Saturday, December 31, 2016

Indie Australia Sampler Vol. 7

It's nearly the end of 2016, so here's my annual compilation of some of my favorite Australian songs released this year. It's another eclectic mix of music styles, with some great Aussie hip-hop really coming to the fore in 2016.

1. The Stiffys - "Celebrate Every Night"

2. The Living End - "Monkey"

3. Alex Lahey - "Ivy League"

4. Rolls Bayce - "Inside Out"

5. Sans Parents - "Can't Stop Moving"

6. The Ocean Party - "Hunters"

7. The Goon Sax - "Boyfriend"

8. Holy Holy - "Elevator"

9. Dan Sultan - "Magnetic"

10. L-FRESH The LION - "1 in 100,000"

11. Tkay Maidza - "Always Been"

12. Omar Musa - "Lak$a"

13. Sampa the Great - "2 4"

14. REMI - "Forsaken Man"

15. D.D Dumbo - "Satan"

16. Olympia - "Smoke Signals"

17. Big Scary - "The Opposite Of Us"

18. Slow Dancer - "Don't Believe"

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Basics- Howler

Wally's home for the holidays so that means we were treated to The Basics playing their first proper show together in over a year at Howler. I thought since tonight was sold out we were finally going to get a full rock stage show, but as I walked in and saw the instruments set up in the middle of the floor I knew it was going to be another in-the-round gig.

Opening tonight was Monty Cotton, who appeared last night at The Songroom with the boys. He played a solo set on acoustic guitar (using some looping pedals) and did a great job of engaging with the crowd. He sang a few of his own songs from last night with "Walkabout," "No Reason To Explain" and "Stay With Me Tonight." It was his covers though that really got the crowd's attention as he did a hillbilly reel (which started with "Duelling Banjos" from Deliverance), Johnny Cash's "Ghost Riders In The Sky," and off an audience request for Beyoncé sang "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" but in the voice of Johnny Cash. It was quite funny and topped his trick of doing a guitar solo behind his head.

The Basics, Howler
The Basics emerged onto the floor in their matching suits, which was a bit of an indicator of the type of set list they were planning to play this evening. It was great to watch Wally back on the drums as they began the set with "So Hard For You." Everyone was gathered in close and encouraged to dance as we were treated to an old school Basics show. They went deep into the back catalogue as they played "What Have You Done?," "I Could Go On," and "Hey C'mon!" off Get Back and the live staples "My Baby" and "Yeah, Yeah" (complete with dance moves from Kris and Tim). There were also a lot of songs off of Stand Out / Fit In with the highlights being "Bitten By The Same Bug," "Memory Lane," and the classic pairing of "Hey There!" and "Just Hold On."

The Basics, Howler
Often at Basics gigs there are running jokes or references throughout the night, and tonight was no exception as "ham" kept getting brought up due to Tim's written reminder to himself on his hand. The other funny moment was when Wally started singing "C is for Cookie" in his Cookie Monster voice. Of the more recent material that was played, "With This Ship" got the biggest reaction from the crowd. I loved hearing "A Coward's Prayer" as it's one of my favorite tracks off The Age Of Entitlement. Kris did a touching version of "To Think Of You," which he dedicated to two friends who had just passed away, and the harmonies on "Hey Rain!" were quite beautiful in the hushed room.

As soon as they finished the main set the call for an encore was loud and continuous from the crowd until they came back out. We got energetic versions of "Roundabout" and 'Time Poor," and considering Wally hadn't been on a drum kit for a year he did quite well to make it through the show. Another oldie that was pulled out of the vaults was "You're Already Gone," and then they played an audience request for "Home Again." The final song of the night was the always fun "Call It Rhythm and Blues," which had everyone dancing, and then the guys took their final bow after playing for nearly two hours. Unfortunately this will be it for a while as Wally heads back to New York to (hopefully) finish his Gotye album, Kris travels to Mongolia to work for an NGO, and Tim takes over ownership of the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine (where they are playing one last 2016 show for New Year's Eve). Mary and I will definitely miss seeing The Basics live, but we know at some point in the future they will reunite and play together again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Basics Present The Songroom- Gotye and Monty Cotton

On Wednesdays during November and December The Basics and MC Jess McGuire have been hosting the second season of The Songroom at Northcote Social Club. The Songroom pairs established and up-and-coming Australian acts in an in-the-round session of original songs and covers, with Kris Schroeder and Tim Heath from The Basics acting as the house band.

