If you’re a fan of local Adelaide music, you’re most likely going to know about The Jade Monkey. If you’re any other news-reading citizen of the city, there’s also a good chance you’ve heard about the building’s recent closure and the battles its faced in attempting to prevent its demolition in favour of a new high rise development. This long weekend serves as The Jade’s last hurrah, with some of the venue’s favourite bands taking to the stage over four nights to truly send the Adelaide music institution out the way it deserves.
The Saturday line up boasts some pretty impressive and steadfast Adelaide acts in Sleeptalker, Sparkspitter, Ride Into The Sun and Steering By Stars and it’s evident that people are keen to have a good night up in here tonight as The Jade begins to steadily fill up from early on in the piece. I’m the first to admit that I have not been a regular to The Jade in the past few years as many have been, however being amongst groups of people tonight who are also a part of the local music scene and simply being in the warm and unpretentious environment that The Jade Monkey offers makes me sad that this place will be no more once Sunday’s gig comes to a close.
Sleeptalker open the gig tonight and I was pleasantly surprised at how fast and well their set took off. The percussion and guitars drove the set and provided some great highlights – there’s that unmistakeably 90’s/early 2000’s At The Drive-In sound to their approach to rock music. Watching the band was like watching musicians take the performance ethics of bands like Children Collide and the gravelly, raw musicianship of Grinderman in making a pounding live set. Covers performed by these sorts of bands generally worry me, especially when they take on The Beatles, but Sleeptalker’s rendition of the band’s 1968 classic “Happiness is a Warm Gun” was handled quite well. Clearly, not many people can match Lennon’s trademark vocals, so it was refreshing to see this band steer away from attempting to, instead putting a punk-ish spin on the original and making it just as brutal, but fun too.
Instrumental trio Sparkspitter took to the stage next and I was determined to concentrate on the band properly this time round after failing to do so the last time I saw them (blame the beers). I’ve been exposed to this style of music quite a lot recently and whereas before, I could enjoy it but pass it off quite easily, I feel like I’ve developed a better sense of appreciation for the musicianship involved in creating these soundscapes. When there are only three of you in the band and you’re responsible for creating some epic, churning sounds, it’d be easy to stick to a stock standard electro/drums format. Sparkspitter seem to incorporate these elements along with some great guitar and lapsteel components too, making each delivery sound bigger than the last. There are a few points in the set where I felt the songs were bleeding too much into one another, but I can’t deny the lads of an obvious talent there.
For a bit of a change of pace, Ride Into The Sun reset the stage and soon enough launched into a set driven by shoegaze and psych-rock. I’d never seen the band before tonight and if I’m honest, I can safely say I only really had my attention captured by the first 10 minutes or so of their set. Whether it was the effects of a long day with little sleep finally getting to me or something else coming into play, Ride Into The Sun gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘slow-burning’. No doubt, the musicians onstage are indeed talented in performing – it was just the content that seemed too same-y and I couldn’t grasp onto many moments of uniqueness during the set. I want to say more about the band’s performance, but I can’t actually think of any other ways to describe the bland reaction I had when watching them play. They have a strong following around town, which is clearly warranted, but perhaps I’m just not into this sort of over-the-top broody music as I used to be.
By the time Steering By Stars have set their gear up onstage, it’s heading near to 1am and although the schedule for tonight is apparently running roughly 30 minutes behind, the crowd at The Jade is showing no signs of going home. Having spent most of the day in studio with the band on another project, I had arrived at this point in the night performing set staple “Oceans” in my head, albeit not with the same level of gusto and/or talent as the band. The boys have recently been on tour around the country with sleepmakeswaves, as well as their own single launch tour over the past month and the signs of weariness are beginning to show through. Lachlan Wilson is battling some sort of fierce cold and watching him attempt to scream his trademark screams on songs including “Foundry” and “Closer” is slightly worrying at times; though he manages to sound as brutally powerful as usual, there is a part of me that is expecting him to pass out from the amount of emphasis he puts on each note. The crowd are quite responsive toward the headlining band as they continue to power through performances of material to be expected on their forthcoming second album and as it wraps up, there’s a sense of finality to things – this has been the final time each of these four bands will perform at The Jade Monkey in its current incarnation and it’s clear that the venue has meant so much to each of them individually.
To Zac and Naomi, The Jade’s owners, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you (as many have) for your continued and unwavering support of the Adelaide music scene and for providing a venue for many local musicians to get their feet in performing with The Jade Monkey. Hopefully the business can find a new venue and continue to support the thriving hub of music in existence at the moment, because as tonight’s show (and the others this weekend) demonstrated, Adelaide is capable of producing an overwhelming amount of unique talent that needs to be showcased.