Sunday, October 21, 2018

Bang On Live

Bang On is the weekly podcast hosted by Myf Warhurst and Zan Rowe that covers all things music, art, life and "farshun." As part of the Darebin Music Feast they did a live taping of the podcast at The Thornbury Theatre this afternoon, which was a sold out gathering of the Melbourne #BangFam.

Warming up the crowd was ABC journalist Virginia Trioli, who did a DJ set that had some members of the audience up and dancing. Then Myf and Zan came out and taped this week's podcast (episode 82), which covered topics such as the new movie A Star Is Born, Rihanna turning down the Super Bowl halftime show in support of Colin Kaepernick, and the pink fur Fendi scarf. Zan banged on about Holly Throsby's new novel Cedar Valley, and Myf reminded us about the real people behind true crime podcasts. They also had Virginia Trioli come up for a chat, and she encouraged us all to do something new every day.

We were also treated to a couple of extra things, including Myf and Zan's Year in Review, where they picked their celebrity of the year, think piece of the year, and farshun of the year. Then we got to watch an entertaining denim themed farshun parade of audience members, with the winner receiving a pair of flap chaps made by Myf (inspired by Janelle Monae's "Pynk" video). All in all it was a very fun afternoon and exciting to get to be a part of a live taping of Bang On.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Olympia- Star City Tour

Last night Belinda and I attended the second sold out Melbourne date at Northcote Social Club in support of Olympia's new single "Star City." It was nice to have an entire bill of female musicians for a change. We caught the second half of the set by opening act Merpire, who played as a duo. I really enjoyed their atmospheric and dreamy pop music. Next up was Eilish Gilligan, who started solo on piano for a few songs and then had her band join her for a more 80s electronic sound for the rest of her set.

Olympia kicked off the evening with "Somewhere To Disappear" off her last album Self Talk. The first half of the set featured other songs from the album, including "Tourists," "Honey" and my favorites "Different Cities" and "Smoke Signals." Once Olivia removed her kimono to reveal a sequin dress she started to preview songs from her upcoming album, which all sounded fantastic. Her band was made up of a bunch of veterans from the Australian music scene with Richard Bradbeer on bass, Ryan Strathie on drums and Sarah Belkner on keyboard, percussion and backing vocals. They finished the main set with the new single "Star City," and then for the encore Olivia played a new track solo and then had the band come back on for one of her older songs "Atlantis" to end the night. It was great to see her live again and I look forward to the new album coming out next year.

Here's the video for "Star City"

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Fire Gardens

The Melbourne International Arts Festival is currently happening from 3 - 21 October 2018 at different sites around the city. One of the special events at this year's festival is the transformation of the Royal Botanical Gardens into the Fire Gardens over the next four evenings by French artists Compagnie Carabosse. As you entered the gardens there were burning clay pots to light the pathways as you walked around.

At the beginning were moving metal sculptures and rings of fire to walk through as you made your way down to the lake where there were many floating platforms with different lit sculptures. As it was a windy night they were moving around a bit on the water. There was also a solo guitarist, Steph LaRose, playing music which added to the atmosphere as people stood around and watched the sculptures.

2018 Melbourne International Arts Festival

2018 Melbourne International Arts Festival

Further along the path were sculptures that shot out flames, and a bunch of lit piles of charcoal both in tubes spaced out in the ponds and in giant snaking sculptures on the hill, which due to the wind resulted in sparks flying out of them whenever a gust came along (and at one point people were having to stamp out a little fire on the ground).

2018 Melbourne International Arts Festival

Within the Fern Gully were little white tank tops hanging among the trees that looked like floating lanterns. There were also these rocket looking sculptures on the grass that you could see different designs on when the flames would shoot through them.

2018 Melbourne International Arts Festival

Overall it was a great experience to be able to walk around the Fire Gardens. Thankfully the festival had three set entry times and limited the number of tickets to 7,000 total for the whole night so it wasn't too crowded. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket for this sold out event I'm sure you will enjoy it.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

MoMA At NGV: 130 Years Of Modern And Contemporary Art

This year's Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition is MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art. It features over 200 works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York grouped into eight chronologically themed rooms.

Works from many of the world's best known artists are featured in the exhibition. My favorites included the works from the Bauhaus and Pop Art movements, and the paintings by abstract expressionists. If you have visited modern art museums overseas you will have probably seen examples of many of these artists' works. For those who haven't been able to travel though, this exhibition is a great opportunity to see key works by many of the great artists in one place.



