2011 – the year of prog (part 2)

Well, what a year 2011 has turned out to be.  Overall, just fantastic, not just for Bird’s Robe, but for music lovers everywhere!

There was a huge number of absolutely fantastic releases from artists all around the world, a series of great tours that came to Australia and of course on a personal note, new friends, experiences and a little thing called marriage.

For this small label, Bird’s Robe Records, it was a breakout year. This is thanks largely to the breakthrough of a number of artists on the BR roster, who released stellar albums in 2011.

My last blog post took a global view of how good this year has been, but I’d like to start with a short chronology this time, outlining just how much fun it’s been for us over the past year.

January – 2011 kicked off with a bang, as South African popsters Captain Stu visited us on their first Australian tour. They teamed up with The Barons of Tang for an epic show at the Annandale alongside Slimey Things, Rockethead and more.

February – at this point, things were rolling along as usual. Feb saw New York post-metal outfit WATER TEMPLES visit Australia, with a couple of Sydney shows hosted by BR. The fantastic GRUN album ‘Greenland’ was launched at one of these shows and the young lads from SOLKYRI got a taste for the Lansdowne Hotel stage.

Meanwhile, in a lonely forest shack somewhere down south, a little band called sleepmakeswaves started recording…

March – with closure of the Excelsior Hotel imminent, we were forced to seek other venue options and hosted our first show at TONE in Surry Hills. On a Tuesday night, a Nerdstrobe gig featuring UK/Japanese artist Cheapshot brought the chiptune. And, we fell in love with our new favourite room.

April – In the first sign that we were starting to spread the word internationally, Sharon from legendary UK improv group THE A BAND got in touch with a view to organising a show in Sydney. Pulling together a veritable who’s who of local music was fairly easy when the opportunity was presented and whilst the resulting jam wasn’t the best thing ever, it was certainly memorable. Sometimes a clash of musical personalities produces as much entertainment as when it gels. Or not. Only the select group of attendees will know how it went down! That said, the throat-singing was probably one of the best moments of the set.

April also saw Melbourne’s Xenograft visit Sydney for the first time, playing 2 great shows to an appreciative crowd. The Duchesses played their final ever show and closed the night at the last Bird’s Robe show ever at the Excelsior Hotel.

Bringing things back up were those kids from SOLKYRI. They capped off the month by launching their ‘No House’ EP to a packed Lansdowne Hotel, alongside Meniscus, Grun and Lander Configurations. It was an exciting night for instrumental music in Sydney.

May – still buzzing, some time off was needed to prepare for the busy months ahead. Booking tours and organising release details is time consuming. Somehow, there was still time for super FLORENCE jam to sneak in a once-off performance of ‘Mogar’ and perform at Tone to farewell 10k Free Men and Their Families, who then headed to perform at NY’s Blip Fest.

June – The fun begins. Tatsuya Yoshida had contacted me some months before (through Nao Anzai, who brought Vampillia out in 2010) and it was perfect timing. Having RUINS ALONE headlining Featherfest was a massive buzz and probably my biggest undertaking since Menagerie 2010. I was lucky enough to manage the tour that headed to Adelaide and Melbourne from there, with my buddies CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOMES repping the Sydney scene proudly at each show. Yoshida was suitably impressed by the Sydney lineup of DARTH VEGAS, SHANGHAI, SLIMEY THINGS, THE BZNZZ, SERIOUS BEAK, GODWOUNDS, THREE WISE MONKEYS and Capt K, naming it his favourite show of the tour. Despite having to pull together Yoshida’s tour, the most arduous task this month was driving around and loading in the backline for co-headliners UMLAUT. The effort was worth it though, to have Bar McKinnon and his stellar band make a rare Sydney appearance at our event was something special. The event was bittersweet as it also marked SLIMEY THINGS’ last show for some time. They entered Brain Studios the very next day to lay down tracks for their next album.

MOUNTAIN STATIC visited Sydney to launch his new album ‘Research’ in late June and I had the pleasure of drumming along. Simon (TTT), Daphne (Rat Vs Possum) and Oliver (O+O) are great vocalists and it was a rare treat to hear them perform acoustically in Paddington Uniting Church.

KARNIVOOL also toured around this time and sold out too many shows to list here!

July – Three of the most-anticipated Australian post-rock releases of the year were due in 2011 and as luck would have it, all arrived in the same week! TANGLED THOUGHTS OF LEAVING and MENISCUS struck first, dropping ‘Deaden the Fields’ and ‘War of Currents’ respectively. Then, SLEEPMAKESWAVES came through with “…and so we destroyed everything”.  Justifiably, all three releases were met with strong support from fans and media, proving a launch pad for the rest of the year. sleepmakeswaves packed out 2 launch shows in Sydney and Melbourne, whilst Meniscus proved a significant drawcard on a wet and cold night in Sydney, leading to our quote of the year from guitarist Dan (see previous blog post). The Mars Volta arrived and played a synthy set at Splendour in the Grass, alongside Mogwai.

August – PROGFEST was back again, this time with special guest LAURENCE PIKE in Sydney and a mammoth prog/post lineup. Melbourne took home the most impressive lineup award however, with over 30 artists cramming into the Espy for a fantastic feel-good event put together by Tim Charles at Welkin Entertainment. The event continues to blend the experimental with the psychedelic, conservative and progressive all in one, straddling both rock and metal and catering primarily for a younger generation of prog fan.

September – Now buzzing on the back of strong album sales and airplay, SLEEPMAKESWAVES picked up the pace of their headline tour, hitting Brisbane, Sydney, Wollongong, Canberra and Sydney again, for supports with RUSSIAN CIRCLES and UNITOPIA. The best of these was definitely the epic bill on Sep 2nd at the Bald Faced Stag, with Perth’s TANGLED THOUGHTS OF LEAVING putting on a spectacular performance that egged everyone on to greater heights.