Mary and I have been a bit delinquent in attending The Songroom this time, but tonight was the last show of 2016 and featured Monty Cotton and the one and only Gotye (aka Wally "Basic" De Backer). As you can imagine, this show sold out soon after Wally was announced as the other special guest.

Wally was introduced first and kicked off the evening with "Coming Back." Tonight was an unique opportunity to get to hear Gotye tracks done in a stripped back, acoustic fashion and the versions of "Bronte" and "Hearts A Mess" (which included Wally playing a little bell) were outstanding. Jess quizzed him on what is happening in New York with the recording of the new Gotye album and Wally said that he's been working with Franc Tetaz on songs. There are also some satellite projects that are a part of the bigger picture, which is what's causing some of the delays. He is hoping to release some songs in 2017. For covers Wally chose to do Simon & Garfunkel's "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" (partially due to farewelling his Basics bandmates in a week when he heads back to the US) and Kate Bush's "Army Dreamers."

Monty Cotton, a former accountant turned musician, outed himself as a long time fan of The Basics. He is best known for his Johnny Cash tribute show called A Boy Named Cash. For his original tracks he played "Stay With Me Tonight," "No Reason To Explain" and a song he put together of different Irish reels that gradually increased in pace. It was quite funny to watch Wally on percussion keeping up with the fast beat at the end. Monty's cover songs were The Seekers' "I Am Australian" and one of his Dad's songs called "Walkabout." It was at this point that we learned some interesting facts: a) Monty's real name is Alex, and his Dad's name is Monty, and b) he is recording an album of his Dad's songs while also having taken his Dad's name as his stage name.

As the house band for The Songroom, Kris and Tim make a couple "Sultan's Choices" for cover songs each week. Midway through the set they played Stevie Wonder's "They Won't Go When I Go" (a song also covered by George Michael), and at the end they did Robert Palmer's "Addicted To Love" (which inspired a conversation about misheard lyrics). Normally this would have been the close of the evening, but for perhaps the first time ever there was demand for an encore. After people got Tim a beer and Kris a white wine we were treated to two more songs. Tim sang The Basics' "Hey Rain" and they finished the night with Gotye's worldwide smash "Somebody That I Used To Know" (with the women in the audience singing Kimbra's part). It was a great show and hopefully there will be future seasons of The Songroom in 2017.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Slow Dancer- Some Velvet Morning December Residency

During December Slow Dancer has been doing a Sunday residency at Some Velvet Morning in Clifton Hill. I finally managed to get down there this evening to check out the final show. Opening this week was a three piece version of Hollow Everdaze, who have moved away from a psych-garage sound to a more 1980s inspired indie guitar one. I enjoyed their short set quite a lot and thought they sounded good (much better than when I saw them a couple years ago).

Slow Dancer's set consisted mainly of new songs, with "It Goes On" the highlight of the new material for me. Simon was joined by Nicholas Lam on bass and Myles Wootton on drums for the set, which lasted 40 minutes. Older tracks played were "Took The Floor Out," "Leave It To Me" and "Cornerstone" off his excellent debut album Surrender. The chilled vibes of the set were perfect for an early Sunday evening show, and they finished by playing the latest single "Don't Believe." It's not many artists that have such an instantly recognisable sound as Slow Dancer, and I'm really looking forward to the new album.

REMI- Divas & Demons Tour

Last night was the last date of REMI's tour in support of their excellent new album Divas & Demons at a sold out Howler. The support act for the evening was fellow Melbourne rapper Baro, who had a mainly laid back vibe with soul based samples as well as a few harder tracks. He was joined throughout his set by a few guests on different songs, including rapper Nasty Mars, singer-songwriter Milan on guitar, and even Remi Kolawole for a verse.

In what was a first in all my years of attending gigs in Melbourne, a proper Welcome to Country was done before REMI began their set. Thankfully the majority of the audience were silent and respectful throughout.

From the moment Sensible J and Remi hit the stage the crowd went off (especially when it was announced this show was being recorded for Triple J's Live At The Wireless). They started with "D.A.D" and "Forsaken Man," the first two tracks off Divas & Demons. The new album featured prominently in the set, with highlights being "Uh Uh I'm Gone," "Lose Sleep," "Hate You" (with Baro joining in for his parts) and "For Good." Remi invited Jelena Nikcevic out to do their Triple J Like A Version cover of The Avalanches' "Since I Left You." Tracks off the 2014 Australian Music Prize winning Raw X Infinity were also played, including "XTC Party," "Sangria" and "Tyson." The final song of the night was "Substance Therapy," which closed out a very energetic and engaging show from this Melbourne duo.