MoMa at NGV

MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art runs until 7 October 2018.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

MWF- Ta-Nehisi Coates: Writing Yourself Into History

Tonight as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival I went to see Ta-Nehisi Coates: Writing Yourself Into History at the Athenaeum Theatre. Hosted by journalist and filmmaker Santilla Chingaipe, this hour and half long discussion with American writer and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates mainly focused on race and politics in the US. Ta-Nehisi began the evening by reading a passage from one of his books about growing up in Baltimore. He spoke about his upbringing with his parents, how he read a lot of books, and how his father, a former Black Panther, forbid the celebration of Thanksgiving due to colonialism and the genocide of Native American people.

As a journalist he has mainly focused his writing on race and culture, and his essays written during the Obama presidency became his most recent book We Were Eight Years In Power. He talked about the two times he was invited to the White House with other journalist after certain articles he had written were published. On his second visit he got into a bit of a heated discussion with President Obama. In discussing Trump's presidential victory, Ta-Nehisi felt it was the result of white supremacy and a backlash by racists against the Obama presidency, not due to anything in particular that Obama had done while in office.

I liked that he spoke about his writing process, and how his publisher made him write one of his books three times before considering it to be at the level for publishing. He also spoke about writing the Black Panther and Captain America comic books and how different it is to writing books as it is a visual medium. The words have to serve the illustrations, and he compared it to writing poetry. Overall it was really interesting to hear Ta-Nehisi speak and also good to see a diverse crowd come out to see him.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Twin Peaks: Conversation With The Stars

I have been a massive fan of Twin Peaks since it first aired in the early 1990s while I was in high school. I even had a series finale party for the final episode with coffee, doughnuts and cherry pie on offer. When the show was resurrected last year for Twin Peaks: The Return I eagerly watched each week's episode and was happy to be returned to the intricate world created by David Lynch and Mark Frost.

Therefore it was very exciting when it was announced some of the stars of the show would be coming to New Zealand and Australia for the first time for Twin Peaks: Conversation with the Stars. The panel discussion featured Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran), Michael Horse (Deputy Hawk), Al Strobel (Phillip Gerard) and executive producer Sabrina S. Sutherland.

Tonight Sally and I headed down to the Palais Theatre as the doors opened in order to catch the music of Twin Peaks being performed by Brisbane's Electric Moon while photos from the show were shown on a screen at the back of the stage. The cast then came out onto the stage to big cheers from the crowd before we were treated to David Lynch himself on the screen as he skyped into the event to answer questions posed by fans who bought VIP tickets. His answers to each question were short and cryptic, with interesting tidbits about letting things go into the air, and that he wants to take up sewing.

After saying goodbye to David the panel discussion began in full. It was hosted by Melbourne writer and Twin Peaks super fan Andy Hazel. He started back at the very beginning and asked everyone how they were originally cast in the show and what it was like to shoot the pilot episode. They then talked about what it was like for them during the first season as the show became super popular. I found it interesting that Dana thought it was the marketing of the show by ABC around "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" that drove that to be the main focus of the first season, because he felt it wasn't the key story line when they were shooting the show. Al spoke about the woods almost being like another main character in the show (despite the fact they shot most of the series on a sound stage in LA).

The panel spoke fondly about those cast members that have died over the years. Michael and Al talked about Jack Nance (Pete Martell and a longtime Lynch collaborator) and how they would go to him to interpret what the script meant when they didn't understand it. Sabrina also discussed Catherine Coulson (the Log Lady) and how they had to send up a film crew to her house to film her scenes for Twin Peaks: The Return because she was terminally ill with cancer (she ended up dying four days later).

Sabrina shared that on the original series she was responsible for numbering all the scripts for each actor so they could prevent any leaks. The cast members often didn't have a full picture of the storylines until they watched the show because they only knew what happened in their own scenes. It was lovely to hear the different stories from the cast, with Kimmy Robertson being particularly funny. You can tell they all have a great fondness for each other and felt honored to get to work with David Lynch on all the various incarnations of Twin Peaks.

When the panel discussion was finished we were treated to a half hour of short films by David Lynch. This one for David Lynch Signature Coffee featuring Barbie was my favorite:

MWF- The Fifth Estate: Masha Gessen

The Melbourne Writers Festival is currently on from 24 August - 2 September 2018, with the theme this year being "A matter of life and death." This afternoon Sally and I went to Deakin Edge at Federation Square to see author, staff writer for The New Yorker, and occasional guest on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee Masha Gessen. Hosted by Sally Warhaft as part of The Wheeler Centre's journalism series the Fifth Estate, this hour-long discussion explored Masha's 2017 book The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.

