Saturday, January 14, 2017

White Cloud: Tim Finn

Tonight Fran, Lara and I headed to the intimate Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre Melbourne to see the second of three performances this weekend for White Cloud: Tim Finn. This one hour and 15 minutes performance was written by Tim Finn and New Zealand playwright Ken Duncum. It focused on family, identity and home through the telling of generational stories using a mix of spoken word, music and song. Tim, who moved between acoustic guitar, piano and ukulele, was accompanied by long time collaborator Brett Adams on electric guitar. Video artist Sue Healey compiled the projected visuals for the performance out of home movies from the Finn and Healey family archives.

Written as a series of impressions, the narrative jumps around between families and different eras of life in New Zealand for its white settlers (Pakeha) and their interactions with native Maori people. Most of the music is original to the show, but there were glimpses of Tim's Split Enz back catalogue with the opening verse of "Haul Away," the piano intro to "Remember When" and a bit of the chorus to "I Hope I Never" played on the piano in the swing style of his mother. The song "White Cloud, Black Shadow" joined all the bits together as it was played in four parts throughout the performance.

The show is thought provoking as it calls upon the stories of ancestors through journals, letters and memoirs. It gets you thinking about your own family history and where home resides when you are an immigrant. The most touching part of the performance for me was the section about Tim's mother Mary, with it's recorded bits of dialogue from a journal she wrote about her life as she was dying of cancer. We were lucky to be at the show where Tim did a Q&A afterwards, and he spoke about the fact that he feels her presence each time he performs the show. It was good to hear his thoughts and explanations about things as it made parts of the show clearer since it isn't written as a traditional narrative. If you have the opportunity I would definitely recommend checking out White Cloud.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Indie Australia Sampler Vol. 7

It's nearly the end of 2016, so here's my annual compilation of some of my favorite Australian songs released this year. It's another eclectic mix of music styles, with some great Aussie hip-hop really coming to the fore in 2016.

1. The Stiffys - "Celebrate Every Night"

2. The Living End - "Monkey"

3. Alex Lahey - "Ivy League"

4. Rolls Bayce - "Inside Out"

5. Sans Parents - "Can't Stop Moving"

6. The Ocean Party - "Hunters"

7. The Goon Sax - "Boyfriend"

8. Holy Holy - "Elevator"

9. Dan Sultan - "Magnetic"

10. L-FRESH The LION - "1 in 100,000"

11. Tkay Maidza - "Always Been"

12. Omar Musa - "Lak$a"

13. Sampa the Great - "2 4"

14. REMI - "Forsaken Man"

15. D.D Dumbo - "Satan"

16. Olympia - "Smoke Signals"

17. Big Scary - "The Opposite Of Us"

18. Slow Dancer - "Don't Believe"

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Basics- Howler

Wally's home for the holidays so that means we were treated to The Basics playing their first proper show together in over a year at Howler. I thought since tonight was sold out we were finally going to get a full rock stage show, but as I walked in and saw the instruments set up in the middle of the floor I knew it was going to be another in-the-round gig.

Opening tonight was Monty Cotton, who appeared last night at The Songroom with the boys. He played a solo set on acoustic guitar (using some looping pedals) and did a great job of engaging with the crowd. He sang a few of his own songs from last night with "Walkabout," "No Reason To Explain" and "Stay With Me Tonight." It was his covers though that really got the crowd's attention as he did a hillbilly reel (which started with "Duelling Banjos" from Deliverance), Johnny Cash's "Ghost Riders In The Sky," and off an audience request for Beyoncé sang "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" but in the voice of Johnny Cash. It was quite funny and topped his trick of doing a guitar solo behind his head.

