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Yes friends, I’m back. Three quarters of a year later, prompted by the Melbourne Fringe and a reference to this blog on this one. Ready to live up to the blog’s tagline and review, report and otherwise write on arts-related things (with a local focus). One thing that was stopping me from writing stuff here was the thought of having to write thousands of words on things when I feel like I don’t have that much to say, or it would take too much to work out how to say it. Deciding it’s better to do a little something than nothing at all (which is disputable), I have resolved to make a healthy number of little posts. They’ll probably average 200 words or so, rather than the 2000 I had previously, and will begin with the shows I’ve been seeing in the Fringe Festival. Don’t expect deep and full reviews, rather little thoughts and snippets. I may focus on one particular detail for the 200 words. Well that’s the plan anyway. I could very well end up being back to 2000 word posts before the Fringe is over. So without further ado, the first of these…can we call them reviews?…

DOGMEAT

Dogmeat poster

I think the main reason I enjoyed this show is because it was performed outside. A number of intercut and interlinked storylines set, it seemed to me, in a kind of post-apocalyptic world terrorised by wild dogs and people snatchers. But then again someone I saw it with thought it was actually about dogs, and the ‘people snatchers’ were dog catchers…

In a set made of the pre-existing La Mama courtyard with laundry added, the three actors take a number of different roles between them.

Sitting very much outdoors in the new courtyard, the audience was on benches sheltered by a tarp (the show goes on rain hail or shine, though it was quite a nice night when I was there). I said to someone afterwards “I don’t think I would have liked that play nearly as much if it had been inside”. Somehow I think a lot of the ‘character work’ was made to seem a little less self-indulgent as we’re still connected to the outside world merely by virtue of not being separated off by walls and a roof.

It was a robust piece and had a real sense of the communal storytelling in which theatre has its origins. Of course all theatre was originally outdoors, and mostly all in the day as well. It seems strange now that the norm is inside at night. Of course the advent of electric lighting made this feasible. After seeing this piece outdoors and really enjoyed the different feel it gave to it, I would be very interested to see a play outside in the day time. You get street theatre, but a full length play is rare. The seeming mystery and intimacy of night and the indoors is attractive, with its apparent potential for an experience separate to and beyond the everyday. But perhaps when the experience feels part of the rest of life and the world it can bring something even greater.

SEE THIS IF: You enjoy not realising three characters are played by the same actor til halfway through a play.

DON’T SEE THIS IF: You stop reading at the mention of two mates fingering a dead dog. Though I suppose you have to stop reading anyway since it’s the end of the review.

Dogmeat. Written by Tobias Manderson-Galvin. Directed by Jessica Tuckwell. Produced by Glynn Roberts. Matt Furlani, Conor Gallacher, George Banders. Part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street Carlton. 10pm. Until October 10th. Tickets through Melbourne Fringe.

SLAM Rally

the crowd holding placards and musical instrument

So, yesterday I went to the SLAM (Save Live Australian Music) Rally, and it was FREAKIN AWESOME. It was so heartening to see the huge response people were willing to give to something the government probably thought they could get away with without much of a fuss. The energy was amazing, a friend said it made her ‘like people again’. In case you didn’t know, the rally was organised in response to Liquor licencing Victoria deciding that any venue which plays amplified live music is ‘high risk’, even if that’s a duo in their seventies playing Greek music in a restaurant at 2 in the afternoon. Being deemed a ‘high risk’, means a venue has to satisfy a number of extra conditions, including employing 2 security guards for ‘crowd control’.  This has meant that a number of venues have had to stop playing live music, or even close down if, like The Tote, a large amount of their revenue is due to live music. As one of the speakers at the rally said, the only high risk these venues pose is “a high risk of enlightenment”.

Estimates of the number of people attending the rally sit around 15,000, making it the largest gathering ever for in support of live music in Melbourne. It was amazing walking through the city streets with thousands of people, accompanied by the backing of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top”, all in it for the same thing. People held aloft their musical instruments when called upon by MC Brian Nankervis to do so. (That was when one of my friends spotted what she claimed were Amanda Palmer’s hands holding a Uke Box, I doubted her Amanda-spotting ability, but she was later proved right.) As we marched the MC led us in a call and response rendition of a modified “It’s a Long Way to the Top”:

“Ridin’ Down the Highway (Ridin’ down the highway)

Goin’ to a show (Goin’ to a show)

Music ain’t high risk (Music ain’t high risk)

These laws have got to go (These laws have got to go)”

When the march arrived at the steps of the Old Treasury, they were a number of speeches, which I was lucky enough to be right up the front for. They were amazing, emphasizing the value and importance of live music, as well as the ridiculousness of calling it a cause of violence.   Also on the steps, back behind the speakers, was the almost embarrassingly feeble sight of members of the Victorian Liberal party holding professionally designed and printed signs with the slogans “Liberals love live music” and “Brumby’s Liquor Laws killing live music” One speaker remarked “I’ve never seen them at a gig”, another “they probably payed more for those signs than most of us payed for our guitars”, another “Where were you when the Tote was closing?”, while we in the crowd provided plenty of booing.

