Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Flashing Hula Hoops and Mountains of Flaming Trash

With all the honing, producing and digital splicing of songs these days, it's difficult to know just how good an artist is until you've seen them in the flesh. Having said that, regardless of how good an album is produced, nothing compares to the 'feel' of a performance even if it doesn't get nailed flawlessly. I'll spare those reading this too much pain by going through yet another Sarah Blasko gig I attended at the Stones of the Yarra Valley. Stripped back with just a mini grand piano, guitar and occasional synthesizer it was brilliant, while I managed to get a blurry photo of her with me and was able to ask her a semi intelligent question without blathering like a crazy lunatic.

Last week I visited one of my favourite venues - The Forum - to see Sufjan Stevens. With a capacity of 1500, it was one of the most polite crowds I'd seen, with no loud talkers or clunking of bottles from the bar and you'd literally be able to hear a pin drop during quiet moments within some songs. Part of the band, who looked fresh out of school, consisted of trumpet, saxophone, French horn and clarinet, accompanied by the more common arrangement of guitars, piano and drums. The big band sound was certainly a highlight of the live show - particularly the solos -, while his performance on banjo would've dispelled any unfair stereotypes of the instrument.

Talkative throughout, stories of his childhood, big American cars and family provided contextual lead-ins to songs, however by his own admission, at times these veered slightly beyond the songs' subject matter. By far the most entertaining story involved the insistence of his father to the avoid paying $16 a month for garbage collection. Burying it underground around their trailer in acres of land, it was eventually piled up and burnt.

Rather than commanding the stage with a voice akin to a tenor it's carefully delivered lyrics and tight musical arrangements that made the performance special. At one stage the decrescendo plucking of the banjo and matching singing had most of the audience leaning forward, intently listen to each note before nervously waiting until the song completed wholly before applauding.

With more words in some song titles than lyrics in entire songs, it makes it difficult to recall the setlist, however by far the standout from the night was Casimir Pulaski Day. It's a difficult song to listen to given the lyrics, however the delivery was spot on. Other highlights (from a fading memory) included The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!, Come On! Feel The Illinoise!... and John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

Synchronized wardrobe changes included the famous angel wings and as we wondered if there was some direct relationship between the size of the wings and your status in the band, the show ended with a dedicated hula hooper. Not to be outdone, Sufjan upped the ante with a fancy flashing light hula hoop, completing tricks that made you shake your head in disgust. It's not enough that his a talented musician, but he can hula hoop too! Well at least I can do a fancy spin of a pen around my thumb, but I doubt I can join his tour doing that...


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Summer of...

While all the drama off the cricket pitch has detracted from an exciting game 2, a bigger issue is at stake if India does pull out of their tour - What the heck to do to fill the void that is summer tv. Not that I'd be glued to the box throughout the season, but the cricket does help to fill those hot summer nights or when you couldn't be arsed getting off the couch. There's only so much criminal drama one can take, and with the promos of David Caruso hands on hips, furrowed brow ready to deliver a packet of wisdom to a would-be crook one thanks for the invention of dvds and the Internet.

For the first time I can remember, I'm taking some interest in American politics. It's been fascinating drawing parallels to the West Wing, and hasn't taken long for candidates from both parties to begin digging and throwing the dirt on their own. Lucky they've all just managed to scrape together the multi millions to keep their campaigns going. I'm sure none of the contributors are expecting favours if they get in too...

One nugget that took me from left field was the new feature length Futurama straight-to-dvd episode. Mysteriously, I managed to get my hands on a copy and was happy that it kept to the formula of old, and didn't seem to lose a step after all these years. What's more encouraging is that a once discarded show managed to get resurrected. (I think at least for a few more feature length dvds) Without spoiling the story, the first few minutes allowed the writers to get a few gripes off their chests in a typical Groening/Simpsons dig at higher powers.

While it may seem a little unsociable, what else can you do on back to back 40+ degree days?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Wrap it up Already...

Wow... a year has flown by and I'm finally getting around to writing on this blog again. It hasn't been an exciting few months, however it's been busy with Christmas and a couple of other things to make the time fly by.

To wrap the year up:

Top 3 gigs of the year
1) Sarah Blasko - Ruby's Lounge 21/07
In a word: Beautiful

2) Regurgitator - Corner Hotel 12/10
Tough to choose between the 2 times I saw them this year, but hearing the new album live puts this one up there slightly.

3) Wilco - Palais 19/04
Nels and his guitars... Be interesting to see how the follow-up in a few months compares.

Surprise of performance
Liam Finn supporting Sarah Blasko @ The Forum 27/10 and follow-up @ NSC 22/11
Imagine Christmas with the Finns. Damn talented family and Liam is a fantastic artist solo. Pity about the turnout at the NSC gig (~50), although I wasn't complaining about the extra elbow room.

Yo La Tengo - Corner Hotel 06/03
After 5 minutes of continuous guitar feedback, fingernails down a blackboard would've been a godsend.

Embarrassing Moment of the Year (not involving me)
Beating my mate Jimbo 4-6 6-0 6-0 in tennis and forcing 2 separate laps around the tennis net with his pants around his ankles. Priceless. Hey I don't make these rules, but I am going to enforce 'em!

New Years Resolution
Try and move on from this Sarah Blasko obsession

In other news, if you haven't checked out Entourage do so. Supposedly based on Mark Wahlberg's life, it's one of the funniest shows I've seen. Cleverly written with likable characters it opens your eyes to the celebrity lifestyle.

I hope anyone who reads this had a great, safe Christmas and New Years!