The Basics, Howler
The Basics emerged onto the floor in their matching suits, which was a bit of an indicator of the type of set list they were planning to play this evening. It was great to watch Wally back on the drums as they began the set with "So Hard For You." Everyone was gathered in close and encouraged to dance as we were treated to an old school Basics show. They went deep into the back catalogue as they played "What Have You Done?," "I Could Go On," and "Hey C'mon!" off Get Back and the live staples "My Baby" and "Yeah, Yeah" (complete with dance moves from Kris and Tim). There were also a lot of songs off of Stand Out / Fit In with the highlights being "Bitten By The Same Bug," "Memory Lane," and the classic pairing of "Hey There!" and "Just Hold On."

The Basics, Howler
Often at Basics gigs there are running jokes or references throughout the night, and tonight was no exception as "ham" kept getting brought up due to Tim's written reminder to himself on his hand. The other funny moment was when Wally started singing "C is for Cookie" in his Cookie Monster voice. Of the more recent material that was played, "With This Ship" got the biggest reaction from the crowd. I loved hearing "A Coward's Prayer" as it's one of my favorite tracks off The Age Of Entitlement. Kris did a touching version of "To Think Of You," which he dedicated to two friends who had just passed away, and the harmonies on "Hey Rain!" were quite beautiful in the hushed room.

As soon as they finished the main set the call for an encore was loud and continuous from the crowd until they came back out. We got energetic versions of "Roundabout" and 'Time Poor," and considering Wally hadn't been on a drum kit for a year he did quite well to make it through the show. Another oldie that was pulled out of the vaults was "You're Already Gone," and then they played an audience request for "Home Again." The final song of the night was the always fun "Call It Rhythm and Blues," which had everyone dancing, and then the guys took their final bow after playing for nearly two hours. Unfortunately this will be it for a while as Wally heads back to New York to (hopefully) finish his Gotye album, Kris travels to Mongolia to work for an NGO, and Tim takes over ownership of the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine (where they are playing one last 2016 show for New Year's Eve). Mary and I will definitely miss seeing The Basics live, but we know at some point in the future they will reunite and play together again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Basics Present The Songroom- Gotye and Monty Cotton

On Wednesdays during November and December The Basics and MC Jess McGuire have been hosting the second season of The Songroom at Northcote Social Club. The Songroom pairs established and up-and-coming Australian acts in an in-the-round session of original songs and covers, with Kris Schroeder and Tim Heath from The Basics acting as the house band.

Mary and I have been a bit delinquent in attending The Songroom this time, but tonight was the last show of 2016 and featured Monty Cotton and the one and only Gotye (aka Wally "Basic" De Backer). As you can imagine, this show sold out soon after Wally was announced as the other special guest.

Wally was introduced first and kicked off the evening with "Coming Back." Tonight was an unique opportunity to get to hear Gotye tracks done in a stripped back, acoustic fashion and the versions of "Bronte" and "Hearts A Mess" (which included Wally playing a little bell) were outstanding. Jess quizzed him on what is happening in New York with the recording of the new Gotye album and Wally said that he's been working with Franc Tetaz on songs. There are also some satellite projects that are a part of the bigger picture, which is what's causing some of the delays. He is hoping to release some songs in 2017. For covers Wally chose to do Simon & Garfunkel's "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" (partially due to farewelling his Basics bandmates in a week when he heads back to the US) and Kate Bush's "Army Dreamers."

Monty Cotton, a former accountant turned musician, outed himself as a long time fan of The Basics. He is best known for his Johnny Cash tribute show called A Boy Named Cash. For his original tracks he played "Stay With Me Tonight," "No Reason To Explain" and a song he put together of different Irish reels that gradually increased in pace. It was quite funny to watch Wally on percussion keeping up with the fast beat at the end. Monty's cover songs were The Seekers' "I Am Australian" and one of his Dad's songs called "Walkabout." It was at this point that we learned some interesting facts: a) Monty's real name is Alex, and his Dad's name is Monty, and b) he is recording an album of his Dad's songs while also having taken his Dad's name as his stage name.

