Saturday, June 02, 2018

Blue Mountains

Today Mary and I took a train out to Western Sydney to meet up with Tash, who picked us up at the station, for our road trip to the Blue Mountains. Our first stop for the day was the lookout at Wentworth Falls with its expansive and spectacular views of the Blue Mountains.

Next we stopped in the town of Leura to visit Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum and Tearooms, which has the largest private collection of teawares in the world. There were over 5,500 teapots alone in the museum grouped by era, country and design. I particularly liked the art deco and royal themed teapots. We had a cup of tea in the tearoom and then headed back onto the road.

One of the interesting finds in the town of Katoomba was the Street Art Walk at Beverly Place. It featured local, national and international street artists, including a nice wall mural by Adnate that included the Blue Mountains.

The Echo Point lookout outside Katoomba is one of the most iconic viewing points for the Blue Mountains due to the popularity of the rock formation known as the Three Sisters. We began at the main lookout and then walked down the path to get a closer look (but didn't go down the Giant Stairway to the Honeymoon Bridge).

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

For our late lunch we ate at the Boiler House Restaurant, which was part of the Hydro Majestic Blue Mountains hotel complex. Tash wanted to check out the Hydro Majestic after having driven past it before, and it did not disappoint. We ended up doing a tour of the place with the concierge to learn more about its fascinating history. Founded by Mark Foy in the early 1900s, what was originally a health retreat became a luxury hotel to bring in business. The architecture was stunning, particularly the Belgravia building which was rebuilt in art deco style after burning down in 1922. The Hydro Majestic has amazing views of the Blue Mountains and glamorous interiors throughout since money was no object when it was built.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

After our tour was finished it was dark so we headed back onto the road for the hour and half drive back to Sydney. It was nice to be able to get out of the city and explore the beautiful Blue Mountains region.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Vivid Sydney 2018

This year is the 10th anniversary of Vivid Sydney and my second year attending. For the past two nights we have been walking around and checking out the light projections and installations in the Sydney CBD and along the waterfront.

Our first stop on Thursday night was the area around Customs House. The installation Chrysalis contained colorful cocoons made of fibre optic cables hanging from trees that had butterflies inside that would flutter based on sounds nearby. Synergy represented a complex superorganism of a tree surrounded by ferns that changed colors.

Vivid Sydney 2018

On Customs House itself were light projections of the May Gibbs' children's books characters Snugglepot and Cuddlepie as they journeyed through the Australian bush.

Vivid Sydney 2018

Along the waterfront towards the Sydney Opera House were a few installations, including the light sculpture Visible Dynamics and the illuminated cube Fragmented.

Vivid Sydney 2018

In the Royal Botanical Gardens there were a number of fantastic installations. At the start was The Nautilus Forest with its changing colors, the illuminated Hyperweb, inflatable versions of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and wave inspired light bars of He'e nalu.

Vivid Sydney 2018

Light Houses were created with different designs and shapes and changed colors. One of the most moving pieces was Oasis, which paid homage to the memory of children growing up in out of home care and combined audio with illuminated lights in a pond.

Vivid Sydney 2018

Further in the Royal Botanical Gardens were the cute perched birds of Parrot Party and the interactive Aqueous where the colors would change as people stood on different sections of the pathway.

Vivid Sydney 2018

Tonight we headed to Barangaroo for dinner at the Chinese restaurant Lotus and then saw my favorite work of Vivid Sydney, which was the illuminated large scale puppet Marri Dyin (meaning 'Great Woman' in the Eora language) in the piece The Liminal Hour.

Vivid Sydney 2018

There were some good installations around The Rocks, with the different colored light tubes of Peacock, the multi-colored birds of 1000 Cranes, the flying neon kites of Luminous Flight, and the large sculpture Illuminosaurus.

Vivid Sydney 2018

Of course the main draw each year are the light projections on the Sydney Opera House. This year's installation Metamathemagical transformed the sails into a series of kinetic digital sculptures.

Vivid Sydney 2018

In the surrounds of the waterfront there were some playful pieces, including a giant inflated Earth, the rotating pufferfish sculpture Fugu, The Garden of Sweeties which was powered by renewable energy, and the cute Harmony Valley - Rainbow of Peace and Trees of Friendship.

Vivid Sydney 2018

Once again there were large scale light projections on the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia with Virtual Vibration, but they weren't as exciting or dynamic as last year's ones.

Vivid Sydney 2018

Overall I enjoyed the light projections and installations, but was surprised at how empty the streets were of people on both nights. Vivid Sydney is on until Saturday, 16 June 2018.

