2003 releases 2005 releases 2007 Releases 2008 releases artists concerts digital downloads guitar live songs music

Jack Johnson and Friends… at the Brisbane Riverstage.

As mentioned yesterday, on Sunday I headed across to the Brisbane Riverstage, for an evening with Jack Johnson, Matt Costa, and Will Conner. And – despite my longtime love affair with Jack Johnson, and my (extremely) tenuous connection with him via my friend Farryl Purkiss (Farryl and Jack once composed a song together, a fact that all of us local musos took pride in repeating… every chance we got) – this was to be my first time actually seeing him perform live.

Well, ok, that’s not strictly true. I had seen him perform live once before, with Ben Harper on his “Both Sides of the Gun” tour of 2007. In fact, it was at the very same stage, the Brisbane Riverstage. Jack was invited on stage to join Ben for a song, and, while for the life of me I can’t remember which tune it was now, I’m fairly certain it was for their rendition of “High Tide or Low Tide”. However, this was to be my first time watching him perform his own set, at his own concert. And I was certainly not disappointed.

There’s a lot to get through from the night, so I’ll just jump right in…

Will Conner and David Rastovich

Will Conner
Local boy Will Conner definitely impressed…

“We don’t need more stuff,
Just need each other and that’s enough”

– Will Conner, “Stuff”

As the sun started setting over the Riverstage, the first act came onto stage: Will Conner and David Rastovich. While I’d heard “Rasta” before, this was my first time hearing Will Conner, and I was really impressed. A local boy – well, Byron Bay local, anyway – I was surprised that I hadn’t heard much about Will before. I mean, he’s also apparently toured with one of my absolute musical crushes, Tristan Prettyman, so it really was surprising.
Will’s tunes are pretty much what you would expect for an opening act for Jack. Laid-back, coastal tunes, which are extremely easy to groove to. Underneath, there’s a strong eco-conservation focus – in fact, this was true throughout the entire night – that was perfectly complemented by Will’s plaintive voice and Rasta’s awesome percussion. On that note, David Rastovich plays some of the best “cheek percussion” I’ve ever heard. Seriously.

Crowd at the Brisbane Riverstage
Crowd at the Brisbane Riverstage, as the sun was setting

“Is it easy to change the world?
Where do we sign up, to help change the world?”

– Will Conner, “Herd”

Perhaps the highlight of the set, for me at least, was Will’s tune, “Home”, describing Byron Bay. It’s a song that simply gets in your head. With it’s refrain of “Home is where I started from/And home is where I wanna be when I get old”, and imagery that I could really relate to, I was sold on this talent. While the recorded version has a fairly tame harmonica solo, in the live version Will was blowing an absolutely mean harp. Here’s to hearing more of this from Will.

Jack Johnson, Dave Rastovich & Will Conner
Dave Rastovich, Will Conner & Jack Johnson

Another high point of the set was when Jack Johnson was called up on stage to join both Will and David Rastovich for a medley of “Plastic Jesus” and “ Fall Line”. I was disappointed that they didn’t go into “Spring Wind”, as I was expecting, but it was still a great moment. The three seemed to have a real synergy up on stage, which was absolutely awesome to witness.

Below, the song, “Home”, by Will Conner. Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: Will Conner – Home

Matt Costa

Matt Costa
Matt Costa performed an incendiary set at the Riverstage

Next up on the bill was Matt Costa. Now, I’ve been a big fan of Matt Costa since the days I first heard his EP with “Astaire” on it, back in (I think) 2003, so I was pretty excited to see him perform live, as it was another first for me.
I think the one thing I was most surprised by was the absolute abandon with which Matt seems to play. From the first song, “Yellow Taxi”, with those opening lines of “Can you spare some conversation?” you could tell that the night with Matt was going to be interesting.
I don’t know what it was, but there seemed to be an underlying anger behind his performance on Sunday night. Sure, it was tempered in some songs – most notably in his performance of “Astaire”, which was as tender a rendition than I’ve ever heard – but the remainder seemed full with an energy that I didn’t expect from Matt.

“You gave me your word
Then you flew like a bird
Never looking back”

– Matt Costa, “Ballad of Miss Kate”

One song where this was most visible – and most welcome – was an absolutely incendiary version of “Ballad of Miss Kate”. Performed with more force than I’d heard before, the song was certainly a major highlight of the night for me, and I’ll remember it for a long time to come.

