Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sans Parents- The Dead End EP Tour

To celebrate the release of their debut EP The Dead End, Brisbane/Sydney band Sans Parents (well half of the band) came down to play their first ever Melbourne show at The Retreat Hotel front bar in Brunswick tonight. Due to me watching the AFL footy finals (Go Doggies!) I only managed to catch the last song of opening act Louis Spoils' set.

Mary and David joined me before Sans Parents began to play. The half of the band that made the trip down were lead vocalists Alex Bennison on electric guitar and Kane Mazlin (ex-Hungry Kids of Hungary) on keyboards. They joked that the other two band members were actually their parents and they had no idea where they were. The guys played songs off their EP as well as a few other tracks. I enjoyed the power pop of "Can't Stop Moving," "Maybe The World's Trying To Tell Me Something.." and "Dead End." In a week where Mary and I have been battling for pre-sale tickets to the upcoming Sydney Opera House encore shows, it was nice to hear a cover of Crowded House's "It's Only Natural." The show was fun and informal, and Alex switched out guitars to play one he just bought for the last song of the night, "Loose People." It was great to get the opportunity to see Sans Parents live for the first time, and I look forward to them coming back with the full band next time.

Here's the video for "Dead End"

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Degas- A New Vision

NGVThe NGV's Melbourne Winter Masterpieces focused on French artist Edgar Degas this year. The exhibition Degas: A New Vision features more than 200 of his works, including paintings, drawings and sculptures. While he was associated with French Impressionism, Degas preferred to refer to himself as a Realist.

Most of Degas' work focused on everyday people and portrayed the reality of what was happening behind the scenes and out of the spotlight. He immersed himself in different worlds and repeatedly returned to similar themes throughout his career such as dancing, horse racing and female nudes. His works ranged from detailed oil paintings to more abstract and unfinished looking pastel drawings.




Degas is probably best known for his paintings and pastels of ballerinas, and they featured prominently throughout the exhibition. His focus was often on rehearsals and the backstage world of the supporting dancers.



The exhibition also gives a really good history of both Degas' career and the historical times he was working and living in. Degas had issues with his eyesight, which got worse as he aged. I also had no idea he was anti-Semitic, which was brought to the fore through the Dreyfus affair in the late 1890s and early 1900s and resulted in him becoming alienated from many of his friends. Degas: A New Vision runs for one more week at the NGV and closes on 18 September 2016.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Slow Dancer- Some Velvet Morning

It's been a couple of years since Slow Dancer (aka Simon Okely) released his debut album, so it was exciting to see the announcement for a last minute semi-secret show occurring tonight at Some Velvet Morning in Clifton Hill. This was my first time at the venue, which was a small, intimate space the size of a living room.

DXHeaven (aka Nicholas Lam) opened the evening by playing solo on piano and then electric guitar for his last two songs. It was a lovely set of stripped back music where Nicholas' soulful voice shined through.

A clean shaven Slow Dancer then took to the stage, joined by Nicholas Lam on bass and Robert Bassey on drums. The set list was a mix of old and new songs as Simon tested out some of the tracks he has been working on for his next release. The new material sounded great and continues the chill Slow Dancer vibe and excellent guitar work we've all come to know and love. It was good to hear some old favorites played such as "Took The Floor Out," "Leave It To Me" and "Cornerstone." We also got treated to the new single "Don't Believe" where Simon invited old Oh Mercy bandmates Eliza Lam and Annabel Griggs up to sing backing vocals. It was such a nice opportunity to get a glimpse of these new songs, which I hope see the light of day sooner rather than later.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Fancy Nance High Tea

To celebrate Mary's birthday yesterday she gathered together a group of friends to attend high tea at Adriano Zumbo's Fancy Nance salon in South Yarra. High tea is available in the venue from Friday through Sunday with three different menu options and price points:
- Sconti: $15
- Pretty Flamingo: $45
- I'm So Fancy: $65

Mary and I both chose the three course I'm So Fancy menu to get the full experience. A Zumbo high tea is a bit different to others as it is more of a degustation menu than sweets tower, and they start with the sweet items and finish with savory.