The book charts the lives of four different Russians born in the 1980s and the impact of historical events in Russia as they come of age. I haven't read the book but it sounded really interesting, particularly the psychological effects of living under totalitarianism (similar to torture) and how that impacts the way people behave. Masha spoke about the resurgence of what sociologist Yuri Levada termed homo sovieticus, where under communism people were fearful, isolated and authority-loving. Through all these changes in the country over the past few decades, people have craved order and stability, which has been provided by the state. Masha felt that Putin's Russia has become a less extreme version of a totalitarian state, although that could change over time.

Comedy Queens 2018

Last night I was fortunate enough to get to see the sold out Comedy Queens 2018 Australian tour at 170 Russell. The show was hosted by Australia's Maxi Shield and featured American drag queen legends and newer queens from different seasons of Ru Paul's Drag Race doing a mix of comedy, songs and lip syncs. The three legendary drag performers on the bill Lady Bunny, Sherry Vine and Jackie Beat each took turns performing stand-up and their own parody songs. My favorite was Sherry and Jackie's duet of "I Got You Bitch" (sung to Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe").

The two Season 10 girls Monet X Change and Monique Heart each gave really high energy lip sync performances. Monet also had a funny stand-up set, and gave a shout out to a girl in the crowd who created her own sponge dress. Ginger Minj from Season 7 and All Stars 2 did a stand-up set, which unfortunately fell a bit flat with the crowd, as well as a great telephone-themed lip sync mash-up based around Adele's "Hello." Even with the technical difficulty of her track dropping out in the last 30 seconds, the crowd clapped along so she could sing and finish the performance.

The other Season 7 queen and All Stars 3 winner on the bill was my favorite skinny legend Trixie Mattel. Trixie, who was celebrating her 29th birthday, had a tight set of comedy and music. She sang a mix of her own material and mash-up covers of Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi" and Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," alongside Oasis' "Wonderwall" and a hint of Eminem's "Lose Yourself" for all the white people in the crowd. Trixie was so funny and you can tell all her time on the road has made her such a fantastic and engaging performer.

Comedy Queens 2018

This was also my first time getting to see another favorite of mine, Season 5 winner Jinx Monsoon. She sang a fantastic cabaret version of Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" and then did a whole set about being a high functioning alcoholic and slut, and the influence of different Disney films on sexual preferences. Overall it was an entertaining but long three hour show, which I'm sure will tighten up as they do the other two shows of the tour in Sydney and Brisbane this weekend.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

MIFF- Won't You Be My Neighbor? and McQueen

My last two films for this year's MIFF were appropriately both documentaries. I started my afternoon at Hoyts Melbourne Central with Morgan Neville's film Won't You Be My Neighbor? about the children's television host Fred Rogers. I grew up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood on PBS, so this film was like reliving my childhood. It mixed archival footage with interviews of family, friends and crew members. It was amazing to see how trailblazing the show was, from teaching children about kindness and empathy to addressing serious topics such as death, divorce and war. During the Civil Rights movement Mister Rogers made a point to share a wading pool with Officer Clemmons, played by Francois Clemmons who was African American. In addition, through national tragedies such as Bobby Kennedy's assassination and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, Mister Rogers was there to help children make sense of it all. It was an emotional film to watch, but a great tribute to Fred Rogers and the important role he played in educating children for over 30 years.

My other film for the afternoon was Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui's documentary McQueen about the British fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen. Using his personal archives, fashion show footage, and interviews with family, friends and those who worked with him, the film told the story of how McQueen went from an apprenticeship on Savile Row to being one of the great fashion designers and couturiers of the 1990s and early 2000s. The film was broken up into different sections based around key collections for his McQueen label and Givenchy. It gave you a glimpse of his life as became more popular, and how he kept pushing the envelope with his often controversial runway shows. After the screening Dr Hannah McCann, a lecturer in gender studies from the University of Melbourne, read a short essay about the film and McQueen himself.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

MIFF- I Used To Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story

This afternoon I headed to the Comedy Theatre for the MIFF film I Used To Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story. This documentary by Jessica Leski takes an empathetic look at four generations of female fans of US and British boybands. US teenager Elif was the main focus of the movie as she was followed across her later teenage years during her fandom of One Direction. The other three participants, Australians Susan (The Beatles) and Dara (Take That), and American Sadia (Backstreet Boys), looked back and spoke fondly about those core years of fandom and what the bands meant and still mean to them. Their honesty about their lives and fandom was a reflection of the filmmakers taking this topic seriously and really exploring things with no judgement. I absolutely loved this film and could relate my own fandom for Crowded House/Neil Finn to what they all experienced, from collecting memorabilia (everyone has a box of treasures) to making lifelong friendships with other fans and travelling around the world to see my favorite artists play.