Following that was “Mr Pitiful”, which the crowd went absolutely crazy for. With Matt at the keyboard, jiving around as he pounded out the chords, he had thousands of people eating out of his hand, and clamouring for more. And rightly so. It’s a killer tune, and if the conversation around me was anything to go by, certainly gained Matt a lot of new supporters that night.
Next up? “Behind the Moon”. I can’t say much here. It was the one song (apart from “Astaire”) that I was really, truly praying he would play. He did. And it was everything I’d hoped for. Absolute bliss on my part. The problem was, it was so much bliss, I kind of blessed out after that, so the rest of the set passed in a blur for me.
I can say that, while I wasn’t previously a fan of “Cigarette Eyes”, I am now. “Lilacs” also was a cracking tune, and the closing song, “Emergency Call” went down extremely well, with more than a few people in the crowd yelling out “Doctor!” along with Matt… a perfect way to close a stellar set.

Matt Costa
Matt Costa on the Brisbane Riverstage

I was torn on which song to include for Matt, but ended up deciding upon “Ballad of Miss Kate”, from his “Elasmosaurus” EP. Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: Listen: Matt Costa – Ballad of Miss Kate

Traditional Blessing

Traditional Blessing
Before Jack came on, there was a traditional blessing of the concert.

After Matt’s set, and before Jack came on, there was the traditional blessing of the concert by a representative of the original aboriginal owners. I’ve been to countless concerts at the Riverstage before, but it was the first time I had seen this take place, and I thought was a great sign of Jack’s respect towards the land’s traditional owners.
The speech went on for a while, and there were a few concert-goers that complained at first; but after a while and everyone settled down, it became a really great experience. People were celebrating the diversity of the land, but also paying tribute to the tradition; and it set a great atmosphere for Jack to enter…

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson performed to a sell-out crowd at the Brisbane Riverstage.

After much – and I mean, much clamouring from the crowd… these guys were rabid – Jack Johnson came on to a roar of screams that were picked up by the stage microphones and broadcast around the arena. I almost felt like I was at some kind of boy-band concert… it was that kind of squeal. Responding with a casual grin and shrug, Jack and Co. launched right into a tune from the new “Sleep through the Static” album, “Hope”. I thought that the tune would be an interesting indicator of the night ahead; the reception to the new album in Australia so far has been fairly mixed. The supposed “older” crowd of fans seem to hanker for the Jack of old, while there is a whole new crowd of fans who have been attracted to the music.

There shouldn’t have been a question in my mind.

The crowd absolutely erupted. And you knew it was going to be a great night. There was a girl in front of me with “Your shadow walks faster than you” plastered all over her arms in permanent marker, and I honestly thought she was going to start hyperventilating when those first chords rang out.
As if reading my earlier thoughts, instead of continuing with another track from the new album, the band then went straight into “The Horizon has been defeated”, from the “On and On” album. And on this track, I managed to see what I had been hoping we would be privy to…

Zach’s chicken dance. And man, was he on fine chicken dance form that night.

Jackie J
Jack, Adam, Merlo and Zach on the Brisbane Riverstage

After a great performance of “Staple it Together”, the song “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” had the crowd screaming out the lyrics along with Jack, and it was a great feeling. In all of the live performances I’ve seen of Jack captured on video, he always seems to have the same reaction: an incredulous shake of the head, a little joyous laugh, and then picking it back up again. And it was great to be a part of that.

After that, it was back onto the new material: the single, “Sleep through the Static”, and then the song “Go On”, which Jack mentioned he had actually written on a previous plane trip to Australia… which of course the crowd responded to. “Go On” is a tune that I really like. The bass line, the melody, and obviously the lyrics… they all combine to create this really powerful, uplifting track about letting go, and it’s one that I’m sure will stand the test of time when it comes to Jack’s track record in the future.

After that it was back to the older stuff; “Taylor” which – as always – had the crowd surging and grooving; “Bubble Toes”, and then “Wasting Time”, which was one of the highlights of the night for me. There was a real conversation going on between the band and the crowd, and it really felt as if everyone knew it.

After that Jack invited Matt Costa and his guitarist, Mitchell Townsend back onto stage for “Let It Be Sung”, which appears on the “Brokedown Melody” soundtrack. Really, this should have been obvious, considering that Zach, Jack and Matt were all together, but for some reason it hadn’t occurred to me. Needless to say, it was awesome. A lot of people have told me that they’ve struggled to find this song, so I’ve included it below.

