Saturday, March 29, 2014

MICF: Hannah Gadsby and Mel Buttle

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival kicked off this week, with most shows in previews through the weekend.  Onagh joined me to take advantage of the cheaper ticket prices and see two shows this evening.  First we went to the Melbourne Town Hall to see Hannah Gadsby in The Exhibitionist.  Her show this year was about self portraiture throughout the ages.  Utilising photographs she illustrated the similarities between historical painted portraits dating back to the 1500s and the modern day selfie, exploring how people present themselves and their image.  My favorite parts were a comparison between Russian President Vladimir Putin and pop singer Justin Bieber, as well as Hannah's self curated memorial video due to her fear of people using unflattering Google search images if she were to die.

Next we headed to the Victoria Hotel for Mel Buttle's show Bring A Plate.  It was more of a traditional stand-up comedy set touching on members of her family, personal experiences and her obsession with the tv show Embarrassing Bodies.  Mel also touched on the theme of maintaining control of your image in the age of the internet when people can make both good and bad comments about you online.  I found her set to be quite funny at times, particularly her written script for a confrontation with an internet troll.  Overall it was a funny night with two extremely talented female Australian comedians.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Royal Jellies- Brunswick Music Festival

The Brunswick Music Festival has been running for the past couple weeks and tonight Belinda joined me to see The Royal Jellies play at The Spotted Mallard on Sydney Road.  This was my first time inside the venue and the band room is actually quite cute and a good size.  The opening act was Aluka, a female three piece a cappella group which sounded really nice in the acoustics of the room.

The Royal Jellies played a fantastic set featuring many songs off their debut album Burrows St. Poolside, including "Place In My Head," "Shoot You Down," "Bumblebee," "Isobel" and "Sweet Papa Joe & Maestro Julio."  About two-thirds of the way through the set some people went up to the front of the stage to start dancing and were quickly joined by others once they played a cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" with Annabelle from Aluka on lead vocals.  I don't think I ever thought I would hear a jazz/swing version of that song!  The crowd wouldn't let them finish their set without an encore so they played a couple instrumentals that had everyone dancing and "Scotch and Coke" off their first EP.  It was a really fun evening in a lovely venue and always a joy to see a group of talented musicians play live.

Here's the band playing "Place In My Head" last year on ABC Radio National:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Neil Finn- Dizzy Heights Tour

For the past two nights I have been at Hamer Hall in the Arts Centre precinct to see Neil Finn play in support of his fabulous new album Dizzy Heights.  The opening act was Joshua James, a singer-songwriter from Salt Lake City.  Accompanied on electric guitar by Evan Coulombe, Joshua played a lovely set of his folk songs as well as a cover of George Jones' "Choices" and even a couple verses of "You Are My Sunshine."  Overall he was pretty impressive.

Neil Finn and his band snuck out onto the darkened stage and started off both nights with one of my favorite tracks off the new album, "Impressions."  He couldn't resist the urge to do a bit of a Dad joke with his "Stop, Hamer time" line.  The set lists both nights featured the majority of Dizzy Heights, which was great to hear live in person for the first time.  I particularly liked "Better Than TV," "White Lies And Alibis," "Pony Ride," "Strangest Friends," "Dizzy Heights" and "Flying In The Face Of Love" (only played on night 2).  However, the absolute highlight of the new material was the fact that he did "Divebomber" live as I never thought he would attempt it.  That just blew me away.  Unfortunately there wasn't as much material from his previous solo albums, which was a bit disappointing as the opportunities to hear those songs live in non-solo mode are slim.  However, we did get "Sinner" and "She Will Have Her Way" both nights, and another favorite of mine "Turn And Run" on night 1 and the rarely played "Into The Sunset" and "Faster Than Light" on night 2, which were great to hear again.

The rest of the set list was made up of songs from Neil's various bands and projects over the years.  There were the usual suspects in the Crowded House tracks "Fall At Your Feet," "Distant Sun," "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Locked Out," and the Split Enz songs "Message To My Girl" (played beautifully on piano with only backing vocal support), "One Step Ahead" and "History Never Repeats" (played on night 2).  The Finn Brothers project was represented by "Only Talking Sense," and there were even a couple Pajama Club songs with "From A Friend To A Friend" on night 1 and "Golden Child" on night 2.  Although Neil has a new band playing with him everything sounded fantastic, and having female backing vocals really added depth to the songs.  The show was also enhanced by the amazing backdrop made by Noel Crombie and Sally Mills and how it picked up the different lighting throughout the evening.  As Neil said it was "some next level shit" that came out of a vague request for trippy clouds.