We were fortunate to have a Q&A after the film hosted by Brodie Lancaster with the filmmakers Jessica Leski and Rita Walsh and two Australian participants Susan and Dara. They spoke about the making of the film, how they picked the participants and did a bit of an update about everyone (which I won't say because it will spoil things that happen in the film). If you have ever been part of a fandom, I highly recommend checking out this film.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

MIFF- Kusama: Infinity, Rafiki and Hearts Beat Loud

Today I took the day off work so I could attend three MIFF films throughout the day. I began my morning at the Forum Theatre for the documentary Kusama: Infinity on Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. It covered her entire career, from a troubled childhood that has influenced her art, to her decision to move to the US in the 1950s where she became an innovative artist in the 1960s New York Pop-Art scene. Kusama was the first artist to exhibit work with soft sculptures, mirrored infinity rooms and room-scale wall installations, but her male peers copied those ideas for their own shows and gained more popularity. She also led a lot of happenings and anti-war protests around New York before her mental illness made her decide to move back to Japan in the early 1970s. It wasn't until later through a couple of retrospective exhibitions of her work and being chosen to represent Japan at the 1992 Venice Biennale that Kusama's talents were finally recognised on a broader scale. This resurrected her career and resulted in her becoming the top-selling female artist in the world. It's an honest and engaging portrait of this trailblazing artist. I was fortunate enough to see her interactive piece Flower obsession at the recent NGV Triennial, which was one of the most popular parts of the exhibition.

My next film in the afternoon was the controversial Kenyan film Rafiki at ACMI. In this drama, written and directed by Wanuri Kahiu, tomboyish teen Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) is drawn to and strikes up a friendship with the outgoing Ziki (Sheila Munyiva). Their main problem is that they are both the daughters of rival candidates running for local office. As the town gossips catch wind of their romance, it results in horrible consequences for both girls and their futures. This simple coming of age love story screened at Cannes, but has been banned in Kenya due to its theme of homosexuality.

I then met up with Ebony at Hoyts Melbourne Central for my final film of the day, the US dramedy (and my second Gen-X mid-life crisis film) Hearts Beat Loud. Starring Nick Offerman as Frank, a former musician and record store owner, it's about his last summer with his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) before she heads off to UCLA in the fall. While Frank is dealing with closing his record store and finding something else to do with his life, his jam sessions with his daughter bring him the most joy. They result in a song, which he uploads to Spotify under the moniker We're Not A Band that then gets picked up on a new indie playlist. Finally getting a glimpse of possible musical success, he pushes his daughter to write more songs with him. It's a sweet and funny little film that captures key transitional stages in both of the main characters' lives, with some pretty good songs as an added bonus.

Monday, August 13, 2018

MIFF- Woman At War and Three Identical Strangers

This evening I began my MIFF films at ACMI with the quirky Icelandic movie Woman At War by director Benedikt Erlingsson. Halla (Halldora Geirharosdottir) is a one woman eco-activist trying to stop multinationals taking over Iceland's energy utilities. She heads out on her own to rural areas to repeatedly sabotage power lines using simple tools such as a bow and arrow or hand power saw. She ultimately releases her manifesto as the Mountain Woman as the pressure mounts from authorities try to figure out who Mountain Woman is. While all this is happening Halla gets word from an adoption agency that an application she put in four years ago was successful and she will soon be the mother to a four year old girl from Ukraine. There is a lot of humor and funny plot twists throughout the film, which are enhanced by the soundtrack of Icelandic folk musicians and female Ukrainian singers who appear in scenes at various time as Halla wanders through.

Next I headed over to the Comedy Theatre to meet up with Sally for the incredible documentary Three Identical Strangers. It tells the amazing story of Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland and David Kellman who learned at the age of 19 that they were identical triplets separated shortly after they were born. While they became media sensations and the toast of New York, it's the darker truth of why they were separated in the first place that turns this initial good news story into an investigative thriller about the ethics of the adoption agency and a long-term psychological study on nature vs nurture. If you get a chance to see this film check it out as it's amazing.

Friday, August 10, 2018

MIFF- Karrabing Film Collective New Works and Now Sound: Melbourne's Listening

One of the great things about attending MIFF each year is getting to see Australian stories on the big screen. My first session for the evening was the Karrabing Film Collective New Works at the Kino Cinema, which consisted of three short films lasting around 30 minutes each. Night Time Go used manipulated archival footage to tell an alternative story of WWII where the Karrabing drive away the colonists trying to remove them from their lands in the Top End. The Jealous One was about fighting government bureaucracy to get on your own land, as well as a spirit jealous of his wife spending time with others. The final film, The Mermaids, or Aiden in Wonderland, was set at the end of the world where only Indigenous people can survive in the toxic landscape. After the screening elder female members of the Karrabing Collective did a Q&A with the audience, and talked about doing these films as a way to keep young people engaged and out of trouble, and be able to tell their own stories.

