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.
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