A couple hours before Client Liaison is set to go on, trains running to the eastern suburbs grind to a halt. The brakes would whine and yawn as they clamped down on the wheels of the train. Passengers - "customers" in the parlance of the modern public transit system - would idly look out the windows, noticing the absence of the platform. The PA would crackle to life and the driver would apologise and say something euphemistic as they've all been trained to do in these situations, something like, "Sorry for the interruption everybody. Uhhhh, we're just gonna wait here for a few minutes as there's a police operation underway. Not sure when we'll get going again but, uhhhh, it probably won't be long, and we'll get you home safe and sound. Thank you for travelling with Metro, we hope you have a nice day." If they mention SES, you know it's a suicide. Somebody's gotta take care of getting the body off the tracks, but they probably wouldn't mention the suspicious package. They probably wouldn't mention that the bomb squad had been called in. They probably wouldn't want to alarm anyone.
Only everybody is alarmed. Everybody is alarmed because last week two backpacks exploded. Everybody is alarmed because in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings we're reminded that no matter how far away you are from North Korean missile silos, violent hatred can still reach out and touch you. But it's a Wednesday. Nothing bad's supposed to happen on a Wednesday.
There are two 40-year-olds playing tonsil hockey while hanging off the overhead rails in the carriage.
A friend has been hyping me up on Client Liaison for weeks. "I just find them intriguing," he says. Client Liaison, if you don't know - which based on the sparse crowd at The Corner for their set there's a very good chance you might not - make dance music. They make dance music which sounds familiar, part of that group of vaguely-identifiable-as-‘’80s’ acts without calling to mind any immediate comparisons. Only the thing is, I've never seen this friend dance. Maybe he doesn't. Maybe he does and we've just not reached the point of intimacy at which dancing together comes. A girl once told me the most intimate thing you can do with another person is eat in front of them. She was wrong. Dancing with someone you know will tell you everything you need to know about them. The way someone dances, and the circumstances around which they do, can tell you everything you were too nervous to ask.
come out. One's wearing a purple turtleneck. He goes behind the keyboard. The other's wearing a boxy sports jacket. He goes behind the microphone. He's also got a mullet about three times the size of his head. If Client Liaison ever become big, like world touring stadium band big, people will refer to this as ‘his iconic mullet.’ It's good to have a look. You can't be iconic without a look.
"I just find them intriguing." I'm beginning to see why. My friend actually lived through the ‘80s. I was barely old enough to appreciate the hangover (grunge) but I like The Wedding Singer. It looked a lot more fun than the dreary seriousness of early-‘90s rock. Harvey Miller, the one who goes behind the microphone, pulls immaculate shapes, which means he does things with his hands, unexpected things, while looking into the middle distance as if stunned. It's concentration, perhaps, but every movement feels both practised and spontaneous. A great comedian delivers a joke in a way which convinces you he or she conjured a witty line on the spot. A great performer moves and sings in the same way. The greatness of theatre is measured by how big a lie one can tell, and how well they can convince you it's the truth. Believe, believe, believe.
Harvey Miller asks for the lights to change. They go from bright purple to deep red.
Is the mullet real? Are the names real? Do you want them to be? How much of Client Liaison is performance art? How much of all performance is art? Who were the more acute ironists: the band, or the subversives behind us, shouting, "Show us ya tits!" at the band while hanging off each other, barely able to stand without the assistance of their knuckles dragging the ground? Last week while I was talking to Matt Drakula he said, "I think when bands move around a little bit more it gives an audience permission to start moving too." The audience here move self-consciously at first. They're too aware of the ostensible fact that they're dancing to a band aping a moment in time widely considered superficial, vapid, and worst of all, cheesy. When Harvey Miller really starts dancing, the audience really start dancing too. Earnest dancing. Give them permission. Embrace the cheese.
My +1 says, "Can't you imagine everyone dancing like it's Night at the Roxbury?" and also, "They should get a live sax player."
This being 2013 and not 2007, when irony was something scoffing children did to hide from feelings and Vomitoria Catchment didn't feel like such a caricature, I'm inclined to applaud Client Liaison as sincere. It just doesn't seem likely that Miller and Monte Morgan started a band based on a premise like, "So the ‘80s, hey? Fuckin' LOL, right?" Is it naive to think they bear the trappings of ‘80s dance pop not to laugh at its embarrassing trends, but to embrace the surface-level joy of dressing up in costumes and playing dance music? It's certainly more “intriguing.” Unless you're the kind of person who reads the synopsis before watching the film, you can decide for yourself. Believe, believe, believe.
I was going to buy a Kirin J Callinan
-branded cigarette lighter. The merch tent didn't have change for a $10. After the show I drew ‘Kirin J’ in Sharpie on my existing lighter in the spirit of DIY.
It was all downhill from there. The less said about YesYou the better. Although critics don't have to adhere to the Bambi school of criticism ("if you don't have anything nice to say..."), there's barely any pleasure in taking down a young band. In brief, YesYou
had a difficult slot following a set as thrilling as Client Liaison's and not even a Hot Chip cover could save them. There was one highlight, however: Tara Simmons. The one song on which she took lead overshadowed everything else. She was truly spectacular.
As for Midnight Juggernauts
, they started so late I only get to stay for four songs before bowing to the tyranny of Metro's curfew. I have enough time before they start playing to read an interview with Kim Gordon, and then a commentary on the reaction to an interview with Kim Gordon on my phone. By this point the Corner is filled to the walls. Vincent Vendetta's voice is much deeper in person. A text I get half an hour after I leave says, "Encore for the new single ['Ballad of the War Machine']. Otherwise they were very good. Lots of old songs from the first album which are my faves." The period between Dystopia
and The Crystal Axis
should be considered a definitive moment. Justice were big. Cut Copy, The Presets, they were around. It was a good time to come of age. It was a good time to go to clubs. It was a good time not to know any better. For me it ended at Roxanne Parlour, pledging devotion to the aforementioned girl, the one who found intimacy in a shared meal, while dancing. 'Ballad of the War Machine', despite being an obvious encore as the new single, also makes metaphorical sense as the last song of the night. What it hints at for the forthcoming record is the start of the band's next moment. These are some of the first shows they've played since the single debuted. If how quickly they sold out is any indication, it's a moment the fans have been looking forward to since the last time space-rock went out of vogue.