My other film for the evening was the world premiere of Now Sound: Melbourne's Listening at the Forum Theatre. This film was a documentary about Melbourne's music scene from 2016 to 2018. It covered a lot of different styles of music from indie to electronic and the various artists and subcultures around each scene. The film also explored specific issues such as the fight against gentrification and closure of venues, sexism and harassment in the industry, and the role of independent radio, labels and record shops in championing local music. As director Tobias Willis said before the film started, it's hard to capture Melbourne's entire music scene in around 90 minutes. A lot of the artists that I follow didn't make it into the film. I think the most interesting parts of the film though were when it explored the newer emerging scenes that to this point have been underrepresented in Melbourne.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

MIFF- Yellow Is Forbidden and Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist

Tonight I attended two MIFF films that were both fashion documentaries. First I went to the Kino Cinema to see Yellow Is Forbidden about Chinese designer Guo Pei. New Zealand filmmaker Pietra Brettkelly was at the screening and spoke about flying to China to get her to agree to do the documentary. Best known in the West for her yellow dress worn by Rihanna at the 2015 Met Gala, the film focused on the lead up to Guo's first Paris fashion show Legend, which was inspired by cathedrals and featured recently at the NGV Triennial. While in Paris she also applied and was accepted into the prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Referring to herself as the world's slowest fashion designer, her runway shows are filled with the most intricate and amazing creations that are often so heavy they are difficult for the models to walk in. I really enjoyed the film and learning more about how Guo Pei runs her fashion business in order to fund her true passion, haute couture designs.

Next I met up with Megan at Hoyts Melbourne Central for Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist about the life and career of British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. Director Lorna Tucker wove together archival footage alongside present day interviews with family and the main players in Westwood's fashion business over the years. She had to fight for her independence from ex-partner Malcolm McLaren, as well as have her talents taken seriously by the British fashion establishment. Currently she co-designs her fashion line with husband Andreas Kronthaler, and has turned her focus in recent years to combating climate change. At the start of the film Westwood was reluctant to speak about past events she considered "boring" and by the end, the film raised more questions than answers on aspects of Westwood's life.

Friday, August 03, 2018

MIFF- Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. and Juliet, Naked

One of the big events in Melbourne during the winter is the Melbourne International Film Festival, which is running from 2-19 August 2018. Tonight were my first two MIFF films, which had a bit of a music theme. I began the evening at Hoyts Melbourne Central for the documentary Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. about the life and career of the Sri Lankan/British rapper Matangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, best known as M.I.A. Drawing on her own personal footage and that shot by longtime friend Stephen Loveridge, it showed her teen years as a Sri Lankan refugee in London (her father, a leader of the Tamil resistant movement, remained in Sri Lanka), time in art school, filming on the road with Justine Frischmann of Elastica, trips back to Sri Lanka, and rise as a musician. While her debut album Arular was critically acclaimed, it was the global success of the Grammy nominated song "Paper Planes" off her second album Kala that made her well known worldwide. M.I.A.'s political activism, particularly around Tamil people in Sri Lanka, has often caused media controversy for her career, with a key flash point also being her performance with Madonna at the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show where she flipped off the camera. This film was an insightful portrait on M.I.A. and gave me a better understanding of her art, activism and music.

Next I headed over to the Comedy Theatre to meet up with Ebony for the romantic comedy Juliet, Naked, which was adapted from Nick Hornby's novel. Set in the British coastal town of Sandcliff, the film stars Chris O'Dowd as Duncan, an obsessive fan of 90's alternative US rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) who has long since disappeared from music. One day Duncan's long suffering girlfriend Annie (Rose Byrne) opens a package addressed to Duncan that contains the demo recording of Crowe's album Juliet (titled Juliet, Naked). While she listens to it and thinks it's insipid, Duncan loves it and posts a long review about it to the fan site/forum he runs. When Annie then posts a negative review, Tucker Crowe himself gets in touch with her to say he agrees with her assessment, and they begin to secretly correspond with each other about their lives. Duncan and Annie break up shortly thereafter, and Tucker ends up coming to London to visit his daughter who is having a baby and arranges to meet Annie. It's not all smooth sailing, but this Gen-X midlife crisis film was quite funny and sweet, with great performances by the whole cast.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

The Breaker Upperers and RBG

Over the last two nights I went to see a couple new films that opened in Australia this past week. The first was the New Zealand comedy The Breaker Upperers. The film was written, directed and stars Madeleine Sami (Mel) and Jackie van Beak (Jen) as two friends who run an agency that breaks up couples through the use of different scenarios. Their main rule is to not get attached to clients, but that fails when Mel becomes friends with Anna (Celia Pacquola) and starts a relationship with young rugby player Jordan (James Rolleston). This leads to a breakdown in Jen and Mel's friendship, and the rest of the film focuses on the fall out. The movie did have some funny moments, including bit parts by Jemaine Clement as Jen's Tinder date and Elroy Finn (Neil Finn's son) as a client of the agency, but overall it was a bit hit and miss with the storyline.

