Friday, March 31, 2017

MICF- Hannah Gadsby, Josie Long and New Order UK

MICF 2017
It's the funniest time of the year with the start of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this week. We began the evening at the Melbourne Town Hall for Hannah Gadsby's Nanette, her latest and reportedly last show at MICF. I've been to many of Hannah's shows over the years, and this was one of the most powerful and brilliant pieces I've seen from her. It's a very brave show that touches on the impacts of homophobia on identity and self-worth, mental health, violence, and fighting through it all to achieve self-acceptance. This is not a show full of laughs but an important personal statement about resilience.

MICF 2017
Next up was British comedian Josie Long in her show Something Better. Josie is ever the optimist, even while being a lefty progressive during a period of conservative UK governments and Brexit. As someone hitting her mid-thirties she takes joy in the little things like drinking pinot grigio and the youthful effects of wearing a chunky necklace. However, this show mainly focuses on finding inspiration from the underdog and keeping your chin up in the face of nationalistic right-wing movements around the world.

MICF 2017
The final show I attended this evening was at the Victoria Hotel and featured four young up and coming UK comedians in the annual New Order show. First up was Brennan Reece, who spent most of his set chatting with a few members of the crowd getting to know a bit about their lives. Next was Ahir Shah, who had a fast-paced set around social and political issues such as colonisation and Brexit. The third act Emma Sidi was the highlight of the four as she performed completely in character as a scorned woman confronting her cheating boyfriend and sister, with the whole set spoken entirely in broken Spanish. The last act of the night was Steve Bugeja, who played up his geeky and awkward nature in anecdotes about his life.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

French Film Festival 2017

I have once again been busy attending the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival over the past couple weeks. My tight list of five films expanded a bit as work colleagues encouraged me to join them for other films. Here is what I ended up seeing this year:

Slack Bay is a slapstick comedy set in the early 1900s in the seaside town of Slack Bay. Summer visitors to the town keep disappearing, and the bumbling local detectives can't figure out what is going on (or what role the locals may be playing). While Juliette Binoche was great in her over the top performance as the haughty Aude Van Peteghem, I didn't find the movie to be that funny as it seemed to rely on tired cliches and physical pratfalls for cheap laughs.

It's Only The End Of The World is the latest film by French Canadian director Xavier Dolan, and was winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Based on a play of the same name by Jean-Luc Lagarce, the plot revolves around playwright Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) returning to visit his family after a 12 year absence to tell them that he is dying. There are tense interactions with his mother (Nathalie Baye), brother (Vincent Cassel), sister (Lea Seydoux) and sister-in-law (Marion Cotillard), and everything climaxes towards the end of the family lunch. The film maintains its tension between the characters throughout and is visually stunning to look at.

Tomorrow is a documentary by Melanie Laurent and Cyril Dion about how communities around the world are working together to utilise local solutions to combat global problems. The film is split into chapters that cover agriculture, energy, the economy, democracy and education. I really enjoyed this film and was inspired by the different ways people are tackling these complex issues. Check it out if you get the opportunity.

Daguerrotype is a dark, atmospheric film by Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. It centers around a young guy named Jean who picks up work as a photographer's assistant. Stephane shoots life-sized Daguerrotypes, using his daughter Marie as his main model and muse. Most of the action centers around their old mansion, and Kurosawa uses music and lingering shots to build suspense and mystery so you don't know if you are seeing reality or what is in the characters' imaginations.

Monsieur Chocolat tells the true story of Rafael Padilla/Chocolat (Omar Sy), a former slave who partners with white clown George Footit (James Thierree) to develop a duo act that becomes the toast of the Nouveau Cirque in Paris during the belle-epoque. The film tackles the racism of the time and Chocolat's gradual realisation that despite the fame, being part of a minstrel routine isn't worth it if he wants to achieve equality.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Things Of Stone And Wood- The Yearning Tour

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of their debut album The Yearning, Things Of Stone And Wood have reunited for a tour around Australia, playing the album in full for the first time. Fran, Kelli and I arrived at the Northcote Social Club tonight for the last few songs of opening act Club Hoy, another early 1990s folk-rock band (although I wasn't aware of them as they were before my time in Australia).

