Sunday, February 18, 2018

White Night Melbourne 2018

It's one of my favorite events of the year - White Night Melbourne! This year the crowds seemed a bit smaller than in previous years (noting that I arrived around 1am). While there were some interesting works, I didn't feel this White Night was as strong as other ones I've been to. These were my highlights from the evening:

In the Queen Victoria Gardens was the whimsical Neon Dog Park installation by Carla O'Brien. People had lots of fun interacting with these glowing dogs.

White Night Melbourne 2018

There was a bit of a space theme in the Alexandra Gardens with the inflatable installations of the solar system La Terra Al Centro Dell' Universo by Namaste Europa and the spaceman coming out of the ground Calling Occupants by Felipe Reynolds.

White Night Melbourne 2018

White Night Melbourne 2018

Floating over the Yarra River were the illuminated birds of Le Bal des Lumineoles by Christophe Martine, which added some movement to the night skyline.

White Night Melbourne 2018

The Flinders Street light projections The Secret Life of Buildings by DAE White Night and The Electric Canvas highlighted different eras of pop culture. These projections were more static than in previous years, with the ones on The Forum being the best of the three buildings.

White Night Melbourne 2018

White Night Melbourne 2018

White Night Melbourne 2018

In St Paul's Cathedral was a fantastic piece by Victoria University's Skunk Control with Altar to the Future. It appeared to change colors due to the large rotating circular portal that you viewed the work through. It was exciting to see them have a piece at White Night as I've been such a fan of their windows at the Gertrude Street Projection Festival.

White Night Melbourne 2018

At the Melbourne Town Hall were more beautiful light projections by DAE White Night and The Electric Canvas to accompany the Guerrilla Opera performances by BK Opera on the verandah. It was a nice respite to stop and listen to them sing.

White Night Melbourne 2018

One of the most innovative pieces of the evening was PlusMinusZero by Alexander Mitchell. Incorporating projections onto a large paste-up mural in a car park off Lonsdale Street, you could download the EyeJack app to see the work come to life in augmented reality.

White Night Melbourne 2018

Inside the State Library Reading Room was another work by DAE White Night and The Electric Canvas called The Secret Life of Books, which showed what might happen to the books after hours in the library.

White Night Melbourne 2018

White Night Melbourne 2018

The site at Carlton Gardens expanded to include even more works this year. Phantasmagoria by Christopher Langton was a fantasy land of giant inflatable toys and animals as you walked toward the Royal Exhibition Building.

White Night Melbourne 2018

The highlight of the light projections was What If... on the Royal Exhibition Building by Limelight Projection Mapping. The 3D video mapped projection made it look like the building was changing shape and it raised the bar from previous years.

White Night Melbourne 2018

Finally, on the Melbourne Museum Plaza were two interesting pieces. One was The Serpent Mother by Flaming Lotus Girls, which was a reptile with a moving head that had flames coming out of its spine. The other was Birdmen by Close-Act, where these Technosauruses roamed around the plaza as the puppeteers on stilts interacted with people and each other.

White Night Melbourne 2018

White Night Melbourne 2018

Friday, February 09, 2018

Father John Misty- Pure Comedy Tour

As part of his sideshows for the Laneway Festival, Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) played a sold out show tonight at The Forum in support of his latest album Pure Comedy. This was a bigger, more traditional rock venue than when he came through town last year. Opening the evening was Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders. They mainly played new tracks off their upcoming album, with the single "Susan" being my favorite song in the set.

The driving drum beat of "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" kicked off Father John Misty's set as he walked out on stage. It was a sign of things to come as his first two albums featured prominently in the set list, which mixed some deep album cuts along with better known tracks such as "Nancy From Now On," "Only Son Of A Ladiesman," "Fun Times In Babylon," "Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)," "Bored In The USA" and "I Love You, Honeybear."

Josh himself was unusually quiet for most of the evening and limited his banter in between songs. The middle section of the set was more slow and country tinged, which could have been a hint at his mood. One of the most meta moments of the evening was when he performed "The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt." complete with the video which stars him in all the roles playing on the screen behind him.

