Outskert, Deep Space Supergroop and Archy Punker at the Mojo Record Bar
February 24th, 2018
Marcus: It was great to go back to the Mojo Record Bar after watching that Blank Generation documentary about CBGB in the summer. Mojo has a lot of similarities to CBGB.
Jo: Yeah, totally. It’s probably more elegant than CBGB, with cleaner toilets, but there’s something special going on in there.
Rob: Everyone in the movie was complaining about the CBGB toilets. Shout out to the excellent hygiene standards of the Mojo. Beautiful toilet facilities for the whole family.
Marcus: I was thinking specifically how surprised we were to see everyone in the documentary sitting at those little wooden tables up the front of CBGB when Talking Heads or the Ramones were playing on the carpet just a couple of metres away. Everyone’s relaxed and drinking, no fuss, no sweat, no push and shove. You don’t get that from the still photos. You see the Ramones and you imagine mayhem.
Rob: That was a ridiculous movie. I liked it but it’s hard to recommend. It’s totally out of sync and the songs don’t even correspond with the footage. It’s too poorly made even to be called amateurish. But you do get live CBGB footage of the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, and Television.
Jo: I think that’s the historical value of that movie though. There is no sense that cameraman has any idea what’s important in any given shot, so you get these funny camera angles of the insides of CBGB in the 70s. People are sitting down at these little tables, dressed like fifties beatniks and acting like it’s a bop jazz show. That’s the way I would want to watch the Ramones – sitting down in a low-lit room with a nice big drink. Mojo has that experience nailed.
Rob: I’m just looking for an example. These shots of Suicide at CBGB in 1976 capture it well. If you look at the shot that cuts off at the monitor by Alan Vega’s foot, it’s easy to imagine a tight crowd of people below a stage. Suicide! One of the greatest bands ever.
But then you see the side angle from another Suicide show, and it’s a comfortable little bar with people at tables right up next to the band on a piece of carpet. Same setup as Mojo.
Jo: Yeah, that’s the intimacy you get at Mojo. People can really tune into the performances. The bands too I think.
Marcus: Well, it’s also that weird 21st century nostalgia that James Murphy described in Losing My Edge – nostalgia for stuff you never experienced in the first place.
Jo: “Borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered.”
Rob: I did actually go to CBGB shortly before it closed. I saw Royal Trux.
They were at the back end of their career, half on the nod and wearing double denim and mirrored sunglasses although it was dark inside. It was uncrowded and low-key, and I sat at a little wooden table, maybe the very same table that sat in front of the Ramones and Talking Heads. After their show, I asked them if they would ever tour Australia and the girl who was singing said, “What the fuck for?” I said my friends would like it and the other guy said, “It’s a long way away, dude. We’re an American band.” And that was my CBGB experience. Anyway, whether by architectural coincidence or design, Mojo Record Bar has a very similar atmosphere. CBGB was grungier, but who wants grunge in 2018? Hot licks and hot showers is where I’m at. And I don’t have to cop any shit from for being Australian. All due respect to Royal Trux, wherever they ended up after that. I heard rumours of a reunion, for anyone who never heard of them.
Marcus: I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten round to listening to them. You’ve mentioned them to me before.
Jo: I can’t see anything by Royal Trux on Spotify or Bandcamp. I’m sure it’s out there if anyone wants to find it.
Rob: Well, I can’t help you. All my Royal Trux vinyl got stolen by one of my deadbeat housemates in Melbourne when he moved out.
Marcus: Melbourne housemates are the worst.
Rob: I know, right? You can’t afford to be that much of a shithead in Sydney. You can’t afford to move into a sharehouse to begin with. You’re still sitting at home being a shithead to your parents instead.
Marcus: Remember David Byrne’s essay about CBGB in How Music Works? He said the architecture had lots of angles and pillars to absorb noise, so you got these very tight and detailed acoustics. He thought this influenced the Talking Heads and Television to evolve a tight, detailed sound that came to be perceived as art rock. I was noticing during the sets how Mojo has the same acoustic profile.
Jo: That suited Archy Punker. They have a tight surf-rock sound and don’t use a lot of pedals. They brought a good energy to the room. It was an excellent way to end the night.
Rob: I liked the singing in this band, too. And I think the real measure of any surf rock band is, do they make you as a listener regret that you never learned how to surf? I had a that moment of regret. If only I had never watched Jaws when I was nine years old and become completely neurotic about going in the ocean. I could be out there riding tubes, punching sharks in the face, impressing other beachgoers with my defined abs.
Jo: Are they really surfers? They didn’t look like surfers.
Marcus: The Beach Boys never learned to surf.
Rob: I think I read somewhere Brian Wilson can’t even swim.
Jo: What about the Sloop John B video where they all jump in the pool?
Rob: They had to use a lot of special effects to get the shots of Brian doing that.
Jo: Do we have a track coming up from Archy Punker?
Rob: Yes, coming soon.
Marcus: I enjoyed the progression of this show through to Archy Punker at the end.
It started with this subtle, experimental set from Outskert, doing beautiful improvised noise loops. Her sound is down my alley. I’m glad we’re starting to discover a few of the more off-centre performers in Sydney.
Rob: For sure. I hope we can find more artists like her to participate in the Echo Room project. In my experience it can be hard to invite experimental artists to join rock shows. They sometimes have very defined aesthetic parameters to enable what they do. I have had a few awkward conversations where I get a cooler than thou vibe off noise artists, who are happy to talk about noise music but then if I say, for example, that I love Deerhunter, they will tell me they think all songs with arrangements and lyrics are bunk. It seems inhibiting to me, although I’m sure their tastes are sincere and they genuinely find Deerhunter boring. It drives me a bit crazy though. Deerhunter is as good as music gets.
Jo: Serves you right. You could easily be perceived as one of those cooler than thou people in some contexts.
Rob: But that would just be a misunderstanding. It’s a labyrinth of mixed emotions and bruised egos out there. Anyway, I think Abel and you guys and I all love multiple underground genres, with no particular tendency to value standard songwriting traditions over avant-garde experimentation. Noise music pre-dates rock music, anyway. Musique concrète has been around since the 1940s, and to my ears is equally standardised and generic, just with a different set of values attached. I don’t think anyone can reasonably claim to be challenging rock or pop music clichés by making noise, but it’s equally worth making and open to new possibilities.
Jo: Marcus plays in a rock band and does solo noise projects.
Marcus: Yes. I am the solution.
Rob: An example to us all.
Jo: We haven’t seen a lot of experimental acts in Sydney in our adventures so far. Let’s do some more research there.
Rob: Paige [Outskert] is going to record a track for Echo Room vinyl soon, so hopefully she will open the door for other experimental performers to come up and introduce themselves.
Marcus: Yeah, I’ll be excited to hear what she does there.
Marcus: Then we had our Deep Space Supergroop set, which was one of my favourite gigs ever.
Rob: I had a great time playing this one, too. Again, the tight acoustics of Mojo Record Bar made the experience for me. Our sound felt very clean and dynamic. I could hear every note we were playing. At bigger rooms with bigger PAs, I normally hear more of a wall of sound, which I love and we generally aim for, but Mojo was an unexpected contrast for me. I think I had an eargasm at one point.
Marcus: Unfortunately our photographer’s muscle relaxants kicked in just as Deep Space Supergroop started playing, so all we got was this yarbles.
Rob: Ooh mamma.