As the house band for The Songroom, Kris and Tim make a couple "Sultan's Choices" for cover songs each week. Midway through the set they played Stevie Wonder's "They Won't Go When I Go" (a song also covered by George Michael), and at the end they did Robert Palmer's "Addicted To Love" (which inspired a conversation about misheard lyrics). Normally this would have been the close of the evening, but for perhaps the first time ever there was demand for an encore. After people got Tim a beer and Kris a white wine we were treated to two more songs. Tim sang The Basics' "Hey Rain" and they finished the night with Gotye's worldwide smash "Somebody That I Used To Know" (with the women in the audience singing Kimbra's part). It was a great show and hopefully there will be future seasons of The Songroom in 2017.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Slow Dancer- Some Velvet Morning December Residency

During December Slow Dancer has been doing a Sunday residency at Some Velvet Morning in Clifton Hill. I finally managed to get down there this evening to check out the final show. Opening this week was a three piece version of Hollow Everdaze, who have moved away from a psych-garage sound to a more 1980s inspired indie guitar one. I enjoyed their short set quite a lot and thought they sounded good (much better than when I saw them a couple years ago).

Slow Dancer's set consisted mainly of new songs, with "It Goes On" the highlight of the new material for me. Simon was joined by Nicholas Lam on bass and Myles Wootton on drums for the set, which lasted 40 minutes. Older tracks played were "Took The Floor Out," "Leave It To Me" and "Cornerstone" off his excellent debut album Surrender. The chilled vibes of the set were perfect for an early Sunday evening show, and they finished by playing the latest single "Don't Believe." It's not many artists that have such an instantly recognisable sound as Slow Dancer, and I'm really looking forward to the new album.

REMI- Divas & Demons Tour

Last night was the last date of REMI's tour in support of their excellent new album Divas & Demons at a sold out Howler. The support act for the evening was fellow Melbourne rapper Baro, who had a mainly laid back vibe with soul based samples as well as a few harder tracks. He was joined throughout his set by a few guests on different songs, including rapper Nasty Mars, singer-songwriter Milan on guitar, and even Remi Kolawole for a verse.

In what was a first in all my years of attending gigs in Melbourne, a proper Welcome to Country was done before REMI began their set. Thankfully the majority of the audience were silent and respectful throughout.

From the moment Sensible J and Remi hit the stage the crowd went off (especially when it was announced this show was being recorded for Triple J's Live At The Wireless). They started with "D.A.D" and "Forsaken Man," the first two tracks off Divas & Demons. The new album featured prominently in the set, with highlights being "Uh Uh I'm Gone," "Lose Sleep," "Hate You" (with Baro joining in for his parts) and "For Good." Remi invited Jelena Nikcevic out to do their Triple J Like A Version cover of The Avalanches' "Since I Left You." Tracks off the 2014 Australian Music Prize winning Raw X Infinity were also played, including "XTC Party," "Sangria" and "Tyson." The final song of the night was "Substance Therapy," which closed out a very energetic and engaging show from this Melbourne duo.

Here's the video for "Substance Therapy"

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sydney Harbour

No trip to Sydney is complete without a cruise on the Harbour, and thankfully there are an assortment of ferries from Circular Quay to take you to wherever you'd like to go. As I had a mid-afternoon flight back to Melbourne today, Onagh and I did a quick return trip to Darling Harbour to see the sights and landmarks of the city on what turned out to be a gorgeous and warm day.

On the way back to Circular Quay we stopped off at McMahons Point so Onagh could show me around one of the old neighborhoods where she grew up (back then it was more working class than it is today). It was a bit of a hike up to the main street of the village, but we passed by some beautiful jacaranda trees which were still in bloom. After popping into a couple of shops we stopped at Olivo on Blue for a quick bite to eat for lunch. While Onagh had the Sydney rock oysters I ordered the bruschetta with tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil and aged balsamic on ciabatta. We also both had a refreshing Aperol Spritz to drink.