Biennale Of Sydney- Cockatoo Island

The 21st Biennale of Sydney is currently occurring across multiple sites in Sydney. The theme SUPERPOSTION: Equilibrium & Engagement gives attendees a way to view these pieces and how they reflect current issues in the world. Mary and I took a ferry out to Cockatoo Island today, which is one of the locations for the Biennale. Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site that was a former convict prison in the 1800s and then a naval shipyard until its closure in 1991.

Artworks were spread across different precincts on the island. Our first stop was the Industrial Precinct, which contained a few of my favorite works. Austrian artist Martin Walde's piece Timeline explores the passing of time, with a sheet of paper being shot out from a printer up in the rafters every six minutes containing a calendar date that started with the opening of the exhibition and ending in 2071. Each paper floats onto the floor, and some of them have drawings or writing from the artist in addition to the printed date.

Biennale of Sydney

The focus of the pieces by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at Cockatoo Island is refugees. Law of the Journey is a 60-metre long raft filled with people that is made out of black rubber. There is also wallpaper made of photos taken while he was filming the documentary Human Flow, as well as four different video works that were made in the past couple years to focus on the refugee crisis.

Biennale of Sydney

Scottish artist Anya Gallaccio's piece Beautiful Minds uses a programmed 3D printer loaded with clay to recreate the sedimentary rock formations of Devil's Tower, also known as Bear Lodge Butte in Wyoming.

Biennale of Sydney

Thai artist Mit Jai Inn has a few large scale installations with Planes (Hover, Erupt, Erode) which involves the use of paint in different forms.

Biennale of Sydney

In the Ship Design Precinct were two interesting video installations. Lebanese-Australian artist Khaled Sabsabi's audio-visual piece Bring The Silence depicts video on five different screens of people offering their respects to the Sufi saint Muhammad Nizamuddin Auliya at a sacred burial site. The floor of the room was covered in rugs and the scent of rosewater filled the air.

Biennale of Sydney

American artist Suzanne Lacy's multi-part audio-visual installation The Circle and the Square is the culmination of the two-year project Shapes of Water - Sounds of Hope in the town of Pendle, Lancashire. Residents came together in a closed down textile mill to sing choral music and do Sufi chanting. The sound of the choir singing rounds filled the room, and there were also individual interviews with local residents that you could listen to.

Biennale of Sydney

The Biennale of Sydney is on for a couple more weeks, closing on Monday, 11 June 2018.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Neil Finn- Out Of Silence with Orchestra

As part of this year's Vivid Sydney Live program, Neil Finn played two nights at the Joan Sutherland Theatre in the Sydney Opera House with an orchestra and chorus made up of Aussie and Kiwi musicians. Mary and I flew up to Sydney to attended tonight's second show. The first half of the set was the entire Out Of Silence album played from start to finish. It was so great to finally hear all these songs live, particularly my favorite tracks "Love Is Emotional," "Chameleon Days," "Second Nature," "The Law Is Always On Your Side," "Terrorise Me" and "I Know Different." Neil was really pleased once they finished playing the album, saying he really enjoyed it.

The second half of the set was a mixture of songs from throughout Neil's career. We got to hear tracks from his previous solo album Dizzy Heights, which also featured strings, with "Divebomber," "Impressions," "Better Than TV" and "Dizzy Heights." With the entire Finn family on stage they also previewed tracks off of the upcoming Neil and Liam album Lightsleeper with "Where's My Room," "Hiding Place" and "Hold Her Close." Then there were the classic Split Enz and Crowded House songs with "One Step Ahead," "Private Universe," "Four Seasons In One Day" and "Don't Dream It's Over," which finished the main set. For the encore a few bars of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" became an improvised cover with everyone singing along, and then they finished the evening with "Message To My Girl." This was such a special and intimate show, and with Neil joining Fleetwood Mac, who knows when we will next get the chance to seem him performing his own material live.

Here's week four of The Infinity Sessions which was the actual recording of Out Of Silence broadcast live online:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders- Blue Poles Tour

Last night was the launch of Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders new album Blue Poles at the Corner Hotel. Mary and I got there for the last few songs by electronic act Golden Syrup (aka Sara Retallick).

Next on the bill was Alex Gow from Oh Mercy doing a solo set. It's never a great sign when someone needs to use an asthma inhaler to be able to sing, and Alex was on his three times throughout the set due to a cold. He opened with a cover of Ed Kuepper's "This Hideous Place" and played a mix of songs from his last few albums ranging from the brooding "Iron Cross" and "Lady Eucalyptus" to the more uptempo "Sandy" and "Deep Heat." Alex invited Liam McGorry to join him on stage to play trumpet on "National Park" and his new unreleased track "Time And Date In New York," which was the last song he played. Despite not feeling great Alex powered through his short set.

