Monday, August 28, 2006

Martha Wainwright

I found out recently that I missed out what would've been the perfect gig. Sarah Blasko was supporting Martha Wainwright in the states...

How did I come about learning about Martha? Well, I was reading an end of year wrap by Triple J DJs where they listed their favourite albums of the year. I was again looking for new music and found someone who had listened to similar albums as me that year. After reading a couple of sentences describing the album, I went along and visited her website. I listened to the first single 'When the Day is Short' and found myself purchasing the album.

This was an album that took a few listens to really get into. The songs tend to grow on you the more times you listen to them and the husky voice of Martha eventually gets you hooked. Unfortunately she's come and toured twice and I missed out on tickets. The first time I hadn't heard her album and the second unfortunately they were snapped up in a flash, and from all reports seeing her live is something not to be missed. I did catch her singing a duet with Dan Kelly on Rockwiz and I can see the appeal of this Canadian's live performance.

I'm not sure how to classify her music, but if I had to, I'd have to say she like PJ Harvey but less rocky. (If that makes any sense...) At times the sound is raw, but I believe this really gives the album an edge and earthy feel which is perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon or just chilling out. The interesting thing is, I'm not usually into excessive profanities in songs, but I must admit: Bloody Mother F**king A**hole is one of my favourite songs now. The first couple of times I listened to it, it didn't really appeal to me, but its just something about just an acoustic guitar and heartfelt lyrics that makes it grow on you:

I will not pretend
I will not put on a smile
I will not say I'm all right for you
When all I wanted was to be good
To do everything in truth

Some of the other favourites from the album are: Far Away, G.P.T, Factory, These Flowers, This Life and When The Day Is Short. (A 16 song 'Special Edition' album also includes a song sung in French and a duet with brother Rufus... Dad is very talented also...). An excellent album to add to the collection. Definitely will check her out next time she tours...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Clare Bowditch and the Feeding Set

Ok. I've listened to their latest -What Was Left- for some months now on and off. Its a strange thing I have with CDs. If I find something I really like, I'll listen to it non-stop for weeks which shows with a skewed 'no. times played' listing on my ipod. At the moment its Something for Kate which I'll post my thoughts on later, but I'll start off with What Was Left.

I find it hard finding new artists to listen to. It usually takes me a couple of listens of the album to get a feel and appreciation. I can't exactly remember how exactly I got into this CD. I hadn't read anything extensive on the album, and they don't get radio play when I'm listening so I didn't have any pre-conceived ideas on the album. I think I remember seeing an interview and they just gave off a vibe that hit a cord with me. In anycase I trundled into JB and saw their latest album on the shelf and pretty much with nothing more to go on and looking for new music, I took a chance on the album.

I've gone through about 3 phases with this album.
1) Initial listen - Picking out the standout songs on the album based on catchy lyrics and melodies.
2) After the Corner Hotel gig July 8 - A really great gig, well supported by Dan Kelly. I had a greater appreciation of story telling and lyrics of the songs. (The gig was only spoilt by filler spaceman act... poor guy)
3) Finally - being able to really listen to the songs and hear more of the subtle accompanying instruments

Side note: I'm really surprised how much difference a good video clip makes (Little Self Centred Queen). As stupid as it sounds, I seem to like a song more after I've seen a video clip that either tells the story or just fits the song's mood. (dont think 'bling', scantily clad women or souped up 'rides') .

I've listened on and off to the album for quite sometime since late last year. It has a fantastic mix of songs where some are catchy and addictive from the outset (The Thing About Grief), while others have greater depth and emotional stories to tell (When I Was Five).
The standout songs in my book are:
-Lips Like Oranges, Divorcee By 23, When I Was Five, Little Self Centred Queen and Just Might Do
But hey I like the whole album, but that's just me...(I've got their 1st (Autumn Bone) now, so I'll get into that now...)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Travelling to NZ (Part 2)

Day 4 (Queenstown, Te Anau)
5-4-3-2-1 Bungy! Note to anyone wanting to do a bungy jump. Go first... Watching people jump, almost chicken out, peer over the edge makes YOU second guess your leap head first into rocks and shallow water. Also I didn't eat or drink anything that morning, based on the thinking that it ain't coming out if it ain't gone down. The first stop for the day was the Kawarau Bridge jump:- The original bungy in NZ at 43 metres high.