Here's the video for "Substance Therapy"

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sydney Harbour

No trip to Sydney is complete without a cruise on the Harbour, and thankfully there are an assortment of ferries from Circular Quay to take you to wherever you'd like to go. As I had a mid-afternoon flight back to Melbourne today, Onagh and I did a quick return trip to Darling Harbour to see the sights and landmarks of the city on what turned out to be a gorgeous and warm day.

On the way back to Circular Quay we stopped off at McMahons Point so Onagh could show me around one of the old neighborhoods where she grew up (back then it was more working class than it is today). It was a bit of a hike up to the main street of the village, but we passed by some beautiful jacaranda trees which were still in bloom. After popping into a couple of shops we stopped at Olivo on Blue for a quick bite to eat for lunch. While Onagh had the Sydney rock oysters I ordered the bruschetta with tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil and aged balsamic on ciabatta. We also both had a refreshing Aperol Spritz to drink.


After eating it was a quick downhill walk back to the ferry, where I bid farewell to Onagh (who had a later flight) and then headed back to Circular Quay to catch the train to the airport. It was a fantastic four days in Sydney and a great long weekend away.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Crowded House Encore- Sydney Opera House

For Crowded House 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the formation of the band as well as the 20th anniversary of their Farewell to the World show at the Sydney Opera House (which I attended along with over 100,000 other people). To celebrate these milestones and their induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame, the band not only remastered and released deluxe editions of all their studio albums, but also announced four exclusive Encore concerts on the Sydney Opera House Forecourt from 24-27 November. These shows sold out super quick as they were limited to 6,000 tickets per night. I was fortunate enough to attend the Friday, Saturday and Sunday night shows, with assorted friends joining me on each night.

Crowded House Encore
Opening each evening was Sydney's own Kirin J Callinan. Having seen Kirin live before I knew it was going to be interesting to see how the crowd reacted to his set. He was a vision on stage with his bleached mullet and tight mustard tank top and grey slacks on Friday night, and sunset colored ombré suit on Saturday and Sunday nights. Joined by a band for most of his set I thought he kept the creepy factor toned down. His singing was quite strong and the band sounded good. The highlight of each night was his last song "The Toddler," which he did solo, shirtless and without any music. He asked the audience to use its imagination as he sang and danced to the beat in his head. It was amazing to watch and by the end I thought he had won over the majority of the crowd.

Crowded House Encore
It's been six long years since Crowded House last toured Australia, and this mini run of shows was quite an exciting prospect for me as a lifelong fan of the band. Each night I managed to stand between 5-10 rows back on the middle-left side of the stage, with excellent views and thankfully a pretty attentive crowd around me who were there to enjoy the concert. Against another amazing backdrop created by Noel Crombie and Sally Mill, each show began with solemn instrumental music and a group of people in brown monk robes slowly wandering around the stage before the band members revealed themselves.

Crowded House Encore
The band started the set each night with "Mean To Me," and after Neil sang "... and the sound of Te Awamutu had a truly sacred ring" he paused with his arm outstretched in the air under the spotlight. The crowd was into these shows from the very start singing along to every song, especially older tracks such as "Something So Strong" "Fall At Your Feet" and "Pineapple Head." I loved hearing one of my all time favorites "Whispers And Moans" each night, and the atmospheric core of the set was the one-two punch of "Fingers Of Love" and "Private Universe," which on Saturday night also included some impromptu Sydney fireworks. It was also good for songs off the last two albums to get an airing as they played "Don't Stop Now" and "Either Side Of The World," where Nick showcased his sashaying skills.

Crowded House Encore
The great thing about Crowded House shows is that you never quite know what may happen or which songs will appear in the set from night to night due to their extensive back catalogue and audience requests (which on Saturday night came via an onslaught of paper airplanes from the front rows a couple of songs in). Between Friday and Saturday night's shows alone there were seven different songs added to the set list. Songs that were played on one or two nights included "When You Come," "Not The Girl You Think You Are," "Nails In My Feet," a very moody "Into Temptation," another of my favorites "Kare Kare," "Hole In The River" (with The Parting Glass at the end), "In My Command," and the rare but much loved "Recurring Dream." Paul Hester was remembered with dedications of "Pour Le Monde" on Friday night and "Italian Plastic" on Sunday. Paul's spirit was certainly channelled during "Sister Madly" with Neil changing around the lyrics and on Saturday night Neil and Nick telling a story mid-song about seeing The Velvet Underground in Paris and sharing a hotel bed.

