Sunday, March 31, 2019

MICF- Hannah Gadsby: Douglas

It's been two years since I last saw Hannah Gadsby at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where she debut a little show called Nanette. I knew while watching it that it would transform the structure of comedy, and it not only did that but also made Hannah an international star. Tonight Ebony, Sally and I got to see Hannah's new show, Douglas, at the much bigger venue of the Arts Centre Playhouse compared to her previous shows at the Melbourne Town Hall.

Opening up the evening was the hilarious Zoe Coombs Marr, who did a few bits from her show Bossy Bottom, which is being reprised this year for a short run at MICF. If you haven't seen it check it out as it was my favorite of last year's festival.

Hannah has named her latest show after her dog, Douglas, but like Nanette, the title doesn't really hint at the content of the show. Hannah started off by talking about how her life has changed since moving to Los Angeles and having access to some of the trappings of Hollywood. She joked about various words and references she will have to change in her set so they make sense to an American audience, and also referred to America as the straight white male of cultures, which is sadly true. Both Ebony and Sally told me after the show they felt slightly uncomfortable for me, but I'm well used to the American bashing by now.

The main theme of the show though is power - who has it and its impact on others. Hannah talked about how men are the ones that have named everything, and how it was mainly men who complained that Nanette was not comedy, but a lecture. She turned than on its head by actually doing an arts lecture, which is something that has featured in her work over the years. Hannah also spoke for the first time about her autism diagnosis, and how she has to navigate in a world that is ableist and doesn't recognise neurodiversity and the impact of that on her life. It was always going to be difficult to follow up Nanette, but while Douglas has a bit more laughs, it still holds those in power to account.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Ocean Party- Farewell Tour and Nothing Grows EP Launch

The Ocean Party have embarked on their farewell tour as a band, beginning with tonight's sold out show at Howler. Besides being a farewell, this show was also the launch of the Nothing Grows EP, which were songs written by Zac Denton before he passed away last year that the rest of the band finished on his behalf.

Opening the evening was Melbourne band Cool Sounds, who came out on stage wearing t-shirts from different eras of The Ocean Party. Besides playing their own songs, they also threw in a few songs by Zac, who used to be a member. There was a lot of support for the band in the crowd, and they finished their set by inviting Ashley Bundang to join them singing the Ciggie Witch track "Wrong Crowd."

The Ocean Party's set was split into two parts. For the first section they played the Nothing Grows EP in full, bringing out musician friends to sing lead vocals on most of the tracks. It was the final song "Birth Place," which was sung by Zac's partner Mashara, that packed the biggest emotional punch.

After a short break the band came back out for what they termed a "greatest hits" set. Each band member took turns singing songs from their back catalogue, with highlights for me being the dolewave track "Quarter Life Crisis" off the album Split, "Deluded" and "Head Down" from Soft Focus, "Guess Work" off the Light Weight album, the title track "Restless," and "Rain On Tin" and "White Cockatoo" off their latest album The Oddfellows' Hall. For such a prolific band that also has members playing in other bands, they spoke about knowing songs were meant for The Ocean Party because they were the honest ones. For the last song of the night they invited friends and people from the audience up on stage to sing one of Zac's first singles with the band, the now anthemic "Split." Although it's sad to see the band finishing up under these circumstances, I'm sure they will all continue to make music in one form or another. Farewell The Ocean Party - you will be missed.

Here's the video for "Rain On Tin"

Thursday, March 21, 2019

French Film Festival 2019

This year is the 30th Alliance Francaise French Film Festival, which is running from 6 March - 10 April 2019 in Melbourne.  I once again bought a five film pass and have attended the following films over the past few weeks:

A Faithful Man is a romantic comedy directed by and staring Louis Garrel as Abel, a man who's relationship with his girlfriend Marianne (Laetitia Casta) ends when she tells him she's pregnant by his best friend Paul and they plan to get married. Fast forward seven years and Abel ends up reuniting with Marianne after Paul dies unexpectedly. However, he encounters some roadblocks to rekindling their romance due to her son and Paul's sister Eva (Lily-Rose Depp), who has been in love with Abel since she was a teenager. The film shows key events from each character's point of view, and it is amusing to watch Marianne and Eva battle for Abel's affections.

Celebration: Yves Saint Laurent is a documentary about the late fashion designer by Olivier Meyrou. It covers the lead up to the release of his final collection before the fashion house was sold to Gucci in 1999, and contains archival footage and interviews with the key players, including the seamstresses, his business partner Pierre Berge and the reclusive Saint Laurent himself. It's not the most flattering portrait of the man, which is probably why it has taken nearly 20 years to get permission for the film to be released.

One Nation, One King by Pierre Schoeller is based around the events of the French Revolution, from the storming of the Bastille in 1789 to the execution of King Louis XVI in 1793. It was not the most exciting of period dramas as the main focus was more on the National Assembly and parliamentary speeches instead of the street battles or glamour of the French royals.

Jean Paul Gautier: Freak & Chic is a documentary by Yann L'Henoret about the fashion designer as he prepares for the opening of the revue "Fashion Freak Show" at the Folies Bergeres. It is a very entertaining film as you watch them develop and rehearse for the revue and create the different costumes for the show. The film is also a unique way of delving into the career of Jean Paul Gautier as you get to hear him talk about the events from his life that inspired each vignette in the revue. Definitely check this film out if you get the chance.