Tonight I saw the documentary RBG, about the life of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With open access to Ginsburg, her family, friends and associates, the film details her remarkable life. Ginsburg was one of the few females in her law class in the 1950s, and argued a series of cases to the Supreme Court around gender equality in the 1970s. Nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, she has now served for 25 years, and is one of the few liberal justices left. As the Court becomes more conservative she has increasingly had to write powerful dissenting opinions on a number of cases. Ginsburg has also become popular with younger generations through the "Notorious R.B.G." internet memes, merchandise and portrayal by Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live. Now at 85 years of age everyone is hoping she can hold on until the 2020 Presidential election when hopefully she can be replaced by a Democratic president. This is a fantastic documentary that I highly recommend checking out.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owner Of Death

Photo by Phoebe Powell
Currently on at the Malthouse Theatre, Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owner of Death is the latest play by writer Nakkiah Lui. In this tale of revenge, Dr Jacqueline Brown (Dalara Williams) is on an archaeological dig for a company when she discovers a human skull that turns out to belong to her great-great-grandmother. After learning about the massacre of her ancestors on the site by four white men, she is tasked with avenging their deaths by killing all 400 of the men's descendants within 28 days.

The superhero Blackie Blackie Brown is born, and as she goes on her killing spree and gains notoriety across Australia, she has to deal with the reality that some of these descendants (all played by Ash Flanders) are more innocent than others. The set design is a slanted white floor and wall with numerous trap doors and hidden compartments, and it allows for the fantastic animations and projections by Oh Yeah Wow to shine through and bring the action hero/comic book vibe of the production to life. The play is really well done and despite its humor does not shy away from detailing the atrocities of the past and their continuing impact on the present.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Mork Chocolate Brew House

Mork hot chocolates are well known in Melbourne, and today I went to the Mork Chocolate Brew House in North Melbourne to try some of their signature drink creations. The Brew House is located in a converted 1950s-era bakery and has items for sale along with a cafe where you can sit down for a hot chocolate or something more inventive.

One of the signature drinks we ordered was the Campfire, which is made of 70% dark hot chocolate served with maple smoke, charcoal salt and a toasted house-made marshmallow. To drink it you turn over the glass with the maple smoke, pour in the hot chocolate, add some of the charcoal salt and then stir it together with the marshmallow. Like the name suggests, it tastes like a campfire.

The other signature drink we ordered was the Forager, which is inspired by Australia. It contains macadamia hot chocolate, macadamia and wattle seed ice cream, eucalyptus honey, bush scents and foraged flora. After spraying the bush scent, you pour half the hot chocolate into the bowl, eat the ice cream, and then pour in the rest of the hot chocolate to drink. This one had a menthol taste due to the eucalyptus, but was still good.

The Mork Chocolate Brew House is located at 150 Errol Street, North Melbourne and open from 9am-5pm on Tuesday through Sunday.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Kimbra- The Primal Heart Tour

Tonight was Kimbra's sold out show at the Corner Hotel in support of her latest album Primal Heart. Opening the evening was Sydney electronic pop artist Exhibitionist (aka Kirsty Tickle). She and her band did a short set of songs, including one written with Sally Seltmann.

Kimbra's band members Spencer Zahn and Timon Martin came out on stage first before she joined them to launch into "Version Of Me." The set featured many songs off of Primal Heart, including "The Good War," 'Everybody Knows," "Human," "Like They Do On The TV," "Lightyears" and "Past Love," which she played on electric guitar as an homage to her early Melbourne days. For visuals they used many of the 3D computer animations from last year's Audio Electric show, which were projected onto the screens at each side of the stage.

Kimbra was so excited to be back in Melbourne and had lots of friends in the crowd. She played a few reworked versions of her older tracks during the evening with "Settle Down" (including a verse and chorus of "Somebody That I Used To Know") and "Two Way Street" off of Vows and "Love In High Places" off of The Golden Echo.  She finished the main set with a fantastic version of "Top Of The World," and then for an encore came out solo and closed with "Real Life." It was great to be able to see Kimbra live again, and she promised she'll be back sooner rather than later.

Here's the video for "Top Of The World"

Saturday, July 07, 2018

The Bachelor S17 E5

Tonight a group of us from work went to see the La Mama Theatre production of The Bachelor S17 E5 at the Brunswick Mechanics Institute in support of one of our workmates who acted in the performance. The production used transcripts from the show to bring to life one of those special two night Bachelor events focused on Sean Lowe's season of The Bachelor in the US.

