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Fuck Buttons + Dead Meadow + Afrirampo

(15 Jan 2009: Oxford Arts Factory — Sydney, Australia)

My friend Jerome put it best when he told me, “I walked past Oxford Arts last night, and all I could see was a vast ocean of pretentiousness!” A vast ocean of pretentiousness was an apt summation of the audience gathered for Fuck Buttons’ first Sydney show, but what can you expect from the fans of a band that could be described as an arty noise-electro two-piece? And besides, who am I to criticise? After all, there I was front row centre.


For once I was early to a show and was able to set up camp right at the front, ready for Afrirampo, whatever the hell that might be. Which is something I’m still wondering, as from the outset it was clear that this was not to be your average support act. Just to give you some orientation, here is the “Profile” taken from their website:


“2 young Japanese girls rock duo from Osaka JAPAN!
Naked rock!!!!! Naked soul!!! Red red strong red dress!! Freeeeeeeeedam
paradice rock! Jump! With improvisation.
Sooo fantastic & wild performance !
wowowowowowowowow woooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


They are star like shine flash, Interesting funny and sexy cute…. so real. same of in the stages or every lifetime this is great thing I think.”


Which I think clears things up a bit.


Oni, the band’s vocalist/guitarist, arrived onstage holding up some packaged vegetables, while Pika, the vocalist/drummer, crawled through the audience ranting in half Japanese/half English about koalas and how hungry she was. Eventually she jumped on the back of some hapless punter and refused to start the show until he carried her onto the stage. Then the girls picked up their instruments and all hell broke loose.


With so many performance art affectations afoot, it would be easy to assume that the musical content might have suffered somewhat, but Afrirampo made a fearful racket. Punk riffs collided with jazz syncopation, then slid off into grinding metal chords to create sounds that can’t really be compared to anything I’ve heard before. The Boredoms have been floated as a possible point of comparison, but that doesn’t seem to do justice to the inventiveness of this band. After they’d finished their set with Oni on all fours hopping through the audience shouting “Kangaroo,” then leaping to her feet and hugging a random audience member while shouting “Koala,” we raced over to the merchandise stand and immediately bought as many of their albums as we could afford. Later we would realise that we’d been served by Andrew Hung, one half of Fuck Buttons, who explained that he’d stepped in “coz the guy who was supposed to do it called in sick!” I’m still not sure that he was joking.


Maybe it was just the band’s name (“Dead Meadow” bringing to mind some dreary hippy-goth outfit), but we managed to miss almost the entire set by standing outside smoking and jabbering on about how much we loved Afrirampo. When we returned the band were jamming out on a few psychedelic wah-wah laden riffs, then took a huge bow and promptly left. Call me a terrible reviewer, but that’s the best I can do for you. For what it’s worth, those few final chords sounded pretty good.


When Fuck Buttons took to the stage, it was with little fanfare, and that’s exactly how the show continued. Benjamin Power and Andrew Hung quietly took up their respective posts, facing each other across a bank of mad scientist-style electronic equipment and a robo-scan that divided them clinically with lasers and lights. In a cute touch, Hung’s equipment spilled out of a Get Smart-style suitcase, which only added to the curiosity of the whole thing.


They had no time for anything as banal as pauses between tracks, instead concentrating on pummelling the eardrums of those gathered in their honor. While this work ethic is admirable, it also led to some awkward half-clapping and some severe auditory exhaustion. Although frequently jangly and ethereal, Fuck Buttons music can, and usually does, quickly become equally harsh and menacing, with their constant electronic throbbing eventually drilling its way into your brain. By the end of their set I felt as though I’d spent the entire hour with my head stuck between an industrial sander and a jet engine.


Despite the aural pain, Fuck Buttons put on as good a show as two guys with a bunch of electronic stuff can. Hung danced about the stage at intervals, banging wood blocks while Power screeched into his vocal distorter about who knows what. Whenever vocals are this obscured I become twice as curious as to what they are, but nothing is forthcoming here, just the odd snatch of what could be wistful romanticising, or else a powerful rant about bathroom hygiene products.


After the show we spotted Hung having a quiet smoke amidst the departing crowd. Although they can’t have failed to recognise the performer they had just spent an hour or more watching, no one was talking to him, as they were obviously far too cool. Feeling sympathetic, and having thoroughly enjoyed the show, we stepped up to fill the void and found him delightful.


Q: “Seen much of Australia?”
A: “Not as much as we’d like to have.”
Q: “What’s Nick Cave like?”
A: “Intense.”
Q: “Any mad parties after the show?”
A: “Back to Dead Meadow’s apartment for a rager.”


Guilty, awkward silence on our part…


Q: “So what did you think of Afrirampo?”

Tagged as: fuck buttons
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