Crowded House Encore
Tim Finn joined the band towards the end of the set each night and for a bit of the encore. The energy really lifted when he arrived on stage to play "It's Only Natural," "Chocolate Cake" (with Neil on piano and an extended call and response with the crowd), "Four Seasons In One Day" and "Weather With You." On Friday and Saturday night we were treated to "How Will You Go," which I'm sure hasn't been played live since the early 1990s. Another special treat on Saturday night was hearing them play the majority of "There Goes God," during which someone threw a black bra onto the stage. This reminded Neil of Paul saying that Crowded House were a "fun, but safe" band. "Only the top half" said Neil as he threw the bra at Nick, who proceeded to headbutt it. Neil also talked about how Tim was a very encouraging big brother who told him he could do anything (and didn't ever beat him up).

Crowded House EncoreThe main set closed each night with a huge sing along to "Don't Dream It's Over" (Matt tapping on the perspex wall between him and Mark on Friday night was pretty funny) and "Distant Sun," which was one of my highlights of the shows due to the blistering extended guitar solos by Neil and Mark. For the encore the band emerged onto the stage by running out in a bit of a race each night. Besides the 1-2 songs played with Tim, they did "World Where You Live," and on Saturday night after persistent requests from a member of the crowd they attempted "Now We're Getting Somewhere" with no rehearsal (it wasn't that bad). The closing song each night was "Better Be Home Soon." On Sunday night Neil threw in a verse of Carole King's "I Feel The Earth Move" before the final extended crowd singalong to "... home soon." Then we were treated to planned fireworks behind the Sydney Opera House before the band took their final bow and left the stage.

Crowded House Encore
These three shows were absolutely amazing, and it was such a joy to see them play together again and manage the 2 1/2 hour long sets each night. My favorite show of the three I attended was Saturday night as that was the loosest, most classic Crowded House live experience. I enjoyed the little things each night such as Neil and Nick slotting into their normal moves across the stage together, and Neil resting his head on band members' shoulders mid-song. The next generation of Finns were there to assist on stage with Neil's son Elroy on guitar and Tim's son Harper on keyboards for some songs. It was also nice to see some of the old crew members like Arlo and Dugald return to do these shows.

We hung around afterwards and Mary and I managed to get a photo with Nick on Friday night, and on Saturday I was able to tell Mark how much I enjoyed his ARIA Hall of Fame speech where he joked Crowded House are really an American band (an argument I've been making since Matt joined the band). While this may have been the final farewell, Neil did say "And we will meet again" so that is promising. Hopefully it's not another six years before they return to play live again.

Sydney- Museum Of Contemporary Art Australia

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) is conveniently located in The Rocks near Circular Quay. Outside of the museum they have set up the Cherry Blossom Bar for the summer, which is where Tash, Mary, David, Belinda and I met up on Friday afternoon for pre-show drinks before heading across to the Sydney Opera House to see Crowded House. It's a nice, breezy spot with views of the waterfront and paper lanterns along the branches of cherry blossom trees by the bar. There were a variety of drinks on offer and I went with the Fuji Funk cocktail which had campari, yuzu, lemon juice, gin, vermouth, aloe vera and tonic water. It was quite tasty and refreshing. You can also order food from the Japanese inspired menu, which includes gyoza and bento boxes to share.


Today Belinda and I returned to MCA to check out some of the current exhibitions. Our first stop was Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect With Everything, which is the first exhibition by this Japanese contemporary artist in the Southern Hemisphere. Miyajima's works mainly explores the passage of time through the use of small digital counting devices emitting different colored LEDs that are contained within sculptures and various large scale pieces and immersive environments.

MCA, Sydney

The room-scale installations were my favorite part of the exhibition. The red environment of "Arrow of Time" is about the irreversibility of time and how we need to live in the moment. It contains digital devices hanging at various heights from the ceiling, and there are bean bags around the floor for you to lay down on to stare up at devices as they count down.

MCA, Sydney

The most breathtaking piece though was "Mega Death," which is a giant blue room with each of the digital devices on the three walls representing life on Earth. The counters go off and on at different times, illustrating death and birth. However, it is the unknown factor of when and for how long they will all go off in unison, plunging the room into darkness, that makes the piece so interesting. Despite these mass extinctions, life gradually begins again as the individual counters slowly come back to life.

MCA, Sydney

The other main exhibition that we checked out was for Melbourne artist Louise Hearman, which showcased her paintings and drawings from 1990-2016. Her works featured portraits and some surreal paintings with animals and other objects that made for some unique compositions.