After eating it was a quick downhill walk back to the ferry, where I bid farewell to Onagh (who had a later flight) and then headed back to Circular Quay to catch the train to the airport. It was a fantastic four days in Sydney and a great long weekend away.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Crowded House Encore- Sydney Opera House

For Crowded House 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the formation of the band as well as the 20th anniversary of their Farewell to the World show at the Sydney Opera House (which I attended along with over 100,000 other people). To celebrate these milestones and their induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame, the band not only remastered and released deluxe editions of all their studio albums, but also announced four exclusive Encore concerts on the Sydney Opera House Forecourt from 24-27 November. These shows sold out super quick as they were limited to 6,000 tickets per night. I was fortunate enough to attend the Friday, Saturday and Sunday night shows, with assorted friends joining me on each night.

Crowded House Encore
Opening each evening was Sydney's own Kirin J Callinan. Having seen Kirin live before I knew it was going to be interesting to see how the crowd reacted to his set. He was a vision on stage with his bleached mullet and tight mustard tank top and grey slacks on Friday night, and sunset colored ombré suit on Saturday and Sunday nights. Joined by a band for most of his set I thought he kept the creepy factor toned down. His singing was quite strong and the band sounded good. The highlight of each night was his last song "The Toddler," which he did solo, shirtless and without any music. He asked the audience to use its imagination as he sang and danced to the beat in his head. It was amazing to watch and by the end I thought he had won over the majority of the crowd.

Crowded House Encore
It's been six long years since Crowded House last toured Australia, and this mini run of shows was quite an exciting prospect for me as a lifelong fan of the band. Each night I managed to stand between 5-10 rows back on the middle-left side of the stage, with excellent views and thankfully a pretty attentive crowd around me who were there to enjoy the concert. Against another amazing backdrop created by Noel Crombie and Sally Mill, each show began with solemn instrumental music and a group of people in brown monk robes slowly wandering around the stage before the band members revealed themselves.

Crowded House Encore
The band started the set each night with "Mean To Me," and after Neil sang "... and the sound of Te Awamutu had a truly sacred ring" he paused with his arm outstretched in the air under the spotlight. The crowd was into these shows from the very start singing along to every song, especially older tracks such as "Something So Strong" "Fall At Your Feet" and "Pineapple Head." I loved hearing one of my all time favorites "Whispers And Moans" each night, and the atmospheric core of the set was the one-two punch of "Fingers Of Love" and "Private Universe," which on Saturday night also included some impromptu Sydney fireworks. It was also good for songs off the last two albums to get an airing as they played "Don't Stop Now" and "Either Side Of The World," where Nick showcased his sashaying skills.

Crowded House Encore
The great thing about Crowded House shows is that you never quite know what may happen or which songs will appear in the set from night to night due to their extensive back catalogue and audience requests (which on Saturday night came via an onslaught of paper airplanes from the front rows a couple of songs in). Between Friday and Saturday night's shows alone there were seven different songs added to the set list. Songs that were played on one or two nights included "When You Come," "Not The Girl You Think You Are," "Nails In My Feet," a very moody "Into Temptation," another of my favorites "Kare Kare," "Hole In The River" (with The Parting Glass at the end), "In My Command," and the rare but much loved "Recurring Dream." Paul Hester was remembered with dedications of "Pour Le Monde" on Friday night and "Italian Plastic" on Sunday. Paul's spirit was certainly channelled during "Sister Madly" with Neil changing around the lyrics and on Saturday night Neil and Nick telling a story mid-song about seeing The Velvet Underground in Paris and sharing a hotel bed.

Crowded House Encore
Tim Finn joined the band towards the end of the set each night and for a bit of the encore. The energy really lifted when he arrived on stage to play "It's Only Natural," "Chocolate Cake" (with Neil on piano and an extended call and response with the crowd), "Four Seasons In One Day" and "Weather With You." On Friday and Saturday night we were treated to "How Will You Go," which I'm sure hasn't been played live since the early 1990s. Another special treat on Saturday night was hearing them play the majority of "There Goes God," during which someone threw a black bra onto the stage. This reminded Neil of Paul saying that Crowded House were a "fun, but safe" band. "Only the top half" said Neil as he threw the bra at Nick, who proceeded to headbutt it. Neil also talked about how Tim was a very encouraging big brother who told him he could do anything (and didn't ever beat him up).