September also saw PIRATE officially drop their long-awaited ‘Left Of Mind’ album and set off on an east coast jaunt, hitting Melbourne’s Progfest, supporting smw in Gong and Canberra and headlining their own Sydney club show. Wowing many with their sheer brilliance and experimentalism brought the band to the attention of a whole new group of fans. This month also marked Will’s announcement he was leaving sleepmakeswaves to pursue his career priorities. Whilst a bittersweet moment, coming off the back of his brilliant work on the band’s debut album, it was accepted by fans generously and in good spirit.

This month CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOME quietly released their brilliant B-sides album ‘Non Practising Pagans’ and played their last show before going on hiatus ahead of writing for their debut album.

Classic prog rockers UNITOPIA played their first ever east coast dates, hitting Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, with TOEHIDER and ANUBIS in support. With both bands having released their eagerly-awaited new albums the week of the tour, there was a definite air of expectation surrounding the shows, culminating in a fantastic show at the Factory Theatre in Sydney.

October – Japanese art-noise juggernaut MONO graced our shores, dropping an entire orchestra in Melbourne! Sydney got just the band, but with sleepmakeswaves opening up (marking their last show with Will) and the pleasing sound system at Manning Bar, it was good enough. This month also brought the welcome news that ANUBIS had topped German distributor Just For Kicks Music’s sales chart with ‘A Tower of Silence’, selling several hundred copies. Following the conclusion of their tour, sleepmakeswaves announced their new drummer would be Pirate sticksman Tim Adderley, with Tim continuing to perform in both bands.

As smw finished their tour, PIRATE were in the thick of theirs. The band hit the road supporting supergroup FLOATING ME (feat members of Cog, Karnivool and Scarymother), playing Canberra, Newcastle and Sydney. MENISCUS opened up the Sydney show and made a big impression, doing great business on the merch desk. Just a night earlier they did similar when supporting the album launch of prog-metal favourites MISH who at last released their fabulous debut to a roaring Annandale crowd. October also saw the release of THE BIRD’S ROBE COLLABORATION BAND #2 – ‘Still Scores’ – produced by Slimey Things’ Nick Soole.

November – Melbourne’s LAURA returned to Sydney, supported by Solkyri and Brackets, in support of their new album ‘Twelve Hundred Times’ – their first in 5 years. Pirate kept touring and SERIOUS BEAK launched their ‘Huxwhukw’ to a packed Lansdowne Hotel. MOGWAI, PVT, SEEKAE and HOLY FCK all came to town as part of the amazing Harvest Festival.

A bunch more exciting releases dropped, including PANZER QUEEN’s second EP, SQUAT CLUB’s remastered ‘Corvus’, VAMPILLIA’s ‘Rule The World/Deathtiny Land’ and the amazing RUINS alone album.

December – Hot on the heels of their first play on Triple J, TOEHIDER backed up with a re-release of all 12 of their EPs on ‘The First Six’ and ‘The Last Six’, 2 double album sets, through BRR. LANDER CONFIGURATIONS also finally launched their 5-years-in-the-making album at the Lansdowne Hotel in Sydney, to a rapturous reception.

Meanwhile EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY sold out the Metro Theatre in Sydney and blazed audiences along the east coast, whilst OPETH purveyed their new laid-back prog rock to sold out theatres across the country and OMAR RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ brough the prog jams to a bunch of sold out dates, presented by Heathen Skulls.

Amongst all this, came the news that sleepmakeswaves had been invited to SXSW in Texas and would be touring the US in March.

But the best part of all, was our 2 end of year showcases in Sydney and Melbourne, featuring sleepmakeswaves, Meniscus, Pirate and Toehider. From a packed Annandale Hotel singing me ‘Happy Birthday’ to Mike Mill’s stunning rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on acoustic guitar, it was a huge buzz and a great way to cap off the year.

The icing on the cake was New Year’s Eve at Peat’s Ridge Festival, where sleepmakeswaves played their hearts out to a massive crowd at 2pm on the Lyrebird stage. Winning over a festival crowd is no easy task, but the audience were super keen and showed their appreciation. So proud!!

BRR (and BR-related) ALBUMS RELEASED IN 2011 (including distro)

sleepmakeswaves “…and so we destroyed everything”

Meniscus “War Of Currents”

Tangled Thoughts of Leaving “Deaden The Fields”

Hinterlandt “Migration Motion Movement”

Pirate “Left Of Mind”

Captain Kickarse and the Awesomes “Non Practising Pagans”

Anubis “A Tower of Silence”

Toehider “To Hide Her”

super FLORENCE jam “We Always Knew It Would Come To This”

The Bird’s Robe Collaboration Band “Still Scores”

Mish “The Entrance”

Panzer Queen “When All Our Fathers Worshiped Stock and Stone”

Squat Club “Corvus”

Vampillia “Rule the World/Deathtiny Land”

Ruins alone “RUINS alone”

Serious Beak “Huxwhukw”

Akh-Naut “Wishing Well”

Lander Configurations “Of Smoke and Fire”

Toehider “The First Six”

Toehider “The Last Six”

PROGGY TOURS DURING 2011

Coheed and Cambria

Hawkwind

Jethro Tull

The Mars Volta

Mogwai

Holy Fck

Russian Circles

Ruins alone

Unitopia

Mono

Explosions in the Sky

Omar Rodriguez Lopez

Water Temples

The A Band

Cheapshot

Gang Gang Dance

…and already in 2012, DEERHOOF, BATTLES and DEVIN TOWNSEND.

That’s it folks, thanks for all your support and here’s looking forward to an amazing 2012!!!

- Mike Solo

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