Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Blur- The Magic Whip Tour

I have been a fan of Blur since their very first single, so you can imagine my excitement when The Magic Whip got released earlier this year and they announced they would be playing live in Melbourne. Belinda and I arrived at Rod Laver Arena tonight and found a position on the floor (yay for general admission). The opening act was UK singer-songwriter Jamie T, who I thought was ok and got a good reaction from the crowd for a few of his songs.

The last time I saw Blur live was in San Francisco in 1997, so it's been a long time between gigs. When they came out onstage after the ice cream van jingles it was as if no time had passed. They started the evening with "Go Out" off the new album and then played "There's No Other Way" from their first. Damon had so much energy as he worked the stage and got the crowd going (thankfully I was just out of range for his water bottle sprays). Alex was the epitome of cool on the bass, Dave was fantastic on the drums, and Graham was his usual genius on the guitar.

The set list for the 2 hour concert spanned all their releases and was a great mix of old and new. The Magic Whip is a fantastic album and I was glad "Lonesome Street," "Ong Ong" and the magnificent "Thought I Was A Spaceman" got played. Everyone in the crowd sang along throughout the night, especially for those epic ballads like "Tender" and "This Is A Low." Graham said hi to the crowd before launching into my all time favorite Blur track "Coffee & TV," and managed to mostly keep it together at Damon knelt in front of him and made faces while he sang.

It was the big singles though that really got the crowd jumping around - "Beetlebum," "Parklife" (where Damon invited some people up on the stage) and "Song 2" all went off. The encore started with "Stereotypes" and then everyone was seriously dancing for "Girls & Boys." I never thought "For Tomorrow" would make it in (loved that everyone shouted out the "modern life well it's rubbish" line) and then it all ended with a lovely version of "The Universal." I still can't believe I finally got to see Blur again live after all these years (hopefully it's not another 18 years until the next one).

Here's the video for "Lonesome Street"

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Essendon v. Port Adelaide

Tonight's game at Ethiad Stadium against Port Adelaide was always going to be an interesting one from an Essendon perspective. With our shot at finals over for this year the coaches have been playing the "Baby Bombers" for the past couple weeks, which has brought some much needed excitement and energy to the team. Dyson Heppell, currently acting as captain with Jobe Watson out injured for the rest of the season, was celebrating his 100th game. In addition, we had the return of two popular former Essendon players now with Port Adelaide- Angus Monfries and Paddy Ryder, who was facing his old side for the first time.

Essendon got off to a fantastic start by scoring 6 goals in the first quarter, but unfortunately in the second we couldn't kick through the middle and had eight behinds to just 2 goals. Although we were down 8 points at halftime, we managed to come back to life in the third quarter and tie up the game heading into the final term. However, Paddy Ryder managed to kick a few goals in the fourth quarter (despite boos from the crowd every time he touched the ball throughout the game) and although we got on a couple runs and clawed the score back to be in touch, Port managed to kick away and win by 13 points. It was a disappointing loss due to some questionable umpire calls and skill errors in defense, but it's good to see the young Bombers starting to play well and give us some hope for the future.

Final Score
Essendon: 17.14 (116)
Port Adelaide: 20.9 (129)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Square & Compass

Kat has once again introduced me to a new lunch place- this time a short walk through the Fitzroy Gardens to Clarendon Street in East Melbourne. Square & Compass is a lovely cafe located in an old red brick terrace house that opened in May. I think the best thing about the place is the option for breakfast all day, so depending on your mood, you can choose whether you are feeling more brunch or lunch.

I have been to eat at Square & Compass twice now and tried out dishes from both sides of the menu. The waffles with strawberry and rhubarb compote, vanilla creme and brandy snaps were good, and the waffle almost had a bit of a pancake quality to it. My menu highlight so far though was the wagyu cheeseburger with raciette, zucchini pickle, mustard, tomato sauce and chips. Very yummy. I'm looking forward to going back and trying out more of the menu in the future.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Unplugged Live: Anne-Marie May and Alexander Gow

Unplugged Live is back for a six week run on Sunday afternoons at the NGV Australia. Curated and hosted by Jae Laffer of The Panics, each session brings together a contemporary artist and musician for a discussion and performance in the gallery space. This afternoon's event began with Melbourne visual artist Anne-Marie May. She talked about the processes she goes through in creating her works, which are sculptural and utilise different materials. Anne-Marie has two pieces that currently feature in The Kaleidoscopic Turn exhibition: Untitled (Construction of coloured rays), which is made from felt, and RGB (Mobile), which is made from thermally formed acrylic.

The second half hour involved Alexander Gow from Oh Mercy. He and Jae have known each other for 8 years when a young Oh Mercy opened for The Panics, and their drummer Myles produced Oh Mercy's debut album Privileged Woes. Their chat covered a variety of topics, including the songwriting process, being creative and making something beautiful (which happens for Alex when is happy and healthy), the representations of himself at a certain age on each album, and the influence of Australia and his upbringing on his music.