After a Jane’s addiction cover (sorry, I’m not sure of the song’s title… if anyone else was there and knows, then drop a comment below), the band moved into “What You Thought You Need”, which Jack coupled with a very funny story about translation problems. Suffice to say, if a French speaking friend hadn’t stepped in, this song about Jack travelling in a van through Europe with his wife might have included a line claiming that a well-known “transvestite forest” held all the answers that Jack and his wife needed. Personally, I thought that would have been pretty cool, but each to their own. Heh.

Banana pancakes. Man, Zach excelled himself on this, his own song, not only in the absolutely killer accordian playing, but also in the dancing. The guy has this incredible energy about him that you simply cannot help but like; as if he’s the best friend you just haven’t met yet. So thanks, Zach, for giving that to us.

Jack Johnson & Co.
Jack Johnson & Co.

After “Banana Pancakes”, it was back to a new tune, with “Same Girl”, and then another trip back to the previous album with “Breakdown”. “Breakdown” was another song, much like “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing”, where the crowd almost drowned out the band with it’s singing.
Following that, there was a barrage of songs played, without much chatting between songs. The songs that followed were, “Good People”, “Monsoon”, “Mudfootball” (can I get a “hell yeah!”?), and “Flake” (again, another hell yeah. No matter how many times I’ve heard that song over the years, I needed to hear it live. And it was awesome). The final song, at least for the band as a whole, was the current single being played in Australia, “If I had eyes”… and the fact it was currently receiving a lot of airplay showed.
As Adam, Merlo, Zach and Jack raised their hands in goodbye, there was a real feeling of accomplishment in the air; and it was as if it had been accomplished together. And that’s always a sign of a great concert.

Jackie J & Co closing the set
Jackie J & Co closing the set

After the lights dimmed, and the obligatory “encore period” had elapsed, Jack came back on stage, solo, for an encore to close the show. With the backdrop changing to a “starry night”, Jack launched into a solo rendition of the first song off the new CD, “All at Once”. This song is easily my favourite off the new album. There’s just something that recalls the song, “It’s All Understood” to me. I mean, I have no idea why that is, and I can’t explain it at all, but it does. But I absolutely loved that song, so take it as a good thing.
After that was the bonus track off “Sleep Through The Static”, “Home”. I’m not a huge fan of this song, but my girlfriend is, and seeing as she was the one who managed to score us tickets, I was happy as a pig in mud with the choice.
Jack prefaced the next song by explaining that recently his son had asked him why everyone has a “mommy and daddy”. And Jack started to explain how a “mommy and daddy” have to create a child together. And when his kid, like all kids, pressed for more, Jack ended up spinning a long, nervous yarn about how we “multiply”.

“You’ve got to be careful when you’ve got good love,
‘Coz them angels will just keep on multiplying”

– Jack Johnson, “Angel”

And, as he said, really that’s what the song is about. Love and multiplication. The tenderness with which this song was performed had the crowd silent. And I mean silent. I’ve never heard that many thousands of breaths being held. But they were.

And then it was time to end. And what song did Jack end with? Another song for all the lovers out there, “Better Together”. It was a great song to cap off a great night, and a really positive feeling around the crowd.

Listen: Jack Johnson, Matt Costa and Zach Gill – Let it be Sung
Listen: Jack Johnson – All At Once

And that was it. So, for those keeping count out there, here’s the setlist:

  • Hope
  • Horizon has been defeated
  • Staple it together
  • Sitting, Waiting, Wishing
  • Sleep through the static
  • Go on
  • Taylor
  • Bubble Toes
  • Wasting Time
  • Let it be sung
  • Jane’s Addiction cover?
  • What you thought you need
  • Banana Pancakes
  • Same girl
  • Breakdown
  • Good people
  • Monsoon
  • Mudfootball
  • Flake
  • If I had eyes


  • All at once
  • Home
  • Angel
  • Better together

All in all, it was an amazing night.
Will Conner and David Rastovich definitely started it off on a great note (heh, no pun intended), and Matt Costa and band carried that through. And then Jack and Co themselves… well, I think that in terms of my reaction to the night, they were labouring under a huge amount of pressure. After all, the problem with being a fan of a musician for years, yet never managing to see them live, is that the expectations are raised higher and higher, for years on end. The one quibble that I suppose I might have with the night, is that it might have been too polished. When Jack and Co were up there, it was as if you were listening to the CD. Which is great, but at a live concert you’re also hoping to see a bit more adaptation… a bit more jamming, really. But again, that might be those damn lofty expectations again.