Placards amongst the crowd, while not as slickly formatted as those of the politicians, did better on the content side. Among them:

“It’s a long way to the top…if you ain’t got nowhere to play”

“Don’t make bands sad”

“Hey Mr. Brumby, It’s a long way from the top if you bury rock n roll”

When the march arrived at the steps, a number of local singers, including Dan Sultan and Paris Wells, sung through ‘A Long Way to the Top”, finishing off the non-stop repetition of the chords which had been carried on from the beginning of the march. Amanda Palmer, former frontwoman of the Dresden Dolls, is currently in town and had turned up to support the rally. She seemed a bit awkward to me, as she was up on the steps with the other celebrities but obviously hadn’t been given any official role in proceedings. But she strummed away at her uke and after a number of glances at a strangely Continue Reading »


Music

Trucks Are Sheep – Seagull

Seagull is from Melbourne, on the artist-run label Two Bright Lakes, which you may have noticed I have rather a liking for. The band centres on the songwriting, guitar and vocals of Chris Bolton. The rest of the band includes Ed Bolton on bass, Kishore Ryan (of Kid Sam) on drums and Michael Zulicki on percussion and melodica. I’ve liked them for a while and had heard this track a few times, but listening to it this morning for some reason I was absolutely transfixed. So much so that I was late for the first part of my day.

The Kramer – Wale

Seinfeld and hip-hop. Two things which might not seem to go together, but both of which I love. Add a heavy dose of refreshing intellegence and insight and you’ve got ‘The Kramer’. It’s one of the better tracks from Wale’s The Mixtape About Nothing. The name is a reference to Seinfeld, ‘the show about nothing’, and the whole mixtape is based around Seinfeld, with lots of samples from the show etc. This particular track is inspired by the famous racist outburst of Michael Richards, who plays Kramer. I have a feeling that in a little while this Washington D.C. rapper will be very well known indeed. I’ve been a fan since  a friend introduced me to his stuff about a year and a half ago, and since then I’ve noticed a couple of top 40 artists use him as their ‘Ft.’ rapper. Surely a sign of (well-deserved) bigger things to come.

When You Say That I Don’t Care About You – Tara Simmons

The delightfully light-hearted music carries a subtly troubled set of lyrics as together they weave their way into your soul. Tara Simmons is from Brisbane and manages to mix instruments such as the cello in this track with electronic and electronically manipulated sounds without it sounding self-conscious or contrived. The first impression of sugary pop gradually slides into something more aching with a near epic sense of rising power even as the texture of dots and details continues.

Addendum: Me and a friend have started up a photoblog, have a look: http://www.sylvesterandjackson.wordpress.com

Otouto: (l-r) Kishore Ryan, Martha Brown and Hazel Brown

Otouto: (l-r) Kishore Ryan, Martha Brown and Hazel Brown

Sorry for the ages that have passed since my last post, I’ve been rather busy with other matters (year 12’ll do that to you), but I’m back! It’s been even longer since I’ve done a theatre review, and those seem to be by far the most popular. It’s mainly a result of not seeing any plays (that’ll do it) but I’m seeing one tonight, The Hamlet Apocalypse, and I’ll try to get a review up by Monday night. Yay! Moving on from myself-

Two Bright Lakes is a Melbourne-based artist-run record label. Tonight they’re having a little do at Ya-Ya’s as part of the Fringe Festival, showcasing the talent of a few of their bands. Namely Otouto, Kid Sam, Psuche and Nick Huggins. Otouto’s frontwoman, Hazel Brown, kindly took the time to answer some questions for us:

