Checked into

Methyl Ethel New & Old Australian Tour
7:30pm, Thu 7 December, 2023
Northcote Theatre

I am not sure if the story about Picasso charging 1 millions dollars for a sketch on a napkin due to the years put into the skills prior, but I feel there is something in this when it comes to the work of Jake Webb and Methyl Ethel. I vaguely remember listening to an interview with Webb during the lockdown years of COVID, where he spoke about how the time had allowed him cram a few years of learning into a shorter amount of time. I am guessing that this new live setup is the culmination of this.

I had expectations about what this concert would be like. I had read reviews from The Night Cat and watched various live performances captured on YouTube with the full band. I was wrong. Webb mentioned the addition of cello in Take 5 podcast earlier this year. However, I did not expect that this would be at the expense of the drums, bass and guitars. However, in some ways this pivot was not a pivot, a part from the addition of the two celloists on stage, there are a number of solo recordings which capture Methyl Ethel as a one-man band, including the performance of Castigat Ridendo Mores amoungst the grass trees. So having two synth stations should not have been a huge surprise.

The tour was billed as ‘New & Old’. I assumed that this meant some new songs and some old songs. Wrong again. The whole performance was framed around the new setup and the affordances that this provided. This meant that the old songs became in their own way new songs. Although this was a natural fit for some Methyl Ethel songs, it was definitely a change for some of the older more guitar laden tracks. I was left thinking about a comment by Mark Mothersbaugh regarding the balance to playing the new and old:

If the ghost of David [Bowie] came up to me tonight and went “Mark, I’m going to do a concert for you and you only. It’s going to be a brand new album, nobody’s ever heard these songs. It’s all about everything that’s going on in the world now, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Ukraine or it’s going to be Spiders of Mars, the live show that blew your mind. You’re going to see that exact absolute same show
and you can sit anywhere in the audience you want.” I go, “I’ll take Spiders from Mars and you can save your brand news stuff for somebody else.”

Well you know what, we did choose a weird life for ourselves, because that’s what I’m going to be doing you know until we end up stop touring. We’ll play new songs and people will be polite and sit through them and then they’ll get to the stuff that that they wanted to hear, you know you’ll play Uncontrollable Urge or you’ll play Satisfaction and they’re they’ll lose their minds.

Source: Mark Mothersbaugh – Broken Record by @pushkinpods

Maybe the children are just growing up? The reimagining that I thought was most interesting was Twilight Driving. Gone was the ethereal arpeggiated guitars, instead there was a driving beat throughout. It was still the hits and they still hit, but the changes helped highlight what makes the music work. Often songs were stripped back to their beats, hooks and vocals. I hope that a recording of one of these tracks is realised in some shape or form, although I also wonder if the joy is in being there. (Thought, this has me thinking about an MTV unplugged style gig?) In the end, this has me intrigued about the new album. I wonder if it will be as lush and theatrical as the sound live?

Just a few funny things to note. This was the first concert I had ever been to where people were seemingly laying bets on whose songs would be play, after there was a request field when booking the tickets. Sadly, One and Beat was not played, guess iy did not fit the new sound, maybe? Also, Jake helped Armlock, the support act, pack up and then setup himself. I am sure that it is nothing, but there is something to me about the artist setting things up themselves. However, that may also relate to the size of Webb’s additional equipment on the side of the stage. I personally had not seen so much gear since Radiohead in 2004, although maybe I need to get out more. I would love to have a walkthrough of the setup to not only see what gear Webb uses, but how he uses it too, like Dadi Freyr’s rig rundown. For example, I was intrigued how he was controlling the other synth station through some sort of looper. I was also left wondering where the cellos actually sat in the whole mix.

Rough list of tracks from memory:

Set 1
All the Elements
Twilight Driving
Real Tight
Castigat Ridendo Mores
Neon Cheap

Set 2
Proof with a guest appearance from Stella Donnelly
Something in the Water
No. 28

Checked into
I was adamant that so soon after the last concert at the Corner Hotel that this might be some sort of swan song. Cowell soon squashed such rumours (clearly I was not the only one) stating that this was his last concert until he can be bothered putting on another one. He also admitted he may have duped us and that the gig was as much for the band as anything. I wonder if he felt putting it on the same night as the AFL semi final at the MCG might have missed a few punters or maybe he is a perfectionist who was really annoyed that the Cubase graphics crashed at all the gigs on the east coast. He also joked about ending Kestrel Hawk and starting another band with basically the same members was a means of moving on from one of the members. That was a bit awkward with the absence of Bek Chapman.