Interspersed between the discussion segments were the songs "Cool Water," "Lady Eucalyptus," "Iron Cross" and "Let Me Be Him," which sounded heavenly in the acoustics of the room. Alex talked about the writing of these songs and others for the latest album When We Talk About Love in Nashville, and the benefits of being an outsider not writing country music there. The most interesting bit of the chat for me was towards the end when Alex spoke about his creative ambition to explore the essence of him and get that into a song, which is why he prefers to work by himself at this point in his career.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Eagle vs Roo

There has been a proliferation of American restaurants in Melbourne over the past few years as American food has become quite trendy. My fellow dual citizen Danny has joined me in creating the food blog Eagle vs Roo, where we aim to separate the authentic from the pretenders as we dine at American themed restaurants around Melbourne. We've got a large list of places to try out, and the three main genres seem to be New York deli, Southern barbecue and burgers. You can follow our adventures on the blog and @eaglevsroo on Instagram and Twitter.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Oh Mercy- Melba Spiegeltent

The Leaps and Bounds Music Festival is on at the moment, and as part of the events around the City of Yarra Mary and I went to see Oh Mercy play at the Melba Spiegeltent tonight. The opening act was one of our Melbourne faves, The Ocean Party. It was good to finally see them play live again, and their set mainly featured new songs off their upcoming album. We also got to hear the latest single "Guess Work," as well as "Deluded" and the fantastic "Head Down" off their previous album Soft Focus.

It was a full band show for Oh Mercy, and they started the evening with "Iron Cross." As this was the first official gig since the release of When We Talk About Love, the set list featured most of the songs off the new album. Many of my current faves are the uptempo tracks such as "Sandy," "All Roads Lead To You," and "Let Me Be Him." "Lady Eucalyptus," which Alex played solo on acoustic guitar, and "Can't You Hear My Body (Calling Out To You)" were also quite good tonight. We even got treated to an unreleased song with funny lyrics called "Hot Topic."

Alex was in good spirits and told an amusing story about being out jogging and getting hit with a dirty puddle of water as a car drove by. This ultimately led to him singing a short ode to his asthma inhaler. The band played some older tracks as well, with "My Man," "Stay Please Stay," "Deep Heat," Drums" and "Lay Everything On Me" making it into the set list. The final song of the evening was a cover of The Go-Betweens' "Love Goes On!" in honor of their upcoming slot at the GW McLellan Tent at Splendour In The Grass in a few weeks.

Here's the voyeuristic video for "If You Come Around Tonight"

Friday, July 10, 2015

Gertrude Street Projection Festival 2015

The Gertrude Street Project Festival kicked off tonight, celebrating its eighth year with over 35 works by various artists on display over the next ten days. With the threat of the Antartcic Vortex hitting Melbourne this weekend and next week, I figured tonight was my best shot of getting to see the works and staying dry. These were some of my favorites pieces from this year's festival.

Deb Bain-King with Finding Your Way: Finding Home is a very relevant and topical narrative for Australia about immigration and refugees which superimposes images with messages such as "Finding your way," "Mother, I am safe now" and "Welcome home."

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

The light projections I look forward to the most every year are the ones on the Atherton Towers. This year's piece Form Work was done by Guled Abdulwasi. It explores architectural forms, lines and shapes and utilises some vivid colors.

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

The most humorous work in the festival this year is Freya Pitt's Fortune and Love Favour the Brave. The animated film clip has a hilarious narrative on human attraction and desire that is accompanied by images that are a mixture of photos and illustrations. It's very entertaining and had people laughing out loud.

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

Chase Burns piece White Wash is a commentary on climate change that sees the Builders Arms Hotel awash in waves like some coastal cities may be in the future as sea levels rise.

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

Once again this year Skunk Control has done a magnificent window display. Secluded Evolution is a very detailed piece that illuminates species and environments that would normally be found in darkness.

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

Finally, I also have to give a special mention to Federico Winer's Ultradistancia, which is an amazing film of different aerial photographs showcasing the geometric beauty of cities and other built environments. The Gertrude Street Projection Festival runs until 19 July.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Apple Pie

Happy 4th of July! Instead of sitting poolside in the sunshine I am huddled near a heater indoors because it is rainy and freezing in Melbourne. One of the classic desserts for any Independence Day celebration is apple pie, which I managed to bake last night. There are many recipes to choose from, but I have always used the one in the American cooking bible The Joy of Cooking.

First, prepare the pie dough for a double crust pie. I used the basic pie dough recipe from Williams Sonoma, which was easy to make and tastes good. Line a 9-inch pie pan with half the dough, and roll out the other half for the top crust.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 F/218 C.

Peel, core and slice 5-6 large apples 1/4 inch thick. I use Granny Smith apples, but you can choose whichever ones you prefer. Combine the apples in a bowl with:
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Let it stand for 15 minutes, stirring several times, so that the apples soften slightly.

Pour the filling into the bottom crust and gently level with the back of a spoon. Dot the top with 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces.

Brush the overhanging edge of the bottom crust with cold water and cover the pie with the top crust. Pinch together the dough and crimp or flute the edge. Cut 3 to 4 2-inch vents into the top crust and sprinkle with:
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Bake for 30 minutes and then slip a baking sheet under the pie and reduce the oven temperature to 350 F/176 C. Bake for another 30 to 45 minutes until the fruit feels just tender when a knife is poked through the vents. Cool completely before serving.

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