I was happy we did get some Pure Comedy tracks in the second half of the two hour set, including "Total Entertainment Forever," "Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution" "Ballad Of The Dying Man" and "Pure Comedy," which kicked off the encore. It was during the encore that someone in the crowd started blowing bubbles, which made Josh crack a smile as they flew past him on stage. The night finished with "Holy Shit" and a rocking version of "The Ideal Husband." It sounds like there is a new album on the horizon for this year, so hopefully he will be back soon for another show in Melbourne.

Here's the video for "Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution":

Sunday, February 04, 2018

NGV Triennial

The NGV Triennial is an international exhibition of over 100 contemporary artists and designers from 32 countries that opened in mid-December 2017. It showcases works in different media across cultures, scales, geographies and perspectives throughout all four levels of the NGV International.

Ebony and I went this morning to check out the exhibition before it got too crowded. These were my main highlights out of the many different pieces we saw. On the ground floor was the large sculpture installation Eternity-Buddha in Nirvana.... by Chinese artist Xu Zhen, which combined replicas of Buddhist and Greco-Roman, Renaissance and Neoclassical sculptures.

NGV Triennial

American artist Pae White's (Untitled) installation used paint and acrylic cord in different colors to create three-dimensional shapes that ran across the room and from the floor to the ceiling. As you moved around the space you got a different perspective on each piece. The room was slightly disorienting and I worried that I might accidentally bump into one of the pieces.

NGV Triennial

Another cool and interactive room was the immersive digital installation Moving creates vortices and vortices create movement by the Japanese art collective teamLab. As people moved around the room sensors created a continuum of digital particles on the floor. Therefore, the faster you moved, the stronger the vortex or flow became.

NGV Triennial

One of the most popular pieces in the exhibition is Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's Flower obsession. Created as a little apartment, each attendee is given a red flower sticker to place anywhere in the various rooms as you walk through. Over time, all the surfaces will become covered in red flowers.

NGV Triennial

Upstairs on Level 1 is one of the most creative fashion collections I've had the pleasure of seeing in person. Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei's spring-summer 2017 couture collection Legend was inspired by the Cathedral of Saint Gall in Switzerland. The pieces are ornate and beautiful, and you can also watch footage of the fashion show to see how the garments move.

NGV Triennial

NGV Triennial

One of the most confronting works in the Triennial is Australian artist Ron Mueck's Mass, which is located on Level 2 within the historical collection galleries. The piece is comprised of 100 large-scale sculptures of human skulls that are mainly piled up in one half of the room. It reminds you of the Paris catacombs as well as genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and other places.

NGV Triennial

The NGV Triennial is free and runs until 15 April 2018. Definitely make an effort to check it out if you are in Melbourne.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

I, Tonya

Despite her talents, Tonya Harding was always going to face challenges achieving her dreams due to classism and standards around femininity in the world of figure skating. The movie I, Tonya gives the back story of Tonya's life and shows how she overcame adversity to become a US figure skating champion in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It is a mockumentary-style film which uses interviews to present the often times contradictory perspectives of the main players in Tonya's life in the lead up and aftermath of the infamous 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan before the Winter Olympics.

Tonya (Margot Robbie) did not have an easy life growing up in Portland, Oregon and was the victim of family violence starting with her mother LaVona (Allison Janney) and then her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), who she married at 19 years old. The movie showcases Tonya's rise in figure skating, with one of the main highlights being the first American woman to land a triple axle jump in competition in 1991. From there Tonya struggled, finishing fourth in the 1992 Winter Olympics. She gave international competition one last shot by trying to make the 1994 Winter Olympics team. The movie focuses a lot on this period and leaves it up to the viewer to decide how much Tonya knew about the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.

The other narrative of the film is around celebrity culture and the media that drives it. In one of the most pointed scenes in the film Tonya breaks down the fourth wall and calls out the viewer, saying that we are all her abusers. The media circus around her in 1994 was unrelenting (and this was pre-internet), and only moved on when the next big story broke - O. J. Simpson and the murder of Nicole Brown. Tonya's life ban from figure skating by the US Figure Skating Association meant she could no longer professionally be involved in the sport she loved and dedicated her life to. The film ends with Tonya's short lived boxing career (which I had forgotten about).

Overall I, Tonya is a good film, with great performances by Margot Robbie and Allison Janney. It also makes you wonder if Tonya was skating today instead of 25 years ago what kind of reception she would receive from judges and the public.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Gotye and MESS Present Jean-Jacques Perrey Et Son Ondioline

On what would have been electronic pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey's 89th birthday, we were treated to an intimate tribute to the man by Gotye (aka Wally De Backer) in the Salon at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Mary and I attended the first of two sold out shows this evening, which were presented by arrangement with MESS (Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio), a not-for-profit organisation supported by Wally that is dedicated to the creation of electronic sound and music.