The Sisters Brothers is a western directed by French filmmaker Jacques Audiard, but the film is in English. Set during the California gold rush in the 1850s, it stars John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as Eli and Charlie Sisters, two brothers who are hit-men. They are hired by The Commodore to kill chemist Herman Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), who has a secret formula for finding gold. Also on the hunt for Warm is John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who happens to be a few days ahead of the brothers on the trail from Oregon to California, and he ends up finding and partnering with Warm. The film is not your typical western as it has not only humor, but more of a philosophical undercurrent along with some beautiful cinematography.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

C.W. Stoneking- The Gasometer Hotel

C.W. Stoneking is playing some solo shows around Melbourne over the next few days. Tonight he did an early evening gig at The Gasometer Hotel under the open roof, which made things interesting as it was still light out when he hit the stage. The set list contained songs from all three of his albums, including some pretty deep cuts that you don't get to hear live that often.

Highlights for me included "Goin The Country," "Dodo Blues" and "Way Out In The World" off King Hokum, "The Love Me Or Die" (C.W.'s version of a murder ballad), "Talking Lion Blues" and "Jailhouse Blues" off of the Jungle Blues album, and the Gon' Boogaloo tracks "The Thing I Done," "I'm The Jungle Man," "On A Desert Isle," "The Zombie" and "We Gon' Boogaloo." C.W. had some amusing observations and anecdotes about songs throughout the night, and commanded the stage with just his voice and guitar. To finish off the nearly hour and half set he played "Jungle Lullaby." It's always a pleasure to get to see C.W. play live, especially in such an intimate setting.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Brunswick Music Festival: Dolly

The Brunswick Music Festival is currently happening in venues around town, and tonight I went to Estonian House for a very special tribute to the legendary Dolly Parton. Coming together to sing some of Dolly's most loved songs as well as a few rarities were Emily Lubitz (Tinpan Orange), Loretta Miller, Emma Donovan, Sarah Mary Chadwick and Alexander Gow (Oh Mercy). Everyone took turns singing either solo or in small pairings alongside a fantastic house band.

Brunswick Music Festival: Dolly
Emily Lubitz opened the show on autoharp with "Coat Of Many Colors." Highlights from the evening included Emma Donovan's powerhouse vocals on "Jolene" and "Harper Valley P.T.A.," Alex Gow singing the rarity "Down From Dover," and Loretta Miller doing an amazing version of "I Will Always Love You." Alex and Loretta dueted on the classic "Islands In The Stream," which inspired some people in the crowd to come up front and dance, and then it turned into a big celebration as everyone came back out on stage to sing the final song of the evening, "9 To 5." It was a wonderful to hear each artist's interpretation of Dolly's songs, and huge kudos to the house band who did an incredible job learning all the songs that were played tonight.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Happy Mondays- Australian Tour 2019

During the early 1990s I was a big fan of bands out of the Manchester scene, including Happy Mondays, who released their seminal album Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches in 1990. Tonight I had the unique opportunity to see the band play the album in full at the Forum. Opening the evening was the five piece Sydney band The Lulu Raes. They sounded really good and had these lovely melodic indie songs, but I was a bit thrown by their look as it didn't match how they sounded.

Most of the original band members of Happy Mondays were on board for this tour, including lead singer Shaun Ryder, who got around stage on a walking stick. They began the evening with "Kinky Afro" and Bez had the crowd going from the start as he danced back and forth across the front of the stage shaking his maracas and interacting with people all night. Rowetta's soulful and powerful vocals were amazing on each song, and highlights for me were "God’s Cop," "Loose Fit," "Dennis and Lois," "Holiday" and the massive hit single "Step On," which went completely off. They finished the main set with "Harmony," and then for an encore played the earlier tracks "Hallelujah" and "24 Hour Party People." I'm glad I had the opportunity to see Happy Mondays play live and hear the album in full, although dealing with some of the guys flailing around on the floor was annoying at times.

Here's the video for "Step On"

Saturday, March 02, 2019

They Might Be Giants- Australian Tour 2019

Over the last two nights They Might Be Giants have been playing shows here in Melbourne pitting different decades of their extensive back catalogue against each other. On Friday night at 170 Russell it was the 1980s vs 2010s, and then tonight at The Croxton it was the 1990s vs 2000s. The last time I saw them live was in the mid-1990s, and I will admit I am way more familiar with their 1980s and 1990s songs, so I knew about half the set list each night.

Each show was split into two halves, with an intermission in the middle and then a mini acoustic set to start the second half of each evening. There was lots of banter between John Flansburgh and John Linnell as they told funny stories, talked about what they had done during the day, and interacted with members of the crowd. Both Johns rotated around the stage and onto different instruments throughout each night, and it was great that they had a full band with them, including trumpet player extraordinaire Mark Pender (formerly of Conan O'Brien's late night bands) who was on fire, particularly tonight.

Of the two nights I really enjoyed Friday's show because those were the songs that I grew up listening to. Highlights from Friday were the debut album tracks "Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head" and "Don't Let It Start," the Lincoln album songs "Ana Ng," "Cowtown," "Mr Me," "Shoehorn With Teeth" and "Where Your Eyes Don't Go," as well as the single "Why Does The Sun Shine?" and new track "The Communists Have The Music." On Saturday night I was excited to hear a lot of my favorite tracks from the 1990s, including "Your Racist Friend," "Birdhouse In Your Soul," "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," "Twisting" "Whistling In The Dark" and "Particle Man" off Flood, and "She's Actual Size," "Turn Around," "Spider" and "The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)" off Apollo 18. It was such a privilege to get to see them play live again after all these years, and I definitely need to delve into the more recent releases from the 2000s.

Here's the video for "The Communists Have The Music"

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