How’s things?
Busy!
You supported Sarah Blasko on Thursday, that’s pretty exciting. How did that come about?
We have a new manager for Otouto, Adam Yee. He also happens to be a wonderful booking agent.
How’s the new album going?
It’s pretty much finished, but it won’t be out til March 2010. Our first single will be Sushi which we’ll just sell at shows and maybe through Polyester Records.
Your new stuff is very different from your first album, and along with that you’re now Otouto instead of Hazel Brown. What prompted the shift, musically and nominally?
It was a natural shift. Playing with Martha and great friend Kishore, we wanted to have an all encompassing name that gave us all credit and allowed us to be more collaborative.
Personally, what bands/artists do you listen to the most?
At the moment I am listening to Lake, The Dirty Projectors, (soundtrack) Where the Wild Things Are, No Kids and I’ve been listening to Arthur Russell and his many different styles for the past year or two, can’t get enough.
How did you first get into playing and writing music, and how did Otouto (then Hazel Brown, and with a trumpet in there) get together?
I started playing music at school: recorder, singing, violin then guitar. I started writing songs when I started playing guitar and had lessons with Mark Elliott who was very encouraging and inspiring. I recorded Rivers and Veins when I was 19 with the help of my sister Martha, and when we finished it we needed a band. Dave (trumpet) and Kishore (drums) were friends of friends and we started rehearsing.
What’s the process for you guys of creating a song, do you consciously aim for anything in particular musically?
Most of the time there are a few ideas already formed, and we discuss where we want it to end up. But most of the time during the writing process the song changes and doesn’t end up the way we imagined.
Where did the name ‘Otouto’ come from?
A book called Continue Reading »

Oo

Two Bright Lakes
Two bright stakes
Waiting at the gates
Wandering in breaks
Washing on the shore
Whither to the floor.
I will sing no more.
At the record store.

But Two Bright Lakes artists will sing and play

tomorrow at the RRR open day.

They’re a Melbourne-based artist-run record label by the way.

Check out their music: http://www.myspace.com/twobrightlakes
Event page (use it): http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=100878165155&ref=ts#/event.php?eid=147458364728

Two Bright Lakes at RRR open day. Psuche, Otouto and Kid Sam. Triple R performance Space, 221 Nicholson St (Cnr Nicholson & Blyth). 12.00pm, 20 Spetember. Free.

Photo by Alice Boyle

Photo by Alice Boyle

David Peake’s first solo cabaret show, David Peake Has Everything He Needs,  opened last night at The Butterfly Club. In Writing on a Chalkboard’s first interview EVERRRRR, we covered such topics as his show, adjusting to an audience and how to get a job as police officer in the UK. We soon discovered the downside of using Facebook Chat for an interview, when despite the fact that were both online, Facebook decided to hide us from each other. That hurdle over with, we began.

David:  HI!

Jalen:  ahoy!

Jalen: How was opening night?

David: It was good. 3 people came.

Jalen: Hahahahahaha

David: Which was actually fine, it made me not nervous, which was a good way to start the season.

Jalen: Was it fun doing such an intimate show?

David: It was. Particularly because all 3 were supportive friends. However, it did make some moments a little laboured, as they felt it was their job to laugh, as opposed to a natural response. It was quite an extreme shift to what I had planned in my mind, so I even cut some songs and added some songs, because some stuff just wasn’t going to work.

Jalen: It’s good that you are comfortable enough to do that kind of thing, how much cabaret have you done before?

David: None solo, only 10 minute segments in 2 group cabarets with VCA alumni.

Jalen: You went to VCA?

David: Yes, the 2 year music theatre course.

Jalen: how did that affect your performance? Was it a huge learning experience?

David: It really was, not just for performing, but for life. I was quite young, 18, and quite an uninteresting introvert.

Jalen: Goodness me, that’s changed.

David: Lol, yep.

Jalen: What’s it like doing a solo show like this as opposed to acting in a play?

David: Similar and different. You still have to convince a room full (unless it’s Thursday) of people that you have something to say that’s worth listening to…But in cabaret, unlike theatre, you have to listen far more carefully to that voice in your head that tells you what the audience like and don’t like, and you have the freedom to play with that, and comment on that, which is also a main feature of a stand up comics world. Long sentence.

Jalen: We have an award for that. Yeah that aspect really interests me, I think it’s ignored a bit too much in most theatre.

David: It’s fun when you do have that freedom as a performer, but is very rare in theatre.

Jalen: How did you get into doing musical theatre?

David: It was really just an extension of the love I had when I started playing in music concerts at 7 or 8, it’s just with music theatre, I got to do more things. At a basic level, it’s just chasing applause really. Chasing validation.

Jalen: what’s it like when you don’t get that? Or not to the level you hoped?

David: I’d love to say “well as long as we did our best” and “you can’t please everyone” is a knee jerk reaction, it’s not. The immediate is at least some dejection.

Jalen: But the good times overrule the bad times

David: Oh, for sure.

Jalen: The material in the show’s all completely original right?

David: Yes, except for one Michael Jackson ‘tribute’.

Jalen: ahah lovely. What sort of process do you go through writing songs?

David: When it works best, it starts with having a feeling I want to capture, and properly defining that feeling. And I start with a little thing to play with on the piano with some chords, or sometimes, a lyric will be so strong, it will become a melody in my head immediately, and when I jump on the piano, the chords just know where to go. I like what Stephen Sondheim says on it:  “It’s not really the music or the lyrics first, it’s the music of the lyrics.” Or something like that.