After disembarking the bus and descending down to the information desk I must say the heart started to pump. At the base of the staircase, you can see the jumping platform, along with the viewing deck -which was pretty much used to laugh at people hesitating to jump. (Not exactly what you want to hear while creeping towards the edge, attached by some elastic and a towel to your ankles). Each person gets weighed, which is scribbled on your hand and then gets used by the guys at hooking you up as to the weight they add on. Somehow, despite being about 8th in line to be weighed, I managed to be the first up on the platform. Not out of choice, but perhaps just being oblivious to the slow paces of the people around me.

Some friendly banter ensued with the safety guys, which I remember little of. Word of advice: -Don't mention anything about sheep, accents and keep abreast of the current sporting events. Fortunately the All Blacks won the night before, so there didn't appear to be any secret seething towards any Aussies. You don't want to antagonize anyone involved ensuring your life is safe... You then get the option of going dry, touching the water or getting shoulders dunked. While choosing to get dunked, unfortunately after some examination of the equipment I was informed that it was unlikely that I'd be heavy enough because it was a new bungy cord. Fortunately it didn't dawn on me at the time as to why they replaced the OLD cord!

From there, you inch your way towards the edge penguin style, wave to the crowd egging you on from the viewing platform, smile for the camera and wait for the countdown. Ironically I had a group of Japanese tourists on the sidelines which appeared lifted out of any number of films looking for stereotypical tourist extras (Think Crocodile Dundee). Hint: Don't look down before you jump... and just go. (I missed touching the water by a good couple of metres...)

Its a blur to tell you the truth, but a great rush diving head first 40 odd metres. Then, much like a production line, photos, movies are produced and ready for viewing once you make it back up. Its a slick operation and I'd doubt many people would leave without some sort of memorabilia. (I got all photos, dvds, a pin and patch...) Then, on a whim, we decided to tackle the Nevis...All 134 metres.

I must say all the different activities are really well organised and a small bus ferried us up to the next location which was just as thrilling, ricketing on the side of a mountain on a one way dirt track. This bungy area is suspended on a cable car inbetween a mountain and plateau where a small building is stationed to process videos etc. There are some major things different with this jump aside from it being more than 90 metres higher than the last. 1) Because its suspended on a cable car, you don't really have an option BUT to look down. 2) This was jumped in weight order, so I had to wait a good 1/2 hour before jumping... Combining these factors, nervous reactions begin:- In my case I scratch my head...incessantly. Again you're strapped up, a picture's taken and you inch your way up to the edge. "Look out at the mountain ahead and dive out like you're at a swimming pool" I'm told... 5-4-3-2-1 and I'm off the edge. Fortunately my pants stayed their natural brown colour and an excited rush fills you as it sinks in as to exactly you're doing. It's a shame it's over so quickly, but an experience like no other. The picture left doesn't really give a sense of exactly how high 134 metre is. Believe me it's a long way down and the rush is amazing!

From the dizzying highs to being back in the trusty Corolla for some more driving. This time out to Te Anau. Straight line driving can be monotonous, but with some of the scenic backdrops we drove by, time flew by faster, but the constant mix from the ipod didn't harm the journey either.

Arriving in Te Anau, we were unfortunately informed that a cave glow worm tour was booked solid for that night. Who would've expected that looking at worms would be that popular? We headed out to 'The Ranch' for some local food, where I sample more of NZ's finest beers (Steinlager -which was a standout, Lion Red and Export Gold.) Tuckered out from an eventful day and I dosed off watching Batman Begins on cable...

Day 5 (Milford Sound, Queenstown)
An early morning start once again and it was off to Milford Sound for a scenic cruise out to the mouth of the Tasman Sea. Light rain peppered the drive and it eased as we began our cruise, which turned out to be perfect as it allowed waterfalls to form throughout.