This was the first of two shows in Melbourne, and it was great to see Greg Arnold, Tony Floyd and Michael Allen back together playing live again. For this tour they were joined by multi-instrumentalist James Black from Mondo Rock and Rockwiz fame to round out the sound. You forget how many great songs are on The Yearning, and the crowd was singing and jumping along to "Share This Wine," "Happy Birthday Helen" (which Greg had us sing for the real Helen in Switzerland as it was her birthday today), "Rock This Boat," "Single Perfect Raindrop," "Rain Fell Down" and "Barkly Street." I also loved hearing the slower tracks "In Our Home" and one of my all time favorites "Beg." At the start of the set Tony was doing little factual intros for each song, and I must say that Greg was in very fine voice throughout the show.

For the encore they branched out to their other releases and sang "Churchill's Black Dog" and "Wildflowers" off of Junk Theatre, "Blink" off the underrated Whirligig, and closed the night with "She Will Survive" with Greg on acoustic guitar and Tony and Michael singing harmonies together on the other mike. It's such a special opportunity to get to see them live these days (especially with Greg living overseas), so I was very appreciative of this tour happening.

Here's the video for "Happy Birthday Helen," which was the song that really launched their career:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An Evening With Nick Seymour

Tonight Fran, Mary and I met up at Allans Billy Hyde on Bourke Street for an unique opportunity to listen to Nick Seymour of Crowded House talk about his career in music and as an artist. They had rows of chairs set up in the store for the 100 or so people lucky enough to grab a free ticket to this special event.

Nick was his usual lovely and entertaining self as he started the evening by talking about his upbringing, going to art school, and the local Melbourne music scene in the late 1970s and 1980s. One of his early band experiences was with his brother Mark and other housemates in a band called Bam, but it came to a end when Mark took the songs they had worked on to his other band The Jetsonnes (an early version of Hunters & Collectors), which had a bass player so Nick wasn't needed.

Nick was already friends with Paul Hester, so when he and Neil Finn announced they were starting a new band out of the ashes of Split Enz, Nick was determined to get a shot. He crashed the Enz farewell party, cornered a drunk Neil and got him to agree to let Nick audition for the band. The rest is history.

As part of Nick's talk he took us through the bass parts of different Crowded House songs utilising the rehearsal tracks that Neil and his son Elroy put together to help Nick rehearse for Neil's solo festival shows that they played over the past week. We were treated to portions of "Don't Dream It's Over," "It's Only Natural," "Fall At Your Feet," "Sister Madly," and "Pineapple Head" as someone asked a question about it. He also played a bit of "Amsterdam" as an example of a song he was initially unsure about but felt came together in the end, and "Better Be Home Soon" as an example of rises and falls he added to baseline instead of just playing it straight. Nick said that his favorite songs were those where he gets to sing and play bass at the same time.

Nick answered many questions from the audience. He briefly touched on some of his artwork, including the Crowded House album covers and original stage costumes with the painted jackets. He said those came about due to his horror at Neil and Paul turning up to rehearsals in slippers and Neil wearing a cardigan. He discussed the band's input into their earlier videos, where "Don't Dream It's Over" featured rooms representing a space from each of their childhoods, and Nick designed the set for "World Where You Live" as a moving room (which gave Paul motion sickness). A young member of the audience asked about the impact of Paul's death, and Nick spoke quite honestly about his sense of grief and abandonment

He spoke about live shows, including playing the Sydney Opera House both 20 years ago and last November, one of his favorite gigs (Byron Bay Bluesfest) and worst gig (Coachella playing before Rage Against The Machine to a hostile crowd that threw a water bottle that hit Neil's mike stand). Nick also told a very funny tidbit that when Neil feels they've had a really great show he will stand around completely naked while changing in the backstage room and chat away about the gig.