I was talking to the guy next to me before the concert and we were wondering why Cowell disbanded the Disco Machine. My thought was that it gave greater scope to play whatever he liked. Or as he postulated at the last concert, maybe it is about just being ‘Damian Cowell’. Regards to performance, there were none of the usual diatribes this time around, only a random discussion about a concept album involving Nosferatu and a young man who manages to escape the image of Nosferatu only to again be reacquainted old age in the nursing home.

I was actually left thinking about ‘the band’. Although there are new additions to the group, having seen the band three times now, I am left thinking that although everything is ‘Damian Cowell’, Andy Hazel, Gordon Blake, Emily Jarrett and Tony Martin are just as important to Cowell himself. They even found a spot for the ‘agent of entropy’, Will Hindmarsh, bashing away on the pads while trying to keep his headphones and glasses on. I always wondered with so much of the music being triggered by samples whether he would strip it right back. There was a glimpse of this with the three singers starting off the set with Don’t Bring Me Down, Proust. However, once the full band kicked in half way, it was clear that no one is going anywhere.

Although a different order, the songs in the setlist were pretty similar to his show on the 15th of September.


I must admit, this is the first music that I have gotten into that nobody else I know gets. Well certainly much as I seem to. It was funny seeing some older fans bringing along their kids, who clearly were not as engaged. Personally, I find the music equal parts serious and silly. While I find seeing live concerts cathartic, even better when they finish around 9.


Checked into
In Year 11, my school did something common for so many schools in the area, a trip to Central Australia. As a part of this trip, we were allowed to take $30 of spending money. For some, this meant buying opals in Cooper Pedy or souvenirs along the way. For me, it meant buying The Fauves Lazy Highway. Let loose on Alice Springs for an afternoon, I ended up in a music store, where I found the album with a bonus disc. I have always been a sucker for bonus discs and unique packaging, like digipaks. So there went most of my money.

I recently read Bobby Gillespie’s memoir Tenement Kid. In it he talks about losing his ‘rock and roll virginity’ to Thin Lizzy:

I lost my rock and roll virginity to Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy that night. I was filled with the Holy Spirit of Rock and Roll, never to be the same again.

Source: Tenement Kid by Bobby Gillespie

I am not sure I would have described it in the same way as Gillespie, but something changed for me when I saw The Fauves at an under-age gig at EV’s in Croydon in 1997. Although I had been to a few random community concerts, this was my first concert of loud rock music with a proper most pit. Although I did not come away with a chipped tooth from crowd surfing, like my friend, I was definitely left changed for the better.

I think that Lazy Highway then met me at the right time. Not only was it the ‘next album’ after discovering the band, but it shone a strange light on the world that I was living in. As an album, it carried a strange balance between the Doctor’s sentimentality and Coxy’s quirky cynicism. As Dan Condon summarises:

They were able to put a spin on Australian life at the time in a way that was in no way cringe, but never really glorified things too much either.

Source: The Fauves announce live shows, playing classic albums in full

Along with Thousand Yard Stare, these two albums have really stayed with me over time. Although I seem to have drifted away after that.

I wanted to go to their performance of Lazy Highways at the Workers Club,  but sadly had COVID. I was therefore happy to see them follow up with a second performance at the Corner Hotel. Even better, this time including both Future Spa and Lazy Highway, as well as being supported by Dave McCormick playing a solo set deep cuts, classics and a cover of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space.

It was a great concert as they churned through Lazy Highway and Future Spa.


Something that I enjoyed was how human it all felt. There was endless banter about how many records they did not sell, how they did not visit Teddy in hospital while making Lazy Highways and how the Doctor still needs the dots on the guitar neck when playing the chords. My only disappointment was that I felt that the keyboards performed by Phil Natt got lost in the mix.