Once back on dry land it was a long drive back through Te Anau and back through to Queenstown.

Once back in Queenstown, we stopped off at a restaurant called Fatz Cat. Ironically, I ordered lamb in the Italian restaurant and was served by an Aussie. A couple more Steinlagers later and we were on our way to see what else was in town. There are 2 casinos in town, and I managed to get $50 up on the blackjack table killing time before we headed into a very touristy attraction: the Ice Bar. With a not-so-subtle partner in Absolut Vodka ($25 entry for 1/2 an hour including 1 drink) we put our 'Absolut' jackets we squeezed into what appeared to be a old meat freezer. The sculptures were well done and, hey, where else can you drink out of a disposable ice glass?

Day 6 (Queenstown, Twizel)
Still time for some more fun at Queenstown. After some much needed sleep it was off in another bus on a dirt track to the Canyon Swing (Pretty much the same as a bungy, but you can leave the platform in any creative way and have the harness attached to your waist instead.) Jump styles vary in 'scariness' where I opted for the pin drop which was equal highest on their rating system. (looking down, hands behind the back) Honestly after the Nevis this seemed quite tame, (60m freefall) however it still got the heart pumping with many others opting for varied and repeat 'swings' such as the tumbling chair. Where do these nuts come up with these crazy ideas?

What's left to do? Next on the agenda was the Shotover Jet which is a custom built jet boat that cruises around at high speeds. Walking into information area, the walls are littered with both A and B grade celebrities that have completed the ride. What's excellent again is the detailed knowledge of the people involved on the history and environment of their surrounds. (I guess that's expected, but in any case some of the facts were impressive...) The boats only need 6 inches of water to operate and you can hear the rocks hit the bottom of the boat as you roar through the narrow passes which are specifically reserved for these boats. Jagged rocks are literally close enough to touch, and the ease in which the drivers navigate through is amazing. I don't care how many times you do something, to get within a couple of hands of a wall in a boat is impressive, all the while the boat's on-board system beeps intermittently to warn of proximity.

360 degree spins occur without warning towards the end, which finishes in being wet and extremely satisfied. Unfortunately it was then time to say goodbye to Queenstown and to head off to Twizel.

Upon arrival, to fill in time, we ventured out to the local golf course which was closed. Fortunately with no-one around, we were able to throw our hand at some ice golf with mixed success. Ending another busy day were more than a few of NZ's finest ales.

Day 7 (Christchurch, Hanmer Springs)
Getting back to Christchurch was a pretty boring drive, and it probably didn't help that we left at 5am to try and get a full day there... We arrived, and found that nothing satisfies more than a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages and anything else detrimental to the heart. Without a plan for the day, we decided to venture out to a cookie factory 'Maker of the world's biggest cookie' for some sustenance while stopping off at wineries for some taste testing. Finally with hours to kill we decided to venture out to Hanmer Springs, which was a little town a bit out of Christchurch and try our hand out at quad biking. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of the trip, driving through cow patties these little machines packed a lot of punch. Also, as a kid, you'd always want to ride your bike or run through puddles and mud, and in these little babies it was an experience that took you back to those carefree days.

The last night ended a 'wee bit' muddy and with a satisfying dinner at the Lobster Club. Damn lobster's nice, but it just doesn't fill you up.... We decided to plow through to the next morning as sleeping seemed pointless when we had to get to the airport by 4am. I wandered the streets aimlessly for a couple of hours, got lost a few times and accidently did some loops around the city before navigating it back to the hotel. I knew I should've used the M&Ms to track my steps... I stayed awake long enough to see the demonstration of where the exits were on the plane before dozing and probably snoring through to the dawn of day 8 and home...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Travelling to NZ

Ok. I've decided to put the experience of a recent trip with my cousin to NZ down on the blog. It was a quick 8 day trip, starting off at Christchurch, driving around South Island stopping off at Fox Glacier, Queenstown, Te Anau, Milford Sound and Twizel.