One of the main reasons I love seeing Neil live is that you never know what special things might happen.  On night 1 a guy had to wait for a song to finish before being let back inside so Neil made up a little song on the spot about him being locked out of Hamer Hall.  There was the usual fun banter between songs with the band and audience on both nights, and a shouted request led to a piano version of the Split Enz song "Strait Old Line" which was so cool to hear.  On night 2 Neil demonstrated his American accent for his keyboardist Andrew from New York, and we learned why guitar tech Rohan (from Te Awamutu) has the nickname of Digger through a poetic note he wrote that Neil then read on stage.

Neil's chosen method for entering the stage for the encore was to jump and slide across the top of the piano.  "I Got You" was a feature of the first encore both nights, but on night 2 Neil ended up inviting people from the audience to join him on stage mid-song, which they did.  This then led into a sing along of "Weather With You" as they stayed up there before finally heading back to their seats.  The really special moments though were in the second encore with just Neil on stage playing acoustic guitar.  Night 1 featured a cover of The Beatles' "Rocky Raccoon," Crowded House's "Private Universe" and the rarely played Split Enz song "The Devil You Know."  This was nearly topped on night 2 with the older Crowded House tracks "Mean To Me" and "Love This Life."

Overall both nights were pretty amazing, and although the set lists were similar he did change up the order and around a third of the songs played each night, which made me happy as I'm used to him switching things up on consecutive nights.  As I had seats in different parts of the stalls each night I was able to appreciate the lighting on the backdrop when I was further back and also experience being ridiculously close to the stage.  Neil really seems to be loving playing with the new band and I know my friends in the States with tickets are in for a treat when he plays there next month.

Here's the video for "Dizzy Heights"

Friday, March 07, 2014

Friday Nights at Melbourne Now with Big Scary

The Melbourne Now exhibition has been going on since November 2013 and as it draws to a close in the coming weeks the NGV is celebrating with extended Friday night hours and also featuring local Melbourne bands in the Great Hall.  Tonight Belinda joined me to catch Big Scary, who have had quite the week after being awarded the 2013 Australian Music Prize (AMP) for their fantastic album Not Art.

Tom and Jo were accompanied by two other musicians throughout their set, which really filled out the sound and acoustics of the space.  They mainly played songs from Not Art, including my favorites "Twin Rivers," "Luck Now" (see video below) and "Invest."  We also got "Gladiator" and "Falling Away" from their first album Vacation.  In addition there were some great projections running on the screens in the Hall during their set, with the one of a tree falling in reverse even distracting Tom mid-song.  Overall it was a great set and good to have such a huge turn out to see them play.

Belinda and I also checked out parts of the Melbourne Now exhibition, which "celebrates the latest art, architecture, design, performance and cultural practice to reflect the complex creative landscape of Melbourne."  This contemporary art exhibition contains over 175 individual and group presentations in a wide variety of media across multiple sites in the city.  Of the pieces we saw I liked Patrick Pound's Gallery of Air, Peter Kennedy's neon light work, Jon Campbell's Dunno (T.towels), Marco Fusinato's Aetheric Plexus (Broken X), the data visualization of ZOOM by Greg More and Darren Sylvester's ever changing illuminated dance floor which kept us amused for quite a bit as we tried to take photos.  Melbourne Now closes on 23 March so get down to the sites to check it out if you are interested.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Dan Sultan- Under Your Skin Tour

It's not often that you get to see a matinee show at the Corner Hotel, but that was the case this afternoon for Dan Sultan's second Melbourne show for his Under Your Skin tour.  The opening act was The Medics a four piece grunge/rock band from Cairns.  They played mostly new material that they are about to record for their second album, which sounded good.

Dan also played a set filled predominately with new songs off his upcoming album Blackbird, including the first single "Under Your Skin."  The new songs sounded great with a full band and Dan was in fine voice throughout the afternoon.  We also got to hear some old favorites including an impassioned version of "Old Fitzroy," "Crazy," "Your Love Is Like A Song" and "Letter," which finished the main set.

Dan brought his young nephew onto the stage at the start of the encore, but he wouldn't do his air guitar trick and soon left the stage to get back to playing Angry Birds.  Dan played a couple more songs and ended the show with "Kimberley Calling," which he and guitarist Ash Naylor were pretending was their stadium rock anthem after opening for Bruce Springsteen a couple weeks ago.  Dan is such an entertaining performer and was so humble that people continue to support him.  I'm looking forward to the new album finally coming out in April.

Here's the video for "Under Your Skin"

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