Oct 062015


I have been in love with The Jam (viz. Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton & Rich Buckler) for so long that sometimes I take them for granted. Yeah, you know what’s that like, right? I can still remember the exact moment I first encountered the band.

It was at the old Funan Centre Department Store sometime in 1980 and I was fishing through the record bargain bins and I found the In The City and This is the Modern World LPs on cheap sale! (Aside – that’s where I got hold of Elvis Costello & the Attractions’ Armed Forces as well)

And that was that. Truth be told, I was that enamoured with the first wave of punk, when it happened and it did not help that The Sex Pistols was banned in Singapore. But from the moment I heard “In the City”, it did not sound so much like punk as a revival of Sixties pop i.e. The Beatles, The Who, The Small Faces, The Kinks etc. So I scoured record stores to find more albums but only got hold of the then newly released Sound Affects. Only then I took an interest in finding out more about the trio in the music magazines.

And boy did I! Since much of the albums & singles were not available here, I had to mail order quite a bunch – mind you, those were the days, when bands did not necessarily release single tracks on albums and by the time, The Jam released its swan song – The Gift (1982) – I had more or less completed my collection.

In the 33 years since Weller broke up The Jam, I have been kept up to date with all the re-issues and compilations, with the Direction Reaction Creation boxset, the pick of the lot. However, this new compilation – About the Young Idea (a quote from “In The City”) – somewhat slipped under my radar.

Listening to this compilation, I must say it’s serviceable if you are a newbie and apart from an unreleased demo of “Takin’ My Love”, there’s no surprises here for diehards. Sound-wise again, nothing revealing from these particular remasters. As expected, all the singles are here (classics like “Going Underground/The Dreams of Children”, “When You’re Young”, “Strange Town”, “Town Called Malice”) and deep cuts like “English Rose”, “Away From the Numbers” and “To Be Someone”.

Like I have mentioned before, that 1997 boxset is all you need is you are an obsessed fan like me. But this compilation works if you have just begun your journey of discovery of one of the finest rock bands of all time.

Oct 062015


Spoilers lie in wait. You have been warned.

Following the ongoing success of The Walking Dead, AMC and creator Robert Kirkman brought us the prequel companion series Fear the Walking Dead, having decided to give us the chance to experience the infection from the beginning. Concluding its first season this past Sunday, the show gave us an interesting look at the slow fall of civilization that led up to the impending zombie apocalypse we see Rick and gang battling. But for a season that (according to most fans) started out slowly, it ended with quite the bang and one of the largest walker hordes shown to date.

Continue reading »

Oct 052015

The new TV season is upon us geeks – even as Fear The Walking Dead and The Strain end their respective storylines for the time being (both will definitely be back), The Leftovers returns.

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Considering how popular The Walking Dead is, it’s no surprise that this spin-off did well in terms of viewership. Fear the Walking Dead was a disappointment though and never got near to the intensity, drama and characterisation that its parent series managed in its powerful debut season (which was also only six episodes).

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The Strain‘s second season was rather mixed. Plotlines were left dangling, women characters were killed off & still we are nowhere closer to resolving key issues.

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Now, I enjoyed the polarising quasi-religious HBO series The Leftovers and am glad to report that Season 2 is off to a great start by introducing a new town and a new family into the storyline before more familiar faces turn up. As usual, all the weird elements remain intact – goat sacrifice in a diner, anyone? – with ominous undertones bubbling under the surface wonderfully.

Oct 052015


It’s always exciting to check out Toro y Moi’s latest project. The American recording artist and producer (and graphic designer), whose real name is Chaz Bundwick, has come a long way since rising from the chillwave movement and forming a close musical relationship with Ernest Greene from New York band Washed Out, around 2009.

Across his three albums, Bundwick continues to push his personal musical boundaries while sticking to his signature chill vibes and fuzzy vocals. And it’s no different for his forth project, What For?, a 10-track album released by Carpark Records, which could easily be mistaken for a 70s dreamy pop rock piece – but a more modern and polished version.

His latest work launches the listener into a rocky ride with blues rock influenced numbers (“What You Want”, “The Flight”). It gradually elevates one into a dream (“Ratcliff”, “Lilly”) before reaching a dance climax (“Spell It Out”, “Half Dome”), and ends the journey by bringing the listener back down to earth with trudging drums (“Yeah Right”) and apt lyrics: “Let’s hang out soon, I’ll give you a call.”