Day 1 (Melbourne -> Christchurch)
Touching down into Christchurch we flew over some glorious mountains. Fortunately there were no issues with carrying on cameras onto planes when we were travelling. Seriously, has society gotten so nuts that soon we'll only be able to board a plane in our undies? This was the view from the plane. How magnificant is that skyline and it just keeps going out of sight. The only problem with this one is the nice dots on the windows. Damn thumb smudges....

There were no issues getting through customs, just tight without going over the top. Just reminds me of a line from Seinfeld on x-rays at the airport: "What's that a hairdryer with a scope on it? And a bowling ball with a candle on it? Yeah just move it along"

We hired a car which ended up costing around $500AUD for the 8 days. I now have a renewed respect for the Corolla. Its a solid A to B car. Great just to give some freedom to go to whereever we wanted whenever, instead of being stuck on a Contiki bus with women our age looking for fun... (Why did we get a car again?). On the way to Fox Glacier we stopped off at Springfield. Damn I wish I got a pic of me next to a Springfield sign. (I can hear people saying: You Idiot!) Very small town but we stopped off for a steak pie. Damn that was good... Later that night after about 3 hours of driving we made it Fox Glacier, whilst on the way we picked up some bananas. Not because we wanted them, but we felt we had a duty to buy them at $1.30 a kilo instead of the $12+ we were paying back home. (I think we had 2 left at the end of the trip - It just didn't feel right eating them!) Freezing our balls off and driving through what looked like Santa's workshop town, we made it to a little Holiday Park to check in.

Day 2 (Fox Glacier - Glacier Walk)
Fox Glacier is purely a tourist village (Not big enough for a town I don't think). There's nothing more than a couple of restaurants, hotels/motels and 1 or 2 bars. Without a steady stream of tourists I think this place would not exist. But after the visit, I would recommend this place to anyone.
A full day's trek up to the glacier via the side of the mountain was an awesome experience. Knowing that there are only a few of these magnificant wonders of nature that exist in the world made it even more special. Matt, the guide, was great - knowledgeable about the glacier, the history and was a great down-to-earth bloke. They have to go up everyday to carve out the man made steps. Guys were there when we began our trek and still there when we finished chipping out the steps for the next day. That's how they get their 'popeye' arms.

One goal I had on this trip was to experience as many beers NZ had to offer. Dinner was at a saloon type restaurant and I sampled some Speights and Export Gold. Both very nice beers... Perhaps unwisely, we decided to checkout the glow worms that was a short trek down the road. As stupid as this sounds, have you ever walked in the bush at night, where there's no noise, no stars or city lights? I almost literally shat my pants. Those days of Stephen King's IT just for childhood trauma and the Blair Witch Project popped into my mind and I made sure I kept blathering to make sure my cuz knew I was still behind him... He let me know afterwards that if I was taken by the axe wielding maniac, he would have done the noble thing and run off to save his own life. Yeah I think I'd do the same...

Day 3 (Skydive @ Fox Glacier, Monster Bus, Queenstown)

I did a skydive in Nagambie in Victoria. That was great, but it doesn't compare to this. The helmet or condom hat was "Wearing me for protection" as Seinfeld would say.

You wish you could just float around in the sky for 20 minutes just to soak up the views, but before you know it you're on the ground and you've got to think of some remark to say to the camera like "Ridgy Didge!" or "Shitscared Micky!" - I don't know what to say!

The clouds rolled in shortly after our feet were firmly on the ground. Perfect timing... Off into the car to the next place...The best scenery was at Lake Wanka but unfortunately it was only a passing visit.

On the way to Queenstown, we stopped off to ride in a monster bus. Not as exciting as it sounds as the maximum speed of the beast was 30 miles/hr. Anyway that was fun in anycase. What would have been better would have been to drive through on the quadbikes, but we got that opportunity later...

We made it to Queenstown. What a place! People everywhere, heaps of activities to do and places to see.

To be continued...

Monday, August 07, 2006

First Post

Ok, I haven't been into the whole blogging of stuff, but let's see how this goes...