MCA, Sydney

MCA, Sydney

Louise Hearman's exhibition closes on 4 December 2016, while you have until 5 March 2017 to catch Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect With Everything.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sydney- The Rocks and Barangaroo Reserve

I am in Sydney for a long weekend to attend the Crowded House encore concerts at the Sydney Opera House. While my nights are covered, I have free time to explore the city during the day. I'm staying at the Tank Stream Hotel on Pitt Street, which is a great central location and base for any adventures.

Today I started the morning at The Rocks and had brunch with friends at The Fine Food Store. Belinda, John and I were soon joined by Fran, Sonia and Kelli when I alerted them to the fact that Tim Finn and his wife happened to be sitting behind us in the cafe (don't worry, we left them alone). I had the Belgian waffles with salted chocolate sauce, caramelised bananas, berries, panna cotta gelato and sugar pecan nuts. Unfortunately the waffles were more cakey than doughy as well as dry, which was a massive disappointment. I think others had better luck with their menu choices.

After brunch we bid farewell to John and headed out to wander around The Rocks Markets, which are on each weekend from 10am - 5pm. There were a mix of food stalls and people selling a variety of things. It seems that each time I visit the markets they have increased in size. While I didn't end up buying anything some of the others grabbed items for those back home. We said goodbye to Fran, Sonia and Kelli until the evening, and then went to grab some gelati from Gelatissimo.

Next Belinda and I walked along the waterfront and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, getting some great views of both the bridge and the Sydney Opera House on this beautiful day.

Our walk led us along the Walsh Bay foreshore down Hickson Road and past the former wharves, which are now part of the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct with its numerous theatres. We then came upon the recently opened Barangaroo Reserve, which was a former industrial area that has been turned into a six-hectare headland open space. It has walking and cycling paths and is full of sandstone and native trees and plants. It's a lovely space to walk around and stop at various points to take in the views.

The entire area was a great way to take in the natural beauty of Sydney and its amazing views of the Harbour, especially on a day with such gorgeous weather.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dan Sultan- Magnetic Tour

Dan Sultan recently launched his new single "Magnetic" and has hit the road this month to support its release. Tonight he played a nearly sold out show in Melbourne at 170 Russell. I arrived as the second support act, Caiti Baker, started playing. The Darwin singer-songwriter and vocalist in the electro-soul duo Sietta has gone solo with a jazz/soul/pop sound. She played a very catchy and energetic set with her band featuring songs from her upcoming album.

Dan Sultan took to the stage with his full band and began his set with "Kimberly Calling" and "Your Love Is Like A Song." After such a rough week it was good to have a solid rock show to distract you from world events. Dan was in fine voice and played some new material, which had a bit of a soul vibe to it, along with songs from his previous album Blackbird, including "The Same Man" and "Under Your Skin." He finished the main set with "Magnetic" and then started the encore playing "It Belongs To Us" and "Dirty Ground" solo on electric guitar. To close out the night he did one of my favorites, the anthemic "Old Fitzroy." I'm looking forward to hearing Dan's new album when it comes out next year and this new soulful direction he seems to be taking.

Here's the amazing animated video by Dropbear for "Magnetic"

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Harpoons- ACCA

Melbourne Music Week kicked off today, and will feature a lot of different artists playing in some interesting and unique spaces around the city over the next week. Tonight Mary, Belinda and I met up at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) in Southbank to see The Harpoons. It's been a while since they last played live in Melbourne, so the crowd was pretty hyped to see them.

Their set was a bit of a preview of their upcoming album, which continues their dance and R&B sound with some beautiful harmonies and more songs about love. We also got to hear some older tracks such as "Can We Work This Out," "Unforgettable" and "Ready For Your Love." The foyer of ACCA where the stage was set up wasn't the most conducive to a good sound mix, although it did get a bit better as the show went on. It was a quick 45 minute set, but always a pleasure to see The Harpoons bring their positive energy to a live setting.

Here's the video for "Never Stop Loving You"

Thursday, November 10, 2016

LuxBite Hello Kitty Pop-up Patisserie

I was a big Hello Kitty fan as a child, so it was exciting to see one of my favorite Melbourne patisseries LuxBite team up with Hello Kitty for a special limited edition collection of desserts. I hit up their current pop-up store located on the level 2 link bridge of Melbourne Central during lunch to try out some of these sweet treats.

First off I sampled two of the small cakes. The Pink cake contains strawberry mousse, raspberry coconut, desiccated coconut mousse and white chocolate sponge. The Blue cake has a calpis and mascarpone mousse, blueberry jelly, blueberry cream and white chocolate sponge. Both cakes were very light and tasty.