But the graphic designer in Bundwick never strays too far away and fans can still enjoy his signature deep groovy beats and filtered soft vocals (“Buffalo”, “Spell It Out”).

By now, it’s clear to everyone that the man is not much of a lyricist. Bundwick continues to keep his lyrics simple in this album, letting his keys and drums do most of the talking or singing.

(Nurul Azliah)

Azliah recently completed my WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC course. Find out more from KAMCO Music

Oct 052015

Mal Blum

A literary reference as a title. A verse melody that sounds like it should have been on the Juno soundtrack. A rather functional chorus tune that borders on being dangerously infectious. All with a charming lofi production that makes it painfully obvious where the source of inspiration comes from.

So yes, this Anti-folk/Pop-rock hybrid ditty is clearly aimed at a particular audience (misfit nerdy teens?) and the cutesy video (with Brocollini the dog!) rather seals the deal as well.

If all this is making sense, then you are going to like Mal Blum and her new album – You Look A Lot Like Me – what’s not to like about music made on its own terms?

Oct 052015


Contrary to her name, local singer-songwriter Fym Summer sounded nothing that could remind you of the sun, sand or the salty breeze of summer season. Her performance at the Esplanade Concourse on Sunday, as part of the Noise Singapore 2015 Music Mentorship Concerts, was more like a nice winter’s day.

Decked in black from head to toe, Fym, who has been singing since 2003, enchanted the 40-member audience in the arts venue’s cozy area with her vocals, which swung from sounding sweet and dreamy (“Dream” and “July”) to haunting and dreary (“Wolf”).

She stood on stage with her acoustic guitar, accompanied by two musician friends – one played a melodica while the other another guitar. There was an air of melancholia around her as she moodily serenaded mainly about love, herself, and her sister (“Love”), during her 30-minute set.

The grandparents, young families and youngsters in the audience seemed captivated by her singing, keeping quiet and attentive throughout. However, things took an awkward turn during intervals when she switched to chirpy chattiness, leaving the audience somewhat in shock, speechless and unresponsive, each time.

Fym Summer was one of the 18 acts to perform as part of the mentorships concerts, and she was one of eight who were lucky to get two mentors. Her’s were guitarist Randolf Arriola and singer Vanessa Fernandez.

It would be nice to hear her project her voice better or perhaps, show off hints of soulful vocal dynamics she might have learned from Fernandez.

(Nurul Azliah)

Azliah recently completed my WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC course. Find out more from KAMCO Music

Oct 042015


It seems like a disservice to Deafheaven to simply describe the band (George Clarke, Kerry McCoy Daniel Tracy, Stephen Clark & Shiv Mehra) as a Black Metal outfit.

Sure, the music carries all the hallmarks of the extreme metal genre viz. fast tempos, shrieking vocal style, heavily distorted guitars played with tremolo picking but Deafheaven is much more. Halfway through the opening track (“Brought to the Water”) of their new album, New Bermuda, the song takes on an incongruous atmospheric dream pop tone that changes the emotional tone significantly before it ends with a solo piano playing the chord progression! Unexpected.

After the critical acclaim showered on sophomore effort, Sunbather, it’s comforting to note that Deafheaven have not compromised their high standards on New Bermuda. It would not be out of place to suggest that this is what progressive rock sounds like in 2015 – the exploration of new frontiers and exciting cross-pollinating hybrids indicate that talented and courageous music creators are out there on the fringes of modern rock making fresh & wildly innovative popular music.

This creativity continues for the rest of New Bermuda in songs that never go under eight minutes (the epic “Luna” and the invigorating “Baby Blue” cross the 10 minute mark!) but never overstay their welcome in any way. Not falling into the inherent obsolescence of staying within genre boundaries, Deafheaven fly free of all constraints and totally against type have created transcendent rock music that even the most optimistic of us believers thought was now impossible!