Afterwards, I was left thinking about the trend to play anniversary gigs and the expectations this can place on the artist. For example, I wondered if Cox often played around with the melodies to keep the songs fresh. However, watching some older videos online, it would seem that this has always been the case. This left thinking about the expectation to play what the punters want versus the desire to play newer tracks. In the presser, it states:

We need reasons to put on shows.
You need reasons to come to them.

Checked into

Twinkle Digitz

I told my daughter I was going to see Twinkle Digitz. She asked me who the heck that was. After seeing Twinkle Digitz now for a third time (first, second), I kind of ask myself the same question every time. I played her Boogyin’ with my Baby-o and she said that I like it because of the synthesisers. That is clearly a part of it. However, I think that it is more than that. Even though the music and performance is carefree, slightly daggy and sometimes very silly, I think there are anchovies to be had. Also, there is something chaotic about the music that draws me in. Even though so much is based on triggers, it still feels like it could break at any minute, especially amidst an impromptu jig mid song.

I have lost count of how many times I have watched / listened to his An Apocolyptic Evening stream. Yes I was there to see Damian Cowell, I did not even know that Twinkle Digitz was the support until a few days before hand, but when I found out I was not going to miss it for the world. He played all the usual tracks, such as Pandora’s Box, Shit Eatin’ Grin, Boogyin’ with my Baby-o, Dancing ln My Dreams, God Machine and Blackmail Boogie. However, he also played a couple of newer tracks.

The first addition was In the City. This is a song of contrasts, with its blissful guitar driven verse which then explodes into the chorus. In some ways it reminds me of Radiohead’s Palo Alto. This he played when I saw him at Thornbury Local, but I could not hear it at the back. The other addition was the ‘almost finished’ It’s Autonomous Thomas, a song he supposedly co-wrote with ChatGPT. This had a different feel, although it was built on a rich bed of arpeggios, it was a bit more of a slow build.

I am hoping that the mention of ‘almost finished’ might mean that one day there might be a Twinkle Digitz album or EP. There is definitely something missed when it comes to high-fidelity depending on the streamed video recordings. But then again, maybe there is something about not necessarily knowing what you are going to get each time Twinkle Digitz performs that is a part of the appeal.

Damian Cowell

I saw Damian Cowell’s Disco Machine a few years ago after the release of Only the Shit You Love. I wondered if I was biased by it being the first concert I went to post-lockdown. However, I was not disappointed second time around.

Some artists are just different live. Sometimes it is the energy of the performance, sometimes it is the sound, sometimes it is the reimagination of the songs. For Cowell I feel it is all three.

I love the wall of sound produced live and the energy that comes with this. In addition to the singers up front, with one less musician on stage this time and a reduced percussion section, there was more space for Andy Hazel and Gordon Blake to bounce around at the back of the stage. (I especially loved Hazel’s shuffle associated with Sanctuary.) While the contrast between Cowell and his back-up singers brings out something different to the music. Although many of these parts are often present in the recorded music, in a song like Fuck I’m Dead, they provide something different to Cowell’s original recording.

After both gigs, I was intrigued with how Cowell never seems to rest on his laurels. I imagine he could just turn up and roll out the hits, but instead he always seems to be trying new things, playing different, even if it is his old music. For example, he played Garbage from Machiavelli and the Four Seasons. The choice felt like it was as much about Cowell’s modern sound as it was about some token rolling out the past. The only disappointment was that Cubase / visuals crashed halfway through the show, although nothing as bad as the video from The Zoo. Even with all the efforts mid-song to get the computer up and running again, some things are just not meant to be.


I Shit Me

Fuck I’m Dead

(Sort of) Emo

The Arseless Chaps

The Boy In The Box

Cool For Catamites

Market Forces

Damian Cowell’s Disco Machine

Get Yer Dag On!

This Is Bullshit

S Club

Where the Fuck’s the Vengabus?



Checked into
Ventured in with the children to Melbourne on the weekend for the first time post-COVID. We went to the Queen Victoria Market to buy donuts from American Donut Kitchen. In the process, we discovered that CRFT*WRK Melbourne Craft Fair was running. The girls loved looking at the different stall. Lost a whole afternoon. Eventually bought a couple of different luck dips.
Checked into Check out who’s playing in April at the Thornbury Local
I saw Twinkle Digitz perform at The Thornbury Local. I had previously seen Will Hindmarsh aka Twinkle Digitz support Damian Cowell’s Disco Machine at the Corner. I was intrigued to see him again.