So, that said, did they meet those expectations? Hell no.

They passed them.

2003 releases 2007 Releases 2008 releases artists artists to watch for in 2008 digital downloads guitar music

Tuesday Trio – BARR, The Broderick & The Low Life

So, it’s Tuesday, and we all know what that means… time for another Tuesday Trio! A bit of a mixed bag this week, we have a not-so-new song, a new release, and an old song. Why? Because I roll that way, and it’s what I’m listening to this morning.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the tracks:

BARR – Untitled.

BARR - Untitled
BARR – Untitled

Now, I know I’m going to get crucified for this, but believe it or not, I just stumbled across BARR in the last few days. I’m not quite sure how he’s managed to escape my radar until now, but I’m glad that that’s been rectified. Brendan Fowler (aka BARR), releases what are ostensibly spoken word tracks, over looped instrumentation. For some reason, he brings to mind – for me, at least – a mixture of Mike Skinner and Ben Folds.
This track, “Untitled“, is taken from his 2007 “Summary” album, which is an intensely personal experience. “Summary” seems an apt title; filled with pain, redemption, and utlimately realisation, the album really does seem a “summary” of the human experience.

You say that you wondered about the darker place
And I think we all do
But you’ve wandered too far
And it has you
– Barr, “Untitled”

“Untitled” is depressing, and redemptive all at once. Dealing with a suicidal friend, it’s a song about fighting to hold on; and sometimes, fighting for other people.

Listen: BARR – Untitled

The Broderick – Bells

The Broderick - Bells
The Broderick – Bells

I’m not sure what it is about this tune that resonates with me. Perhaps it’s the slightly “Stranglers-esque” feeling to it; perhaps it’s the unsettling, disjointed tune. Or perhaps it’s the fact that four guys, all under 21, could produce such a complete, mature sound.
Whatever it is, the song is playing pretty much constantly the last few days. I’m not sure it will be for everyone, but I certainly think that The Broderick are a band to watch out for.

Listen: The Broderick – Bells

The Low Life – Fiona

The Low Life - Fiona
The Low Life – Fiona

You know, a few years ago (before I grew up and got a “real job”), I used to work at a video store. And it was an awesome gig. One of the best parts was that I could pump whatever music I wanted, as loud as I wanted. And a lot of people actually started liking the playlists I was spinning. I still remember when a guy first heard “Choir Vandals“, by Ben Gibbard, over the store’s speaker system. He put down all the DVD’s, walked over to the counter, and just listened. Afterwards, he looked up at me and smiled. I could tell he was hooked. Actually, I think I might need to put up a “Video Store Music” post one day.

Anyway, what that was, was an extremely long preamble to the fact that this song, “Fiona”, by The Low Life, always used to put a smile on people’s faces when they walked in. The track, off their 2003 release, “Thixotropic”, exemplifies the bouncy tunes and engaging lyrics that made them one of my all-time greats. Lead singer Evan Bliss just had this truly great voice that connected with the breezy reggae beats in a way that I hadn’t heard since the heady Bradley Nowell days.

Unfortunately the band went their separate ways a few years ago… but I’m feeling nostalgic today, so here you go…

Listen: The Low Life – Fiona

2003 releases 2006 releases 2008 releases artists artists to watch for in 2008 digital downloads guitar music music documentaries

The Damnwells… A new release, and some old love.

The Damnwells
The Damnwells (2006) Photo by Heather Conley

Those who have read this blog for a while might have noticed subtle hints of my slight obsession with the band, “The Damnwells“. And when lead singer Alex Dezen dropped a new song on their myspace page, it became clear to me that yet another post was needed. But before we get to the new tune (yes, it’s down at the bottom, along with some others), some background.

It’s hard to describe how much the music of The Damnwells excites me. It’s much like the first time I heard Dispatch, or Ryan Adams, or Ben Harper… and that’s no small compliment from me. There’s a strong vibe to their stuff (not surprising, considering drummer Steven Terry was a member of the oh-so-missed Whiskeytown), but it also hearkens back – for me, at least – to the times of the Gin Blossoms.
And there’s just something about Alex Dezen’s voice and lyrics; it’s like he knows where you’re coming from, and meets up with you on the journey.