Oct 042015


Although English quintet Supertramp had somewhat been erroneously classified as a prog rock band – thanks mainly to the success of Crime of the Century (1974) – in fact, their style was a sophisticated blend of blues, folk and jazz pop-rock elements with an emphasis on keyboards (at which both singer-songwriters Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies were adept) and in John Helliwell (saxophone and other woodwinds), they had a secret weapon that made their sound even more distinctive. Allied to the steady work of Dougie Thomson (bass) and Bob Sienbenberg (drums), Supertramp were a force in the mid to late 70s.

Their status as one of the biggest rock bands on the planet was confirmed by the Breakfast in America LP, which would become the #1 best-selling album in 1979. The ten songs on view were brilliantly crafted to maximise the melodic impact and minimise any esoteric elements that tended to drag down some of their previous albums.

In that respect, the first half of this LP was almost perfect with five memorable songs that have stood the test of time. The rocking “Gone Hollywood”, the quirky hit “The Logical Song”, the paean of philandering “Goodbye Stranger”, the infectious Mediterranean romp “Breakfast in America” and the wanton soulful love ballad “Oh Darling”.

Add to these, the opening songs of Side Two i.e. the intense human study “Take the Long Way Home” and the prayerful “Lord, Is It Mine?” and what you get is seven of the finest music ever made in the 70s rock era.

Over 35 years later, these gems still shine through with a timelessness that will never ever fade.

Oct 032015


Now this is what I call rock ’n’ roll! Colorway’s sophomore effort finds the trio once again burning their way through 10 tracks of 100% pure shots of classic pop-rock songwriting brilliance.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist F. Alex Johnson and the steady rhythm section of Dave Hayes (Bass/Vocals) &
J.J. O’Connell (Drums/Percussion/Vocals) have delivered the perfect antidote to those who believe that good old fashioned pop-rock music is somehow irrelevant in 2015.

If you think 5 Seconds of Summer is guitar rock, then you might want to keep sucking your pacifier – this is music for adults – where a penchant for smart lyrics & sophisticated songwriting are married with an honest application of rock instrumentation.

From the opening driving “Gen Exit” to the closing epic “Telephone”, it’s all tight as a drum without any flab whatsoever. No mean feat. Highly recommended!

Official Site

Oct 032015


Is it still metal without guitars and drums? Well, the purists out there will quite obviously growl – NO!

This is Moonlapse – basically, 21 year old electronic artist Ben Strick – who has recorded a five-track LP of progressive instrumental metal music on his computer!

Once you have gotten over the novelty of what sounds like progressive metal actually being electronic music, it wears off.

No matter how you try, technology has not been able to recreate the timbre of strings accurately yet.

Yes, you could probably get away with the drums and percussion but guitars? No way.

That all said, that should not be criterion to judge Moonlapse by. As progressive electro-rock, I can see Moonlapse generating a buzz but to be honest, after awhile you are going to be missing those guitars.

Full marks for effort though!

No information about when or where will Fade Construct be released. Updates at https://www.facebook.com/moonlapseofficial.

In the meantime, check out Moonlapse’s previous release.

Oct 032015


What the fuck is ‘sparkle punk’? It’s probably an ironic made-up genre but that and the fact that there’s a song called “Cock” is what caught my attention.

Welcome to the world of Glasgow ‘glitter trash’ trio Breakfast MUFF. The Feels is the very anti-thesis of everything is ‘proper’ about popular music in 2015. Y’know lofi, shambolic, amateurish, three chords, low grade fuzzed guitars, disturbing lyrics, songs that never hit 3 minutes and singers who sound like they don’t give a fuck!

Musically it reminds me of edgy, post-punk guitar pop-rock of 1979-era XTC, The Slits, The Raincoats and Wire – which never hurts.

I’m just a bit concerned that The Feels might be a novelty record. I fucking hope not!

If you really must – https://www.facebook.com/BreakfastMUFF

Oct 032015


If I wasn’t aware that “Magic Cup” was a new song, I would be at a loss to identify which decade it was made in.

The blues riffs, the swampy rhythm section, the distorted vocals and the general shambolic vibe evoke 60s garage rock effortlessly. I would not have been surprised to find out that this was a Sonics or even Blue Cheer track.

But of course, it’s not. It’s Sloom – a rock n roll band from Sydney’s Inner West – with an utterly unoriginal sound that works for the 3 minutes and 33 seconds.

Good dirty fun.

More info.