Crowded House EncoreThe main set closed each night with a huge sing along to "Don't Dream It's Over" (Matt tapping on the perspex wall between him and Mark on Friday night was pretty funny) and "Distant Sun," which was one of my highlights of the shows due to the blistering extended guitar solos by Neil and Mark. For the encore the band emerged onto the stage by running out in a bit of a race each night. Besides the 1-2 songs played with Tim, they did "World Where You Live," and on Saturday night after persistent requests from a member of the crowd they attempted "Now We're Getting Somewhere" with no rehearsal (it wasn't that bad). The closing song each night was "Better Be Home Soon." On Sunday night Neil threw in a verse of Carole King's "I Feel The Earth Move" before the final extended crowd singalong to "... home soon." Then we were treated to planned fireworks behind the Sydney Opera House before the band took their final bow and left the stage.

Crowded House Encore
These three shows were absolutely amazing, and it was such a joy to see them play together again and manage the 2 1/2 hour long sets each night. My favorite show of the three I attended was Saturday night as that was the loosest, most classic Crowded House live experience. I enjoyed the little things each night such as Neil and Nick slotting into their normal moves across the stage together, and Neil resting his head on band members' shoulders mid-song. The next generation of Finns were there to assist on stage with Neil's son Elroy on guitar and Tim's son Harper on keyboards for some songs. It was also nice to see some of the old crew members like Arlo and Dugald return to do these shows.

We hung around afterwards and Mary and I managed to get a photo with Nick on Friday night, and on Saturday I was able to tell Mark how much I enjoyed his ARIA Hall of Fame speech where he joked Crowded House are really an American band (an argument I've been making since Matt joined the band). While this may have been the final farewell, Neil did say "And we will meet again" so that is promising. Hopefully it's not another six years before they return to play live again.

Sydney- Museum Of Contemporary Art Australia

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) is conveniently located in The Rocks near Circular Quay. Outside of the museum they have set up the Cherry Blossom Bar for the summer, which is where Tash, Mary, David, Belinda and I met up on Friday afternoon for pre-show drinks before heading across to the Sydney Opera House to see Crowded House. It's a nice, breezy spot with views of the waterfront and paper lanterns along the branches of cherry blossom trees by the bar. There were a variety of drinks on offer and I went with the Fuji Funk cocktail which had campari, yuzu, lemon juice, gin, vermouth, aloe vera and tonic water. It was quite tasty and refreshing. You can also order food from the Japanese inspired menu, which includes gyoza and bento boxes to share.


Today Belinda and I returned to MCA to check out some of the current exhibitions. Our first stop was Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect With Everything, which is the first exhibition by this Japanese contemporary artist in the Southern Hemisphere. Miyajima's works mainly explores the passage of time through the use of small digital counting devices emitting different colored LEDs that are contained within sculptures and various large scale pieces and immersive environments.

MCA, Sydney

The room-scale installations were my favorite part of the exhibition. The red environment of "Arrow of Time" is about the irreversibility of time and how we need to live in the moment. It contains digital devices hanging at various heights from the ceiling, and there are bean bags around the floor for you to lay down on to stare up at devices as they count down.

MCA, Sydney

The most breathtaking piece though was "Mega Death," which is a giant blue room with each of the digital devices on the three walls representing life on Earth. The counters go off and on at different times, illustrating death and birth. However, it is the unknown factor of when and for how long they will all go off in unison, plunging the room into darkness, that makes the piece so interesting. Despite these mass extinctions, life gradually begins again as the individual counters slowly come back to life.

MCA, Sydney

The other main exhibition that we checked out was for Melbourne artist Louise Hearman, which showcased her paintings and drawings from 1990-2016. Her works featured portraits and some surreal paintings with animals and other objects that made for some unique compositions.

MCA, Sydney

MCA, Sydney

Louise Hearman's exhibition closes on 4 December 2016, while you have until 5 March 2017 to catch Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect With Everything.
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