Unlike the other Australian shows over the past couple weeks that Wally has done with the Ondioline Orchestra at Mofo in Launceston and the Sydney Festival, this one was just him solo talking about the career of Jean-Jacques Perrey and the Ondioline (invented by Georges Jenny). The Ondioline was an early precursor to the modern synthesizer, and Perrey was a virtuoso on the instrument which produced some unique sounds. Wally got to know Perrey and his daughter Patricia in the last few years of his life and was given access to a treasure trove of recordings and other rare materials.

The research and archival work Wally has done resulted in the release of the vinyl compilation Jean-Jacques Perrey et son Ondioline on his label Forgotten Futures. Wally took us through many of the songs on the record that highlighted the different whimsical styles of Perrey's work, and told stories about the people he collaborated with (including Edith Piaf and Angelo Badalamenti). Wally's enthusiasm and love of Perrey and the Ondioline was so infectious throughout the night as he spoke about and played along with some of the songs. I really liked when he said Perrey's songs have humor in them, which is something he strives to bring to his own music.

The effort it has taken to find and restore these Ondiolines and get them playable again is pretty impressive. Wally has even gotten the original Ondioline manuals and instructions translated into English so those that are interested can understand how the instrument works. Some of the highlights of the hour and a half show were getting to watch Wally play "Chicken On The Rocks" and "Cigale," as well as sing in French the song "The Soul Of The Poets." This has clearly been a passion project for Wally and it's great that he's preserving the works of these innovators so that they are not forgotten.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Fleet Foxes- Palais Theatre

Tonight I headed down to the newly renovated Palais Theatre in St Kilda to see Fleet Foxes play their only Falls Festival side show in Australia. Opening the evening was Australian singer-songwriter Gordi (aka Sophie Payten) who played a solo set on acoustic guitar and keyboard (with some loops and vocal effects thrown in). Besides her own songs she also did a cover of Courtney Barnett's "Avant Gardener."

It's been six years since Fleet Foxes last played in Melbourne, although I was fortunate enough to see them last year in May at Vivid in Sydney. They started the evening with the opening tracks "I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar" and "Cassius, -" off their latest album Crack-Up. It was good to hear these album tracks again now that the band have been touring them over the past six months, especially my favorites "On Another Ocean (January / June)," "Fool’s Errand" and "Third Of May / Odaigahara."

The band powered through their set, often not stopping in between songs. There was an energy and joy as they sang each song, and the harmonies were amazing as they worked their way through their back catalogue. There were so many highlights, including "The Shrine / An Argument" and "Grown Ocean" off Helplessness Blues and "White Winter Hymnal," "Ragged Wood" and "Your Protector" off their self-titled debut album. The most special moments though were when lead singer Robin Pecknold took to the stage solo with just an acoustic guitar to sing "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" and "Oliver James," which had the crowd silent and transfixed.  They finished off the night with an impassioned version of "Helplessness Blues" and the audience sent them off with a standing ovation.

Here's the video for "Fool's Errand:"

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Indie Australia Sampler Vol. 8

It is New Year's Eve and I just arrived back in Melbourne this morning. In celebration of the end of the year, here is my annual compilation of some of my favorite Australian songs of 2017. Once again it is a mix of different genres and shows the diversity of music that has been released here this year.

1. Alex Lahey - "Every Day's The Weekend"

2. Bloods - "Bug Eyes"

3. The Preatures - "Girlhood"

4. Dan Sultan - "Hold It Together"

5. Cloud Control - "Rainbow City"

6. San Cisco - "Did You Get What You Came For?"

7. The Harpoons - "Do You Want My Love"

8. Omar Musa - "Like A Cat Move"

9. Sensible J - "Fire Sign"

10. Saskwatch - "Shrinking Violet"

11. Holy Holy - "Amateurs"

12. RVG - "Cause And Effect"

13. The Ocean Party - "If I Blink"

14. Oh Mercy - "National Park"

15. Slow Dancer - "It Goes On"

16. Sampa The Great - "Inner Voice"

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