Oct 022015


Rock legend David Bowie was a bit of a late bloomer in the business of rock ’n’ roll. Even though he was only 17 years old when he released his debut single in 1964, he would never achieve commercial success and critical acclaim till the 70s. His first three solo albums failed to set the music world alight and in fact, Hunky Dory – which would become his fourth LP – started life as a demo to secure a new recording contract, which he duly did with RCA Records.

Hunky Dory finds Bowie in pure singer-songwriter mode – which was in vogue around the time – thus, the individual songs are quite strong and the production values rather straightforward – with simple pop-rock/folk-rock instrumentation and arrangements by and large.

Backing Bowie would be the musicians that would subsequently form The Spiders from Mars (with the exception of Rick Wakeman on piano) viz. Mick Ronson (guitars, mellotron), Trevor Bolder (bass, trumpet) and Mick Woodmansey (drums).

Many of Bowie’s classic material – “Changes”, “All You Pretty Things”, “Life on Mars?” “Quicksand” and “Kooks” (written for his son, Zowie – director Duncan Jones) – were recorded during this fecund period. The second half had Bowie pay tribute to his heroes viz. Andy Warhol (“Andy Warhol”), Bob Dylan (“Song For Bob Dylan”) and Lou Reed (“Queen Bitch”) whilst “The Bewley Brothers” concerned Bowie’s relationship with his mentally disturbed brother, Terry.

After Hunky Dory, Bowie would adopt the persona of Ziggy Stardust and found fame and fortune and the rest of his 70s would see Bowie acting out different roles, played out on his discography.

So perhaps, on Hunky Dory, fans could see Bowie for who he was – before he decided to change the face of rock music irretrievably.

Oct 022015


Bands like Brighton-based duo MIAMIGO demonstrate that the 80s is still very much a touchstone for modern rock artists.

“What I Want” is taken off the duo’s well received EP – Hard To Love (which was released in June earlier this year) and 80s pop lovers will thrill to the dynamic basslines and the insistent guitar chord patterns.

The video itself is a lofi shaky cam affair that fits the fidgety nature of the single itself. Worth a closer inspection.

Oct 022015


Into their second single for Sony Music, it’s clear that The Sam Willows have honed their pop technique to a tight construct with “For Love” – the chorus comes with soaring banks of vocals even if the familiar melody does not move listeners that much.

The song recalls Imagine Dragons, Of Monsters & Men and even the quartet’s own “Glasshouse”. Not quite as incongruous as its predecessor “Take Heart”, this time the electro-pop elements complement the song rather well.

The message behind the video is strong and to the band’s credit maintains a personal emotional connection. It might be too close to the bone for many people but if pop music can be used to touch hearts, minds and souls in this manner then kudos to The Sam Willows for at least, taking their best shot at making a statement!

Pre-order the album Take Heart:

Oct 022015

Kurt Vile

The name Kurt brought me back 18 years where Saturdays were spent jamming to “Aneurysm” and “Lithium” at a run-down studio in Yishun. I have always associated Kurt with the frontman of Nirvana but today, I was looking at a different Kurt.

B’lieve I’m Going Down… is Kurt Vile’s fourth album with Matador Records. On the cover, he shows off the bountiful hair of a metalhead, poses like a gypsy guitar virtuoso and wears a pair of skinny jeans too tight for comfort.

I did not know what to expect.

The first song “ Pretty Pimpin” starts with an acoustic guitar picking before he sings about the struggles of self-recognition, in a manner highly reminiscent of Elliott Smith. Shifting into a lower register Lou Reed-like voice for much of the album, he sinks you into the depths of relaxation with lyrics like, “When I go out/I take pills to take the edge off/or to just take a chillax/man and forget about it”. Vile has got good writing chops if you can ignore the ‘stoner’ vibe and dive into his words. In this sense, the album’s chillax direction may work against him as new listeners might let his words drift by .

Overall, this album speaks about finding oneself by being more emotionally aware and going with the flow. Though I feel that Vile himself is in no hurry j – “Give it some time/Give it some time” on his last song “Wild Imagination”.

A good lofi indie rock/folk spin for your weekend.