The first course featured a spiced pear strudel verrine, malted milkshake macaron, rhubarb crumble with custard, strawberry tart, and a mandarin, white chocolate and macadamia cake. My favorites from this course were the verrine and rhubarb crumble due to their strong flavors.

The second course was a mix of sweet and savory with Grandma's treasure tin containing a white chocolate chip cookie and croissant, a scone with sweet and savory jams and creams, and a chickpea cracker with basil hummus and tomato dust. The cookie was really good, and the chickpea cracker was very light and tasty.

Our final course was all savory dishes with a carrot, orange and ginger soup with roasted pumpkin seeds, mac & cheese croquette with bacon schmear, and smoky pulled pork shoulder on a scone base topped with pickled onions. From this course the soup was a clear standout with its full and robust flavors.

Overall the high tea was good but not mind blowing. There were a few standout dishes, but overall I would have preferred more sweet options to choose from.

L-FRESH The LION- Become Tour

Last night L-FRESH The LION brought his tour in support of his second album Become to the Northcote Social Club. Opening the evening was spoken word artist and slam poet Sukhjit. She spoke about Sikh identity, dealing with sexual harassment, and loving your body and yourself. There were lots of snaps for the truth she told.

Omar Musa was up next and played a fantastic set full of songs from his excellent EP Dead//Centre. Joined by DJ B.Two on the decks and rapper Mantra for a guest appearance, Omar brought great energy and passion to the songs "Dead Centre," "The Razor's Edge," "Freedom" and "The Fisherman Song," where he joked he's the only person rapping about Southeast Asian fishermen. He has such a strong voice and presence on stage, and finished off the set with my favorite track off the EP, "Lak$a," which had the whole room jumping.

MC Mirrah made sure everyone was hyped and ready for L-FRESH The LION before he joined DJ MK-1 and the full band onstage. They started with "Pray For Me" and then went into one of my favorites "Get Mine." L-FRESH played songs from both his albums and the whole show was filled with lots of good vibes. He got introspective on "Faithful," "The Time Has Come" and "unBECOME" before bringing up the energy with "One," "Takeover," "1 in 100,000" and "Hold Up," which featured surprise special guest Remi Kolawole rapping his verse in the song. L-FRESH also referenced his Punjabi ancestry with the track "Never Alone" and in the encore as everyone came out on stage to finish the night with "Balle Balle." I had such a great time at this show and really appreciated the positive energy that each artist and the crowd brought to the evening.

Here's the video for "1 in 100,000"

Monday, August 29, 2016

MWF- America In Decline

I always find it fascinating how much interest there is in Australia about what is happening in America, particularly in a presidential election year. As part of this year's Melbourne Writers Festival author and staff writer for The New Yorker, George Packer, did an hour long session at Deakin Edge in Fed Square with Australian author Don Watson on the topic America in Decline.

It was a bit of a meandering discussion that touched on George Orwell, the Iraq War, where Packer was a reporter and wrote book The Assassins' Gate: America In Iraq, and eventually got on to the main topic of America in decline, as Packer retold some stories about the lives of people featured in his 2013 book The Unwinding: Thirty Years of American Decline. It is this decline that explains some of what is happening with the presidential campaign this year and rise of anti-establishment candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

The most interesting parts of the discussion for me were when Packer talked about President Jimmy Carter and how he was the last person to tell the truth to the American people through his presidential addresses. When he lost after one term to Ronald Reagan, no President has been brave enough to be that honest since. Packer also touched on Trump voters and how their issues and concerns shouldn't be dismissed outright and need to be considered by Democrats if they get into office. Afterwards I was able to buy a copy of The Unwinding and get it signed by Packer. As I briefly discussed having to deal with the Trump voters in my family his advice was to continue to engage them using facts and kindness.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Dave Dobbyn- Australian Tour 2016