Next I had the Macarons Box Set which contained three different flavors: blueberry marshmallow, salted caramel, and raspberry and white chocolate. The salted caramel one was amazing.

There are also some chocolates available too with their chocolate lollypops and three different Japanese inspired chocolate bars. Be sure to check out the LuxBite Hello Kitty collection at the pop-up location or LuxBite stores in South Yarra and Melbourne CBD. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

The Stiffys- Art Rock Two Tour

Last night The Stiffys concluded their tour in support of their latest EP Art Rock Two at The Workers Club. Opening the gig were three piece band Rad Island who had a bit of a pop punk vibe. Next up was the duo Sex Pills who sang short songs about everyday issues with their lead singer using a broad Aussie ocker accent. They even did a cover of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'."

The Stiffys are still in their art rock phase and came out wearing their astronaut suits (with Dev in a black "We Are Your Boys, Please RT" t-shirt and Stiffys sailor hat). They kicked off the evening with my favorite track off the new EP "Celebrate Every Night." As this show was billed as being in 3D the audience could grab free 3D glasses when they entered the bandroom, which enhanced the experience of viewing the moving geometric projections in the background. Things became even more 3D when the band started throwing out Vicks VapoNaturals they had found into the crowd.

It was a high energy show with a set list that contained songs from all of their releases. Highlights for me included the newer art rock tracks such as "Do What You Want," "The Pokémon Go Song," "King Of The Internet," "Kissy Kissy" and "Space Blog" alongside Stiffys classics like "Champagne," "Call And Response Song" and "Ranger Stacey." Crowd surfing happened at the end of the main set with Dev being kept up while they played a song in honor of The Beards "Touch Me In My Pants (On My Doodle)," and of course the boogie board was brought out for "Boogie Boarding" (this time rode by the lead singer of Rad Island). For the encore they finished on a high with "I'm Really Good At Sex Because I'm Always Doing It" and "I Like Drinks When I Drink Them." It's always great to see the boys do such a great job and maintain their positive attitude to life.

Here's the video for their semi-viral hit "The Pokémon Go Song"

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Melbourne Cup 2016

Photo by Eddie Jim
It's the Spring Racing Carnival once again in Melbourne, and today was the 156th running of the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse. This year's race was quite exciting as German horse Almandin chased down Irish horse Heartbreak City to win on the line, with favorite Hartnell (Great Britain) finishing third. This was owner Lloyd Williams fifth Melbourne Cup win, and the second for jockey Kerrin McEvoy, who first won 16 years ago. Weather wise it managed to stay dry for the majority of the day, but did start to rain as the horses galloped down the straight to the finish.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Girl On The Train

It was more treats than tricks this Halloween as not only did I finally get to use my Village Cinemas gift certificates before they expired, but the Village Cinemas at Crown were also giving away a free large popcorn with every purchased ticket. Onagh and I decided to see the mystery thriller The Girl On The Train, a movie based on the novel by Paula Hawkins.

The plot revolves around Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic who rides the train to and from the city each day, passing the house she used to live in with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby. Two doors down from her old house is another couple Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Haley Bennett), who Rachel imagines are in the perfect marriage.

The movie jumps back and forth between time frames and characters as you see events from other characters' perspectives. Megan, who was also briefly a nanny for Tom and Anna, was not actually in a happy marriage, but detached from her controlling husband and seeing a psychiatrist (Edgar Ramirez). When Rachel passes by the houses on the train one day and sees Megan kissing another man on her porch, it sets Rachel off on a drinking binge. One evening she decides to get off the train and confront Megan, but wakes up at home from a blackout covered in blood and bruises, not remembering what has happened. Later on in the news she sees that Megan is missing, which sets off a series of events to find Megan and what really happened to her. Emily Blunt is absolutely amazing as Rachel and really carries the movie, which has a lot of twists and turns as the mystery unravels.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

C.W. Stoneking- The Croxton

C.W. Stoneking brought along his all female band from recent shows in the US to play a one off sold out show tonight at The Croxton Bandroom in Thornbury as part of the Darebin Music Feast. This was my first time at The Croxton and it's a pretty big space with decent views of the stage from wherever you stand. It's nice to have a larger venue operating on the north side of town.

Considering we are so close to Halloween, C.W. and his band started off the night with the very appropriate track "The Zombie." His latest album Gon' Boogaloo was prominently featured in the set with every song off of it played. Highlights included "Get On The Floor," "Tomorrow Gon' Be Too Late," "The Thing I Done," "I'm The Jungle Man," "The Jungle Swing," "Good Luck Charm" and "We Gon' Boogaloo."