Someone asked about the chances of Crowded House recording again, and Nick felt that it will happen eventually - both by revisiting sessions they did with Nick Launay a few years ago and doing new material. After the talk Nick was kind enough to stick around and sign autographs for people. I got him to sign my Chris Bourke Crowded House: Something So Strong book. He even wrote a line to rhyme with one Paul had previously written. Now all I need is Neil's signature. Nick was so gracious with everyone and I'm so happy I got the opportunity to listen to him speak for a couple of hours.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Mexrrissey- Mexico Goes Morrissey

Morrissey has a massive Mexican following, so it should be no surprise that a group of Mexican musicians from various bands have joined together under the moniker Mexrrissey to play Spanish versions of songs by Morrissey and The Smiths. Tonight Belinda and I attended the first date of their Australian tour at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Opening up the evening was another tribute act: The Thin White Ukes. This three piece band played David Bowie songs on the ukulele, including "Ashes To Ashes," "Space Oddity," "Golden Years," "Let's Dance," "Heroes" and "The Man Who Sold The World." The female member also wore an amazing silver jumpsuit.

Mexrrissey emerged on the stage in all black and launched into "First Of The Gang To Die." It's very interesting knowing all these songs and wanting to sing along, but not necessarily knowing the Spanish lyrical translations. Members took turns singing lead, which included the Morrissey tracks "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get," "Everyday Is Like Sunday" and "The Last Of The Famous International Playboys." Considering how conservative a venue like the Melbourne Recital Centre is, it was great that a few songs in the band got the majority of the crowd to stand up and dance along.

The band had some stunning visuals on the large screen behind them, which gave the show a bit of a pop art feel. One of the best was Morrissey hitting a Trump piƱata with gladioli while they played The Smiths track "Panic." Other Smiths songs in the set were "Still Ill," "Girlfriend In A Coma,""Ask" and "Bigmouth Strikes Again," which closed the main set. For the encore they started with "Mexico" on trumpet and guitar, and were then joined by the rest of the band for "Suedehead" and "How Soon Is Now?" to close out the night. This show was so much fun and great to hear a different take on these songs I've known for years.

Here is Mexrrissey doing "Estuvo Bien" ("Suedehead"):

Thursday, March 02, 2017

The Living End- Twangin' At Twilight

The Living End are back together in Australia for their Staring Down The Highway regional tour, but to kick things off they are playing a few Zoo Twilights shows in Melbourne and Sydney. Billed as Twangin' At Twilight, tonight was the first of two nights at Melbourne Zoo. Danny and I found a spot on the lawn and had some Mr Burger for dinner as Gabriella Cohen and her band played a bluesy/indie set of music.

The Living End began the evening with an acoustic set, which included members of The String Sirens providing backing string arrangements to many of the songs. They played stripped back versions of "Moment In The Sun," "Raise The Alarm," "For Another Day" and a reggae version of "West End Riot." They also did covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Down On The Corner" and The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby."

After a short break the electric version of the set started as Chris invited everyone to stand up for the rest of the show. Off their latest album Shift they played "Monkey," "Staring Down The Barrel" and "Keep On Running" with The String Sirens. We also got the classics "Second Solution," "Roll On," "All Torn Down," and "Who's Gonna Save Us?" Highlights of the night for me were an amazing version of "How Do We Know?" with The String Sirens, and someone throwing a bra on stage during "Hold Up," which Andy proceeded to put on his head after the song (and then promptly took off when Chris reminded him that his daughter was in the audience).

For each of the Zoo Twilights shows the band have a special guest on the bill, and we were lucky to have Dan Sultan grace the stage for the Melbourne dates. They played Dan's song "Fear Of Flying," and then Dan sang lead on The Living End track "White Noise." Together they did a cover of Bill Haley's "Rock The Joint" accompanied by a couple friends of Scott on trumpet and saxophone. To finish off the night they ripped through "Prisoner of Society," which had everyone singing along. This was such a special and unique show and probably the first and last time I will ever see The Living End while standing barefoot on a picnic blanket.
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