Freelance writer Siobhan Argent writes…

I don’t spend hours listening to music unless I’m running a marathon (every second day), at a concert or at a bar (so, pretty much the same thing). In Al Newstead’s case, it seems these periods are not enough. Several people in the audience for Al’s Music Rant were wondering just how the heck he knew so much about music, and I quickly became one of them.

His knowledge of the music industry and its genres is wide-ranging and seemingly all-encompassing. In no particular order, Al rants lyrical (and musical) about Amy Winehouse, Nirvana, the Jamaican rapper from Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl, actual Peter Andre, Rage Against the Machine, Paul McCartney, a slew of rappers who have been incarcerated and the six who haven’t.

MGMT get a well-earned schellacking for a heinously pretentious quote, but even before this it’s clear Al is mining a gold mine of larger-than-life characters and singling them out for some hard-earned mockery. With love, of course.

Al’s Music Rant is also an example of how a slideshow can be your friend. Whoever is on the buttons for this show is a clicking whiz—with some clever sequencing and a fast-pace monologue, Al and his slideshow whip us through his step-by-step flowchart on how to work out whether the music you’re listening to is rubbish.

It’s the kind of music snobbery Fringe audiences will love because it’s somewhat predictable; alternative music (what normal people listen to) = good, commerical radio = pretentious auto-tuned pop stars pandering to teenage girls with disposable income. Everyone in the audience breathes a sigh of relief and gives Al a big round of applause for reminding us all how awesome we are at liking music. (By the way, I hear this new Nirvana band is pretty rad right now.)

He’s a likable guy, Al, even with a moustache I hope is just for Movember. But it does make me wonder: are we allowed to take music advice from someone trying to emulate Tom Selleck?

Al’s Music Rant is on at the 2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival, Thursday – Sunday at The Glasshouse Hotel at 8pm until October 8.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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