It's been many years since I last saw Dave Dobbyn play live so I was excited to catch his Australian tour stop at Max Watt's last night. The crowd was full of Kiwi expats, which was fitting for such a musical icon of New Zealand. The opening act was Jesse Sheehan, who played a solo set on acoustic guitar. Doing songs from his debut album (produced by Neil Finn), Jesse sounded great and got the crowd involved in a couple numbers. For his last song he switched to electric guitar and brought out his fellow Dave Dobbyn bandmates to play along with him.

Dave Dobbyn got a huge reaction from the crowd as he emerged on stage and started off the evening with "Whaling." Touring in support of his new album Harmony House, he played a few songs off of it but mostly delved into his extensive back catalogue. We got to hear Th' Dudes and DD Smash era songs "Outlook For Thursday," " Devil You Know" and "Be Mine Tonight." The Loyal album tracks "Loyal," "Love You Like I Should" and "Slice Of Heaven" had some of the biggest audience sing alongs of the night. The 1990s were represented by "Naked Flame," "The Lap Of The Gods" and "Language" from my favorite album Twist, and "Blindman's Bend" and "Beside You" off The Islander. Dave sounded amazing throughout his over hour and a half set and everyone in the crowd had such a great time as they sang along to every song. For the encore they played "You Get So Lonely" and finished the evening with "Welcome Home." This was such a fun and uplifting show to be at and just confirmed Dave's status as a New Zealand national treasure.

Here's the video for the single "Angelina" off Harmony House:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

MIFF- Emo The Musical, Kiki and The Lovers And The Despot

It's the final weekend of MIFF and the last of my films for this year's festival. Last night I started my evening at The Forum to see the world premiere of director Neil Triffett's Australian musical comedy Emo The Musical. Most of the cast and crew were in attendance to watch this film, which originated from Triffett's 2014 Berlinale award-winning short film. It starred Benson Jack Anthony as Ethan, an emo boy who starts at a new high school after getting expelled from his old one. Navigating the different tribes at the school he soon found a group of fellow emos and joined their band Worst Day Ever. Their rivals at school were a Christian worship group, who decided to compete in the same local band competition. Ethan falls for one of their members, Trinity (Jordan Hare) and they try to keep their budding romance a secret. The film is a bit like Glee as the students break into song, with my favorite bit being when Trinity realised that "Jesus was an emo." It was an entertaining film with the ultimate message of being true to yourself. After the screening Lawrence Leung hosted a Q&A with Triffett and his producer. They are hoping to get the movie picked up for distribution more broadly.

Next I saw Sara Jordeno's documentary Kiki about today's New York City ballroom scene. Featuring LGBTQI youth of color, the kiki scene is more organised and socially active than its earlier counterparts captured in the landmark documentary Paris Is Burning. Set to a soundtrack by Qween Beats, the film followed the heads and members of a few different houses as they competed in ballroom and provided a support network for each other. It was a fantastic look at this often marginalised community with some really insightful commentary, political discussion, as well as amazing dance sequences and costumes from the ballroom competitions.

Today I headed to the Comedy Theatre for my final film of MIFF, the documentary The Lovers And The Despot by Ross Adam and Robert Cannan. It tells the true story of South Korean filmmaker Shin Sang-ok and his ex-wife, actress Choi Eun-hee, who were kidnapped in the late 1970s by Kim Jong-il's agents to help bolster North Korea's film industry. While under captivity they gained Kim Jong-il's trust and had the freedom and financing to make whatever films they wanted. As they met the goal of getting North Korean films into international film festivals, it provided Sang-ok and Eun-hee the opportunity they needed to ultimately make their escape. It's a bizarre tale and unfortunately doesn't really cover the aftermath or reaction in North Korea to their defection back to the West.
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