(Brenton Huang)

Brenton recently completed my WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC course. Find out more from KAMCO Music

Oct 012015


English band Japan never hid their influences, with The New York Dolls, Roxy Music, David Bowie and The Velvet Underground, readily apparent from their image and music. Consisting of David Sylvian (lead vocals, guitar), Richard Barbieri (synths, keyboards), Mick Karn (bass, sax, flute, backing vocals), Steve Jansen (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Rob Dean (guitar), the band would in turn inspire many of the 80s New Romantics (Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet etc) though the band themselves swore off that label.

Quiet Life, their 3rd LP, is significant as it signalled a shift in style as Japan eschewed the glam-rock of their first two LPs in favour of a more experimental synth-based approach, which bordered on art rock. This allowed the creativity of Karn and Barbieri to shine through in their instrumental work and Sylvian began to step of the shadow of his #1 vocal inspiration, Bryan Ferry. Guitars were no longer used to provide chordal accompaniment and where utilised would be more atmospheric in nature. This change in direction probably led to guitarist Dean leaving, subsequent to the album’s release.

Songs like the dance-rocking title track, the mutant groovy “In Vogue” and the Roxy-channeling “Halloween” provided the album highlights, whilst the sublime cover of the Velvets’ “All Tomorrow’s Parties” would make for a particularly memorable single.

As a quartet, Japan would go on to release the successful Gentlemen Take Polaroids and Tin Drum albums before splitting up in 1982 to explore even more progressive rock territories individually.

… still there’s more… 

Oct 012015


I am so sick and tired of defending ‘classic’ pop songwriting – why should the age of a genre ever come into the assessment of good music.

Anyways, thankfully I have a musical representation of this argument in the form of Pop4’s brilliant album Summer. Comprising of Scott McPherson, KC Bowman, Kirk Adams and Andrea Perry – a power pop brain trust, for those in the know – Pop4 exploits the diverse strengths of its members to provide one of the finer pop albums of 2015.

Highlights include the droll putdown “You’re No Aimee Mann” (which Mann herself approves of, it seems!), the delightfully ELO-channelling “Einstein and Sunshine” and the warm pastoral “Beautiful”.

There’s no doubt that we need more sophisticated melodic albums like Summer – no irony, no pretension, no pastiche – I am glad to declare that this is the real deal.

Official Site

Sep 302015

Having been a recording artist for over 20 years, it’s interesting to observe the changes especially in the area of marketing and promotion of a new release. Signed to Odyssey Records for my first two releases with Watchmen, the label took care of all the marketing and to their credit, did manage to get good press for both Democracy and Love. No internet back then of course, so everything was in print – newspapers & magazines, or over the air – radio & TV. Fair to say, I was featured all over the place back then – not young by any means but still, someone in their early 30s was acceptable to the media.

It was not till the two Popland albums viz. Groovy (1998) and Action! (2001) that one began to see the influence of the internet. Still there were no streaming music or videos, so it was very much text & image based. But this at least allowed me to get media coverage from overseas, in fact, Action! was released by a San Francisco indie label and had US distribution and ads were placed in various indie rock publications of the time, with attendant reviews as well. The good ol’ days.

Ever since I started releasing music in my own name (2013), getting media attention has been really difficult. It doesn’t help that most media (local or otherwise) see you as irrelevant. These journalists tend to be very very young (late teens even) and for them, someone in their 40s/50s making music is difficult for them to comprehend – it’s like asking them to visualise their own parents acting in a ‘childish’ way. This tension and discomfort results in these journalists either (1) totally ignoring someone like me or (2) write reviews that reference my age constantly as evidence of my obsolescence.

But that’s to be expected, I guess and I accept that as part of the deal. After all, it’s entirely my choice to release music at my age and worse, send them to music blogs (etc) for their assessment.

Despite all this, I feel even more challenged to keep making music to the best of my ability and will continue to do so, no matter what. It’s more about the music and less about what people think.

Of course, it is always nice to have people appreciate your music but I am not going to change the way I do things, just because certain people don’t…

… still there’s more …

Sep 302015


So… I got to know about this Boston outfit as guitarist Huxley Rittman used to play in Singapore band The Cave. But once I began listening to the tracks, my attention was drawn to two things. One, the sheer eclectic spirit of the music and two, the dynamic vocal chops of singer Olivia.