David Byrne talks about the the impact of space on the music that is created and performed. I am not exactly sure what music fits with the Local. The space includes a long bar on one wall and tables on the right, with a space down the centre to walk, with a small stage at one end with the mixing desk in front of the stage. Clearly, U2 are not going to work there, even with their cut back sound and choir. In some ways, Van and Cal Walker’s acoustic guitars, the support for the night, fitted the bill. What complicated things further was that it was clearly a shared space. Unlike myself, it felt like many were there for other reasons, some to socialise, some to eat, either way the music sitting in the background. After reading so much about The Go-Betweens and the Brisbane music scene lately, I wonder if this is what the Curry Shop was like?

Peter Walsh and Robert Vickers recall the Curry shop with wonder:

VICKERS: A dive, very small. It was, in fact, a curry shop. It was a place where you could buy curry and eat it, if you chose. A small basement— there was an alley in the back which opened into the store. It had a definite feel of squalor.
WALSH: It was dangerous to eat there. I don’t think I ever ate there. I played there.
VICKERS: It was certainly perfect for the time. It had columns, wooden columns, all through it; you were always up against a post. It looked like there were walls everywhere that had been taken down except for the uprights. A little tiny stage, and you couldn’t see anyone playing onstage because everyone could stand up front. You couldn’t hear anything—but you were there.
WALSH: You could hear the amps, and you could hear the guitars. The dressing room doubled as a urinal. I thought the people who ran it were hippies, and they meditated on a Sunday night, they had people to put you to sleep. And then someone must have said, “You should have some rock ’n’ roll!” – Page 46

Nichols – The Go-Betweens

With all this in mind, I am not sure if the music sonically fitted the space. However, the performance of one person on a stage supported by an array of technology means that the performance did in fact work.

One of the things that really draws me to Twinkle Digitz is the self-deprecating humor in the performance. This is particularly encapsulated in the outfits. (As a side-note, I feel  There is something in the power of the prop. When I first saw Twinkle Digitz, it was at the Corner Hotel. At the Corner there is a clear divide between the stage and the audience, with a space off stage to wait and prepare. When I arrived at the Local, Will Hindmarsh was at the bar (to be honest, that is about the only place one can stand at the Local) with a few friends in a very unTwinkle Digitz attire, what I would call a lumberjack jacket. He was so unTwinkle Digitz that he had to explain to the lady behind the bar that he was in fact the performer for the night when ordering a drink. Once Van and Cal Walker had finished their set, he went about setting his gear in full view of the room. I wondered how he would transition from Will to the magic of Twinkle Digitz. However, once he had setup, out came the jacket and glasses. Surprisingly, these simple additions seemed to change everything. Alternatively, I am not sure that Worker & Parasite’s performance would have worked without the divide between setting up and performing.

Here is my attempt at the set list (although I am sure I have missed some tracks):

Pandora’s Box

Boogyin’ with my Baby-o

Shit Eatin’ Grin

In the City

Black Christmas

We Don’t Need Another Hero (Tina Turner)

Dancing In My Dream

SexxxKisss (Go-Go Sapian)

Checked into Werribee Open Range Zoo
Went to Werribee Open Range Zoo for the . There are the usual Post-COVID changes, such as 1.5m and sanitisation stations. However, the biggest changes were in relation to ‘enrichment’ and choice. There seems to have been a change in ethos and language. As we did the tour, there were things like spikey balls for the ostriches or sand for the rhinoceroses. It was explained that these were provided to improve their lives. Additionally, there was a lot of discussion around not forcing animals to do anything. Instead, they were incentivised to do what was best for them, such as being given a treat for coming when called. I am sure that some of these approaches are not necessarily new, but the explicit choice in language does represent a significant change in my opinion.
Checked into
I was not sure what to expect from seeing Montaigne live at the Corner Hotel. Personally, I was interested in how Making It! would translate to the stage. Although it was the Making It! tour, I did not expect the album to be played straight-through. The point made was that was how it was meant to be appreciated as an album, therefore this is how it was to be played.