The Damnwells
The Damnwells (2006) Photo by Heather Conley


I’ve previously pointed you towards the “Golden Days” trailer, but I’m including it here again. It’s a documentary that chronicles the band’s rise to the brink of stardom, and then how it was all taken away from them… after all, The Damnwells have played with The Fray many times, but while The Fray have been catapaulted into the public eye, The Damnwells still remain largely unknown (in terms of mainstream acceptance, anyway). As the film release says:

“In 2001, a photo assistant named Alex Dezen asked a couple friends to record a few songs with him. Shortly thereafter they would form the Brooklyn based rock band THE DAMNWELLS. Two years later they had toured the country, opened for rock legends, and had a song featured in a major motion picture. By 2004, they had signed a major record deal with EPIC Records (Sony/BMG).

In March of 2005, THE DAMNWELLS went into the studio to record their first professional album. For six months, THE DAMNWELLS immersed themselves in preproduction, recording, and mixing. But as months passed, their release date was moved further and further away. In January of 2006, lead singer Alex Dezen received a call they never expected. The band was being released from their contract and the fate of the album was unknown. For the moment, it would sit on a shelf at EPIC Records and collect dust.”

Watch the trailer, and tell me it doesn’t excite you.

Word from Chris (Suchorsky, the film’s director), is that the DVD should be made available in the US by Spring. And I’m freaking out. Up until now, I’ve only seen segments of the film, but not the whole thing.

More reason to freak out, is that Alex has written on the band’s blog that they should back in studio to record a follow up to the 2006 release, “Air Stereo“, in February. As he’s said:

“Really, when you consider all the pressure and nonsense—both existential and metaphoric—we always had to deal with every time we went into the studio, this will be the first Damnwells record we will ever be able to just make. ‘No pressure,’ Paul, our A&R guy at Rounder says. ‘Make the record you want to make.’ What a crazy idea! Not like we were ever making anyone else’s records, but there was always compromise.

Where art and commerce meet, there has to be. Your mixed-medium, six foot canvas doesn’t fit in the six by three inch display case at Wal-Mart, and no amount of dieting or exercise is ever gonna fit your square peg in that round hole. Compromise is a part of life—at least the kind that includes a roof over your head and food on the table. So now that we’re supposed to make this record, the one we want to make, without the pressure and nonsense, I think I may be feeling a little Stockholm syndrome coming on. How the hell am I supposed to do that?

Guess we’ll find out.”

The guy just has this amazing way with words, and if there was one person I could sit down and have a beer with, Alex Dezen would definitely be one of my frontrunners.

Anyway, on to the tunes below.

Alex Dezen - The Damnwells
Alex Dezen before forming The Damnwells (2000) Photo by Heather Conley

The first track is the new release on their myspace page, entitled “Down With The Ship“.
Dezen has this talent of crafting these incredibly powerful songs, accompanied simply by his acoustic guitar and pure heart (as anyone who has heard his “Live Performance at the Hotel Cafe 10/14/07” can attest to. It’s floating around the net, so take a look for it. If you’re really struggling, drop me a line, as I have the whole show in a zip file).
This song is no different. The guy’s voice absolutely wrecks me.

Listen: The Damnwells – Down With The Ship

The Damnwells
The Damnwells on tour (2006) Photo by Heather Conley

I’ve included some of their other singles below, simply because you should be listening to this. The first is a cracker of a tune (and the first of theirs I heard actually), from their 2003 release, “Bastards of the Beat“, called “Kiss Catastrophe“. It’s undeniably catchy. Try not to get into it. I dare ya.

Listen: The Damnwells – Kiss Catastrophe

The next track is their tune, “I Am A Leaver“. This is off their last album, “Air Stereo”, and is probably the song that has garnered The Damnwells the most mainstream attention. Again… if you don’t find yourself singing along with the chorus, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

Listen: The Damnwells – I am a Leaver

The final track is the theme song for the “Golden Days” trailer, Golden Days. It’s a comforting tune, with wonderful backing vocals and lyrics like: “I can’t hear much but the melody coming from you / Baby please don’t rush, keep the tempo slow and blue, let me hear the words you say / Let’s go and get tangled in chains of golden days.

Listen: The Damnwells – Golden Days

One of my “things to do before I die”? See The Damnwells, live. And it’ll happen.

It’ll happen damn it.