The casting was inspired as they had different age ranges, body types and genders representing the female contestants. The guy who played host Chris Harrison was fantastic, and like a typical Bachelor episode, this one had a one on one date, a group date, a two on one date, and a dramatic rose ceremony. The Bachelor gave off some creepy and predatory vibes as he made out with many of the cast, and there was all the backstabbing and drama you would expect from the contestants. The staging was well done, with my absolute favorite part being the departure from the two on one date of drag queen Precious Cargo in a brilliant lip sync performance of Lana Del Ray's "Young and Beautiful" inspired by Sasha Velour's Ru Paul's Drag Race season nine finale performance. It was an entertaining evening and a fun way to portray the madness of The Bachelor.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Harpoons- Amaro Album Launch

Last night was a bittersweet show at the Corner Hotel as much loved Melbourne band The Harpoons both launched their second album Amaro and played their final show together.

Opening the evening was Melbourne five piece electronic pop band Tetrahedra. Their songs were quite interesting and filled with complex time signatures and beats. The songs they played included some from their latest release SOMA, which is a visual EP project you can watch here. Next up was the Melbourne electronic duo SAATSUMA, who did a set of their atmospheric dance music that had the crowd moving.

The venue was really packed by the time The Harpoons took the stage for the last time. They started with the final song off Amaro "All I've Ever Done," and played a number of tracks off the album, including "Pressure," "Reassurance," "Do You Want My Love" and the standout song "Set Me Up To Fall." Band members did lots of thank yous to each other and their families, friends and supporters throughout the night. As always it was amazing to hear Bec Rigby belt out these songs, especially old favorites like "Ready For Your Love" and "Unforgettable," where they got a few friends and fans up on stage to sing along.

The absolute highlight of the night for me though was towards the end when they returned to their garage band roots and played some of their very first songs such as "Hey Girl," "Keep You Around," "Be My Lover, Be My Girl," "Garden City" and "Faith" to finish out the main set. For an encore we got one more song with "Swim My Baby" (used in a Big M milk commercial) and that was it from The Harpoons. It's been a joy to watch them grow and evolve their sound over these past ten years, and I wish each band member all the best for their future projects. You will be missed!

Here's an early live version of "Do You Want My Love"

Friday, June 22, 2018

Sarah Blasko- Depth Of Field Tour

Tonight at 170 Russell was the last show of Sarah Blasko's Australian tour in support of her latest album, the fantastic Depth Of Field. I ran into Oh Mercy's Alex Gow as I entered the venue, and he told me he is a distant cousin of the opening act Ryan Downey. The Melbourne singer-songwriter was accompanied by a band and I was impressed with his atmospheric songs and deep baritone voice. He finished the set with a cover of Eurythmics' "Love Is A Stranger."

The staging for the show was quite simple with large white letters spelling out BLASKO hanging in front of a black backdrop. For the first half of the set Sarah and her band (which included Donny Benet) played the entire Depth of Field album from start to finish. Highlights included "Phantom," "A Shot," "Never Let Me Go," "Heaven Sent" and "Read My Mind." If you are interested in learning more about the origins of the album I strongly recommend checking out the documentary Blasko, which covers Sarah's time as artist-in-residence at Sydney's Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Sarah was very playful on stage and danced around throughout the night. For the second half of the set she dipped into her back catalogue. We were treated to "I Am Ready" and "I Wanna Be Your Man" off her last album Eternal Return, "I Awake," "God-Fearing" and "Not Yet" from I Awake, and the As Day Follows Night tracks "All I Want" and "We Won't Run," which closed the main set. For the encore she did the beautiful "Down With Love" and finished the evening with "Without." Sarah continues to grow her sound with each album, and it was a pleasure as always to get to see her perform live again.

Here's the video for "Phantom"

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Living End- "Don't Lose It" Single Launch

A couple weeks ago The Living End announced two intimate pub gigs in Sydney and Melbourne to launch their new single "Don't Lose It." There were a very limited number of tickets available, but I managed to grab one for tonight's show at The Gasometer Hotel.

The venue was packed when the band took to the stage and launched with "What's On Your Radio?" The hour long set was a mix of old classics along with a preview of some of the new songs off their upcoming album that was recorded earlier this year. The standout new tracks for me were "Don't Lose It" and "Proton Pill." They also did a cover of The Beatles' "Help!" in honor of having recorded the album in Berlin. They joked about staying at some really bad Airbnb property for a few days before checking into a nice hotel for the rest of the recording session.