C.W. was in fine voice and told some funny stories throughout the night about his hatred of banjos, hunting for Bigfoot while in the US, his love of chocolate fudge sundaes, and even called out a heckler for arguing in the crowd. The nearly two hour set also contained songs from his first two albums, including "Handyman Blues," "The Love Me Or Die," "Jungle Lullaby" and "Brave Son Of America." The couple of times where C.W. played solo on guitar encouraged the most involvement from the crowd. "Talking Lion Blues" had everyone yodelling (and also a few stops and starts from C.W. as he lost track of where he was in the song), and the audience sang along to "Jailhouse Blues," which was the last song for the evening. It was another great show from C.W. and always a joy to get to see him play live.

Here's a live version of "The Zombie" filmed with his band a couple months ago:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Rone- Empty

Throughout Melbourne there are many historic old buildings that are being torn down by developers and replaced with new apartments. In his first solo show in two years, Melbourne street artist Rone utilised the inside of the soon to be demolished Star Lyric Theatre in Fitzroy to stage his latest exhibition Empty.

The show, which ran for 10 days and finished today, contained his works of female portraits done on paper and canvas, as well as photos of ones he had painted in abandoned buildings that few would have seen in person.

The highlight of the exhibition though was his large scale portrait painted on the back wall of the theater, which ended up incorporating some of an original mural from the 1920s that he uncovered while painting.

The exhibition also contained a short video about Rone and Empty, a virtual reality station, and a secret window where you could look through to see another large scale portrait in a dark room lit by fairy lights. It's always a privilege to get to see these works up close, and also to have Rone roaming around the exhibition and chatting with people this afternoon.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Morrissey- Festival Hall

The last time I saw Morrissey live was in Berkeley in 1991 on his Kill Uncle tour, so it's been a very long wait between gigs for me. I was overseas when Morrissey was last in Melbourne a couple years ago, but thankfully he returned tonight for a sold out show at Festival Hall.

The evening began not with an opening act but a montage of music videos from his favorite artists. Then after the screen at the front of the stage dropped, Morrissey and his band emerged, bowed to each other and took their positions. They started the set with "Suedehead," his first big solo hit. Morrissey's 2014 album World Peace Is None Of Your Business featured throughout the night as they played the tracks "Kiss Me A Lot," "Istanbul," "World Peace Is None Of Your Business" and "The Bullfighter Dies." Other highlights included "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris," "The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores," "I Will See You In Far Off Places," "All You Need Is Me" and "You Have Killed Me." It was also amazing to hear some older songs that I wasn't expecting them to play such as"Alma Matter," "Everyday Is Like Sunday," "Ouija Board, Ouija Board," "You're The One For Me, Fatty" and The Smiths track "How Soon Is Now?"

Morrissey's voice sounded fantastic and he did his microphone cord flicks and worked the stage. When he reached out to fans in the front row, two of his crew members would come out onto the stage ready to grab him in case he got dragged into the crowd (it was quite funny). The visuals throughout the concert were great as they utilised photos and videos on the backdrop to better illustrate the songs, none to more effect than videos of the treatment of animals in abattoirs for The Smiths track "Meat Is Murder," which closed the main set.

For the encore Morrissey came back out in a red version of the shirt he had been wearing earlier and they finished the evening with The Smiths song "What She Said." Morrissey then ripped off his shirt, threw it into the crowd and departed the stage. For a man in his late 50s he's still in pretty good shape. Although the show was only a bit over an hour and a half long it was fantastic to be able to see Morrissey play live again with such a powerful performance.

Here's the video for one of my favorite tracks, "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris"

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Big Scary- Animal Tour

Melbourne duo Big Scary continue to build on their success, with their latest album Animal debuting at number five on the ARIA charts. Tonight was the second of their three Melbourne shows this week at 170 Russell. The opening act was Dreller (aka Thomas Rawle), who played an emotive set of music accompanied by just a drummer.

It was an expanded live version of Big Scary that took the stage, starting the evening with "Oxygen." Their set prominently featured tracks from Animal, and for such an intricate and complex album they did an amazing job playing the songs live. Highlights included the more energetic tracks "The Endless Story" and "Up & Up & Up" alongside the more introspective "The Opposite of Us" and "Over Matter." They also played a few older tracks with "Luck Now" and "Belgian Blues" off of Not Art. For the encore Tom and Jo came out and did "Falling Away" before the rest of the live band joined them for "Twin Rivers" to close out the night. It's great to see Big Scary's popularity grow as they continue to challenge their fans musically with each new release.