Jalen: what sort of topics are your songs on in this show? It’s called “David Peake has Everything He Needs”, are they very focused around a sort of theme or story, or pretty disparate?

David: The first few take on a similar feel to establish the show, they’re all “I think this” kind of songs, although they’re sung cheekishly with almost concealed sarcasm from the opposite point of view…if that makes sense…

Jalen: Yeah it does. 

David: Haha.

Jalen: Is there anything you’ve been really tempted to do a song about but have thought it would be going too far or for some reason haven’t done it?

David: not really, this show does it. Or, as much as is solid enough to be done without offending a considerable portion of the audience. It’s about being clever enough to go as far as you want, while still making the audience feel like you at least take into consideration any opposing opinions. Because you’ve at least thought about it enough to be clever. And that’s all. Cool.

Jalen: Last couple of questions, a bit more…unusual shall we say. I’m going to grab the first question that comes up on the Yahoo Answers home page and you’ve got to somehow answer it and relate your answer back to your show.

David:  Haha! Lol.

Jalen:  “My husband wants to become a police officer in the UK – any tips to get in or general?”

(Yahoo answers users aren’t renowned for their clarity of expression)

David:   Haha. OK, I would suggest that he assist in the charitable cause of bringing sandbag the dog back home with the UK troops from Iraq (see facebook page save sandbag the dog). That would be looked warmly upon on any CV. This relates to my show because I make known my distress on the plight of this poor dog, and put forth the solution to keep our forces in Iraq permanently to continue killing people, so sandbag the dog has a home.

Jalen:  Of course

David: This is one of the sarcastic songs.

Jalen: To end our interview, why should people come to see your show (answer in rhyme of course)?

David:  It’s sure to impress.

I may or may not undress.

Jalen:  I’ll be there. I actually will tomorrow night

David:  Very good. Looking forward to meeting you’re face, to go with your very eloquent words.

Jalen: my face is looking forward to meeting you

David: your! Your! Not you’re! I hate it when people do that, not the least myself! Very good.

Jalen: The rest of me- not so much. No! Bad typing fingers! Don’t be mean to David. Sorry about that. Haha okay well thanks for doing this

David:  thanks yourself! See you tomorrow!

Jalen:  Ditto. Good luck for tonight!

David Peake Has Everything He Needs. Created and Performed by David Peake. The Butterfly Club, 204 Bank St, South Melbourne. Closes September 20. Sat 7.00, Sun 6.00. $22/$17. Tickets through The Butterfly Club. 

This post sort of violates this blog’s description, seeing as it’s about a band. But I think  I’m going to expand the blog to cover all the arts, focused on what’s going on in melbourne. A kind of ‘what’s going on in the melbourne music/theatre/film/miscellanious world. But for now- Me and the Grownups.

 

Me and the Grownups are the most original band you’ll hear this year.
Paul Shields
Scene Magazine

They’re a Melbourne band who are playing at the Astor cinema tonight (as in Thursday). Most bands claim to have a ‘completely original sound’ or to be ‘genre-defying’, but Me and the Grownups really are. They’ve got Violin/Viola (Jonathan Drefus), guitar (Adrian Sergovich) and vocals (Anita Lester) and their genre would have to be described as folk-pop-jazz-classical. The instuments and Anita’s voice weave around each other, on much more equal status than the usual ‘vocals with backing’. Anita’s lyrics read like poetry, whipping up beautifully unusual imagery. There’s not really any need for me to go on describing their music, you can have a listen here.
As I said, they started up in 2006, and since then they’ve released two albums, Battling the Mountains the Sky and the Sea and Knowing Lovers, Naive Lovers. Staunchly percussion free throughout both albums, they let a hint of drums onto the title track of their recent EP My Perfect Storm. Tonight they’ll be backed up by a woodwind quartet, something they have rather a penchant for, and Timothy Nelson’s from Perth is also playing. Anita animates, along with doing all the bands artwork, and some of her animations will be on view. Sometimes I find their music lacks a gut-punching emotional core, especially in recording, but at the one other night-time gig of theirs I’ve been to it was most definitely present. With no ready-made market for their music (too classical to be pop and too pop to be classical), they’re slowly but surely winning people over. Have a listen, and if you like what you hear, I’ll see you there!

DISCLAIMER: I have been known to know this particular band’s frontwoman.

Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=114632393234&index=1

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/meandthegrownups

Me and the Grownups (w Timothy Nelson). Vocals– Anita Lester. Violin, Viola– Jonathan Dreyfus. Guitar– Adrian Sergovich. 17 September, 8.00pm-10.30pm (Timothy Nelson at 8.00, Grownups at 9.00). Astor Theatre, corner Chapel Street and Dandenong Road, St. Kilda. $17/$13.