The room was pretty full by the time Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders took to the stage. The set list featured many songs from Blue Poles, with highlights being "Can't Say," "White Flag," "Blue Mirror," and my favorite "Susan." Jack's baritone voice and the cool vibe of the band had the crowd entranced from the start, with bassist Donny Benet getting a couple of shout outs during the evening. The set also contained some tracks from previous releases, including "Cold Feet," "Come On Back This Way," and "Hurtsville" with Alex joining the band on acoustic guitar. Overall it was an entertaining night with two of Australia's most talented lyricists.

Here's the video for "Susan":

Friday, May 18, 2018

Shop The City: National Marshmallow Day

Today was Australia's first National Marshmallow Day, which was all part of this year's Shop The City event at the big shopping complexes in the Melbourne CBD. Mary and I started our evening of sweet treats at QV to make our own s'mores in their little winter village set up. It was a bit difficult to get the marshmallows toasty enough to melt the chocolate, and there weren't any graham crackers, but they still turned out ok. If you feel like making your own s'mores, the village is open on Thursday to Sunday from 4-7pm until 10 June.

Next we headed to Melbourne Central for their Ultra Violet Party (the Pantone color of the year) featuring different pop-ups on various levels. They had a Naked Negroni bar, an Ultra Violet Room for the ultimate selfie, marshmallows dipped in a chocolate fondue fountain, and some violet fairy floss. It was a yummy sugar rush.

After some dinner at Din Tai Fung we ventured to The Strand for their mini wagon wheels, and then to the Wonderland Bar at Emporium, which had Alice in Wonderland themed shortbread cookies and cute little potion bottles with a "Paint the Roses Red" drink made of Archie Rose gin infused with T2 chocberry tea (it was quite tasty).

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Eurovision 2018

It is mid-May so that means it's once again time for the Eurovision Song Contest. This year the competition took place in Lisbon, Portugal. As Australia was once again competing, our local broadcaster SBS showed the Grand Final live and I was up at 5am this morning to watch.

This year's winner, Netta (Israel) performing "Toy" was in my top three songs as it was a quirky and catchy banger of a song, with Netta having a bit of a Bjork look and vibe going on.

My favorite song from this year was Saara Aalto (Finland) with "Monsters." She has an amazing voice and this was another strong dance track with some androgynous backup dancers. I was surprised it didn't do better in the final voting.

Continuing the theme of female sung dance tracks, my other top three song (which came in second overall) was Eleni Foureira (Cyprus) with "Fuego." She gave an amazing performance and hairography in both the semis and finals.

Australia did not do as well this year as Jessica Mauboy's "We Got Love" received the lowest total in the public vote. The song was decent but not a standout track. It will be interesting to see if we continue to participate considering this year's results.

The Grand Final also had a bit of controversy as their was a stage intruder during the UK performance, but SuRie managed to continue to sing her song "Storm" once she got the microphone back and finished the track strong.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Marlon Williams- Make Way For Love Tour

Tonight I headed down to the Forum for the first Melbourne date of Marlon Williams' Australian tour in support of his new album Make Way For Love. The opening act for the evening was Canadian folk rock band The Weather Station. Lead singer Tamara Lindeman sounded great and they played a really strong set.

Marlon Williams came out onto the stage solo with an acoustic guitar and started his set with a breathtaking version of "Down In The Garden" that had the sold out crowd silent. The rest of the band then joined him, with Melbourne musician Dan Luscombe an additional member of The Yarra Benders for this tour. As expected the set list mainly featured songs from Make Way For Love (which was recorded in Stinson Beach near my hometown), ranging from the beauty of slower tracks such as "Come To Me" and "Beautiful Dress" to the more fun and upbeat "What's Chasing You" and "Party Boy."

Marlon was really happy to be back in Melbourne and to have the opportunity to play the Forum. They did a couple covers in main set, including the surprising choice of Barry Gibb's "Carried Away." They also played some older tracks such as "Dark Child" and last year's single "Vampire Again." His beautiful duet with Aldous Harding "Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore" was done with Marlon singing both parts, and they finished the main set with "Make Way For Love" (which could have easily featured on the latest Twin Peaks soundtrack). For the encore they started with a heartbreaking version of "Love Is A Terrible Thing" and then finished with their usual cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "Portrait Of A Man." As always, I left in awe of Marlon's immense talent and that incredible voice.

Here's the video for "Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore"

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