Here's the video for "Over Matter"

Friday, September 30, 2016

Oh Mercy- Rolling Stone Live Lodge

Celebrating Grand Final Eve and Alex Gow's 29th birthday, Oh Mercy and friends played at The Workers Club tonight as part of the Rolling Stone Live Lodge series. The opening act for the evening was Melbourne four piece RVG. Frontwoman Romy Vager was quite a captivating presence, and their sound was reminiscent of early 1980s post-punk. It was a really good and authentic set.

Alex kicked off the evening on keyboard playing "Lady Eucalyptus." The first part of the set featured Alex solo on keyboard and guitar with the occasional friend invited to join him on stage for songs. We got to hear old favorites "Lay Everything On Me" and "Keith St.," and Olympia came out to play on the When We Talk About Love tracks "Let Me Be Him" and "Iron Cross." Alex did a beautiful version of Ed Kuepper's "This Hideous Place" on acoustic guitar. When Jae Laffer of The Panics came out he changed things up by playing Alex a song - The Panics' new single "Weatherman."

Being Alex's birthday he was a bit introspective about life and death, and joked that he felt this gig with his friends was like a funeral scene out of an episode of Touched By An Angel (perhaps the first time that tv show has ever been referenced at a concert). This show provided Alex with the opportunity to debut some of the new songs he's been working on. They covered a range of themes from Japanese saunas to crocodile meat, and the stand out track for me was "Hot Topic" with its steady groove.

The second part of the set featured the one night only Oh Mercy "hot rock band" line up containing Laura Jean on bass, Rob McComb (The Triffids) on guitar, Ceci Dowling on viola, Liam McGorry (Saskwatch) on horns, and Etta Curry (Loose Tooth) on drums. The band sounded fantastic as they played "My Man" (perhaps the best live version of that song I've heard with Liam's flugelhorn), "Without You" and "Deep Heat." The evening concluded with the band and Jae Laffer doing a cover of Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited." It was an entertaining night with some very talented musicians. Alex says there should be a new Oh Mercy album next year, so that is definitely something to look forward to.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sans Parents- The Dead End EP Tour

To celebrate the release of their debut EP The Dead End, Brisbane/Sydney band Sans Parents (well half of the band) came down to play their first ever Melbourne show at The Retreat Hotel front bar in Brunswick tonight. Due to me watching the AFL footy finals (Go Doggies!) I only managed to catch the last song of opening act Louis Spoils' set.

Mary and David joined me before Sans Parents began to play. The half of the band that made the trip down were lead vocalists Alex Bennison on electric guitar and Kane Mazlin (ex-Hungry Kids of Hungary) on keyboards. They joked that the other two band members were actually their parents and they had no idea where they were. The guys played songs off their EP as well as a few other tracks. I enjoyed the power pop of "Can't Stop Moving," "Maybe The World's Trying To Tell Me Something.." and "Dead End." In a week where Mary and I have been battling for pre-sale tickets to the upcoming Sydney Opera House encore shows, it was nice to hear a cover of Crowded House's "It's Only Natural." The show was fun and informal, and Alex switched out guitars to play one he just bought for the last song of the night, "Loose People." It was great to get the opportunity to see Sans Parents live for the first time, and I look forward to them coming back with the full band next time.

Here's the video for "Dead End"

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Degas- A New Vision

NGVThe NGV's Melbourne Winter Masterpieces focused on French artist Edgar Degas this year. The exhibition Degas: A New Vision features more than 200 of his works, including paintings, drawings and sculptures. While he was associated with French Impressionism, Degas preferred to refer to himself as a Realist.

Most of Degas' work focused on everyday people and portrayed the reality of what was happening behind the scenes and out of the spotlight. He immersed himself in different worlds and repeatedly returned to similar themes throughout his career such as dancing, horse racing and female nudes. His works ranged from detailed oil paintings to more abstract and unfinished looking pastel drawings.




Degas is probably best known for his paintings and pastels of ballerinas, and they featured prominently throughout the exhibition. His focus was often on rehearsals and the backstage world of the supporting dancers.



The exhibition also gives a really good history of both Degas' career and the historical times he was working and living in. Degas had issues with his eyesight, which got worse as he aged. I also had no idea he was anti-Semitic, which was brought to the fore through the Dreyfus affair in the late 1890s and early 1900s and resulted in him becoming alienated from many of his friends. Degas: A New Vision runs for one more week at the NGV and closes on 18 September 2016.
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