The new material fit in well with their back catalogue, and it was good to hear songs from earlier in their career such as "From Here On In," "Roll On," "Second Solution," "What Would You Do?" and "Long Live The Weekend." The only recent track played was "Monkey" off their last album Shift. For the encore (although they didn't leave the stage) they played an audience request for "Uncle Harry." It was an amazing opportunity to get to see them play in such a small venue, and I look forward to the new album being released later on this year.

Here's the lyric video for "Don't Lose It"

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Trixie Mattel- Accessories Sold Separately

Over the past few months I have been binge watching numerous previous seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race that I missed when they originally aired (it's available for streaming on Stan here in Australia). One of my absolute favorite contestants, the winner of All Stars 3 and co-host of the YouTube series UNHhhh and Viceland's The Trixie & Katya Show, Trixie Mattel performed tonight for her third Melbourne show at Chasers Nightclub in South Yarra.

The show was broken up into two sets to allow for costume changes. It began with the famous Melbourne queen Karen From Finance lip syncing to Meredith Brooks' "I'm A Bitch." Karen was our MC for the evening and was quite entertaining as she revved up the crowd and introduced each performer. At the start of each set we got a lip sync performance from local queens Lexi GaGa (set 1) and Sabrina Babyslut (set 2), who had the largest number of outfit reveals that I have ever seen in one performance. It was pretty epic.

Supporting Trixie on this tour was RuPaul's Drag Race season one and All Stars 1 contestant Tammie Brown. Tammie is an absolute original and performed her own songs across both sets, including "Walking Children In Nature" and "Porta Potti Prostitute." She also spoke to us in multiple languages and got the whole crowd to move like chickens.

Trixie Mattel is an extremely talented musician and comedian, and she has combined these elements, along with her trademark look, into an amazing and hilarious show. In the first set she did a total take down of some of her fellow RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars contestants and played the finale version of "Kitty Girl," inviting people up from the crowd to sing the verses by Shangela and BeBe Zahara Benet. She also did one of my favorite songs of hers, "Mama Don't Make Me Put On The Dress Again" off the album Two Birds, and a cover of Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi."

In the second set she opened with the most epic mashup lip sync performance themed around the working woman that included movie clip dialogue and portions of Dolly Parton's "9 To 5," Donna Summer's "She Works Hard For The Money" and Britney Spears' "Work Bitch." The whole crowd lifted and lost it when Trixie started dancing down the stage platform. She did some more comedy bits, including her attempt at an Aussie accent, and finished by singing "Break Your Heart" off her latest album One Stone.

All the girls that performed then came out for one final bow and a photo with the audience (Trixie somehow managed a quick costume change into a pink dress and short wig) and that was it for the night. It was such a fun evening although I wish Trixie had performed more of her own music, including the wonderful and touching "Moving Parts." I'm looking forward to getting to see Trixie again (as well as other Drag Race alumni) as part of the Comedy Queens tour in August.

Here's the video for "Mama Don't Make Me Put On The Dress Again"

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Blue Mountains

Today Mary and I took a train out to Western Sydney to meet up with Tash, who picked us up at the station, for our road trip to the Blue Mountains. Our first stop for the day was the lookout at Wentworth Falls with its expansive and spectacular views of the Blue Mountains.

Next we stopped in the town of Leura to visit Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum and Tearooms, which has the largest private collection of teawares in the world. There were over 5,500 teapots alone in the museum grouped by era, country and design. I particularly liked the art deco and royal themed teapots. We had a cup of tea in the tearoom and then headed back onto the road.

One of the interesting finds in the town of Katoomba was the Street Art Walk at Beverly Place. It featured local, national and international street artists, including a nice wall mural by Adnate that included the Blue Mountains.

The Echo Point lookout outside Katoomba is one of the most iconic viewing points for the Blue Mountains due to the popularity of the rock formation known as the Three Sisters. We began at the main lookout and then walked down the path to get a closer look (but didn't go down the Giant Stairway to the Honeymoon Bridge).

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

For our late lunch we ate at the Boiler House Restaurant, which was part of the Hydro Majestic Blue Mountains hotel complex. Tash wanted to check out the Hydro Majestic after having driven past it before, and it did not disappoint. We ended up doing a tour of the place with the concierge to learn more about its fascinating history. Founded by Mark Foy in the early 1900s, what was originally a health retreat became a luxury hotel to bring in business. The architecture was stunning, particularly the Belgravia building which was rebuilt in art deco style after burning down in 1922. The Hydro Majestic has amazing views of the Blue Mountains and glamorous interiors throughout since money was no object when it was built.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

After our tour was finished it was dark so we headed back onto the road for the hour and half drive back to Sydney. It was nice to be able to get out of the city and explore the beautiful Blue Mountains region.
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