If nothing else, Kolohe Kid reminds me of something an English band might put together during the post-punk era. You know, it’s edgy, cool and doesn’t give a fuck. I mean take “Perspective”, where Olivia wails on the chorus like a Banshee (Siouxsie, of course) – “Riding alone/Not ready to go home/Take all I own/Then leave a message at the tone” whilst the band does their best Nirvana impression.

“Mall Girls” is an observational ditty that overstays its welcome rather quickly. “Fish” is a minute long but contains this rather tasty couplet – You know, you know, this is not how anything should go/You’re just a man, and I’m a bitch”. But save the best for last why don’t you? “My Asian Grandma” fills a punk rock fortune cookie with auto-biographical disses like “My Asian grandma will fuck me up if I get a B/Strange fashion sense but still a mother fucking P.I.M.P.”

So… Ricecrackers, more of the same, please!

Download now from Bandcamp!

Sep 302015

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The vocals may be dreamy and indistinct but the melodies and hooks are clear enough to make an impact. There is a smooth electro-organic pop vibe about “Wake” that bodes well for Brothertiger’s new album Out of Touch (released on 4th December).  Am digging the way he utilises the electronics to convey a sense of warmth and comfort – the backing vocals are lovingly layered to grant a rather 80s pop sheen. On repeat mode for sure!



Sep 292015


Good melodies with interesting arrangements – hooks that stick in your head and convince you to listen again. This is what a lead track should sound like.

Danish band Lowly releases their debut EP Sink Way Into Me on October 30th (via Bella Union) and based on the mesmerising “Fire”, one would reasonably want to hear more.

It’s all about that memorable chorus with its singalong backing vocals and the insistent choppy piano driving its presence into your synapses. Does the trick for me!

Sep 292015

I am a simple man with simple tastes. I only need a song to sing to and I will be happy.

So I decided to put together a playlist of the songs I love to sing to, and so far I have come up with 20 tracks.

And I created this playlist on Deezer cuz I get the tracks streaming in wav. Yeah.

Might not be for all tastes but if you have been reading my writings for some time, you won’t be surprised by the choices.

Here we go! Will be updating so please check back!!

… still there’s more … 

Sep 282015

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Does life have to make sense? Does music need to feel complete? Or is it the inherent contradictions that make music the life-affirming force it can be?

Did anyone expect a new New Order album? Hooky out, Gillian back? In case you are not keeping score, Hooky (bassist Peter Hook) announced in 2007 that New Order was over and that he was leaving. Eight years later, Barney Summer and the rest of the gang (Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Phil Cunningham & Tom Chapman) has somewhat taken up the challenge to prove Hooky wrong.

And whilst the end product is a sublime dance-rock album of the kind that the original New Order are considered the pioneers of, Music Complete is not really New Order, any more than Electronic or Bad Lieutenant were New Order. The name itself is meaningless – without Hooky’s bass, this is most definitely not New Order.

However, in the final analysis, it makes no fucking difference, does it? With all the electro-pop acts vying for attention in the modern rock wasteland, the old masters have come back from the dead to show the young upstarts how it’s done.

There’s no doubting Summer’s way with a melody (and dodgy lyrics) but it is in the rhythm and the beats that Music Complete excels – big beats, techno, house, disco all mashed up into a heady mixture. “Restless”, “Tutti Frutti” and “Stray Dog” (with Iggy Pop on vocals) all rise like cream to the top but it is in the final number “Superheated” that Music Complete well and truly soars with one of the finest New Order tracks since the glory days of the 80s. “Superheated” is five minutes of sheer electro-pop bliss. Close your eyes and it’s the mid-eighties again.


Sep 282015

MAAD Sounds - Oct

This coming weekend (October 2nd & 3rd), Power of Pop recommends the following live gigs for your rockin’ enjoyment. On Friday, Esther Lowless will thrill us with her art-rock stylings whilst Gareth Fernandez & The Momma Shop will get a groove on. That’s MAAD Sounds at the Red Dot Design Museum. On Saturday night, over at Hood Bar, Melbourne rockers EMPRA (with S-ROCKER frontman Sanny Veloo) will take no prisoners. Post-hardcore local legends Caracal will open the night!

EMPRA Oct 3rd

… still there’s more …