In regards to the intricacies of the album or guest performances, these were covered by pre-recorded tracks, something that has become common in the evolution of music performance, or substitutes, with Montgomery stepping in for David Byrne in always be you. The set also closed with ‘the hits’.

The official set time was to finish at 11:20, but Montaigne provided a track-by-track breakdown in-between each track. This included discussions of Pat, failed concept album and the music industry. This blew the set out to 12:00.

One of the other things that I was looking forward to seeing were the support acts. Both Montgomery and Molly Millington were solo acts, supported by pre-recorded tracks, sequencers or guitar. I remember seeing Twinkle Digitz thinking that the all-in-one setup was somewhat quaint. However, it now occurs to me that the support gig comes with certain conditions. I have been at the Corner before where they utilise both the main stage and the smaller stage, but there are challenges which changing over. It made me wonder about the impact on what is possible. For example, I could imagine Montgomery being a band experience, similar to say Chvrches. I feel that I now appreciate Sylvan Esso’s WITH tour. It also makes me think about the way in which Jake Webb reimagines Methyl Ethel for different contexts.

Checked into Art of Fighting – Melbourne Recital Centre
I was a late call-up for Art of Fighting’s 21st anniversary performance of Wires at Melbourne Recital Centre.

The debut album of Melbourne-indie band Art of Fighting, Wires, received widespread acclaim, receiving the ARIA in 2021 for Best Alternative Album, featuring the soaring tracks Give Me Tonight, Reasons Are All I Have Left and Skeletons.

Marking the 21st anniversary of Wires, the band will play the 2001 album in full in the intimate surrounds of Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, in all its grandeur and melancholy. In 2019, after over a decade’s hiatus, Art of Fighting returned with their fourth album the dream-pop Luna Low, showcasing their refined beauty and sonically serene palette.

I loved Wires. It sat alongside Ukiyo-E’s Inland, Prop’s Small Craft Rough Sea and Augie March’s Sunset Studies. It provided space.

“When we’re playing them, there’s so much of a gap between the beats that if we don’t all hit the beat at the same time it’s gonna sound terrible, so it’s like walking a tightrope when you’re playing those really slow tempos,” he added. “And I think it worked really well for the lyrical content for that album, because all of that was about to fall apart any minute too.”

I remember seeing them at the Hi-Fi Bar in 2003, however I feel that Melbourne Recital Centre was a better match for their music. Then maybe again I am just getting old and would rather sit down at gigs.

Checked into Digital professionalism webinars
The Digital Professionalism webinar run by Matt Woodley discussed the challenges of staying professional in online environments, with a focus on the VIT Code of Ethics. This is something that has become even more pertinent with the move to online learning. What was useful was the opportunities to stop and reflect with others. Every context is different, but the questions about appropriate practice and safety online remain the same.

Checked into PressED conference 2020
In A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger talks about the power and potential of different types of questions. One type that stands out is the simple strategy of asking ‘What If?’ Here then are my thoughts on what if the web were different? #pcPopUp2020
What if people had some sort of ownership and control of their presence on the web?

A place where they could find their voice?…

A place to develop over time?…

#pcPopUp2020 #DoOO
What if we posted comments to other spaces from our own sites utilising the power of #webmentions? Both keeping a record of our conversations, as well as owning our opinions.

What if we were all someone else’s conversational follower, as @plugusin has suggested?… Building connections & community along the way.

#pcPopUp2020 #ItTakesaVillage
What if people posted extended thoughts as posts rather than as a thread?…

Therefore, managing their our own canonical links for content for ideas?…

#pcPopUp2020 HT @dajbelshaw
What if we each had our own treasure trove of ideas that we could easily mine and join the dots?…

#pcPopUp2020 #Commonplacebook HT @amyburvall
My intent with these posts is not to suggest that everyone should or must do all or any these things, but instead to stop for a moment and think about the decisions we make about technology and ask ourselves how might we work together to make a better web for all?


Twitter thread posted via Thread Reader App Micropub publisher.

Checked into

Great turnout today at Readings in Carlton for the book launch of Fiona Hardy’s How to Make a Movie in 12 Days