Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaBloPoMo: Fave Albums

Today is October 31st, which not only marks Halloween, but also the eve of another National Blog Posting Month (or NaBloPoMo for short).  Last year I challenged myself to Wear My Wardrobe.  This year I have decided to tackle my music collection and review 30 of my favorite albums- one for each day of November.  The rules are that I can only choose one recording per band/artist, and they must be full length studio albums (so no live albums or compilations).

This will be my fourth year in a row doing NaBloPoMo, and hopefully you will discover an album or two you may not have been aware of to check out along the way.  Wish me luck (I'm sure I will need it)!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Oh Mercy- Deep Heat Tour

Last night the Deep Heat Tour rolled into Melbourne as Oh Mercy played at The Hi-Fi Bar.  I met up with Mary in line and we headed inside the venue when the doors opened and found a spot against the wall for the evening.  The opening act was Split Seconds, a five piece indie band originally from Perth but now based in Melbourne.  I thought they sounded pretty good and enjoyed their set and songs.

Next up was Brisbane four piece Millions, who were very impressive.  I really liked their songs, which had some good grooves to them.  "Those Girls" was a highlight of the set and reminded me a bit of Supergrass.  They also did an excellent cover of The Ronettes' "Be My Baby."  Definitely a band to watch!

Oh Mercy's stage backdrop was all in gold with "Deep Heat" spelled out in helium balloons.  Rohan walked out to his drum kit and started the beat for the title track before the rest of the band joined him on stage.  Alex was sporting a gold lame jacket with Deep Heat embroidered on the back, which fit his current stage persona and the party atmosphere of the show.  The second song of the night was their current single "My Man," and we were lucky enough to hear all of the Deep Heat album played live.  They had a saxophone/flute player to help fill out the sound, as well as very special guest Robert McComb from The Triffids who played violin on "Fever," the reggae-tinged "Still Making Me Pay," and my favorite track off the album "Pilgrim's Blues."

Alex was in good spirits and full of energy throughout the set.  Older songs such as "Broken Ears," "Keith St." and "Lay Everything On Me" got new arrangements to fit in with the vibe of the new album.  They invited all the support bands onto the stage for a raucous version of "Drums" before playing "Stay Please Stay" and finishing off the night with a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper."  I felt this show was one of the best ones I have seen them play.  Afterwards we caught up briefly with Alex, who said it was nice to see familiar faces and was still cursing all the pollen in the air during the day and its effect on his voice.

Here's a short video from when the band hit Byron Bay, featuring some of "My Man" live:
  Oh Mercy from Corona Extra on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Basics- Ingredients Album Launch

Mary, Tash and I met up at the Northcote Social Club tonight for the sold out launch of The Basics' upcoming best-of album Ingredients.  As was the case the last time we saw them play in July, it was only two band members- this time Kris, who is home briefly from working with the Red Cross in Kenya, and Tim.  Unfortunately, Wally was away overseas since he is about to start the European leg of the Gotye tour.  While the three of us were catching up and having dinner Kris stopped by our table for a quick chat, which was nice of him.

We entered the band room just as Mustered Courage took the stage.  They were a four piece bluegrass band with members playing guitar, bass, banjo and mandolin.  I found it a bit random to be listening to traditional bluegrass in Melbourne, but they sounded good.  The standout songs for me were "Bullet" and their cover of Seal's "Kiss From A Rose."

As the curtains opened Kris and Tim came onto the stage to big cheers from the crowd.  It was nice to have Kris back but he was self-admittedly very nervous at the start.  For the evening Kris was on acoustic guitar and Tim played electric guitar.  The set featured many songs off of their last full length album Keep Your Friends Close, including "Fear of Failure," "The Day Mairead Goes Away," "Keep The Door Open" and "What Do You See In Me?"

As expected there was lots of funny banter throughout the nearly hour and a half set.  Besides some old favorites like "Second Best" and "Hey C'mon!," we were also treated to a few songs off their other soon to be released rarities album Leftovers.  Kris played a beautiful version of "All or Nothing" solo, and Tim even put on an accordion for a few songs, which resulted in amusing versions of "With This Ship" and "Hey There!," as well as the always lovely "Hey Rain."

The best part of the night though was when they pulled down a screen from the ceiling and tried to Skype in Wally midway through the show.  While we could see and hear him, Wally couldn't hear us. This resulted in Kris typing messages to him on chat and then giving up on the video call altogether.  Fortunately Wally prerecorded "Just Hold On" and Kris and Tim played along to the track, managing to stay in time for most of it as the audience was treated to some funny chat messages from Wally. 

