 40’s answer to Shirley Bassey. Not getting Odette Mercy and Joni Hogan out to join her on excellent single Doomsday Clock seemed like a missed opportunity, and it fell a little flat. But May is always engaging and even out of her element it was fun to watch her try something different.

The night ended with some of Perth’s finest musicians performing seminal WA songs of the last few decades, accompanied by historical archival footage, for headline event RTRFM – A Musical History. While the clash with arguably the day’s highlight, Dan the Man vs Rok Riley outside in the tunnel, was lessened by A Musical History running late, it was tricky to navigate at first.In retrospect, A Musical History would’ve benefited from being held earlier in the evening in the way RTR did for last year’s A Moment in Time, leaving DJs and reformations to round out the party.

That said, Kav Temperley came out and put his unique twist on Drugs (seriously – with all the reunions coming out – can someone get Ammonia to re-unite?) alongside house band Timothy Nelson, The Dux Brothers (Ryan and Luke) and Todd Pickett. Highlights included a cracking take on Umpire’s Streamers, while Felicity Groom stole the show covering Schvendes single Small Mercies, Sweet Graves. Combined with some classic pics, vision and an entertaining voice over, it was a fitting end to a mighty day.

And the winner for best show of the day goes to… RTR! Here’s to the next 40 years, and in particular the next 10 counting down to their 50th birthday – if The Big 40 is anything to go by, 50 is going to be a cracker.


Photographs by Karen Lowe and Linda Dunjey

Luke Dux & Todd Pickett
Timothy Nelson


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