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2011: WHAT WAS THAT ALL ABOUT?
Khe Sanh cracked the Top 40 for the first time. Angry Anderson
joined the National Party. Meat Loaf "sang" at the Grand
Final. Yes, it was a strange year. Local singer-songwriter
D. Rogers was like Mike Williamson at the 1966 Grand Final,
saying, "I tipped this!" After calling his latest album
Natural Disasters, the nation was battered by floods, fires
and cyclones. And when Dave went to launch the album at
the Northcote Social Club, the city was hit by a freak storm,
which stranded many punters. Dave joked that he was going
to call his next album "Perfect Album Launch Weather".
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Great performers get lost in the music. They're unpredictable,
moody and inspired. And great art is timeless. It also takes
time. This artist's first solo album came 25 years after
his band's classic debut. "I have my own fire to light again,"
he declared, inviting the listener to "hear me sing". It's
an offer you can't refuse, with his voice both majestic
and occasionally menacing. Call it Peno envy, Ron S. Peno
is Howzat!'s Artist Of The Year.
GIG OF THE YEAR
It was a festival of festivals. But the best gigs still
happen in dark rooms on sticky carpets. On Preliminary Final
night, Howzat! was not happy. We turned up to the Northcote
Social Club, still upset that the Melbourne Storm weren't
going to get the fairytale finish they deserved. Dave Graney
was the first person we bumped into. Later that night, he
took the gig somewhere else, telling a tale that involved
guitarist Ben Michael X, Natalie Imbruglia, a vagina and
some crystals. As the band looked perplexed, Dave ordered
them to "play me something that stinks!" Dark Magic, indeed.
Sand Pebbles with special guest Dave Graney is Howzat!'s
Gig Of The Year.
Everything old is new again. Cold Chisel did 2011's biggest
tour, while Icehouse re-released the Flowers' debut, appeared
at Meredith and did a "secret" Espy show. Twenty years after
the classic Doughboy Hollow, Died Pretty did a one-off gig
at Cherry Rock. Huxton Creepers returned to promote the
CD release of their debut. Icecream Hands started the year
with a gig at the Northcote Social Club. The Hummingbirds
did the Sydney Big Day Out, and Clouds re-appeared. The
Killjoys have never broken up, but they were resurgent in
2011 with the wonderful Pearl, a sequel of sorts to their
debut, Ruby. Mi-Sex returned - with Noiseworks' Steve Balbi
on vocals, while The Angels did gigs with Dave Gleeson out
front. And Hunters and Collectors came back to play at the
V8 Supercars in Sydney. Never say never, Powderfinger.
LABEL OF THE YEAR
The year started with a shock. After nearly 21 years at
Shock Records, their longest-running employee, Dave Laing,
departed, joining the Fuse Group. It caused confusion at
Fuse - where there was already a Dave Lang - but the infusion
of another passionate music man energised the label and
by year's end, they had delivered some of 2011's finest
compilations from Ups & Downs, Essendon Airport and The
Screaming Tribesmen, a live album from Young Modern, new
albums from Ron S. Peno and Laura Jean, as well as signing
the prolific Van Walker. Fuse also started a magazine called
Strangelove, and the group includes the TITLE record stores.
At a time when record companies are looking to do nothing
more experimental than a 360 deal, it's great to see a label
that still loves music. Fuse is Howzat!'s Label Of The Year.
VIDEOS OF THE YEAR
The days of the big-budget clip are over. But with the rise
of YouTube, the video has regained its relevance. Two Melbourne
acts created clever clips in 2011. Sophie Koh's Lo-Fi is
a one-shot supermarket spectacular, while The Little Stevies'
Feel It manages to both send-up and celebrate dance videos.
"We're terrified by music video as an art form," admits
guitarist/bass player Robin Geradts-Gill. "You get this
one chance to show the world what you're like when you're
not on stage. We always try to make them as interesting
as possible - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."
Feel It works, as does Lo-Fi. Check 'em out at YouTube.
ROCK IN PEACE
The year started terribly, with the loss of two legends.
Guitarist Harvey James - whose first Sherbet recording was
the classic Howzat - died of lung cancer on January 15.
He was 58. The following day, Cold Chisel drummer Steve
Prestwich - who wrote Forever Now and When The War Is Over
and co-wrote Flame Trees - died of a brain tumour at the
age of 56. Margot Smith, a Best New Talent nominee at the
1994 ARIAs, died in April. Her producer Steve Kilbey wrote:
"Fucking alcohol claims another victim. I hate alcohol,
I hate what it does … sad, tragic, inevitable, useless,
pointless waste of a rare and fabulous gift." April also
saw the passing of blues pioneer Dutch Tilders. He was 69.
Cancer also claimed the life of one of Howzat!'s favourite
rock chicks, Josie Jason. She was just 49. Her funeral,
appropriately at the Espy, was a wonderful celebration of
a rock 'n' roll life. Also in 2011, we said goodbye to one
of Melbourne's most important venues, The Arthouse. The
Public Bar also disappeared, and disturbing rumours surrounded
the future of the Prince and the East Brunswick Club. Silverchair
announced their "indefinite hibernation". And, after 24
years, the final episode of Video Hits went to air.
*The 2011 wrap continues next week with Howzat!'s albums
of the year plus a look at the year on the charts.
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