For the encore they played a rocking version of "Call It Rhythm and Blues" and then finished with Tim singing "Have Love, Will Travel."  For a year where we thought we wouldn't be seeing them live at all, we have been lucky to catch two "Silver Basics" shows.  Hopefully next year we'll get to experience all three of them physically playing in the same room together.  In the meantime, we have two new albums to look forward to in November.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Napoleon and Henry Wagons

This weekend is the last one for the Napoleon: Revolution to Empire exhibition at the NGV.  To celebrate they opened up the gallery for 24 hours straight yesterday, and scheduled some free live music throughout the night and other special activities.  Mary and I headed in to check out the exhibition in the evening.  The show was quite interesting and covers French culture, art and life from the 1770s through to the 1820s.  I hadn't realized the connection both Louis XVI and Napoleon and his first wife Josephine had to Australia.  The French explored Australia around the same time the British did, and Josephine had a wide collection of native flora and fauna at her Malmaison estate.  Can you imagine kangaroos and black swans in France in the early 1800s?

The focus of the exhibition though was the rise of Napoleon through the ranks of the military to becoming Emperor of France for ten years, and then ultimately his exile to the island of Saint Helena until his death in 1821.  I liked seeing the various portraits of Napoleon throughout the years.  We were also fortunate enough to hear three different short pop up talks by experts on different pieces of art in the exhibition, which provided some great insights into the era and Napoleon's life.

Fortunately Mary and I timed our visit to the exhibition perfectly and finished up just in time to catch Henry Wagons play his hour long set.  We met up with Tash, her sister Jessie and boyfriend Heath and grabbed a table near the stage.  Henry was in fine form and made some very funny Napoleon references both in between and during songs throughout his set.  He started out playing solo and then gradually invited some members of Wagons and The Nymphs to join him on stage.  We were treated to a mix of Wagons songs and ones from his new duets album Expecting Company?.  This show was a bit of a dry run for Henry's upcoming tour and even though we were his guinea pigs I thought he did a great job and sounded lovely.  After the show Mary and I left Tash, Jessie and Heath to complete their wait until they could enter the exhibition at midnight.  Their tickets may have been cheaper than ours, but with daylight savings starting this morning they probably didn't get out of the NGV until around 3:00 am!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Concert For The Kimberley

This evening Tash and I met up at Fed Square for the free Concert for the Kimberley.  This event was held to help raise awareness about the battle to save the Kimberley region in Western Australia from a liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plant being built on the coast at James Price Point/Walmadan north of Broome.  It is a fight to save the unique and pristine environment in the Kimberley as well as Aboriginal access to their traditional land.

Former leader of the Australian Greens Bob Brown opened the event with a speech, and night alternated between musical acts, speakers and video presentations explaining what is going on in the Kimberley and how people are fighting against the fossil fuel industry and the development of this gas hub that would be the size of 25 Melbourne CBDs.

Clare Bowditch played two mini sets featuring older songs and ones off her new album The Winter I Chose Happiness, including "You Make Me Happy" which she did on the tv show Offspring.  Next up was Albert Wiggan, a local resident who featured in one of the videos speaking about the importance of the land and country to himself and his family.  He sang two very powerful songs that he wrote, including one titled "Dear Prime Minister."

The final act of the evening and the main reason for the packed out Fed Square was John Butler Trio.  It's hard to believe but this was the first time I have seen them live, and they put on a fantastic hour and a half set.  John was constantly changing guitars throughout the night and it was amazing to watch him play.  We got to hear favorites like "Zebra," "Revolution," "Don't Wanna See Your Face," "Better Than" and "Funky Tonight," as well as a song written about why we were there tonight, "Kimberley."  All in all it was a great evening, and certainly educated me about something I wasn't even aware was happening in Australia.

Here are some highlights from the event:

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Castaway with Dan Sultan

If you were banished to a desert island, what are the top five movies that you would bring with you?  This is the question that is posed to celebrity "castaways" in ACMI's Desert Island Flicks series.  Tonight Tash and I met up (the first time I've seen her since she returned from Toronto) to hear what musician Dan Sultan's picks would be.  His choices, in no particular order, were:
- La Bamba
- Scarface
- The Big Lebowski
- Misery
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 

The format for the evening was that the moderator and Dan would discuss each movie briefly, then show a short clip chosen by Dan, with further discussion about the movie afterwards.  Dan was very honest about what elements of each film appealed to him and how they related to his life.  I think it's good for musicians to get the opportunity to talk about something other than their music and be able to show other facets of their personality.

The event also got me thinking about what my top five desert island flicks would be.  I have chosen films from different genres that I really love and would be able to watch over and over again:
- Into the Wild
- Zoolander
- Sixteen Candles
- Four Weddings and a Funeral
- A Bug's Life

Seven Year Itch?

Today is the seven year anniversary of my arrival in Australia.  It's hard to believe I have been here for this long.  Over the years I haven't really felt homesick, but during the past few months I have been having thoughts that maybe it's time to move back to the States.  This could just have been a result of boredom, the big restructure at work and the very tempting opportunity of taking a voluntary departure package (although even if I had wanted one I likely wouldn't have received it because they are so oversubscribed).

I do really like my life in Melbourne, but the pull of family will always be a deciding factor at the end of the day.  This morning was the birth of my niece Kylie, which is another big milestone I have missed.  However, I will get to meet her in December when I am visiting, so that is something to look forward to.
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